“Israel hath not been forsaken of his God”
Suppose some preacher today stood in his pulpit week after week and asserted relentlessly that God had set his face against the United States of America, that he was raising up an army in a foreign land, under the command of a barbaric dictator, to conquer this great nation and make us servants to a massive empire. Suppose the preacher asserted boldly that our Constitution and our nation were an abomination to God, that everything we value and uphold as a society is offensive to him.
Then, suppose that preacher were to go from place to place and publicly urge all Americans not to resist the will of the enemy, but to renounce the homeland and willingly move into that foreign land and bow as servants to that cruel tyrant! It would be surprising to none to see that preacher publicly humiliated, ridiculed, spit upon, and even imprisoned.—Would it? But he is one of those crack-pots who just will not shut up. While in prison, shut-up in the hole in solitary confinement, he not only refuses to retract a word, but also manages to find a way to write his message in a book and have the book read in every church in the land.
If you can imagine such a thing, you will have a pretty good idea what the Book of Jeremiah is about. Only, Jeremiah was no crack-pot preacher. He was the prophet of God in the land of Israel in his day, the voice of God to the nation. He was, in my opinion, the boldest, most courageous, most valiant man for truth in history. No preacher ever faced more opposition and discouragement, with less to give him encouragement, than God’s prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah began preaching as a very young man during the days of Josiah. He was God’s spokesman, God’s prophet to the nation, through the reigns of four more kings, until the Jews were carried away into Babylon by the will of God. He faithfully served the Lord our God and his generation by the will of God for more than forty years; and he did so in the face of relentless and almost universal opposition.
He wept much. His heart was in constant, great heaviness because of the iniquity and relentless rebellion of his people, and because of the impending judgment of God upon the nation he loved. Yet, he never flinched from his duty. He never failed to declare the Word God put into his mouth. Imprisoned repeatedly, put into stocks (20:2), lowered by ropes into a miry dungeon (38:6), mocked, derided (20:7), a man of strife and contention to the whole world (25:10), accused of treachery to his country (38:4), opposed by false prophets (23, 28), confronted by angry mobs of religious people (prophets and priests included) who wanted to kill him (26), carried against his will into Egypt (43:7), under all these circumstances Jeremiah was relentless in obedience, seeking the glory of God, delivering the Word of God, serving the people of God from the day of his calling until the day of his death.
He faithfully exposed Israel’s sins, called them to repentance, and warned them of judgment, asserting that the wrath coming upon them was fully deserved. Yet, he never ceased declaring the goodness and mercy of God. Even as he denounced Israel’s wickedness and prophesied of the nation’s utter destruction, he declared the immutable faithfulness of God to his people. He even declared that the very judgment of God upon the nation was for the specific purpose of saving his own elect within the nation (51:4-5; 50:33-34).
We cannot appreciate the labor or faithfulness of any man unless we understand the times in which that man lived and served the Lord. Never was apostasy pursued more eagerly and fully by men and women who professed to worship the Lord our God than in Jeremiah’s day.
Manasseh, Josiah’s wicked grandfather, led the nation into such vile idolatry that they never really recovered from it. Josiah’s reforms were little more than a band-aid covering a deep cancer. They only touched the surface and were but for a brief time. After Josiah’s death, the nation sank back into the worst forms of idolatry and into every kind of iniquity. The whole nation was on the downward spiral of apostasy. Jeremiah’s mission was to call the people back to God. But judgment was at hand.
God raised up Nebuchadnezzar to execute his wrath upon Judah. He gave him universal dominion. He even called him, “My servant” (25:9; 27:6; 43:10). Nebuchadnezzar was the unwitting servant of the sovereign Lord God in all that he did. It was because God revealed this to Jeremiah that we find him advocating submission to Nebuchadnezzar, and it was for this that his people accused him of treachery. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was given his choice, whether he would go to Babylon or remain with the remnant that were left in the land. He chose the latter. Days of darkness followed. Jeremiah exhorted his people to obey the voice of the Lord and remain in the land, and not flee into Egypt. But they refused to obey, and they carried Jeremiah with them into Egypt, where, tradition says, he was stoned to death.
That is the story of this Book; but what is its message? What does God the Holy Spirit intend for you and me to learn from this Book as we read it? How does this ancient word of prophecy apply to us? Obviously, I cannot, in one brief summary, set forth everything that Jeremiah prophesied in forty years. But there are some things that are crystal clear.
Jeremiah’s message was not gloom and doom, as most seem to think. His message was mercy and grace, salvation by God’s free grace, through the sacrifice of his dear Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah himself was a type of Christ. This fact is so obvious that some mistook Christ, the Man of Sorrows, for Jeremiah the weeping, broken-hearted prophet (Matt. 16:14). He wept over his people as Christ wept over them (9:1). His faithfulness brought him reproach, rejection, sorrow, and suffering as it did our Lord. He compares himself to a lamb or an ox brought to the slaughter (11:19).
Throughout this Book we see glimpses of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:—As the Fountain of Living Waters (2:13)—As the Great Physician (8:22)—As the Good Shepherd (31:10, 23:4)—As the Righteous Branch (23:5)—As David the King (30:9)—As our Redeemer (50:34)—And as the Lord our Righteousness (23:6).
At the very time that David’s throne appeared to be on the brink of destruction, and justice and equity were gone, the prophet announced the coming of a King of the House of David, a righteous Branch, who should reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice in the earth. “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In this majestic name (Jehovah-tsidkenu) the Godhead of our Savior is declared, and, as a descendant of David, his humanity.
In chapter 31 the prophet of God even speaks of the incarnation of Christ for the everlasting blessedness of his people (31:20-26). With the coming of our incarnate God, the Lord declares that he will establish and fulfill a new covenant, a covenant of pure, free grace (31:31-34).
This new covenant is called “new” because it is newly revealed and because it is ever new. But the covenant is the everlasting covenant of grace made with Christ as our Surety, ordered in all things and sure from eternity (2 Sam. 23:1-5; Heb. 8, 10). In this covenant the absolute forgiveness, everlasting righteousness, and complete salvation of God’s elect (the Israel of God) was secured from eternity (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:3-6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This covenant was made for us because of God’s everlasting love for his people (Jer. 31:3). And in this covenant even the absolute security and perseverance of God’s elect in grace is secured (Jer. 32:37-41).
Still, all the blessings of grace promised in the covenant could never come to fruition except the Lord Jesus Christ perform his great work of redemption for us as our divinely appointed Kinsman-Redeemer. In chapter 32 (vv. 6-15) Jeremiah typified Christ as our Kinsman Redeemer, exercising the right of redemption to buy back the field his uncle had lost; thereby displaying his confidence that that which God had promised his people would not and could not be lost, though the nation itself would be destroyed and carried away to Babylon.
Christ is the message of Jeremiah. The prophet of God is declaring the absolute certainty of grace and salvation to a chosen nation, the royal priesthood, the church of God’s elect, through the Lord our Righteousness. And there is much to learn in this message.
In chapter 1 we see how a man becomes a prophet and what a prophet is (vv. 5-9, 17-9). No man can be a spokesman for God who has not been set apart by God himself for the work. The Lord God puts his words in the mouth of his servant, sends him forth with his message, emboldened by the fact that God who sends him will take care of him.
Chapters 2-25 show us the cause of divine judgment. Judgment is never an arbitrary thing. It is always the just response of God to man’s rebellion and sin. Blame goes first to the people who rebelled against the Lord. But they were led in rebellion by their kings. And the people and the kings were taught to rebel by their pastors, prophets, and priests.
Living In Babylon
Here is how we are to live in this world, in this generation under the wrath of God.—“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (29:4-7).
Here is the hope God sets before his elect remnant.—“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (29:10-14).
The mystery of God’s providence is unfolded in chapters 30-33. God has not forsaken his people. He is saving them (30:16). He is fulfilling his covenant (chapters 31-33).—“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness” (33:14-16).
Chapters 34-49 describe the Lord’s dealing with the nations that despise him, to consume them in his wrath. In chapters 50-52 we see the mystery of Babylon unraveled wondrously. The nations of this world rise and fall exactly according to the purpose of God. Though they may appear terrifying, there is no cause for alarm. They will only serve God’s purpose, the salvation of his elect. That which is true of the nations of the world is also true of the religion of the nations. Babylon, the great whore of the earth (Babylon represents all antichrist religion all free will, works religion.) shall only harm the nations deceived by her. She, too, shall fall before Zion, the church and kingdom of our God (Rev. 18:20-24). It may, at times, appear that God has forsaken his elect, that he has forgotten to be gracious, but that is never the case.—"For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel" (51:5).
There are tremendous points of gospel doctrine clearly presented in the Book of Jeremiah. The only thing in which we can and must trust is the Lord our God himself. He alone must be our glory, our confidence, and our hope (9:23-24).—“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (17:7). Yet, because all men are, by nature, totally depraved, wicked at the very core of their beings (17:9), no one ever can or will know and trust the Lord God except God himself make himself known to them and do a work of grace in them, turning them unto himself in faith by omnipotent grace. Therefore, the prophet teaches us to pray, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved.” All who find him gracious will glory in him, gladly confessing, “Thou art my praise” (17:14). Yes, all saved sinners delight to acknowledge that, “Salvation is of the Lord!” All to whom the Lord God grants repentance readily confess, “Surely, after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (31:19).
In Jeremiah 50:20 we are given a marvelous declaration of the absolute, full, and everlasting forgiveness of our sin by our God.— "In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve." Let every believing sinner rejoice! God himself, who charged our sins to his Son and punished him in our room and stead to the full satisfaction of justice, will never charge our sins to us.
Why has God chosen to be gracious to some and not others? Why does God save some and pass by others? The answer can only be found in one place—His own sovereign will and good pleasure. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy. He has compassion on whom he will have compassion. And whom he will he hardens. This is precisely the interpretation God the Holy Spirit gives (Rom. 9:15-24) to God’s instruction to Jeremiah in the potter’s house (18:1-17).