In Jer. 14., as in many parts of the prophets, a calamitous state of things is depicted as prevailing in the land of Israel. It is a picture of dearth -no rain, the ground chapt, the gates languishing, a black aspect on everything, Jerusalem and the country round full of mourning-the children of the nobles themselves on the outlook everywhere for water.
If we enquire the meaning of it, we are led straight into the heart of instruction. We do not require to go far to get the meaning. It is asked and supplied in the chapter. The question is put why God should thus neglect his people-why he should be as a stranger in the land-why he should let it seem as if he had no power to save. The answer is straight and strong, and it is an answer from God.
"Thus saith the Lord unto this people." What saith He? Why that they have loved to wander from Him: that they have forsaken Him: that they have forgotten Him. What then?
"Therefore the Lord doth not accept them: he will now remember their iniquity and visit their sins."
This then is the explanation of the evil things that befel Israel in their land. It was as Moses told them when they came out of Egypt.
"Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God in not keeping His commandments and His judgments and His statutes, which I command thee this day. . If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . . the Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust. . Thou shalt not prosper in thy ways. (Deut)."
It may be said, this is all ancient history, what has it to do with us? A moment's enlightened reflection will bring the answer. It is ancient history written for us. It is among the "whatsoever things 'that' were written for our learning, " of which Paul speaks in Romans.
Paul says the same thing even about the incidents that happened to Israel on their way from Egypt to Caanan, Referring to such unlikely things as their murmurings and God's manifested displeasure, he says,
"all these things happened unto them for example: and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11).
If this is true of the events of the Exodus, how much more of the messages of the prophets. They are intended to convey instruction. It is not difficult to see that they do so. If God was displeased with Israel for wandering from Him, will it be any different with us?
It is the great crime of the present age that God is ignored and forgotten. It is a crime we were once guilty of. It is a crime into which it is very easy to relapse. Hence the wisdom of reading and studying the prophets, as well as other parts of the Scriptures, that we may come quite into harmony with God's views of human action, and be preserved from those wrong views which only bring misery and destruction at last.
In the case of Israel, it was the law of God by Moses they neglected: in our case, it is the same voice speaking from heaven by Christ, and recorded in the apostolic writings and nowhere else. It is this that the whole world neglects and leaves out of account as entirely as if it had never been delivered. It is this that we may be drawn into forgetfulness of, by the influence of other things, and the supreme power of universal example.
Sunday Morning 182. TC 09/1887
1 The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
The dearth is emblematic of a spiritual famine which gripped the land in its apostacy, probably in the days of Jehoiakim, resulting from a withdrawing of the heavenly blessings -
"And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron" -.
Deut 28: 23 , Amos 4: 7, Zech 14: 17.
The harvests were dependent on the autumn and spring rains - Joel 2: 23,24.
When these failed and then the ground became baked and hard and could not be ploughed or the seed sown or germinate, or the spring growth at Passover, the harvests of Pentecost (wheat harvest) and Tabernacles (summer fruits) failed, the land becoming desolate, wells and fountains drying up, so the people thirsted - Psa 42: 1,2, and hungered - Matt 5: 6.
This is what characterises the last days of Judah's commonwealth, as also the last days of the Gentiles ecclesially. Apostacy, war, famine, pestilence, the triple scourge - Matt 27: 7.*
2 Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
The famine was widespread affecting Judah and Jerusalem. Gates speak of the inhabitants and rulers who meet at the open space, for judgement and concourse - Gen 22:17, Ezk 46: 2,3.
"Yahweh loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob" - Psa 87: 2.
But here they were defiled and polluted, and the people mourned and were black because of the famine - 2kings 25:3,
"Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.
They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field - Lam 4: 8-9
Symbolic of their spiritual apostate state. No light - Isa 9: 2, Jhn 1: 5, 3: 19,20; Lk 1: 79; Isa 60: 1,2.
4 Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
The condition of the ground is described. Hard and unyielding, unreceptive to the plough or the seed - Matt 13: 4-7. There was no good ground v23, as it was baked hard by the lack of fructifying water. This sinful state of the heart naturally, hardened by sin, the word of God can make no impression upon it.*
6 And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
The wild ass contrasted with the domestic ass, symbol of Israel - jdg 5: 10, Matt 21: 5. The wild ass was untameable, a law unto itself, distaining human society for the wild barren hills. Yet they could find no pasture, panting for air, and hungered like jackals, sharp eyes failing in the heat exhaustion, aptly describing Israel in its apostacy, vitality expended -
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you" - 1 Cor 11: 30, Isa 6: 9,10.
"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" - Jer 5: 31
*Bro Richard Lister - The Apocalyptic Messenger, Sept 2020
7 O Yahweh, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
Jeremiah recognises the apostate state of Judah and identifies himself with it in the intercessionary role he enacts here in his compassion for the sufferings of the people in their distress, whilst admitting the principle that their works do testify against them, that they corrupted themselves (Deut 31: 20,29) and thus brought Yahweh' judgements upon themselves.
..Yahweh shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace. They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit... And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land - Jer 12: 15-17.*
Bro Richard Lister - The Apocalyptic Messenger, Sept 2020