4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.
The spirit of divine compassion was the moving spring of the ministry of the prophets, as we learn from the statement at the close of their history:
" The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers . . . because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place " (2 Chron. xxxvi. 15).
The practical effect of the Elijah-Elisha work is visible in the almost over-weening regard
in which Elijah is held among the Jews to the present day ; and in another form, may be traced in the racial faithfulness to the law of Moses among those masses of Jewish population who are the undoubted descendants of the ten tribes in Russia, Poland, Roumania, Austria, and Germany.
Such a thing as an idolatrous Jew is rarely to be found in the land of their captivity, though they were so prone to idolatry when they lived in their own land.
After the death of Elisha, it would seem as if the prophetic institution had gradually faded away. We read no more of the sons of the prophets" during the hundred years or so that elapsed from the death of Elisha to the captivity of the ten tribes (B.C. 724). We read only of one or two individual prophets who stand forth for a moment in the gathering darkness like solitary twinkling stars in the advancing night: such as the mention of JONAH, son of Amittai, as a prophet whose word was fulfilled in a temporary restoration of Israel's coasts under Jeroboam II. ; and in the indication that the written prophecies of HOSEA and AMOS covered the reigns of one or two of the last of the ten-tribe kings (Hosea i. 1 ; Amos i. 1).
There is a greater activity of the prophetic function, and less of the miraculous element, in the reigns of the kingdom of Judah. May we suppose that this was because of the greater faithfulness of Judah. Miracles are
" a sign to unbelievers,"
to use Paul's expression ; they are intended to create faith. Where faith already exists, they are superfluous. So with regard to the activity of prophecy. Paul in the same connection observes that prophecy is for the edification and comfort of them that believe. Judah,
nationally speaking, was of this class, though with periods of lapse, consequently, prophesying was more common among them than among the ten tribes, while the sons of the prophets as a wonder working institution was more common among the latter.
Most of the books of the prophets were produced in connection with the
kingdom of Judah-a fact which may have its explanation in the suggestion just made-which is greatly strengthened by the fact that the Lord Jesus sprang out of that kingdom.
The prophets that appeared in Judah, after the revolt of the ten tribes, were twenty-two in number, and twenty-five if Hosea, Amos, and Jonah be included. The reason for doubting the propriety of their inclusion is that though, their prophecies related to affairs of
Judah, they themselves may have appeared in Israel or the ten tribes, as they treat of the affairs of the ten tribes.
Of the whole number, sixteen wrote books which have been preserved, namely, those whose names appear in the compilation of Scripture. Some whose names are not on the list of the twenty-five, wrote books which have not been preserved, viz.: NATHAN the prophet, GAD the seer (1 Chron. xxix. 29), AHIJAH the Shilonite and IDDO the seer (1 Chron. ix. 29),
Shemaiah (2 Chron. xii. 15).
Some have felt concerned at the absence of these books so referred to in Scripture. There is no need for concern. The books that have been preserved, viz., the "all Scripture" of Paul's declaration to Timothy (2 Tim. iii. 15) are affirmed, on the authority of the Spirit
of God, to be sufficient for the making of men "wise unto salvation.'
If the others had been necessary for their sufficiency in this respect, they would have been preserved. Curiosity might wish to know their contents, but as products of inspiration, the deepest study must have failed to discover in them anything inconsistent with the same
inspiration in the other books. It is barely possible they may have contained the casual quotation or two that occur in the New Testament from the Old Testament Scriptures for which nothing corresponding can be found in our present compilation.
At all events, the loss is inconsiderable in a spiritual sense. Godly men find the
Scriptures as they are, all-sufficient for conviction, enlightenment, holiness, comfort, and salvation.
Ministry of the prophets Ch 3
8 In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?
Idolatry in Egypt
The people had scattered and settled down quietly in various parts of Egypt and appeared to be getting on. As regards the idolatry and other wickednesses which had brought such calamities on them, though for a moment they had desisted, they had now returned to their old ways under the shadow of Egypt's protection. They were
"burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt" (Jer. 44:8).
The message that came to them pointed to the desolation that had come upon their own land in fulfilment of the threatenings of the prophets.
Seasons 2. 60
15 Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,
Nothing could be more forcible or more touching than such an appeal, but how was it received? Not at all in a favourable manner. Jeremiah having apparently convened the people for the purpose of delivering the message, of which these are only quotations, the people at its conclusion said...Seasons 2. 60
19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?
What could Jeremiah say in response to such a piece of sophistry, but meekly recite the facts as he did, -viz., that the plenty that they had before Jerusalem's destruction was not the result of their idolatry, but the consequence of God's long-suffering; and that the trouble they had been in since, was not the effect of their momentary abandonment of idolatry, but of their prolonged indulgence in it during former years.
However, his words had no effect. The facts on the face of them could be twisted into harmony with their contention. We often see this ingenious perversity. There is always room for stumbling if people are not sincere in their quest for truth. Truth itself becomes a snare to such.Seasons 2. 60
28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs.
This ended Jeremiah's work with them, so far as we have any record. Tradition says he was shortly afterwards murdered by the rebels. God allowed His messengers thus to be prevailed against because of the recompense reserved. The victory is theirs at the last in the most triumphant form. What we have to note is that till that time arrive, it is not the fortune of divine truth to be popular or to have multitude on its side.
The time is near for god to show His hand: but it has not yet come, and therefore we have to submit to the experience that has been common from the beginning. The multitude are leagued against the Truth, under influential leadership. It is not possible that they can be brought to listen.
Shall we grow weary of the hopeless battle? If we were aiming at a present result, we should not be the brethren of the prophets. We are aiming only at what they aimed at. We are aiming to be faithful to the Truth in our day and generation, and to achieve a place at the last among the chosen of God. Therefore we cannot be discouraged by a whole lifetime of a whole world's opposition.
To be on God's side is to be on the winning side, however unpromising the appearances may be for the time being. We are on His side in being on the side of His Word. We have His own cheery rallying cry to trust to:
"They shall know whose word shall stand, Mine or theirs."
This was of local application at the time, but it applies wherever God has spoken. The men of Judah living at Tahpanhes, Migdol, and Noph in Egypt found out how bottomless was their sophisticated expectation (that the practice of idolatry would secure their peace in Egypt) when Nebuchadnezzar's army descended like a storm on the country, and spread terror and desolation before them.
And so it will be with all who place themselves in antagonism to the revealed will of God. They may nurse their prosperities and congratulate themselves on the peace they are permitted to enjoy for the time being: but God's Word will come to pass and root them out of the land of the living when His salvation will fill the earth with glory.
Seasons 2. 60