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1 Remember, O Yahweh, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
Reproach means disgrace, shame or infamy. It comes from a root word which means the gathering of the crop, the autumn and winter season, or ripeness of age. Israel's reproach indicates that their iniquity had come to the full. They were now gathering of the fruit which their sin had sown. They were cold and unresponsive to the Word of God. Their winter season had set in. *
2 Our inheritance [nachalah] is turned to strangers [zarim], our houses to aliens [batim to foreigners]
The promises of God in the past were real and literal in the eyes of the nation. But they had presumed upon them. They felt that they were unconditional. Yet, whether we look at the Abrahamic, Mosaic or Davidic covenants we observe that they were reciprocal. The land itself was the basis ofthe covenants-
"All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever" (Gen. 13:15).
"Ye shall dwell in your land safely, and I will give you peace in your land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid" (Lev. 26:5 6).
This was their heritage. It was that unto which they had been brought from the darkness of slavery in Egypt. It was described unto them in the richest terms-
"A land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8).
This was a glorious heritage for which they did not have to
labor, a country all prepared for them. They were guaranteed these conditions would continue while they placed their confidence in their Creator, and obeyed His voice.
Jeremiah's prayerful lament is now a confession of national departure from God's way. Certainly it was not the condition which their Father desired, nor that which was to be their ultimate destiny by the nature of the promises.
The prophet Jeremiah had expressed the Creator's mind and intention with Israel. The very inheritance which God had granted them was intended to stir them up to a realization that He was their Father.
"I thought, how would I rank you among the sons, and give you a pleasant land, the goodliest heritage of all the nations! And I thought, surely you will call me Father, and will not turn back from Me!"
But they were as an unfaithful woman. They rejected the blessings which were bestowed upon them. They refused to have God as their Father. But seeking the parental protection of their idols and those of the nations they learned to their dismay "We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. "
This was the actual circumstance in many cases, we may be sure. Judah's stand against the will of God, refusal to submit to the yoke of Babylon, in drinking of the cup which had passed over unto them, would take the prime of their nation, leaving them a broken, despised and unwanted remnant. This same agony was repeated again during the first century after Christ, and has been perpetuated during their long night of wandering ..
They spiritually are still orphans and fatherless, and as in wiowhood. The prayers of prophets and faithful men have not been answered as yet, except in the sense of working in the development of things to the glorious consummation still to be effected.
Jeremiah's words are again a confession that the idolatries and superstitions of the world are no guarantee of protection against the evils of the nations. It is a prayer placing them nationally and prophetically before God as in a position for consideration. It is a humble admission that God is the Father of all those who put their trust in Him.
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psa. 103:13).
So also He has declared, that He will be (Psa. 68:5)-
"A Father to the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows." This was the hope in the prophet's heart during his long and solitary vigil. He saw his nation spurn the love of their Father. He knew the destitute condition they would be in without the Heavenly assistance. Yet he trusted that the time would come when the prodigal son would return-
"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firetborn:"
"He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock" (Jer. 31:9-10).
But that day is yet future. The prophet did not see it in his time. Paul in writing to the Corinthians indicates our relationship to the fulfillment of these things. He takes the point from the national plane of Israelitish regathering to the spiritual level when God dwells in the fullest sense in the children of righteousness among those who have separated themselves from the world and all its activities. Quoting Jeremiah's words, Paul declared-
"God hath said, I will dwell IN them, and walk IN them; and be their God, and they shall be My people. "
'Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate: and I will receine you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor, 6:16-1).*
4 We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
The richness and supply of the good land unto which they had been led by the mercies of God were now appropriated by their enemies, and their very possessions were sold back to them at a price, the items for their very existence and meager comfort.
But water has a far deeper and more important significance in the Spirit's declaration here. Israel and Judah had both spurned the water of life flowing from Jerusalem and the prophets thereof. They chose the waters of strange lands, of foreign peoples, and of worldly associations. In consequence God told them He would bring overflowing waters, great and many, upon their lands (Isa. 8:7).*
8 Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.
This was another aspect of their reproach. God had set the bounds of the nations according to the lot of His chosen people. Now these alien nations had absorbed their land and had set their appointed officers over them, and despised their kingly line of descent, and rulership.
And when we truly understand that God was their King and the One who ruled over them, the magnitude of the reproach is evident as we see the stranger lord it over God's heritage. Was it in prophetic vein that Solomon said?
" I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth".
The respect, the honour and the dignity to which they as the chosen of the Lord were heir were trampled in the dust. Yet it will not always continue thus. The ray of hope has burnt in the hearts of spiritual Israel, through the years. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.*
*Bro E.F. Higham
9 We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
The Mosaic covenant promised them a land of plenty, all the blessings of full barns, and winepresses. Their exposed condition in Jeremiah's time was such that all the surrounding nations invaded them and took the produce of their labour.
...a far more serious nature was to strike home to them
"I will send a famine in the land, not of bread, nor of thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it"
10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
Black skin and famine ...
This also brings to mind the period of calamity within the Roman empire starting AD212 (the third seal - Thyatiran epoch - departure from the faith) . The black horse of the apocalypse (Rev 6:5) signifying famine - a consequence of crippling taxation under Roman authority which disincentivised farmers in the provinces from labouring in the fields. Tracts of farmland were left untended. So wheat and barley became scarce and unaffordable as their prices inflated: A period of intense depression and mourning as famine ravaged the empire. The judgement of Yahweh follows corruption of the faith and idolatry.