Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
"O Ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of
Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire (signal
fire) in Beth-haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great
The prophet now directs his
message specifically to Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand,
indicating that the application was to the genuine believers among the
apostate mass of the nation represented, in the present context, by apostate
Jerusalem, the spiritual application for the Church age being to the true
believers found in the midst of apostate Christendom. God's command to His
own today, as then, is to separate themselves from the apostate mass upon
which His judgment is soon to be poured out. That we are in the closing days
of the age, and that judgment is about to fall, is apparent to all but the
Tekoah, meaning a trumpet
blast: to thrust, was located in Judah about 12 miles south of Jerusalem.
This not only reminds us of the close literal tie between these two tribes,
but it points symbolically to the far more important spiritual truth that
praise (worship) is inseparable from the faith which Benjamin here
represents. A professed faith that has no desire to worship is suspect.
Beth-haccerem, believed to
have been about five miles west of Jerusalem, means the vineyard-house,
and the command to "set up a sign of fire" there is literally "light a warning
beacon fire." The spiritual message isn't difficult to read when we remember
that the vineyard is used frequently as a symbol of God's people, so that the
vineyard house is clearly a figure of God's house today. The command
is no less to the Church than it was to Benjamin, to sound the warning to
saint and sinner alike, of the judgment about to engulf this evil world.
As has been noted in other
studies, the compass directions mentioned in Scripture all have significance,
the north speaking of human intelligence (working very frequently in
opposition to God). This reference therefore to the north as the direction
from which the destruction was to come, has special significance for the day
in which we live, for it is doubtful if there has ever been a time when man's
intellect was more adamantly set against all that is of God. Man's "wisdom"
declares that the Bible is a fable; that there is neither a heaven nor a hell;
that there is nothing after death; and that there is no God. And even within
the professing church, human order has largely replaced the Divine, while
human schemes have replaced the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was God, however, Who
foreknew all this, and Who bade John depict the church at the end of the age
as being Laodicean, with the Lord standing outside its door closed against
Him. And it is that same God who reveals to faith that the judgment of which
Jeremiah warned is, like all of Israel's history, simply a foreshadowing of
the history of the professing church.
"I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman."
As the Church is likened to
a fair chaste virgin, so here God declares that Israel was beautiful to Him,
but that beauty couldn't save her from the consequences of her wickedness, for
the God Who loved her is also a God of absolute holiness "of purer eyes than
to behold evil, and (Who) canst not look on iniquity," Hab 1:13.
"The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their
tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place."
"The shepherds with their
flocks" were the Babylonian commanders with their armies, and there is
peculiar propriety in God's likening the invaders and their armies to
"shepherds with their flocks." It was her own evil shepherds - false
prophets, evil priests, and rulers - who had led Israel astray, and who had
therefore brought God's wrath upon her. Having willingly accepted the evil
promoted by her own evil shepherds, she was now going to have to accept
unwillingly the tyranny of Babylonian "shepherds" (masters).
Their "pitching their tents
against her" refers to their besieging her and leaving no way of escape; while
its being said that "they shall feed every one in his place" is that they
would literally take over her fields and pastures.
Transcending the literal,
however, is the spiritual truth being declared relative, not only to Israel,
but to an apostate church that has followed all too faithfully in the
footsteps of that rebellious nation. As Judah was brought under the dominion
of the Babylonian prophets, priests, and leaders (false shepherds), so does an
apostate church today lie under the dominion of the same evil religious
system, which upon the decline of Babylon, moved first to Pergamos, and then
to Rome, and from there has ruled Christendom with an iron fist for the past
two thousand years, for the Roman Catholic system is simply the old Babylonian
mystery religion dressed in Christian garb.
And just as the godly
remnant in the midst of the professing, but apostate mass of Judah, had to
endure the Babylonian captivity, so today does the true Church in the midst of
the professing, but apostate mass of Christendom, lie largely under that same
Babylonian dominion. Only spiritually blind eyes will fail to see how closely
the Protestant system resembles the Roman Catholic, and only the same myopia
will prevent men from seeing that the present ecumenical movement is
insidiously, but quickly and surely, removing the few remaining distinctions.
Encouragement for those with
a heart for the things of God is the record of the faithfulness of Daniel and
his three companions in response to the edict of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1).
"Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for
the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out."
The first part is literally
that they will agree together to attack Jerusalem "at noon," i.e., early in
the day, this being the metaphoric expression of their eagerness to seize and
destroy her. The second part “Woe unto us! for the day goeth away,” continues
to express their impatience at every moment’s delay in getting to Jerusalem to
begin their rapine.
The lust of the Babylonians
to destroy Jerusalem, however, is also a foreshadowing of the zeal with which
the Romans destroyed her in AD 70, and with which her foes will seek her
devastation in the Great Tribulation. But nothing can destroy God’s city.
Jerusalem will survive to become the governmental center, not just of
Palestine, but of the millennial world.
"Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces."
This continues to be the
metaphoric announcement, not only of Babylon’s eagerness to get to the work of
destroying the Jerusalem addressed by Jeremiah, but also of the desire that
will impel the enemies arrayed against her in the Great Tribulation.
Again, the spiritual message
transcends the literal. The enemy, Satan, has sought with the same murderous
zeal to destroy the Church "by daylight," i.e., by open warfare; but all the
deadly persecution by political and military Rome (often incited by Jewish
hatred) failed to achieve that objective during the first three centuries of
the Church's existence. And when the Roman empire fell in 476 AD, religious
Rome, having seized the scepter of earthly dominion, continued the attack even
more viciously, staining her hands for over a thousand years with the blood of
countless multitudes of believers who refused to bow to her; but again the
efforts failed: the Church still lives, and will yet reign with Christ
But now, for spiritual
Babylon, as for literal Babylon in the days of Jeremiah, "the day goeth away,
for the shadows of the evening are stretched out." Satan, the power behind
Rome today, as he was behind Babylon long ago, knows that the Church age is
almost ended, and as the darkness of spiritual night settles over a rebel
world, he presses the attack on the Church under cover of darkness - and is
achieving far greater success than he has ever done by open warfare. Having
exchanged the role of "roaring lion" for that of "angel of light," he has
succeeded in bringing the professing church to ruin, so that, as in Israel
twenty-six hundred years ago, the number of genuine believers to be found in
the midst of the apostate mass is pitifully small.
Without the persecution that
weeded out false profession, Christianity has become popular, the "mustard
seed" has become a monstrosity, a tree in whose branches the fowls of the air
have lodged, see Mt 13:31; Mk 4:31; Lk 13:19, and note that the fowls
represent Satan and his evil spirits, see Lk 8: 5,8. The scriptural Gospel
has been replaced with a polite social "gospel" purged of warning relative to
hell, of the need of conviction, repentance, and holy living, and which makes
"conversion" available to all who will "pray the sinner's prayer" or sign a
card certifying assent to the historicity of Jesus Christ.
And where false religion
holds no appeal, Satan has still another weapon in his arsenal:
intellectualism, by means of which he convinces the "sophisticated" that the
Bible is mere mythology, heaven and hell nonexistent, with God existing only
in the imagination of the ignorant.
And as Judah, on the verge
of captivity, had her multitudes of false prophets to contradict the genuine,
and assure her that there would be no captivity, so has an apostate church her
hordes of false teachers to assure her that there is no judgment impending.
That judgment, however, is as sure for an apostate church and an evil world as
it was for an apostate Israel and Judah.
"For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount
against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited (judged, punished); she is
wholly oppression in the midst of her."
God's command to the enemy
was to cut down the trees growing around the city, for use as battering rams,
and for the construction of mounts. The city that had been "visited" with
blessing had rebelled against God and multiplied her wickedness to the point
where that same God must now visit her with judgment.
So too must it be with the
man or nation that rebels against God and exhausts His patience. The city
that ought to have been characterized by righteousness, was instead marked by
cruel oppression of the poor, and by every other form of wickedness. Only the
spiritually blind will fail to see that the world, and an apostate church, are
marked by the very same evils today, so that the judgment of God is also about
to fall upon them.
"As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness:
violence and spoil (oppression and outrage) is heard in her; before me
continually is grief and wounds."
Wickedness gushed out from
the city with the same constancy as do the waters of a spring well. The
description is as applicable to today's world and apostate church as it was to
Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah.
"Violence and spoil
(oppression and outrage) is heard in her" has the same aptness, for grief and
wounds characterize the present evil world and apostate church no less than
they did ancient Jerusalem, and are just as surely to be visited with the
fierce judgment of the God Whose patience they have exhausted.
"Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make
thee desolate, a land not inhabited."
This seems to imply that
there was yet time for Jerusalem to repent, but in spite of the warning, God
foreknew that it would go unheeded, that there would be no repentance on her
part, and that His foretold judgment would fall. He is no less aware that all
His warnings to the world and the apostate church today will also go unheeded,
and that judgment is inevitable. But this raises the question, Why then did
He give the warning? It was for the same reason which impels Him to give
warning today: while there is no hope for a godless world and an apostate
church, there is still the opportunity for individuals to avail themselves of
It betrays lamentable
ignorance of Scripture to believe that there will be improvement in today’s
world or apostate church. Each has filled its cup of judgment to the brim.
There will be no repentance, no recovery. The rapture of the true Church, the
believing remnant within the apostate mass, is imminent, and following her
removal there will be a little interval, after which the terrible Tribulation
judgments will be poured out, sweeping two thirds of the world's population
into eternity, and leaving the earth as desolate and depopulated as was Canaan
following the Babylonian invasion.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of
Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets."
Another translation renders
this, "for as a grape-gatherer checks each vine to pick what he has missed, so
the remnant of My people shall be destroyed again." All of this was fulfilled
in the period between the reign of Jehoiakim and the flight of the remnant
into Egypt following the murder of Gedaliah, see 2 Ki 24-25. It foreshadows
the coming Tribulation when rebellious Israel, a rebellious world, and an
equally rebellious apostate church, will be similarly "gleaned" by God by
means of the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation.
6:10. "To whom
shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is
uncircumcised (closed), and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord
is unto them a reproach (a contemptible thing); they have no delight in it."
As then God found no one to
listen to His voice, to heed His warning, so is it also today. Men's ears
today are as deaf to His Word as in the days of Jeremiah, not only in the
world, but in an apostate church. It is held in the same contempt now as
then, professed believers displaying the same distaste for it as their
unbelieving fellows. Note, for example, how few professing Christians are
willing to spend time studying Scripture. How few attend the weekly Bible
study meeting, Gospel meeting, or teaching meeting, compared with the numbers
who flock to a church musical evening, a film, or a dinner!
He who claims to love the
Lord, yet evinces no desire to study the Scriptures which are the written
revelation of Him, has a very questionable profession, because the two things
are a contradiction in terms: they are mutually exclusive.
I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding it: I will pour it
out upon the children abroad (playing in the streets), and upon the assembly
of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the
aged with him that is full of days."
Who can begin to comprehend
the fury of the Lord? It is impossible to measure, though glimpses of it are
given us throughout Scripture, e.g., the flood that destroyed the pre-Adamic
world; the later deluge which destroyed the world again in the days of Noah;
the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and the thousands who died of
the plague from time to time. We do well to heed the warning, "He that being
often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that
without remedy" Pr 29:1, for, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God," He 10:31.
None would be spared. The
child as well as the aged man would suffer God's wrath. (God's destruction of
infants and children invariably raises the question of His justice, but only
in the minds of those who fail to take account of His foreknowledge. He Who
knows the end from the beginning knows whether the infant would repent and
believe when it comes to years of wisdom. For example, few will deny that
Hitler deserved to die, but our judgment is based on what he did when he
became a man, not what he was as an infant. Before Hitler was born, however,
God knew what a monster he would become. He possesses the same knowledge of
all men, choosing in His sovereignty to permit some to display by their
wickedness their worthiness of judgment, while cutting others off in infancy
or childhood. All are born on the broad and crowded way that leads to hell,
and Scripture knows of no other way into heaven than through the new birth).
6:12. "And their
houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for
I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord."
How few take account of the
fact that all we have has been given by God, entrusted to us as stewards, who,
when our brief day of stewardship is over, must relinquish those things into
the hand of another, and then stand before the Lord to render an account of
our stewardship! Do we not in our hearts sometimes display towards earthly
possessions the same proud independent spirit as was disclosed in the words of
Nebuchadnezzar relative to
Babylon, "Is not this great
Babylon, that I have built
for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my
Judah's day of
accountability had come. Ours is near, and just as certain. For those
addressed by Jeremiah, their deaf ears and continued rebellion sealed their
doom. May we be preserved from similar deafness, similar rebellion!
6:13. "For from
the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to
covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth
This is the description of a
people as greedy for gain as they were indifferent to the means of acquiring
it, and no spiritual mind will fail to see how accurately the description fits
But those described weren't
the heathen. They were God's people; and sadly, it must be confessed that the
description still applies to many professed Christians today. It is this
greed for money that has caused many an evangelist, elder, and teacher to
neglect his spiritual gift, to fail to stir it up, with the result that he
neither has food for his own soul, nor for the saints, nor for the
unconverted, so that the professing church, and a godless world both languish
in the grip of a spiritual famine worse than any literal famine ever
experienced by Israel.
Nor was the sin confined to
just one segment of the people. No, "from the least of them even unto the
greatest" all were guilty, and again no one can deny that the evil today is
equally pervasive, not only in the world, but amongst those who claim to be
Christians. In the world, the same love of money that has corrupted virtually
all those in high places, is found in every strata of society; and so also in
the professing church. It isn't just the average believer who is to be
charged with this sin: it is rampant also amongst those who ought to be
examples to the people.
In that distant day prophet
and priest were equally guilty, and today many of those who should be teaching
the saints, being examples to them, interceding for them, are to be charged
with the same sin.
"... dealeth falsely" is
literally practices deceit, fraud.
6:14. "They have
healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace,
peace; when there is no peace."
The charlatan prophets and
priests had treated Israel's deadly wound as though it were a minor injury, by
minimizing the enormity of the offense against God, and assuring the people
that peace would continue, when in fact, God's judgment was about to fall upon
them. It is no different today. Deluded government leaders proclaim that the
world is about to enter the long dreamed of age of peace, little realizing
that the present tenuous peace is just the calm before the storm, when the
earth will be convulsed by war, famine, disease and anarchy far worse than
anything it has ever known.
Equally blind religious
leaders are also busy minimizing the magnitude of man's sin against God,
offering healing through a spurious "gospel" that omits mention of man's
ruined state, all reference to hell, the need of repentance and faith in a
crucified and risen Savior, and that promises men everlasting peace in
response to a mere assent to the historicity of Christ, or the parroted
repetition of the so-called "sinner's prayer," a prayer in regard to which
Scripture is ominously silent. People aren’t saved by repeating the trite
little prayers presented by today’s would-be evangelists. Salvation comes
only to those who are convicted of their sin, who repent and trust in the Lord
Jesus Christ as Savior, demonstrating the reality of their conversion by their
changed lives, and their verbal confession of Christ as Savior and Lord.
The condition of apostate
Judah in the days of Jeremiah is but the OT picture of the state of apostate
Christendom today, the judgment that overtook the one being but a
foreshadowing of that which is about to engulf the other.
6:15. "Were they
ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all
ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that
fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."
They had become so inured to
every form of sin that they didn't even blush when confronted with that which
was abominable to God, namely their idolatry. Nor is it different today. Men
worship money, education, power, pleasure, sport, and a host of other gods,
while indulging without any shame every lust of corrupt fallen human nature,
declaring in brazen defiance of God that they have every right to adopt their
own self-chosen "lifestyles," even though He has declared that many of those
practices are abominable to Him, and are to be punished with death.
But God's patience with His
rebel people had come to an end though they knew it not; and it has also come
to an end with today’s godless world and those who call themselves Christian,
but who by their lifestyles demonstrate that they have never been born again.
They too are ignorant of the fact that they have exhausted God's patience,
that His judgment is about to fall. Their falling "among them that fall"
simply declares that the same judgment that consumes the unprofessing sinner
will consume also the false professor.
"... at the time that I
visit them" reminds us that however much man may choose to ignore it, God has
appointed a day of judgment for all men: for the believer, the judgment seat
of Christ, Ro 14:10; for the unbeliever, the great white throne, Re 20:11.
See also all of Romans chapter 2.
saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your
souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."
Even as He assured them of
coming judgment, God paused to exhort them to stop at the cross-roads and
remember the old paths of long ago, paths of obedience, and therefore of
blessing. That they had come to the cross-roads is clear, for nothing could
avert the long-threatened judgment, but even as they went into captivity in
Babylon they could have repented, and there in the land of captivity, walked
in “the old paths” of obedience, and enjoyed God's blessing, saving their
souls even in their captivity; but they would not. They would continue to be
as disobedient in captivity as they had been when free.
The lesson He would teach us
in this is that even though we may not escape the consequences of our folly
here on earth, it is possible even while we endure those consequences, to
repent and walk again in the paths of obedience, and enjoy blessing. For
example, there are in our prisons today those who are suffering the
consequences of their sin, but who have there found Christ, and in spite of
prison bars, enjoy God's blessing. There are those dying as a result of
sinful living, who have repented, trusted the Savior, and even as their
physical bodies succumb to disease, know the peace of God which passeth
A lesson we would all do
well to remember is that God's blessings aren't limited by outward
circumstances; and while we may not always escape the consequences of our
folly, we can repent, walk again in obedience, and experience blessing. There
is no more dramatic evidence of this truth than that presented at Calvary. On
either side of Christ hung two malefactors, the one as guilty as the other,
each suffering the same measure of physical torment, but how different their
spiritual states! The repentant thief was going to heaven; the other, to
hell, repentant faith and lack of it alone making the difference.
God didn't promise the
penitents of Jeremiah’s day deliverance from Babylonian captivity, but He did
promise them "rest for your souls," even in captivity. Sadly, however, they
refused His mercy, rejected the "old paths," saying, "We will not walk
The world and the apostate
professing church stand today at that same cross-roads. The coming judgment
can't be averted, but He Who in the midst of wrath remembers mercy, calls in
patient grace, "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk
therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." The response of a rebel
world and an equally rebellious professing church, however, is the same as
that returned by Israel in the days of Jeremiah, "We will not walk therein."
As then, false "prophets" mock those who teach truth, assuring their blinded
followers that by means of the "new gospel" the world will be converted and
the long-sought day of peace ushered in. As then, false "priests," belittling
the deadly nature of sin, heal the hurt of the people but "slightly," assuring
their dupes that all they need to do is repeat "the sinner's prayer," and give
verbal assent to the historicity of Christ.
The "old paths" in which
alone blessing is to be found, are mocked and despised today; sound doctrine
is dismissed as being mere useless tradition; while a giddy Christendom, as
spiritually blind as those addressed by Jeremiah, and having as their
"ministers" those as blind as the false prophets and priests who deceived
ancient Judah, sings and dances on its way to hell.
6:17. "Also I
set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they
said, We will not hearken."
The watchmen were the
faithful prophets whom God had sent to encourage obedience, and to warn the
people of the evil that would follow disobedience. The messages they preached
were the trumpet blasts reminding the people of the need to obey God if they
would enjoy His blessings, and warning them of the wrath that would fall upon
them if they disobeyed. But their words had gone unheeded, while the
pronouncements of the false prophets had been received as the utterances of
Nor was this state relative
only to the men of Jeremiah's day: it is an evil in the heart of every
generation, the Lord's scathing denunciation of those of His own day being
concluded with the lament, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the
prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her
wings;, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate," Mt
Stephen likewise castigated
them, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have
slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have
been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the
disposition of angels, and have not kept it," Ac 7:52-53.
Israel and Judah, however,
are but the mirror in which God would have all men see themselves. The men of
this generation - Jew and Gentile alike - are no different from those of past
generations. The unregenerate heart is incorrigibly evil, and will not bow to
the will of God. The multitudes of false professors who constitute the bulk
of Christendom today, are equally rebellious against His Word, and have just
as surely therefore made themselves heirs of judgment. But now, as then, in
their blindness they reject truth, and heed the lies of the charlatan
preachers and teachers who promise them peace through a false gospel, the
teachers and people alike oblivious of the storm of judgment about to burst
upon a world that has filled its cup of wickedness to the brim.
hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them."
Knowing that there would be
no repentance on the part of the people, God called upon the nations (the
Gentiles) to take note of how He would punish His rebellious people.
They too were to witness the
wrath of God poured out upon those who refused to obey Him. The seventy-year
Babylonian captivity, and the resulting desolation of the once fertile land,
were the dramatic evidence of God's anger; and the record of both has been
preserved as a warning to all generations not to repeat Israel's
folly. The warning, however, has gone unheeded, with the result that a still
more terrible judgment is about to overtake, not only apostate Israel and the
nations, but also an apostate church, in the impending seven-year Tribulation.
“Congregation” is generally
understood as referring to the few godly, the believing remnant, who were to
be found in the midst of the apostate mass.
Unlike the believing remnant
of Jeremiah's day, who had to experience the Babylonian captivity in company
with their unbelieving fellows, the true Church will be raptured home to
heaven before the storm of judgment breaks, those who constitute her being
exhorted to hold fast what they have, Re 2:25, and to be watchful and to
strengthen the things that remain, Re 3:2, as they wait for the Lord's coming,
even in the midst of rapidly deepening apostasy.
6:19. "Hear, O
earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their
thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but
God still calls upon the
whole earth, not simply to witness his dealings with disobedient Israel, but
to heed His warning that the coming Tribulation judgments, while being
especially "the time of Jacob's trouble," Jer 30:7, will embrace also the
"... the fruit of their
thoughts" reminds us of what is written concerning men's thoughts, "As he
(man) thinketh in his heart, so is he," Pr 23:7. Their wicked thoughts had
expressed themselves in evil deeds which had included their robbery and murder
of the innocent; and now their own blood was to be shed by the sword of the
Babylonian who would also carry away their ill-gotten gains. As they had done
to others, so would God do to them.
It is to be noted that the
root cause of their wickedness, and therefore of their chastisement, was their
rejection of God's Word. No one will deny that the tide of evil which has
engulfed the whole world today, stems from the same rebellious spirit, nor
will any Spirit-taught believer doubt that the world, and the apostate
counterfeit of the true Church, like Israel of old, are about to reap the evil
harvest they have sown.
Incidentally, a distinction
is to be noted between God's Word and His law. His Word is the revelation of
Himself; His law is that which is to govern men in their relationship with
Him, and with their fellow-men. The world today, like the Israel of
Jeremiah's day, has rejected both.
6:20. "To what
purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far
country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet
It might be supposed that a
nation so blatantly evil would have abandoned even the pretext of
acknowledging God, but such was not the case. They still maintained the
outward form of worshiping Jehovah, even as they bowed also to the Baals, but
it was nothing more than an empty ritual, the OT counterpart of the similar
empty ritual now used by the apostate church.
Sheba (modern Yemen), on the
south western tip of the Arabian peninsula, and famous for its spices, has
three meanings: he who is coming: seven: oath, and the alternate
spelling Shebah means the place of the oath: to the oath. Since
incense is the biblical symbol of worship, and since all worship is in essence
the presentation of Christ to the Father, and since everything offered under
the Levitical ritual, is a symbol of Christ, it is easy to see in these
meanings allusions to Him. It is He Who is the coming One; He in Whom are
found all the perfections associated with the number seven; and it is He Who
is the Mediator of the covenant or oath which guarantees the believer eternal,
incomprehensible blessings. The meanings of the alternate spelling “Shebah”
focus on the place where that "oath" was sealed by His precious blood,
All of this reminds us that
in the OT age, faith, in some measure at least, even if indistinctly as
through a veil, saw Him portrayed in the offerings, and looked for His
coming. Except for the very small believing remnant, the blind eyes of those
addressed by the prophet, however, saw none of this. What they offered
Jehovah had no more spiritual significance than what they offered their
idols. It is little different with the apostate church. In the midst of her
worship of money, education, fame, sport, art, music, literature, pleasure,
etc., the harlot church still maintains the charade of worshiping God, but her
“worship” is as much an empty ritual as was the "worship" of apostate Israel -
and it is just as abominable to God.
Another rendering of "sweet
cane" is fragrant spices, and the reference may be to the sweet spices
mentioned in Ex 30:22-38, and used for the anointing of the Tabernacle
furniture and of Aaron and his sons, so that it is particularly associated
with the priests. God's rejection of the sweet cane therefore speaks
unmistakably of His rejection of the corrupt priests and of everything
associated with the Temple which had become His house in name only.
thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people,
and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbor and
his friend shall perish."
We can't read this without
remembering what is written concerning God's Word, "Thy word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path," Ps 119:105. The people had rejected the Word
of God, both that which had already been written, and that which was delivered
by the prophets then in their midst. As they who had rejected that Word found
their path strewn with stumblingblocks, so must it be with all who reject
But there is a special
significance connected with the meaning of the word stumblingblock. It
is literally, as well as figuratively, an obstacle, enticement (especially
an idol), (Strong's Concord.). Until the fall, that part of man which is
spirit, found its highest fulfillment in the worship of the Creator, nor has
the fall destroyed that inherent impulse to worship, but it has so corrupted
the spiritual part of man that God has ceased to be the object of his
worship. The fallen creature, however, can no more ignore that impulse than
he can deny himself food and rest, but it now finds its gratification in the
worship of another object, e.g., the heavenly bodies, animals, birds, insects,
trees, stones, and the idols made by his own hands, but as Paul reminds us in
1 Co 10:19-21, those who worship anything other than God worship demons, such
worship, in the final analysis of course, being the worship of Satan.
Judah, having turned aside
from the worship of Jehovah, to bow down to the gods of the heathen, was now
to learn that those idols were "obstacles" or "enticements" over which they
had stumbled to their doom. Nor was recovery possible for the rebellious
nation which had contemptuously ignored God's warnings so long that His
patience had come to an end, reminding us of what is written relative to that
folly, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man," Ge 6:3, "He, that being
often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that
without remedy, Pr 29:1 . It is a fearful, fatal mistake to cross that
invisible line which separates God's mercy from His wrath, so that repentance
The erroneous notion
entertained by our modern supercilious society is that today idolatry is
practiced only by primitive peoples. In his proud complacency modern man
fails to see that he is as much an idolater as those he despises, the only
difference being that they have literal idols, but the money, pleasure, fame,
ease, sports, education, art, literature, music, etc., which he worships are
as much gods as are the idols of the heathen. And like Israel, he too has
scoffed at the Word of God, and is equally blind to the fact that his idolatry
has made him also the object of God's wrath, he, like Israel, having long
since exhausted God's patience. That long-threatened wrath is about to fall.
Nor is there any possibility of recovery, in spite of the euphoria begotten by
the promises of the false teachers who are the modern counterparts of the
false prophets of the OT age.
The reference to "fathers
and sons" falling over the stumblingblocks, would remind us that today's
spiritual counterparts of those "fathers" are they who beget spiritual "sons"
through the new popular but spurious "gospel." Both will perish. Inasmuch as
“neighbor” appears to be the biblical symbol of the Gentiles (Israel's
neighbors), the reference here to the perishing of "the neighbor and his
friend" would remind us that Gentile and Jew alike have made themselves the
objects of God's wrath.
saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great
nation shall be raised from the sides (far ends) of the earth."
Babylon of course is the
"people from the north country," but in the symbolic language of Scripture,
the north is the direction that speaks of intelligence, and very
frequently of mere natural intelligence in opposition to God and to spiritual
wisdom. Remembering that what has already befallen Israel is but the OT
foreshadowing of what yet awaits, not only her, but also an apostate church,
and a rebel world, in the Tribulation, it isn't difficult to see the peculiar
aptness of the symbol relative to the present day. Nothing has been more
inimical to the things of God than modern man's vaunted wisdom, not only in
the world and in the professing church, but also amongst genuine believers.
This, however, is but the precursor of the still more terrible ruin that will
result from the opposition of man's wisdom to God under the reign of the
coming Beast ruler who will be the evil epitome of human wisdom, see Eze 28
where, it is generally agreed, there is a blending of what relates to Satan,
and to the man who will be his instrument in the Tribulation. Note the
emphasis there upon the Satanic wisdom which is the source of unregenerate
Since the earth is
one of the biblical symbols of Israel, particularly the believing remnant
within the apostate mass of the nation, the reference to the great nation to
be raised "from the sides of the earth" may speak of a nation that was
Israel's neighbor. The description certainly fits ancient Babylon, but
continuing to keep in mind that Israel's past experience foreshadows what is
still future, the reference may well be to what Babylon represents, i.e., the
world's false religious systems. Those systems will be unified under the
Beast emperor during the Great Tribulation, i.e., the last half of the
Tribulation era, and it will be during those three and a half years that he
will desecrate the temple as did also his prototype Antiochus, demanding that
he be worshiped as God, and hounding to death all who belong to Christ.
Keeping in mind, however,
that “the sides of the earth” is literally “the far ends of the earth,” the
latter half of this verse is much more likely to refer to the northern
coalition headed up by Russia, that will invade Israel in the Great
Tribulation, seeking to destroy her.
Much of the teaching of
Jeremiah will be lost if we fail to recognize that it points, not only to the
Babylonian captivity which began in the days of his prophecy, but also to the
final terrible judgment of the Tribulation era, the shadows of which are
already beginning to fall across the earth.
shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their
voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for
war against thee, O daughter of Zion."
The merciless cruelty of the
Babylonians is too well documented to require elaboration; and since the sea
is the symbol of the nations in their restless rebellion against God, Isa
57:20, the reference to their voice roaring "like the sea" may be intended
perhaps to emphasize that Israel's final terrible chastisement will come, not
just from one nation, but from many, see e.g., Re 16:14,16; 19:19, all of them
marked by the same merciless cruelty as characterized the Babylonians of
Since horses are one of the
biblical symbols of strength, their riding upon horses declares the invincible
power, not only of ancient Babylon, but of those who will seek Israel's
destruction in the Tribulation.
"... in array as men for war
against thee" points certainly to the determination of the Babylonians to
destroy ancient Judah, but also to the same adamant determination of the
Gentile nations to destroy Israel in the Tribulation.
6:24. "We have
heard the fame thereof; our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us,
and pain, as of a woman in travail."
Certainly Judah had heard
the fame (report) of the Babylonians, but, as noted already, the prophecy goes
beyond the Babylonian captivity of the people in Jeremiah's day, to the far
more terrible chastisement that will befall Israel in the soon-coming
Tribulation era. The fame or report of the Beast ruler will exceed that of
Nebuchadnezzar or of any other monarch; and as ancient Babylon's phenomenal
might instilled in Judah a fear that robbed her of all strength, so will
Israel’s fear of the Tribulation-age Beast ruler weaken the Israel who will
then be the object of his Satanic malice.
Nor is the likening of her
anguish to that of a woman's travail pain mere hyperbole. In Isa 66:7 it is
written, "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she
was delivered of a man child." The prophecy was fulfilled two thousand years
ago when Israel, without travail pain, without even being aware of it,
"brought forth" the Messiah. But it will be very different in the
Tribulation, which, significantly, is repeatedly described by the prophets as
being the time of Israel's travail, see e.g., Mic 5:3, et al. Then will be
fulfilled what is written in Isa 66:8, "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath
seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall
a nation be born at once? for as soon as Israel travailed she brought forth
Out of Israel's Tribulation
travail will come forth the believing remnant which will be the new nation
that will rule all nations in the Millennium. But more: out of that same
travail will come forth her Messiah, the One of Whose presence she was
ignorant at His first advent, when He came as God's Lamb to bear away the sin
of the world, but of Whose presence she will then have no doubt, for it will
be He, coming in power and glory as the Lion of Judah, Who will deliver her
out of the hand of the Beast and of the other Gentile nations, and lead her
into the enjoyment of the millennial blessings delayed so long by her
6:25. "Go not
forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear
is on every side."
This was God's warning of
the futility of going out to cultivate the fields. Such labor would be
wasted. Whether they sowed or reaped, they wouldn't be there to enjoy the
fruits of their labor.
The warning not to "walk by
the way" may have reference, not only to the danger attending such travel, but
also to the impossibility of their going anywhere to escape the coming
judgment. Both warnings will be as applicable in the coming Tribulation as
when Jeremiah pronounced them; but we should note also their pertinence to
those who walk in disobedience in every age. There is an inevitable day when
every man must leave his occupation with the things of earth, there being no
possibility of escaping that day when he must face the judgment of a holy
God. Hence the warning of the prophet Amos, "Prepare to meet thy God," Amos
"... for the sword of the
enemy and fear is on every side." It is tragedy beyond description when a man
or a nation so lives as to make God Himself the enemy, and the sword His.
daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes:
make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the
spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."
Jeremiah's addressing the
people as a daughter rather than as a son continues to emphasize their utter
helplessness against the oppressor, their sin not only having cut them off
from God's help, but having provoked Him to ally Himself with the enemy, and
make it His instrument of chastisement against rebellious Judah.
Sackcloth and ashes were
symbols of mourning, and how bitter that mourning would be is indicated in
that ordinarily the ashes were sprinkled on the head, but Judah's sorrow would
be such that she would become like one who had rolled in ashes so as to be
completely covered. Her mourning likewise was to be of an extraordinary
degree: the bitter hopeless sorrow of one lamenting the death of an only son.
No deeper sorrow could be known, the death of an only son being tantamount to
the death of the parent himself, for it meant the cutting off of his line, the
blotting out of his name.
"... for the spoiler shall
suddenly come upon us." Jeremiah might be the Lord's spokesman to warn
Judah of the terrible consequences that would attend her rebellion, but he has
been well named "the weeping prophet," for clearly it was with a broken heart
that he delivered his message. Even though they mocked and hated him, he had
no pleasure in the terrible retribution soon to fall upon them, his complete
identification with them being disclosed in the words "upon us."
Surely no one will fail to
see in the prophet's compassion, the foreshadowing of the Lord's for that same
rebellious nation, and for all men, when He Himself stood also as Prophet in
their midst and warned of what terrible results would follow their rejection
of Him. Nor can we forget how complete was His identification with those He
sought to warn, He Who was God had deigned to become man. "Forasmuch then as
the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took
part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power
of death .... For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took
on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be
made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high
priest in things pertaining to God," He 2:14-17. There could be no fuller
identification. But their response was the same as that given Jeremiah. They
mocked and hated Him, and thereby sealed their doom.
"... for the spoiler shall
suddenly come upon us." In Jeremiah's day the spoiler was Babylon, and in the
Lord's day it was Rome, two chastisements which are but adumbrations of the
still future, but fast approaching, far more terrible Tribulation judgments.
6:27. "I have
set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and
try their way."
Here God addresses the
prophet, assuring him that as God's spokesman and tester or assayer in the
midst of the rebellious people who hated him because of the truth he declared,
he would nevertheless be protected from their malice, being like a tower or
fortress which they would be unable to destroy. Set thus as God's tester or
assayer, his messages would be the element of testing, the people's rejection
of those messages revealing their own moral corruption. This is always the
nature of God's testing. Its purpose is to reveal to man his sinfulness, that
revelation producing repentance, or hardening still further the heart of the
impenitent, and justifying God in condemning them.
6:28. "They are
all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they
are all corrupters."
The testing of the rebels
wasn't to reveal anything to God, but to manifest to men Judah's utter
depravity. They who had most cause to praise and worship God, slandered Him!
Brass is the biblical symbol
of judgment; and iron, of strength, so that His likening them to these metals
was the symbolic announcement that they who had dared to pass judgment on God
and strengthen themselves against Him, had thereby made themselves the objects
of His judgment, His strength being exercised against them, rather than on
their behalf as formerly.
Their being described as
corrupters points to the fact that their sin went beyond personal
rebellion: by their evil words and deeds they corrupted others also. There is
in this the sobering reminder that we are either advancing the cause of
Christ, or hindering it, as He Himself declared, "He that is not with me is
against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad," Mt 12:30.
bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in
vain: for the wicked are not plucked away."
As the refiner, by fire
purifies metal, so had God through the fire of judgment, sought to purify
rebellious Judah, but to no purpose: she would not be separated from her sin.
To experience what we often term adversity, without considering whether
it might perhaps be God's refining, is to be in danger of becoming like Judah,
The severity of the
chastisements is indicated in the words, "the bellows are burned (blow
fiercely)." The severity of the coming Tribulation judgments may be gauged
from the fact that they will surpass the intensity of any that have preceded
silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them."
There is peculiar aptness in
the use of the term reprobate silver, for silver is the biblical emblem
of redemption. Those who were reprobate, i.e., about to be spurned, or cast
away by God, were those who professed to be His redeemed people, reminding us
of the Lord's own words relative to a yet future day of judgment, "Not every
one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;
but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to
me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in they
name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto
them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity," Mt 7:21-23.
Anticipation of that day
when profession will be tested by the fire of God's holiness, ought to impel a
careful testing of our profession by the Word of God now, while there is time
to exchange mere profession for genuine confession. In eternity it will be
too late. There, change is impossible.