But its banks are unvisited, neither cup nor bucket descends into its crystal depths ; for all practical purposes it might as well cease to flow. The bead-drops stand thick upon their brow, as from early dawn to far on into the night they pursue their arduous toil, wrestling with the stubborn granite. They will not avail themselves of the materials of former times, nor utihze 35 Each man has his own scheme, his own design. He toils at it when spring casts her green mantle over the pasture lands that come to the edge of the quarry, and when the summer heat makes the quarry like a kiln.
Whilst others are gathering in the ruddy grape or golden corn, he remains constant to his toil, and he is there amid the biting cold of winter After years of work he may achieve his purpose, and complete the cistern on which he has spent his years. He calls on his neighbours to view his accompHshed purpose, and waits expectant of the shower. Presently it descends, and he is filled with pride and pleasure to think of the store of water which he has been able to secure. But lo! As soon as it enters, it passes out.
There is a fatal crack or flaw; perhaps the stone is too porous. He finds, what every one of his neighbours has found, or will find, that with the utmost care the cisterns wrought in the quarry can hold no water. What an infinite mistake to miss the fountain freely flowing to quench the thirst, and hew out the broken cistern in which is disappointment and despair! Yet this, said the prophet, was the precise position of Israel.
They had done as no nation else, though search were made from the far west of Chittim to the far east of Kedar.
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The heathen at least were constant to their gods. False religions were indigenous to the lands where they had 36 But the people of Jehovah had forsaken Him, as a 30 Cistern iltaking. Very pathetically the prophet reminds them of the past.
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The kindness of their youth, the love of their espousals, their holiness to the Lord, and the song with which they celebrated their deliverance on the shores of the Red Sea, suggested a sad contrast to the evils that cursed the land. Through him the voice of God is heard inquiring the reason of this lamentable apostasy. The chapter is full of questions, as though God would elicit the charge upon which they had deserted Him. Me, and have walked after vanity and are become vain?
Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? Wherefore say my people. We are broken loose, we will come no more unto Thee? There is nothing sadder than the ebb of love, when we are compelled to sit on the beach and watch the slowly receding waters as they drop down from the high-water mark which they had reached with the dancing wavelets.
Jeremiah Priest and Prophet by Meyer F B
This takes the light from the eye, and the spring from the foot. Life can never again be quite as it was. The tide may come up again ; but it will never efface the recollection of the ebb, and the fear of its return. This in human experience is something like the pain felt by the Eternal, as He saw Israel, for whom He had done so much, turn from Him to strangers. Bitter, indeed, to hear them say to a stock, " Thou art my father ; " and to a stone, " Thou hast brought me forth. Its Application to Ourselves. But all attempting the impossible task of satisfying the thirst for the 38 Infinite and Divine, with men and things.
In the expressive words of Jeremiah, they are "broken cisterns that can hold no water. At your feet, O weary cistern-hewer, the fountain of God's love is flowing through the channel of the Divine Man! Stoop to drink it. We must descend to the level of the stream, if its waters are to flow over our parched lips to slake our thirst. You have already dropped your tools, and are weary of your toil.
Priest or prophet?
List to the music that fills the air and floats around, like the chime of angel voices : " Come back to God. Do the first works. Forsake the alliances 39 Open your heart, that He may create in you the fountain of living water, leaping up to eternal life. The Spirit and the bride say. And he that heareth, let him say, Come! And he that is athirst, let him come. Jeremiah iii.
Life and times
E do not know how Jeremiah's first address was received. And from that moment, through the forty-four years that followed, the influence of his holy example and fervent words was destined to make itself mightily felt. One more star of hope shone over that hotbed of corruption, the very atmosphere of which was charged with symptoms of impending dissolution. Another voice was audible through which God could utter his pleadings and remon- strances.
Jeremiah was a Priest
In his second discourse, lasting from the third to the sixth chapters inclusive — and which perhaps is preserved as a specimen of Jeremiah's words at this period — there is an added power and pathos. The flame burns higher ; the sword has a keener edge ; yet the tone is more tremulous and tender.
In his own touching words, Jeremiah was as a gentle lamb led to the slaughter xi. If any pure and holy soul could have saved Judah by its pleadings, tears, and warnings, Jeremiah would have done it. But it was not to be. The upas had struck its roots too deeply ; the ulcer was too inveterate. The evil that Manasseh had sown had too thickly impregnated the soil. This, however, did not appear in those early days of Jeremiah's ministry ; and with all the hopefulness of youth, he thought that he might yet avert the disaster.
Surely a voice warning of the rocks that lay direct in the vessel's course, and a firm hand on the tiller, might yet steer the good ship into calm, deep water! This discourse is occupied with a clear prevision of the Chaldean invasion ; with plaintive expressions of pity and pain ; and with eloquent assertions of the redeeming grace of God. The Prophet's Prevision of Approaching Judg- ment.
It was a welcome contrast to the experience of the previous centuries. And it appeared probable that it might last. Thus Josiah was able to pursue his reforms in peace, and there was no war-cloud on the horizon. It was on one of these days of Josiah the king iii. He had heard the trumpet summoning the peasantry from the open country to the fenced cities, leaving their crops at the mercy of the invader, to save their lives. He 43 He had caught the cries of the watchers from the northern heights of Dan to Ephraim, and so to Jerusalem, as they announced the advent of the invader.
He had beheld the desolation of the land, the hurried retreat of the defenders of the holy city herself, some to thickets, and others to holes in the jagged rocks. Yes, and he had seen the daughter of Zion gasping in the extreme of her anguish, and crying, " Woe is me now! He beholds the preparations for the siege, and the chagrin of her assailants that the evening shadows of declining day interpose between them and her inevitable capture. He describes the invader as a mighty and ancient nation, glean- ing Israel as men gather the last grapes into their basket ; cruel and merciless as evening wolves.
Their quiver a sepulchre ; their sword a terror ; their charging cry hoarse and deafening as the roar of the sea ; their chariots and cavalry irresistible. The mere reports of their deeds were sufficient to induce in each hearer, as it were, the pangs of travail i. And the words of the young prophet were as fire to wood v.
It has been supposed that these words referred to the 44 The cities of Nineveh and Babylon alone, because of their great strength, escaped ; the open country was swept utterly bare ; all who could not escape were barbarously massacred or carried off as slaves ; villages and towns were turned into charred and smoking ruins. But these barbarian hordes do not fulfil the entire scope of the prophet's words.
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They do not appear to have entered Palestine ; but to have passed down on the eastern or western frontier, skirting the territory of Josiah, and driving the panic-stricken people to the shelter of the larger cities, whence they traced the path of the invader, lit by conflagrations kindled on their ruthless march.
It is better, therefore, to refer these ominous words to the invasion of Judah by Babylon, which was to take place in thirty years, but of which the people were amply warned, that they might put away their abominations and return to the Fountain of Living Waters. His Plaintive Expression of Pity and Pain. Throughout 45 True patriot as he was, it was hard for him to contemplate the impending destruction of the holy city. The noblest traditions of his people were represented in those cries, which for a little demand our consideration.
I writhe in pain! He identifies himself with his land, and it seems as though the curtains of his own tents are being spoiled, as in a moment. He struggles against uttering his message of judgment till he can no longer contain himself, and becomes weary with holding in vi. He addresses Jerusalem as the 36 tibe. He asks how he may comfort himself against sorrow, because his heart faints within him viii. He wishes that his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people ix. He wanders alone over the 46 So far from desiring the evil day, very gladly would he have laid down his life to avert it.
The chalice of his life was full of that spirit which led the Master in after years to weep as he beheld the guilty and doomed city. Many a great preacher of repentance in all the centuries of Church history has known something of this bewailing. Side by side with vehement denunciations of coming judgment, there has been the pitiful yearning over lost men.
We need more of this. Nothing is so terrible as to utter God's threatenings against sin, which are predictions of its natural and inevitable outworking, with no sign of anguish or regret. If we are called to speak of judgment to come, it should be after hours of solitary prayer, weeping, and soul travail. It is only in proportion as we have felt for sinners, that we can warn them.
It is only in so far as we have known the Saviour's pity, that we can dare to take up the woes He pronounced against Pharisee and Sadducee, or threaten the fate which He so clearly and awfully de- 47 Our mistake is in dealing with generals and not with particulars ; or in using terms which have passed from hand to hand, until their inscription is worn away.
And probably the best way of entering into the meaning of any of these terrible con- ceptions is to try and realize what they would mean for any one soul who was dear to us as Hfe.
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