Jeremiah 4:1-2. If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.
So he sets before them life and death. First, he begins with these words of encouragement. He begs them to come, for God is willing to receive them notwithstanding all.
Jeremiah 4:3-4 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
They had the outward religion, but the Lord’s servant bids them know that they must have heart religion. The heart must be purged: the inward must be cleansed. This they had no mind to. They would multiply their sacrifices and their outward performances, but as to cleanliness of heart, this they cared not for.
Jeremiah 4:5-7. Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defensed cities. Set up the standard towards Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way: he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall he laid waste, without an inhabitant.
This was a terrible prophecy. The Chaldeans, who had broken to pieces so many other kingdoms and powers, were on their way. The lion enraged, had leaped from his thicket and was about to tear, and rend, and do universal havoc; and if they did not turn to God, their whole land would be laid waste. One would think that such a heavy blow should have awakened them to a sense of their danger and their sin, but, alas! it was not so.
Jeremiah 4:8-9. For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of LORD is not turned back from us. And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.
Universal fear would take hold upon them. If they would not rightly fear the Lord and turn to him; the time would come when, without exception, the greatest and the wisest of them, should be taken with a sudden panic.
Jeremiah 4:10. Then said I, Ah! Lord God! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.
God promises them peace, but it was upon a condition which they did not fulfill. There was peace while they gave up their sin, but “There is no peace, With God, unto the wicked”: and so they missed it.
Jeremiah 4:11-12. At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem. A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.
What an awful line that is. “Now also will I give sentence against them.” They had been on their trial. They are found guilty. They will not repent. “Now will I proceed to pronounce their doom and give sentence against them.”
Jeremiah 4:13. Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.
They began to cry out when they began to smart, and the prophet comes in again.
Jeremiah 4:14. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved.
There is ever that silver bell of mercy ringing out the note of invitation. “O Jerusalem, thy sorrows, thy destruction may yet be averted if thou wilt turn from thy darkness, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved.
Jeremiah 4:14-18. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim. Make ye mention to the nations: behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD, Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.
When “great judgments are abroad,” it always is on account of great sin. It was so in the case of Israel. “Thy doings have procured these things unto thee.” Oh! when the ungodly man begins to reap the result of his life —when, in his own body and in his own home, he begins to see what sin will often bring the drunkard to, let him hear these words: “This is thy wickedness. Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee.” Now follows the lament of Jeremiah — one at the most wonderful pieces of sorrowful writing that will ever be read in your hearing.
Jeremiah 4:19-21. My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou has heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment. How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
The dreadful blast of war, the blood-red flag of murder, flying through the land, while the Chaldeans slew right and left, young and old — we want to put ourselves into Jeremiah’s position to be able to realize the horror of this case.
Jeremiah 4:22-23. For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void: and the heavens, and they had no light.
As if they had gone back to chaos — to the primeval darkness — to the fist disorder ere God began to create.
Jeremiah 4:24-29. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger, For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and I will not repent, neither will I turn back from it. The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks; every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein.
Now all this did happen. It all came to pass. Palestine, the glorious garden of God, was made as dreary as a wilderness. It is not much better now. It has scarce recovered. God will re-gather them to the land one day, but oh! what a sight it was when God at last had ended his patience — poured out the vials of his wrath upon his once favoured land.