Verses 35–40

Glorious things have been spoken in the Jer. 31:1-34 concerning the gospel church, which that epocha of the Jewish church that was to commence at the return from captivity would at length terminate in, and which all those promises were to have their full accomplishment in. But may we depend upon these promises? Yes, we have here a ratification of them, and the utmost assurance imaginable given of the perpetuity of the blessings contained in them. The great thing here secured to us is that while the world stands God will have a church in it, which, though sometimes it may be brought very low, shall yet be raised again, and its interests re-established; it is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Now here are two things offered for the confirmation of our faith in this matter—the building of the world and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

I. The building of the world, and the firmness and lastingness of that building, are evidences of the power and faithfulness of that God who has undertaken the establishment of his church. He that built all things at first is God (Heb. 3:4), and the same is he that makes all things now. The constancy of the glories of the kingdom of nature may encourage us to depend upon the divine promise for the continuance of the glories of the kingdom of grace, for this is as the waters of Noah, Isa. 54:9. Let us observe here,

1. The glories of the kingdom of nature, and infer thence how happy those are that have this God, the God of nature, to be their God for ever and ever. Take notice, (1.) Of the steady and regular motion of the heavenly bodies, which God is the first mover and supreme director of: He gives the sun for a light by day (Jer. 31:35), not only made it at first to be so, but still gives it to be so; for the light and heat, and all the influences of the sun, continually depend upon its great Creator. He gives the ordinances of the moon and stars for a light by night; their motions are called ordinances both because they are regular and by rule and because they are determined and under rule. See Job 38:31-33. (2.) Take notice of the government of the sea, and the check that is given to its proud billows: The Lord of hosts divides the sea, or (as some read it) settles the sea, when the waves thereof roar (divide et impera—divide and rule); when it is most tossed God keeps it within compass (Jer. 5:22), and soon quiets it and makes it calm again. The power of God is to be magnified by us, not only in maintaining the regular motions of the heavens, but in controlling the irregular motions of the seas. (3.) Take notice of the vastness of the heavens and the unmeasurable extent of the firmament; he must needs be a great God who manages such a great world as this is; the heavens above cannot be measured (Jer. 31:37), and yet God fills them. (4.) Take notice of the mysteriousness even of that part of the creation in which our lot is cast and which we are most conversant with. The foundations of the earth cannot be searched out beneath, for the Creator hangs the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7), and we know not how the foundations thereof are fastened, Job 38:6. (5.) Take notice of the immovable stedfastness of all these (Jer. 31:36): These ordinances cannot depart from before God; he has all the hosts of heaven and earth continually under his eye and all the motions of both; he has established them, and they abide, abide according to his ordinance, for all are his servants, Ps. 119:90, 91. The heavens are often clouded, and the sun and moon often eclipsed, the earth may quake and the sea be tossed, but they all keep their place, are moved, but not removed. Herein we must acknowledge the power, goodness, and faithfulness of the Creator.

2. The securities of the kingdom of grace inferred hence: we may be confident of this very thing that the seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation, for the spiritual Israel, the gospel church, shall be a holy nation, a peculiar people, 1 Pet. 2:9. When Israel according to the flesh is no longer a nation the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Rom. 9:8) and God will not cast off all the seed of Israel, no, not for all that they have done, though they have done very wickedly, Jer. 31:37. He justly might cast them off, but he will not. Though he cast them out from their land, and cast them down for a time, yet he will not cast them off. Some of them he casts off, but not all; to this the apostle seems to refer (Rom. 11:1), Hath God cast away his people? God forbid that we should think so! For (Jer. 31:5) at this time there is a remnant, enough to save the credit of the promise that God will not cast off all the seed of Israel, though many among them throw away themselves by unbelief. Now we may be assisted in the belief of this by considering, (1.) That the God that has undertaken the preservation of the church is a God of almighty power, who upholds all things by his almighty word. Our help stands in his name who made heaven and earth, and therefore can do any thing. (2.) That God would not take all this care of the world but that he designs to have some glory to himself out of it; and how shall he have it but by securing to himself a church in it, a people that shall be to him for a name and a praise? (3.) That if the order of the creation therefore continues firm because it was well-fixed at first, and is not altered because it needs no alteration, the method of grace shall for the same reason continue invariable, as it was a first well settled. (4.) That he who has promised to preserve a church for himself has approved himself faithful to the word which he has spoken concerning the stability of the world. He that is true to his covenant with Noah and his sons, because he established it for an everlasting covenant (Gen. 9:9, 16), will not, we may be sure, be false to his covenant with Abraham and his seed, his spiritual seed, for that also is an everlasting covenant. Even that which they have done amiss, though they have done much, shall not prevail to defeat the gracious intentions of the covenant. See Ps. 89:30

II. The rebuilding of Jerusalem which was now in ruins, and the enlargement and establishment of that, shall be an earnest of these great things that God will do for the gospel church, the heavenly Jerusalem, Jer. 31:38-40. The days will come, though they may be long in coming, when, 1. Jerusalem shall be entirely built again, as large as ever it was; the dimensions are here exactly described by the places through which the circumference passed, and no doubt the wall which Nehemiah built, and which, the more punctually to fulfil the prophecy, began about the tower of Hananeel, here mentioned (Neh. 3:1), enclosed as much ground as is here intended, though we cannot certainly determine the places here called the gate of the corner, the hill Gareb, etc. 2. When built it shall be consecrated to God and to his service. It shall be built to the Lord (Jer. 31:38), and even the suburbs and fields adjacent shall be holy unto the Lord. It shall not be polluted with idols as formerly, but God shall be praised and honoured there; the whole city shall be as it were one temple, one holy place, as the new Jerusalem is, which therefore has no temple, because it is all temple. 3. Being thus built by virtue of the promise of God, it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down, any more for ever; that is, it shall continue very long, the time of the new city from the return to its last destruction being fully as long as that of the old from David to the captivity. But this promise was to have its full accomplishment in the gospel church, which, as it is the spiritual Israel, and therefore God will not cast it off, so it is the holy city, and therefore all the powers of men shall not pluck it up, nor throw it down. It may lie waste for a time, as Jerusalem did, but shall recover itself, shall weather the storm and gain its point, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.