The dispute between God and his prophet, in this chapter, seems to be like that between the owner and the dresser of the vineyard concerning the barren fig-tree, Luke 13:7. The justice of the owner condemns it to be cut down; the clemency of the dresser intercedes for a reprieve. Jeremiah had been earnest with God, in prayer, to return in mercy to this people. Now here,
I. God overrules the plea which he had offered in their favour, and shows him that it would not hold. In answer to it thus he says concerning this people, Jer. 14:10. He does not say, concerning my people, for he disowns them, because they had broken covenant with him. It is true they were called by his name, and had the tokens of his presence among them; but they had sinned, and provoked God to withdraw. This the prophet had owned, and had hoped to obtain mercy for them, notwithstanding this, through intercession and sacrifice; therefore God here tells him, 1. That they were not duly qualified for a pardon. The prophet had owned that their backslidings were many; and, though they were so, yet there was hope for them if they returned. But this people show no disposition at all to return; they have wandered, and they have loved to wander; their backslidings have been their choice and their pleasure, which should have been their shame and pain, and therefore they will be their ruin. They cannot expect God should take up his rest with them when they take such delight in going astray from him after their idols. It is not through necessity or inadvertency that they wander, but they love to wander. Sinners are wanderers from God; their wanderings forfeit God’s favour, but it is their loving to wander that quite cuts them off from it. They were told what their wanderings would come to that one sin would hurry them on to another, and all to ruin; and yet they have not taken warning and refrained their feet. So far were they from returning to their God that neither his prophets nor his judgments could prevail upon them to give themselves the least check in a sinful pursuit. This is that for which God is now reckoning with them. When he denies them rain from heaven he is remembering their iniquity and visiting their sin; that is it for which their fruitful land is thus turned into barrenness. 2. That they had no reason to expect that the God they had rejected should accept them; no, not though they betook themselves to fasting and prayer and put themselves to the expense of burnt-offerings and sacrifice: The Lord doth not accept them, Jer. 14:10. He takes no pleasure in them (so the word is); for what pleasure can the holy God take in those that take pleasure in his rivals, in any service, in any society, rather than his? “When they fast (Jer. 14:12), which is a proper expression of repentance and reformation,—when they offer a burnt offering and an oblation, which was designed to be an expression of faith in a Mediator,—though their prayers be thus enforced, and offered up in those vehicles that used to be acceptable, yet, because they do not proceed from humble, penitent, and renewed hearts, but still they love to wander, therefore I will not hear their cry, be it ever so loud; nor will I accept them, neither their persons nor their performances.” It had been long since declared, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; and those only are accepted that do well, Gen. 4:7. 3. That they had forfeited all benefit by the prophet’s prayers for them because they had not regarded his preaching to them. This is the meaning of that repeated prohibition given to the prophet (Jer. 14:11): Pray not thou for this people for their good, as before, Jer. 7:15; 11:14. This did not forbid him thus to express his good-will to them (Moses continued to intercede for Israel after God had said, Let me alone, Exod. 32:10), but it forbade them to expect any good effect from it as long as they turned away their ear from hearing the law. Thus was the doom of the impenitent ratified, as that of Saul’s rejection was by that word to Samuel, When wilt thou cease to mourn for Saul? It therefore follows (Jer. 14:12), I will consume them, not only by this famine, but by the further sore judgments of sword and pestilence; for God has many arrows in his quiver, and those that will not be convinced and reclaimed by one shall be consumed by another.
II. The prophet offers another plea in excuse for the people’s obstinacy, and it is but an excuse, but he was willing to say whatever their case would bear; it is this, That the prophets, who pretended a commission from heaven, imposed upon them, and flattered them with assurances of peace though they went on in their sinful way, Jer. 14:13. He speaks of it with lamentation: “Ah! Lord God, the poor people seem willing to take notice of what comes in thy name, and there are those who in thy name tell them that they shall not see the sword nor famine; and they say it as from thee, with all the gravity and confidence of prophets: I will continue you in this place, and will give you assured peace here, peace of truth. I tell them the contrary; but I am one against many, and every one is apt to credit that which makes for them; therefore, Lord, pity and spare them, for their leaders cause them to err.” This excuse would have been of some weight if they had not had warning given them, before, of false prophets, and rules by which to distinguish them; so that if they were deceived it was entirely their own fault. But this teaches us, as far as we can with truth, to make the best of bad, and judge as charitably of others as their case will bear.
III. God not only overrules this plea, but condemns both the blind leaders and the blind followers to fall together into the ditch. 1. God disowns the flatteries (Jer. 14:14): They prophesy lies in my name. They had no commission from God to prophesy at all: I neither sent them, nor commanded them, nor spoke unto them. They never were employed to go on any errand at all from God; he never made himself known to them, much less by them to the people; never any word of the Lord came to them, no call, no warrant, no instruction, much less did he send them on this errand, to rock them asleep in security. No; men may flatter themselves, and Satan may flatter them, but God never does. It is a false vision, and a thing of nought. Note, What is false and groundless in vain and worthless. The vision that is not true, be it ever so pleasing, is good for nothing; it is the deceit of their heart, a spider’s web spun out of their own bowels, and in it they think to shelter themselves, but it will be swept away in a moment and prove a great cheat. Those that oppose their own thoughts of God’s word (God indeed says so, but they think otherwise) walk in the deceit of their heart, and it will be their ruin. 2. He passes sentence upon the flatterers, Jer. 14:15. As for the prophets, who put this abuse upon the people by telling them they shall have peace, and this affront upon God by telling them so in God’s name, let them know that they shall have no peace themselves. They shall fall first by those very judgments which they have flattered others with the hopes of an exemption from. They undertook to warrant people that sword and famine should not be in the land; but it shall soon appear how little their warrants are good for, when they themselves shall be cut off by sword and famine. How should they secure others or foretel peace to them when they cannot secure themselves, nor have such a foresight of their own calamities as to get out of the way of them? Note, The sorest punishment await those who promise sinners impunity in their sinful ways. 3. He lays the flattered under the same doom: The people to whom they prophesy lies, and who willingly suffer themselves to be thus imposed upon, shall die by sword and famine, Jer. 14:16. Note, The unbelief of the deceived, with all the falsehood of the deceivers, shall not make the divine threatenings of no effect; sword and famine will come, whatever they say to the contrary; and those will be least safe that are most secure. Impenitent sinners will not escape the damnation of hell by saying that they can never believe there is such a thing, but will feel what they will not fear. It is threatened that this people shall not only fall by sword and famine, but that they shall be as it were hanged up in chains, as monuments of that divine justice which they set at defiance; their bodies shall be cast out, even in the streets of Jerusalem, which of all places, one would think, should be kept clear from such nuisances: there they shall lie unburied; their nearest relations, who should do them that last office of love, being so poor that they cannot afford it, or so weakened with hunger that they are not able to attend it, or so overwhelmed with grief that they have no heart to it, or so destitute of natural affection that they will not pay them so much respect. Thus will God pour their wickedness upon them, that is, the punishment 37ec of their wickedness; the full vials of God’s wrath shall be poured upon them, to which they have made themselves obnoxious. Note, When sinners are overwhelmed with trouble they must in it see their own wickedness poured upon them. This refers to the wickedness both of the false prophets and of the people; the blind lead the blind, and both fall together into the ditch, where they will be miserable comforters one to another.