Jeremiah has now returned from his public work and retired into his closet; what passed between him and his God there we have an account of in these and the following verses, which he published afterwards, to affect the people with the weight and importance of his messages to them. Here is,
I. The complaint which the prophet makes to God of the many discouragements he met with in his work, Jer. 15:10.
1. He met with a great deal of contradiction and opposition. He was a man of strife and contention to the whole land (so it might be read, rather than to the whole earth, for his business lay only in that land); both city and country quarrelled with him, and set themselves against him, and said and did all they could to thwart him. He was a peaceable man, gave no provocation to any, nor was apt to resent the provocations given him, and yet a man of strife, not a man striving, but a man striven with; he was for peace, but, when he spoke, they were for war. And, whatever they pretended, that which was the real cause of their quarrels with him was his faithfulness to God and to their souls. He showed them their sins that were working their ruin, and put them into a way to prevent that ruin, which was the greatest kindness he could do them; and yet this was it for which they were incensed against him and looked upon him as their enemy. Even the prince of peace himself was thus a man of strife, a sign spoken against, continually enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself. And the gospel of peace brings division, even to fire and sword, Matt. 10:34, 35; Luke 12:49, 51. Now this made Jeremiah very uneasy, even to a degree of impatience. He cried out, Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, as if it were his mother’s fault that she bore him, and he had better never have been born than be born to such an uncomfortable life; nay, he is angry that she had borne him a man of strife, as if he had been fatally determined to this by the stars that were in the ascendant at his birth. If he had any meaning of this kind, doubtless it was very much his infirmity; we rather hope it was intended for no more than a pathetic lamentation of his own case. Note, (1.) Even those who are most quiet and peaceable, if they serve God faithfully, are often made men of strife. We can but follow peace; we have the making only of one side of the bargain, and therefore can but, as much as in us lies, live peaceably. (2.) It is very uncomfortable to those who are of a peaceable disposition to live among those who are continually picking quarrels with them. (3.) Yet, if we cannot live so peaceably as we desire with our neighbours, we must not be so disturbed at it as thereby to lose the repose of our own minds and put ourselves upon the fret.
2. He met with a great deal of contempt, contumely, and reproach. They every one of them cursed him; they branded him as a turbulent factious man, as an incendiary and a sower of discord and sedition. They ought to have blessed him, and to have blessed God for him; but they had arrived at such a pitch of enmity against God and his word that for his sake they cursed his messenger, spoke ill of him, wished ill to him, did all they could to make him odious. They all did so; he had scarcely one friend in Judah or Jerusalem that would give him a good word. Note, It is often the lot of the best of men to have the worst of characters ascribed to them. So persecuted they the prophets. But one would be apt to suspect that surely Jeremiah had given them some provocation, else he could not have lost himself thus: no, not the least: I have neither lent money nor borrowed money, have been neither creditor nor debtor; for so general is the signification of the words here. (1.) It is implied here that those who deal much in the business of this world are often involved thereby in strife and contention; meum et tuum—mine and thine are the great make-bates; lenders and borrowers sue and are sued, and great dealers often get a great deal of ill-will. (2.) it was an instance of Jeremiah’s great prudence, and it is written for our learning, that, being called to be a prophet, he entangled not himself in the affairs of this life, but kept clear from them, that he might apply the more closely to the business of his profession and might not give the least shadow of suspicion that he aimed at secular advantages in it nor any occasion to his neighbours to contend with him. He put out no money, for he was no usurer, nor indeed had he any money to lend: he took up no money, for he was no purchaser, no merchant, no spendthrift. He was perfectly dead to this world and the things of it: a very little served to keep him, and we find (Jer. 16:2) that he had neither wife nor children to keep. And yet, (3.) Though he behaved thus discreetly, and so as one would think should have gained him universal esteem, yet he lay under a general odium, through the iniquity of the times. Blessed be God, bad as things are with us, they are not so bad but that there are those with whom virtue has its praise; yet let not those who behave most prudently think it strange if they have not the respect and esteem they deserve. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
II. The answer which God gave to this complaint. Though there was in it a mixture of passion and infirmity, yet God graciously took cognizance of it, because it was for his sake that the prophet suffered reproach. In this answer, 1. God assures him that he should weather the storm and be made easy at last, Jer. 15:11. Though his neighbours quarrelled with him for what he did in the discharge of his office, yet God accepted him and promised to stand by him. It is in the original expressed in the form of an oath: “If I take not care of thee, let me never be counted faithful; verily it shall go well with thy remnant, with the remainder of thy life” (for so the word signifies); “the residue of thy days shall be more comfortable to thee than those hitherto have been.” Thy end shall be good; so the Chaldee reads it. Note, It is a great and sufficient support to the people of God that, how troublesome soever their way may be, it shall be well with them in their latter end, Ps. 37:37. They have still a remnant, a residue, something behind and left in reserve, which will be sufficient to counterbalance all their grievances, and the hope of it may serve to make them easy. It should seem that Jeremiah, besides the vexation that his people gave him, was uneasy at the apprehension he had of sharing largely in the public judgments which he foresaw coming; and, though he mentioned not this, God replied to his thought of it, as to Moses, Exod. 4:19. Jeremiah thought, “If my friends are thus abusive to me, what will my enemies be?” And God had thought fit to awaken in him an expectation of this kind, Jer. 12:5. But here he quiets his mind with this promise: “Verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, when all about thee shall be laid waste.” Note, God has all men’s hearts in his hand, and can turn those to favour his servants whom they were most afraid of. And the prophets of the Lord have often met with fairer and better treatment among open enemies than among those that call themselves his people. When we see trouble coming, and it looks very threatening, let us not despair, but hope in God, because it may prove better than we expect. This promise was accomplished when Nebuchadnezzar, having taken the city, charged the captain of the guard to be kind to Jeremiah, and let him have every thing he had a mind to, Jer. 39:11, 12. The following words, Shall iron break the northern iron, and the steel, or brass? (Jer. 15:12), being compared with the promise of God made to Jeremiah (Jer. 1:18), that he would make him an iron pillar and brazen walls, seem intended for his comfort. They were continually clashing with him, and were rough and hard as iron; but Jeremiah, being armed with power and courage from on high, is as northern iron, which is naturally stronger, and as steel, which is hardened by art; and therefore they shall not prevail against him; compare this with Ezek. 2:6; 3:8, 9. He might the better bear their quarrelling with him when he was sure of the victory. 2. God assures him that his enemies and persecutors should be lost in the storm, should be ruined at last, and that therein the word of God in his mouth should be accomplished and he proved a true prophet, Jer. 15:13, 14. God here turns his speech from the prophet to the people. To them also Jer. 15:12 may be applied: Shall iron break the northern iron, and the steel? Shall their courage and strength, and the most hardly and vigorous of their efforts, be able to contest either with the counsel of God or with the army of the Chaldeans, which are as inflexible, as invincible, as the northern iron and steel. Let them therefore hear their doom: Thy substance and thy treasure will I give to the spoil, and that without price; the spoilers shall have it gratis; it shall be to them a cheap and easy prey. Observe, The prophet was poor; he neither lent nor borrowed; he had nothing to lose, neither substance. nor treasure, and therefore the enemy will treat him well, Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator—The traveller that has no property about him will congratulate himself when accosted by a robber. But the people that had great estates in money and land would be slain for w 4fd5 hat they had, or the enemy, finding they had much, would use them hardly, to make them confess more. And it is their own iniquity that herein corrects them: It is for all thy sins, even in all thy borders. All parts of the country, even those which lay most remote, had contributed to the national guilt, and all shall now be brought to account. Let not one tribe lay the blame upon another, but each take shame to itself: It is for all thy sins in all thy borders. Thus shall they stay at home till they see their estates ruined, and then they shall be carried into captivity, to spend the sad remains of a miserable life in slavery: “I will make thee to pass with thy enemies, who shall lead thee in triumph into a land that thou knowest not, and therefore canst expect to find no comfort in it.” All this is the fruit of God’s wrath: “It is a fire kindled in my anger, which shall burn upon you, and, if not extinguished in time, will burn eternally.”