Here is, 1. An enquiry made into the reasons why God would bring those judgments upon them (Jer. 16:10): When thou shalt show this people all these words, the words of this curse, they will say unto thee, Wherefore has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? One would hope that there were some among them that asked this question with a humble penitent heart, desiring to know what was the sin for which God contended with them, that they might cast it away and prevent the judgment: “Show us the Jonah that raises the storm and we will throw it overboard.” But it seems here to be the language of those who quarrelled at the word of God, and challenged him to show what they had done which might deserve so severe a punishment: “What is our iniquity? Or what is our sin? What crime have we even been guilty of, proportionable to such a sentence?” Instead of humbling and condemning themselves, they stand upon their own justification and insinuate that God did them wrong in pronouncing this evil against them, that he laid upon them more than was right, and that they had reason to enter into judgment with God, Job 34:23. Note, It is amazing to see how hardly sinners are brought to justify God and judge themselves when they are in trouble, and to own the iniquity and the sin that have procured them the trouble. 2. A plain and full answer given to this enquiry. Do they ask the prophet why, and for what reason, God is thus angry with them? He shall not stop their mouths by telling them that they may be sure there is a sufficient reason, the righteous God is never angry without cause, without good cause; but he must tell them particularly what is the cause, that they may be convinced and humbled, or at least that God may be justified. Let them know then, (1.) That God visited upon them the iniquities of their fathers (Jer. 16:11): Your fathers have forsaken me, and have not kept my law. They shook off divine institutions and grew weary of them (they thought them too plain, too mean), and then they walked after other gods, whose worship was more gay and pompous; and, being fond of variety and novelty, they served them and worshipped them; and this was the sin which God had said, in the second commandment, he would visit upon their children, who kept up these idolatrous usages, because they received them by tradition from their fathers, 1 Pet. 1:18. (2.) That God reckoned with them for their own iniquities (Jer. 16:12): “You have made your fathers’ sin your own, and have become obnoxious to the punishment which in their days was deferred, for you have done worse than your fathers.” If they had made a good use of their fathers’ reprieve, and had been led by the patience of God to repentance, they would have fared the better for it and the judgment would have been prevented, the reprieve turned into a national pardon; but, making an ill use of it, and being hardened by it in their sins, they fared the worse for it, and, the reprieve having expired, an addition was made to the sentence and it was executed with the more severity. They were more impudent and obstinate in sin than their fathers, walked every one after the imagination of his own heart, made that their guide and rule and were resolved to follow that, on purpose that they might not hearken to God and his prophets. They designedly suffered their own lusts and passions to be noisy, that they might drown the voice of their consciences. No wonder then that God has taken up this resolution concerning them (Jer. 16:13): “I will cast you out of this land, this land of light, this valley of vision. Since you will not hearken to me, you shall not hear me; you shall be hurried away, not into a neighbouring country which you have formerly had some acquaintance and correspondence with, but into a far country, a land that you know not, neither you nor your fathers, in which you have no interest, nor can expect to meet with any comfortable society, to be an allay to your misery.” Justly were those banished into a strange land who doted upon strange gods, which neither they nor their fathers knew, Deut. 32:17. Two things would make their case there very miserable, and both of them relate to the soul, the better part; the greatest calamities of their captivity were those which affected that and debarred that from its bliss. [1.] “It is the happiness of the soul to be employed in the service of God; but there shall you serve other gods day and night; that is, you shall be in continual temptation to serve them and perhaps compelled to do it by your cruel task-masters; and, when you are forced to worship idols, you will be as sick of such worship as ever you were fond of it when it was forbidden you by your godly kings.” See how God often makes men’s sin their punishment, and fills the backslider in heart with his own ways. “You shall have no public worship at all but the worship of idols, and then you will think with regret how you slighted the worship of the true God.” [2.] “It is the happiness of the soul to have some tokens of the lovingkindness of God, but you shall go to a strange land, where I will not show you favour.” If they had had God’s favour, that would have made even the land of their captivity a pleasant land; but, if they lie under his wrath, the yoke of their oppression will be intolerable to them.
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