We have here a message from God concerning all the people of Judah (Jer. 25:1), which Jeremiah delivered, in his name, unto all the people of Judah, Jer. 25:2. Note, That which is of universal concern ought to be of universal cognizance. It is fit that the word which concerns all the people, as the word of God does, the word of the gospel particularly, should be divulged to all in general, and, as far as may be, addressed to each in particular. Jeremiah had been sent to the house of the king (Jer. 22:1), and he took courage to deliver his message to them, probably when they had all come up to Jerusalem to worship at one of the solemn feasts; then he had them together, and it was to be hoped then, if ever, they would be well disposed to hear counsel and receive instruction.
This prophecy is dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the first of Nebuchadrezzar. It was in the latter end of Jehoiakim’s third year that Nebuchadrezzar began to reign by himself alone (having reigned some time before in conjunction with his father), as appears, Dan. 1:1. But Jehoiakim’s fourth year was begun before Nebuchadrezzar’s first was completed. Now that that active, daring, martial prince began to set up for the world’s master, God, by his prophet, gives notice that he is his servant, and intimates what work he intends to employ him in, that his growing greatness, which was so formidable to the nations, might not be construed as any reflection upon the power and providence of God in the government of the world. Nebuchadrezzar should not bid so fair for universal monarchy (I should have said universal tyranny) but that God had purposes of his own to serve by him, in the execution of which the world shall see the meaning of God’s permitting and ordering a thing that seemed such a reflection on his sovereignty and goodness.
Now in this message we may observe the great pains that had been taken with the people to bring them to repentance, which they are here put in mind of, as an aggravation of their sin and a justification of God in his proceedings against them.
I. Jeremiah, for his part, had been a constant preacher among them twenty-three years; he began in the thirteenth year of Josiah, who reigned thirty-one years, so that he prophesied about eighteen or nineteen years in his reign, then in the reign of Jehoahaz, and now four years of Jehoiakim’s reign. Note, God keeps an account, whether we do or no, how long we have enjoyed the means of grace; and the longer we have enjoyed them the heavier will our account be if we have not improved them. These three years (these three and twenty years) have I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree. All this while, 1. God had been constant in sending messages to them, as there was occasion for them: “From that time to this very day the word of the Lord has come into me, for your use.” Though they had the substance of the warning sent them already in the books of Moses, yet, because those were not duly regarded and applied, God sent to enforce them and make them more particular, that they might be without excuse. Thus God’s Spirit was striving with them, as with the old world, Gen. 6:3. 2. Jeremiah had been faithful and industrious in delivering those messages. He could appeal to themselves, as well as to God and his own conscience, concerning this: I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking. He had declared to them the whole counsel of God; he had taken a great deal of care and pains to discharge his thrust in such a manner as might be most likely to win and work upon them. What men are solicitous about and intent upon they rise up early to prosecute. It intimates that his head was so full of thoughts about it, and his heart so intent upon doing good, that it broke his sleep, and made him get up betimes to project which way he might take that would be most likely to do them good. He rose early, both because he would lose no time and because he would lay hold on and improve the best time to work upon them, when, if ever, they were sober and sedate. Christ came early in the morning to preach in the temple, and the people as early to hear him, Luke 21:38. Morning lectures have their advantages. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning.
II. Besides him, God had sent them other prophets, on the same errand, Jer. 25:4. Of the writing prophets Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk, were a little before him, and Zephaniah contemporary with him. But, besides those, there were many other of God’s servants the prophets who preached awakening sermons, which were never published. And here God himself is said to rise early and send them, intimating how much his heart also was upon it, that this people should turn and live, and not go on and die, Ezek. 33:11.
III. All the messages sent them were to the purpose, and much to the same purport, Jer. 25:5, 6. 1. They all told them of their faults, their evil way, and the evil of their doings. Those were not of God’s sending who flattered them as if there were nothing amiss among them. 2. They all reproved them particularly for their idolatry, as a sin that was in a special manner provoking to God, their going after other gods, to serve them and to worship them, gods that were the work of their own hands. 3. They all called on them to repent of their sins and to reform their lives. This was the burden of every song, Turn you now every one from his evil way. Note, Personal and particular reformation must be insisted on as necessary to a national deliverance: every one must turn from his own evil way. The street will not be clean unless every one sweep before his own door. 4. They all assured them that, if they did so, it would certainly be the lengthening out of their tranquillity. The mercies they enjoyed should be continued to them: “You shall dwell in the land, dwell at ease, dwell in peace, in this good land, which the Lord has given you and your fathers. Nothing but sin will turn you out of it, and that shall not if you turn from it.” The judgments they feared should be prevented: Provoke me not, and I will do you no hurt. Note, We should never receive from God the evil punishment if we did not provoke him by the evil of sin. God deals fairly with us, never corrects his children without cause, nor causes grief to us unless we give offence to him.
IV. Yet all was to no purpose. They were not wrought upon to take the right and only method to turn away the wrath of God. Jeremiah was a very lively affectionate preacher, yet they hearkened not to him, Jer. 25:3. The other prophets dealt faithfully with them, but neither did they hearken to them, nor incline their ear, Jer. 25:4. That very particular sin which they were told, of all others, was most offensive to God, and made them obnoxious to his justice, they wilfully persisted in: You provoke me with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Note, What is a provocation to God will prove, in the end, hurt to ourselves, and we must bear the blame of it. O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself.