We have here the sermon that Jeremiah preached, which gave such offence that he was in danger of losing his life for it. It is here left upon record, as it were, by way of appeal to the judgment of impartial men in all ages, whether Jeremiah was worthy to die for delivering such a message as this from God, and whether his persecutors were not very wicked and unreasonable men.
I. God directed him where to preach this sermon, and when, and to what auditory, Jer. 26:2. Let not any censure Jeremiah as indiscreet in the choice of place and time, nor say that he might have delivered his message more privately, in a corner, among his friends that he could confide in, and that he deserved to smart for not acting more cautiously; for God gave him orders to preach in the court of the Lord’s house, which was within the peculiar jurisdiction of his sworn enemies the priests, and who would therefore take themselves to be in a particular manner affronted. He must preach this, as it should seem, at the time of one of the most solemn festivals, when persons had come from all the cities of Judah to worship in the Lord’s house. These worshippers, we may suppose, had a great veneration for their priests, would credit the character they gave of men, and be exasperated against those whom they defamed, and would, consequently, side with them and strengthen their hands against Jeremiah. But none of these things must move him or daunt him; in the face of all this danger he must preach this sermon, which, if it were not convincing, would be very provoking. And because the prophet might be in some temptation to palliate the matter, and make it better to his hearers than God had made it to him, to exchange an offensive expression for one more plausible, therefore God charges him particularly not to diminish a word, but to speak all the things, nay, all the words, that he had commanded him. Note, God’s ambassadors must keep closely to their instructions, and not in the least vary from them, either to please men or to save themselves from harm. They must neither add nor diminish, Deut. 4:2.
II. God directed him what to preach, and it is that which could not give offence to any but such as were resolved to go on still in their trespasses. 1. He must assure them that if they would repent of their sins, and turn from them, though they were in imminent danger of ruin and desolating judgments were just at the door, yet a stop should be put to them, and God would proceed no further in his controversy with them, Jer. 26:3. This was the main thing God intended in sending him to them, to try if they would return from their sins, that so God might turn from his anger and turn away the judgments that threatened them, which he was not only willing, but very desirous to do, as soon as he could do it without prejudice to the honour of his justice and holiness. See how God waits to be gracious, waits till we are duly qualified, till we are fit for him to be gracious to, and in the mean time tries a variety of methods to bring us to be so. 2. He must, on the other hand, assure them that if they continued obstinate to all the calls God gave them, and would persist in their disobedience, it would certainly end in the ruin of their city and temple, Jer. 26:4-6. (1.) That which God required of them was that they should be observant of what he had said to them, both by the written word and by his ministers, that they should walk in all his law which he set before them, the law of Moses and the ordinances and commandments of it, and that they should hearken to the words of his servants the prophets, who pressed nothing upon them but what was agreeable to the law of Moses, which was set before them as a touchstone to try the spirits by; and by this they were distinguished from the false prophets, who drew them from the law, instead of drawing them to it. The law was what God himself set before them. The prophets were his own servants, and were immediately sent by him to them, and sent with a great deal of care and concern, rising early to send them, lest they should come too late, when their prejudices had got possession and become invincible. They had hitherto been deaf both to the law and to the prophets: You have not hearkened. All he expects now is that at length they should heed what he said, and make his word their rule—a reasonable demand. (2.) That which is threatened in case of refusal is that this city, and the temple in it, shall fare as their predecessors did, Shiloh and the tabernacle there, for a like refusal to walk in God’s law and hearken to his prophets, then when the present dispensation of prophecy just began in Samuel. Now could a sentence be expressed more unexceptionably? Isa. it not a rule of justice ut parium par sit ratio—that those whose cases are the same be dealt with alike? If Jerusalem be like Shiloh in respect of sin, why should it not be like Shiloh in respect of punishment? Can any other be expected? This was not the first time he had given them warning to this effect; see Jer. 7:12-14. When the temple, which was the glory of Jerusalem, was destroyed, the city was thereby made a curse; for the temple was that which made it a blessing. If the salt lose that savour, it is thenceforth good for nothing. It shall be a curse, that is, it shall be the pattern of a curse; if a man would curse any city, he would say, God make it like Jerusalem! Note, Those that will not be subject to the commands of God make themselves subject to the curse of God.