We have here Jeremiah’s prayer to God upon occasion of the discoveries God had made to him of his purposes concerning this nation, to pull it down, and in process of time to build it up again, which puzzled the prophet himself, who, though he delivered his messages faithfully, yet, in reflecting upon them, was greatly at a loss within himself how to reconcile them; in that perplexity he poured out his soul before God in prayer, and so gave himself ease. That which disturbed him was not the bad bargain he seemed to have made for himself in purchasing a field that he was likely to have no good of, but the case of his people, for whom he was still a kind and faithful intercessor, and he was willing to hope that, if God had so much mercy in store for them hereafter as he had promised, he would not proceed with so much severity against them now as he had threatened. Before Jeremiah went to prayer he delivered the deeds that concerned his new purchase to Baruch, which may intimate to us that when we are going to worship God we should get our minds as clear as may be from the cares and incumbrances of this world. Jeremiah was in prison, in distress, in the dark about the meaning of God’s providences, and then he prays. Note, Prayer is a salve for every sore. Whatever is a burden to us, we may by prayer cast it upon the Lord and then be easy.
In this prayer, or meditation,
I. Jeremiah adores God and his infinite perfections, and gives him the glory due to his name as the Creator, upholder, and benefactor, of the whole creation, thereby owning his irresistible power, that he can do what he will, and his incontestable sovereignty, that he may do what he will, Jer. 32:17-19. Note, When at any time we are perplexed about the particular methods and dispensations of Providence it is good for us to have recourse to our first principles, and to satisfy ourselves with the general doctrines of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness. Let us consider, as Jeremiah does here, 1. That God is the fountain of all being, power, life, motion, and perfection: He made the heaven and the earth with his outstretched arm; and therefore who can control him? Who dares contend with him? 2. That with him nothing is impossible, no difficulty insuperable: Nothing is too hard for thee. When human skill and power are quite nonplussed, with God are strength and wisdom sufficient to master all the opposition. 3. That he is a God of boundless bottomless mercy; mercy is his darling attribute; it is his goodness that is his glory: “Thou not only art kind, but thou showest lovingkindness, not to a few, to here and there one, but to thousands, thousands of persons, thousands of generations.” 4. That he is a God of impartial and inflexible justice. His reprieves are not pardons, but if in mercy he spares the parents, that they may be led to repentance, yet such a hatred has he to sin, and such a displeasure against sinners, that he recompenses their iniquity into the bosom of their children, and yet does them no wrong; so hateful is the unrighteousness of man, and so jealous of its own honour is the righteousness of God. 5. That he is a God of universal dominion and command: He is the great God, for he is the mighty God, and might among men makes them great. He is the Lord of hosts, of all hosts, that is his name, and he answers to his name, for all the hosts of heaven and earth, of men and angels, are at his beck. 6. That he contrives every thing for the best, and effects every thing as he contrived it: He is great in counsel, so vast are the reaches and so deep are the designs of his wisdom; and he is mighty in doing, according to the counsel of his will. Now such a God as this is not to be quarrelled with. His service is to be constantly adhered to and all his disposals cheerfully acquiesced in.
II. He acknowledges the universal cognizance God takes of all the actions of the children of men and the unerring judgment he passes upon them (Jer. 32:19): Thy eyes are open upon all the sons of men, wherever they are, beholding the evil and the good, and upon all their ways, both the course they take and every step they take, not as an unconcerned spectator, but as an observing judge, to give every one according to his ways and according to his deserts, which are the fruit of his doings; for men shall find God as they are found of him.
III. He recounts the great things God had done for his people Israel formerly. 1. He brought them out of Egypt, that house of bondage, with signs and wonders, which remain, if not in the marks of them, yet in the memorials of them, even unto this day; for it would never be forgotten, not only in Israel, who were reminded of it every year by the ordinance of the passover, but among other men: all the neighbouring nations spoke of it, as that which redounded exceedingly to the glory of the God of Israel, and made him a name as at this day. This is repeated (Jer. 32:21), that God brought them forth, not only with comforts and joys to them, but with glory to himself, with signs and wonders (witness the ten plagues), with a strong hand, too strong for the Egyptians themselves, and with a stretched-out arm, that reached Pharaoh, proud as he was, and with great terror to them and all about them. This seems to refer to Deut. 4:34. 2. He brought them into Canaan, that good land, that land flowing with milk and honey. He swore to their fathers to give it them, and, because he would perform his oath, he did give it to the children (Jer. 32:22) and they came in and possessed it. Jeremiah mentions this both as an aggravation of their sin and disobedience and also as a plea with God to work deliverance for them. Note, It is good for us often to reflect upon the great things that God did for his church formerly, especially in the first erecting of it, that work of wonder.
IV. He bewails the rebellions they had been guilty of against God, and the judgments God had brought upon them for these rebellions. It is a sad account he here gives of the ungrateful conduct of that people towards God. He had done every thing that he had promised to do (they had acknowledged it, 1 Kgs. 8:56), but they had done nothing of all that he commanded them to do (Jer. 32:23); they made no conscience of any of his laws; they walked not in them, paid no respect to any of his calls by his prophets, for they obeyed not his voice. And therefore he owns that God was righteous in causing all this evil to come upon them. The city is besieged, is attacked by the sword without, is weakened and wasted by the famine and pestilence within, so that it is ready to fall into the hands of the Chaldeans that fight against it (Jer. 32:24); it is given into their hands, Jer. 32:25. Now, 1. He compares the present state of Jerusalem with the divine predictions, and finds that what God has spoken has come to pass. God had given them fair warning of it before; and, if they had regarded this, the ruin would have been prevented; but, if they will not do what God has commanded, they can expect no other than that he should do what he had threatened. 2. He commits the present state of Jerusalem to the divine consideration and compassion (Jer. 32:24): Behold the mounts, or ramparts, or the engines which they make use of to batter the city and beat down the wall of it. And again, “Behold thou seest it, and takest cognizance of it. Isa. this the city that thou has chosen to put thy name there? And shall it be thus abandoned?” He neither complains of God for what he had done nor prescribes to God what he should do, but desires he would behold their case, and is pleased to think that he does behold it. Whatever trouble we are in, upon a personal or public account, we may comfort ourselves with this, that God sees it and sees how to remedy it.
V. He seems desirous to be let further into the meaning of the order God had now given him to purchase his kinsman’s field (Jer. 32:25): “Though the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and no man is likely to enjoy what he has, yet thou hast said unto me, Buy thou the field.” As soon as he understood that it was the mind of God he did it, and made no objections, was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; but, when he had done it, he desired better to understand why God had ordered him to do it, because the thing looked strange and unaccountable. Note, Though we are bound to follow God with an implicit obedience, yet we should endeavour that it may be more and more an intelligent obedience. We must never dispute God’s statutes and judgments, but we may and must enquire, What mean these statutes and judgments? Deut. 6:20.