We have here God’s answer to Jeremiah’s prayer, designed to quiet his mind and make him easy; and it is a full discovery of the purposes of God’s wrath against the present generation and the purposes of his grace concerning the future generations. Jeremiah knew not how to sing both of mercy and judgment, but God here teaches to sing unto him of both. When we know not how to reconcile one word of God with another we may yet be sure that both are true, both are pure, both shall be made good, and not one iota or tittle of either shall fall to the ground. When Jeremiah was ordered to buy the field in Anathoth he was willing to hope that God was about to revoke the sentence of his wrath and to order the Chaldeans to raise the siege. “No,” says God, “the execution of the sentence shall go on; Jerusalem shall be laid in ruins.” Note, Assurances of future mercy must not be interpreted as securities from present troubles. But, lest Jeremiah should think that his being ordered to buy this field intimated that all the mercy God had in store for his people, after their return, was only that they should have the possession of their own land again, he further informs him that that was but a type and figure of those spiritual blessings which should then be abundantly bestowed upon them, unspeakably more valuable than fields and vineyards; so that in this word of the Lord, which came to Jeremiah, we have first as dreadful threatenings and then as precious promises as perhaps any we have in the Old Testament; life and death, good and evil, are here set before us; let us consider and choose wisely.
I. The ruin of Judah and Jerusalem is here pronounced. The decree has gone forth, and shall not be recalled. 1. God here asserts his own sovereignty and power (Jer. 32:27): Behold, I am Jehovah, a self-existent self-sufficient being; I am that I am; I am the God of all flesh, that is, of all mankind, here called flesh because weak and unable to contend with God (Ps. 56:4), and because wicked and corrupt and unapt to comply with God. God is the Creator of all, and makes what use he pleases of all. He that is the God of Israel is the God of all flesh and of the spirits of all flesh, and, if Israel were cast off, could raise up a people to his name out of some other nation. If he be the God of all flesh, he may well ask, Isa. any thing too hard for me? What cannot he do from whom all the powers of men are derived, on whom they depend, and by whom all their actions are directed and governed? Whatever he designs to do, whether in wrath or in mercy, nothing can hinder him nor defeat his designs. 2. He abides by that he had often said of the destruction of Jerusalem by the king of Babylon (Jer. 32:28): I will give this city into his hand, now that he is grasping at it, and he shall take it and make a prey of it, Jer. 32:29. The Chaldeans shall come and set fire to it, shall burn it and all the houses in it, God’s house not excepted, nor the king’s neither. 3. He assigns the reason for these severe proceedings against the city that had been so much in his favour. It is sin, it is that and nothing else, that ruins it. (1.) They were impudent and daring in sin. They offered incense to Baal, not in corners, as men ashamed or afraid of being discovered, but upon the tops of their houses (Jer. 32:29), in defiance of God’s justice. (2.) They designed an affront to God herein. They did it to provoke me to anger, Jer. 32:29. They have only provoked me to anger with the works of their hands, Jer. 32:30. They could not promise themselves any pleasure, profit, or honour out of it, but did it on purpose to offend God. And again (Jer. 32:32), All the evil which they have done was to provoke me to anger. They knew he was a jealous God in the matters of his worship, and there they resolved to try his jealousy and dare him to his face. “Jerusalem has been to me a provocation of my anger and fury,” Jer. 32:31. Their conduct in every thing was provoking. (3.) They began betimes, and had continued all along provoking to God: “They have done evil before me from their youth, ever since they were first formed into a people (Jer. 32:30), witness their murmurings and rebellions in the wilderness.” And as for Jerusalem, though it was the holy city, it has been a provocation to the holy God from the day that they built it, even to this day, Jer. 32:31. O what reason have we to lament the little honour God has from this world, and the great dishonour that is done him, when even in Judah, where he is known and his name is great, and in Salem where his tabernacle is, there was always that found that was a provocation to him! (4.) All orders and degrees of men contributed to the common guilt, and therefore were justly involved in the common ruin. Not only the children of Israel, that had revolted from the temple, but the children of Judah too, that still adhered to it—not only the common people, the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, but those that should have reproved and restrained sin in others were themselves ringleaders in it, their kings and princes, their priests and prophets. (5.) God had again and again called them to repentance, but they turned a deaf ear to his calls, and rudely turned their back on him that called them, though he was their master, to whom they were bound in duty, and their benefactor, to whom they were bound in gratitude and interest, Jer. 32:33. “I taught them better manners, with as much care as ever any tender parent taught a child, rising up early, in teaching them, studying to adapt the teaching to their capacities, taking them betimes, when they might have been most pliable, but all in vain; they turned not the face to me, would not so much as look upon me, nay, they turned the back upon me,” an expression of the highest contempt. As he called them, like froward children, so they went from him, Hos. 11:2. They have not hearkened to receive instruction; they regarded not a word that was said to them, though it was designed for their own good. (6.) There was in their idolatries an impious contempt of God; for (Jer. 32:34) they set their abominations (their idols, which they knew to be in the highest degree abominable to God) in the house which is called by my name, to defile it. They had their idols not only in their high places and groves, but even in God’s temple. (7.) They were guilty of the most unnatural cruelty to their own children; for they sacrificed them to Moloch, Jer. 32:35. Thus because they liked not to retain God in their knowledge, but changed his glory into shame, they were justly given up to vile affections and stripped of natural ones, and their glory was turned into shame. And, (8.) What was the consequence of all this? [1.] They caused Judah to sin, Jer. 32:35. The whole country was infected with the contagious idolatries and iniquities of Jerusalem. [2.] They brought ruin upon themselves. It was as if they had done it on purpose that God should remove them from before his face (Jer. 32:31); they would throw themselves out of his favour.
II. The restoration of Judah and Jerusalem is here promised, Jer. 32:36 God will in judgment remember mercy, and there will a time come, a set time, to favour Zion. Observe, 1. The despair to which this people were now at length brought. When the judgment was threatened at a distance they had no fear; when it attacked them they had no hope. They said concerning the city (Jer. 32:36), It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, not by any cowardice or ill conduct of ours, but by the sword, famine, and pestilence. Concerning the country they said, with vexation (Jer. 32:43), It is desolate, without man or beast; there is no relief, there is no remedy. It is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Note, Deep security commonly ends in deep despair; whereas those that keep up a holy fear at all times have a good hope to support them in the worst of times. 2. The hope that God gives them of mercy which he had in store for them hereafter. Though their carcases must fall in captivity, yet their children after them shall again see this good land and the goodness of God in it. (1.) They shall be brought up from their captivity and shall come and settle again in this land, Jer. 32:37. They had been under God’s anger and fury, and great wrath; but now they shall partake of his grace, and love, and great favour. He had dispersed them, and driven them into all countries. Those that fled dispersed themselves; those that fell into the enemies; hands were dispersed by them, in policy, to prevent combinations among them. God’s hand was in both. But now God will find them out, and gather them out of all the countries whither they were driven, as he promised in the law (Deut. 30:3, 4) and the saints had prayed, Ps. 106:47; Neh. 1:9. He had banished them, but he will bring them again to this place, which they could not but have an affection for. For many years past, while they were in their own land, they were continually exposed, and terrified with the alarms of war; but now I will cause them to dwell safely. Being reformed, and having returned to God, neither their own consciences within nor their enemies without shall be a terror to them. He promises (Jer. 32:41): I will plant them in this land assuredly; not only I will certainly do it, but they shall here enjoy a holy a security and repose, and they shall take root here, shall be planted in stability, and not again be unfixed and shaken. (2.) God will renew his covenant with them, a covenant of grace, the blessings of which are spiritual, and such as will work good things in them, to qualify them for the great things God intended to do for them. It is called an everlasting covenant (Jer. 32:40), not only because God will be for ever faithful to it, but because the consequences of it will be everlasting. For, doubtless, here the promises look further than to Israel according to the flesh, and are sure to all believers, to every Israelite indeed. Good Christians may apply them to themselves and plead them with God, may claim the benefit of them and take the comfort of them. [1.] God will own them for his, and make over himself to them to be theirs (Jer. 32:38): They shall be my people. He will make them his by working in them all the characters and dispositions of his people, and then he will protect, and guide, and govern them as his people. “And, to make them truly, completely, and eternally happy, I will be their God.” They shall serve and worship God as theirs and cleave to him only, and he will approve himself theirs. All he is, all he has, shall be engaged and employed for their good. [2.] God will give them a heart to fear him, Jer. 32:39. That which he requires of those whom he takes into covenant with him as his people is that they fear him, that they reverence his majesty, dread his wrath, stand in awe of his authority, pay homage to him, and give him the glory due unto his name. Now what God requires of them he here promises to work in them, pursuant to his choice of them as his people. Note, As it is God’s prerogative to fashion men’s hearts, so it is his promise to his people to fashion theirs aright; and a heart to fear God is indeed a good heart, and well fashioned. It is repeated (Jer. 32:40): I will put my fear in their hearts, that is, work in them gracious principles and dispositions, that shall influence and govern their whole conversation. Teachers may put good things into our heads, but it is God only that can put them into our hearts, that can work in us both to will and to do. [3.] He will give them one heart and one way. In order to their walking in one way, he will give them one heart: as the heart is, so will the way be, and both shall be one; that is First, They shall be each of them one with themselves. One heart is the same with a new heart, Ezek. 11:19. The heart is then one when it is fully determined for God and entirely devoted to God. When the eye is single and God’s glory alone aimed at, when our hearts are fixed, trusting in God, and we are uniform and universal in our obedience to him, then the heart is one and way one; and, unless the heart be thus steady, the goings will not be stedfast. From this promise we may take direction and encouragement to pray, with David (Ps. 86:11), Unite my heart to fear thy name; for God says, I will give them one heart, that they may fear me. Secondly, They shall be all of them one with each other. All good Christians shall be incorporated into one body; Jews and Gentiles shall become one sheep-fold; and they shall all, as far as they are sanctified, have a disposition to love one another, the gospel they profess having in it the strongest inducements to mutual love, and the Spirit that dwells in them being the Spirit of love. Though they may have different apprehensions about minor things, they shall be all one in the great things of God, being renewed after the same image. Though they may have many paths, they have but one way, that of serious godliness. [4.] He will effectually provide for their perseverance in grace and the perpetuating of the covenant between himself and them. They would have been happy when there were first planted in Canaan, like Adam in paradise, if they had not departed from God. And therefore, now that they are restored to their happiness, they shall be confirmed in it by the preventing of their departures from God, and this will complete their bliss. First, God will never leave nor forsake them: I will not turn away from them to do them good. Earthly princes are fickle, and their greatest favourites have fallen under their frowns; but God’s mercy endures for ever. Whom he loves he loves to the end. God may seem to turn from this people (Isa. 54:8), but even then he does not turn from doing and designing them good. Secondly, They shall never leave nor forsake him; that is the thing we are in danger of. We have no reason to distrust God’s fidelity and constancy, but our own; and therefore it is here promised that God will give them a heart to fear him for ever, all days, to be in his fear every day and all the day long (Prov. 23:17), and to continue so to the end of their days. He will put such a principle into their hearts that they shall not depart from him. Even those who have given up their names to God, if they be left to themselves, will depart from him; but the fear of God ruling in the heart, will prevent their departure. That, and nothing else, will do it. If we continue close and faithful to God, it is owing purely to his almighty grace and not to any strength or resolution of our own. [5.] He will entail a blessing upon their seed, will give them grace to fear him, for the good of them and of their children after them. As their departures from God had been to the prejudice of their children, so their adherence to God should be to the advantage of their children. We cannot better consult the good of posterity than by setting up, and keeping up, the fear and worship of God in our families. [6.] He will take a pleasure in their prosperity and will do every thing to advance it (Jer. 32:41): I will rejoice over them to do them good. God will certainly do them good because he rejoices over them. They are dear to him; he makes his boast of them, and therefore will not only do them good, but will delight in doing them good. When he punishes them it is with reluctance. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? But, when he restores them, it is with satisfaction; he rejoices in doing them good. We ought therefore to serve him with pleasure and to rejoice in all opportunities of serving him. He is himself a cheerful giver, and therefore loves a cheerful servant. I will plant them (says God) with my whole heart and with my whole soul. He will be intent upon it, and take delight in it; he will make it the business of his providence to settle them again in Canaan, and the various dispensations of providence shall concur to it. All things shall appear at last so to have been working for the good of the church that it will be said, The governor of the world is entirely taken up with the care of his church. [7.] These promises shall as surely be performed as the foregoing threatenings were; and the accomplishment of those, notwithstanding the security of the people, might confirm their expectation of the performance of these, notwithstanding their present despair (Jer. 32:42): As I have brought all this great evil upon them, pursuant to the threatenings, and for the glory of divine justice, so I will bring upon them all this good, pursuant to the promise, and for the glory of divine mercy. He that is faithful to his threatenings will much more be so to his promises; and he will comfort his people according to the time that he has afflicted them. The churches shall have rest after the days of adversity. [8.] As an earnest of all this, houses and lands shall again fetch a good price in Judah and Jerusalem, and, though now they are a drug, there shall again be a sufficient number of purchasers (Jer. 32:43, 44): Fields shall be bought in this land, and people will covet to have lands here rather than any where else. Lands, wherever they lie, will go off, not only in the places about Jerusalem, but in the cities of Judah and of Israel, too, whether they lie on mountains, or in valleys, or in the south, in all parts of the country, men shall buy fields, and subscribe evidences. Trade shall revive, for they shall have money enough to buy land with. Husbandry shall revive, for those that have money shall covet to lay it out upon lands. Laws shall again have their due course, for they shall subscribe evidences and seal them. This is mentioned to reconcile Jeremiah to his new purchase. Though he had bought a piece of ground and could not go to see it, yet he must believe that this was the pledge of many a purchase, and those but faint resemblances of the purchased possessions in the heavenly Canaan, reserved for all those who have God’s fear in their hearts and do not depart from him.