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Jeremiah 9:10-22 - Homilies By S. Conway

The terrible threatenings of love.

There are few more awful passages of Scripture than this. The doom denounced on the guilty people is indeed dreadful. Nevertheless that doom had not yet descended. There was a merciful pause, during which space was given for repentance. Meanwhile the prophet was bidden to utter these threatenings. Notice—

I. How TERRIBLE THEY ARE .

1. In themselves . The fertile hills and pastures of their country shall be laid waste, so that no living creature can find food ( Jeremiah 9:10 ). Jerusalem is to be utterly destroyed and desolate ( Jeremiah 9:11 ). The deep anguish of the people-their very meat to be as "wormwood," and their drink as" water of gall ' ( Jeremiah 9:15 ). They shall be carried captive and scattered among the heathen, and even then shall not escape the sword ( Jeremiah 9:16 ). They shall be overwhelmed with sorrow, their eyes shall gush out with tears ( Jeremiah 9:17-19 ). Death shall reign everywhere ( Jeremiah 9:21 ); and shall be accompanied with deepest degradation ( Jeremiah 9:22 ). It is not possible to conceive of more hopeless misery than is portrayed in these vivid descriptions of the wrath that was to come .

2. Because of their righteousness . Unrighteous suffering can be borne, and those who bear it are bidden by the Lord to count themselves as "blessed" because of it ( Matthew 5:11 , Matthew 5:12 ). And sorrows that come to us in the course of God ' s providence, and the reason of which we do not know, these we can bear sustained by the faith of the Father's love. But when sore suffering is sent to us as the direct punishment of sin, and the righteous because so deserved anger of Cod is evident, then those consolations which are open to us under other sufferings are closed to us under these. The bitter reflection, "It was all our own fault; it might, it ought to have been avoided," makes the pain we endure, and the calamities that overtake us, more terrible than otherwise they could possibly be. We take refuge from man's anger and from ordinary sorrows in God's love, but sin that has brought down God's righteous judgment has also closed against us that most blessed shelter and every shelter, and we are left without defense. And another element in their terribleness is:

3. The certainty of their fulfillment , "God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The threatenings of God are not, as are many of the threatenings of men, mere empty vaporings, great swelling words, never designed to be fulfilled. Let the records of all human history, of all human lives, Whether told of within or without the pages of the Bible, attest the absolute certainty of fulfillment which evermore characterizes the threatenings of God. When and where has be ever threatened and failed to fulfill his threat? Let the Fall, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, the plagues on Egypt, the deaths of the generation of unbelievers in the wilderness, and ten thousand instances more, all prove the steadfastness of God to his word. And it is this fact of the absolute certainty of his threatenings being fulfilled that adds to them a yet further terribleness. There is no chance of escape, no hope of God's relenting; as certain as the fixed laws of nature are these awful denunciations of God to him who persists in brining them upon himself.

II. BUT THEY ARE THE THREATENINGS OF LOVE .

1. He who utters them is the God who in his very nature and essence is love. How manifold are the proofs of this in creation, in providence, in grace! He, therefore, has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; judgment is his "strange work."

2. Those against whom they are uttered are the objects of his love. His love for them is deeper than his anger against them. Hence it is that the contrite sinner never fails to gain the pardon he seeks. "Fathers of our flesh" may "chasten after their own pleasure, but he for our profit" (cf. Jeremiah 9:7 ).

3. His purpose in these threatenings is a loving purpose. He would compel by the scourge of fear his rebellious children to abandon their evil ways.

4. And if at length he is compelled to execute his threatenings, it is out of love that he does so. For the love of God is towards his children , not to any one particular child, and the welfare of the family is the chief consideration. Salus populi suprema lex . If consistently with that the transgressor can be restored, he will be, but not else. Hence, as an earthly father would not permit one of his children, ill with terrible and contagious disease, to mingle with the other children; or, as in the far more sad case of utter moral wickedness, intercourse with the rest would be forbidden; so, for the sake of the rest of his children, God will separate them from the wicked and the wicked from them. But it is love which constrains to this, and hence it is that the seeming contradiction is true, that he who is the God of love is also "a consuming fire." The very fatherhood of God is the most fearful fact of all others against the persistently rebellious and ungodly soul. Hence—

III. Such THREATENINGS ARE EVER THE MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL , Cf. the threatenings of our Savior. The most awful utterances to be found in the whole Bible proceeded from his lips-the lips whose words were wont to be so "gracious" that the people "wondered" at them. It is his sayings which have lit up the lurid glare of the fires unquenchable of hell, and it is he who has made our souls shudder at the sight of" the worm that dieth not," and of the "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." See, too, the Revelation of St. John. That apostle, whose great theme is the love of God, whose soul was more attuned to the music of love than that of any other, wrote that awful book, which is full throughout of "mourning, lamentation, and woe;" and which almost reeks with the Mood and fire and smoke of torments of which it tells. These facts can only be accounted for—and there are more like them—on the ground that the threatenings of love are ever the most terrible of all. And they are so, for such reasons as these:

1. Love so hates what tends to the harm of those it loves. Hence it brands with its deepest curse that sin which harms God's children most of all. One chief argument with many minds for the retention of capital punishments is that only so can a government or nation mark its sense of the supreme wickedness of the crime it so punishes. Punish it as other crimes are punished, and it will come to be regarded as no worse than they. And in like manner God would inspire us with a holy abhorrence of sin by the awful condemnation that he has pronounced against it.

2. Love so yearns to rescue those it loves. The rope may cut and wound the hands of the drowning sailor to whom we have thrown it, but we do not mind that if thereby he be drawn safe to shore. The knife of the surgeon may cut deep and cause fearful pain, but if it saves the imperiled life we are thankful notwithstanding. So God sends forth these stern, rough, and terrible threatenings, that souls under the spell of sin may be awakened, alarmed, made to tremble, and to "seek the Lord while he may be found." No gentler means will avail; therefore these, so love resolves, shall not be left untried. It will shrink from nothing to accomplish its compassionate purpose of rescuing from the murderous sin the soul it loves.

3. And there is no wickedness so deep as that of outraging love. Men will never see sin in all its hatefulness until they see it as outrage done to love. Whilst they are taught only that it is disobedience to sovereign rule rather than despite and shameful wrong done to a Father's heart, they will not look upon it as they should, nor repent of it as they must. Even in human esteem, outrage done to a loving heart adds intensity to the condemnation with which we view and sentence disobedience done to law. We all recognize that such wickedness is the worst of all. We cannot wonder, then, that the threatenings against wrong persistently done to the love of God are terrible as they are, and the most terrible of all.

CONCLUSION .

1. Beware of bringing upon yourselves such threatenings as these. Those which are fulminated forth by hatred, or by pride, or by sovereignty, or by law, these, though they may be terrible, are not to be compared with those that we have been considering. "The wrath of the Lamb" is the most awful of all.

2. Beware of despising them. So far from believing what has now been shown, men argue in directly opposite way, and, because the threatenings are those of love, they conclude that they may safely be disregarded, they will never be carried out. But what has now been shown proves that this is the very last thing we can venture to do.

3. Beware of concealing them. It is to be feared that, in these soft, easy days on which we have fallen, the Lord's watchmen do very often fail to "blow the trumpet and give warning." From blood-guiltiness such as that let us pray to be delivered. For are there not many now whom nothing but the startling peal of the trumpet of God's threatened judgments will ever arouse or alarm? Assuredly there are. Therefore, in view of the doom of the ungodly, as well as by the love of Christ, let us "beseech men to be reconciled to God."—C.

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