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Jeremiah 21:1-14 - Homilies By S. Conway

Saved so as by fire.

This chapter has been by some means put out of its proper place; for it treats of King Zedekiah, whilst in later chapters circumstances connected with the reigns of the kings who preceded him are given. But being placed here it serves to show how God's servants, despised at first, come to be honored at last. The stocks had been good enough for Jeremiah—so the last chapter tells-and his enemies had smitten him as if he were a common felon. Here we find the king and high officers of the court coming and beseeching his intercession and help to avert the calamity which was so fast coming upon them and the nation at large. "Give us of your oil," said the foolish virgins to the wise. And again and again has it been and will it be that the ungodly shall come to covet earnestly the place in God's favor which his servants only enjoy, but which, together with them who sought it when they did not, they have heretofore despised. Those who honor God he will honor, and will cause their enemies to come and confess that God is with them of a truth. Thus did the enemies of Jeremiah at this time acknowledge him as the true servant of God. But it was too late to secure what they desired. "The door was shut." But as the foolish virgins were bidden go to them that sell and buy for themselves, so the prophet of God has one counsel to give them whereby they might be "saved, yet so as by fire." "Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death" (verse 8). But when we come to see what that way of life was, we see how far different it was from what the king and his people would have chosen for themselves. Note, therefore—


1. It was bare life— life only. They were to suffer defeat; their weapons to be of no avail, their strong fortress to be taken, their city and their temple in which they gloried to be burnt with fire, and they themselves led into captivity. That now was all that was possible for them. It was too late to avert their calamities, much less to gain victory, or honor, or glory in the war which they were waging. A glorious deliverance such as Hezekiah had known was out of the question.

2. And ever , this bare life on hard conditions . They must surrender themselves to their enemies when the summons came, and meanwhile they must reform their ways (verse 12). On these terms they should be allowed to live. Refuse them, as many did, and they perished miserably. It was indeed a salvation "so as by fire."

II. ITS MOURNFULNESS . How full of this it was is seen by the plaintive psalms of the Captivity: "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept," etc. And that which made it so mournful was the remembrance of how different their lot might have been. Had they but hearkened to the pleadings of those prophets of God, whose prayers when it was too late they importunately sought, how happy had it been with them then! Salvation in fullness, as their fathers had experienced and rejoiced in again and again, they too might have known. But now—

III. ITS PLAIN TEACHING FOR OURSELVES . Life may be retained, but made so wretched that only one thing could be worse—to have lost it altogether. This certainly true of the present life, it is probably true of the life after this. Beware of that false doctrine which encourages men to believe, that if only they can get within what they are pleased to call "the door of heaven," they need desire no more. This is not humility, but the evil desire to escape that faithful following of Christ which alone will win "the prize of our high calling." And since salvation in fullness is offered to us and God desires it to be ours, let us be content with nothing less, lest we be "ashamed before him at his coming," and have "with shame to take a lower place." To any now suffering under judgment of God this history says, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.' Accept his terms, see in them your only hope."—C.

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