Sermon 2745. Intercession and Supplication
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1901.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, APRIL 27, 1879.
"Are You not He, O Lord our God? Therefore we will wait for You" Jeremiah 14:22.
THIS is an instance of amazing yet holy boldness. The Prophet had received from the Lord the explicit command, "Pray not forthis people: for their good," and yet, after reasoning with God, his heart grew so warm with sacred fervor and his spiritbecame fired with such a passionate zeal that he could not help pleading for the sinful nation! He poured out his soul inthe vehement prayer and said to the Lord, "We will wait upon You." This was, perhaps, disobedience in the outward form, butit was not disobedience as to the inner spirit of the Prophet, for the Lord counts not as disobedience the earnest pleadingand yearning of the heart of His people. This is a marvelous instance of how, under the most discouraging circumstances-whenthere appears no prospect whatever of success-men who are moved of God to pray for their fellows, will cling to His garmentsand still intercede on behalf of those who are altogether unworthy of their supplications.
One of the reasons why Jeremiah resolved that he would still wait upon God was because the case was such an urgent one. Theland was chapped through the long drought. The poor beasts were dying of thirst. Men and women were pale and pinched withhunger and there was no one who could deliver them out of their distress. The heavens could not pour down rain of themselvesand the gods of the heathen could not render any help, so Jeremiah says, "Therefore we will wait upon You. It is our onlyhope and though it seems to be a forlorn one, yet, since it is the only one we have, we will cling to it with desperate resolve."
There are two things which appear to me to be strikingly illustrated by our text and its connection. The first is the beautyof an intercessor-and I want you to so admire it as to imitate the intercession. And the second is the necessity which drivesmen to God-and I want you to feel the necessity which drives you to wait upon the Lord. May God the Holy Spirit make you feelit!
I. First, I want you to see the beauty of a true intercessor and to endeavor, by the power of God's Spirit, to IMITATE THEINTERCESSION.
Jeremiah interceded for the people, but we have not to seek far before we discover the reason why he did it. God, in InfiniteMercy, gave the weeping Prophet to his sinful people in order that they might not be left as sheep without a shepherd andbe quite given over to utter destruction. And wherever you meet with a man who intercedes with God for his fellow men andmakes this the main business of his life, you see in him one of the most precious gifts of God's Grace to the age in whichhe lives. It is God that writes intercession upon men's hearts. All true prayer comes from Him, but especially that leastselfish and most Christ-like form of prayer called intercession-when the suppliant forgets all about himself and his own needs-andall his pleading, his tears and his arguments are on behalf of others. I repeat that such men are a most precious gift fromHeaven and I feel certain that before the Reformation, there must have been hundreds of godly men and women who were, dayand night, interceding with the Lord and giving Him no rest until He answered their supplications-and Luther and the restof the Reformers were sent by God in answer to the many prayers which history has never recorded, but which are written inthe Lord's Book of Remembrance.
And when Wesley and Whitefield, in more modern times, stirred the smoldering embers of religion in this land, it was becausegodly people, perhaps poor obscure men and women in their cottages, reading the Scriptures, saw the sad state of irreligionand indifference into which the nation had fallen-and groaned over it and spread the case before God. I know not how to estimatethe worth of even one man who has power with God in prayer! When John Knox went upstairs to plead for Scotland, it was thegreatest event in Scottish history. All things are possible with the man who, like Elijah upon Carmel, casts himself downupon the earth and puts his face between his knees, and cries unto Him that hears prayer, till the heavens, which were likebrass, suddenly drop with plenteous showers of rain! There is no power like that of intercession! The secret springs thatmove the puppets of earth-for kings and princes are often little more than that-are the prayers of God's believing people.The hidden wheels that start the whole machinery and that keep it in motion, are the prayers of God's people. Oh, if the Lordmakes you an intercessor, my dear Brother or Sister, even if you cannot speak with men for God, if you know how to speak withGod for men, you occupy a position that is second to none. God help you to fill it well!
True intercessors, then, are special gifts from God and when He raises up men or women for this high service, you will findthat such persons plead with mighty arguments. You must have noticed, as we read the chapter, [Exposition at the end of thesermon was always before the sermon.] that Jeremiah knew well what he was praying about. He had, in his mind's eye, all thosenobles of the land who were reduced to such poverty that they sent their children out to hunt for water. His prophetical eyecould even see the hinds in the field leaving their fawns to die because there was no grass for them to eat, and no waterfor them to drink. Jeremiah had upon his heart all the agony of the nation and he prayed as if his were the thirst, and asif he were perishing of hunger! He took the burden of the guilty people upon himself and became their mouthpiece to God, althoughthey did not thank him for pleading for them, but smote him, and despitefully used him. Yet he took all their griefs intohis own sympathetic heart and he pleaded mightily with God while he had all that great burden resting upon his spirit.
I want you to notice how he pleads. First, he pleads God's name. "Lord," he says, "these people are called Jehovah's peopleand though they deserve nothing but condemnation at Your hands, yet, if You do not bless them, the heathen will say, 'Jehovahforsakes His people! This is what comes of being the chosen nation-and so Your great name will be dishonored in the earth.'"And then Jeremiah uses a very strong expression-for using which, I understand, a minister has recently been called to accountand I do not wonder at that, for, if it had not been Inspired, it would have been too strong an utterance from the mouth ofany man-"Do not disgrace the Throne of Your Glory." That Throne of God's Glory was the Mercy Seat-and if it could be carriedaway to Babylon, the heathen would rejoice, and the daughters of the uncircumcised would triumph! And thus the Throne of God'sGlory would be disgraced. Jeremiah rightly felt that this was a strong argument, so he urged it in pleading with the Lord,"Do not let Your Glory be tarnished, do interpose to prevent such a calamity."
As the strongest argument of all, he pleads the Covenant-and that is always a masterly argument with the Lord. Turn to the21st verse. "Remember, do no break Your Covenant with us." God had entered into a Covenant with Abraham, and with Isaac, andwith Jacob, and with David-and though the sin of the people might well be conceived to have made the Covenant null and void,and though they certainly did not deserve that He should keep His Covenant with them, yet Jeremiah felt emboldened to say,"Do not Break Your Covenant with us." Depend upon it, God is never a Covenant-breaking God-and no plea has greater weightwith Him than "the Covenant, the Covenant." O Brothers and Sisters, if God has made us intercessors, let us come with holyboldness to the Throne of Grace and let us plead for our nation, and for our age, and for our kinsfolk, that God would blessthem! And let this be our chief argument-for the honor of Your holy name, for the glory of Your Throne and for the sake ofthe Covenant which You have made with our great Surety, forsake not those whom You have chosen, however undeserving they haveproved to be!
Notice next that when a man has his heart set upon this blessed work of intercession, it makes him quick to seize every advantagethat he can when he is pleading with God. Jeremiah argued thus with God, "Lord, You said to me, 'Pray not for this peoplefor their good,' but it is the false prophets who have deceived them, so, O Lord, pity the poor people. They are misled. Thepriests have led them astray. They are poor silly sheep that have followed the shepherds that deceived them. Therefore, OLord, have pity on them and spare them."
I like that sacred ingenuity on the part of Jeremiah, leading him to catch at such a plea as that and to urge it before God.That is something like Abraham did when he, too, had a desperate case in hand-the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is only thesegreat intercessors who can take up such cases as these. There he stands to plead for Sodom and Gomorrah! Mark the holy boldnesswhich he uses before God. "Lord," he said, "perhaps there are 50 righteous within the city. Perhaps there are 45 righteousthere. Perhaps there are 40 righteous there," and so on, till he said, "Perhaps there are 10 righteous there-will you alsodestroy the righteous with the wicked?" That was fine pleading and God yielded to it, for He would have spared the city forthe sake of 10 righteous people if they could have been found. And if you know how to plead with God, you will rake up everythingwhich may, in any degree, count on the behalf of the people, even as your Master did, for, when He could say nothing elsein favor of His murderers, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Even their ignorance He turnedinto some kind of plea, and in His wondrous mercy used it in praying to His Father. May we all learn how to plead for sinnerslike that!
True intercessors resemble Jeremiah in another respect-they will not be turned aside from their pleading. If they meet withrebuffs and no answer seems to come to their supplications, they plead on! It is a wondrous sight, to see a mother-a true,tender, gracious mother-pleading with God for her son. She began pleading for him while yet he lay in the cradle, or beforethat. She cried to God for him when he was learning to walk with tottering footsteps. She followed him with her prayers throughthe devious ways of his boyhood and youth-and also when he went away from home and left her to sorrow over him. Parental restraintwas gone, even maternal love was rejected as he roamed over a great part of the world. He has grown into a bronzed man, now-hisface is tanned with the scorching sun of the equator and he has come home-but his mother's prayers have followed or accompaniedhim wherever he has gone!
She has persevered in pleading with God for him. True, he has been a Sabbath-breaker, and a swearer, and the very sound ofhis voice has terrified the dear old soul when she has heard him say hard things against the God of Israel. But you shouldhear her pray when she is alone! She cannot say, "Lord, save my son, for there is in him some good thing towards You." Butshe cries, "O You that are mighty to save, I cannot let You go until You save my poor sinful boy! Have You not said, 'Callupon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me'? Lord, I am in sore trouble about my son! I beseechYou to have pity upon him and save him. Did you not listen to the Syrophenician woman when she prayed for her child? Oh, hearme as I pray for mine!"
Ah, I cannot put it as pathetically as she does, for there is a wondrous sacred ingenuity in the true mother's heart thatmakes her plead with peculiar power for her child even when he has grown to manhood. I hope you know what I mean because thisis what you have done. When, under great discouragements, seeing those who are the subjects of your supplication going frombad to worse-when you see them get hardened and apparently incorrigible, and invulnerable-when even the arrows of the Wordof God do not seem to touch them or pierce them-still persevere in prayer! And I will say what some may think a very strongthing-even if you should have reason to fear that they have committed the sin which is unto death-you remember how John putsit, "I do not say that he shall pray for it." But he does not say that you are not to do so-therefore take advantage of thenegative and pray on! Yes, even until their souls have passed beyond the reach of change-into the unseen world-pursue themwith your persistent intercession! And it may be that you shall yet have your heart's desire concerning them, notwithstandingthe fact that, as yet, everything seems to tend in the contrary direction.
Now, dear Friends, let me say that if any of us shall ever learn how to offer such prayer as this-if we shall ever be ableto intercede with God in this manner-we shall become imitators of our blessed Lord Jesus, Himself for He was, on earth, preeminentlythe Intercessor. If you could have seen Him coming forth in the morning to preach the Gospel and to heal the sick, you mighthave noticed how His garments were covered with the dew which had fallen upon Him as He had knelt all night in prayer to God.He could often truly say, "My head is filled with dew, and My locks with the drops of the night," for He had spent the wholenight upon the lone mountainside agonizing for the souls of those He loved. That sorrowful lament of His-"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,you that kill the Prophets, and stone them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together,even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not"-was only a flash of the fire that always burnt withinHis heart.
The tears that fell from our Savior's eyes as He wept over Jerusalem, dropped from a cloud that always rested on His soulwhich was always filled with a deep sympathetic compassion even for those who had despised and rejected Him. And
now, today, my Brothers and Sisters, though He has put off the seamless garment that He wore on earth and has put on His royal,priestly vesture white as snow, He still wears the golden belt that John saw in the Revelation. The eyes of faith may seeHim up there with no care upon His brow, no spittle upon His cheeks, no scourges for His back, but standing amidst the harpsof angels and the songs of seraphs, before His Father's Throne as our great Intercessor still, for He always lives to makeintercession for us, so that-
"For all that come to God by Him"- there may be eternal and certain salvation! Oh, if we could only hear Him pray! Of course,there cannot be tears and cries such as became Gethsemane and its humiliation, but there is as much earnestness in Your cry,O blessed Lover of sinners, in the midst of Your Glory as there was in the depths of Your shame!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, learn from your Lord and Savior how to be mighty in intercession! I give you thisblessed work to do, all of you who truly know and love Him. As I have said before, you may not all be able to speak to menfor God, but you can all speak with God for men. This morning [Sermon #1471, Volume 25-CONCEALING THE WORDS OF GOD] I toldyou how to use one hand for battle by not concealing the words of the Holy One-now here is the way to use the other hand forbattle by drawing near to God in powerful, prevalent intercession! With these two hands uplifted, this Church, like Joshua,shall utterly destroy Amalek, and the sun and moon shall stand still while it is being done! And so long as Moses prays, andAaron and Hur hold up his hands, the victory must surely come!
II. Now I want your very earnest attention to the second and, perhaps, the more important portion of my discourse, in whichI am going to urge you to FEEL THE NECESSITY WHICH DRIVES YOU TO GOD.
Tried Believer, here is a lesson for you. Have you come to a very difficult place? Are you in very sore trouble-such troubleas you never knew before? Then wait upon the Lord and if at first He does not answer you and it seems as if the very gatesof Heaven are shut against you, still continue to wait upon the Lord. Where else can you go if you turn away from Him? Youare shut up to this one course, so do not seek any other way out of your difficulty. Take that blasphemous letter of Sennacheriband spread it before the Lord, as Hezekiah did. Take that bitter grief and tell it all in His ears. To whom or where shouldyou go if you should turn from Him? Therefore cling to Him and though He slays you, still trust in Him, for you have nobodyelse to whom you can trust!
But I want, mainly, to speak to the sinner. Perhaps I am addressing some who, by the Holy Spirit's teaching, have become awareof their danger and who, therefore, are longing to find eternal salvation, but they are afraid they never shall be able todo so. My dear Friend, go and wait upon God and ask Him to save you. Present your case before Him, now, and plead with Himto have mercy upon you-and then show that your supplication is genuine by accepting the salvation which He sets before youin Christ Jesus for all who believe in His name.
In order to urge you to wait upon God, I would just say these few things. First, you will perish unless God hears you. Yousay that you have prayed to the Lord for a month and yet you have received no answer. Well, even though that is the case,forsake not the posts of His doors, for there is no other door at which you can knock with any hope of success! Perhaps yousay, "I have tried to believe in Jesus, but I cannot." I will not correct your mistake this time, but I will say this-rememberthat if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, there is no one else in whom you can believe in order to be saved, "for thereis none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." It is Christ or nothing! It is faith in Christor eternal destruction! It is laying hold upon Jesus Christ or else banishment forever from the Presence of Jehovah's Glory.You are brought to this pass, that God must save you, or you are damned forever! God Himself must save you, or you are a lostman! You are shut up to that alternative, so, being shut up to it, say to the Lord, with all your heart, "Therefore will Iwait upon You."
Now, think, what else can you do? If you want to be saved, what can you rely upon but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ? Yourpast life avails not Would you dare to lean upon that broken reed? If you are self-righteous and reckon yourself to be amongthe best of mankind, or think that you have done no great wrong, well, then, I do not know that I have any Gospel to preachto you, for our Lord Jesus Himself said, "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I camenot to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." But if the Lord has been dealing with you by His Holy Spirit and convincingyou of your real condition in His sight, I know that you can perceive such flaws in your past life-such black sins-so manyof them-such departures of heart from God-that you dare no more trust
your soul's salvation upon your past action than you would trust yourself over the mouth of a pit swinging by a spider's web!You know better than to do such a thing as that-your past life is so deeply stained with sin that you know you must be washedfrom it in the precious blood of Jesus, or, otherwise, you must certainly perish!
No, your past life cannot avail for your salvation. And suppose it is suggested that you should trust your future resolves-willthey save you? If you make a good resolution, tonight, as strong as you can possibly make it-will that give you a good groundof hope? No, my dear Friends, you know it will not, for you have made very strong resolutions before and they have all beenin vain. You have bound the Samson within you with new ropes and I know not what besides, but he has gone outside and shakenhimself, and burst your bonds, and once again you have seen that the strong man has not been overcome. I would give nothingat all for the resolutions that you make in your own strength-they do but increase your sins because they are simply furtherspecimens of your presumptuous self-confidence! But, my dear Friend, you know better, do you not, than to trust to your ownresolutions? You really wish to be saved and you know in your heart that it would only be a mockery if you were to rely uponyour own principles, resolutions and things of that sort. Why, in yourself, you are as weak as water! Have you not proved,by painful experiments again and again, that in you, that is, in your flesh, there dwells no good thing? Come, then-escapefrom that refuge of lies and go to Jesus-wait upon God because you cannot go anywhere else for salvation!
There is no salvation to be obtained from priests, or forms and ceremonies. There is a gentleman over there who beckons youto come to him. I know him well-Mr. Priest-Craft is his name. He says that he has power to ease men of their burdens, thatby some charmed incantation he can give them absolution. "Hi! Presto!" He mutters his formula and away goes the sin-and thesinner is as white as snow! Oh, yes! I know all about his tricks. I have seen quacks in the street selling their medicineto fools and so, doubtless, there are fools that rely upon the word of quacks in churches, cathedrals, and the like! But "noneof them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." Of all the monstrous lies which show the impossibilityof human civilization giving common sense, not to say religion, to men, one of the grossest is this lie of pretended priestlypower! I charge you, go not to that man! He will take your money, but he will leave you worse off than you were before.
There is forgiveness-there is mercy-to be obtained from God through Jesus Christ. But He has not given to any man the powerto forgive sins. He says to me, and to all His servants, that we may proclaim forgiveness of sins to those who repent, andwe do so, and God will prove that the proclamation is true. But, if sinners look to us, or to priests, or to any mortal mento find forgiveness in them, they will look in vain! Turn not there, I implore you! Take your eyes off the priests of Romeand the priests of Baal! Look to Christ alone, and say, "I will wait upon God. I can do no other if I would find salvation."Do as the poor monk did who, after living a life of asceticism, at last came to die. In his cell he had found a copy of theScriptures, which he had read to such good purpose that, when the so-called "sacraments" were brought to him, he waved themaside and was heard to say, "Tua vulnera, Jesu! Tua vulnera, Jesu!"-"Your wounds, Jesus! Your wounds, Jesus!" Ah, that isthe remedy for human sin and there is no other! "Therefore we will wait upon You, O Lord! If there were some other fountainof Grace, we might, perhaps, leave You to go and seek it, but we know that there is none. These priests are of no use to us.We have been to those broken cisterns and found no Water of Life there. Therefore we will come to You, by Your Grace." O come,Brothers and Sisters, and wait thus upon the Lord!
All of you must know that there is no salvation anywhere but in Christ Jesus, but, suppose any of you were to say, "Yes, Iknow that. Neither will I seek salvation anywhere else, but I will brave the matter out. I will never yield to God! I willtake my chances." Ah, but can you do as you say? And if you could, what would be the good of it? There will come a time whenthat strong frame of yours will be as weak as a rush, and then you will talk very differently. I, too, have known what physicalvigor and strength mean, but it is not many weeks ago that I knew what it was to be more trembling than an infant! I seemedto feel as if life were not worth the having, so great was my pain of body and heaviness of heart. And such times may cometo you big burly men-and you strong-minded women may feel the same-and then you will begin to tremble. As great Caesar, whenthe fit was on him, whined like a sick child-so many of your braggadocios are the very men who tremble most when they cometo die!
Ah, and when God, the Judge of All, lays hold of you in the world to come, though your bones were iron and your sinews brass,you will tremble in every joint! Belshazzar only saw the "fingers of a man's hand" that wrote upon the wall of his palace,in letters of fire, "You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting" and, though he knew not the
meaning of the mystic characters, "the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints ofhis loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another." There he sat, a shivering coward-but what will he do whosees God's hand, by-and-by, not writing on the wall, but lifted up to deal a blow that shall break Him in pieces, as the potter'svessels are broken with a rod of iron?
"Now consider this, you that forget God," He says, "lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." Those are notmy words. I dare not say such terrible things on my own account! They are the warning words of the God of Love! And if InfiniteLove speaks like that, you ought to give heed to what is said! There is a weight of emphasis about this message that my voicecannot convey. Let me utter it again, with sorrowful and heartfelt earnestness, imploring you never to run the risk of knowingwhat these dreadful words means. "Consider this, you that forget God"-not merely you that blaspheme, but you that forget Himand do not think of Him-"Consider this, you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." Godgrant that you may not try to fight it out with Him, for you cannot do so, it is impossible!-
"You sinners, seek His Grace, Whose wrath you cannot bear! Fly to the shelter of His Cross, And find salvation there."
"But," someone says, "I do not believe in any future state." Well, Friend, suppose it should happen to be as you wish-haveyou any advantage over me even then? Suppose, that, after all, there should be no future state? I am as well off as you are.If there should be no Hell and no Heaven, I am as well off as you are. But if there isa future state. If there is a Hell andthere isa Heaven, where will you be then? Remember that to disbelieve is not the same thing as to disprove- and I, for one,feel certain that as surely as you live, there isa future state and there is a God who will judge you! And your unbelief cannotpostpone the dread assize.
The ostrich hides his head in the sand-I know the simile is trite, but I can think of no better one just now-and when he seesnot the hunter, he persuades himself that he has escaped from danger. But do you imagine that because you refuse to believethe Scriptures, that they will be altered to please you? That can never be! But if you will not believe, I suppose you mustgo on sinning until you find out the Truth of God and have to cry, in the agony of despair, "Now it is
The Lord grant that it may not be so. But, because it is true, therefore wait upon God, now, for there is no hope anywhereelse.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JEREMIAH14.
In some respects, Jeremiah is one of the greatest of the ancient Prophets, for he had a most sorrowful task to perform. Hehad not to deliver a message full of Evangelical comfort, like that of Isaiah, nor had he gorgeous visions of coming kingdoms,as Ezekiel had. He was the Cassandra of his age. Jeremiah spoke the Truths of God, yet few believed him. His life was spentin sighing over a wicked people who rejected and despised him. He bore a heavy burden upon his heart and tears continuallywet his cheeks, so that he was rightly called "the weeping Prophet." This chapter gives us an illustration of the style inwhich he used to pray.
Verse 1. The Word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts. There had been no rain, so the crops had failedand there was a famine in the land. Jeremiah describes that famine in striking poetic imagery.
2-6. Judah mourns and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. Andtheir nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits and found no water; they returned with theirvessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. Because the ground is parched, for there was norain in the earth, theplowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. Yes, the hindalso calvedin the field, and forsook it,because there was no grass. And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; theireyes did fail, because there was no grass. The distress in the land was so great that the city gates where, in more prosperoustimes, business transactions took place, and meetings of the people were held, were deserted. There was nothing that couldbe done while the nation was in such sorrow-and a great cry of agony went up from the capital of
the country-"The cry of Jerusalem is gone up." The highest in the land sent their children to hunt even for a little waterto drink. They went to the cisterns where some water might have been expected to remain, but they found none-"they returnedwith their vessels empty; they were as ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads." The covering of the head was thesign of sorrow. You remember how, in the day of his distress, "David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as hewent up, and had his head covered." "And all the people that were with him covered, every man his head, and they went up,weeping as they went up." The ground had been reduced, by the drought, to such a state of hardness that it was useless toplow it, for there was no hope of any harvest coming. Even the wild creatures of the field shared the general suffering. Thehind, which is reckoned by the Orientals to be the fondest of its young, forsook its fawn and left it to perish because therewas no food. And the wild asses, which are able to endure thirst better than other creatures can and are always quick to perceivewater if there is any to be found, tried in vain to scent it anywhere. "They snuffed up the wind like dragons"-like cobras,or serpents, or jackals, as the word may be variously rendered-but they snuffed in vain and their eyes became like coals intheir head. They "did fail, because there was no grass." What then? Why, the Prophet turns to prayer as the only means ofobtaining relief!
7. O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do it for Your name's sake. ' 'You cannot do it because of any meritof ours."
7-9. For our backslidings are many; we have sinned against You. O the Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble,why should You be as a stranger in the land and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night? Why should You beas a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet You O LORD, are in the midst of us and we are called by Your name;leave us not Can you not almost hear the good man praying? Notice how he begs the Lord not to be to the land like a mere strangerwho passes through it and cares nothing far it. "Why should You be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man thatturns aside to tarry for a night?" Then he pleads with the Lord, "Why should You be as a strong man, but stunned?"-for thatis the meaning of the expression he uses-"Be not You as a mighty man astounded or stunned, who cannot save us; let it notbe thought or said that we have come to such a pass that even You cannot help us." This was grand pleading on the Prophet'spart, and he followed it up by mentioning the close connection that existed between Israel and God. Yet You, O Jehovah, arein the midst of us, and we are called by Your name." And then he pleaded, "leave us not." It was a grand prayer, yet, at first,this was the only answer that Jeremiah received to it.
10, 11. Thus says the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, thereforethe LORD does not accept them; He will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Praynot for this people for their good. "You may pray, if you like, for a plague to come upon them as a chastisement for theirsins, but do not pray for any blessing for them."
12. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation I will not accept them:but it will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. After being long provoked, God at last determinesthat He will punish the rebellious nation and He seems, as it were, to put Jeremiah aside. "Now the day of My vengeance hascome, and I will show no more mercy to them." Now note what Jeremiah does even after the Lord has said to him, "Pray not forthis people for their good."
13. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say unto them, You shall not see the sword, neither shall you have famine;but I will give you assured peace in this place. He says, "Lord, have pity on the people, for they are misled by their prophets!Perhaps if these false prophets had not thus deceived them and puffed them up, they would not have been so hardened in theirsin." He tried to make some excuse for them, but the Lord would not yield to his pleading.
14. 15. Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in My name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them,neither spoke unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nothing, and the deceit of theirheart. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in My name, andI sent them not, yet they say, Swordand famine shall not be in this land. By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. God says, "Yes, I will deal withthe false prophets. It is true that they have misled the people and I will punish them for their deception, but I will notexcuse the people even on that ground."
16. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword;and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their
wickedness upon them. That seems to be a hard answer to Jeremiah's pleading-what is the Prophet to do now? God gives him anothermessage to deliver to the people-
17, 18. Therefore you shall say this word unto them; Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease:for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow. If I go forth into the field,then behold! the slain with the sword! And if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! Yes, boththe prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not So God told Jeremiah that he might go and tell the peoplethat he would weep continually for them. The faithful and sympathetic Prophet was to be allowed constantly to shed tears ontheir behalf and to feel great distress of soul because he saw signs everywhere of the heavy hand of God resting upon theguilty people. If they went outside the city, the Chaldeans slew them with the sword. And if they stayed inside, they perishedby famine! Or those that died not were carried away captive into a land that they knew not. What is Jeremiah to do in sucha case as this? He is told that he must not pray for the people, and God seems determined to smite them. What can love dowhen even the gates of prayer are ordered to be closed? Notice how, after he is told that he must not pray, he edges his wayup towards the Throne of Grace and, at last, he does what he is told not to do. He begins thus-
19. Have You utterly rejected Judah? Has Your soul loathed Zion? Why have You smitten us, and there is no healing for us?We looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble! That is not exactly praying, butit is very like it. Jeremiah is asking the Lord whether He can really have cast off His people.
20. We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against You. He has now advanceda step farther, to the confession of sin. If that is not really prayer, it always goes with it. It is the background of prayer,so we shall soon have some other touches in the picture.
21. Do not abhor us for Your name's sake, do not disgrace the Throne of Your Glory: remember, break not Your Covenant withus. Now he is actually getting to praying. He cannot help himself. He is told that he must not pray, but he feels that hemust-he loves the people so much that he must plead for them.
22. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain! Or can the heavens give showers? Are You not He,O LORD our God? Therefore we will wait for You: for You have made all these things. O splendid perseverance of importunity-strongresolve of a forbidden intercession! "You, O Lord our God, tell us not to pray, but we cannot restrain our supplication-'Thereforewe will wait for You.'" God help us all to wait for Him! We are not so discouraged from praying as he was who spoke thesewords, so there is still more reason why we should say to the Lord, "Therefore we will wait for You."