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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Thirteenth

WE began yesterday to explain what the Prophet means, when he says, that there would be no more a remembrance of the Ark of the Covenant after the return of the Israelites into their country and their increase in it, even because there would be no discord among them as there had been before they were led into exile. For the ten tribes, we know, worshipped God after their own manner, as they had departed from the pure and simple teaching of the law. The Prophet then means, that they would all be the worshippers of the only true God, and that there would be among them such an unity of faith, that the Jew would not call God his God only, and that an Israelite would not desire for himself another God. Hence he adds, It shall not ascend on the heart; that is, such a thought shall no more come into their minds; and they shall not remember it; that is, no monuments of their ancient disunion shall exist any more among them; and they shall not visit it, which means, they shall no more come stealthily into Jerusalem who may wish to offer sacrifices to God; and in short, he says, No such thing shall be done

Then he says, At that time called shall be Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah The Prophet may appear inconsistent with himself by saying that Jerusalem would be the throne of God, and yet that the Jews would make no mention of the Ark of the Covenant: but the two clauses wholly agree, for he means that Jerusalem would be the seat and habitation of the eternal God, without any dispute being raised among them. The Israelites before their exile boasted that they retained the worship of the true God, and so magnificent was the display, and so great the pomp, that Jerusalem was quite obscure as to any external splendor. But the Prophet says that this distinction would no longer exist, and that the Israelites would no more contend with the Jews, for all would allow Jerusalem to be the sanctuary of God; as though he had said, |Pure religion shall flourish among them all without exception, such as had not done before.| And this passage he more clearly confirms by the words which follow: --

Assemble into it shall all nations to the name of Jehovah; or, on account of the name of Jehovah (l, lamed, is here instead of a causal particle) shall all nations assemble at Jerusalem. We see that there is nothing doubtful in these words, for the Prophet distinctly declares, that the worship of God, such as the Law required, would attain such esteem, that all nations would be ready to embrace whatever would be taught by the Jews. But by all nations we are to understand strictly the ten tribes, as they are called many nations in several places. If any one prefers to extend the meaning, let him enjoy his own opinion.

As I have said yesterday, the Jews think that the time of the Messiah is described here, because what Jeremiah promises has never been fulfilled; for there was no assembling of nations when the Jews returned from exile to their own country, as the Jews alone returned at that time. Hence they conclude that this passage can be explained in no other way than by referring it to the kingdom of Messiah; which, indeed, I confess to be true. But as that return and restoration of the people was a prelude of Christ's kingdom, the prophets ever begin at that time whenever they prophesy of the Church being renewed. It is indeed true, that the restoration of the whole world was to be looked for through the coming of Christ; yet God began to restore his Church, when he stretched forth his hand to the Jews, and when they built the city and the temple; which was necessary to be done before Christ came forth. But as to this passage, whether by nations we understand the ten tribes, or both kingdoms, or all nations indiscriminately, the meaning of the Prophet is equally clear, which is this, -- that the Church would become larger than before, when God restored the people, and that God would then cause true religion to flourish, unaccompanied with envy and strife.

What follows confirms the opinion, that the passage is to be explained of the two kingdoms, Walk, he says, shall they no more after the evil hardness of their own heart It was not usual to speak thus of heathen nations, who had ever been strangers to the teaching of the Law. As this, then, can only be specifically applied to the Jews and Israelites, that explanation is the most to be approved, which makes all nations to mean the ten tribes, or the whole people.

Then is added, what is of the same meaning, In those days shall come the house of Judah with the house of Israel It hence appears, that the Prophet speaks of the posterity of Abraham and not of other nations; for he adds this verse as explanatory. It might, indeed, have been asked, |What does this mean, All nations shall come?| To this he answers, |The house of Israel shall unite with the house of Judah;| that is, there shall be no more hatred between these two nations, for they shall acknowledge one another as brethren, and know that they have arisen from the same source, and that they ought to be one people. In short, the Prophet explains in this verse what he had said before. And we ought especially to notice what he adds, Come shall they together from the land of the north into the land which I have given to be possessed by their fathers The Jews had not yet gone into exile; the Prophet said this to them while they were quiet, as it were, in their own nest at Jerusalem, and in the country around; nor could he convince them of what they afterwards found to be true to their great loss, -- that an exile was nigh them, like that which they then saw had happened to their brethren, the Israelites. But yet the Prophet spoke of them, as though they had been exiled and dwelt like the Israelites in the north country; Come together , he says, shall they from the land of the north

They might have objected and said, |We are as yet enjoying our own inheritance, and no one can drive us hence, for it cannot be that God shall be deprived of his own temple, as he has chosen for himself a perpetual habitation among us.| Such words were no doubt clamorously spoken by them. But the Prophet here repels their vain confidence, and says, that their only hope of deliverance was in looking forward to the restoration which the Lord would grant them after they had been for a time banished from their country. Now the Prophet here sets forth to them the benefit which would arise from exile, in order that they might bear with more submission the punishment they were to endure: for they might have a hundred times despaired, had they no hope that this exile would be only for a time, and that they would again be gathered together with their brethren the Israelites. It now follows --

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