14. Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
14. Ergo sic dicit Jehova, Deus exercituum, Quia protulistis verbum hoc: Ecce ego dabo verba mea. (vel, ponam verba mea) in ore tuo quasi ignem (vel, in ignem,) et populus hic, lignum, et vorabit eos.
God shews here how intolerable to him was their wantonness in despising the prophets, through whom he would have himself attended to. Though Christ did not refer to this passage, when he said,
|He who hears you hears me,
and he who despises you despises me,|
yet it contains an eternal law; for God's will from the beginning has been, that his servants should be obeyed, as though he himself had come down from heaven. Hence the Jews dealt no less contumeliously with God in despising his prophets, than if they had dared to treat God himself with contempt. God then now shews how much he abhorred that madness, through which they rendered void all the labors of his servants.
Therefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts Jeremiah made this preface, that he might more effectually rouse the Jews; for if he had omitted Thus saith Jehovah, and had begun thus, |Because ye have announced this word, behold, as fire shall be the word of God, |his doctrine would have been objected to, and treated with contempt. But now, by alleging the name of God, and that not simply, but by adorning it with a high attribute, and calling him |the God of hosts, |he makes known his power in order to strike them with fear. He then says, |Thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts, Because ye have spoken this word, |etc. Here he changes the persons often; and it behooved him to do so, that there might be more force and point in what he said. He ought to have said in the third person, |Because they have spoken thus, Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth, |etc.: but he now addresses the people, and then he turns to his servant Jeremiah. He therefore says, |Ye have indeed spoken thus;| that is, |Ye have scoffingly spoken, as though my prophets had nothing but the empty sound of words;| Behold, he says, I will make my words in thy mouth like fire, (he thus addresses the Prophet,) and this people shall be wood, and the fire shall devour them
God compares his own word to fire, not as in other places, nor for the same reason; but this similitude has a particular meaning, -- that the prophetic word would consume the people as fire consumes dry wood or straw. In other places the word of God is called fire, because it kindles the hearts of men, because it cleanses or burns the filth within. But he treats not here of the benefit or the fruit which the faithful derive from God's word: but God declares only that the doctrine of the Prophet would prove fatal to the people; and hence he expressly says, |I make my words in thy mouth like fire.| Had he said, |Behold, my words shall be like fire, and this people shall be stubble, |it would not have been sufficiently expressive. But as the people had been accustomed to scoff and say, |Ah! what are these prophets, and what are their words? they beat the air only;| as then the Jews had been wont to speak in this manner, he now replies to them, and says, |I will make my words in thy mouth like fire;| that is, Thy tongue alone shall be more than sufficient to destroy the whole people. Jeremiah teaches here the same thing with Paul, when he said,
|We have vengeance in readiness against all altitude which rises against the gospel.|
(2 Corinthians 10:4, 5)
For it has ever been an evil, common to all ages, either to neglect, or wholly to despise the servants of God. When Paul saw that the gospel was despised by many, he said that he and other ministers had vengeance in readiness; as though he had said, |As many words as we speak shall be so many swords to slay all the ungodly; and though their hardness now reject the judgment of God, their perverseness shall avail them nothing. Let them now then know that there is so much power in my word, as though God were openly to put forth his hand from heaven, as though he were to dart forth his lightnings.| The same thing is what Jeremiah means here, Behold, he says, I will make my words in thy mouth fire; that is, there will be so much power in thy words, that the ungodly shall know to their own loss that thou art the executioner of my vengeance.
This passage ought to be carefully observed by us, lest by our ingratitude we shall so provoke God's wrath against us, as that his word, which is destined for our food, shall be turned to be a fire to us. For why has God appointed the ministers of his gospel, except to invite us to become partakers of his salvation, and thus sweetly to restore and refresh our souls? And thus the word of God is to us like water to revive our hearts: it is also a fire, but for our good, a cleansing, and not a consuming fire: but if we obstinately reject this fire, it will surely turn to answer another end, even to devour us, and wholly to consume us.
But he says that this people would be wood: as the ungodly set up an iron front against God, they think they can thus drive to a distance his vengeance; the Prophet now laughs to scorn this madness, and says that they would be like wood or straw. It follows --