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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 17:7-8

7. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.

7. Benedictus vir qui confidit in Jehova, et cujus est Jehova fiducia (ad verbum, et erit Jehova fiducia ejus:)

8. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

8. Et erit tanquam arbor plantata prope aquas, et prope rivum emittet (hoc est, quae emittit) radices suas, et non videbit cum veniet aestus, et erit folium ejus viride, et anno prohibitionis non timebit, et non desinet a faciendo fructu (hoc est, a proferendo fructu.)

Observed ought to be the order which the Prophet keeps; for he could not have profitably spoken of this second part had he not first taken away that false confidence to which the Jews had long cleaved; for when any one casts seed on an uncultivated soil, what fruit can there be to his labor? As then it is necessary to make use of the plough before the seed is sown, so also, when we seek to teach profitably, it is necessary to pull up the vices which have their roots in the hearts of men; and this especially must be the case when we treat of faith in God alone, and of sincere calling on his name. And the Prophet had a particular reason for what he did, because the Jews had long hardened themselves in false confidences, so that they disregarded God in two respects, -- they despised his threatenings, and also made no account of his gracious promises. The Prophet then couht have effected nothing had he not pursued this method, -- that is, to correct the evil by which they had been long tainted; for noxious weeds must be first taken away before there can be any room for the corn to grow.

But had he spoken only negatively, that is, had he only condemned their false confidence, it would not have been sufficient. The Jews indeed might have said, that they had been deceived in placing their hopes in the Egyptians; but this might have happened through some bad men: and by looking for aid elsewhere, when disappointed, they would indeed have condemned their own counsels, but would yet have remained in suspense and anxious, without seeking God. Hence we see how suitably the Prophet began by condemning the Jews for placing confidence in men, and then how wisely he added this second part; for, as I have said, it was not enough to speak as it were negatively, without inviting them to return to God. But this is often the case in the present day; for we see that many laugh at those superstitions which have hitherto prevailed under the Papacy; but yet no religion appears in them. It is enough for them to ridicule these mummeries; but it would have been better for them to be retained in the fear of God, even by some superstition, than thus to expose evil, and yet to have no reverence for God. It is the same absurdity as to pull down a bad house and to leave man under the open air; for what end can such a thing be done? for he who is compelled to leave his house had something to cover him for a time. Hence it is not sufficient to destroy what is bad, except a good building succeeds.

This is the method and order which the Prophet observed: After having said, that all they are accursed who confide in men, he now adds, Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah; as though he had said, that men are wholly inexcusable in relying on themselves or on others, when God willingly offers himself to them. What then in it that prevents men from having their safety secured? Their own sin in rejecting the grace of God, which is freely offered to them; but they prefer to deceive themselves, and to ascribe to themselves and to others what justly belongs to God alone.

We see then that the ingratitude of the whole world is here condemned by the Prophet when he says, that all who trust in Jehovah are blessed: for had God concealed himself there would have been some covering for ignorance; and also a defense of this kind might have been made, -- |What else could we do? We sought the aid which was within our reach: had God called us to himself or allowed us to come to him, we would have been very willing; but as he has forsaken us, it was indeed the last refuge of despair to consider what was to be done, and to seek from every quarter aids for ourselves.| Hence the Prophet here shews that all such defences were frivolous, for God had freely invited them to himself; for to no purpose would he have said, that they are blessed who trust in Jehovah, had not God set himself forth as their confidence.

But we must notice what farther confirms this sentence, which is in itself very clear, And whose confidence Jehovah is. No additional light seems to be given to the preceding truth; and then what ambiguity does it contain which requires an explanation? Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah; even children can understand this: the words, then, of the Prophet are either superfluous, or there is some reason why he repeats what is so clear. Doubtless the unbelief, which every one of us finds in himself, is the best teacher; for even they who seem to have real confidence in God, yet falter when some trial assails them. Since then it is a common thing with us to look around to various quarters when any danger is near, we may hence, easily know that we do not hope in God. What then seems to us so easy, we find in reality to be very difficult: and hence the Prophet, after having said, that they are blessed who trust in God, has mentioned this in the second place, And whose hope is God; as though he had said, |The world knows not what it is to trust in God: though every one boldly testifies this, and even boastingly declares that he trusts in God, yet not one in a thousand finds that he understands this, or has ever known what it is from the heart to hope in God.| We now see that this repetition is not superfluous or unmeaning.

He then adds a comparison, answerable to that in the former clause, He shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which sends its roots upon, or nigh the river, which shall not see when heat comes. Here the Prophet points out the difference between the true servants of God, who trust in him, and those who are inflated with their own false imaginations, so that they seek safety either from themselves or from others: he had said of the unbelieving, that they are like tamarisks, which flourish for a time, but never bring forth any fruit, and are also soon dried up by the heat; but he says now as to the faithful, that they are like trees planted by the waters, and send their roots to the river. The tamarisks have the appearance of life, but there is no moisture in a dry soil; so their roots quickly dry up; but the servants of God, they are planted, as it were, in a moist soil, irrigated continually by streams of water. Hence the Prophet adds, that this tree shall not see the heat when it comes

He indirectly intimates that God's children are not exempt from adversities; for they feel the heat of the sun, like trees, who are exposed to it; but moisture is supplied, and the juice diffuses itself through all the branches: hence the Prophet says, that the leaf was green, even by means of the moisture which the earth supplied, being itself watered. The Prophet then intimates, that though God's children feel great heats, as well as the unbelieving; for this is common to both, they shall yet be kept safe; for though the sun dries up by its great heat, there is yet a remedy; for the root has moisture, derived from the irrigation of water.

We now then see how suitable is every part of the comparison. He says farther, that it shall not be careful. The verb d'g, dag, means to fear and to be careful; it means also sometimes to grieve, and so some render it here, |It will not grieve| but the other meaning seems better to me, -- that the tree planted nigh streams of waters is not afraid of heat; and then he adds, nor shall it cease from producing fruit

Nearly the same similitude is found in Psalm 1:3, only that the fear of God and meditation on his law are mentioned, and not hope:

|Blessed is the man, etc., who meditates on the law of God;|

but Jeremiah speaks here expressly of the hope which ought to be put in God alone. Yet the two Prophets well agree together as to this truth, -- that all their hopes are accursed, by which men inebriate themselves, while they seek salvation in themselves or in the world, and make more account of their own counsels, virtues, power, or the aids they expect from others, than of God himself and of his promises: for he who really meditates on the law of God day and night, well knows thereby, where to put his trust for salvation, both temporal and eternal. It follows --

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