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« Reply #105 on: March 26, 2008, 12:56:31 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XIX.  THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

The incident referred to in our last chapter, of the demolition of a portion of the royal palace to provide materials for an inner line of defence, is a specimen of many another episode in that intense effort of Zedekiah and his people to hurl back the tide of merciless hate and thirst for blood that broke day after day around the battlements; much as the long ocean wave sends its surges up against a reef of rock, and casts its splintered forces high in air. Here there was a scaling party which must be flung back on their ladders; there an attempt to run a mine which must be intercepted; and now tidings came that a portion of the wall, which had been long exposed to the battering-rams, showed signs of weakness and must be built up from within; and yet again precautions must be taken against fire flung in missiles, or flights of arrows, or stones cast by catapults. For no single hour could the defenders relax their vigilance. A council of princes must have been in perpetual session, fertile in resource, swift to meet the craft or the courage of the foe. And all the time the stock of provisions was becoming less, and the store of water drying, as in the case of Malchiah's dungeon, into wet mud.

So much for the earlier months of the siege; but as the days passed on darker shadows gathered. It was as though the very pit of hell added in human passion the last dread horrors of the scene. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, lay by scores in the recesses of the houses, broken like earthen pitchers, the work of the hand of the potter. The women became cruel, and refused to spare from their breast for their young the nutriment they needed for themselves. The tongues of the sucking babes became so dry and parched that they could no longer cry. Young children, whose weakness constituted a first claim, asked for bread, and asked in vain. Highly nurtured maidens searched over the dung-heaps in hope of finding something to stay the craving of hunger. The nobles lost their portly mien, and walked the streets like animated mummies. The sword of the invader without had fewer victims than that which hunger wielded within, and, as the climax of all, pitiful women murdered their own little babes and soddened them to make a meal. Finally, pestilence began its ravages, and the foul stench of bodies that men had no time to bury, and that fell thick and fast each day in the streets of the city, like autumn leaves, caused death, which mowed down those that had escaped the foe and privation. Ah, Jerusalem! who stonedst the prophets, and sheddest the blood of the just, this was the day of the overflowing wrath and fury of Jehovah! No human hand lit the flame, no mere human hate was accountable for sufferings so complex and so terrible. "Thou, O God, hast slain priest and prophet in thy sanctuary; youth and age in the streets. Thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast slaughtered, and not pitied."

And as Jeremiah waited day after day, unable to do other than listen to tidings of woe that converged to him from every side, he resembled the physician who, unable to stay the slow progress of some terrible form of paralysis in one he loves better than life, is compelled to listen to the tidings of its conquests, knowing surely that these are only stages in an assault which ultimately must capture the citadel of life -- an assault which he can do nothing to stay.

II. THE PROPHET'S ADDED SORROWS.

In addition to the discomfort which he shared in common with the rest of the crowded populace, Jeremiah was exposed to aggravated sorrows. It would appear that he was constantly reiterating in the ears of all who passed through the courthouse the message which he had previously delivered to the king, that to stay in the city was to incur death by sword, famine, or pestilence, while to go forth to the lines of the Chaldeans was the one condition of life. He lost no opportunity of asserting that Jerusalem should surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and that he would take it. As these words passed from lip to lip, they carried dismay throughout the city. Men repeated them as they did duty on the walls, or met around the bivouac fires, or discussed the probable issues of the siege; and the fact that Jeremiah had so often spoken as the mouthpiece of Jehovah gave an added weight to his words.
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« Reply #106 on: March 26, 2008, 12:58:07 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XIX.  THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

It was quite natural, therefore, that the princes, who knew well enough the importance of keeping up the courage of the people, should demand the death of one who was not only weakening the hands of the people generally, but especially of the men of war. In some such way the drowsy sleeper, unwilling to be aroused by the barking of the watch-dog, catches up his revolver to shoot him; or the crew, eager for carouse, murders the watchman who warns them of the white surf breaking along a ragged, rock-bound shore. The young king was weak rather than wicked, a puppet and toy in the hands of his princes and court. He therefore yielded to their demand, saying, "Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do anything against you."

Without delay Jeremiah was flung into one of those rock-hewn cisterns that abound in Jerusalem, and the bottom of which, the water having been exhausted during the extremities of the siege, consisted of a deep sediment of mud, into which he sank. There was not a moment to be lost. The life of the faithful servant of God was not to end amid the damp darkness of that hideous sepulcher, from which no cry could reach the upper air; and help was sent through a very unexpected channel. An Ethiopian eunuch -- who is probably anonymous, since the name Ebed-melech simply means "the king's servant " -- with a love to God's cause which was sweetly prophetic of the way in which Gentile hearts would be opened to welcome and forward it throughout the world, hastened to the king, then sitting to administer justice at one of the gates of the city, remonstrated with him, and urged him to take immediate steps to save the prophet from imminent death.

Always swayed by the last strong influence brought to bear on him, the king yielded as easily to his faithful servant, who was probably the custodian of his harem, as he had done to his lords, and bade him take a sufficient number of men to secure him from interference, and at once extricate the prophet. There was great gentleness in the way this noble Ethiopian executed his purpose. He was not content with merely dragging him from the pit's bottom, but lined the ropes with old cast clouts and rotten rags, fetched hurriedly from the house of the king; thus the tender flesh of the prophet was neither cut nor chafed. It was an act of womanly tenderness, which makes it as fragrant as the breaking of the box over the person of the Lord. It is not enough to serve and help those who need assistance; we should do it with the sweetness and gentleness of Christ. It is not only what we do, but the way in which we do it which most quickly indicates our real selves. Many a man might have hurried to the pit's mouth with ropes; only one of God's own gentlemen would have thought of the rags and clouts. It is very quaint and beautiful, when so much is left untold, that a dozen lines in the Word of God should be given to this simple incident and the hurried advice thrown into the darkness of the lonely prophet by his kind-hearted deliverer. "Then they drew up Jeremiah with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard."

From that moment till the city fell the prophet remained in safe custody, and on one memorable occasion the king sought his counsel, though in strict secrecy. Once more, and for the last time, those two men stood face to face -- king and prophet -- weakness and strength -- representatives, the one of the fading glories of David's race, and the other of the imperishable splendor of truth and righteousness. Once more Zedekiah asked what the issue would be, and once more received the alternatives that appeared so foolish to the eye of sense -- Defeat and Death by remaining in the city; Liberty and Life by going forth.

"Go forth?" said Zedekiah, in effect, "never! It would be unworthy of one in whose veins flows the blood of kings. I shall expose myself to the ridicule of all that have fled across the Chaldean lines, and the Chaldeans themselves would deliver me into their hands."
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« Reply #107 on: March 26, 2008, 12:59:29 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XIX.  THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

"They shall not deliver thee," said Jeremiah, and then began to plead with him as a man might plead for himself. "Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, in that which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well with thee, and thy soul shall live." Then in graphic words he painted the picture of the certain doom the king would incur if he tarried until the city fell into the captor's hands. For the derision of the few Jews that had fallen away, he would then be exposed to the taunts of his wives and children, who would by that time have become allotted to their captors, and would seek to win the smiles of their new lords by taunting the fallen monarch in whose smiles they had been wont to bask.

In this advice of Jeremiah we are reminded of words repeated by our Lord on five different occasions, and in which he tells us that those who keep their lives lose them, and that those who lose their lives find and keep them. Not in husbanding our strength, but in yielding it in service; not in burying our talents, but in administering them; not in hoarding our seed in the barn, but in scattering it; not in following an earthly human policy, but in surrendering ourselves to the will of God -- do we find the safe and blessed path. The man of faith judges not after the sight, of his eyes or the judgment of sense; he strikes currents flowing unseen by the world, and acts on suggestions received by direct communication from the Spirit of God, though always through the Word of God, and consistent with the loftiest dictates of sanctified common sense.

The weakness which was the ruin of Zedekiah came out in his request that Jeremiah would not inform the princes of the nature of their communications, and would hide the truth beneath the semblance of truth. It is difficult to pronounce a judgment on the way in which the prophet veiled the purport of his conversation with Zedekiah from the inquisitive questions of the princes. There is an appearance of evasion in his reply, which seems a little inconsistent with the character of the prophet of Jehovah. At the same time, the princes had no right to catechize him, and he was not obliged by his duty to them to tell the entire truth. We are under no obligation to gratify an impertinent curiosity; but we must be very careful to be transparent in speech and in act, and to be utterly true when we profess to be telling the whole truth to those that have a right to know. In the present case the prophet shielded the king with a touch of chivalrous devotion and loyalty which was probably the last act of devotion to the royal house, to save which he had poured out his heart's blood in tears and entreaties and sacrifices for nearly forty years.

III. THE FATE OF THE CITY.

At last a breach was made in the old fortifications, and the troops began to rush in, like an angry sea which after long chafing has made for itself an entrance in the sea-wall, and pours in turbulent fury to carry desolation in its course. The kings of the earth and all the inhabitants of the world could never have believed that the adversary and the enemy should enter into the gates of Jerusalem; yet so it befell. Then the terrified people fled from the lower into the upper city, and as they did so their homes were filled with the desolating terror of the merciless soldiery.

A hundred different forms of anguish gathered in that devoted city, like vultures to the dead camel of the desert. Woe then to the men who had fought for their very life! but woe more utter and agonizing to the women and maidens, to the children and little babes! War is always terrible; but no hand of historian dare lift the veil, and tell in unvarnished words all the horror of the sack of a city by such soldiery as Nebuchadnezzar and his generals led to war. The wolves of the Siberian forest are more merciful than they. "All the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate," from which they gave directions for the immediate prosecution of their success upon the terrified people, who now crowded the upper city, prepared to make the last desperate stand.
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« Reply #108 on: March 26, 2008, 01:01:03 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XIX.  THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

Late that afternoon the old palace of David was filled with eager consultation. Everything must be done to preserve the royal house, "the breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord." It was therefore arranged that as soon as night fell Zedekiah and his harem should go forth under the protection of all the men of war, through a breach to be made in the walls of the city to the south; and exactly as Ezekiel had foretold, so it came to pass. "The prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face" (Ezekiel 12:12).

A long line of fugitives, each carrying property or necessaries, stole silently through the king's private garden, and so toward the breach, and like shadows of the night passed forth into the darkness between long lines of armed men, who held their breath. If only by the dawn they could gain the plains of Jericho they might hope to elude the fury of their pursuers. But all night Zedekiah must have remembered those last words of Jeremiah, "Thou shalt not escape, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Baby-Ion." "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth." This was not the first time or the last that man has thought to elude the close meshes of the Word of God.

Somehow the tidings of the flight reached the Chaldeans. The whole army arose to pursue. "Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they chased us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.

The anointed of the Lord was taken in their pits." That is the lament of Jeremiah; but Ezekiel gives an even deeper insight into the events of that memorable and terrible night: "My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare .... And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands" (Lamentations 4:19-20; Ezekiel 12:13-14).

What happened the next morning in Jerusalem and what befell her in after-months is told in the Book of Lamentations. Her streets and houses were filled with the bodies of the slain, after having been outraged with nameless atrocities; but happier these perchance than the thousands who were led off into exile or sold into slavery, to suffer the horrors of death in life. Then the wild fury of fire engulfed temple and palace, public building and dwelling-house, and blackened ruins covered the site of the holy and beautiful city which had been the joy of the whole earth; and the ear of the prophet heard the spirit of the fallen city crying:

"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me,
Wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger!"

All that passed by clapped their hands at her; they hissed and wagged their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, "Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?" All her enemies opened their mouths wide against her: they hissed and gnashed their teeth: they said, "We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found it, we have seen it." The Lord did that which he devised: he fulfilled his word: he threw down, and did not pity: he caused the enemy to rejoice. Foxes walked upon the desolate mountain of Zion (Lamentations 2, 5.).

As for Zedekiah, he was taken to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar was at this time, perhaps not expecting so speedy a downfall of the city. With barbarous cruelty he slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, that the last sight he beheld might be of their dying agony. He was also compelled to witness the slaughter of all his nobles. Then, as a coup de grace, with his own hand probably, Nebuchadnezzar struck out Zedekiah's two eyes with his spear.

Thus God brought upon his people the king of the Chaldeans, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or ancient, but gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. And they burned the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon, and they were servants to him and his sons.
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« Reply #109 on: March 26, 2008, 01:02:54 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(Jeremiah 40, 44.)

"Therefore to whom turn I but to thee, the ineffable Name?
Builder and maker thou of houses not made with hands!
What! have fear of change from thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that thy power can fill the heart that thy power expands?
There never shall be one lost Good! What was, shall live as before;
The Evil is null, is naught, is silence implying sound;
What was good, shall be good, with for evil so much good more;
On the earth the broken arcs -- in the heaven a perfect round!"
BROWNING.

IF the closing verses of the Book of Jeremiah were written by his own hand, he must have lived for twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem; but they partook of the same infinite sadness as the forty years of his public ministry. It would appear that so far as his outward lot was concerned the prophet Jeremiah spent a life of more unrelieved sadness than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any other, with the exception of the Divine Lord. This was so apparent to the Jewish commentators on the prophecies of Isaiah that they applied to him the words of the fifty-third chapter, which tell the story of the man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief, and stood as a sheep dumb before her shearers. Of course in the light of Calvary we see the depths of substitutionary suffering in those inimitable words which no mortal could ever realize; but it is never the less significant that in any sense they were deemed applicable to Jeremiah.

His sufferings may be classed under three divisions: those recited in the Book of Lamentations, and connected with the fall of Jerusalem; those connected with the murder of Gedaliah and the flight into Egypt; and those of the exile there. But amid the salt brine of these bitter experiences there was always welling up a spring of hope and peace. Oppressed on every side, but not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always delivered unto death, yet passing through death into the true life, sure that the Lord would not cast off forever, but, though he caused grief, he would have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.

I. THE DESOLATE CITY.

It is only latterly that any question has been raised as to the authorship of the Book of Lamentations. In the text no author is named, and these exquisite elegiacs have descended to us anonymously. But a very old tradition ascribes them to our prophet. In the Septuagint translation, made in the year 280 B.C., the following introduction is prefixed to the book: "It came to pass, after Israel was taken captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lamentation over Jerusalem." To this the Vulgate adds, "in bitterness of heart-sighing and crying." The cave in which Jeremiah is said to have written them is still shown on the western side of the city; and every Friday the Jews assemble to recite as his these plaintive words, at their wailing-place in Jerusalem, where a few of the old stones still remain. There is no good reason, therefore, for disassociating the Book of Lamentations from the authorship of Jeremiah.
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« Reply #110 on: March 26, 2008, 01:04:50 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

This being so, what a flood of light is cast upon the desolate scene when Nebuzaradan had completed his work of destruction, and the long lines of captives were already far on their way to Babylon! How many went into exile we have no means of knowing; the number would probably amount to several thousands, principally of the wealthier classes. Only the poor of the people were left to cultivate the land, that it might not revert to an absolute desert. But the population would probably be very sparse -- a few peasants scattered over the sites which had teemed with crowds.

The city sat solitary which had been full of people. She had become as a widow. Night and day it seemed to the eye of her patriot lovers as though she were weeping sore and her tears were upon her cheeks; the holy fire was extinct upon her altars; pilgrims no longer traversed the ways of Zion to attend the appointed feasts; her gates had sunk into the ground, and her habitations were pitilessly destroyed by fire. How often would Jeremiah pass mournfully amid the blackened ruins! Here was the site of the altar; there of the most holy place. That was the palace of David; this the new palace that Jehoiakim had made for himself, with its wide windows and heavy coatings of vermilion. Yonder was the court of the guard, where he had suffered so many months of confinement; and there, again, was the place where he had so often stood to warn his people of their sins.

Above and around, nature preserved the unbroken round of her seasons and months, of day and night. The old mountains which had stood around the city in the days of David and Hezekiah glowed with the morning, light and softened in the darkening shadows of the night. The sun arose over Olivet and set in the western sea. The panorama of hill and valley, which lay around like the undulations of a sea of rock, spread itself in its accustomed strength and beauty, for Zion had always been beautiful in her situation. But upon the site of the virgin daughter of Zion the stillness of death had fallen, broken only by the cry of jackal and wild dog.

What all this meant to Jeremiah words fail to say. No truer heart ever beat in patriot's bosom. What Phocion felt for Athens, what Savonarola for Florence, what the elder Pitt for England, amid the catastrophes that darkened his latter days -- that in a concentrated form must Jeremiah, whose love for country was so intimately bound up with his religious life, have felt and suffered. Anticipating the words of One who in after-days was to sit on the same mountain and look across the valley, he might have said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!"

II. GEDALIAH'S MURDER.

Nebuchadnezzar and his chiefs had evidently been kept closely informed of the state of parties during the siege of Jerusalem, and the king gave definite instructions to his chief officers to take special precautions for the safety of Jeremiah. When the upper city fell into their hands, they sent and took him out of the court of the guard, and he was brought in chains among the other captives to Ramah, about five miles north of Jerusalem.

In a remarkable address which the captain of the guard made to Jeremiah, he acknowledged the retributive justice of Jehovah -- one of the many traces of the real religiousness that gave a tone and bearing to these men by which they are altogether removed from the category of ordinary heathen. "The Lord thy God pronounced this evil upon this place, and the Lord hath brought it, and done according as he spake: because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you."
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« Reply #111 on: March 26, 2008, 01:07:07 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

The chains were then struck from off his fettered hands, and liberty was given him either to accompany the rest of the people to Babylon, or to go where he chose throughout the land. Ultimately, as he seemed to hesitate as to which direction to take, the Chaldean general urged him to make his home with Gedaliah, to strengthen his hands, and give him the benefit of his counsel in the difficult task to which he had been appointed. Thus again he turned from rest and ease to take the rough path of duty.

Gedaliah was the grandson of Shaphan, King Josiah's secretary, and son of Ahikam, who had been sent to inquire of the prophetess Huldah concerning the newly found Book of the Law. On a former occasion the hand of Ahikam had rescued Jeremiah from the nobles. Evidently the whole family was bound by the strongest, tenderest ties to the servant of God, imbued with the spirit and governed by the policy which he enunciated. These principles Gedaliah had consistently followed, and they marked him out, in the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar, as the fittest to be intrusted with the reins of government and to exert some kind of authority over the scattered remnant. To him, therefore, Jeremiah came with an allowance of victuals and other marks of the esteem in which the conquerors regarded him.

For a brief interval all went well. The new governor took up his residence at Mizpah, an old fort which Asa had erected three hundred years before to check the invasion of Baasha. The town stood on a rocky eminence, but the castle was supplied with water from a deep well. Chaldean soldiers gave the show of authority and stability to Gedaliah's rule. To Mizpah the scattered remnant of the Jews began to look with hope. The captains of the forces which were in the fields, still holding out, as roving bands, against the conqueror, hastened to swear allegiance to the representative of the Jewish state; and the Jews who had fled to Moab, Edom, and other surrounding peoples returned out of all places whither they had been driven, and they came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah.

How glad must Jeremiah have been to see this nucleus of order spreading its influence through the surrounding chaos and confusion, and with what eagerness he must have used all the influence he possessed to aid in the .establishment of Gedaliah's authority! The fair dream, however, was rudely dissipated by the treacherous murder of Gedaliah, who seems to have been eminently fitted for his post, by Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah. In the midst of a feast given by the unsuspecting governor, he was slain with the sword, together with all the Jews that were with him and the Chaldean garrison. On the second day after, the red-handed murderers, still thirsting for blood, slew seventy pilgrims who were on their way to weep amid the ruins of Jerusalem and lay offerings on the site of the ruined altar. The deep well of the keep was choked with bodies, and shortly afterward Ishmael carried off the king's daughters and all the people that had gathered around Gedaliah, and started with them for the court of Baalis, the king of the children of Ammon, who was an accomplice in the plot.

It was a bitter disappointment, and to none would the grief of it have been more poignant than to Jeremiah, who, in the demolition of this last attempt to effect the peaceable settlement of his country, saw the irreconcilable antagonism of his people against the reign of the king of Babylon. This he knew must last for at least seventy years.

The people themselves appear to have lost heart; for though Johanan and other of the captains of roving bands pursued Ishmael and delivered from his hand all the captives he had taken, and recovered the women and the children, yet none of them dared to return to Mizpah; but, like shepherdless sheep, harried by hogs, driven, draggled, panting, and terrified, they resolved to quit their land and retire southward, with the intention of fleeing into the land of Egypt, with which during the later days of their national history they had maintained close relations.
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« Reply #112 on: March 26, 2008, 01:08:55 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

They carried Jeremiah with them. They had confidence in his prayers and in his veracity, since his predictions had been verified so often by the event. They knew he stood high in the favor of the court of Babylon. They believed that his prayers prevailed with God. And therefore they regarded him as a shield and defence; a noble representative of the highest hopes and tradition of their people; one in whom the statesman, sage, and prophet mingled in equal proportion.

Halting at the caravansary of Chimham, whose name recalls David's flight from and return to Jerusalem, the spot where travelers left the frontiers of Palestine for Egypt, the people earnestly debated whether they should go forward or return. They came also to Jeremiah, and asked him to give himself to prayer, that the Lord his God should show them the way wherein they should walk, and the thing they should do. They professed their willingness to be guided entirely by the voice of God, though in this they were probably not sincere. They dealt deceitfully against their own souls by appearing to desire only God's ways, while in point of fact they were determined to enter into Egypt.

For ten days Jeremiah gave himself to prayer. Then the word of the Lord came unto him, and he summoned the people around him to declare it. Speaking in the name of the Most High, he said: "If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down; and I will plant you, and not pluck you up .... Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand." If, on the other band, they persisted in going into the land of Egypt, in the hope that they would see no more war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread, then they would be overtaken there by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence; they would be an execration, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach, and they should never again see their native land. As he spoke he seems to have been sadly aware that during the ten days devoted to intercession on their behalf the prepossession in favor of Egypt had been growing, and that his words would not avail to stay the strong current which was bearing them thither.

So it befell. When he had made an end of speaking all the words wherewith the Lord had sent him to them, the chiefs accused him of speaking falsely, and of misrepresenting the divine word. Not willing to accuse him flatly of treachery, they suggested that Baruch, who was still accompanying him as his faithful friend, had incited him to urge the return to Canaan with the view of betraying them into the hand of the Chaldeans for death or exile. So the terrified people pursued their way to Egypt, and settled at Tahpanhes, which was ten miles across the frontier.

Almost the last ingredient of bitterness in Jeremiah's cup must have been furnished by this pertinacious obstinacy, which would not be controlled by his word, which resisted his entreaties, and suggested that his advice was tinctured by treachery in their best interests. How terrible that they should malign and misunderstand the man who had spent forty years of consistent public ministry in efforts to save them from the effects of evil counsel, and to recall them to a simple and absolute faith in the God of their fathers!

III. EGYPT.

His life of protest was not yet complete. No sooner had the people settled in their new home than he was led to take great stones in his hand and lay them beneath the mortar in some brickwork which was being laid down at the entry of Pharaoh's palace in Tahpanhes. "On these stones," he said, "the king of Babylon shall set his throne, and spread out his royal pavilion upon them. He shall smite the land of Egypt, and kindle a fire in the houses of its gods, and array himself in her spoils as easily as a shepherd throws his outer garment around his shoulders. The obelisks of Heliopolis will be also burned with fire. To have come here, therefore, is not to escape the dreaded foe, but to throw yourselves into his arms."
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« Reply #113 on: March 26, 2008, 01:10:42 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

Some years must have followed of which we have no record, and during which the great king was engaged in the siege of Tyre, and therefore unable to pursue his plans against Pharaoh. During this time the Jews scattered over a wide extent of territory, so that colonies were formed in Upper as well as Lower Egypt, all of which became deeply infected with the prevailing idolatries and customs around them. Notwithstanding all the bitter experiences which had befallen them in consequence of their idolatries, they burned incense unto the gods of Egypt, and repeated the abominations which had brought such disaster and suffering upon their nation.

Taking advantage, therefore, of a great convocation at some idolatrous festival, Jeremiah warned them of the inevitable fate which must overtake them in Egypt, as it had befallen them in Jerusalem. "Behold," said the faithful prophet, "God will punish you who dwell in the land of Egypt, as he punished Jerusalem, by sword, by famine, and by pestilence: so that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, or return to the land of Judah to dwell there."

A severe altercation then ensued. The men indignantly protested that they would still burn incense unto the queen of heaven, as they had done in the streets of Jerusalem, and they even ascribed the evils that had befallen them to their discontinuance of this custom. Jeremiah, on the other hand, gray with age, his face marred with suffering, an old man now, did not hesitate to insist, in the name of the God he served so faithfully, that the sufferings of the people were due, not to their discontinuance of idolatry, but to their persistence in its unholy rites. "Because ye have burned incense and sinned against the Lord, and have not walked in his law, his statutes, or his testimonies; therefore is this evil happened unto you, as it is this day." He went on to predict the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which took place in the year 568 B.C., and which resulted, as Josephus tells us, in the carrying off to Babylon of the remnant of Jews who had, against Jeremiah's advice, fled there for refuge. So it was proved whose word should stand, God's or theirs.

Through all these dark and painful experiences the soul of Jeremiah quieted itself as a weaned babe. When he said his strength was perished, still his expectation was from the Lord. When his soul remembered its wormwood and gall, he recalled to mind the covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; therefore he had hope. The Lord was his portion, and he hoped and quietly waited for the salvation of God. He knew that God would not cast off forever, but though he caused grief, yet he would have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies. He knew that his Redeemer lived, who would arise for his cause, and render a recompense to his foes. He looked far away beyond the mist of years, and saw the expiry of the sentence of captivity, the return of his people, the rebuilding of the city, the holy and blessed condition of its inhabitants, the glorious reign of the Branch, the Scion of David's stock, the New Covenant before which the old should vanish away. Probably, therefore, his days were not all dark, but aglow with the first rays of the Sun of Righteousness, smiting the Alpine peaks of his holy and loyal spirit. The Comforter must have come to him. God, who comforteth those that are cast down, must have spoken words of balm and tender peace. Never yet in the history of the world has he permitted his servants to sink in unrelieved and hopeless midnight. Unto the upright there always arises light in the darkness. The gloomiest hours that ever brooded over the Son of Man broke up with the cry, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

If these words should be read by some whose life, like Jeremiah's, has been draped with curtains of somber hue, shutting out the glad light of day -- who have trodden the path of sorrow and the valley of shadow -- let them know that nothing brings men into such intimate relationship with the spirit of God, and that to none does the Infinite One stoop so closely as to those that are sore broken on the wheel of affliction. It is only when we fall into the ground and die that we cease to abide alone and begin to bear much fruit. Do not try to feel resigned. Will resignation. Submit yourself under the mighty hand of God. If you can say nothing else, fill your nights and days with the cry or sob of "Father, not my will, but thine, be done." Never doubt the love of God. Never suppose for a moment that he has forgotten or forsaken. Never yield to the suggestion of the adversary that the harvests which you are to garner could have been procured at any less cost. As for God, his way is perfect, and he makes our way perfect.
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« Reply #114 on: March 26, 2008, 01:12:00 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XX.  A CLOUDED SUNSET
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

Scripture says nothing about the death of Jeremiah.

Whether it took place, as Christian tradition affirms, by stoning in Egypt, or whether he breathed out his soul beneath the faithful tendance of Baruch, in some quiet chamber of death, we cannot tell. The Bible makes comparatively little of death-scenes, that it may throw into greater prominence the prolonged narrative of the One Death, which has abolished death. God's chief interest is focused on the life and work of his servants. What they did, said, and suffered is more to him than how they surrendered their lives at his bidding. Indeed, to know how a man has lived is to make us largely indifferent of information regarding his last hours. The sculptured column projects its shaft in perfect symmetry upward from the earth, though we may not be able to follow it because the mass of waving verdure veils it from our gaze. But we know it is beautiful, and in perfect harmony with all we behold.

But how gladly did the prophet close his eyes upon the wreck that sin had wrought on the chosen people, and open them on the land where neither sin, nor death, nor the sight and sound of war break the perfect rest! What a look of surprise and rapture must have settled upon the worn face, the expression of the last glad vision of the soul as it passed out from the body of corruption, worn and weary with the long conflict, to hear the "Well done" and welcome of God! His memory was cherished with exceptional reverence. It seemed to the restored people as if his tender spirit were watching over their interests. The struggles of Judas Maccabaeus were cheered by the thought that he had come to succor him. It was believed that he continued in heaven the intercessions for which he had been so famous on earth, and in the days that preceded the second siege of Jerusalem it was supposed that he had reappeared in the person of the Son of Man.

THE END
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