"It shall come
to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will
punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the
Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans;
and I will make it desolate for ever" (Jeremiah 25:12).
"Now in the
first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the
Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the
Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that
he made a proclamation throughout all his
kingdom..." (2 Chronicles 36:22, Ezra 1:1
onwards: see also Isaiah 45:1- 8).
Here then is the
vindication of Jeremiah. But he never lived to see it.
Therein lies one of the most testing things that a
faithful and greatly opposed servant of the Lord can have
to accept. Jeremiah had to fulfil his ministry knowing
that, so far as his own time and the people thereof were
concerned, it would be an apparent failure; he would not
live to see that part of his commission fulfilled - "To
build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:10).
How many of the servants of the Lord have been called
upon to follow Him in this so searching and testing path!
They, as He, have had to do their work for a time to
come. We observe the seeming failure of the Lord's own
earthly life and labours when "He was crucified
through weakness". We see the desertion, forsaking,
discrediting, and discounting which marked the closing
days of the Apostle Paul's earthly course. What a galaxy
of lonely heroes of the faith compose the noble army of
the "despised and rejected of men", upon whose
costly ministry men passed the verdict 'It was to no
purpose'! But if their ministry and labours had anything
of God in them, that element is eternal and immortal, and
it will live again: God will vindicate, and "the men
of Anathoth" (Jeremiah 11:21,23) will be the ones
upon whom history and eternity will heap the shame. The
tears of the Jeremiahs will - as the Psalmist says - be
kept in God's bottle. This is one of "the voices of
the prophets" which, although not heard by dull
spiritual ears, will be shouted for all to hear by the
events of history. Ezra and Nehemiah, and Daniel's
visions in fulfilment, will be the answer to Jeremiah's
Cyrus may be a pagan,
having no personal knowledge of the Lord, but his
irreligious solicitude for God's interests will declare
for all time that, while Jeremiah may be ignored or
discounted, the God who called and appointed him cannot
be so dismissed. If there is one voice that shouts from
the book of Jeremiah it is the voice of Divine
Sovereignty. The whole book is contracted in the Lord's
words to His servant in the Potter's House: "Cannot
I do with you...?" (Jeremiah 18:1-11).
The Sovereignty of God is a difficult thing to be
against. Ask Jerusalem and the Jewish nation about that
in the year A.D. 70 when the sovereign words of Jesus
Christ as recorded in Luke 19:41-44 were so literally
So much, then, for the
inclusive 'voice' of Jeremiah. But what were some of the
things that our Prophet had specifically to encounter and
cry against? We can put these into a phrase. He cried
concerning certain basic and fundamental contrasts...
FOUNTAIN AND THE CISTERNS
a contrast that the Lord vehemently called an
"evil" - "My people have
committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain
of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken
cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
Let us be duly impressed - before we pass on - with the
Lord's judgment upon this alternative procedure; it is EVIL!
The Lord says that it is a fundamental evil.
There are several
features of these alternatives.
(a) The feature
of the One and the many: the one Fountain; the many
Here we have a voice of
the Prophet which, having been missed, has resulted in -
not only Israel's undoing - but, largely in that of
organized Christianity, and is not absent from
evangelical Christianity. It is a matter to which the
Bible gives the most serious attention, and upon which
the New Testament is very largely built. It is no less a
question than that of the all-sufficiency of God or -
alternatively - the many devices of men. It is just the
exclusive and final fullness of God or the independent or
plus resource of human effort. This is the inherent
principle of the One Fountain or of the many hewn out
cisterns. Into what a lot of Christian work and activity
this issue has become real! From the dawn of man's active
relationship with God there has been this incorrigible
propensity of man to "put forth HIS hand"
and lay it possessively or controllingly upon God's
things. Probably this is Satan's (Lucifer's) sin which
led to his fall, and was the very nature of his
'tempting' and deceiving Adam. That is why God calls this
'EVIL'. It is the evil of dividing God's place;
of insinuating man's independence, and implying man's
ability. It is at the heart of humanism, of autocracy, of
dictatorship. It is the essence of that so oft-referred
to symbolic term in the New Testament - "the
flesh". It is the principle of the 'uncircumcised
heart', which - like the 'uncircumcised Philistines' -
insinuates itself in the things of God. It is full of
significance that it was not until David came fully and
pre-eminently to the throne that the Philistines were
finally subdued. Theirs was a hand against the throne.
Not until Christ is absolutely Lord will this tendency to
self-assertion be overruled.
What the many
"cisterns" represent in their form and nature
is just legion; too many things produced by human
strength, intelligence, and ingenuity to tabulate or
There is a very serious
and solemn precautionary reason why, after having given
the command and commission to His Apostles to go into all
the world, He added "BUT, tarry ye... until
ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49);
"He charged them not to depart... but to wait for
the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). The
world-commission must never be taken upon any kind of
natural energy. The Holy Spirit alone, and that as a
definite bit of personal history, is to be the source of
difference is indicated in our text.
The cisterns of
religious man's hewing can "hold no water".
Perhaps the emphasis should be upon the word
"hold". They are 'empty' because they are
leaky. They have to be repeatedly and continually filled
artificially. Their hewers are involved in the arduous
task of finding and replenishing the resources. They get
something and it leaks away, and dryness demands more and
more human effort to defeat it. What a true description
of all that comes from man putting his hand upon God's
work! His are indeed leaky cisterns. On the other hand
there is the Fountain. Full, final, inexhaustible, and
ever fresh, never stagnant.
"The water that I
shall give him shall become in him a well of water
springing up unto eternal life" (John 4:14).
"Out of him shall
flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
What a thing it is to
have an opened Heaven, and never to have to hew out a
message, a discourse, a ministry, an enterprise! It was
against this weary, disappointing, laborious life that
Jeremiah testified, and his "Voice" must be
listened for in this matter today for an EVIL
thing has limited the life of the Lord. Fullness is
always a mark of the good pleasure of the Lord.
"The Voices of the Prophets" in "A Witness
and A Testimony" magazine, Jul-Aug 1965, Vol 43-4