The prophecy that is found in this chapter bears a date of about a decade or so before the words in the last chapter, for these chapters are not always placed in the exact chronological order in which they transpired. This one is dated to the fourth year of the reign of Judah’s king Jehoiakim (605 BC), which happened to coincide with the first year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon – that remarkable year when the sword of the Lord began to be drawn and brandished. It was in the very same year that this active, daring, martial prince named Nebuchadnezzar began to set himself up as the world’s master, that God – by His prophet – gives notice that this heathen monarch is still His servant. And He makes it clear as to what work He intends to employ this king in, so that Nebuchadnezzar’s growing greatness – which was so formidable to the nations – might not be construed as any bad reflection upon the power and Providence of the Lord in the government of the world. The Babylonian king placed himself in the throne of universal monarchy – or, shall we say, universal tyranny. But God still had purposes of His own to serve by him; and in the execution of them, the world would see the meaning of why God sometimes permits oppressive heathen tyrants to bear seemingly limitless power – a thing which often causes people to cast a bad reflection upon His sovereignty and goodness.
So here we have a message from Jehovah concerning all the people of Judah, which Jeremiah delivered to them. It is fitting that the Word of God – and particularly the Word of the Gospel – should be preached unto all people in general, since it concerns all people. Jeremiah had been sent to preach in the court of the king (chapter 22), and now he took courage to deliver his message to all the people – probably when they had all come up to Jerusalem to worship at one of the solemn feasts; when it might have been hoped that then, if ever, they would be inclined to hear counsel and receive instruction. In this message, we may observe the great pains that had been taken with the people to bring them to repentance. And they are here put in mind of them, in order that they might stand as an aggravation of their sin, and also so that they might be a justification of God in His proceedings against them.
Beginning in verse 8, we have the sentence that is grounded upon the foregoing charge. When people will not pay attention to the words of God’s mouth, they may expect to feel the judgments of His hands. They must expect to feel the rod, since they would not hear the Word; for the sinner must either be parted from his sin, or perish in it. Wrath only comes without remedy against those who sin without repentance. It is not so much men’s turning aside in the ways of sin that ruins them, as their not returning from those ways. The ruin of the land of Judah by the army of Nebuchadnezzar is decreed in verse 9. God employed him as an instrument in His hand for the correction of His people. He was really serving the Lord’s purposes, when he thought he was serving his own ends. But the ruin of Babylon is foretold here also (verses 12-14), just as it had been spoken of long before by Isaiah. The destroyers themselves would be destroyed when the correcting work for God’s people was over. When the set time to favor Zion would come, the king of Babylon would be visited in wrath and called to reckon for all his tyranny. The Judge of all the earth will do right and avenge wrong, as King of nations and King of saints! Let proud oppressors be careful in the use of their power, for their day to fall will come at last.
Under the similitude of a cup going round, which all the guests at the feast must drink of, is here represented the universal desolation that was coming upon that part of the world which Nebuchadnezzar was beginning to exert his power over. The cup in the vision represents the Lord’s sword of judgment (verse 16). When people and nations provoke Him by their sins, they must fall under the tokens of His wrath. The wicked are said to drink the wrath of the Almighty (Job 21:20; Rev. 14:10). Their share of troubles in this world is represented by the dregs of a cup of red wine (Ps. 11:6; 75:8). This cup was sent to all the nations within the lines of communication with God’s people. Jeremiah made them drink from it – that is, he prophesied concerning each of these nations, that they would share in this great desolation that was coming at Nebuchadnezzar’s hands.
From all this, we may observe the following things. First, there is a God Who judges in the earth, to Whom all the nations of the earth are accountable. Second, He can easily bring the greatest nations to ruin – even the most numerous and powerful, which have been most secure. Third, those who are ambitious of power and dominion commonly become the troublers of the earth and the plagues of their generation. Nebuchadnezzar was so proud of his might that he had no sense of right. These are the men who turn the world upside down, and yet expect to be admired and adored! Alexander the Great thought himself a great prince, when others saw him as little better than a great pirate. But fourth and finally, we are assured that those who have been vexatious and mischievous to the people of God will be reckoned with at last! Many of these heathen nations named in this chapter had given disturbance to God’s people at one time or another, but now destruction comes upon them. The year of the Redeemer will come – even the year of recompenses for the afflictions of Christ’s Church!
Lord, thank You for the assurance that You control all the rulers in this world, and that You will bring them to reckon for the hurt they do to Your people. Amen.
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