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LESSON VIII., FEBRUARY 21, Jer. 36:19-31.
Golden Text--"To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."--Heb. 3:15.
The incident of this lesson seems at first sight a very trivial one, but when we look into it more closely it assumes the importance of a solemn warning to a special class under very similar circumstances. Glancing back to the beginning of this chapter, we read that "This word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 'Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah (Chap. 1:2) even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.'"
In obedience to this command Jeremiah employed Baruch the scribe to write all the words of this prophecy as he dictated it, and though that roll was burned by the defiant king Jehoiakim, it was re-written by Baruch from the dictation of Jeremiah, and thus it has come down to us. And that it has come down to our day for a purpose, and for the purpose expressed in verse 3, is manifest; for the prophecy is not only against Israel, but "against all the nations." And glancing back to chapter 25:29-38, we see that the Prophet is foretelling the great time of trouble spoken of by Daniel and by our Lord, which is due to take place in the end or harvest of this Gospel age--a period of forty years, from A.D. 1875 to 1915--in the very midst of which time we are now living, and the signs of which trouble are now manifest to all thinking minds.--See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chapter xv.
The Prophet declares that the trouble is to be upon "all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth" (25:26); "for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations." (25:31.) No trouble that has ever yet come upon the world answers to the many prophetic descriptions of this one, and none has ever yet involved all nations. In chapters 50and 51 we have the significant prophecies against Babylon --not merely the Babylon of old, although it was included, but especially against Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots, which the literal Babylon symbolized--the Babylon of Revelation. And when it is remembered that the Book of Revelation was given as a prophecy of things then future (Rev. 1:1), and that literal Babylon was in ruins centuries before this prophecy concerning mystic Babylon was written, it requires only a little comparison of the two prophecies to show that the major portion of Jeremiah's pertains to mystic Babylon, and is just about to find its fulfilment upon "Christendom" so-called. Compare Jer. 50:15,29 with Rev. 18:6; Jer. 50:38with Rev. 16:12; Jer. 50:46with Rev. 18:9; Jer. 51:6with Rev. 18:4; Jer. 51:7,8,9 with Rev. 14:8; 17:4; 18:2,5,9,11,19; Jer. 51:13with Rev. 17:1,15; Jer. 51:33 with Rev. 14:15,18; Jer. 51:37,45,63,64 with Rev. 18:2,4,21.
As we read the words of Jeremiah spoken by divine authority against "Great Babylon"-- "Christendom"--and compare them with those of similar import by the Revelator, we call to mind the Lord's words to the last phase of the Nominal Church--Laodicea, Rev. 3:14--in the midst of which we are living; and while noting the applicability of the description--"knowest not that thou art poor and blind and miserable and naked"--we note also the warning, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire [divine truth], that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment [that faith which justifies], that [R1372 : page 59] thou mayest be clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve [the eyesalve of simplicity and sincerity which will remove the films of prejudice and duplicity], that thou mayest see."
"As many as I love [as many as are honest and at heart loyal to God] I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent....To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." The promise here is to the individuals: the great nominal church systems will not repent and leave the traditions of men for the pure word of God, but the individuals who hearken to the Lord's voice and obey his word (Rev. 18:4), and thus, by overcoming the influence and power of error, prove their love of the truth and their loyalty to the Lord, will receive the great reward--a share in the kingdom which shall break the chains of error and superstition and sin and "bless all the families of the earth."--Gal. 3:16,29. [R1372 : page 60]
But the great systems of error, both civil and religious, which in these days join hands to fortify and uphold each other, and which, calling themselves Christian nations and Christian churches, dishonor the Lord and his Word by their false teachings and evil practices, shall feel the righteous indignation of the Lord. It matters not if their great ones follow the example of Jehoiakim in destroying the parchment upon which the words of warning and counsel are written, and if they refuse to believe the testimony of the prophets and apostles against them; the word of the Lord is nevertheless sure; and both the individuals and the systems which despise his word and cast it from them shall feel his hot displeasure, while those who humbly hear and heed shall be blessed.
In view of these things, how appropriate
are the words of our golden text--"To-day
if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
[R1372 : page 60]
LESSON IX., FEBRUARY 28, JEREMIAH 38:1-13.
Golden Text--"I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee."--Jer. 1:19.
This lesson tells how the faithful Prophet, Jeremiah, was persecuted because he boldly declared the word of the Lord which foretold only trouble upon Israel, and how the government foolishly thought to avert the trouble by persecuting the Lord's warning messenger, instead of by heeding his wise counsel.
In this the faithful Prophet typified the faithful of the Gospel age who will also suffer persecution in some shape or form, if they boldly declare the whole counsel of God; for, until the Kingdom of God is established in the earth, "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:29.) And the Apostle Paul points those of the Gospel Church, who are running for the prize of our high calling, to the noble, self-sacrificing faithfulness of the ancient worthies who endured so much for their faithfulness to the Lord and his truth.--Heb. 11.
The deliverance promised to Jeremiah in the words of our golden textwas not to be a deliverance from persecution or even from death, but merely such protection as would prevent his enemies from prevailing against him to hinder the Lord's purposes in him. The Lord does not engage to deliver his children from all the ills of this present life. They are permitted to share them with the rest of mankind, and even to suffer injustice and abuse and often martyrdom for righteousness; but if faithful unto death--loyal and true to God and to his truth and to conscience--their glorious deliverance will come at last with an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--those of the Gospel age into the spiritual phase of that kingdom, and those of the Jewish age into the earthly phase of it. During this time in which God's people pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven," they, as its representatives, suffer violence as foretold (Matt. 11:12); and as it was with the Master, so it is with his followers, the violence comes more from worldly-spirited ones in the nominal church than from the open rejecters of God.
As with the Master, so with the true followers, the persecutions may be more open and more severe at some times than at others, but no radical and complete change may be expected until the kingdom is the Lord's and he is the governor among the nations. (Psa. 22:28.) "Then shall the righteous [the wheat of this Gospel age] shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43.) No longer shall they suffer the scorn, contempt and opprobrium of the world with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:17), but they shall be glorified with him as joint-heirs with him in his kingdom which shall bless the whole world, including those who ignorantly persecute them now, and bringing all to a clear knowledge of the truth.
[R1372 : page 60]
THE DOWNFALL OF JUDAH.
LESSON X., MARCH 6, JEREMIAH 39:1-10.
Golden Text--"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."--Matt. 23:38.
In this lesson we have an exhibition of the severity of God's dealings with his covenant people when, notwithstanding the Lord's repeated expostulations, warnings and chastisements, they wilfully pursued a course in violation of their national vows. Israel, unlike any other nation of the world, was brought into special relationship with God. God chose them to be his people, and favored them above all other people, by giving them his law, by raising up for them judges and prophets, and by specially guarding and directing them in so far as they submitted to his will, as well as by warning, counseling and chastising them when they became wilful and disobedient.
On the other hand, Israel, as a nation, entered into a solemn covenant with the Lord, saying, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." (Exod. 19:1-8.) For the faithful keeping of this covenant God promised them all manner of earthly blessings--blessings in the city, blessings in the field, blessings of a numerous offspring and of the increase of their cattle and their flocks, blessings of their basket and [R1372 : page 61] store, and ample protection from all their national enemies. (Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:1-13.) But if they would disregard their covenant, corresponding curses were pronounced against them. If they walked contrary to him the Lord declared his intention to walk contrary to them.--Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:14-46.
It was in fulfilment of this covenant on God's part that the events of this lesson came to pass. Judah, like backsliding Israel (the ten tribes), which had been previously carried away captives (2 Kings 17:1-24), had not profited by that example of the Lord's displeasure, nor by the warnings of his prophets, but had out-rivaled her sister in corruption (Jer. 3:8); and now her cup of iniquity was full and the Lord poured upon her her merited punishment, due alike to king and people; for "neither Zedekiah, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the Lord which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah."
The seventy years which followed the overthrow here depicted are frequently referred to as the seventy years captivity, but the Scriptures designate them the seventy years desolation of the land--a desolation which had been predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (25:11), saying, "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and this nation shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." The completeness of the desolation is shown in verses 8 and 9of this lesson and also in 2 Chron. 36:17-21; and although the king of Babylon allowed certain of the poor of the land to remain, and gave them vineyards and fields, yet it was the Lord's purpose that the land of Israel should be desolate seventy years, and so it was. In the same year Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had made governor and under whom many of the Jewish fugitives were disposed to return from neighboring countries, was assassinated, and the entire population speedily removed into Egypt for fear of the wrath of the king of Babylon.--2 Kings 25:21-26; Jer. 41:1-3; 43:5,6.
The reason why the land must be desolate, and that for exactly seventy years, is a very interesting study, and it is clearly stated to be-- "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten  years." (2 Chron. 36:21.) For a full explanation of this see MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., Chap. vi. The significance of the seventy years desolation is shown on page 191.
To consider the subject of this lesson merely as a scrap of history and to draw a moral lesson therefrom is to fail, utterly, of getting its true significance. It should be considered in its relationship to the great plan of God in which it was a clearly marked and important step.
(1) It marks the beginning of the great Jubilee cycle.
(2) It marks the close of God's typical kingdom, of which Zedekiah was the last king, and concerning whom it was prophesied: "And thou, death-deserving wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day is come at the time of the iniquity of the end [or termination of the typical Kingdom of God]--Thus saith the Lord Eternal, Remove the mitre, and take off the crown: this shall not be so always; exalt him that is low, and make low him that is high. Overthrown, overthrown, overthrown will I render it also, and it shall not belong (to any one), until he come whose right it is, and I will give [R1373 : page 61] it him."--Ezek. 21:31,32.--Leeser's translation.
(3) It marks the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles, concerning which our Lord said, "Jerusalem shall [continue to] be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" [or completed].--Luke 21:24.
Nearly twenty-five hundred years have elapsed since Zedekiah lost his crown; and every scattered Israelite throughout the world realizes that not another king of the house of David, in which centered all the promises, has ever since been upon the throne. Many of them are convinced that they will not have another until Messiah shall take to himself his great power and reign. Yet they see not that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised one. The eyes of their understanding are yet blinded by prejudice. They see not that the heir of the throne must come from the seed of David, although they are witnesses that since the rejection of Jesus the genealogies which previously were sacredly cared for have been lost, and none have been kept for centuries by which they could distinguish an heir to David's throne. In fact, all tribal and family relationships are now obliterated among the Jews. But, thank God, the morning of the restitution age is dawning, and in that day their blindness will be healed and they will recognize the fact that the one whom they pierced is both the son and the Lord of David, and the one whose right it is, to take the throne and to fulfil all the gracious promises of God.
While the Jews have been thus unbelieving of God's Word and ignorant of the steps of his great plan, the other nations have erred in another way. Seeing Israel's kingdom cut off, and finding themselves for centuries uninterfered with in ruling the world, they conclude that it shall so continue always, and know not that their days of empire are limited to "seven times" or 2520 years, which will end in A.D. [R1373 : page 62] 1915, giving place to the Kingdom of God in the hands of the Messiah--him whose right it is to rule the world, and through whose kingdom all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Even the majority of the Christian people who throughout the civilized world study this lesson, and who for years have prayed, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven," have no expectation that he who redeemed the world is yet to be its veritable ruler, taking the kingly scepter and crown of which those removed from Zedekiah were only the types, and reorganizing God's Kingdom "under the whole heavens" of which the kingdom of Israel was but a figure.
The Golden Text has no direct reference to the lesson, although connected with the same divine plan. It marks another step in that plan. When the seventy years of desolation were ended, God opened the way for the return to the land of promise of all those Israelites who had faith in his promises; yet under such difficulties and trials as served to sift and test them. But although they tried often to re-establish their own government, they were not permitted so to do, but were continually "overturned" between the several successive empires of gentile times. Nevertheless God kept them together as a people until Christ came (Gen. 49:10), that as a people they should have the first opportunity to accept him and come into the higher favor of the New Covenant.
It was after the Savior and his disciples had for three and a half years proclaimed the Kingdom at hand, and ready to be given them if they were ready to accept it properly (and when, rejecting it, they were crying out "Crucify him"), that the time came for the utter desolation of that nation as a people in the words of the golden text. There was the great turning point in Israel's history. The desolation of the land for seventy years and the removal of the crown and kingdom for 2520 years was a great calamity, but the leaving of the house utterly desolate as a result of their rejecting and crucifying the King has been far worse, themselves being the witnesses.
Meantime what the nation of Israel rejected was accepted by a remnant of that people (Rom. 11:7) and the foreordained number is being completed from among the gentiles--a people for his name--the Bride and joint-heir of the King of Glory. Soon this "little flock" will be complete, the union of Bridegroom and Bride will follow, and then the Kingdom of God will come in power and great glory; and fleshly Israel will be first of the nations to realize its Millennial blessings.--Rom. 11:20-33.
These various topics are fully discussed in
MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. I., Chapters xiii. and
xiv., and Vol. II., Chapters iv., v. and vi.
[R1373 : page 62]
PROMISE OF A NEW HEART.
LESSON XI., MARCH 13, EZEK. 36:25-38.
Golden Text--"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."--Ezek. 36:26.
In our last lesson we saw Judah in distress, her crown removed, her holy city and temple in ruins, and her people given to the sword and to captivity. The expostulations and warnings of the prophet Jeremiah had not availed to turn them from their evil course, and consequently the wrath of God was visited upon them, as it had been previously visited upon her sister Samaria (the ten tribes). But although multiplied were their iniquities and their crimes, the Lord did not utterly cast away his people, but in great mercy remembered them, even in the land of their captivity, where he was represented in their midst by the prophet Ezekiel, who for twenty-two years delivered unto them the Word of the Lord--words of reproof and denunciation, and also words of promise and hope, of which those of this lesson are a pleasing sample. As we peruse these words of promise and call to mind the miserable idolatries, licentiousness and ingratitude of this hard-hearted and stiff-necked people, let us not fail to mark the loving kindness of our God, his mercy and faithfulness, his slowness to anger and his plenteous grace. And while we do so, let us not forget the typical character of his dealings with Israel--that in chastising and correcting and forgiving and restoring and promising to bless and fully re-instate them in his favor, he is illustrating his great love and mercy and his everlasting kindness toward the whole world whom he so loved as to give his only begotten Son to redeem, and whom he purposes in due time to bring to a knowledge of the truth and to a full opportunity, under the most favorable conditions, of securing everlasting life. (1 Tim. 2:4-6.) The final restoration and blessing of Israel here predicted is only the first-fruits of that abundant grace which is in store for all the world, to be manifested in due time.
This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, but clearly relates to the final restoration of Israel to the land of promise and to the favor of God, when the long period of their chastisement unmixed with favor (Jer. 16:13-18) is ended, and when he who redeemed all and "whose right it is" to reign over Israel and the world shall have come again and taken the dominion.
The words of the Prophet previous to the promises of blessing in this lesson (verses 16-24) [R1373 : page 63] recall the numerous sins of Israel as the cause for their dispersion among the heathen, and remind them of how they had brought disgrace upon the name of the Lord in all the countries whither they went, and that they have no claim upon the mercy and forbearance of God. But, notwithstanding all this, he declares the Lord's purpose to gather them out from among the heathen, and out of all the countries, into their own land, and "then" to cleanse and bless them; and in this great exhibition of his forbearance and love to a notoriously stiff-necked and rebellious house, to exalt his great name among the nations--a name in which they, as well as Israel, may safely trust, since the ample provisions of his plan are for the salvation of all, of whatever tribe or nation, who trust and obey him when brought to the full knowledge of the truth.
Verse 24. "For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land." This unquestionably refers to the literal and final regathering of Israel to Palestine--the land which God promised to Abraham, saying, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever." (Gen. 13:14,15; 17:8.) It is the land of which Stephen said (Acts 7:5) Abraham never owned a foot, but in the confident hope of which he died. Such a promise, made to Abraham, as well as to his seed, and made by God who cannot lie, and which Abraham never realized before he died, manifestly implies the resurrection of Abraham, as well as of that large proportion of his seed which has gone down into the grave, in order to the receiving of the land. Nor was "the land" here used in a mystical sense: it was plainly--"all the land which thou seest," and, as stated in Gen. 17:8, "the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan."
Such an interpretation of this promise is amply supported by the Prophet in the succeeding chapter (37:12-14), where he says, "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, O my people [Israel--verse 11], I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I Jehovah have spoken it and performed it, saith Jehovah." It is also in perfect harmony with the words of Paul and of our Lord Jesus-- "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." "Marvel not at [R1374 : page 63] this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice [the voice of the Son of Man], and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment"*--trial.--Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29.
It is on this promise of the receiving again of Israel into divine favor that Paul bases an argument for the resurrection of the world, saying, "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world [the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile (which previously excluded the Gentiles from any share in the typical reconciliation, effected for Israel only under their Law Covenant), and the opening of the New Covenant to all--to the Jew first and also to the Gentile] what shall the receiving of them [back to divine favor] be [imply] but life from the dead" [--a resurrection of the dead ones]? (Rom. 11:15.) It will imply that the whole world, of which Israel is to be a first-fruit, is shortly to receive the gracious opportunity of restitution or resurrection which the death of Christ purchased, and which the exaltation and glorious reign of Christ and the Church shall accomplish.
If some think they have reason still to doubt the restitution of wicked Israel, the first-fruits, and of the wicked world (whom they represented in type) back to divine favor and life and to the possession of the earth for an everlasting inheritance, let them turn to Ezek. 16:46-63 and see how God promises to restore even the wicked Sodomites; and let them remember also the word of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 10:15), that in that day of judgment when he is governor over the nations "it will be more tolerable for Sodom" than for Israel--the chastisement [R1374 : page 64] and discipline necessary to their restoration to righteousness will be less severe for them than for some who are of the natural lineage of Abraham.
Verse 25. "Then will I sprinkle clean water [pure truth and righteous influences] upon you, and ye shall be clean. From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." There will be no desire, nor incentive, nor temptation to idolatrous worship then. Satan shall be bound and shall deceive the nations no more, and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.
Verse 26promises a new heart--a heart of flesh, subject to the blessed influences of truth and righteousness, and no longer callous and indifferent alike to the appeals of love and the claims of justice. The word "new" might properly be translated renewed or repaired as the same word is frequently rendered. The heart or disposition of man was not hard and bitter and selfish originally: when fresh, newly created, he was declared to be the image of the God of love. Sin, disobedience, brought the penalty, death, which has impaired the image of God, and in every way degraded man. (Rom. 5:12.) The creating of man was a momentary act, but the re-creating, the re-generation, the re-newing, the re-storing of his heart will be a gradual work and will require and have the Millennial age or times of restitution for its accomplishment. (Acts 3:19-21; Matt. 19:28.) The creation of Adam, and the race provided for in him, was without choice to the creatures; but while the way, the truth and the life of regeneration are provided for all freely, in Christ, none will be regenerated contrary to his own will and choice. God in Christ has paid the penalty of Adam's sin for him and all in him, and has provided the coming times of restitution in which to make known his favor to every creature, through the Church, selected during the Gospel age. But after he has made the provision for all, only those who accept of those New Covenant favors will be recognized by him as "my people."
Verse 27promises that the spirit of God and of Christ, the spirit of love, as distinguished from the spirit of selfishness, shall dwell in them to inform and assist them to do right. He will cause them to walk in his statutes--inclining and enabling them to be obedient.
Verses 28-30promise the divine protection and cleansing and abundant provisions of corn and fruit and the increase of the field, and no more famine while the restored Israelites dwell safely in the land which God gave unto their fathers. Let us not forget, however, the double application of this prophecy. As Israel signifies those who are blessed and favored of God and includes all such, with the natural seed as a first-fruit, so the land of Israel in its larger sense will be the renewed earth, Paradise restored.
Verses 31 and 32remind the restored ones of their unworthiness of all these favors--the free, unmerited gifts of God, and show the confusion and shame and repentance of all who will constitute the Israel referred to.
Verses 33-35declare that the long barren and desolate land of Palestine shall be cultivated, inhabited, its cities rebuilt, and made so flourishing that those who pass through it then shall say, "This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden"--and the entire earth shall blossom as the rose.
Verse 36shows that as these blessings progress, all will be witnesses of God's faithful goodness to his people.
Verses 37 and 38point out the necessity for co-operation on the part of any who would enjoy the blessings promised--prayer being a token of the soul's sincere desire--and promises the remarkable increase of the Lord's holy flock at that time. This reminds us of the words of our Lord, "Other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:16.) Every soul that longs for the truth is one of the Lord's lost sheep; and every such one will be found during the Millennial age, and will be brought into harmony with all God's sheep in heaven and on earth. All will be consecrated to the Lord and all will walk in his ways. And so changed will be the public sentiment of that day, that even upon the bells of the horses will be inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord." (Zech. 14:20.) Blessed assurance! Glorious day! when not only Israel, the first fruits, but all who are feeling after righteousness and the true God shall be recovered from present blindness; and, recognizing the reign of Christ begun, shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah." For evidence of its close proximity see MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., The Time Is At Hand.
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