2893. An Instructive Truth

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An Instructive Truth

No. 2893-50:349. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, June 22, 1876, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, July 21, 1904.

Oh LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. {Jer 10:23}

1. This declaration follows after Jeremiah’s lamentation over the Lord’s ancient people, who were about to be carried away captive into Babylon. The prophet speaks of a fact that was well known to him. It is always good, brethren, to know the truth, and to know it so certainly that you are able to remember it just when you most need it. There are some people, who are very much like that foolish captain of whom we have heard, who had a good anchor, but he left it at home when he went to sea, so it was of no use to him. So, these people know what would comfort them, but they do not remember it in the time of their distress. Jeremiah says, “Oh Lord, I know,” and he utilizes his knowledge as a source of comfort in his hour of need.

2. What Jeremiah knew was this, — that the affairs of this world are not under the control of men, however much they may imagine that they are. There is a supreme authority to theirs, and a power which rules, and overrules, and works according to its own beneficent will, whatever men may desire or determine to do. Nebuchadnezzar was about to carry the Jews away from the land which flowed with milk and honey to his own far-distant country; but the prophet consoled himself with the reflection that, whatever Nebuchadnezzar meant to do, he was only the instrument in the hands of God for the accomplishment of the divine purpose. He proposed, but God disposed. The tyrant of Babylon thought that he was working out his own will, yet he was really carrying out the will of God in chastising the idolatrous and rebellious nation. This was Jeremiah’s consolation, “I do not know what Nebuchadnezzar may do; but I do know that ‘the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.’ I know that, in God’s eternal purposes, every step of Judah’s way is mapped out, and he will make it all work for his own glory and the good of his chosen people in the end.”

3. Child of God, will you, for a moment, reflect on the overruling power of God even in the case of the most mighty and wicked of men? They sin grossly, and what they do is done of their own free will, and the responsibility for it lies at their own door. That we never can forget, for the free-agency of man is a self-evident truth; but, at the same time, God is omnipotent, and he is still working out his wise designs, as he did of old, in the whirlwind of human wrath, in the tempest of human sin, and even in the dark mines of human ambition and tyranny, all the while displaying his sovereign will among men even as the potter forms the vessels on the wheel according to his own will.

4. This truth ought to be remembered by us, because it tends to take from us all fear of man. Why should you, oh believer, be afraid of a man who shall die, or the son of man, who is only a worm? You are, as a child of God, under divine protection; so, who is he who shall harm you while you are a follower of what is good? Remember that ancient promise, “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the inheritance of the servants of the Lord.” The most powerful enemy of the Church can do nothing without God’s permission. He can put a bit into the mouth of leviathan, and do with him as he pleases. The almighty God is Master and Lord even over the men who imagine that all power is in their hands.

5. And while this truth should banish our fear of man, it should also ensure our submission to the will of God. Suppose that the Lord allows Nebuchadnezzar to devastate the land that he gave to his people by covenant; it is God who permits it, therefore do not think so much of the instrument employed by him as of the hand in which that instrument is held. Are you afflicted, poor soul, by some hard unkind spirits? Remember that God permits you to be tried like this, and do not be angry with what is only the second cause of your trouble, but believe that the Lord permits this to happen to you for your good, and therefore submit yourself to him. A dog, when he is struck with a stick, usually bites the stick; if he had more sense, he would try to bite the man who holds the stick. So, your contention must not be against the instrument of your affliction. If there is any contention, it is really against God; and you would not, I trust, think of contending with your Maker. Rather, say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” Let your back be bared to the rod, and look up into your Heavenly Father’s face, and say, “Show me why you contend with me.”

6. This truth ought also to strengthen our faith. When fear goes, faith comes in. It is an easy matter to trust God when everything goes smoothly; but genuine faith trusts God in a storm. When the land of Judah was hedged around by God’s providence, and no enemy dared to set foot on the sacred soil, it was easy for a prophet to praise the Lord; but it was quite another matter to trust God when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the villages, besieged the cities, and, eventually, took them, and gave them up to utter destruction, and carried away their inhabitants into captivity. To trust in God then, was not so easy; yet that was the time for the display of real faith. Faith in the storm is true faith; faith in a calm may be, or may not be, genuine faith. Summer-weather faith may be true, or may not be true; but wintry faith, that can produce fruit when the snows are deep, and the north wind blows, is the faith of God’s elect. It proves that it has divine vitality in it, because it can master the circumstances which would have utterly crushed the faith which pertains only to flesh and blood. It is a severe trial, for a child of God, when he is mocked at home, — when someone, who ought to be kind to him, is quite the opposite, — when the ties of nature seem only to intensify the hatred that is felt against the heir of grace, — when Ishmael mocks Isaac, and grieves him continually. That is a severe trial, but it affords the opportunity for the tried one to recall this truth, that God has all things in his hand, and that this trial is only permitted, in his wisdom and love, for some good purpose towards his own child. It is still true that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose”; and that “no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” If your enemy triumphs over you for a time, you should say to him, “Do not rejoice against me, oh my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise.” May the Holy Spirit help you to do so! The way of the persecutor is, after all, not left absolutely to his own will, but there is another and a higher will that overrules everything.

7. We will not, however, tarry longer over the consideration of the context as far as it applies to Nebuchadnezzar, and other adversaries of the people of God, but we will endeavour to learn the lesson that is taught to us in the latter clause of the text: “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” And, firstly, I will try to prove to you that these words are true; and, secondly, that these words are instructive.

8. I. First, then, THESE WORDS ARE TRUE: “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”

9. For, first, although man is an active individual, so that he can walk, he cannot direct his steps, because there may be some obstacle in his way which he cannot surmount, and which will change the whole course of his life. He may have determined, in his own mind, that he will do this or that, and that he will go here or there; but he cannot foresee every circumstance that may happen to him, and there may be circumstances that will entirely alter the direction of his life; there may be unexpected difficulties, or what many call accidents, which are really providences, which will prevent us from doing what we have resolved to do. Take the case of a young man, who is just beginning business life; though he is active and strong, is it in him to direct his steps? I know it was not in me to direct my own steps. I had certain plans concerning my life course, but they have not been fulfilled. No doubt, the highest desire I ever cherished has been granted to me; but my first plans and purposes were not realized. I am not, today, where I hoped to have been; there were difficulties in the way, which made it impossible for me to get there. I expect others have had a similar experience. A young man may try to choose his path in life, but we all know how seldom, if ever, he can get exactly what he wants. Perhaps he goes into a certain house of business, and he says, “I shall work my way up until I get to the top.” Yet, how frequently it happens that something occurs, which jerks him off the line of rails which he had laid down for himself, and he has to go in quite a different direction. The path he had chosen was, apparently, a very proper one for him to choose; perhaps, he spent a good deal of earnest thought on the matter, and, possibly, also a good deal of prayer; yet he finds, as many others have found, that “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” It is possible that the young man prospers so that he is able to go into business on his own account; but the same lesson has to be learned under different circumstances: he could not foresee what was going to happen, so he had purchased certain goods, relying on an expected rise in the market; but there was a sudden fall, instead of a rise, and he became a loser, not a gainer. Going into business is often like going to sea; one may be much tossed about, and possibly may be wrecked, before reaching the desired haven. Many a man has found that he cannot get what he most confidently counted on.

10. Another man fails in health. He might have prospered; but, just when the full vigour of his physical strength was needed, and the greatest clarity of his mental vision was required, he was laid aside. As he sickened, he also became depressed in spirit, as he realized that his path must be that of an invalid, and perhaps of a poor man; yet he thought his career would have been that of a strong man, who would soon have reached a comfortable living. I am sure that I must be addressing many, who know very well, from their own experience, that it is not of the slightest use for a man to say, “I will do this,” or “I will do that,” because something or other may occur, which will altogether prevent you from doing what seems simple enough now. The mariner reckons on reaching port at a certain day or hour, but the wind may shift, or many things may happen to delay him. The mariner, however, can reckon even better than you can, for he has his chart, and he can find his way; he knows where the shoals are, and the quicksands, and the rocks, and where the deep channels run; but you do not know anything about your future life; you are sailing over a sea that no ship’s keel has ever ploughed before. God knows all about it; everything is present to his all-seeing eye, but it is not present to your eye. It is not possible for a man to direct his own way absolutely, for he does not have the power to do it; let him strive and struggle as he may, he must often be made to feel this.

11. Perhaps some of you are just now in this condition. Your affairs have gotten into a tangle, and you do not at all know how to unravel it. You are like a man in a maze or a labyrinth. You wish to take the course which is according to the will of God; but, whether you should turn to the right hand or to the left, you do not know.

12. Now, you have begun to understand what was always true, but what you did not perceive before, that is, that “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” You cannot direct your own way; you are quite perplexed concerning which of two courses you should take. If this one is taken, it involves one form of trouble; and if the other course is chosen, that involves another kind of difficulty. What are you to do? Well, you know that the wisest thing for you to do is to take the matter to the Lord, and ask him to direct you. That is what you ought to do in every case; that ought to be the constant habit of your soul, — to look for the fiery, cloudy pillar which alone can guide you safely over the trackless wastes of life.

13. In the second place, man ought not to direct his way according to his own will, because his will is naturally evil. Ungodly men think that they can direct their own way. Ah, sirs! if you do that, you will direct your way down to the depths of destruction. He who is his own guide is guided by a fool. He who trusts in his own understanding proves that he has no understanding. If you will be your own director, you will be directed to the place where you will have bitter reason to rue it for ever and ever. If a man, starting out in life, says, “I shall follow my own will. I will say to my passions, ‘You shall be indulged’; and to my desires, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’; and to my soul, ‘Do not trouble yourself with solemn and serious things; leave eternity until it comes, and make the best you can of time’; I will direct my own way as pleasure shall guide me, or as self-interest shall guide me,” — if you, sir, talk like that, please remember that “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps”; and it ought not to be, for man is quite incompetent to perform such a task as that, because he has a natural bias towards what is evil, — an inclination towards what will be injurious to him, and to others also, and which will make him miss the chief end of his being, which is, to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

14. I should like, before proceeding further with my subject, to urge everyone, who has depended on himself so far, to pause, and lift up his heart to heaven, and say, “Gracious Spirit, you shall be my Guide, from this time on, and for ever.” For, young man, young woman, you will surely run on the rocks, before long, if you take the tiller of your life’s vessel into your own hands. With such a heart as yours, you cannot expect to go right without the grace of God. The doctrine of the depravity of the human race, is not merely an article in the creed; it is a matter of everyday experience. There is in you, by nature, a tendency to put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, — to put darkness for light, and light for darkness; and though you may think that you have a preference for good, — and it is possible that you have a preference for some forms of good, — yet there are critical points where self seeks to rule, where the weakness of your natural disposition will be discovered, sooner or later, and where the evil that lurks within your flesh will prove to be your ruin. I charge you, sons and daughters of Adam, to remember that, since your father, Adam, even in his state of innocence, could not direct his own way properly, but lost paradise for all of us, there is no hope that, in your fallen state, you can find your way back to paradise. No, but you will keep on wandering farther, and farther, and farther from the way of peace and holiness, for “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”

15. Let me give another meaning to the text, and still seek to prove it at the same time. It is not, and it ought not to be in man who walks to direct his steps, because, not only is he naturally inclined to evil, but even when grace has renewed his nature, his judgment is so fallible that it is a great mistake for him to attempt to direct his own way. Dear brother or sister in Christ, the stony heart of unbelief has been removed from you, and you have had a new heart and a right spirit put within you; and, now, the living and incorruptible seed that is in you makes you seek after what is good and right; but if you, even now, shall trust in your own judgment, you will find yourself brought into a thousand sorrows. Ah, my brother, you are an experienced Christian man, and others look up to you, and ask direction from you; but if you are really experienced, you will often say to them, “God helping me, I can direct you; but, as for myself, I feel that I have need of a director quite as much as the youngest babe in the family of God.” Does not every man, who is truly wise, feel himself to be increasingly a fool apart from divine guidance, and is it not a sign of growth in wisdom and grace, when a man’s self-confidence continues to grow less and less? Do not trust yourself, dear friend, for then you accurately gauge your own judgment when you do that. It is about little matters that wise men generally make their grosser mistakes. In what he considers a difficult matter, the wise Christian man always has resort to God in prayer; but when he gets what he regards as a very simple thing, which is perfectly clear, and which he thinks he can decide for himself; then his folly is speedily revealed. He is like the Israelites were with the Gibeonites; they said, in effect, if not in words, “We do not need to pray about this matter. We must not make treaties with the Canaanites, but these men are not Canaanites, that is quite clear. We heard them say that they had come from a far country, and when we looked at their sandals we knew that they spoke the truth. They told us that they were quite new when they put them on, yet now they are old and patched; they must have come a great many miles, you may depend on it. And their bread — did you notice that? It has a blue mould all over it; we should not like to eat a mouthful of it, yet they told us that it was quite fresh when they started. There is no doubt that they are distinguished foreigners, who have come from a far country, so let us shake hands with them, and make a covenant with them.” And so they did, for the case seemed so clear to them that they asked no counsel from God; and in this Israel made a great mistake. So, brothers and sisters, whenever any case appears to be very clear to you, be sure then to say, “Let us pray about it.” You know the old proverb, “When it is fine weather, carry an umbrella. When it is wet, you can do as you like.” So, when any case seems to be quite clear, pray over it. When it is more difficult, I dare not say that you may do as you like about praying then, unless I say it in the spirit of the proverb, which would imply that you would be sure to pray then. When you feel certain that you cannot go wrong, you certainly will go wrong unless you ask counsel from God about the matter. That was a good plan of the old Scotchman, who, when anything was in dispute, used to say, “Reach down yon Bible”; and when that was brought down, and the Scripture read, and prayer offered, the good man felt that he could see his way, and could go with firm step along the path to which the Lord had directed him. “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps,” for his judgment is fallible.

16. I think there is another meaning to be given to the text, for the gracious man feels that he must not direct his own steps, because he cannot take even a step in the right way apart from divine help. How can he talk about directing his own steps when he is absolutely dependent on the grace of God for every step he takes? Oh brothers and sisters, if the Lord were to help us, by his grace, until we got up to the doorstep of heaven, we would never be able to get in unless he gave us the grace to take the last step! You cannot direct your own steps, for you are a cripple, and cannot take even one step unless strength is given to you from on high. You are like a ship on the sea; you can make no progress unless the breath of the Divine Spirit fills the sails of your barque. How can you direct your own way when you have no power to go in it, and are dependent on God for everything? Please confess your dependence, and do not talk about directing your own steps.

17. I must give you just one thought more under this point. He who walks need not think of directing his own steps, for there is One who will direct them for him. What if sin inclines us to take the wrong path, and if a feeble judgment makes us err through inadvertency? There is no need for us to choose our own lot; but we may bow before the Lord, and say, “You shall choose our inheritance for us.” The choice is difficult for you, my brother; then do not choose your own way, but leave it to him who sees the end from the beginning, and who is sure to make a wise choice. The burden of life is heavy, my sister, then do not try to carry it, but “cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you.” “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Let it not be your choice, but let it be God’s choice. That was a wise answer of a good old Christian woman, when she was asked whether she would choose to live or die. She said that she had no choice in the matter, but that she left it with the Lord. “But,” one said, “suppose the Lord allowed you to choose, which would you select?” “Neither,” she replied; “I would ask him not to let me choose, but to choose for me so that it should be as he willed, not as I willed.” Oh, if we could only once abandon our own choosings, and say to the Lord, “Not as I will, but as you will,” how much more happy we might be! We should not be troubled by the thought that we could not direct our own steps, but we should be glad for it, because our very weakness would entitle us to cry to the Lord, “Now that I cannot direct my own way, teach me what I do not know.”

18. II. Time fails me, and therefore I will close my discourse by briefly mentioning the practical lessons of the text in order to prove to you that THESE WORDS ARE INSTRUCTIVE. It seems to me that they are instructive if we use them like this.

19. First, avoid all positive resolutions about what you intend to do, remembering that “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Do not forget what the apostle James says about this matter, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there for a year, and buy and sell, and get gain,’ whereas you do not know what shall be tomorrow.” If you do make any plans, always make them in pencil, and have your eraser handy, so that you can rub them out quickly. Much mischief comes from making them in ink, and regarding them as permanent, and saying, “This is what I am sure I shall do.” Cast iron breaks easily, so do not have any cast-iron regulations for your life. Do not say, “That is my plan, and I shall stick to it whatever happens.” Be ready to alter your plan as God’s providence indicates that alteration would be right. I have known people who have been very much given to change; I cannot commend them, for I remember that Solomon said, “Just as a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man who wanders from his place.” So, do not be in a hurry to wander. On the other hand, I have known some people, who have resolved that they will never move at all. Do not make such a resolution as that, but remember that, although “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” it is equally true that “a sitting hen gets no barley”; and believe that there may come a time when it will be right for you to move. Do not make up your mind either that you will move, or that you will not move, but wait for guidance from God concerning what he would have you to do.

20. The next thing is, never be too optimistic in your expectations. I suppose we must have expectations; that old-fashioned blessing, “Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed,” is very difficult to gain. Expect that, if God has promised you anything, he will be true to his word; but, beyond that, do not expect anything beneath the moon; for, if you do, you will be sure to be disappointed sooner or later. It is of the man whose heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord, that it is said, “He shall not be afraid of bad news”; but if his heart had been fixed merely on the attainment of certain worldly ends, he would have been overwhelmed when the bad news came. Concerning anything in this world, let this be the rule by which you are governed, “having food and clothing, be content with it,” and never be too optimistic about expectations.

21. Next, avoid all security concerning the present. If you have anything that you prize very highly, hold it very loosely, for you may easily lose it. Read the word “mortal” plainly imprinted on the brows of all your children. Look into the dear eyes that are to you like wells in the desert, and remember that they may be closed in less than an hour, and the light of life be gone from them. Your beloved one and you yourself are equally mortal, and either of you may soon be taken from the other. Do you have property? Remember that wealth has wings, and that it flies away, like a bird on swift pinions. Do you have health? Then think what a marvellous mercy it is that —

       A harp of thousand strings
    Should keep in tune so long; —

and remember that, very soon, those strings may be all jarring, and some of them may be broken. Hold everything earthly with a loose hand; but grasp eternal things with a deathlike grip. Grasp Christ in the power of the Spirit; grasp God, who is your everlasting portion, and your unfailing joy. As for other things, hold them as though you did not hold them, even as Paul says, “it remains, that both those who have wives be as though they had none; … and those who use this world, as not abusing it: for the form of this world passes away.” Of everything below, it is wise for us to say, “This is not my enduring portion.” It is very necessary to say this, and to believe that, it is true, for everything here is covered with bird-lime, {a} and the birds of paradise get stuck to it unless they are very watchful. Watch what you are doing, you prosperous people, you who have nice homes, you who are investing your money in the funds; take care that you do not get bird-limed. There is nothing permanently for you here, after all. Your home is in heaven; your home is not here; and if you find your treasure here, your heart will be here also; but it must not be so. You must keep all earthly treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let him have your heart.

22. The next observation I would make is this, — Bow before the divine will in everything. “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Why should it be? Oh Lord, you are Master, you are King; then why should we wish to have our own way? Is it right that the servant should take the master’s place? There are some of you who are in trouble, and probably your chief trouble arises from the fact that you will not absolutely submit to the Lord’s will. I pray that the Holy Spirit may enable you to do so, for trouble loses all its sting when the troubled one yields to God. If you had directed your own way, and this trouble had happened to you because of the choice that you had made, you might have a reason to be distressed; but since the Lord has so directed and arranged your affairs, why should you be cast down? My dear friend, you know — or, at any rate, you ought to know — that you cannot be supreme; you must be content to be second. You must say to the Lord, “Your will, not mine, be done.” You will have to say it sooner or later; and if you are a child of God, you ought to have said it long ago, so say it at once. I heard one who, I thought, was a Christian, say, “I cannot think that God was right in taking away my dear mother from me.” I replied, “My sister, you must not talk like that.” Perhaps someone else says, “I felt that it was hard when my dear child was taken from me.” Yes, my dear friend, you may have felt that it was hard, but you ought to have felt that it was right. God must be free to do as he pleases, and he always does what is right; therefore, you must submit to his will, whatever he pleases to do.

23. My last observation is, — Pray about everything. Remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Pray about everything; I make no exception to this. Pray about waking in the morning, and pray about falling asleep at night. Pray about any great event in your life, but pray equally about what you call the minor events. Pray as Jacob did when he crossed the brook Jabbok; but do not forget to pray when there is no angry Esau near, and no special danger to fear. The simplest thing, that is not prayed over, may have more evil in it than what appears to be the direst evil when once it has been brought to God in prayer. I pray that all of you, who love the Lord, may commit yourselves anew to Christ this very hour. I wish to do so myself, saying, “My Master, here I am; take me, and do as you wish with me. Use me for your glory in any way that you please. Deprive me of every comfort, if by doing so I shall be all the more able to honour you. Let my choicest treasures be surrendered if your sovereign will shall so ordain.” Let every child of God make a complete surrender here and now, and ask for grace to stand by it. Your greatest sorrow will come when you begin to be untrue to your full surrender to the Lord; so may you never prove untrue to it!

{a} Bird-lime: A glutinous substance spread on twigs, by which birds may be caught and held firm. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Jer 10}

1, 2. Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, oh house of Israel. Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the heathen, and do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

Among the heathen, if certain stars were in conjunction, it was considered unlucky; and certain days of the week were also regarded as unlucky, just as to this day, there are people who think that it is very unfortunate to begin anything on a Friday. There are a great many foolish superstitions floating around this silly world, but you Christian people should never allow such follies to have any influence on you. Neither the fiends of hell, nor the stars of heaven, can ever injure those who put their trust in God.

3, 4. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, so that it does not move.

Those ancient prophets seemed to take delight in heaping scorn on the god-making of the heathen. Even the heathen poets made sport of the god-making; one of them very wisely said that it would be more reasonable to worship the workmen who made the god, than to worship the god which the workmen had made.

5. They are upright as the palm tree, but do not speak: they need to be carried, because they cannot go.

Pretty gods they must be, cannot move, and cannot even stand until they are nailed up, and cannot stir unless they are carried from place to place.

5 — 8. Do not be afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.” Forasmuch as there is no one like you, oh LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, oh King of nations? For to you it pertains: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.

To teach people to worship mere stocks and stones, may well be called “a doctrine of vanities.”

9. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of skilful men.

Step into any Roman Catholic Church in England, or on the Continent or, for that matter, into any Anglican Church, for they are all very much alike; and you will see that the modern “gods” are no better than those on which the prophets of old poured scorn; and I think it is our duty to pour scorn on these saints, and saintesses, and Madonnas, and Bambinos, and I do not know what else besides.

10-13. But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to endure his indignation. Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” He has made the earth by his power, he has established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he utters his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causes the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings with rain, and brings the wind out of his treasuries.

To what a height of sacred imagery does Jeremiah mount! He seems to shake off his usual melancholy spirit when he comes to sing the praises of the Lord. He uses very similar language to that of Job, his fellow sufferer.

14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge:

Every idolater proves that he knows no more than a brute beast when he worships a stock or a stone.

14, 15. Every metalsmith is confounded by the engraved image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.

The next verse brings out very vividly the contrast between these false gods and the one living and true God: —

16. The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

What a blessed name that is for God: “The portion of Jacob!” And the other side of the truth is equally blessed: “Israel is the rod of his inheritance.” God belongs to his people, and they belong to him; if we can only understand that these blessings are ours, we are building on the solid foundation of the richest possible happiness.

The form of the prophecy now changes, for God was about to send his people, because of their sin, into a long and sad captivity; so the prophet says, in the name of the Lord: —

17, 18. Gather up your wares out of the land, oh inhabitant of the fortress. For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this time, and will distress them, that they may find it so.”

They had fled to their fortresses for shelter, for the Babylonians were coming up against them; but no hope of deliverance was held out to them, and they were told to pack up their little bundles, to put their little possessions as closely together as they could, for they had to go away into a far-distant country as captives of the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar. God compares their captivity to the forcible ejection of stones from a sling: “I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this time.” How severely God chastened his people in Jeremiah’s day! Yet, when we think of their innumerable provocations, and of how they revolted again and again against the Lord, we are not surprised that at last, the Lord sent them into captivity.

Now listen to Jeremiah’s lamentation over the people whom he looks on as already in captivity; he speaks in the name of the nation, and says: —

19. Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is grievous: but I said, “Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.”

Ah, child of God, you also must learn to say that! There are some trials and troubles, which happen to you, against which you may not contend, but you must say, “Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.”

20. My tent is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone from me, and they are not: there is no one to stretch out my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.

Alas, poor Israel! she was like a tent moved, with no one to set her up again. There are some churches, in the present day, that are in this sad condition; the faithful fail from among them, there are no new converts, and no earnest spirits, so that the church has to say, “My tent is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone from me, and they are not: there is no one to stretch out my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.” Yes, poor afflicted church, that may be all true, yet your God can visit you, and make the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children; and you who have lost your dearest ones, and seem now to have no support left, — your children are all taken from you, but your God can build you up; is he not better to you than ten sons; and has he not said to you, “Your Maker is your Husband; the Lord of hosts is his name?”

21, 22. For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, —

“Bruit” is an old Norman word; one wonders how it got in here. It might be rendered, “The noise of the tumult is come,” —

22-24. And a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons. Oh LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Oh LORD, correct me, but with justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.

What a suitable prayer this is for a sick man, for a tried believer, for the child of God in deep despondency of soul; I scarcely know any better words that any of us could use. The supplicant does not ask to go unchastised, but he says, “Oh Lord, correct me, but with justice: not in your anger; lest you bring me to nothing.”

25. Pour out your fury on the heathen who do not know you, and on the families who do not call on your name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.

So he asks God, instead of striking his own children, to strike his enemies, and knowing what we do about the Babylonians, we do not wonder that Jeremiah made such a prayer as that.

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — The God Of Bethel” 215}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — All Our Ways Appointed” 208}

God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
215 — The God Of Bethel
1 Oh God of Bethel, by whose hand
   Thy people still are fed;
   Who through this weary pilgrimage
   Hast all our fathers led.
2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present
   Before thy throne of grace;
   God of our fathers, be the God
   Of their succeeding race.
3 Through each perplexing path of life
   Our wandering footsteps guide:
   Give us, each day, our daily bread,
   And raiment fit provide.
4 Oh spread thy covering wings around,
   Till all our wanderings cease,
   And at our Father’s loved abode,
   Our souls arrive in peace.
5 Such blessings from thy gracious hand
   Our humble prayers implore;
   And thou shalt be our chosen God,
   And portion evermore.
               Philip Doddridge, 1755, a.

God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
208 — All Our Ways Appointed <7s.>
1 Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
   Ever gracious, ever wise!
   All my times are in thy hand,
   All events at thy command.
2 His decree, who form’d the earth,
   Fix’d my first and second birth;
   Parents, native place, and time —
   All appointed were by him.
3 He that form’d me in the womb,
   He shall guide me to the tomb;
   All my times shall ever be
   Order’d by his wise decree.
4 Times of sickness, times of health;
   Times of penury and wealth;
   Times of trial and of grief;
   Times of triumph and relief;
5 Times the tempter’s power to prove;
   Times to taste a Saviour’s love:
   All must come, and last, and end,
   As shall please my heavenly Friend.
6 Plagues and deaths around me fly,
   Till he bids I cannot die:
   Not a single shaft can hit
   Till the God of live thinks fit.
7 Oh thou Gracious, Wise, and Just,
   In thy hands my life I trust:
   Have I somewhat dearer still?
   I resign it to thy will.
8 May I always own thy hand
   Still to the surrender stand;
   Know that thou art God alone,
   I and mine are all thine own.
9 Thee, at all times, will I bless;
   Having thee, I all possess;
   How can I bereaved be,
   Since I cannot part with thee?
                     John Ryland, 1777.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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