A picture of the regenerate commonwealth of Israel.
The future rulers of Israel shall be of the native stock, not foreign tyrants. Their nobles; rather, his noble one, a synonym for "his ruler," i.e. the (earthly) king of Israel. It is remarkable that no reference is made here to the Messiah, who, in fact, is not as conspicuous a figure in the prophecies of Jeremiah as in those of Isaiah. And yet even in Isaiah there is one striking prophecy in which the inspired seer uses language not (in the hands of a literalist) reconcilable with the prospect of the personal Messiah. The Messiah appears, as it were, in a lightning flash, and then disappears for a time. The prophecy of Isaiah referred to is Isaiah 32:1 , Isaiah 32:2 (comp. Jeremiah 33:17 ), in which the prospect of a truly God-fearing king, with princes of the same high character, entirely occupies the mind of the writer. "Nothing indicates that the Messiah is intended; king and princes are placed quite on a level, in accordance with the actual state of things under the so called monarchy.'' And I will cause him to draw near. It is doubtful whether Israel or Israel's ruler is referred to. A priestly relation (such as "drawing near" implies, see Numbers 16:5 ) might be predicated of either, at any rate in the regenerate form of the Israelitish commonwealth; but it is more natural to suppose the ruler to be here indicated, for it is scarcely descriptive enough to say that he shall belong to the chosen people. Who is this that engaged his heart; rather, that pledgeth his heart (or, courage ); i.e. that ventureth. The rejection of thee old line of Davidic kings might well raise the thought that the intimate relation between Jehovah and his earthly representative for Israel, promised of old to David ( 2 Samuel 7:1-29 .), could no longer be hoped for. But with this renewed promise the kings of the new Davidic line may venture to "draw near;" otherwise—who is he that ventureth?
Joys of redemption.
The joys of the restoration of Israel are suggestive of the joys of redemption which belong to those who have been healed of their sins and recovered to the favour of God. Let us consider some of the elements of these joys.
I. A RESTORATION TO LOST RIGHTS AND POSSESSIONS . The city is to be built again "upon her own mound." The people not only find the vines they grow in Chaldea fruitful; they are restored to their own land. The prodigal would not have been satisfied if his comrades had helped him to affluence and pleasure again; he must return to the old home. There is something imperfect in the return of prosperity to Job in the fact that though he has greater riches and as many sons and daughters as before his calamities, his dead children are not raised from the grave, and the loss of them cannot be really compensated by the gift of a new family. So is it with earthly losses. The greatest are irretrievable. But the glory of God's ultimate salvation is that it restores old lost blessings as well as gives new blessings, beth comforting memory and satisfying hope.
II. AN ENJOYMENT OF INWARD GLADNESS AND THANKSGIVING . The true life is the inner life. Outward sunshine may find this black as midnight, and leave it so. It is much, therefore, to know that redemption from sin brings real gladness. We might have thought that it would have been haunted with dark memories. But God's deliverance is so complete that it dispels the gloom of a guilty conscience. The Christian should, therefore, be a man of inward joys and thankfulness.
III. AN EXTENSION OF POWER AND GLORY . The exiles were scattered and their wealth and influence lost; the return at first promised little satisfaction to the poor and feeble band of patriots that attempted to rebuild the ruins of the ancient nation. But great promises encouraged the faithful to believe that ultimately their numbers would be multiplied, that they should have glory, and not "be lightly regarded," and should be ruled by men of their own people of noble and royal orders. The Christian Church began, like restored Israel, in a small and humble sphere. But she has grown marvellously, and is destined to grow in numbers, in power, and in glory. Redemption is a work worthy of God; no meagre saving of a few as "by the skin of their teeth," but a work of right royal magnificence, calling multitudes to its blessings, and giving them liberty and honour for their old shame and bondage. The Christian receives more than salvation; he is an heir of glory.
The multitude of God's mercies.
A rapid and brilliant enumeration of the characteristics of national glory and human happiness and well being. Representative and suggestive, but not exhaustive.
I. SEVERALLY SPECIFIED . Set forth with great distinctness, as one might in a legal document; and yet a complete and comprehensive view of a nation's restoration.
1 . Return of the people to their own land. ( Jeremiah 30:18 .) The representatives of those who had been exiled would be brought back. The shifty and uncertain character of their sojourning ("tents") in a strange land would be exchanged for a settled, civic life. As an outward symbol of this Jerusalem would be rebuilt upon its ruins. "He that made of the city a heap ( Isaiah 25:1 ) can when he pleaseth make of a heap a city again" (Henry). The habits and customs, the public order and life of God's people, are important as being sacred even as their specially religious observances, and are therefore cared for. True religion is not merely to sojourn in the world, but to dwell there, and influence permanently the conditions and usages of human life. Nothing less than the reconstitution of human society is herein sought (cf. John 17:15 ).
2 . Restoration of religious institutions. ( Jeremiah 30:18-20 .) Of these the chief, centre, and condition of all the rest—the temple, or "palace"—is first referred to. From its conspicuous and characteristic position amongst the public buildings of the city, it is mentioned in connection with its rebuilding. Because of its presence therein the latter is also sacred; and so it is said, "Out of them shall proceed," etc. The great festivals are to be restored. Worship, in its most imposing and joyous forms, will be celebrated; and this supposes for its possibility the presence in Israel of a religious, self-governing community. The spiritual training of the people will be resumed ( Jeremiah 30:20 ). Much attention was always devoted by pious Jews to the upbringing of their children, who are here promised to be "as aforetime," i.e. as Jewish children were wont to be according to the covenant, strictly and piously brought up. In this a fresh security is afforded of the religions and social prosperity of God's people. The Church can never afford to ignore the upbringing of the children. As it is a positive injunction ("Feed my lambs"), so is it a gracious privilege and favour granted to his servants that they should discharge it. The sunniest and most hopeful department of religious effort is that which relates to the young. "How is it your flowers are so grandly developed?" was asked of a gardener. "Chiefly," he replied, "because I take care of my seedlings." The sacred community of Israel will also thereby be increased and established. New, trained members will be supplied for the spiritual offices, and the ordinary membership of the congregation. It is observable that the chief increase of the Church is thus implied to be from within itself. And so it must be today.
3 . National prosperity . This appears in the first place as social well being. The family life will be greatly blessed, and the population multiplied. It is a result of moral order, etc; and also a means of securing and extending the influence of righteousness. In the next place is political freedom. Tyranny will be abolished ( Jeremiah 30:20 ); and their ruler shall be one of themselves, representing their aims and aspirations, and not imposed upon them by a foreign conqueror. Lastly, political influence will extend abroad ( Jeremiah 30:19 ).
4 . Covenant relations will be renewed. ( Jeremiah 30:22 .) This is the culminating and all-comprehensive blessing. Whilst the preceding suppose this, they are really but as antecedents to its complete realization. God will then recognize his people, and regard them with complacency. Neither will be ashamed of the other.
II. MUTUALLY RELATED . How essential is it that human life, in its interests and activities, should be regarded as a whole, the secular with the religious, the duty with the right, the responsibility with the privilege! It is a distinct loss when one portion of it is taken apart from the others and concentrates attention upon itself. Here we have a grand ideal for the individual and the community: the life of man, to be complete and healthy in its development, must extend indefinitely outwards and upwards. The deepest reverence for truth, righteousness, and God is consistent with the truest liberty. The blessings and good things of life, to be truly enjoyed, must be received as sacramental; as the outcome and expression of communion between man and God.—M.
The ideal ruler.
The immediate reference is to Zerubbabel and the elders who returned from the Captivity; but there is a larger significance than any merely human personage could exhaust or satisfactorily correspond to. There can be no doubt as to the Messianic character of this promise. But it is precisely the vagueness of the reference, the primary uncertainty as to who it was to be in whom all the hope of Israel was to be realized, that constituted the moral force of the prediction. In Israel was the secular government to be identified with and crowned by the moral and spiritual; but to the very last was it kept in reserve as to whether or not the kingdom thus foretold was to be of this world. Jesus Christ had himself to declare the real essence and nature of his kingdom. He constituted the ideal Ruler of Israel—
I. IN HIS RELATION TO HIS SUBJECTS .
1 . He was to be of the same kindred. A stronger guarantee of the Divine favour could not be given. No foreigner was to hold permanent sway over the Israel of God. In one of themselves the holy people would find a legitimate centre for loyal attachment and patriotic devotion. That from their own midst their Prince should spring was proof that their independence, liberty, and national individuality should be preserved. He would therefore represent its honour, and secure for himself the strongest personal attachment. The hopes of the race would be embodied in such a personage, who would vitally perpetuate its glory.
2 . He was to be allied to them in their experience and sympathies. As their fellow countryman he will understand their aims and aspirations, By the vicissitudes of their fortune his sympathies will be drawn forth, and he will share the enthusiasm of their future. In Jesus Christ these conditions were fulfilled.
II. IN HIS MEDIATORIAL INFLUENCE . "To draw near" is used in a priestly or mediatorial sense. Israel as a people, or as represented in its ruler, was to have this privilege conferred upon it. A Divine as well as a human qualification is therefore requisite for the perfect governor; he must not only belong to the people but he must please God.
1 . The grace of God will rest upon him and work within him. Of Zerubbabel in the first instance, but much more of Christ, is this statement true. He was "full of grace and truth," He is the great Temple builder and Restorer of the kingdom; and he is the Accepted of God: "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" ( Luke 3:22 ).
2 . His own nature will respond to the Divine influence. He is to be one who "engages his heart to approach unto" God. Responsibility drives him to no rash or illegitimate expedients, but to a Divine trust and a desire to please his God. In all this there is evinced the utmost freedom (cf. Matthew 4:1 ; Matthew 16:22 ; Luke 12:50 ; John 12:27 ; Matthew 27:42 ).
3 . The admiration and delight of God are to be called forth by him. "Who is this" etc.? is no inquiry for the sake of information, but an expression of complacency and satisfaction. This feeling finds frequent expression in the prophets, and is noticed in the Gospels. It is for the subjects of such a King to yield themselves to his rule, and identify themselves with his priestly intercession. It should be their great desire to be in him, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" ( 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 :30).—M.