|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 25||Part 1|
Jeremiah 14:8, "Hope of Israel, the Saviour in the time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for the night?" I was once asked by a Christian the meaning of the expression, "Hope of Israel, the Saviour in the time of trouble." I replied, the prophet here addressed the Almighty, as in chapter 17:13, "O Lord, the Hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be ashamed." The same Deity is the Savior of Israel in the time of trouble, and there is no other Savior besides Him. See also Hosea chapter 13:4, "And there is no Saviour besides me." My interrogator said thereupon, You ought to bear in mind that the prophet, speaking about this Savior, says, "Why shouldst thou be as a stranger and as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for the night? Does not this prove to you, by means of those prophetic words, that the saving Divine Being would dwell like a stranger on earth, as our Savior Jesus actually did? Why then do you withhold from him your belief after the prophet gives his testimony about him?" I replied to this, "You Christians are accustomed to establish your objections to our faith, and the evidences of your faith, on detached biblical passages, without regard to the leading idea, and with the preceding and subsequent words of the text, nor do you make unbiased comparisons with the parallel sayings of other prophets; for your object is not to expose absolute truth, but to confirm, by means of subtleties and specious reasonings, your preconceived notions."
The true object of Jeremiah will be found on the perusal of the adjoining passages. Jeremiah having a prescience of the famine which was about to take place in the Holy Land (see the commencement of chapter 14), when he saw that the severity of the dearth would exceed all bounds, and the consternation of Jerusalem would put up a cry to heaven; when he noticed that the calamity would be so universal that the very brutes of the field would suffer under its scourge, he made the confession recorded in the words [Jeremiah 14:7], "If our iniquities bear witness against us, O Lord, then deal with us according to Thy name." By this he declared, that the trouble had not come upon our people by way of chance, but as a consequence of our misdeeds; for the famine did not prevail anywhere else except in the Land of Israel; therefore, he implored of the Almighty to grant relief for the sake of His Holy Name: that is to say, God, as proclaimed in His supreme unity by our nation, is on that account called "the God of Israel," whilst we are denominated "His people and the flock of His pasture." When He chastises us, He acts in accordance with justice, since our derelictions are numerous, and since we so frequently strayed in the pursuit of idolatry, the perpetration of violence, and in listening to false prophets. Jeremiah having thus made confession of our sins, exclaims, by way of entreaty, "Thou Hope of Israel, and its Saviour in the time of trouble!" The prophet hereby implies, that, although they have departed from Thy paths, they (the Israelites) still hope that Thou wilt save them from the present distress, and as Thou hast delivered them in every generation, so wilt Thou also now have mercy on them, and not suffer them to be consumed by famine. Then the prophet continues, "Why wilt Thou be like a stranger and like a traveler who has turned aside to pass the night." By this we have to understand, "That Thou, O Lord, wilt hide Thy face from us and have no compassion on us, it will appear as if Thou wert not the Lord of the Earth, but as if thou wert a stranger in a foreign country, without power therein to afford relief from trouble." In a similar manner said Moses (Numbers 14:15-16), "And if Thou wilt kill all the people like one man, then the nations who have heard Thy fame will say, Because the Lord had not the power to bring this people," etc. So prays also the Psalmist, "Arise, why wilt Thou sleep; O Lord, awake, why wilt Thou abandon us for ever;" or, in other words, Permit it not to appear as if Thou were unmindful of our misery and of our affliction. In fact, all the prophets address the Almighty in an anthropomorphical manner, in order to convey their ideas more intelligibly to their audience.
The reason that Jeremiah compares the Almighty with a stranger is threefold. 1st. A sojourner in a foreign land, one passing merely through a foreign city, is unable to rescue the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor, or the poor and the needy from the hand of the depredator. For though such strangers or travelers be of high rank, their authority is too inconsiderable, when in a foreign land, to afford any assistance to those around them. Thus the Sodomites said about Lot: "This one man came to live here as a stranger, and now he will be even a judge." 2ndly. Though a man be a native or an established settler, he may be unable to give assistance in times of trouble, being deprived of the requisite influence and presence of mind. Bewildered about his own safety, he is utterly incapacitated to extricate others from their unfortunate state. 3rdly. Even he can only grapple with those who are inferior in valor and strength, but when met with a superior force he mist either desist or submit. Hence the prophet says, "Why wilt thou be like a mighty man who is unable to save."
In order, however, at the same time, to teach that such a condition is totally incompatible with the divine nature of the Almighty, and to show that the Almighty is really the God of the heavens and of the earth, and at the same time dwells among us, the prophet, by the addition, "But Thou art among us," refutes the imputation that the God of Israel is a stranger, and rather proves that He is established where we sojourn, and that we are the strangers and not He; that we have, therefore, the best founded expectation that He will save us. The same declaration, "Thou art in the midst of us," stands in just opposition to the question, "Why wilt thou be like a bewildered man?" The prophet suggests that the Almighty, far from being perplexed by the suddenness of terrific occurrences, rather manifests himself as an incomparable and omnipotent deliverer. In like manner we see in the words, "And Thou art among us," a repudiation of the idea that "Thou art like a strong man who cannot deliver," when resisted by a superior force; for the prophet now acknowledges, "And Thy name is called upon us, for Thou hast long been adored by us as the God of Israel. Thou hast brought us out from the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm."
The very words of the Decalogue connect the divine unity with the deliverance from Egypt, since it is said, "I am the Lord thy God who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt." It is a notorious fact, that Scripture in various places points out the condescension of God, who allied His name with Israel, by saving them from various troubles. See, for instance, Leviticus 22:33, "Who hath brought you out of Egypt, in order to be unto you a God." When the subjects of King Hezekiah were rescued from the hand of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, the Almighty was also acknowledged as God of Israel. See 2 Kings 19:20, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Since thou hast prayed unto me concerning Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, I have heard thee." The prayer here alluded to was received favorably, because it expressed unconditional submission to the all-powerful Being who alone rules the destinies of His creatures. Further views of the faith of Israel in the salvation by the Lord, may be obtained from Deuteronomy 3:24, where we read, "For who is a God in heaven or in the earth, who could perform anything like unto Thy deeds and Thy mighty works?" Isaiah says, (chapter 45:15) "Truly Thou art an invisible God, the God of Israel and its Savior." Jeremiah 3:23 says "Verily in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel; our trust, our reliance is therefore in Thee, and Thou wilt neither abandon nor forsake us." Thus we understand the quotation from Jeremiah, which is placed at the heading of this chapter, and which is totally misapplied when referred to on account of his having been a stranger on earth.