The restoration of the Jews to their own land. (1-8) The wickedness of the priests and prophets of Judah, The people exhorted not to listen to false promises. (9-22) The pretenders to inspiration threatened. (23-32) Also the scoffers at true prophecy. (33-40)
Verses 1-8 Woe be to those who are set to feed God's people, but take no concern to do them good! Here is a word of comfort to the neglected sheep. Though only a remnant of God's flock is left, he will find them out, and they shall be brought to their former habitations. Christ is spoken of as a branch from David's family. He is righteous himself, and through him all his people are made righteous. Christ shall break the usurped power of Satan. All the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob shall be protected, and shall be saved from the guilt and dominion of sin. In the days of Christ's government in the soul, the soul dwells at ease. He is here spoken of as "the Lord our Righteousness." He is so our Righteousness as no creature could be. His obedience unto death is the justifying righteousness of believers, and their title to heavenly happiness. And their sanctification, as the source of all their personal obedience is the effect of their union with him, and of the supply of this Spirit. By this name every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. We have nothing to plead but this, Christ has died, yea, rather is risen again; and we have taken him for our Lord. This righteousness which he has wrought out to the satisfaction of law and justice, becomes ours; being a free gift given to us, through the Spirit of God, who puts it upon us, clothes us with it, enables us to lay hold upon it, and claim an interest in it. "The Lord our Righteousness" is a sweet name to a convinced sinner; to one that has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience; seen his need of that righteousness, and the worth of it. This great salvation is far more glorious than all former deliverances of his church. May our souls be gathered to Him, and be found in him.
Verses 9-22 The false prophets of Samaria had deluded the Israelites into idolatries; yet the Lord considered the false prophets of Jerusalem as guilty of more horrible wickedness, by which the people were made bold in sin. These false teachers would be compelled to suffer the most bitter part of the Lord's indignation. They made themselves believe that there was no harm in sin, and practised accordingly; then they made others believe so. Those who are resolved to go on in evil ways, will justly be given up to believe strong delusions. But which of them had received any revelation of God, or understood any thing of his word? There was a time coming when they would reflect on their folly and unbelief with remorse. The teaching and example of the true prophets led men to repentance, faith, and righteousness. The false prophets led men to rest in forms and notions, and to be quiet in their sins. Let us take heed that we do not follow unrighteousness.
Verses 23-32 Men cannot be hidden from God's all-seeing eye. Will they never see what judgments they prepare for themselves? Let them consider what a vast difference there is between these prophecies and those delivered by the true prophets of the Lord. Let them not call their foolish dreams Divine oracles. The promises of peace these prophets make are no more to be compared to God's promises than chaff to wheat. The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if not melted by the word of God as a fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as a hammer. How can they be long safe, or at all easy, who have a God of almighty power against them? The word of God is no smooth, lulling, deceitful message. And by its faithfulness it may certainly be distinguished from false doctrines.
Verses 33-40 Those are miserable indeed who are forsaken and forgotten of God; and men's jesting at God's judgments will not baffle them. God had taken Israel to be a people near to him, but they shall now be cast out of his presence. It is a mark of great and daring impiety for men to jest with the words of God. Every idle and profane word will add to the sinner's burden in the day of judgment, when everlasting shame will be his portion.
This chapter contains threatenings to the Jewish governors, and to their priests and prophets, on account of their manifold sins; intermixed with gracious promises to the Lord's people, and particularly with a famous promise of the Messiah. The pastors or governors of Israel are charged with scattering and driving away the Lord's flock, for which they are threatened, Jer 23:1,2; and a promise is made of the gathering of the remnant of them, and of setting up other shepherds over them, under whom they should increase, and be comfortable, Jer 23:3,4; particularly the Messiah is promised; as David's righteous Branch; as a prosperous and righteous King; as the author of righteousness to his people, under whom they should have salvation and safety, Jer 23:5,6; so that in comparison of this salvation, the deliverance out of Egypt should not be spoken of, Jer 23:7,8; and then follows a sad complaint of the priests and prophets; of their profaneness, their adultery, swearing, lying, hypocrisy, and deception of the people; for all which they are severely threatened, Jer 23:9-15; wherefore the people are exhorted not to hearken to them, promising them peace and safety; whereas, by attending to the word of God, it might easily be seen that a storm of wrath was gone forth, and was ready to break, and would fall upon the head of the wicked, to the executing of the thoughts and purposes of God's heart, Jer 23:16-20; and the Lord declares he had not sent these prophets, as might be known from their not turning the people from their evil ways, Jer 23:21,22; whose conduct and behaviour could not be hid from the sight of the Lord, nor their prophecies from his ears, which were no other than dreams, and the deceits of their own hearts; and there was as great a difference between them and the word of the Lord, as between chaff and wheat; seeing his word in his hand is of great virtue and efficacy, whereas there was none in theirs, Jer 23:23-29; wherefore the Lord declares himself to be against these prophets, for stealing his word from their neighbour; for making use of his name, when they were not sent by him; and for causing the people to err by their lies, Jer 23:30-32; and both people, priest, and prophet, are severely threatened for jeering and scoffing at the word of the Lord, calling it the burden of the Lord; which phrase they are forbid to use in a sneering way; and should they persist in it, they are told that God would forsake and forget them, and cast them out, and everlastingly punish them, Jer 23:39,40.