"Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." - Jer. 2:2
Unless you have a heart to know the Lord, the things declared in this chapter will be altogether unintelligible; you can have no spiritual apprehension of their significance.
But if we are of those who fear the Lord, there will be found in this chapter very sacred things, which when unfolded to us by the Holy Spirit, will move our hearts to throb with manifold emotions. I said in my heart a few moments ago, here are love's chidings, chastenings, pleadings and grievings. Then came the question, "Is the Lord in very truth such as He is declared to be in the Scripture?" And my heart said, "In very truth He is." Then the question comes, "How can I so confidently pen this?" And this is my answer, I hope, in very truth, I know the Lord. O, it is wonderful that any poor sinner should have the right to say this, and I feel it is only by a miracle of grace that I dare say, I know the Lord, or rather, am known of God. (Gal. 4:9)
"Lord of my God, for Him again
With love intense I burn;
Chosen of Thee ere time began,
I choose Thee in return."
"Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, say, Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee."
This is marvelous condescension, that Jehovah should have regard to sinful creatures, that He should reveal Himself in such near and dear relations. "Who hath God so nigh unto them?" (Deut. 4:7) "For that thy name is near, thy wonderous works declare." (Psa. 75:1) This may well excite the wonder and adoration of those who are made partakers of such distinguishing favor.
"Thus saith the Lord. I remember thee." As I look into the words, this gleams forth to my view: it is love's entreaty: it is the Lord declaring to His sinful, straying, ungrateful people that He loves them still, that He has never forgotten them, and cherishes remembrances of their love to Him. Thus He speaks, "O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should riot have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
This is the constancy of the love of God. But in contrast to this, look at these words: "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number." (Jere. 2:32) While the elect of God are dead in trespasses and sins Christ is unknown, undesired, we see in Him no beauty that we should desire Him. "At that time (saith the apostle) ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, arid strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12) As I just penned this quotation a sort of a shudder passed over me as I looked upon the dark and awful picture of man's unregenerate state. Ah, the whole world lieth in wickedness, pursuing its course in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and with no concern over their lost condition under the curse of the law, and no regard for the true and living God. "Without Christ," "having no hope," "without God in the world." Such were we, "by nature the children of wrath even as others, but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." When God called us by His grace He awakened us and made us alive to our bondage to sin. Like Israel in Egypt, our life was unto us as in an iron furnace. (Deut. 4:20); yes, we were in the furnace of affliction in very truth. We were alive to the knowledge that we were vile transgressors, and the frown and condemnation of the law weighed down our hearts. Like Israel in Egypt, we toiled in the field, but our hard labors were all insufficient to accomplish our daily tasks; we could not yield to the law what it in righteousness demanded. Every day we came short, arid we were beaten with stripes, the yoke of the law was more than we wretched transgressors could bear. (Acts 15:10) Then we fell down and cried in our affliction for mercy unto the Lord. The Lord did not despise nor abhor the affliction of His afflicted ones in Egypt, neither did He hide His face from them, but when they cried unto Him, He heard and came in power and all graciousness, and brought them out of the house of bondage. He bore them on eagle's wings, and brought them unto Himself. (Exo. 19:14)
So the God of mercy comes -to sinners whose souls He has quickened into divine life and called by His grace. Jesus comes to us, He is revealed by the holy Ghost in us. (Gal. 1:16) He shows Himself the Crucified One, our Saviour, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Poor, guilty sinners, we mused upon His sufferings, His wounds, His blood, we believed the story of our Paschal Lamb; His love, His sacrifice told to our sin-wounded mourning hearts good tidings, healing tidings, we believed the Gospel, we believed in Jesus; we girded our loins, put our shoes on our feet, and with our staff in our hand we feasted on the Lamb of God, Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us. (Exo. 12:11; I Cor: 5:7) The tribes of Israel went forth out of Egypt into the wilderness, they followed the Lord, who in the cloudy, fiery pillar went before them. He led them through the wilderness, through a land of drought, and the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt. (Jer. 2:6)
The time of the soul's espousal to Christ is a sacred and memorable time. Have we forgotten? Christ has not; He will recall it to our minds; He will awaken the memories of this season of our "first love." (Rev. 2:4) "Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals." Jesus found us poor and wretched, in our rags and filth – so sin defiled. We were sinners feeling "ready to perish." (Deut. 26:5) There was none to help; no comforter to relieve our souls; no eye pitied us to do any thing for our salvation. We must have perished in our sins under the curse of the law; when Jesus came, He looked upon us, and we looked unto Him. (Isa. 4:5) His speech was full of compassion. His Gospel was good news indeed. We saw in His wounds and blood that love moved Him to die for our sins. We were drawn to Him confessing our iniquities and pleading His forgiveness. His obedience even unto death became the refuge to which we, in faith, fled for deliverance from the law's condemnation. With sweet tokens of pardon and salvation Christ espoused us to Himself, and in our soul's love to Him, our heart's sweet song was:
"Love moved Him to die, on this I rely;
My Saviour hath loved me, I cannot tell why,
But this I can tell, He hath loved me so well
As to lay down His life to redeem me from hell."
Yes, we believe in the Son of God –we love Him. In those days our heart was ever kindly toward the Saviour – so desired was He. In His Gospel we caught glimpses of Him; and so longed for was the Saviour! Some sweet word of His Gospel was often brought by the Holy Ghost to us, and our sin-distressed heart said, Can such a kind word be for me? We were thrilled with longings, with hope it might be so. We sought the Saviour; we sent a secret petition to Him, asking, "Are such gracious words of Thine in the Gospel for me?" These were the days of our espousals – love letter days. He wrote to us, and in return our hearts moved us to send some poor, broken sentences to Him. Our letters were such a mixture of sighs and longings, trust and distrust. We told Him we were uncomely, and so unworthy of His regard, and after we had sent a letter to Him, we were ashamed of it. We said to ourselves, "It is just like myself – a poor, worthless sinner. He will see it is from an ignorant creature, and after a glance or two, He will cast it from Him into the fire." I fear I shall never have another line penned by Him to me. His letters were so well written, so noble, so gracious, full of tenderness, that we could hardly believe they were written to us – so poor, sinful and ignorant –as we knew ourselves to be.
Well, what do you think Christ has done? I will tell you. He did not throw these letters away, but He has kept them all, every scrap of them, locked up in His heart. "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals." As I have intimated, this means He has treasured up all her love letters to Himself, and now He brings them forth from the casket of His heart, and reads them in her ears "Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem." Can you. O backsliding daughter of Zion, disown these letters? Did you not indite them? Are they not Zion's penmanship? Were they not addressed to Him only? Was there at the time of writing them any other in her thoughts? Can she deny her own signature? Take a glimpse of these letters written by the saints of God in the days of her spiritual youth; there are photographs of the blithesome and gay, happiness in Christ the Lord sparkles in every word; some are tear-stained, beseeching Him to come, arid in His pity redeem her from her miseries. All these letters have a sweet smelling fragrance. Was it not her own hands, dropping with sweet smelling myrrh, that perfumed them? (Solomon's Song 5:5) O the wayward backsliding believer cannot deny these things, and when the Lord comes saying in our ears, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals," how we are stirred! We then remember, too, and we are ashamed and blush, and sigh beneath these memories of our early attachment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then it was that "Jesus all the day long was our joy and our song;" then the heart flowed forth in its freshness, simplicity and fervor; then, O believer, thine heart was kind, and thoughts were tender toward the Lamb of God; thine eyes were often turned to Him with tearful entreaty and His smile was then thy heaven. Do you remember?
In the days of our espousals to Christ we were hopeful and happy in Him, sin was atoned for, we were pardoned, and we had peace with God through Him. Such loveliness and desirableness had been revealed to us in Him, the suffering, sin atoning sacrifice, that we were drawn to Him (John 12:32).
"His loveliness hath won my heart;
Dear Jesus, let us never part;
I'll sound thy lovely name abroad,
My altogether lovely Lord."
Yes, in the love of our espousals we crowned Him as our Husband, Shepherd, Saviour, King; Christ was our all. It was a time of reciprocal love and gladness. It was the day of the gladness of Christ's heart (Solomon's Song 3:11) He rejoiced over us with singing. (Zeph 3:17) His speech, His Gospel, was a gladsome song, and our happy, sin-pardoned heart in all kindness and love did sing, "He is altogether lovely, the Chiefest among ten thousand." "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." No stranger intermeddleth with the joy, (Prov. 14:10) of Christ and the church in these espousal days. Of Jacob it is written, "The Lord alone did lead him, and there were no strange god with him." (Deut. 32:12) All gods were utterly renounced and famished out of the land. (Zeph. 2:16) They had cheated us, mocked us, in our distresses they gave us no sustenance, afforded us no help, they were lying vanities, (Jonah 2:8) and we cast them to the moles, and to the bats. (Isa 2:20) We now knew it had been very folly to say to the work of our hands, "ye are our gods." (Hosea 14:3) Now, in our espousals we could sing:
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
To Jesus we looked. He altogether satisfied us, and all things, and all others were now counted dung, that we might win Christ, and be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. (Phil. 3:8,9) He, Christ Crucified, had attracted us, won us, and we would win Hun who had won us.
For there was no other one to save a poor sinner, (Acts 4:12) and no other was there that we worshiped, trusted, loved: we were leaning on Him alone. Are you able to enter into this mystery? Christ and the believer, these two, espoused, no third one.
"I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Thus it was with typical Israel; forth from Egypt they came, the Lord going before them in the cloudy, fiery pillar; after Him they went into the wilderness, a land not sown. Here God nourished them with bread from heaven. (Exo. 16:35) He opened the rock, the waters gushed out to give drink to His people, His chosen. Israel was holiness to the Lord, a peculiar treasure unto me, saith the Lord, above all people. In the first happy season of the believer's espousals to Jesus, when He is saying, "My Saviour is mine and I am His," he thought, through a delightsome land I shall go with Jesus, my Redeemer, until He bring me into His palace on high. Israel having passed through the Red Sea as dry land, (Heb. 11:29) sang most joyously, "The Lord hath triumphed gloriously." (Exo. 15:1) From the Red Sea "they went out into the wilderness Shur: and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was Marah." (Exo. 15:22, 23) Then and many times afterwards, "The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way." (Num. 31:4) Nevertheless a divine power drew them on; here and there they were led about in the wilderness; though unworthy and rebellious, "they found grace in the wilderness." (Jer 31:2) God kept them to Himself as the apple of His eye, (Deut. 32: 10) and at length He brought them into that land which is the glory of all lands. (Deut. 12:12; Ezek. 20:6)
In our first days of blissful intimacy with our Redeemer we dwelt and walked where the flowers sent forth their fragrance, and birds were sweetly singing. (Solomon's Song 2:12) These were sacred moments, for we were drinking the forgiveness of all our sins of Christ, our Fountain of Living Waters. (Jer. 2:13)
"Tongues cannot express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."
One such, some time ago, said, "Master, I will follow thee withersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." A believer, in "the kindness of his youth" feels altogether willing to go anywhere with Jesus, and sometimes in his soul's simplicity he sings:
"Through floods and flames, if Jesus leads,
I'll follow where He goes."
Ah, little does he understand what his loving heart is singing! Let me repeat once more that when Christ our Saviour betrothed us unto Himself, (Hosea 2:19) He did not immediately take us to His palace, into heaven itself. No, the Holy Spirit gave us some pictures of it, and the "better country;" (Heb. 11:10; Isa. 33:17) we had foretasted of the heavenly felicity given us, and we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and in this comforting earnest of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), by faith we journeyed on in hope of eternal glory with our dear Saviour.
It was a terrible wilderness we came into shortly after our espousal to Christ, (II Cor. 11:2). It was a waste-howling wilderness, and there were scorpions and fiery flying serpents. Ah, how often do we find that we are in this wilderness even to this day! While we have the felt companionship of our beloved Saviour, while we are walking in the highway with Him (for in the wilderness, "an highway shall be there." Isa. 35:8) while we are following hard after Him, (Psa. 35:8) all is well. He is our Guide and Protector; but, 0, when we step aside from the highway, scorpions and fiery flying serpents abound, and fears and miseries, hunger and thirst plague our life.
We thought in our youthful days our life henceforth as a ransomed, pardoned sinner was to be to live, to journey in a land of corn and wine, flowing with the loving-kindnesses of the Lord; but only for some little moments have we found our way to be such. We had to come into the knowledge of the dreary howling desert of the human heart. Our vile, sinful heart we have found to bring forth only briars and thorns; truly it is a land "not sown" with any good things, (Rom. 7:18) consequently we can harvest nothing there from for our sustenance and spiritual comfort. Look back, O believer, to those days of the kindness of thy youth, and the love of thine espousals to the Lamb that was slain for thy sins. Was not thy heart all kindness toward Him? It was. But this coming into the wilderness astounded us, we did not know then that there could be such a horrible wilderness in us. We trembled, we blushed, we mourned, to the Saviour on whom we were clinging, we confessed it all to Him, and implored His compassion and salvation. Those fiery flying serpents, our sinful thoughts, are dreadful. A child of God cannot tell when or where they will attack him, and so he is often harassed and bitten and soul-sick indeed because of the plague of his own heart. (I Kings 8:38) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and breeds the scorpions and serpents, (Gen. 8:21; Matt. 15:19) and surely we need to be ever watchful and to have our healing balm near by.
Precious is my dear Physician,
Oft I prove His power to heal;
Curing every sad condition
When He does His love reveal.
Much I need thy healing power."
The world, its trials and temptations, are as a devouring waste to famish and shrivel up the ardor and blessedness of the love of our espousals; but through the rugged wilderness, through tribulations, the church of Christ must travel, and when our Lord is near, when we poor sinful ones are leaning on Him, we can hold on our way and tread temptations under our feet.
Thus said the Lord, "I did know thee in the wilderness." (Hosea 13:5) Yes, dear Lord, thou hast owned us, pitied and succored us in all our dreadful straits. 0, thou hast been pitiful indeed, so rich in mercy, ever revealing Thyself in all gracious intimacy to us vile, unworthy sinners. Though rough and thorny was the way, the kind words of Christ's Gospel revived our courage, creating for us here and there a grateful oasis. Out of the heart, wearying cares and conflicts of our pilgrimage, we entered these pleasant places of living green. The doctrine of Christ came to us in power in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. How transforming is the word that Christ speaketh to us! Then in the wilderness waters break forth, and streams in the desert; in fellowship with Christ, we drank of the brook in the way and our face was lifted up unto God, (Psa. 110:7) and thus our scenes of desolation are made to become unto us as the garden of Eden. (Ezek. 36:35)
What though we are perplexed by Satan and our old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, weighs down our life in the dust, and with weak hands, feeble knees and fearful heart we are ready to halt, (Psa. 38:17) soon all is changed when we are moved by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to look unto Jesus. In His atoning sacrifice, we see sin's destruction, our old man crucified with Him, Satan defeated, death and the grave swallowed up in victory. Yes, Christ is with the church in the wilderness, (Acts 7:38) and through the world and all tribulation, with eyes of faith and love, she followeth Him to the realms of immortal love.
Read again with me our text: "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Have you no recollections of it all? "Thou wentest after me in the wilderness," but saith the Lord, "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness?" (Jer. 2:31) No, dear Lord, Thou hast not. "O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me." (Micah 6:3) Is there a voice in all the host of Israel to testify against the Lord? Not the first syllable is uttered, but all heads must be bowed with confusion of face before Him. O, there is riot an instance in all our pilgrimage where Christ Jesus has been wearisome, a wilderness unto His people. Then why, O backslider, hast thou changed, become so degenerate, so cold, so indifferent to the things of Jesus Christ? Why art thou so far removed from the fervor of thy First love? Why are thy blessings in the church of Christ so neglected?
Come, dear brethren, let us not put away these searching questions. It is profitable to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith. Is Jesus Christ less precious, less needful, than in the days of the kindness of our youth, the love of our espousals? Is He not still the only Fountain of Living Waters? What are all things else, all others, but broken cisterns that can hold no water? Are you crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts? (Gal. 5:24) Are you seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are you seeking your carnal ease arid pleasure, so greedy for money, so swallowed up with the things of time? Are you so looking upon the things that are seen, which are temporal, that your eyes are become bleared that you can scarcely see the things which are unseen, which are eternal? (II Cor. 4:18) Can it be that temporal things have become more weighty with us than things which are eternal, the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? If so, then our scales in which we are weighing these matters are in a wretched plight, we are miserably deceived, and we are in a dreadful condition. Perhaps, notwithstanding our profession of the name of Christ, we are none of His. (Rom. 8:9)
"Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee." What, remember a sinner like me?
Frederick W. Keene, 1931
The Lone Pilgrim – Old School Predestinarian Baptist", 1931