Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1951

How Wilt Thou Do In The Pride Of Jordan?

W. L. Wharton. Jr.

"If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in a land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5)

The position of Jeremiah was unique in Israel's history. His lot was to contend against the currents of his time that were corrupting Israel and carrying her farther from God but closer to his wrath. Other prophets as faithfully resisted the same evils and were as caustic in their treatment of error but none were as tragically situated as he. He stood with Israel at the very brink of her ruin, clearly seeing what lay ahead that was to engulf the nation and himself in ruin, yet was powerless to avert it. With the overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the foreseen disaster came and he shared in the misery of it. Tradition has it that he died violently in the hands of his own people as they fled from the flood of horror that ensued. Long before his tragic end, he suffered maltreatment and imprisonment. Coupled with this, the fact that his own household sought to kill him, in order to silence his criticisms of their evil ways, had brought Jeremiah low in spirit. Jeremiah was caught in the whirlpool of questioning, concerning the inequality of earthly loss, that has ever filled the hearts of good men. The evil prosper while the righteous suffer; a good man dies and a scoundrel lives on; "truth is ever on the scaffold, and error on the throne."

Jeremiah proposes to plead his cause with God. "Righteous art thou, 0 Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, but far from their reins. But thou, 0 Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long shall the land mourn, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? The beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end." (Jer. 12:1-4) Jeremiah wanted God to visit judgment upon Israel, neither for the same reason that John wished for Christ to call down fire upon certain ones, nor for the reason that Jonah wanted God to go ahead and destroy Nineveh after they repented. Jeremiah was jealous for the good name of Jehovah. If evil prospers and good is persecuted then the lot of the evildoer appears to be better than the way of righteousness. He is fearful that men will forsake right, because it proves a wearisome road, and follow a simpler way. Therefore, he wishes for evil to be put in its proper place once and for all. If judgment to come would not correct Israel then he pleaded to make it a present judgment.

The response which God made to Jeremiah is full of interest and finds a ready application to our own time. The response may not have been what Jeremiah expected.

God did not explain his ways to the prophet, nor does he explain to us: "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33) Instead of answering he proposes a question for the prophet: "If thou has run with footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in a land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?" The lesson needed by Jeremiah, and by every one who would be -faithful today, is as vital as it is simple. The evil suffered by Jeremiah at the hands of his own people that had wearied him, was compared to running with footmen. The evils that were yet ahead that he was to be called upon to endure at the hands of aliens and his countrymen, were like his having to contend with horses. By comparison his present lot was like living in a land of peace, to what it would be then, for it was to be like living in the wilds of Jordan when the river overflowed her banks and drove out the lion and the bear and made life in the "pride of Jordan" hazardous indeed! Little trials come before big ones, and if we cannot bear the lesser how can we withstand the greater? Jeremiah did take strength and not only distanced the footmen but met the horsemen without wavering.

None of us know what lies before us in Christian living. We too, like Jeremiah, are perplexed by evils among brethren. We cannot enjoy the luxury of spiritual peace and preserve the purity of Zion. Internal commotions have marked the course of the church and false brethren have ever preyed upon the unsuspecting. To resist such men and ways has always brought a measure of suffering to those who stood in the breach. Such suffering is intensified by the knowledge that the very ones who were being benefited by sacrifices, have hurled insults and cast jibes at their benefactors. Too often, the purest and best have been cut off by their own brethren; rejected as disturbers of the peace, hissed at by the element who have cried "peace, peace, when there is no peace!" Such treatment is expected from the world when convicted of evil and aroused from its repose in sin, but to have such treatment from brethren is heartbreaking. Yet we must not falter. If we fail in this task of keeping the church pure from innovations and fads, how shall we hope to successfully grapple with adversaries as yet unseen? Institutionalism, political manipulations, selfish and overly ambitious programs of work, digressive and worldly reasoning, carnal mindedness and a host of related evils plague the church. While these are fondly held in some quarters by brethren it shall continue to be unpopular to oppose them. If we faint in this hour simply because the faces of some of the brethren are turned from us, let us remember that as yet we are contending with footmen. Let us so engage in these matters as that when the horses of Babylon come we may meet them unflinchingly, lest history repeat itself in our lives and we ourselves be led weeping and captive to Babylon.