23. Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
23. Sic dicit Jehova, Ne glorietur sapiens in sapientia sua, et ne glorietur fortis in fortitudine sua; ne glorietur dives in divitiis suis:
24: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgement, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
24. Sed in hoc glorietur qui gloriatur cognoscendo et sciendo me, quod ego sum Jehova, faciens misericordiam, (vel, clementiam) judicium et justitiam in terra; quia in his complacuit mihi, dicit Jehova.
This is a remarkable passage, and often found in the mouth of men, as other notable sentences, which are known as proverbial sayings: but yet few rightly consider how these words are connected with the previous context. Hence there are many who are satisfied with a simple explanation, as though it were a subject abruptly introduced, and as though the Prophet commenced something new; and they confine themselves to those words: and thus they misrepresent the meaning of the Prophet, or at least diminish much of the force of what is taught.
The Prophet no doubt has a regard to what has gone before. He saw, as I have often said, that he addressed the deaf; for the Jews were so swollen with false confidence, that the word of God was regarded worthless by them. As then some were proud for their riches, and others thought themselves more prudent than that they could by any means be taken, and others thought themselves so fortified by wealth and power, that they could easily resist any evil, -- as then the minds of all were possessed with so much pride, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he had said, declares here that men foolishly gloried, while they set up their riches, or their strength, or their wisdom, in opposition to God; for all these things would vanish away like smoke.
We now then perceive why the Prophet forbids here any to glory except in God alone, and how the passage ought not to be deemed as abrupt, but connected with what he said, when he denounced destruction on the Jews, which yet they dreaded not, because they were filled with this ungodly and foolish conceit, -- that they had more than a sufficient protection in their own strength, or riches, or wisdom. The rest to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou settest before our eyes so many evils and vices by which we have provoked thine anger against us, and yet givest us the hope of pardon if we repent, -- O grant us a teachable spirit, that we may with becoming meekness attend to thy threatenings, and be in such a way territlcd by them as not yet to despair of the mercy offered to us, but seek it through thy Son: and as he has once for all pacified thee by shedding his blood, so cleanse thou us also by thy Spirit from all our pollutions, until we at length stand immaculate before thee in that day when Christ shall appear for the salvation of all his people. -- Amen.
We began yesterday to explain what the Prophet means, when he forbids men to glory either in wisdom, or in strength, or in riches. The meaning is, that all are greatly deceived who think themselves blessed while alienated from God. We have also noticed the reason why he speaks of wisdom, strength, and riches, even this, -- because it is a vice innate in all mortals to be proud of their own excellency. Whatever we think valuable ought to be acknowledged as received from God. If then all the excellency we have is God's gift, it is very strange that we do not learn humility when God thus binds us to himself; but that, on the contrary, we abuse his bounty by making it the occasion of pride. This ingratitude has nevertheless ever prevailed in the world. This then is the reason why the Prophet here reduces to nothing all the boastings of the world. There were among the Jews some rich, others excelled in wisdom, and others in power: thus it happened, that heavenly truth was of no value in their esteem. As then some trusted in their riches and not. in God, and others in their wisdom, and others in their valor, the Prophet here declares that all the glory they arrogated on account of God's temporal gifts, was all nothing. It remained then for the Jews to consider, that all such confidences would avail nothing against God's judgment.
But we may hence learn a general truth; and Paul no doubt had a regard to this passage in 1 Corinthians 1:31. He teaches us there, that God chooses what is foolish in the world, that he might thus shame the wisdom of the world, and that he chooses what is weak, that he might upset the strength of the world; and then he adds, That whosoever glories must glory in God alone. He doubtless took this passage from the Prophet; and yet he does not only speak there of strength of body, nor of riches, nor of worldly wisdom; but includes also righteousness, and whatever is deemed valuable or honorable among men. His object, then is to annihilate every glory that belongs to the flesh, that the mercy of God alone may shine forth. Hence I said, that though the Prophet mentions only three things, yet a generaal doctrine may hence be suitably drawn; for what is said of wisdom, strength, and riches, may and ought to be applied to that false conceit of righteousness with which hypocrites swell. We shall now consider the words.
He afterwards adds,
He afterwards adds,
We see at this day, under the Papacy, that the name of God is presumptuously gloried in: there is no one who is not ready boldly to declare that he worships the one true God, and yet they profane his name; for they afterwards rob God, and bestow the spoils on the dead. This passage then teaches us, that the name of God of itself would be of no importance, if stripped of his power and perfections. Hence we have then only the true knowledge of God, when we not only acknowledge him to be the creator of the world, but when we also fully believe that the world is governed by him, and when we further understand the way in which he governs it, that is, by
Now, the first thing respecting God is, that we should acknowledge him to be beneficient and bountiful; for what would become of us without the mercy of God? Therefore the true and right knowledge of God begins here, that is, when we know him to be merciful towards us. For what would it avail us to know that God is just, except we had a previous knowledge of his mercy and gratuitous goodness? We cannot know God without knowing ourselves. These two things are connected. Now, if any examines himself, what will he find but what will make him to despair? Thus, whenever God is thought of, we feel a dread, and despair in a manner swallows us up. In short, all avoid God, except the sweetness of his grace allures them. Why? Because, as I have said, there is nothing but what brings misery to us, and a cause of dread. Hence Jeremiah, while bidding men to glory in the knowledge of God, has not in vain given the first and the highest place to his mercy.
He afterwards adds,
But, as I have already said, judgment and justice, when found together, are to be taken for that legitimate government, by which God so regulates the affairs of the world, that there is nothing but what is just and right: and hence is confirmed more fully what I have already stated, that he not only speaks generally, but intends also to remove the evils which then stood in the way, and prevented the Jews from rightly receiving either promises or threatenings; for a false glory inebriated them all, inasmuch as one thought his riches to be like an invincible fortress; another, his wisdom; and the third, his strength. As then they were full of vain pride, and thus despised God and his heavenly truth, it was necessary to bring them to order, and even wholly to strip them, that they might know that they were not to glory in anything but in the knowledge of God.
Now, the knowledge mentioned here produces two fruits, even faith and fear; for if we are fully, persuaded that there is propitiation with God, as it is said in Psalm 130:4 we recumb on him, and hesitate not to flee to him, and to place our salvation in his hand. This is one thing. Then faith brings fear, as it is said in the psalm referred to,
"There is propitiation with thee, that thou mayest be feared."
But the Prophet here distinctly refers to these two things; for God, by expressing his will to be known as being merciful, doubtless encourages us to exercise faith, so that we may call on him witIx tranquil minds, and not doubt but he is propitious to us; for he looks not on what we are, in order to repay to us wlmt we deserve, but deals graciously with us according to his mercy: and by saying that he doeth judgment and justice, he intimates, that these two things ought to dispose and turn our hearts to fear and reverence. At the same time, when God declares that he doeth justice, He supplies us with a reason for confidence; for he thus promises to be the guardian of our salvation: for, as I have said, his justice is not to render to every one his just reward, but is to be extended further, and is to be taken for his faithfulness. As then God never forsakes his own people, but aids them in due time, and restrains the wicked, he is on this account called just: we hence can then more securely, and with quieter minds, recumb on him, when we know that his justice is such, that he will never leave us destitute of help whenever necessary.
He afterwards adds,
"The strength of a horse pleases not God, nor is he delighted with the legs of a man;"
as though he had said, that God hates that confidence by which men presumptuously extol themselves, while they think their life and their safety to be in their own hand. So also, in this passage, there is a contrast to be understood between the knowledge of God's mercy, judgment, and justice, and the wisdom, strength, riches, and the foolish glorying, by which men are inflated, when they seek in these their happiness.2
We now also more clearly see what I have before said, -- that not only condemned in these words is the boasting of human power, and the glowing in wisdom and in wealth, but that men are wholly stripped of all the confidence they place in themselves, or seek from the world, in order that the knowledge of God alone may be deemed enough for obtaining perfect happiness. For the Prophet shews, with sufficient clearness, that all men without God are miserable: it hence follows, that they are not otherwise happy but in him. Then the way and manner is to be added. How are we made happy in God? Even by knowing his mercy towards us, and then by delivering up ourselves to his defense and protection, and by suffering ourselves to be ruled by him, and by obeying also his law, because we fear his judgment. This passage might indeed be more fully handled; but it is enough for me, according to my custom, to point out the main things. It now follows --
1 The next sentence is, "the valiant in his valor:" so the Vulate; but by the Septuagint "the strong (
2 Blayney and Venema agree with Calvin in thinking that "these" refer to such men as knew God and trusted in him, and not to "these" things, the mercy, judgment, and justice before mentioned. The versions and the Targum are ambiguous, like the Hebrew, except the Vulgate, in which "these" is in the neuter gender, referring to things, and not to men. I would render the verse thus, --
But in this let him glory who glories, That he understands, and that he knows me, -- That I am Jehovah, Who doeth mercy, judgment, and justice in the land; For in these have I delighted, saith Jehovah.
"Me" is left out in the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic. "That he knows me" is only a more clear enunciation of the previous words, "that he understands:" what he understands or knows is then stated, "That I am," etc. "Judgment," when connected with justice, seems to refer to what the law forbids; and "justice," to what the law enjoins. See Isaiah 56:1, where the command is, to "keep" or observe "judgment," and to "do" or execute "justice." God doeth judgment in that he doeth nothing wrong, contrary to what is right and just; and he doeth justice in the defence of what is right and just, and in making good what he hath promised. Judgment regards the negative part of the law, and justice the active part. In Jeremiah 22:3, we find both words, "judgment and justice," or righteousness. Then, as it is usual with the prophets, the last is described first, "delivered is the spoiled:" afterwards judgment is set forth, it does "no wrong," etc. But it is only when the two words occur together that they have these specific meanings; for both, occurring separately, have a much wider import. They are used together more than twenty times. -- Ed.
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