7. For thus saith the Lord, Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
7. Quid sic dicit Jehova, Exultate propter Jacob in laetitia (vel cum Jacob, nam l potest utroque modo accipi) et jubilate in capite gentium; promulgate, laudate, et dicite, Serva Jehova populum suum, reliquias Israel.
The Prophet confirms the contents of the verse we have explained; and it was necessary to make this addition, because what he had said was almost incredible. He therefore enlarged upon it. Thus saith Jehovah; this preface he made, as I have often reminded you, that his doctrine might have more weight. Jeremiah, indeed, adduced nothing but what he had learnt from God, and by the revelation of his Spirit; but it was needful sometimes expressly to testify this on account of his hearers.
He now bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy. It must be observed that this prophecy was announced, when the utter destruction of the people, of the city, and temple, was not far distant; but it was the Prophet's object to comfort, so to speak, the dead in their graves, so that they might patiently wait for their promised deliverance, and that they might feel assured that it was not more difficult for God to raise the dead than to heal the sick. Therefore the prophecy had its use when the Jews were driven into exile and miserably scattered, so as to have no hope of deliverance. But that his doctrine might more effectually enter into their hearts, he exhorts them to rejoice, to shout for joy, and to sing; and not only them, but also strangers. For though it will presently appear that their joy was not in common with the unbelieving, the Prophet yet seems to address his words on purpose to aliens, that the Jews themselves might become ashamed for not embracing the promise offered to them. For what doth the Prophet say? "Ye alien nations, shout for joy, for Jacob." What should Jacob himself do in the meantime? We now then see the design of the Prophet's vehemence in bidding all to rejoice for the redemption of the people, even that this prophecy might not only bring some comfort to the miserable exiles, but that they might also know, that whilst in the midst of death, they would live before God, provided they did not despair.
In short, he not only intended to mitigate their sorrow, but also to fill them with spiritual joy, that they might not cease to entertain hope and to take courage, and not only patiently, but cheerfully to bear their calamities, because God promised to be propitious to them. This is the reason why he bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy.
He adds, among the chief of the nations. This may be understood as though the Prophet had said, that the nations would be so contemptible, that the children of God would not be disposed to insult them; but I understand the words in a simpler way, -- that the Prophet bids them to exult at the head of nations, as though he had said, "openly, so that your joy may be observed by all." For though the Jews entertained the hope of a return, yet they hardly dared to give any sign of their confidence, because they might have thus exasperated the minds of their enemies. They were, therefore, under the necessity of being wholly silent, and, as it were, without life. Now the Prophet sets this manifest joy in opposition to that fear which constrained the Jews to be almost wholly mute, so that they dared not by gesture nor by words, to make known what they had learned from the holy servants of God. In short, the Prophet intimates that the liberation of the Jews would be so glorious, that they would dread no danger in proclaiming openly the kindness of God. This seems to be denoted by the head of the nations.
He then adds, Proclaim ye, praise and say, Save, etc. This refers properly to the faithful; for we know that God is not really invoked by the unbelieving. Faith alone opens a door of access to us, and there cannot be any right praying except what proceeds from faith. The Prophet then addresses here the children of God, when he says, "Proclaim ye, praise and say," etc. And though all the ungodly were by evident experience convinced of the wonderful power of God, yet there was not among them any herald of God's grace. It is then enjoined on the faithful, as their own proper office, to celebrate the favor of God. And to this is added thanksgiving, as though the Prophet had said that God's grace cannot be rightly proclaimed unless his goodness be acknowledged, and the sacrifice of praise be offered to him. We hence learn that we are to be so animated by his promises to trust in God as not to grow torpid. For many cheer themselves up when they hear some joyful news, but this joy produces in them security. Thus it comes that faith is choked, and does not produce its proper fruits; for the chief work of faith is prayer to God. Now, they who are secure because they think of no danger, do not flee to God, and thus omit that work of religion in which they ought mainly to exercise themselves. Hence the Prophet reminds the faithful here that they are so to praise God as not to neglect prayer.
The meaning is, that when God promises that he will be propitious to us, he gives us a sufficient reason for joy. We ought then to be satisfied with the naked word of God, when he declares that he will be a Father to us, and when he promises that our salvation will be the object of his care. But yet, as I have already said, joy ought not to render us secure, so as to make faith idle, but it ought rather to stimulate us to prayer. True and spiritual joy we then have, derived from God's word, when we are diligent in prayer; and coldness and security are no tokens of faith, but of insensibility; and the promises of God produce no real effects in us, as it must needs be, unless our minds are kindled into a desire for prayer, yea, into a fervor in prayer. This then is the reason why the Prophet, after having bidden the faithful to praise and exalt the favor of God, adds this prayer -- "Say ye, Save thou, Jehovah, thy people." It then behoved them so to rejoice as to feel solicitous for the restoration of the Church. And it behoves us, also, at this time, whenever God shines on us with the testimony of his favor, so to rejoice as not to omit that primary exercise of faith, even prayer.
He further adds, the remnant of Israel, because it was necessary that what Isaiah had predicted should be fulfilled,
"Though thy people were as sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be delivered." (Isaiah 10:22)
Though, then, the Prophet has been speaking generally of all the posterity of Abraham, and included the ten tribes, yet here he qualifies that statement by mentioning the remnant or residue of Israel, and this in order that the faithful might not despond on seeing hardly one in ten or in fifty returning from exile; for we know that in comparison of their great number, a few only returned from exile. He has then mentioned here "the remnant of Israel," that the faithful at a future time might not be shaken in their hope, though God did not immediately restore the whole Church; and it was also necessary to deprive the hypocrites of that vain confidence with which they were filled; for they were wont to seize on everything which God promised by his servants. Hence Jeremiah excluded them, that they might know that this promise did not belong to them, according to what Paul, while handling this subject, shews to us at large. (Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5,7) And he is a correct interpreter of this passage and of similar ones, when he says that God was never so bound to the people of Israel, but that he could freely do what he pleased, so that a remnant only should he saved. And he calls them the "remnant of grace," because they are in no other way saved than through the free and gratuitous goodness of God.
And this doctrine may also be justly applied to our time. For we are by no means to expect that God will so restore his Church in the world, that all shall be renewed by his Spirit, and unite in true religion; but he gathers his Church on all sides, and yet in such a way, that his gratuitous mercy ever appears, because there shall be remnants only. It follows, --