5. Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us.
5. Ipsi antem dixerunt ad Jeremiam, Erit Jehova inter nos in testem (vel, testis) fidei et veritatis (testis fidelis et verax,) nisi secundum omnem sermonem quem miserit (id est, pro quo miserit) Jehova Deus tuus ad nos, sic facturi sumus;
6. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.
6. Sive bonum, sive malum, voci Jehovae Dei nostri, pro qua nos mittimus te ad ipsum, obediemus (audiemus vocem, ad verbum, sed tantundem valet, audire vocem atque obedire voci,) ut bene sit nobis, cum obediverimus voci Dei nostri.
It hence appears that the people understood for what purpose Jeremiah, before he consulted God, assured them of his faithfulness and sincerity; for it was not without reason that they promised to be obedient to God; but as they saw that they were suspected as being not sincere by Jeremiah, and as he had promised to be a true and faithful teacher, they on the other hand declared that they would be sincere disciples, and would receive whatever God might command them. But they soon betrayed their perfidy, for when they heard that what they had resolved to do did not please God, they not only rejected the counsel of God and the Prophet, but treated him insolently, and even loaded the holy man with reproaches, as though he had told them what was false. Their hypocrisy ought at the same time to be a lesson to us, so that when God is pleased through a singular favor to shew us the way of acting rightly by faithful instructors and competent teachers, we may not be like them, but be teachable and ready to obey, and prove this not only by the mouth but also by our deeds.
The Prophet then says, that they spoke thus, Let God be a faithful and true witness between us. Being not content with a simple affirmation, they dared to interpose the name of God; and thus we see how blind is hypocrisy. For if men duly weigh what it is to profane God's name, surely they would dread and abominate all perjury. As then they rushed on so audaciously to swear, it is evident that they were as it were stupefied; and there is no inebriety which so confuses the minds of men and all their senses as hypocrisy.
They then added, According to whatever word which Jehovah thy God shall send to us, so will we do, that is, whatever Jehovah shall command us by thee; for God is said to send to men, when he sends a messenger in his name to bring his commands. Jeremiah then was, as it were, a middle person to address the people in God's name, as though he had been sent from heaven. They therefore said, that they would do whatever God commanded. A stronger expression follows, Whether good or evil, we will obey the voice of Jehovah our God. They did not here charge God's word with being wrong, as though it had anything unjust in it; but they used good in the sense of joyful, and evil as meaning what is sad or grievous, as though they had said, that they asked for no other thing but that God should declare what pleased him, and that they were so submissive as to refuse nothing though contrary to the flesh. Had this declaration proceeded from the heart, it would have been a testimony of true piety; for the minds of the godly ought to be so framed as to obey God without making any exception, whether he commands what is contrary to their purpose, or leads them where they do not wish to go; for they who wish to make a compact with God, that he should require nothing but what is agreeable to them, shew that they know not what it is to serve God. Hence the obedience of faith in an especial manner requires this, that man should renounce his own desires, that he should not set up his own counsels and wishes against the word of God, nor object and say, this is hard, that is not quite agreeable. Whether then it be good or evil, that is, though it may be contrary to the feelings of the flesh, we ought still to embrace what God requires and commands: this is the rule of true religion.
As the Jews spoke feignedly by assuming a character not their own, they profaned God's name. But if we desire to prove our fidelity to God, the only way of acting is, to regard his word as binding, whether it be agreeable or otherwise, and never to murmur, as the ungodly do; for when God would have a yoke laid on them, they complain that his doctrine is too hard and burdensome. Away, then, with all those things which can render God's word unacceptable to us, if we desire to give a sure proof of our fidelity. Hence they said, Whether it be good or evil, what God will lay down we will obey his voice.
They afterwards added, For which we send thee to him. 1 Here they still further cast themselves into toils. Jeremiah did not in express words require them to make an oath; they yet did make an oath; and then in various ways still more bound themselves over to punishment, if they became perjurers. They now shew that it would be a two-fold crime, should they disobey God; how? Had the Prophet been sent to them, they might have made excuses; though vain, they might yet have something to allege; but when they of their own accord asked God, when they offered of themselves to do this, and promised to be obedient in all things, it is evident that unless afterwards they acted according to their pledged faith, they must have been more inexcusable, because they tempted God: for who induced them to come to the Prophet? We hence see that God extorted from them what doubled their crime. But the more hypocrites attempt by disguises to conceal their impiety, the faster they bind themselves, and the more they kindle God's wrath against themselves.
They then added, That it may be well with us when we obey the voice of Jehovah. By this circumstance also they aggravated their crime. For if the Prophet had promised them a prosperous issue, they might not have believed; in that case they would have indeed sinned; but their wicked-ness would have been more tolerable than when they themselves had spoken, as though they were the organs of the Holy Spirit; they said themselves, It shall be well with us; it will be our chief happiness to follow the voice of God and to obey him. As, then, they thus protested to God and the Prophet, that they might appear to be God's faithful servants, the greater condemnation they brought on themselves; for if they believed that not]ting would turn out happily, except according to God's command, how was it that they did not submit to God? why did they despise what was afterwards said by the Prophet? But as we have already said, as they deceived themselves by dealing falsely with God and profaning his holy name, let us learn and know that we can in no other way expect a happy issue in all that we do, but by obeying the voice of God; for whatever men may attempt of themselves, it will be accursed before God. This, then, is our only sure hope, that when we attempt nothing but what is according to God's word, there will be a good and happy issue, though many things may happen otherwise than we hope or think.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are here tossed to and fro, being uncertain and doubtful, except we are ruled by thy word, and are blind in thick darkness, -- O grant, that while thou shinest on us by thy Law and by thy Gospel, we may be illuminated as to our minds by thy Holy Spirit, so that we may wholly surrender ourselves to thee, and never deviate from the right way which thou hast made known to us, but so pursue our course through life, that at length we may come to that blessed life, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.