20. In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.
20. In diebus illis et tempore illo, dicit Jehova, quaeretur iniquitas Israel, et nulla erit, scelus Jehudah, et non invenietur; quia propitius ero his quos fecero residuos.
As I have already said, the Prophet now shows the primary cause why God purposed to deal so kindly and mercifully with his people, even because he would remit their sins. And doubtless whatever is said of the remission of sins is cold and unmeaning, except we be first convinced that God is reconciled and propitious to us. The unbelieving indeed seek no other thing than to be relieved from their evils, as the sick who require nothing from their physician but that he should immediately remove pain. If the sick man thirsts, "Take away thirst," he will say. In short, they regard only the symptom, of the disease they do not say a word. Such is the case with the ungodly, they neglect the chief thing, that God should pardon them and receive them into favor. Provided they are exempted from punishment, this is enough for them. But as to the faithful, they can never be satisfied until they feel assured that God is propitious to them. In order, then, to free from disquietude and all misgivings the minds of the godly, our Prophet says that God would be propitious, so that he would bury all the sins of Israel and Judah, so that they might no more be remembered or come to judgment.
This passage is remarkable, and from it we especially learn this valuable truth, that when God severely chastises us, we ought not to stop at the punishment and seek only a relief from our troubles, but on the contrary we ought to look to the very cause of all evils, even our sins. So David, in many places, when he seeks from God a relaxation of evil, does not only say, "Lord, deliver me from mine enemies; Lord, restore to me my health; Lord, deliver me from death;" -- he does not simply speak thus, but he earnestly flees to God and implores his mercy. And on the other hand, when God promises deliverance from punishment, he does not simply say, "I will restore you from exile or captivity, I will restore you to your own country;" but he says, "I will forgive you your sins." For when the disease is removed, the symptoms also which accompany the disease disappear. So also it happens in this case, for when God shows that he is propitious to us, we are then freed from punishment, that is, what we have for a time suffered, or what awaited us, had not God spared us according to his infinite mercy and goodness.1
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been so merciful towards thine ancient people, and however grievously thou mightest have been offended, yet thou didst preserve some remnant to whom thou gavest tokens of thy mercy, -- O grant that it may please thee so to allure us also at this day; and however we may deserve a thousand times to be condemned by thee, yet deign to receive us in thine only-begotten Son, and through him show thyself reconciled to us to the end of our life; and be thou our Father in death itself, so that we may live and die to thee, and acknowledge this to be the only true way of salvation, until we shall at length enjoy that celestial inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SECOND
IN the last lecture we began to explain what the Prophet says, that when God redeemed his people he would be so propitious as to blot out all their sins. We said also that the Prophet shows that the people had for just reasons been treated with severity. Here then we have to observe the justice of God in all his judgments. For the Prophet reminds us that the Jews could not have been reconciled to God, except they acknowledged that they had been justly punished. And hence we learn also a useful doctrine, that whenever God smites us with his rods, we are not only to seek that relief may be given us from external evils or sorrow, but that God may also forgive us. The reason also is to be observed, for the Prophet teaches us that there would be no iniquity because God would be propitious. We hence learn that there were also just reasons why God chastised his people, but that as he designed to forgive their sins he became their deliverer. Let us then know that we are counted just before God, not because he sees no iniquities in us, but because he freely forgives them. It is, in short, the only true way of being reconciled to God, when he buries as it were our sins so as never to call them to judgment.
Moreover, that this favor properly belongs to the kingdom of Christ may be gathered from the thirty-first chapter, where the Prophet, having spoken of the new covenant, lays down this as the principal thing,
"I will pardon their iniquities," (Jeremiah 31:34)
and he uses here the same verb. This promise then ought not to be confined to that short time when the people returned from their Babylonian exile, but ought on the contrary to be extended to the kingdom of Christ, for it was then that this prophecy was fully accomplished, because our sins do not appear before God when he is reconciled to us.
Yet the Prophet intimates that this favor would not be general, for he adds that God would be propitious only to the remnant; and it was needful to express this, because the faithful after their return might have otherwise desponded, when they saw that a few only of the people were restored. Had their restoration been indiscriminately promised, the faith of the godly might have faltered on seeing that almost the whole people disregarded the favor offered to them; for a part only of the tribe of Judah availed themselves of the kindness of Cyrus and Darius; and the ten tribes chose rather to dwell in Chaldea and in other places. And it was not only once that God restricted the promise given here; for it is said by Isaiah,
"Were thy people as the sand of the sea,
a remnant only shall be saved." (Isaiah 10:21, 22)
The people gloried in their number and boasted of what had been said to Abraham,
"Number if thou canst the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea, so shall thy seed be." (Genesis 15:5)
God then shows that the Jews were greatly mistaken when they thought that they would be always in a safe state. Hence the Prophet says here that God would not be propitious indiscriminately to all, but to those whom he would make the remnant. And God also intimates that it was to be ascribed to his gratuitous goodness that any remained alive, according to what is said in Isaiah 1:9,
"Except some seed had been left to us, we must have been as Gomorrah, and like to Sodom,"
God then declares here that the remnant would not otherwise be saved than through his gratuitous mercy, as Paul also says, that the Jews were not to hope for salvation, except through the free mercy of God. (Romans 11:5.) And he especially noticed this passage and similar passages, because the Jews then in opposing the Gospel raised the objection, that they were the seed of Abraham, and the chosen people; but Paul gave them this answer, that it was not a new thing that God gathered a small remnant from his people; and he assigns as the cause his gratuitous election. It now follows, --
1 The idea of this verse is rightly given in these words: the punishment for iniquity and sins would not be exacted, because God would pardon the remnant; hence they appeared not. The removal of punishment, the restoration from exile, would shew that iniquity and sins no longer existed, God having fully pardoned them, and thus obliterated them.
The iniquity of Israel was false worship, the worship of the calves, and the sins of Judah were especially idolatry and the rejection of God's messages by his prophets. For these evils more particularly they were banished, and their exile proved a remedy for them, as they never afterwards fell into these sins. -- Ed.
Back to BibleStudyGuide.org.
These files are public domain. This electronic edition was downloaded from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.