50. Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.
50. Qui evasistis e gladio, abite, ne stetis; recordamini e longinquo Jehovae, et Jerusalem ascendat in cor vestrum.
The Prophet again bids the faithful quickly to flee from Chaldea; but he says, They who remain from the sword. He then intimates that the slaughter would be such, that it would include many of God's people, and that they would be destroyed. And we know that many among them deserved such a sad end; but the Prophet now turns to address those who had been preserved through God's special favor. He then bids them to depart and not to stand still or stay.
Now, we said yesterday what was the object of this exhortation, even that the faithful might feel assured of their free return to their own country, from which, nevertheless, they thought they were perpetually excluded; for they had wholly despaired of deliverance, though it had been so often promised. This exhortation, then, contains a promise; and in the meantime the Prophet reminds us, that though God inflicted a temporary punishment on the chosen people, yet his vengeance on the Babylonians would be perpetual. For God not only tempers his rigor towards the faithful when he chastises them, but he also gives them a happy issue, so that all their afflictions become helps to their salvation, as Paul also teaches us. (Romans 8:28.) In short, the punishments inflicted by God on his children are so many medicines; for he always consults their safety even when he manifests tokens of his wrath. But the case with the ungodly is different; for all their punishments are perpetual, even those which seem to have an end. How so? because they lead to eternal ruin. This is what the Prophet means when he bids those who remained, to flee from Chaldea, according to what we observed yesterday, when he said, Flee ye from the indignation of God's wrath. There is, then, an implied comparison between the punishment which brings ultimate ruin on the reprobate, and the temporary punishment inflicted by God on his children.
He bids them to remember Jehovah from afar. Some apply this to the seventy years, but, in my view, in a sense too restricted. I then doubt not but that the Prophet bids them to entertain hope and to look to God, however far they may have been driven from him, as though he were wholly alienated from them. The Israelites had then been driven into distant lands, as though God never meant to restore them. As, then, the distance was so great between Chaldea and Judea, what else could come into the minds of the miserable exiles but that God was far removed from them, so that it was in vain for them to seek or call upon him? The Prophet obviates this want of faith, and raises their confidence, so that they might not cease to flee to God, though they had been driven into distant lands: Be, then, mindful of Jehovah from afar.
Then he adds, Let Jerusalem ascend on your heart; that is, though so many obstacles may intercept your faith, yet think of Jerusalem. The condition of the people required that they should be thus animated, for they might otherwise, as it has been said, have a hundred times despaired, and have thus become torpid in their calamities. Then the Prophet testifies that an access to God was open to them, and that though they were removed far, he yet had a care for them, and was ready to bring help whenever called upon And for the same reason he bids them to direct their minds to Jerusalem, so as to prefer the Temple of God to all the world, and never to rest quiet until God restored them, and liberty were given them of worshipping him there.
Now this passage deserves special notice, as it applies to us at this day; for when the scattering of the Church takes place, we think that we are forsaken by God, and we also conclude that he is far away from us, so that he is sought in vain. As, then, we are wont, being inclined to distrust, to become soon torpid in our calamities, as though we were very remote from God, and as though he did not turn his eyes to look on our miseries, let us apply to ourselves what is here said, even to remember Jehovah from afar; that is, when we seem to be involved in extreme miseries, when God hides his face from us and seems to be afar off; in short, when we think ourselves forsaken, and circumstances appear as proving this, we ought still to contend with all such obstacles until our faith triumphs, and to employ our thoughts in remembering God, though he may be apparently alienated from us. Let us also learn to direct our minds to the Church; for however miserable our condition may be, it is yet better than the happiness which the ungodly seek for themselves in the world. When, therefore, we see the ungodly flattering themselves as to their possessions, when we see them pleased and delighted as though God were dealing indulgently with them, let then Jerusalem come to our minds, That is, let us prefer the state of the Church, which may be yet sad and deformed, and such as we would shun, were we to follow our own inclinations. Let then the condition of the Church come to our minds, that is, let us embrace the miseries common to the godly, and let it be more pleasant to us to be connected with the children of God in all their afflictions, than to be inebriated with the prosperity of those who only delight in the world, and are at the same time accursed by God. This is the improvement which we ought to make of what is here taught. It now follows, --