9. Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not.
9. Et dixit mihi, iniquitas do-mus Israel et Iehudah magna supra modum,1 et repleta fuit terra sanguinibus, et urbs repleta fuit perverse:2 quia dixerunt, Deseruit Iehovah terram, et Iehovah non respicit.
Here God so answers his Prophet, that he restrains too much fervor, and at the same time asserts his own justice -- for the Prophet might be impelled this way and that -- he might even doubt whether God would be true to his word. God might also shake his confidence in another manner, as by raging too much against the innocent; since therefore he might be agitated amidst those waves of trial, what God now does ought to set him at rest. Therefore, as I have already said, he mitigates the feelings of his Prophet, and at the same time asserts the equity of his judgment against all false opinions which are apt to creep over us when God's judgments do not answer to our will. Meanwhile it must be remarked, how the Prophet complains suppliantly of the slaughter of the city, and although he seemed to expostulate with God, yet he submitted all his senses to his command, and on that account an answer is given which can calm him. Whenever, therefore, God does not seem to work as our carnal reason dictates to us, we may learn, by the Prophet's example, how to restrain ourselves, and to subject our reason to God's will, so that it may suffice us that he wills a thing so, because his will is the most perfect rule of all justice. We see that Prophets sometimes complain, and seem also to permit themselves too much liberty when they expostulate with God, as we saw a memorable example in Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 12 and Jeremiah 20.) Then we read also a similar one in Habakkuk. (Habakkuk 1:2.) How so? Do the Prophets contend with God himself? yea, they directly return to themselves, and collect into order all those wandering opinions by which they perceive that they were greatly disturbed. So also our Prophet, on the one hand, wonders at the slaughter of the city, and exclaims vehemently; at the same time he falls upon his face, and in this way testifies that he would be obedient, as soon as God answered him. This is the reason, then, why God also desires to appease his servant; nor is it doubtful that we shall experience the same thing, if we modestly and soberly learn to enquire when God's judgments do not answer our opinions. If, therefore, we approach God in this way, he will doubtless show us that what he does is right, and thus supply us with material for rest. Hence, also, God's inestimable indulgence toward his people is collected, because he so deigns to render a reason, as if he wished to satisfy them. It is certain that men are carried forward into too much rashness, as often as they ask questions of God; for who will dare to oppose himself to his judgments? and who will reply to him? so Paul says. (Romans 9:20.) But God in his amazing goodness, descends even thus far, so as to render a reason of his deeds to his servants, to settle their minds, as I have said.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou didst formerly chastise thy people so harshly, that we may profit by their example; and may we be so restrained by fear of thy name and obedience to thy law, that thou mayest not pour forth thy wrath against us: then if thou chastisest us, grant that it may all turn out to our good: and may we so feel ourselves to have been sealed by thee, and to be acknowledged in the number of thy sons, until at length thou shalt gather us into that blessed inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.
Lecture Twenty fifth.
We began yesterday to explain God's answer, when he restrains the Prophet's feelings: for he complained of the destruction of the whole nation. There was a specious reason for it, because he thought that in this way God's covenant was made vain. But God simply answers, that he does not exceed propriety in punishment. The question is not answered in this way: for the Prophet might still doubt how God's covenant remained firm and yet the people was cut off. But God does not in every way untie all the knots by which we are entangled: hence he leaves us in suspense, but while he does this, he wishes to prove our modesty, for if he satisfied us altogether, there would be no proof of our obedience. But when he commands us to acquiesce in his judgment, if we do not pass beyond it, then we bear ourselves towards him as modestly as becomes us. Thus, therefore, he now answers half the question of his Prophet when he pronounces, that the sin of Jerusalem and Judah is grievous. But he says, beyond measure, that the Prophet may understand that the city, together with the nation, was to be utterly destroyed, since there was no end to its wickedness. When he says, the land was filled with bloods, and the city with perverse judgments: bloods we may take for slaughters, or, generally, for all kinds of sin; for the Scripture sometimes calls atrocious crimes which deserve death, bloods, but it sometimes calls unjust slaughters so. But because God embraces all the sins of the people, I readily interpret bloods as crimes, by which those who had so often provoked his anger, brought destruction upon themselves.
It follows, because they said, Jehovah has deserted the land, Jehovah sees nothing. We had a similar sentence a little before, (Ezekiel 8:12,) and I then hinted that it was taken too coldly by interpreters, because they think that the Jews were Epicureans, who thought that God enjoyed his own ease, and did not regard human affairs. They think, therefore, that the Jews were so inebriated by a brutish contempt of God, as to think they could do as they pleased with impunity, since God was afar off: as at this time profane men allow themselves so much license, because they do not set God before their eyes, as the Scripture often says. But we said that the Prophet intended something else. For when the Jews had been often chastised, they were hardened in their sins, and when they ought to acknowledge that those punishments were justly inflicted upon them, they imagined that all things happened to them by chance; just as unbelievers reckon all events as fortuitous. Such then was the sloth of the people. God was visiting them, as he often says, that he would be known among them as a judge: when they felt God's hand present with them, they said he was far off, because he did not succor them in their miseries, nor offer himself as a shield against their enemies. For their fathers had experienced the helping hand of God in all their dangers. Since, then, God had cast away all regard for them, and showed himself rather their enemy than the defender of their safety, they said that he was afar off. And as we saw, he had stirred up the Chaldeans, and was then proving the faithfulness of all his prophecies when he was executing what he had denounced by his servants. Now, therefore, we see in what sense they said, that God had deserted the land, because, in truth, he was not granting it any taste of his favor. But they experienced his power in another manner when he executed his punishment upon them. Why then did they not think him a just avenger when he thus chastised them? But they laid hold of one thing, that they were not so regarded by God as to be rescued from their enemies. This passage then is worthy of notice. For when God not only invites wretched men to himself, but also draws them to receive the punishment due to their sins, they are often rendered more obstinate, and fancy that God' is afar off. Hence, therefore, it happens that they are seized with madness, and hesitate not to provoke him more boldly. This perverseness is now described when Ezekiel represents the Jews as saying, that God had deserted the land. For they are unable to see in it anything more than this; for when profane men once take up the principle that they are deserted by God, they think at the same time that whatever they do escapes his notice. But this was the extreme of impiety: hence God shows, that he could no longer spare men so abandoned. And he confirms this also in the next verse when he says --
1 "For thus I interpret
2 "Understand judgment, but it signifies simply revolt." -- Calvin.
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