5. That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
5. Ut deprehendam domum Israel in corde ipsorum, quia alienarunt se1 a me in suis idolis omnes.
He shows God's object in being unwilling to dismiss without an answer the hypocrites who still impiously trifled with him. He says, that I may seize the house of Israel in their heart. It is yet asked how the impious are seized, when God answers them neither according to the opinion of their mind nor their expectation, but pronounces what they dislike and fear most grievously. I reply, that the impious are answered when they are driven to madness, and God thus extracts from them what was formerly hidden in their own hearts. He says, therefore, that their impiety may be manifest to all, I will answer them. For as long as God spares the impious, they endeavor to soothe him by a kind of flattery; but when they see that they take nothing by their false blandishments, then they roar, nay, bellow furiously against God: thus they are caught in their own hearts: that is, all their former dissembling is made bare, so that all may easily perceive that there never was a spark of piety in their hearts. God, therefore, bears witness that his answers would be of this kind, that he may take the house of Israel in their hearts; that is, that his severity may draw out into the light what was formerly hidden; for the word of God is a two-edged sword, and examines all the sentiments of men. (Hebrews 4:12.) Some are so slain by this sword that they grow wise again; but others are stung with fury when they see that they must engage with the power of God; therefore they are seized in their own hearts when God twists from them what they would willingly have kept always hidden. Since they have estranged themselves from me, literally, in their idols. This passage is explained in two ways, as we have said. Some say, because they separated themselves; but I approve of the other version, because they have alienated themselves, and we shall understand the point more clearly afterwards when the subject leads us to it. They alienated themselves, then, from God; that is, when they had utterly declined from God's law; yet, as long as this was concealed, they still wore their masks. The separation of which the Prophet here speaks seems to be referred to this pretense. Since, then, they so alienated themselves from me by their idols; that is, he says they are deceived in thinking that they cannot be discovered, and that their abominations, however foul they are, will remain secret. And this agrees with the last clause, namely, that he would seize the hypocrites in their own heart.
Grant, Almighty God, since we are so inclined to all kinds of vices, that we may be restrained by the power of thy Spirit: then that we may be attentive to the teaching which sounds continually in our ears, so that we may persevere in the pure worship of thy name; and thus being strengthened against the cunning of the wicked, may we be upheld in our weakness, and preserved from all error, until we finish our course, and arrive at the goal which is proposed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. -- Amen.
1 Or, as others translate, "separate themselves." -- Calvin.
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