17. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
17. Et erunt mihi, dicit Iehova exercituum, die illa qua ego facio, peculium; et parcam eis (super eos ad verbum) sicuti parcit vir suo filio, qui obsequitur ei.
He shows by the issue itself why a book of remembrance was written -- that God in due time would again undertake to defend and cherish his Church. Though then for a time many troubles were to be sustained by the godly, yet the Prophet shows that they did not in vain serve God; for facts would at length prove that their obedience has not been overlooked. But the two things which he mentions ought to be noticed; for a book of remembrance is first written before God, and then God executes what is written in the book. When therefore we seem to serve God in vain, let us know that the obedience we render to him will come to an account, and that he is a just Judge, though he may not immediately stretch forth his hand to us.
In the first place then the Prophet testifies that God knows what is done by every one; and in the second place he adds that he will in his own time perform what he has decreed. So also in judgements, he preserves the same order in knowing and in executing. For when he said to Abraham that the cry of Sodom came up to heaven, (Genesis 18:20,) how great and how supine was the security of the city. How wantonly and how savagely they despised every authority to the very last moment! But God had long before ascended his tribunal, and had taken an account of their wickedness. So also in the case of the godly, though he seems to overlook their obedience, yet he has not his eyes closed, or his ears closed, for there is a book of memorial written before him.
Hence he says,
Thus the Prophet in these words exhorts us to patience, lest it should be grievous to us to groan under our burden, and not to find God's help according to our wishes, and lest also it should be grievous to us to bear troubles in common with the whole Church. Were one or two of us subject to the cross, and doomed to sorrow and grief in this world, our condition might seem hard; but since the godly, from the first to the last, are made to be our associates in bearing the cross of Christ, and to be conformed to his example, there is no reason for any one of us to shun his lot; for we are not better than the holy patriarchs, apostles, and so many of the faithful whom God has exercised with the cross. Since then the common restoration of the Church is here set before us, let us know that a reason is here given for constancy and fortitude; for it would be disgraceful for us to faint, when we have so many leaders in this warfare, who by their examples stretch forth as it were their hands to us; for as Abraham, David, and other Patriarchs and Prophets, as well as Apostles, have suffered so many and so grievous troubles, ought not this fact to raise up our spirits? and if at any time our feet and our legs tremble, ought it not to be sufficient to strengthen us, that so many excellent chiefs and leaders invite us to persevere by their example? We then see that this has not been laid down for nothing,
By the words
And this mode of speaking occurs in many parts of scripture; for God is often said to repudiate his people; the word separation, or divorce, is often mentioned; he is said to have destroyed his inheritance. Grievous is the trial, when God cherishes as it were in his bosom the ungodly, and we at the same time are exposed to every kind of miser; but we see what happened to the ancient Church: let us then arm ourselves for this contest, and be satisfied with the inward testimony of the Spirit, though outward things do not prosper.
The second promise refers to another grace, -- that God in his mercy would approve of the obedience of the godly, though in itself unworthy to come to his presence. How necessary this indulgence is to Us, they who are really and truly acquainted with the fear of God, fully know. The sophists daringly prattle about merits, and fill themselves and others with empty pride; but they who understand that no man can stand before God's tribunal, do not dream of any merits, nor do they believe that they can bring anything before God, by which they can conciliate his favor. Hence their only refuge is what the Prophet here teaches us, that God
And it must be observed, that the Prophet does not speak simply of the remission of sins: our salvation, we know, consists of two things -- that God rules us by his Spirit, and forms us anew in his own image through the whole course of our life, -- and also that he buries our sins. But the Prophet refers here to the remission of sins, of which we have need as to our good works; for it is certain, that even when we devote ourselves with all possible effort and zeal to God's service there is yet something always wanting. Hence it is that no work, however right and perfect before men, deserves this distinction and honor before God. It is therefore necessary, even when we strive our utmost to serve God, to confess that without his forgiveness whatever we bring deserves rejection rather than his favor. Hence the Prophet says, that when God is reconciled to us, there is no reason to fear that he will reject us, because we are not perfect; for though our works be sprinkled with many spots, they will yet be acceptable to him, and though we labor under many defects, we shall yet be approved by him. How so? Because he will spare us: for a father is indulgent to his children, and though he may see a blemish in the body of his son, he will not yet cast him out of his house; nay, though he may have a son lame, or squint-eyed, or singular for any other defect, he will yet pity him, and will not cease to love him: so also is the case with respect to God, who, when he adopts us as his children, will forgive our sins. And as a father is pleased with every small attention when he sees his son submissive, and does not require from him what he requires from a servant; so God acts; he repudiates not our obedience, however defective it may be. 2
We hence see the design and meaning of the Prophet, -- that he promises pardon from God to the faithful, after having been reconciled to him, because they serve God as children willingly, -- and that God also, though their works are unworthy of his favor, will yet count them as acceptable, even through pardon, and not on the ground of merit or worthiness.
Grant, Almighty God, that as Satan strives to draw us away from every attention to true religion, when things in the world are in a state of disorder and confusion, -- O grant, that we may know that thou caress for us; and if we perceive not this by what we find in the world, may we rely on thy word, and doubt not but that thou ever watches over our safety; and being supported by this confidence, may we ever go on in the course of our calling: and as thou hast deigned to make us partakers of that evidence of thy favor, by which we know that we are reconciled to thee in thine only-begotten Son; and being thus made his members, may we never hesitate cheerfully to offer to thee our services, however defective they may he, since thou hast once promised to be a propitious Father to us, so as not rigidly to try what we offer to thee, but so graciously to accept it, that we may know that not only our sins, which justly deserve condemnation, are forgiven and remitted to us, but that thou also so bearest with our infirmities and our defects in our imperfect works, that we shall at length receive the reward which thou hast promised, and which we cannot attain through our merits, but through the sanctification of thy Spirit, and through the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. -- Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Eighty-first
We saw in the last lecture that no works of the faithful please God, except through a gratuitous acceptance: it hence follows, that nothing can be ascribed to merits without derogating from the grace of Christ; for if the value of works depends on this, that God is our Father and is reconciled to us in Christ, nothing can be more absurd than to set up works, which ought to be subordinated to this paternal favor of God.
We now see how these two things harmonize -- that reward is promised to works, and that works themselves deserve nothing before God; for though God can justly reject them, he yet regards them as acceptable, because he forgives all their defects. Thus have we brief stated the reason why our works are approved by God; they are not so on account of any worthiness, but through his favor alone; for there is no work which would not on account of its imperfection be displeasing to God, were he to require that it should be according to the rule of his law. Hence God departs from his own law and turns to mercy, that he may regard works as acceptable, which otherwise could not, being defective, stand before his presence. It now follows --
1 Such is the arrangement of the sentence as given in the Septuagint, the Targum, and by Jerome, and most interpreters. "The peculiar treasure" is connected with "they shall be to me," and not with the verb "make," as in our version, which is that of Jun. and Trem. The intervening clause, "In the day," etc., may be rendered in a way different. The verb "to make" means something to appoint, to ordain, to constitute. The following version of Newcome is no doubt the correct one--
They shall be unto me, saith Jehovah of hosts,
In the day which I shall appoint, a peculiar treasure.
The "day" is again mentioned in the next chapter, verse 3, and the same words come after it, which ought to be rendered in the same way. Henderson's version is materially the same.
The word rendered "jewels" in our version, is everywhere also rendered a peculiar treasure, or a special property. See Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6. The common rendering of the Septuagint is either peripoihsin --a purchased acquisition, as here, or periousion --peculiar, special, as in Exodus 19:5. The latter is the word used here by Symmachus.--Ed.
2 There is something more in the verb here used than the idea of "sparing." When followed as here by
Back to BibleStudyGuide.org.
These files are public domain. This electronic edition was downloaded from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.