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Jeremiah 49:12

12. For thus saith the LORD; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it

12. Quia sic dicit Jehova, Ecce, quibus non erat judicium (ad verbum, quibus non judicium ipsorum,) ad bibendum calicem bibendo bibent; — tu vero ipse immunis eris? vel, immunis immunitatem adipisceris? vel tu, vero immunis evades?) non evades immunis, quia bibendo bibes.

 

He confirms the last verse, as I think, — that God’s vengeance awaited the whole seed of Esau, because it would be unreasonable to deal more severely with God’s people than with aliens, who had wholly shaken off the yoke. For I explain what is said here of the Church, Those to whom it was not their judgment to drink the cup shall surely drink Some apply this to neighboring nations who had not become so wicked as the Idumeans. But this exposition is frigid, and we ought always, as we have said elsewhere, to have regard to the design of the Prophet. What then was his object but to show to the faithful, that there was no reason for them to despond, however grievously God might afflict them, because the punishment which he would inflict on the Idumeans would in no way be milder; for we know that we are greatly tempted by envy when we see that the state of the impious and the reprobate is better than that of God’s children. And it was for this purpose that Psalm 37 was composed,

“Envy not the wicked, nor let their prosperity vex thee, because they shall soon perish.”

And David also, in Psalm 73:2, 3, confesses, that he in a manner staggered when he saw the wicked luxuriating in their pleasures, while the children of God were miserably treated. Then our Prophet in this place, as often elsewhere, had regard to the faithful, and wished to sustain them, lest they should succumb under their burden, when God afflicted them as well as the Idumeans. Hence he says, when speaking of the Idumeans, Drinking they shall drink the cup whose judgment was not to drink, and shalt thou be exempted? that is, “I will not spare my people, and should I spare aliens? this cannot be.”

We then see that it was a fruitful source of consolation to the faithful, when they heard that the wicked, who openly and avowedly disregarded God, could not escape his judgment.

But it may be now asked, how could he say that it was not the judgment of the Church to drink of the cup of God’s wrath? He speaks comparatively, and this answer ought to suffice us. It is certain that the Israelites deserved all the evils which they suffered. God then justly chastised them; he did not act without reason or through sudden wrath, but executed what he had previously decreed. It was then God’s judgment, even what he had determined and fixed; for judgment here is to be taken for God’s decree, by which he apportions to each his own lot. It was not then a judgment to the Israelites to drink of the cup, when one compared them to the Idumeans, — how so? Here a new question arises, for the Israelites had been worse than all others. The Idumeans had departed wholly from God; all light had become extinct among them; and then the law had not been given them: before Jacob went down to Egypt, who was to be from thence delivered according to the prefixed time made known to Abraham, they dwelt in mountains separated from the land of Canaan. They therefore possessed no part of God’s law, except that they had the empty symbol of circumcision. But the Israelites, on whom had always shone the doctrine of the law, were altogether inexcusable. Why then does the Prophet say that there was no judgment to them? My answer is, that the reference here is not to the persons of men, but on the contrary to the grace of God, through which he had been pleased to embrace the children of Israel. As then God had chosen that nation, what is regarded here is special adoption; for it is right in God to indulge his children, and it is right also in him to pardon them rather than aliens. When any one is offended with his own son, he will be reconciled to him; but an alien will not find pardon.

We now then see that the Prophet does not regard what the people had deserved, nor consider how detestable had been their impiety, and of what grievous punishment they were worthy; but on the contrary, he refers to that grace of God through which he had chosen the seed of Jacob. He had indeed previously chosen the whole seed of Abraham; but the rejection of Esau followed, so that Jacob alone remained as the seed. Since then God had manifested himself as a father to the children of Jacob, the Prophet says that it was not their judgment to drink of the cup, because it was according to reason and common sense that God should forgive them rather than aliens, whom he had already rejected, and who were like putrid members: They, then, whose judgment was not to drink the cup, drinking shall drink, and shalt thou escape free? The meaning is, that if the green wood is burnt, what will become of the dry? as Christ said. (Luke 23:31.) There is a similar consolation mentioned in 1 Peter 4:17, 18, where those afflictions are mentioned to which the Church of God is now exposed. Now, as we are tender and delicate, and the minds of many may be harassed, Peter says, that if God be so severe towards his own, those of his own household, what will become of the wicked? what dreadful vengeance awaits them?

We hence perceive the drift of the Prophet’s words, and what doctrine may be hence deduced, even that when we see God’s judgment beginning at God’s house, as the Prophet elsewhere says, (Jeremiah 25:29) and as also Peter says; that is, when God chastises his own children, and seems in the meantime to pass by the wicked, we ought patiently to wait for the visitation previously mentioned; and this ought always to be remembered by us, “If this be done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?” We shall not then envy the wicked, when God defers and does not immediately execute his judgment; for the punishments inflicted by God on his servants are only temporary and limited, and intended as medicine, inasmuch as all we suffer are helps to our salvation, as Paul teaches us. (Romans 8:28.) As then God paternally chastises us, let us not shun his paternal hand; nor let us think that God deals more kindly with the wicked because he suspends his judgments, for at length they will be hurried into their own ruin, as the Prophet says here.

In speaking of a cup, the Prophet uses a phrase common in Scripture, for the Scripture by a metaphor calls punishment inflicted on men for their sins a cup; because God apportions to each his just measure. It is taken then as allowed, that calamities are not by chance, but proceed from God’s hand, as though he gave a cup to drink. Now when he afflicts his own, they are constrained to drink as it were his wrath; it is therefore a sour and a bitter cup. But the wicked shall hereafter drink poison. Even medicine, though displeasing to the taste because of its bitterness, is yet wholesome; but poison kills men, though its taste is like medicine. This then is the comparison that is used here by Jeremiah; Drinking, they shall drink the cup, even God’s servants, who yet ought to have been exempted through a singular privilege, even because God had chosen them to be his peculiar people; shalt thou, he says, be exempted from drinking? He addresses all aliens.

We have before seen another mode of speaking, “They shall drink to the dregs,” as though he had said, “God will not only give thee to drink a bitter cup, but its bitterness will kill and destroy thee, for God will constrain thee to drink the very dregs.” But still the meaning is the same, though the phrase is different. He then asserts that the Idumeans would not be exempt from God’s judgment, and why? because God does not spare even his own children. Here then is suggested to us the best consolation when God in various ways afflicts us: let us know that it cannot be otherwise, but that it is a prelude to the last judgment, when salvation shall surely be our portion, for God purifies us now by temporal punishments, that we may be then free from final vengeance. But when the ungodly are secure, let us know that God’s judgment is indeed hidden, but yet certain, and will shortly overtake them; for when they say,

“Peace and security, then sudden destruction
will come upon them.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3.)

But the clock strikes.

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