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Joel 2:32

32. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

32. Et erit, quisquis invocaverit nomen Jehovae liberabitur: quia in monte Sion et in Jerusalem erit evasio, sicuti promisit Jehova, et in residuis quos Jehova vocaverit.

 

We said yesterday that the Prophet denounced future calamities, that he might thus stimulate men, distressed by many evils, to seek God: we indeed know how tardy we are by nature, except the Lord goads us continually. The subject, then, on which we discoursed yesterday tended to show, that as so many and so grievous calamities would press on the Jews, all would be miserable who fled not to God, and that this consolation only would remain to them in their extreme evils: but now the Prophet seasonably adds, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered. Having then stimulated men to seek God, he now gives them firm assurance of being saved, provided they in sincerity and from the heart fled to God.

This is indeed a remarkable passage, for God declares that the invocation of his name in a despairing condition is a sure port of safety. What the Prophet had said was certainly dreadful, — that the whole order of nature would be so changed, that no spark of light would appear, and that all places would be filled with darkness. What, therefore, he says now is the same as though he declared, that if men called on the name of God, life would be found in the grave. They who seem to be even in despair, and from whom God seems to have taken away every hope of grace, provided they call on the name of God, will be saved, as the Prophet declares, though they be in so great a despair, and in so deep an abyss. This circumstance ought to be carefully noticed; for if any one takes this sentence of the Prophet by itself, though then it would not be frigid, it would not yet be so striking; but when these two things are joined together, — that God will be the judge of the world, who will not spare the wickedness of men, but will execute dreadful vengeance, — and that yet salvation will be given to all who will call on the name of the Lord, we see how efficacious the promise is; for God offers life to us in death, and light in the darkest grave.

There is, therefore, great importance in the expression, והיה ueie, ‘Then it shall be;’ for the copulative is to be regarded as an adverb of time, ‘Then whosoever shall invoke the name of the Lord,’ etc. And he uses the word “deliver;” for it was needful to show that the saved differ nothing from the lost. Had the Prophet used the word “preserve,” he would have spoken less distinctly; but now when he promises deliverance, he bids us to set up this shield against trials even the heaviest; for God possesses power sufficiently great to deliver us, provided only we call on him.

We now then understand what the Prophet had in view: He shows that God would have us to call on him not only in prosperity, but also in the extreme state of despair. It is the same as though God had called to himself the dead, and declared that it was in his power to restore life to them and bring them out of the grave. Since then God invites here the lost and the dead, there is no reason why even the heaviest distresses should preclude an access for us or for our prayers; for we ought to break through all these obstacles. The more grievous, then, our troubles are, the more confidence we ought to entertain; for God offers his grace, not only to the miserable, but also to those in utter despair. The Prophet did not threaten a common evil to the Jews, but declared that by the coming of Christ all things would be full of horror: after this denunciation he now subjoins, ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’

But as Paul cites this place in Romans 10, and extends it to the Gentiles, we must inquire in what sense he takes the testimony of the Prophet. Paul means to prove that adoption was common to the Gentiles, that it was lawful for them to flee to God, and familiarly to invoke him as a Father: ‘Whosoever,’ he says, ‘shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ He hence proves that the Gospel ought to have been preached even to the Gentiles, as invocation arises from faith: for except God shines on us by his word, we cannot come to him; faith, then, is ever the mother of prayer. Paul seems to lay stress on the universal particle, Whosoever; as though he said, that Joel did not speak of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, that he testified that God would indiscriminately, and without exception, receive all who would seek him. But Paul appears to misapply the Prophet’s words; for Joel no doubt addresses here the people, to whom he was appointed as a teacher and prophet. What Paul then applies generally to all mankind seems not to have been so intended by the Prophet. But to this there is an easy answer; for the Prophets after having spoken of the kingdom of Christ, had no doubt this truth in view, that the blessing in the seed of Abraham had been promised to all nations; and when he afterwards described the miserable state in which the whole world would be, he certainly meant to rouse even the Gentiles, who had been aliens from the Church, to seek God in common with his elect people: the promise, then, which immediately follows, is also addressed to the Gentiles, otherwise there would be no consistency in the discourse of the Prophet. We therefore see that Paul most fitly accommodates this place to his subject: for the main thing to be held is this, that the blessing in Christ was promised not only to the children of Abraham but also to all the Gentiles. When, therefore, the Prophet describes the kingdom of Christ, it is no wonder that he addresses the Jews and Gentiles in common: and then, what he said of the state of the world, that it would be full of horrible darkness, undoubtedly refers, not to the Jews only, but also to the Gentiles. Why was this done, except to show that nothing else remains for them but to flee to God? We then see that an access is here opened to the Gentiles that they may with one consent call on God together with the Jews.

If there is promised salvation and deliverance to all who shall call on the name of the Lord, it follows as Paul reasons that the doctrine of the Gospel belongs to the Gentiles also; for their mouths must have otherwise been closed, yea, and the mouths of us all: had not God himself anticipated us by his word, and exhorted us to pray, we must have been dumb. It would have been a great presumption in us to present ourselves before God, except he had given us confidence and promised to hear us. If then the liberty of praying is common to all, it follows that the doctrine of salvation is common to all. We must now also add, that as deliverance is promised to all who shall call on the name of God, his own power is taken from God, when salvation is sought in any other but in him alone: and we know that this is an offering which he claims exclusively for himself. If, then, we desire to be delivered, the only remedy is, to call on the name of Jehovah.

He afterwards adds, For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as Jehovah has promised. The Prophet here intimates, that though the people might seem apparently to have been destroyed, yet God would be mindful of his covenant so as to gather the remnant. Such, indeed, was the slaughter of the people, that no hope whatever, according to the flesh, remained; for they were scattered through various parts of the world; there was no social body, no distinct nation, no civil government, no worship of God. Who, then, could have thought that the Church of God would survive? Nay, the probability was, that after thirty or fifty years, the name of Abraham and of his seed would have become wholly extinct; for they had joined in one body with the Chaldees and the Assyrians. That scattering then was, as it were, the death of the whole nation. But God, by Joel, declares here, that there would yet be deliverance in mount Zion and in Jerusalem; that is, “Though I shall for a time exterminate this people, that the land may remain desolate, there shall yet be a restoration, and I will again gather a certain body, a Church, on mount Zion and in Jerusalem.” This is the substance.

We learn from this place, that however much God may afflict his Church, it will yet be perpetuated in the world; for it can no more be destroyed than the very truth of God, which is eternal and immutable. God indeed promises, not only that the state of the Church shall be perpetual, but that there will be, as long as the sun and moon shall shine in heaven, some people on earth to call on his name. Since it is so, it follows, that the Church cannot be utterly subverted or wholly perish, however severely and heavily the Lord may chastise it. However great then the scattering of the Church may be, the Lord will yet gather members, that there may be a people on earth to show, that he who is in heaven is true and faithful to his promises. And this truth deserves a careful attention; for when we see the Church scattered, immediately this doubt creeps into our minds, “Does God intend wholly to destroy all his people, — does he mean to exterminate all the seed of the faithful?” Then let this passage be remembered, “In mount Zion there will be deliverance,” after the Lord shall have punished the profane despisers of his name, who abused his patience, and falsely professed his name.

But he adds, As Jehovah has promised, which serves for confirmation; for the Prophet bids us here to regard God rather than our own state. When indeed we believe our eyes, we cannot but think sometimes that it is all over with the Church; for when God inflicts heavy punishment on his servants, there seems to us no remedy; and when we believe the diseases of the Church to be incurable, our hearts immediately fail us, except God’s promise comes to our minds. Hence the Prophet recalls our thoughts to God, as though he had said, “Judge not of the safety of the Church by sight, but stand and rely on the word of God: he has spoken, he has said, that the Church shall be perpetual.” Let us plant our foot on this promise, and never doubt but that the Lord will perform what he has declared.

But it is subjoined by the Prophet as a sort of correction, And in the remnant whom Jehovah shall call: and it was necessary to state this distinctly, lest hypocrites, as they usually do, abuse what had been said. They who occupy high stations in the Church, and pass in name for the children of God, swell, we know, with great confidences and boldly trifle with God; for they think that he is bound to them, when they make a show either of external badges or of profession, in which they glory before men: they think this display sufficient. We may indeed gather from many parts of Scripture, that the Jews were inflated with this false presumption of the flesh, that they imagined God to be bound to them. Hence the Prophet shows, that he did not address all the Jews indiscriminately, because many of them were spurious children of Abraham, and had become degenerated. If then under this pretense alone they wished to lay hold on the promise of salvation, the Prophet shows that they were excluded from the Church of God, since they were not legitimate children, after having departed from the faith and piety of their father Abraham. He therefore mentions remnant: and by this word be means, in short, that the whole multitude could not be saved, but only a small number.

When therefore we speak of the salvation of the Church, we ought not to gather into one bundle all who profess themselves to be the children of God; for we see that hardly one in a hundred worship God in truth and without hypocrisy, for the greater part abuse his name. We see, at this day, how dishonest is the boasting of the Papists; for they think that the Church of God dwells among them, and they scorn us because we are few. When we say that the Church of God is to be known by the word and the pure administration of the sacraments, “Indeed,” they say, “could God have forsaken so many people among whom the gospel has been preached?” They think that after Christ has been once made known, his grace remains fixed, and cannot by any means be taken away whatever may be the impiety of men. Since then the Papists so shamefully lay claim to the name of Church, because they are many in number, it is no wonder that the Prophet, who had the same contest with the Jews and Israelites, had here expressly mentioned a remnant; as though he said, “In vain do the ungodly boast of God’s name, since he regards them not as his people.” The same truth we observe in Psalm 15, and in Psalm 24; where the citizens of the Church are described; they are not those who pride themselves on external symbols, but who worship God with a sincere heart, and deal honestly with their neighbors; such dwell on the mountain of God. It was not a difficult thing for hypocrites to thrust themselves into the sanctuary, and to present there their sacrifices to God; but the Prophet shows that none are owned by God, but those who have a sincere heart and pure hands. So also in this place Joel says, that this Church indeed would be saved, but not the vast multitude, — who then? the remnant only.

But the clause which follows must be noticed, Whom Jehovah shall call. We have already seen that the Church of God consists often of a very small number; for God counts not any his children, but those who devote themselves sincerely and from the heart to his service, as Paul says ‘Whosoever calls on the name of God, let him depart from iniquity;’ and many such are not found in the world.

But it is not enough to hold, that the Church of God is only in the remnant; it must be also added that the remnant abide in God’s Church for no other reason but that the Lord has called them. Whence then is it that there is a portion in the Church, which shall remain safe, while the whole world seems to be doomed to destruction? It is from the calling of God. And there is no doubt but that the Prophet means by the word, call, gratuitous election. The Lord is indeed often said to call men, when he invites them by the voice of his gospel; but there is what surpasses that, a hidden call, when God destines for himself those whom he purposes to save. There is then an inward call, which dwells in the secret counsel of God; and then follows the call, by which he makes us really the partakers of his adoption. Now the Prophet means, that those who will be the remnant shall not stand by their own power, but because they have been called from above, that is, elected. But that the election of God is not to be separated from the outward call, I allow; and yet this order ought to be maintained, that God, before he testifies his election to men, adopts them first to himself in his own secret counsel. The meaning is, that calling is here opposed to all human merits, and also to virtue and human efforts; as though he said, “Men attain not this for themselves, that they continue a remnant and are safe, when God visits the sins of the world; but they are preserved by his grace alone, because they have been chosen.” Paul also speaks of the remnant in Romans 11, and wisely considers that passage, ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand.’ [1 Kings 19:18.]

It is then God’s peculiar province to keep those who fail not: and hence Paul says that they are the remnant of grace; for if God’s mercy were taken away, there would be no remnant among the whole human race. All, we indeed know, are worthy of death, without any difference: it is therefore the election of God alone which makes the difference between some and others. Thus we see that the gratuitous goodness of God is extolled by the Prophet, when he says that a remnant shall be saved, who shall be called by the Lord: for it is not in the power of men to keep themselves unless they are elected; and the gratuitous goodness of God is the security as it were of their salvation. Now follows —

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