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Malachi 3:13-15

13. Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

13. Invaluerunt contra me verba vestra, dicit Iehova; et dixistis, In quo locuti sumus contra te?

14. Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?

14. Dixistis, Frustra servitur Deo et quae utilitas? quia custodivimus custodiam ejus, et quia ambulavimus supplices (vel, humiles; in obscuro vulta, ad verbum) coram facie Iehovae exercituum.

15. And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

15. Et nunc nos beatos dicimus superbos; etiam aedificantur qui faciunt iniquitatem, etiam tentant Deum et liberantur.

 

Here again God expostulates with the Jews on account of their impious and wicked blasphemy in saying, that he disappointed his servants, and that he made no difference between good and evil, because he was kind to the unfaithful and the faithful indiscriminately, and also that he overlooked the obedience rendered to him.

He says now that their words grew strong; by which he denotes their insolence, as though he had said, Vous avez gagné le plus haut; for חזק, chezak, is to be strong. He means that such was the waywardness of the Jews that it could not by any means be checked; they were like men whom we see, who when once seized by rage and madness, become so vociferous that they will not listen to any admonitions or sane counsels. At first they murmur and are only heard to whisper; but when they have attained full liberty, they then send forth, as I have said, their furious clamours against heaven. This is the sin which the Prophet now condemns by saying, that the Jews grew strong in crying against God. 260260     
   Your words have waxen bold against me. — Newcome

   Your words against me have been hard. — Henderson.

   Ye have made heavy (or, overcharged — ἐβαρύνατε) against me your words. — Septuagint

   To “grow strong” is the idea expressed by Jerome and Marckius; and it is the common meaning of the verb. “Strong of forehead” in Ezekiel 3:7, is rendered “impudent” in our version, and very justly. Impudence or insolence is what is here evidently meant, —

   Insolent against me have been your words.

   — Ed.
They again answer and say, In what have we spoken against thee? 261261     Rather, “What have we been talking together against thee? The verb is in Niphal, and only found so here, in the sixteenth verse, Psalm 119:23, and Ezekiel 33:30. It denotes a mutual converse, a talking together, or a frequent converse. — Ed. It appears from these so many repetitions that the hypocrisy, which was united with great effrontery, could not be easily corrected in a people so refractory: it ought indeed to have come to their minds that they had wickedly accused God. But they acknowledge here no fault, “What meanest thou?” as though they wished to arraign the Prophet for having falsely charged them, inasmuch as they were conscious of no wrong.

He then gives the reason why he said, that their words grew strong against God, that is, that they daringly and furiously spoke evil of God; and the reason was, because they said, that God was worshipped in vain. They thought that they worshipped God perfectly; and this was their false principle; for hypocrites ever lay claim to complete holiness, and cannot bear to confess their own evils; even when their conscience goads them, they deceive themselves with vain flatteries, and always endeavor to draw over them some veil that their disgrace may not appear before men. Hence hypocrites seek to deceive themselves, God, angels, and men; and when they are inflated with the confidence that they worship God purely, rightly, and without any defect, and that they are without any blame, they will betray the virulence which lies within, whenever God does not help them as they wish, whenever he submits not to their will: for when they are prosperous, God is hauntingly blessed by them; but as soon as he withdraws his hand and begins to prove their patience, they will then show, as I have said, what sort of worshippers of God they are. But in the service of God the chief thing is this — that men deny themselves and give themselves up to be ruled by God, and never raise a clamor when he humbles them.

We hence see how it was that the Jews found fault with God; for they were persuaded that they fully performed their duty, which was yet most false; and then, they were not willing to submit to God, and to undertake his yoke, because they did not consider in how many ways they had provoked God’s wrath, and what just and multiplied reasons he has for chastising his people, even when they do nothing wrong. As then they did not seriously consider any of these things, they thought that he was unjust to them, In vain then do we serve God. These thoughts, as we have said, sometimes come across the minds of the faithful; but they, as it becomes them, resist such thoughts: the Jews, on the contrary, as though they were victorious, vomited forth these blasphemies against God.

In vain we serve God; what benefit? they said: for we have kept has charge, we have walked obscurely, or humbly, before Jehovah of hosts; 262262     The verse is differently arranged in our version, and by most interpreters. The first sentence is a general announcement, and what follows is an expansion and an illustration of that announcement —
   14. Ye have said, “It is vain to serve God; For what profit is it that we have kept his charge, And that we have walked mournfully before Jehovah of hosts?

   15. We therefore now felicitate the proud; Even built up have been the workers of wickedness, They have even tempted God, and escaped.”

   The word for “tempted” is בחן, which commonly means to try, to prove, to test a thing; but used here evidently in a bad sense: they presumptuously tried, as it were, the patience of God, and “escaped,” i.e., from the punishment which they deserved. — Ed.
and yet we are constrained to call the proud, or the impious, happy. Here they bring a twofold accusation against God, that they received no reward for their piety when they faithfully discharged their duty towards God, — and also that it was better with the ungodly and the despisers of God than with them. We hence see how reproachfully they exaggerated what they deemed the injustice of God, at least how they themselves imagined that he disappointed the just of their deserved reward, and that he favored the ungodly and the wicked as though he was pleased with them, as though he intended the more to exasperate the sorrow of his own servants, who, though they faithfully worshipped, yet saw that they did so in vain, as God concealed himself and did not regard their services.

That the good also are tempted, as we have said, by thoughts of this kind, is no wonder, when the state of things in the world is in greater confusion. Even Solomon says,

“All things happen alike to the just and to the unjust, to him who offers sacrifices, and to him who does not sacrifice,”
(Ecclesiastes 9:2,)

hence the earth is full of impiety and contempt. There is then an occasion for indignation and envy offered to us; but as God designedly tries our faith by such confusions, we must remember that we must exercise patience. It is not at the same time enough for us to submit to God’s judgement, except we also consider that we are justly distressed; and that though we may be attentive to what is just and upright, many vices still cleave to us, and that we are sprinkled with many spots, which provoke God’s wrath against us. Let us then learn to form a right judgement as to what our life is, and then let us bear in mind how many are the reasons why God should sometimes deal roughly with us. Thus all our envying will cease, and our minds will be prepared calmly to obey. In short, these considerations will check whatever perverseness there may be in us, so that neither our wicked thoughts nor our words will be so strong as to rise in rebellion against God.


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