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2. An Army of Locusts
1Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain; let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of Jehovah cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the dawn spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after them, even to the years of many generations. 3A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and none hath escaped them. 4The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so do they run. 5Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. 6At their presence the peoples are in anguish; all faces are waxed pale. 7They run like mighty men; they climb the wall like men of war; and they march every one on his ways, and they break not their ranks. 8Neither doth one thrust another; they march every one in his path; and they burst through the weapons, and break not off their course. 9They leap upon the city; they run upon the wall; they climb up into the houses; they enter in at the windows like a thief. 10The earth quaketh before them; the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11And Jehovah uttereth his voice before his army; for his camp is very great; for he is strong that executeth his word; for the day of Jehovah is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? 12Yet even now, saith Jehovah, turn ye unto me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Jehovah your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14Who knoweth whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, even a meal-offering and a drink-offering unto Jehovah your God? 15Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people, sanctify the assembly, assemble the old men, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth from his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17Let the priests, the ministers of Jehovah, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Jehovah, and give not thy heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the peoples, Where is their God? 18Then was Jehovah jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. 19And Jehovah answered and said unto his people, Behold, I will send you grain, and new wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations; 20but I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive it into a land barren and desolate, its forepart into the eastern sea, and its hinder part into the western sea; and its stench shall come up, and its ill savor shall come up, because it hath done great things. 21Fear not, O land, be glad and rejoice; for Jehovah hath done great things. 22Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth its fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in Jehovah your God; for he giveth you the former rain in just measure, and he causeth to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month. 24And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. 25And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker-worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm, my great army which I sent among you. 26And ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and shall praise the name of Jehovah your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame. 27And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Jehovah your God, and there is none else; and my people shall never be put to shame. 28And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. 30And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh. 32And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.
Here again the Prophet reminds them that there was need of deep repentance; for not only individuals had transgressed, but the whole people had become guilty before God; and we also know how many and grievous their sins had been. There is no wonder then that the Prophet requires a public profession of repentance.
He bids them first to sound the trumpet in Zion. This custom, as we have seen at the beginning of the chapter, was in common use under the Law; they summoned their meetings by the sound of trumpets. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet here refers to an extraordinary meeting. They sounded the trumpets whenever they called the people to the festivals. But it must have been unusual for the Jews to proclaim a fast on account of God’s heavy judgment, which was to come on them unless it was prevented. He then shows the purpose of this, bidding them to sanctify a fast By this word קדש kodesh, he means a proclamation for a holy purpose. Sanctify, then a fast, that is, Proclaim a fast in the name of God.
We slightly touched on the subject of fasting in the first chapter, but deferred a fuller discussion to this place. Fasting, we know, is not of itself a meritorious work, as the Papists imagine it to be: there is, indeed, strictly speaking, no work meritorious. But the Papists dream that fasting, in addition to its merit and worth, is also by itself of much avail in the worship of God; and yet fasting, when regarded in itself is an indifferent work. 55 Medium opus, “a middle work, neutral, neither good nor bad”. — Ed. It is not then approved by God, except for its end; it must be connected with something else, otherwise it is a vain thing. Men, by private fastings prepare themselves for the exercise of prayer, or they mortify their own flesh, or seek a remedy for some hidden vices. Now I do not call fasting temperance; for the children of God, we know, ought through their whole life to be sober and temperate in their habits; but fasting, I regard that to be, when something is abstracted from our moderate allowance: and such a fast, when practiced privately, is, as I have said, either a preparation for the exercise of prayer, or a means to mortify the flesh, or a remedy for some vices.
But as to a public fast, it is a solemn confession of guilt, when men suppliantly approach the throne of God, acknowledge themselves worthy of death, and yet ask pardon for their sins. Fasting then, with regard to God, is similar to black and mean garments and a long beard before earthly judges. The criminal goes not before the judge in a splendid dress, with all his fine things, but casts away every thing that was before elegant in his appearance, and by his uncombed hair and long beard he tries to excite the compassion of his judge. There is, at the same time, another reason for fasting; for when we have to do with men, we wish to please their eyes and conciliate their favor; and he who fasts, not only testifies openly that he is guilty, but he also reminds himself of his guilt; for as we are not sufficiently touched by the sense of God’s wrath, those aids are useful which help to excite and affect us. He then who fasts, excites himself the more to penitence.
We now perceive the right use of fasting. But it is of public fasting that the Prophet speaks here. For what purpose? That the Jews, whom he had before summoned, might present themselves before God’s tribunal, and that they might come there, not with vain excuses, but with humble prayer. This is the design of fasting. We now see how foolishly the Papists have abused fasting; for they think it to be a meritorious work; they imagine that God is honored by abstinence from meat; they also mention those benefits of fasting to which I have referred; but they join fasts with festivals, as if there was some religion in abstaining from flesh or certain meats. We now then perceive by what gross puerilities the Papists trifle with God. We must then carefully notice the end in view, whenever the Scripture speaks of fasting; for all things will be confounded, except we lay hold on the principle which I have stated — that fasting ought ever to be connected with its end. We shall now proceed.