10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
10. Et erit numerus filiorum Israel tanquam arena maris, quae non mensuratur et non numeratur, (non mensurabitur nec numeratur, ad verbum sed significant haec verba actum continuum, et est indefinita etiam locutio;) et erit in loco ubi dicetur, (hoc est, ubi dictum fuerit eis,) Non populus meus vos; et dicetur (hoc est, illic dicetur) Filii Dei vivi.
Now follows consolation, yet not unmixed. God seems here to meet the objections which we know hypocrites had in readiness, whenever the Prophets denounced destruction on them; for they accused God of being unfaithful if he did not save them. Arrogating to themselves the title of Church, they concluded that it would be impossible for them to perish for God would not be untrue in his promises. "Why! God has promised that his Church shall be for ever: we are his Church; then we are safe, for God cannot deny himself." In what they took as granted they were deceived; for though they usurped the title of Church, they were yet alienated from God. We see that the Papists swell with this pride at this day. To excuse all their errors they set up against us this shield, "Christ promised to be with his own to the end of the world. Can the spouse desert his Church? Can the Son of God, who is the eternal Truth of the Father, fail in his faithfulness?" The Papists magnificently extol the faithfulness of Christ, that they may bind him to themselves: but at the same time, they consider not that they are covenant breakers; they consider not that they are manifestly the enemies of God; they consider not that they have divorced themselves from him.
The Prophet, therefore seeing that he had to do with proud men, who were wont to arraign the justice of God, says,
'Look at the stars of heaven, number, if thou can't, the sand of the sea; so shall thy seed be,'" (Genesis 22:5.)
We indeed know, that whenever the Prophets severely reproved the people and denounced destruction, this was ever opposed to them, "What! can it be that the Lord will destroy us? What would then become of this promise, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea?" Hence the Prophet here checks this vain-confidence, by which hypocrites supported themselves against all threatening, "Though God may cut you off, he will yet continue true and faithful to the promise, that Abraham's seed shall be innumerable as the sand of the sea."
I indeed admit that the Prophet here gave hope of salvation to the faithful; for it is certain that there were some remaining in the kingdom of Israel. Though the whole body had revolted, yet God, as it was said to Elijah, had preserved to himself some seed. The Prophet then was unwilling to leave the faithful, who remained among that lost people, without hope of salvation; but, at the same time, he had regard to hypocrites, as we have already stated. We now see the design of the Prophet, for he teaches that there would be such a vengeance as he had spoken of, though God would not yet be forgetful of his word; he teaches that there would be such a casting away of the people, though God's election would yet remain firm and unchangeable; in short, he teaches that the adoption by which God had chosen the offspring of Abraham as his people would not be void. This is the import of the whole. Then the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is not to be measured nor numbered.
He afterwards adds,
'Whom he has called, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles; as he says by Hosea, I will call a people, who were not mine, my people; and her beloved, who was not beloved: and it shall be, where it had been said to them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the sons of the living God,' (Romans 9:24, etc.)
Paul applies this passage, and that rightly, to the whole body of the faithful, collected without any difference, from the Jews as well as from the Gentiles: for otherwise, as we have said, the correctness and truth of prophecy would not be evident: and this view also agrees best with the design of the Prophet which I have just explained. For, since hypocrites in a manner tie to themselves the power of God, the Prophet says, that God can, if he chooses, raise up in an instant a new Church, which would exceed in number the sand of the sea. How so? God will create a Church for himself. From what? From stones, from nothing: for, as Paul says elsewhere,
'he calls those things which are not, as though they were,'
At the same time, God, as it has been said, by his goodness contended with the wickedness of that people; for though they rejected his favour, yea, and obstinately thrust it away from themselves, yet such perverseness did not hinder the Lord from preserving a remnant for himself.
Now, this passage teaches, that they are very perverted in their notions, who, by their own feelings, form a judgement of the state of the Church, and accuse God of being unfaithful, when its external appearance does not correspond with their opinion. So the Papists think; for except they see the splendour of great pomp, they conclude that no Church remains in the world. But God at one time so diminishes the Church, that it seems to be almost reduced to nothing; at another time, he increases and multiplies it beyond all hope, after having raised it, as it were, from death. Isaiah says in Isaiah 10:22,
Were the number of the children of Israel as the sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be saved.
The Prophet there designedly exposes to scorn the hypocrites, who falsely pleaded that prophecy, 'Look on the stars of heaven, and on the sand of the sea, if thou can't number them; so shall thy seed be.' Since, then, Isaiah saw that hypocrites, relying on that prophecy, were rising so perversely against him, he said, "Be it so, be it so, that ye are as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea; yet a remnant only shall be saved;" which means, "The Lord will at last cut you down, and reduce you to so small a number, that ye shall be extremely few." Now, on the other hand, Hosea says, That after the Israelites shall be reduced to a very small number, that nothing but waste and solitude will appear, then the Lord will restore the Church beyond all human thoughts and will prove that he had not in vain promised to Abraham that his seed would be as the sand of the sea. Since, then, the Lord wonderfully defends his Church, and preserves it in this world, so that at one time he seems to bury it, and then he raises it from death; at one time he cuts it down as to its outward appearance, and then afterwards he renews it; we ought to take heed, lest we measure according to our own judgement and carnal reason, what the Lord declares respecting the preservation of his Church. For its safety is often hid from the eyes of men. However the case may be, God does not bind himself here to human means, nor to the order of nature, but his purpose is to surpass by his incredible power whatever the minds of men can conceive.
Thus then ought this passage,
And there is an important meaning in the verb, 'It shall be said:'
As to the first clause, it must be referred to the threatening which have been already explained; and in this way was also checked the contumacy of the people, who heedlessly despised all the Prophets. "What! God has bound himself to us: we are the race of Abraham; then we are a holy and elect nation." But the Prophet here claims authority to himself as a teacher: "I am a herald of God's vengeance, and seriously proclaim to you your rejection: there is then no reason why ye should now harden your hearts and close your ears; for now at length will follow the execution of that vengeance which I now declare to you." The Prophet then declares here that he had not rashly pronounced what we before noticed, that it was not an empty bug bear, but that he had spoken in the Lord's name; as Paul also says,
'Vengeance is prepared by us against all them
who extol themselves against Christ,' (2 Corinthians 10:6.)
And we see also what was said to Ezekiel, 'Go and besiege Jerusalem; turn thy face, and stand there until thou stormest it, until thou overthrowest it.' The prophet was not certainly furnished with an army, so that he could make an attack upon Jerusalem: but God means there that there is power enough in his word to destroy all the ungodly. So also Hosea signifies the same here: "When by the word alone the Israelites shall be cast away it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God." Let us then know, that God rises upon us with certain salvation, when we hear him speaking to us. It follows --