4. They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord.
4. Non adjicient studia sua, ut convertanur ad Deum suum: quia spiritus fornicationum in medio ipsorum, et Jehovam non noverunt.
Some translate thus, "their inclinations allow them not to turn themselves;" and this meaning is probable, that is, that they were so much given to their own superstitions, that they were not now free, or at liberty, to return to the right way; as though the Prophet said, "They are entirely enslaved by their own diabolical inventions, that their inclinations will not allow them to repent." But the former meaning (it is also more generally approved) seems more adapted to the context. They will not apply, he says, their endeavors to turn to their God. Here God declares that it was all over with the people, and that no hope whatever remained: as he said before, "Leave them, why shouldest thou do anything more? for they will not receive wholesome instruction; as they are entirely given up to destruction, there is now no reason for thee to be solicitous about their salvation, for that would be useless;" -- so also he says in this place, They will not apply their endeavors to turn to their God
If the Prophet speaks here in his own person, the meaning is, "Why do I weary myself? God has indeed commanded me to reprove this people; but I find that my labour is in vain; for I have to do with brute animals, or with stones rather than with men; there is in them no reason, no discernment; for the devil has fascinated their minds: never, then, will they apply their endeavors to turn to their God." If we prefer to view the sentence as spoken in the person of God, still the doctrine will remain nearly the same: God here declares that the people were incurable. Never, then, will they apply their endeavors. How so? For they are sunk, as it were, into a deep gulf, and their obstinacy is like the abyss. Inasmuch, then, as they are thus fixed in their superstitions, they will never apply their endeavors to turn to their God
But God in the meantime not only shows here, that there was no more any remedy for the diseases of the people; but he also gravely and severely reprobates their iniquity, because they thought not of seeking reconciliation with their God; as though he said, "What, then, do I require of these wretched men, but to return to their God? This they ought to have done of their own accord; but now, when they are admonished, they care not; on the contrary, they fiercely resist wholesome instruction. Is not this a strange and monstrous madness?" We hence see that there is an important meaning in the words, They will not apply their endeavors to return to their God; for the Prophet might have simply said, "to return to Jehovah," or "to God;" but he says, to their God, and he says so, because God had made himself familiarly known to them, nay, brought them up in his own bosom, as though they were his children and he their Father: they had forsaken him and had become apostates; and when the Lord would now reprove this perfidy, was it not strange that the people should close their ears and harden their hearts against every instruction? We hence see how sharp this reproof is.
And he says, Because the spirit of wantonness is in the midst of them; that is, they are so pleased with their own filthiness, that there is no shame, no fear. But the reason of this comparison, which I have before explained, must be borne in mind. As a wife, though not faithful to her husband, yet retains still some modesty, as long as she continues at home, and while she is in any place classed with faithful and chaste women; but when she once enters a brothel, and openly prostitutes herself to all, when she knows that her baseness is universally known, she then throws off every shame, and entirely forgets her own character: so also the Prophet says, that the spirit of wantonness was in the midst of the people of Israel; as though he said, "The Israelites are so imbrued with their superstitions, that they cannot now be touched or moved by any reverence for God; they cannot be restored to the right way, for the devil has demented them, and having cast off every shame, they are like abominable strumpets."
And he afterwards adds, Jehovah they have not known. By this sentence the Prophet extenuates not the sin of the people, but, on the contrary, amplifies their ingratitude, because they had forgotten their God, who had so indulgently treated them. As they had been redeemed by God's hand, as the teaching of the law had continued among them, as they had been preserved to that day through God's constant kindness, it was truly an evidence of monstrous ignorance, that they could in an instant adopt ungodly forms of worship, and embrace those corruptions which they knew were condemned in the law. It was surely an inexcusable wickedness in the people thus to withdraw themselves from their God. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that they knew not Jehovah. But if they were asked the cause, they could not have said that they had no light; for God had made known to them the way of salvation. Hence, that they knew not Jehovah, was to be imputed to their perverseness; for, closing their eyes, they knowingly and willfully ran headlong after those wicked devices, which they knew, as it had been stated before, to be condemned by God.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continues daily to exhort us, and though thou sees us often turning aside from the right course, thou yet ceases not to stretch forth thy hand to us, and also to rouse us by reproofs, that we may repent, -- O grant, that we may not be permitted to reject thy word with such perverseness as thou condemnest here in thine ancient people by the mouth of thy Prophet; but rule us by thy Spirit, that we may meekly and obediently submit to thee, and with such teachableness, that if we have not hitherto been willing to become wise, we may not at least be incurable, but suffer thee to heal our diseases, so that we may truly repent, and be so wholly given to obey thee, as never to attempt any thing beyond the rule of thy word, and without that wisdom which thou hast revealed to us, not only by Moses and thy Prophets, but also by thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.