6. They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
6. Cum ovibus suis et cum armentis suis ibunt ad quaerendum Jehovam, et non invenient: subduxit se ab illis.
The Prophet here laughs to scorn the hypocrisy of the people, because they thought they had ready at hand a way of dealing with God, which was, to pacify him with their sacrifices. He therefore shows that neither the Israelites nor the Jews would gain any thing by accumulating burnt-offerings, for they could not in this way return into favor with God. He thereby intimates that God requires true repentance, and that he will not be reconciled to men, except from the heart they seek him and consecrate themselves to his service; and not because they offer brute beasts. The faithful, no doubt, expiated their sins at that time by sacrifices, but only typically: for they knew for what end and purpose God had made the law concerning sacrifices, and that was, that the sinner, being reminded by the sight of the victim, might confess himself to be worthy of eternal death, and thus flee to God's mercy and look to Christ and his sacrifice; for in him, and nowhere else, is to be found true and effectual expiation. For this end then had God instituted sacrifices: so the faithful, while offering sacrifices, did not suppose any satisfaction to be done by the external work, nor even imagined it to be the price of redemption; but they exercised themselves in these rites in faith and repentance.
The Prophet now, by implication, sets oxen, and rams, and lambs, in opposition to spiritual sacrifices; for a contrast is to be understood in the words,
And he says,
The Papists of this day pursue a similar course, when they go round their altars, when they gad away to perform vowed pilgrimages, when they whisper their prayers, when they hear and buy masses; for to what purpose are all these things, but by interposing these veils to escape God's judgment? They know themselves to be exposed to his judgment; their conscience forces them to pacify God: but what do they in the meantime? "I will find out a way in which God will not pursue me: let this then be the price of redemption, let this be a compensation." In a word, we see that the Papists mock God with their ceremonies, that they have nothing else in view but to seek hiding-places: and hence the Lord by his Prophet complains, that his temple was like a den of robbers, (Jeremiah 7:11:) for men securely sin, when they publicly offer such expiations. Nay, the Papists, when they mutter their prayers, say that the final intention is pleasing to God, though they may wander in their thoughts: for if, when they begin to pray, it should come to their minds, that God is prayed to, though they may not attend to their prayers, though they may pollute themselves with many depraved lusts yet, if with the mouth they utter prayers, they maintain that the final intention pleases God. -- Why? Because their design is to seek God. This is, indeed, extremely sottish and puerile: but, as I have already said, the Prophet does not press this point, but concedes to the Israelites what they pretended, "Ye seek God; but yet ye run not in the right way; and these circuitous courses will not lead you to God." How so? "For ye recede farther from him." So Isaiah says, 'She will greatly weary herself in her ways:' but in the meantime she followed not the right way, but, on the contrary, turned aside after various errors, and thus receded from the Lord, and came not to him.
By saying, that