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40. Comfort for God's People

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’S hand double for all her sins.

3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

12Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 14With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? 15Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 16And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

18To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? 19The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. 20He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. 21Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: 23That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. 24Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. 25To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. 26Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

18. To whom then have ye likened God? The Jews were in great danger from another temptation; for there was reason to believe that the Assyrians and Babylonians would not have obtained so many victories without their assistance; and hence they might naturally conclude, “Of what avail is it to us to have a peculiar manner of worshipping God which differs from other nations; for our enemies fight under the favor and protection of heaven, while we are not cheered by any assistance from the God whom we worship?” Neither can there be any doubt, that the captives were taunted by unbelievers, as is evident from other passages. (Psalm 137:3; Lamentations 2:15.) That true religion may not be ruined among the Jews on account of the calamity which they had sustained, God rises up, and proclaims that a grievous injury is done to him, if believers, discouraged by adversity, turn aside to the idols and superstitions of the Gentiles. Thus he confirms them in the faith of the promises, that they may not sink under the weight of the punishments which they endure.

The Prophet, as we formerly suggested, does not address merely the men of his own age, but posterity, who would have a still severer contest with the mockeries of the nations whose captives they were, and likewise with bad examples and customs; for when, in consequence of being mingled with heathen nations, they daily beheld many corruptions of piety, it was more difficult for them steadily to persevere. That they might not entertain any foolish notion that high prosperity attended the worshippers of false gods, the Prophet meets this error, and reminds them that God, whom they and their fathers worshipped, ought not to be compared with the gods of the Gentiles; for these were made by men, and were composed of gold or silver, wood or stone; but God created all things; and therefore that the highest injury is done to God, not only by comparing his majesty with things of no value, but even by not, placing him far above all the angels and everything that is reckoned divine.

When Paul employs this passage (Acts 17:29) as a proof against idolaters, or at least quotes the words of the Prophet, he does not wrest them from their true meaning. He infers, indeed, from them that to frame any image of God is exceedingly wicked, while the Prophet, in guarding the Jews against distrust, at the same time condemns the superstitions of the Gentiles, and declares that it is inconsistent with the nature of God to be represented by painting or by any kind of likeness. This shews clearly that Paul’s doctrine fully agrees with it; for the Prophet, after having shewn that the power of God is infinite, since he holds all things in his fist, at length concludes, “To whom then will ye liken me? for no image that is formed will have any likeness or resemblance to me.”

Or, what resemblance will you appoint to him? This is a useful doctrine, and worthy of observation; for were there nothing more than this single passage, it would be perfectly sufficient for refuting the inventions by which Papists deceive themselves, when they think that they have a right to represent God by outward figures. The Prophet declares that it is impossible to frame out of dead matter an image which shall have any resemblance to the glory of God. He openly rejects idols, and does not even speak of the worship of them, but affirms that to manufacture and set them up before God is wicked and abominable. The Scripture is full of such proofs. Moses warned a people prone to this vice,

“Thou sawest no image or shape in the mountain, thou only heardest a voice. See then and beware that thou be not led astray so as to frame for thyself any image.”
(Deuteronomy 4:12, 15.)

In order to know God, therefore, we must not frame a likeness of him according to our own fancy, but we must betake ourselves to the Word, in which his lively image is exhibited to us. Satisfied with that communication, let us not attempt anything else of our own. Other ways and methods, such as idols and images, teach us vanity and falsehood, and not truth, as Jeremiah beautifully says, “The wood is the instruction of vanities,” (Jeremiah 10:8,) and Habakkuk, “His graven image is falsehood.” (Habakkuk 2:18.) When the Lord sometimes compares himself to a lion, a bear, a man, or other objects, this has nothing to do with images, as the Papists imagine, but by those metaphors either the kindness and mercy of God, or his wroth and displeasure, and other things of the same nature, are expressed; for God cannot reveal himself to us in any other way than by a comparison with things which we know. In short, if it were lawful to frame or set up an image of God, that would be a point of resemblance to the gods of the Gentiles, and this declaration of the Prophet could not be maintained.


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