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The Worship God Demands


Thus says the L ord:

Heaven is my throne

and the earth is my footstool;

what is the house that you would build for me,

and what is my resting place?


All these things my hand has made,

and so all these things are mine,

says the L ord.

But this is the one to whom I will look,

to the humble and contrite in spirit,

who trembles at my word.



Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;

whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;

whoever presents a grain offering, like one who offers swine’s blood;

whoever makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.

These have chosen their own ways,

and in their abominations they take delight;


I also will choose to mock them,

and bring upon them what they fear;

because, when I called, no one answered,

when I spoke, they did not listen;

but they did what was evil in my sight,

and chose what did not please me.

The L ord Vindicates Zion


Hear the word of the L ord,

you who tremble at his word:

Your own people who hate you

and reject you for my name’s sake

have said, “Let the L ord be glorified,

so that we may see your joy”;

but it is they who shall be put to shame.



Listen, an uproar from the city!

A voice from the temple!

The voice of the L ord,

dealing retribution to his enemies!



Before she was in labor

she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her

she delivered a son.


Who has heard of such a thing?

Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one day?

Shall a nation be delivered in one moment?

Yet as soon as Zion was in labor

she delivered her children.


Shall I open the womb and not deliver?

says the L ord;

shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb?

says your God.



Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy,

all you who mourn over her—


that you may nurse and be satisfied

from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight

from her glorious bosom.



For thus says the L ord:

I will extend prosperity to her like a river,

and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,

and dandled on her knees.


As a mother comforts her child,

so I will comfort you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

The Reign and Indignation of God


You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

your bodies shall flourish like the grass;

and it shall be known that the hand of the L ord is with his servants,

and his indignation is against his enemies.


For the L ord will come in fire,

and his chariots like the whirlwind,

to pay back his anger in fury,

and his rebuke in flames of fire.


For by fire will the L ord execute judgment,

and by his sword, on all flesh;

and those slain by the L ord shall be many.


17 Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the center, eating the flesh of pigs, vermin, and rodents, shall come to an end together, says the L ord.


18 For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, 19and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud—which draw the bow—to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the L ord, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the L ord, just as the Israelites bring a grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the L ord. 21And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the L ord.



For as the new heavens and the new earth,

which I will make,

shall remain before me, says the L ord;

so shall your descendants and your name remain.


From new moon to new moon,

and from sabbath to sabbath,

all flesh shall come to worship before me,

says the L ord.


24 And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

1. This saith Jehovah. This discourse is different from the preceding one; for here the Prophet exclaims against the Jews, who, puffed up with vain confidence in the sacrifices and the temple, indulged freely in their pleasures, and flattered themselves in their sins under this pretense. He shews that this confidence is not only foolish and groundless, but diabolical and accursed; for they grossly mock God who endeavor to serve and appease him by outward ceremonies. Accordingly, he reproaches them with endeavoring to frame an idol in place of God, when they shut him up in the temple. Next, he speaks of the renovation of the Church, and of the extension of it throughout the whole world.

Heaven is my throne. His aim being to shake off the self-complancency of the pretended or hypocritical worshippers of God, he begins with his nature. By assigning “heaven” for his habitation, he means that the majesty of God fills all things, and is everywhere diffused; and that he is so far from being shut up in the temple, that he is not shut up or confined within any place whatever. The Scripture often teaches that God is in heaven; not that he is shut up in it, but in order that we may raise our minds above the world, and may not entertain any low, or carnal, or earthly conceptions of him; for the mere sight of heaven ought to carry us higher, and transport us into admiration. And yet, in innumerable passages, he protests that he is with us, that his power is everywhere diffused, in order that we may not imagine that he is shut up in heaven.

It may be thought that this is beyond all controversy, and was at that time acknowledged by all; for who did not know that heaven and earth are filled by the majesty of God? They might therefore object that there is no man who wishes to thrust God out of heaven, and that the Prophet has no good reason for waxing wroth and breaking out into such violent invective. And undoubtedly they rejected with great haughtiness this doctrine of the Prophet, and were highly irritated and enraged, as if great injury had been done to them. But it is easy to reply that, when men endeavor to appease God according to their own fancy, they frame an idol that is altogether contrary to his majesty, Relying on their useless ceremonies, they thought that they had performed their duty well when they went frequently to the temple, and offered in it prayers and sacrifices. The Prophet shews that the majesty of God must not be measured by this standard, and that all that they bring forward, unaccompanied by purity of heart, are absolute trifles; for since it is evident from his dwelling-place being in heaven that the nature of God is spiritual, if the worship do not correspond to that nature, it is undoubtedly wicked and corrupted.

Where is that house which ye will build for me? Under the word house or temple he includes all the ceremonies in which they thought that the worship of God consisted; and because they measured God and his worship by the temple as a standard, the Prophet shews that it is unworthy of God’s majesty to view his presence as confined to a visible and frail building. He does not argue merely about God’s essence, but at the same time discourses concerning his true worship, which he shews to be spiritual, in order that it may correspond to the nature of God, who “is a Spirit.” (John 4:24.) And if men diligently considered what is the nature of God, they would not contrive foreign and new modes of worship for him, or measure him by themselves. 217217     “Et ne mesureroyent sa grandeur infinie a leur petitesse.” “And would not measure his infinite greatness by their littleness.” This common and often expressed sentiment is more weighty and energetic than if the Prophet had brought forward something new; for he shews that they are so stupid and dull as to be ignorant of that which was well known to the merest idiot, and that they resemble dumb beasts in imagining that God dwells and reposes in the temple. He therefore asks contemptuously, “Where is that house?” For it was absurd to think either that God dwells on the earth, or that he is concealed and shut up in a prison. Besides, the temple was built on a small mountain, and could not contain the glory of God within its limited dimensions.

And where is this place of my rest? And yet the Lord had said of the temple, “This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have chosen it,.” (Psalm 132:14.) In another passage it was said, “Enter, O Lord, into thy rest.” (2 Chronicles 6:41.) Besides, we have seen, in a former part of this book, that “the Lord’s rest shall be glorious in it.” (Isaiah 11:10.) Finally, this was the ordinary designation of the temple, and yet the Prophet now finds fault with it. I reply, the temple is called God’s rest, because he gave the token of his presence in the temple; for he had chosen it as the place where men should call upon him, and from which he would give a display of his strength and power. But he did not command it to be built in order that men might conceive of his majesty according to their own fancy, 218218     “Afin que les hommes creussent de sa majeste tout ce que bon leur sembleroit.” “In order that men might believe concerning his majesty whatever they thought fit.” but rather that, reminded by the outward signs of God’s presence, they might raise their minds higher and rise to heaven, and acknowledge that God is greater and more excellent than the whole world. Yet, as the minds of men are prone to superstition, the Jews converted into obstacles to themselves those things which were intended to be aids; and when they ought to have risen by faith to heaven, they believed that God was bound to them, and worshipped him only in a careless, manner, or rather made sport of worshipping him at their own pleasure.

This passage is very appropriately quoted by Stephen, (Acts 7:49,) and is indirectly accommodated by Paul to the sense which we have now stated; for they shew that those persons are grievously deceived and far astray who bring to God carnal ceremonies, as if pure worship and religion consisted of them, or who wickedly and profanely disfigure his worship by statues and images. Stephen addresses the Jews, who, being attached to the figures of the Law, disregarded true godliness; while Paul, speaking to the Gentiles, affirms that “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” (Acts 17:24.)

2. Yet my hand hath made all these things. The Prophet refutes the false opinion which men form about the worship of God, by thinking that sacrifices and outward ceremonies are of great value in themselves; for the state of the question is this. God cares nothing about ceremonies, but they are empty and useless masks, when men think that they satisfy God by means of them. When he says that he made all these things, this must not be understood as referring solely to the temple, but to all that was there offered to God. Now he says that he “made all these things,” in order that men may know that God has no need of this external worship, as he declares (Psalm 50:10) that all the animals were created by him, and are his own, though by sacrifices of them the Jews hoped to obtain his favor. But foolish mortals have this disease deeply seated in them, that they transform God according to their inclination, though he appointed external worship not for his sake, but for our advantage; that is, that we may be trained by it according to the capacity of our flesh.

And all these things began to be. It is the same as if he had said that he must not be compared to these things, which at one time began to be; for he is eternal and had no beginning. “I could dispense with your sacrifices,” saith the Lord, “for, before they began to be, I was, and therefore they can be of no service to me.” In short, he maintains that ceremonies are of no avail in themselves, but aim at a different object. Isaiah takes for granted that it is impossible that God could receive any addition; and hence it follows that he is satisfied with himself alone; for he could do without the world from all eternity.

And I look to him who is humble and contrite in spirit. Next, a definition of lawful worship is added; for, when he says that God “looketh to the humble,” I have no doubt that he who is “humble and contrite in spirit” is indirectly contrasted by him with the array, and splendor, and elegance of ceremonies, by which the eyes of men are commonly dazzled, so as to be carried away in admiration. On the other hand, the Lord testifies that he demands humble and downcast minds, and that tremble at his commandments. By these words he describes inward purity of heart and sincere desire of godliness, and at the same time shews in what way we ought to be prepared to please God.

And trembleth at my word. So far as relates to “trembling,” it might be thought strange at first sight that he demands it in believers, since nothing is more sweet or gentle than the word of the Lord, and nothing is more opposite to it than to excite terror. I reply, there are two kinds of trembling; one by which they are terrified who hate and flee from God, and another which affects the heart, and promotes the obedience, of those who reverence and fear God. This clause, I am aware, is viewed by others as relating to the Law, which threatens and terrifies, and proclaims the dreadful judgment of God. But I take it in a more general acceptation; for even believers tremble at the promises when they embrace them with reverence. Hence infer that true godliness consists in having our senses brought into a state of obedience to God, and in making no boastful or wicked claims for ourselves. The nature of faith is to yield obedience to God, and to listen to him attentively and patiently when he speaks. But when we are puffed up and carried away by a vain confidence in ourselves, we have no piety or fear of God; for we cannot make even the smallest claim for ourselves without despising God.

We ought carefully to mark the expression which he employs, “Trembling at the word of God.” Many boast that they reverence and fear God; but, by disregarding his word, they at the same time shew that they are despisers of God. All the reverence that we owe to God must be paid to his word, in which he wishes to be fully recognised as in a lively image. The amount of what is said is, that God prefers this sacrifice to all others, when believers, by true self-denial, lie low in such abasement as to have no lofty opinion about themselves, but to permit themselves to be reduced to nothing. Thus also the Psalmist says, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a contrite spirit; an afflicted heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17.) Because this modesty of faith produces obedience, this pious feeling is likewise added, that, laying aside all obstinacy, they tremble at the word of God.

From these words we ought to draw a remarkable consolation, “Though we appear to be wretched in our abasement and humility, and though we appear to be unworthy of being beheld by men, yet we are truly happy; because the Lord looks upon us, and bestows on us his favor.” When we are tempted to despair, let us think that in this way the Lord exalts his servants to heaven, though they have been cast down to hell, and almost sink under the burden.

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