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6. The Lord's Case Against Israel

Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. 2Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord’S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. 3O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. 4For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord.

6Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? 9The Lord’S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.

10Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? 11Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? 12For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. 13Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins. 14Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword. 15Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.

16For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.

He then says that God had shown by his Law what is good; and then he adds what it is, to do justice, to love mercy, or kindness, and to be humbled before God. It is evident that, in the two first particulars, he refers to the second table of the Law; that is to do justice, and to love mercy 169169     The expression is remarkable — to love mercy, or benevolence, beneficence, or kindness; it is not only to show mercy or kindness, but to love it, so as to take pleasure and delight in it. — Ed. Nor is it a matter of wonder that the Prophet begins with the duties of love; for though in order the worship of God precedes these duties, and ought rightly to be so regarded, yet justice, which is to be exercised towards men, is the real evidence of true religion. The Prophet, therefore, mentions justice and mercy, not that God casts aside that which is principal — the worship of his name; but he shows, by evidences or effects, what true religion is. Hypocrites place all holiness in external rites; but God requires what is very different; for his worship is spiritual. But as hypocrites can make a show of great zeal and of great solicitude in the outward worship of God, the Prophets try the conduct of men in another way, by inquiring whether they act justly and kindly towards one another, whether they are free from all fraud and violence, whether they observe justice and show mercy. This is the way our Prophet now follows, when he says, that God’s Law prescribes what is good, and that is, to do justice — to observe what is equitable towards men, and also to perform the duties of mercy.

He afterwards adds what in order is first, and that is, to humble thyself to walk with God: 170170     The words are, והצנע לכת עם-אלהיך. The verb צנע occurs nowhere else but as a passive participle in Proverbs 11:2; but its meaning there is evident, for it is opposed to pride, זדון, which means a swelling pride, such as fills one with high notions of one’s self. Then the opposite of this is to be humble from a sense of one’s own emptiness. As it is here to the infinitive Hiphil, its literal meaning is what Calvin assigns to it — tohumble one’s self. And the best rendering of this line would be — “And to humble thyself to walk with God.” The Septuagint renders it ετοιμον εναι — to be ready; Theodotion, ασφαλιζου; Vulgate, solicitum But these seem not to have understood the word. The Welsh version is exactly and literally the Hebrew — Ac ymostwng I rodio gyda ‘th Dduw. Gostwng is to humble, and by adding ym, and dropping the g, the verb has exactly the meaning of the Hiphil in Hebrew—to humble one’s self. They are, indeed, some verbs in Welsh which admit of all the modifications of the Hebrew verbs, being active, passive, causative, and reflective. — Ed. it is thus literally, “And to be humble in walking with thy God.” No doubt, as the name of God is more excellent than any thing in the whole world, so the worship of him ought to be regarded as of more importance than all those duties by which we prove our love towards men. But the Prophet, as I have already said, was not so particular in observing order; his main object was to show how men were to prove that they seriously feared God and kept his Law: he afterwards speaks of God’s worship. But his manner of speaking, when he says, that men ought to be humble, that they may walk with their God, is worthy of special notice. Condemned, then, is here all pride, and also all the confidence of the flesh: for whosoever arrogates to himself even the least thing, does, in a manner, contend with God as with an opposing party. The true way then of walking with God is, when we thoroughly humble ourselves, yea, when we bring ourselves down to nothing; for it is the very beginning of worshipping and glorifying God when men entertain humble and low opinion of themselves. Let us now proceed —


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