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57. God's Accusation Against Wicked

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. 2He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

3But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. 4Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, 5Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? 6Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these? 7Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice. 8Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 9And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell. 10Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. 11And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not? 12I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

13When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; 14And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. 15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 16For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. 17For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. 18I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 19I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. 20But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

16. Because not for ever will I strive. He continues the same doctrine; for it was difficult to persuade them of this, seeing that during that painful captivity they perceived that God was their enemy, and could scarcely obtain any taste of the grace of God, by which their hearts might be encouraged or relieved. The Prophet therefore meets this doubt, and shows that the punishments which they shall endure will be for a short time, and that God will not always be angry with them; that God has indeed very good reason to be angry, but yet that he will relinquish his right, and will make abatement of that which he might have demanded. Thus he connects the wrath of God with that moderation by which he soothes believers, that they may not be discouraged; for, although he draws an argument from the nature of God, yet this promise is especially directed to the Church.

This sentence, therefore, ought always to be remembered by us amidst our sorest afflictions, lest we should think that God is our enemy, or that he will always contend with us. When he says that God is angry, he speaks as if he made an admission, and in accordance with the feelings of our flesh; for we cannot form any other conception of God during our afflictions, than that he is angry with us. It is even profitable to be moved by this feeling, that it may instruct us to repentance; and therefore this form of expression must be viewed as referring exclusively to our capacity, and not to God.

For the spirit shall be clothed, (or, shall be concealed, or, shall fail.) He assigns the reason why he will not always strive. There are various interpretations of this passage. Among others this appears to me to be the more appropriate; that “the spirit is clothed” with the body, as with a garment. Hence also the body is called the tabernacle, and, as it were, the habitation of the spirit. If we adopt this signification of the word, there will be two modes of interpreting this clause. Some explain it as referring to the last resurrection: “the spirit shall be clothed;“ that is, after having gone out of the body, will again return to it as to its habitation. Thus there will be an argument from the greater to the less: “I will raise up dead bodies; why then shall I not restore you, though half­dead, to a better life?” Another meaning, which is also adopted by some, will be simpler and better; for the interpretation of the clause, as referring to the last resurrection, is too remote from the context. “I surrounded the spirit with a body;” as if he had said, “I created men, and therefore will take care of them.”

But for my own part, I think that the Prophet rises higher; for he shows that the Lord deals so gently and kindly with us, because he perceives how weak and feeble we are; as is also pointed out in other passages of Scripture, such as Psalm 103:13, 14. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. He knoweth our condition, remembering that we are dust. The age of man is like grass, and flourisheth as a flower in the field.” The same thing is said in Psalm 78:38, 39. “Yet being inclined to mercy, he was gracious to their iniquity, and did not destroy them, and often recalled his anger, and did not stir up all his indignation, remembering that they were flesh, and a wind that passeth away and returneth not again.” Here the Prophet appears to me to mean the same thing; as if the Lord had said, “I am unwilling to try my strength with breath or wind, which would be as if with grass or a leaf, that shall suddenly vanish away when they have felt the heat of the sun.” יעטוף (yagnatoph) is explained by some to mean “Shall fail;“ which agrees very well with this passage; for our spirit shall fail, when the Lord puts forth his power against us. Leaving the signification of the words as somewhat doubtful, we sufficiently understand the Prophet’s design. He shows that God deals gently with us, and acts with little severity in correcting our sins, because he takes into account our weakness, and wishes to support and relieve it.


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