20. But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.
20. Et, Jehova exercituum, judicans justintam, (ant, judex justitiae) scrutans (vel, inquirens) renes et cor, videam ultionem tuam de ipsis; quia tibi revelavi causam meam, (litem meam, ad verbum)
Here the Prophet, after having found that the impiety of the people was so great that he was speaking to the deaf, turns his address to God: O Jehovah of hosts, he says, who art a great Judge, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them The Prophet seems here inconsistent with himself;, for he had before declared that he was like a lamb or a calf, as though he had offered, as they say, his life a wining sacrifice; but here he seems like one made suddenly angry, and he prays for God's vengeance. These things appear indeed to be very different; for if he had offered himself a victim, why did he not wait calmly for the event; why is he inflamed with so much displeasure? why does he thus imprecate on them the vengeance of God? But these things will well agree together, if we distinguish between private feeling and that pure and discreet zeal by which the meekness of truth can never be disturbed. For though the Prophet disregarded his own life, and was not moved by private wrongs, he was nevertheless not a log of wood; but zeal for God did eat up his heart, according to what is said in common of all the members of Christ,
|Zeal for thine house hath eaten me, and the reproaches of those who upbraided thee have fallen on me.| (Psalm 69:9; John 2:17; Romans 15:3)
The Prophet then had previously freed himself from all suspicion by saying that he was prepared for the slaughter, as though he were a lamb or a calf; but he now shews that he was, notwithstanding, not destitute of zeal for God. Here then he gives vent to this new fervor when he says, |O Jehovah, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them.|
The Prophet, no doubt, was free from every carnal feeling, and pronounced what we read through the influence of the Spirit. Since then the Holy Spirit dictated this prayer to the holy man, he might still have offered himself a voluntary sacrifice, while yet he justly appealed to God's tribunal to take vengeance on the impiety of a reprobate people; for he did not indiscriminately include them all, but imprecated God's judgment on the abandoned and irreclaimable.
It is indeed true, that we may regard the Prophet as predicting what he knew would happen to his people: and some give this explanation; they consider it as a prediction only and no prayer. But they are terrified without reason at the appearance of inconsistency, as they think it inconsistent in the Prophet to desire the perdition of his own people: for he might have wished it through the influ ence of that zeal, as I have said, which the Holy Spirit had kindled in his heart, and according to the words which the same Spirit had dictated.
He calls God the Judge of righteousness; and he so called him, that he might wipe away and dissipate the disguises in which the Jews exulted when they sought to prove their own cause. By this then he intimates that they gained no -- thing by their evasions, for these would vanish like smoke when they came before God's tribunal. He, in short, means that they could not stand before the judgment of God. He then adds, that God searches the reins and the heart He says this, not only that he might testify his own integrity, as some suppose, but that he might rouse hypocrites. For he intimates that they stood safe before men, as they concealed their wickedness, but that when they came before God's tribunal another kind of account must then be given; for God would prove and try them, as the word vchn, bechen, signifies: he would search the ruins and the heart, that is, their most inward feelings; For the Scripture means by reins all the hidden feelings or affections.
He says, For to thee have I made known my judgment The Prophet, no doubt, appeals here to God's tribunal, because he saw that he was destitute of every patronage -- he saw that all were against him. Few pious men indeed were left, as we have elsewhere seen; but the Prophet speaks here of the mass of the people. As then there was no one among the people who did not then openly oppose God, so that there was no defender of equity and justice, he turns to God and says, |I have made known my cause to thee;| as though he had said, |O Lord, thou knowest what my cause is, and I do not act dissemblingly; for I serve thee faithfully and sincerely, as thou knowest. Since it is so, may I see thy vengeance on them.|
Now, we are taught in this passage, that even were the whole world united to suppress the light of truth, Prophets and teachers ought not to despond, nor to rely on the judgment of men, for that is a false and deceptive balance; but that they ought to persevere in the discharge of their office, and to be satisfied with this alone -- that they render their office approved of God, and exercise it as in his presence. We may also learn, that the ungodly and hypocrites in vain make shifts and evasions, while they try to elude the authority of the Prophets; for they will at length be led before God's tribunal. When therefore we find teachers rightly and sincerely discharging their office, let us know that we cannot possibly escape the judgment of God except we submit to their teaching. And Prophets and pastors themselves ought to learn from this passage, that though the whole world, as I have already said, were opposed to them, they ought not yet to cease from their perseverance, nor be changeable, but to consider it enough that God approves of their cause. It afterwards follows --