11. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
11. Et dixit mihi Jehovah, Ne ores in gratiam populi hujus in bonum, (hoc est, ut benefaciam.)
12. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
12. Quum jejunaverint, ego non exaudiam ad clamorem eorum, et quum obtulerint sacrificium et oblationem, ego non habebo gratum (idem est verbum, in illis non placebit mihi, non placabor, non ero propitius;) quoniam in gladio, in fame, et peste ego consumam eos.
God first forbids the Prophet to pray for the people, as we have before seen, (Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14) But we must remember what I have said before, that this prohibition is to be understood as to their exile; for as God had already decreed that the people should be banished from the promised land, the Prophet was forbidden to pray, inasmuch as that decree was immutable. It is not, therefore, a general prohibition, as though the Prophet was not allowed to ask God's forgiveness in behalf of the whole people, or at least in behalf of the godly who still remained. The Prophet might indeed pray in a certain way for the whole people, that is, that God, being satisfied with their temporal punishment, would at length spare the miserable with regard to eternal life: he might have also prayed for the remnant; for he knew that there was some seed remaining, though hidden; nay, he was himself one of the people, and he not only knew that some true servants of God were still remaining, but he had also some friends of his own, whose piety was sufficiently known to him. God, therefore, did not strictly exclude all his prayers, but every prayer with regard to the exile which was soon to be undergone by the people.
Except we bear in mind this.circumstance, the prohibition might seem strange; for we know that it is one of the first duties of love to be solicitous for one another before God, and thus to pray for the wellbeing of our brethren. (James 5:16) It is not then the purpose of God to deprive the Prophet of this holy and praiseworthy feeling, which is necessarily connected with true religion; but his design was to shew, that it was now in vain to implore him for the remission of that punishment which had been determined.
We hence see first, that under the name of people every individual was not included, for some seed remained; and we farther see that this prohibition extended not to eternal life, but on the contrary to temporal punishment. And the demonstrative pronoun this indicates contempt or disdain, as though he had said, |What! why shouldest thou pray for a people wholly unworthy of mercy; let them perish as they deserve.| So when he says, for good -- ltvvh lethube, it ought also to be referred to their exile, by which he intimates, |Hope not that what has been once fixed by me respecting this people can be changed by any prayers; they must therefore suffer the punishment which they have deserved, for I will banish them from the land.|
He afterwards adds, Even when they fast, I will not hear their cry, and when they present a sacrifice and an oblation, I will not be pleased with them He doubtless touches the hypocrites, who, though void of all sincerity, yet professed to be the true worshippers of God, and by sacrifices and fastings and other external rites wished to prove themselves to be so. He therefore says that he would not be propitious or appeasable, though they fasted, and prayed, and offered all kinds of sacrifices. The words, as I have said, were especially addressed to hypocrites; for we know that that declaration remains unchangeablesthat God is nigh to all those who call on him in sincerity. (Psalm 145:18) Whosoever, then, calls on God with a true heart, infallibly obtains his favor; for in another place it is ascribed to God as a thing necessarily belonging to him, that he hears prayers. Whenever then God is invoked, he cannot divest himself of what essentially appertains to himshis readiness to hear prayer. But here he intimates that there was no sincerity in the people; for even when they fasted and prayed, and offered sacrifices, they did not truly worship him; for, as it was said before, they could no more put off the wickedness which adhered to their marrow than the Ethiopian could change his skin or the panther his spots, (Jeremiah 13:23) He then shews, in this place, that though they wearied themselves, in pacifying God by an external profession, they did nothing but act falsely, and that therefore their efforts would be all in vain; for they profaned the name of God when they thus grossly dissembled with him. This is the meaning.
Fasting is expressly mentioned, and it hence appears, that when there is nothing wanting as to outward appearance, God still ever regards faith, as we have seen in the fifth chapter. Hence God values not what is highly esteemed by men, and excites their feelings: why? because he regards the faith of the heart, and faith is taken for integrity. So then God abominates a double and a false heart; and the greater the fervor hypocrites display in external rites, the more they provoke him.
We pray to God daily, it may be said, and yet we do not fast daily. It is indeed true that prayer is more intent when we fast; but yet God requires not daily fastings, while he enjoins prayer both in the morning and in the evening, yea, he would have us to implore his grace continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) But when fasting is joined to prayer, then prayer becomes more earnest; as it is usually the case when there is any danger, or when there appears any evidence of God's wrath, or when we labor under any heavy affliction; for we then not only pray but we also fast that we may be more free and more at liberty to pray. Besides, fasting is also an evidence that we are deprecating the wrath of God, while we confess that we are guilty before him; and thus also they who pray stimulate themselves the more to sorrow and to other penitential feelings. It is therefore the same as though he had said, |Even if they pray in no common manner and every day, and add fasting, so that greater fervor may appear in their prayers and extraordinary attention, yet I will not hear their cries, even because their heart is false.|
We further gather from this passage that fasting is not in itself a religious duty or exercise, but that it refers to another end. Except then they who fast have a regard to what is thereby intended -- that there may be a greater alacrity in Prayer -- that it may be an evidence of humility in confessing their sins -- and that they may also strive to subdue all their lusts -- except these things be regarded, fasting becomes a frivolous exercise, nay, a profanation of God's worship, it being only superstitious. We hence see that fastings are not only without benefit except when prayers are added, and those objects which I have stated are regarded, but that they provoke the wrath of God as all superstitions do, for his worship is polluted.
But under the Papacy the reason given for fastings is, that they merit the favor of God. The Papists seek to pacify him by fasting as by a sort of satisfaction; they will have fasting to be a work of merit. I will not now speak of the numberless trifles which also pollute their fasting; but let us suppose that they are not superstitious in their choice of meats, in their hours, and in other childish follies, which are mere trumperies, nay, mockeries also to God -- let us suppose them to be free from all these vices, yet the intention, as they call it, is nothing else but a diabolical error, for they determine that fasting is a work of merit and of satisfaction, and a kind of expiation. Let us then know, that though Jeremiah speaks of hypocrites, yet he briefly points out the design of fasting by mentioning prayer. So also Christ, when recommending fasting, makes mention of prayer. (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29) The same is done by Paul. (1 Corinthians 7:5.) But it ought to be noticed here, that though hypocrites joined before men prayer with fasting, they were yet rejected, for there was no sincerity in their hearts, but only an outward profession, a mere disguise. But God, as we have, seen, regards the heart, and sincerity alone pleases him.
The same thing is said of sacrificing, When they present sacrifices, or burnt -- offerings, and an oblation, mnchh, meneche, that is, the daily offerings, I will not hear them, or, as he says in the second clause, I will not be pleased with them Sacrifice without prayers were no doubt vain and worthless, for as pr ayers were not acceptable to God without a sacrifice, so when sacrifice was without prayers it was only a vain shew these two things are then united as by an indissoluble knot, to offer sacrifices and to pray. Prayers, as I have said, cannot be acceptable to God without a sacrifice; for what can proceed from mortal man but what is abominable before God? Our prayers must therefore be sanctified in order that they please God; and the only way of sanctification is through the sacrifice of Christ. When they offered sacrifices under the law they also joined prayers; and by this ceremony they who made any request professed themselves unworthy except a sacrifice was offered. The Prophet then mentions here what God had commanded under the law, but he shews that hypocrites separated the principal thing from the external signs. God indeed neither disregards nor rejects signs, but when what they signify is separated from them, there is then an intolerable profanation. Let us then know, that though nothing may be wanting in the external worship, yet whatever we seek to do is abominable to God except it be accompanied with sincerity of heart.
But I will consume them, he says, with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence I render the particle ky ki, |but.| He refers here to three modes of destruction, that the Jews might surely know that they were to perish, according to what is said elsewhere, |He who escapes from the sword shall perish by the famine, and he who survives the famine shall perish by the pestilence.| God shews, in short, that he was armed with various kinds of punishment, so that they who had so provoked him as wholly to lose the hope of pardon, could by no escapes deliver themselves from destruction. God might indeed have consumed the Jews by one punishment, he might have also threatened them in general terms without specifying anything, but as the unbelieving ever promise themselves some way of escape, so his purpose was to hold them bound in every way, that they might know that they were shut up on every side, and that no way of escape could be found. This is the meaning. It follows --