22. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art thou not he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
22. An in idolis (vel, vanitatibus) gentium, qui pluere faciat? et an coeli dabunt pluviam (vel, et an ex coelis dabunt pluviam) an non tu ipse Jehova Deus noster? et speravimus in te (expectavimus ad te:) quoniam tu fecisti omnia haec.
In order to conciliate the favor of God, Jeremiah says here, that with him is the only remedy in extremities; and it is the same as though by avowing despair he wished to turn God to mercy; as if he had said, |What will become of us, except thou shewest thyself propitious? for if thou remainest implacable, the Gentiles have their gods from whom they seek safety; but with us it is a fixed principle to hope for and to seek salvation from thee alone.| Now this argument must have been of great weight; not that God had need of being reminded, but he allows a familiar dealing with himself. For if we wish stoically to dispute, even our prayers are superfluous; for why do we pray God to help us? Does he not himself see what we want? Is he not ready enough to bring us help? But these are delirious things, wholly contrary to the true and genuine feeling of piety. As then we flee to God, whenever necessity urges us, so also we remind him, like a son who unburdens all his feelings in the bosom of his father. Thus in prayer the faithful reason and expostulate with God, and bring forward all those things by which he may be pacified towards them; in short, they deal with him after the manner of men, as though they would persuade him concerning that which yet has been decreed before the creation of the world: but as the eternal counsel of God is hid from us, we ought in this respect to act wisely and according to the measure of our faith.
However this may be, the Prophet, according to the common practice of the godly, seeks to conciliate the favor of God by this argument, -- that unless God dealt mercifully with his people and in his paternal kindness forgave them, it was all over with them, as though he had said, |O Lord, thou alone art he, from whom we can hope for salvation; if now we are repudiated by thee, there remains for us no refuge: wilt thou send thy people to the idols and the inventions of the heathens? but we have looked for thee alone; thou then seest that there remains for us no hope of salvation but from thy mercy.|
But the Prophet here testifies in the name of the faithful, that when extremities oppress the miserable, they cannot obtain any help from the idols of the heathens. Can they give rain, he says? He states here a part for the whole; for he means that the idols of the heathens have no power whatever. Hence to give rain is to be taken for everything necessary to sustain mankind, either to bring help, or to supply the necessaries of life, or to bestow abundance of blessings. Paul also, in speaking of God's power, refers to rain, (Acts 14:17) and Isaiah often uses this kind of speaking, (Isaiah 5:6)
He then says, Are there any among the vanities of the heathens? etc. He here condemns and reproaches all superstitions; for he does not call them the gods of the heathens, though this word is often used by the prophets, but the vanities of the heathens. Are there any, he says, who can cause it to rain? and can the heavens give rain? I may give a more free rendering, |Can they from heaven give rain?| for it seems not to me so suitable to apply this to the heavens. If, however, the common rendering is more approved, let every one have his own judgment; but if the heavens are spoken of, the argument is from the less to the greater; |Not even the heavens give rain; how then can vanities? how can the devices of men do this, which only proceed from their foolish brains? Can they give rain? For doubtless there is some implanted power in the heavens? but man, were he to devise for himself a thousand gods, cannot yet form one drop of rain, and cause it to come down from heaven. Since, then, the heavens do not of themselves give rain, but at the command of God, how can the idols of the heathens and their vain inventions send rain for us from heaven?| The object of the Prophet is now sufficiently evident, which was to shew, that, if God rejected the people, and resolved to punish their sins with the utmost rigor, and in an implacable manner, their salvation was hopeless; for it was not their purpose to flee to idols.
Art not thou, he says, Jehovah himself, or alone? Art not thou Jehovah himself, and our God? He first mentions the name Jehovah, by which is meant the eternal majesty and power of God; and then he joins another sentence, -- that he was their God, to remind him of his covenant. Then it is added, We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things
Here many, in my judgment, are mistaken, for they apply |these things| to the heavens and the earth, and to all the elements, as though the Prophet declared that God was the creator of the world, and that therefore all things are under his control. But I have no doubt but that he speaks of those punishments which God had already inflicted on the people, and had resolved soon to inflict; for he does not speak here of God's power, whiich shines forth in the workmanship of the world; but he says, |We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things;| that is, from thee alone salvation will come to us: for thou who hast inflicted the wound canst alone heal, according to what is said in another place,
|God kills and brings to life, he leads to the grave and restores.| (1 Samuel 2:6)
It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, |We, O Lord, do now flee to thy mercy, for no one but thou alone can help us, as thou art he who has punished our sins. Since then thou hast been our Judge, thou also canst alone deliver us now from our calamities; and no one can resist thee, since the highest power is thine alone. Let all the gods of the heathens unite, yea, all the elements and all creatures, for the purpose of serving us, yet what will all that they can do avail us? As then thou hast made all these things, that is, as these things have not happened to us by chance, but are the effects of thy just vengeance -- as thou hast been judge in inflicting these punishments, be now our Physician and Father; as thou hast heavily afflicted us, so now bring comfort and heal those evils which we justly suffer, and indeed through thy judgment.| We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
And hence may be learned a useful doctrine, -- that there is no reason why punishments, which are signs of God's wrath, should discourage us so as to prevent us from venturing to seek pardon from him; but, on the contrary, a form of prayer is here prescribed for us; for if we are convinced that we have been chastised by God's hand, we are on this very account encouraged to hope for salvation; for it belongs to him who wounds to heal, and to him who kins to restore to life. Now follows --