9. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.
9. Et servient Jehovae Deo suo et Davidi regi suo quem suscitabo ipsis.
The former promise would have been defective had not this clause been added; for it would not be enough for men to live as they please, and to have liberty promised them, except a regular order be established. It would, indeed, be better for us to be wild beasts, and to wander in forests, than to live without government and laws; for we know how furious are the passions of men. Unless, therefore, there be some restraint, the condition of wild beasts would be better and more desirable than ours. Liberty, then, would ever bring ruin with it, were it not bridled and connected with regular government. I therefore said that this verse was added, that the Jews might know that God cared for their welfare; for he promises that nothing would be wanting to them. It is then a true and real happiness, when not only liberty is granted to us, but also when God prescribes to us a certain rule and sets up good order, that there may be no confusion. Hence Jeremiah, after having promised a return to the people into their own country, and promised also that the yoke would be shaken off from their neck, makes this addition, that having served strangers they would be now under the government of God and of their own king. Now this subjection is better than all the ruling powers of the world; that is, when God is pleased to rule over us, and undertakes the care of our safety, and performs the office of a Governor.
We hence see that the design of the Prophet was to comfort the faithful, not only with the promise of liberty, but also with this addition, that in order that nothing might be wanting to their complete happiness, God himself would rule over them. Serve, then, shall they their God The word king is added, because God designed that his people should be governed by a king, not that the king would sit in the place of God, but added as his minister. Now this was said a long time after the death of David; for David was dead many years before Jeremiah was born: nor did he live again in order that he might rule over the people; but the name of David is to be taken here for any one that might succeed him.
Now, as God had made a covenant with David, and promised that there would be always one of his posterity to sit on his throne, hence the Prophet here, in mentioning David, refers to all the kings until Christ: and yet no one after that time succeeded him, for the kingdom was abolished before the death of Jeremiah; and when the people returned into their own country there was no regal power, for Zerubbabel obtained only a precarious dignity, and by degrees that royal progeny vanished away; and though there were seventy chosen from the seed of David, yet there was no scepter, no crown, no throne. It is therefore necessary to apply this prophecy to Christ; for the crown was broken and trodden under foot, as Ezekiel says, until the lawful king came. He intimated that there was no king to be for a long time, when he said,
|Cast down, cast down, cast down the crown.|
He therefore commanded the name of a king to be abolished, together with all its symbols, and that not for a short time but for ages, even until he came forth who had a just right to the crown or the royal diadem. We hence see that this passage cannot be otherwise explained than by referring to Christ, and that he is called David, as the Jews were always wont to call him before Christ appeared in the world; for they called the Messiah, whom they expected, the Son of David. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
But we may hence gather a very useful doctrine, even this, -- that nothing is better for us than to be in subjection to God; for our liberty would become that of wild beasts were God to allow us to live according to our own humor and inclinations. Liberty, then, will ever be destructive to us, until God undertakes the care of us, and prepares and forms us, that we may bear his yoke. Hence, when we obey God, we possess true and real happiness. When, therefore, we pray, let us learn not to separate these two things which ought necessarily to be joined together, even that God would deliver us from the tyranny of the ungodly, and also that he would himself rule over us. And this doctrine is suitable to our time: for if God were now only to break down the tyranny of the Pope and deliver his own people, and suffer them to wander here and there, so as to allow every one to follow his own will as his law, how dreadful would be the confusion! It is better that the devil should rule men under any sort of government, than that they should be set free without any law, without any restraint. Our time, indeed, sufficiently proves, that these two things have not, without reason, been joined together; that is, that God would become the liberator of his people, so as to shake off the yoke of miserable bondage and to break their chains, and also that he would be a king to govern his people.
But we ought also carefully to notice what follows, -- that God would not otherwise govern his Church than by a king. He designed to give an instance, or a prelude, of this very thing under the Law, when he chose David and his posterity. But to us especially belongs this promise; for the Jews, through their ingratitude, did not taste of the fruit of this promise: God deprived them of this invaluable benefit, which they might justly and with certainty have expected. As the favor which they have lost has now been transferred to us, what Jeremiah teaches here, as I have said, properly belongs to us; that is, that God is not our king except we obey Christ, whom he has set over us, and by whom he would have us to be governed. Whosoever, then, boast that they willingly bear the yoke of God, and at the same time reject the yoke of Christ, are condemned by this very prophecy; for it is not God's will to rule uninterveniently, so to speak, his Church; but his will is that Christ, called here David, should be king; unless, indeed, we accuse Jeremiah of stating an untruth, we must apply the word David to the person of Christ. Since it is so, God then will not otherwise rule over us than by Christ, even to the end of the world; we must obey him and render him service.
He adds, Whom I will raise up It was also the office and work of God to raise up Christ, according to what is said in the second Psalm,
|I have anointed my King.|
We must always come to the fountain of God's mercy, if we would enjoy the blessings of Christ, according to what is said,
|God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.|
We shall, indeed, find in Christ whatever is necessary for our salvation; but whence have we Christ, except from the infinite goodness of God? When he pitied us, he designed to save us by his only begotten Son. Salvation then is laid up for us in Christ, and is not to be sought anywhere else: but we ought, ever to remember that this salvation flows from the mercy of God, so that Christ is to be viewed as a testimony and a pledge of God's paternal favor towards us. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly adds, that God would raise up a king to rule over his people. It follows --