15. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.
15. Et ira magna ego irascor contra gentes has quietas; quia ego iratus fui parum, et adjuverunt in malum.
God here obviates the doubt which might have easily crept into the minds of the godly. |Why should he then give up the miserable Jews to the will of the Gentiles, and suffer these heathens at the same time to be in a quiet state and to enjoy their pleasures?| This indeed at the first view seemed very strange: if God had such a zeal towards Jerusalem, why did he not give some token at least of his favor? He therefore gives this answer, -- That though the condition of the Gentiles was now better, there was yet no reason for the Jews to be discontented in their troubles, because they were to look forward to the end that was to come. It must further be noticed, that God speaks only here, and is not going forth prepared to execute his vengeance: and it is a real and just trial of faith, when God bids us to depend on his word.
The manner of speaking, used here deserves notice, God was angry with the quiet nations. It is not a superfluous repetition, when it is said, that the nations were quiet. Some render the word wealthy, but not so suitably; for as we have said before, the angel complained that while the whole world was tranquil, God severely chastised his Church alone. God then does here anticipate a temptation which would have otherwise distressed and even wholly disheartened the faithful; and he in effect says, |It is indeed true that the Gentiles all around are quiet, that there are no calamities, that there is no enemy, and that they are subject to no evils: this is no doubt true; but as I am angry, their happiness, while I am opposed to and displeased with them, is a curse.| God, then, does here elevate the thoughts of the godly, that they might know that happiness is to be found in his favor alone, and that whenever he is angry or displeased, though men may think themselves happy, and flatter themselves and exult in their condition, they are yet in a most miserable state; for all happiness is ruinous which does not flow from the fountain of God's gratuitous love; in short, when God is not our Father, the more we abound in all kinds of blessings, the deeper we sink in all kinds of miseries. This then is the meaning, when God says that he was angry with the quiet nations.
What, then, is the application of this doctrine? That it behaved the Jews, though their condition was very hard according to the perception of men, to have yet acquiesced in the love of God, for they knew that he was their Father, and also, that though they saw their enemies happy, they were yet to regard it no otherwise than a cursed happiness. so also in the thirty-seventh Psalm, the faithful are bid not to envy the unbelieving, while they saw them flourishing in wealth and rolling in pleasures; for it behaved them to regard their end. Let us hence learn to raise up our thoughts to the contemplation of God's hidden love, when he deals severely with us, and to be satisfied with his word, as we have there an indubitable evidence of his favor: nor let us envy our enemies and the wicked, however the whole world may applaud them, and they themselves luxuriate in their blessings, for we know that God is adverse to them.
A reason also follows, Because God was a little angry, and they helped forward the evil; that is, they exceeded moderation. The meaning is, that the reward of cruelty would be repaid to all the enemies of the Church, because they had exercised immoderate severity, when it was God's purpose to chastise his children in a gentle and paternal manner.
It may be here first asked, How is it that God declares that he had been a little angry with his people, since his judgment, as pronounced by his servants, was most severe?
|Whosoever shall escape the famine, shall fall by the sword; whosoever shall escape the sword, shall fall among wild beasts.| (Ezekiel 14:14.)
And in many other places he declares the same, that there would be no hope of pardon to the people, but that they were all to perish; that is, the whole body: |Though Noah, Daniel, and Job,| he says, |were in this city, they shall deliver only their lives; but I will not hear their prayers for this irreclaimable people.| But the particle little, mt, mot, must be applied to the elect: for though God in his dreadful vengeance consumed almost the whole people, yet a remnant, as we know, was preserved. This is the reason why God says, that he was but little angry with his people; for he speaks not of the reprobate and of that impure mass from which he purposed to cleanse his own house; but he has respect to his covenant. We now perceive for what purpose Zechariah says, that God was but moderately angry with his people.
But another difficulty meets us -- In what sense did the nations help on the evil? For it hence follows, that the heathens were not restrained from raging immoderately and at their pleasure. And this place has been also laid hold of by that miscreant, who has been lately writing against God's providence, holding that the wicked become wanton by means of God's hand and power, and are not thereby restrained. But this is extremely foolish; for the Prophet here does not regard what the nations were able to do or had done; but, on the contrary, he speaks of their cruelty, that they thought that there ought to have been no end until the memory of that people had been obliterated. And this is the reason why Isaiah says, |Thou hast not seen her end.| He therefore upbraids the unbelieving, that they did not calculate rightly as to the end of the Church; for the unbelieving furiously attempted to destroy it, as though that promise could be made void, |My mercy I will not take away.| Since the unbelieving did not see her end, because it was the Lord's will ever to preserve some remnant among his chosen people, the Prophet says, that they helped forward the evil. We now then perceive the intention of the Prophet, and see that the object is no other but to sustain the hope of the faithful, until what they heard from the mouth of God really took place. Let us proceed -