17. Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
17. Fatigastis Iehovam in verbis vestris, et dixistis, In quo fatigavimus eum? Quum dicitis, Quicunque facit malum gratus est in oculis Iehovae, et in ipsis se oblectat; vel, Ubi Deus judicii?
The Prophet here reproves the Jews who expostulated with God in their adversity, as though he had undeservedly forsaken them, and had not brought them immediate help. Thus are hypocrites wont to do; unless God immediately assists them, they not only indirectly complain, but also break out into open blasphemies; for they think that God is bound to them, and hence they assail him more boldly, and even with greater freedom and insolence. It is indeed a proof of true piety when we patiently submit to the judgments of God, and when, as Jeremiah teaches us by his own example,
|we sustain his wrath, because we know that we have sinned.| (Jeremiah 3:14.)
But as hypocrites are conscious of nothing wrong, (for they flatter themselves, and stupify their own consciences,) because they examine not themselves, they think that God acts unjustly towards them when he does not immediately bring them aid. Such was the dishonesty of the people of whom the Prophet now speaks.
He says that they had wearied God, that is, that they had been troublesome to him by their clamorous complaints; for the verb, yg, igo, means to be weary; he says then that they unreasonably complained of God's slowness. It is indeed a mode of speaking taken from men, for we know that no passions belong to God; but as elsewhere God reproves them because they saddened his Spirit, (Psalm 106:33,) so he says here that they wearied him. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning.
But there is a dilemma presented in the words; for the Jews thought that God favored the wicked, inasmuch as he did not immediately punish them, or that he was now unlike himself, and forgot his own nature. The difficulty or the dilemma appears not at the first view, as they seemed to have repeated the same thing. But in the first clause they accuse God of injustice; and in the second they intimate that there is no God, for he cannot exist without exercising judgment. Then the passages contains two clauses differing from each other -- |God has either changed his nature, and so is no God, or he favors our enemies; for he does not immediately execute vengeance.| We see then that they concluded that God either acted unjustly, or that there was no God. But we have mentioned the cause of this blasphemy -- the Jews did not examine themselves, and therefore did not confess that they deserved these chastisements. They were like vicious horses, who kick and fling, though gently treated by their riders.
But such insolence is now seen in all masked men, who vauntingly profess religion when they are treated according to their own wishes; but when God deals more sharply with them, they not only murmur, but vomit forth, as I have already said, impious slanders against him, as though he did not render to them the reward due to their just dealings. Admonished by this example, let us learn that it is true wisdom to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, (1 Peter 5:6;) and that though he may suspend the granting of our prayers, we ought still to bear, not impatiently, what is hard and severe, and also to subdue our feelings, and to seek from them the Spirit of meekness, to retain us in a tranquil submission.
He says that they still replied -- In what have we wearied thee? Here he strongly reproves their hardness, because they did not become wise through the rebuke given them, but regarded with scorn the words of the Prophet, by which we clearly see that they must have been convinced of their guilt, had they not been doubly stupid. It was an intolerable reproach cast on God, to say that he favored the ungodly, and was pleased with their crimes; for God would thus not only rule as a tyrant, but also subvert all order. But nothing is more contrary to his nature than to hold forth his hand to the ungodly as though he had an alliance with them. As this then was an evident impiety, it was a monstrous stupidity to ask in what they wearied God; they ought indeed to have known that he regards nothing as precious as his own honor; and yet, as though Malachi had unjustly reproved them, they opposed him with an iron front, according to similar instances which we have before observed; for though they were covenant-breakers as to marriage, though they defrauded God in the tenths, though they cunningly evaded the Prophets, they yet as it were wiped their mouths and asked, In what had they sinned? The Prophet shows that they were become so hardened in their contumacy that they daringly rejected all admonitions; for they did not ask this as though it was a doubtful thing, nor can it be concluded from their words that they were teachable; but it was the same as if they were armed, ready for a contest, yea, armed with effrontery and perverseness; for they no doubt despised and ridiculed the Prophet's reproof.
He then answers them -- When ye say, Whosoever doeth evil is acceptable in the eyes of Jehovah, and in them he delights. The word rendered |acceptable| is tvv, thub; but such is its meaning often in Hebrew. What they said was, that the ungodly and the wicked pleased God, even because they covered by false colors their sins, so that they were not convinced of anything wrong. They then imputed whatever was evil to their enemies; they did not commonly expostulate with God because he left sins unpunished, but because they received not his aid. We hence see that the Jews here did not clamor and contend with God through hatred of wickedness, but had only a regard to their own advantages; nor did they condemn the sins of others, except those by which they received some harm or loss, and that they considered none wicked except those by whom they were injured. We hence learn that they did not complain through zeal for what was right, but because they would have God bound to them to undertake their cause like earthly patrons.
We indeed know that even the godly are sometimes wearied, and their faith is ready to fail, when things in the world are in a disturbed and confused state: and this was the case with David, as it is recorded in the seventy-third Psalm; but there is in the servants and sincere worshipers of God some concern for what is just and right, whenever they have such grief and trouble of mind, according to the case of Habakkuk, when he said,
|How long, O Lord!| (Habakkuk 1:2;)
for no doubt his complaint arose from a right principle, because his desire was that God should be truly served in the world. But there was nothing of this kind in the Jews, with whom our Prophet contends here; for as we have said, there was no hatred of wickedness, but only a care for their own advantage; they hence said, that the ungodly pleased God, because God did not immediately interpose when they apprehended some trouble from their enemies.
The repetition is a proof of greater bitterness; for they were not content with one clamorous expression, but added, that God took delight in them.
Then follows the other clause, or where is the God of judgment? They seem not here to reason amiss, that is, from the nature of God. Men may change their counsel and their design, and remain men still, for they are subject to inconstancy and fickleness; but to God there belongs no change. There seems not then to be an impropriety in this -- that there is no God, except he be the judge of the world; for he cannot divest himself of his office without denying himself. But they malignantly impeached God; nay, they now insinuate that there is none, because he had abdicated his judgment; for they took it as granted, that God had ceased to be the punisher of wickedness, which was most false; but yet they thought that according to facts it was certain and clear. Hence they concluded that there was no God, as his divinity must have been abolished together with his judgment. We hence see to what extent of insolence they burst forth in their complaints, so that they either charged God with injustice, or alleged that his divinity was annihilated. Now follows