38. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
38. Et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero ipsis in Deum.
This promise held the first place in the restoration of the Church; for had the Jews been filled to satiety with wealth and plenty, and all variety of blessings, their condition would still have been by no means superior, had they not been the people of God; for men have no happiness, if they live only on the good things of this earthly and frail life, or on its pleasures and delights. Most truly it is said in the Psalms,
|Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah.|
For though God commands his own blessings, and designs them as testimonies of his paternal favor towards the godly, yet he will not have them to live as it were on these; but he raises up their minds by means, as it were, of these steps to the spring-head of true felicity, the very fountain itself, so that they may know that they are under his protection, and that he will ever be a Father to them.
We hence see that the Prophet, when he spoke of the restoration of the people, propounded to them the chief and the most desirable thing, even to know that God was reconciled to them, and that they were become thus his people.
We hence learn, that though God in his kindness bore with the infirmities of his ancient people, and so mentioned the fruitfulness of the land and other things, yet the end of all the promises was spiritual; nor would have this promise been true, were it explained only of God's temporal blessings. For we must bear in mind that saying of the Prophet,
|Thou art our God, we shall not die.|
And doubtless the Prophet in the Psalm which we have just quoted, meant to distinguish the Church of God from all heathen nations, and meant also to distinguish the felicity of the Church from all the pleasures, honors, and those advantages, by which men persuade themselves they can be made happy, provided they obtain them. Since then the Prophet there marks the difference between the felicity of the Church and all the fleeting and empty things wished for by those who look no higher than to this world and the present life, it follows, that whenever these words are mentioned, |I will be your God,| the hope of an eternal and a celestial life is set before us.
There is another thing to be noticed, -- that whatever we seek as to the things of this world can yield us no real good, except God be reconciled to us. When therefore we have all things in abundance, when nothing is wanting as to every kind of pleasure, when we are favored with great wealth, when peace and security are granted to us, yet all this, as I have said, will prove ruinous to us, except God owns us as his children, and becomes a Father to us. Therefore when we seek to become happy, we must direct our minds to the principal thing, even to be reconciled to God, so that we may be able with confidence to call him our Father, to hope for salvation from him, and ever to flee to his mercy. Ungodly men desire this and that, as their own cupidity leads them: the avaricious wishes for a large quantity of money, wide farms, and great revenues; the ambitious seeks to subdue the whole world; the man of pleasure wishes for everything that may satisfy his lusts, and even he who seems to be moderate, yet desires what is suitable to his disposition; and thus God is neglected, and also his grace. Let us then know that the wishes of men are wholly unreasonable, when they anxiously seek anything in this world except what flows from this fountain, even from the gratuitous favor of God, and when they do not prefer this singular privilege to all blessings, even that God may be reconciled to them.
We now apprehend the meaning of the words, when God declares that the Jews, after their return to their own country, would become his people, and that he would be their God.
Let us at the same time observe, that though God possesses the sovereignty of the whole world, he is not yet properly called the God of any, but of his chosen people; for as he gathers the Church for himself as a peculiar treasure, as he speaks everywhere, so this privilege cannot exist without a mutual relationship, that is, exept men know that God is their God, and are also fully persuaded that they are counted by him as his peculiar people. Now follows an explanation of this verse, which, on account of its brevity, might seem somewhat obscure.