The “woe,” having gone round the pagan nations, again circles round where it began, the “Jerusalem that killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent unto her” Matthew 23:37. Woe upon her, and joy to the holy Jerusalem, the “new Jerusalem Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:10, the Jerusalem which is from above, the mother of us all,” close this prophecy; both in figure; destruction of her and the whole earth, in time, the emblem of the eternal death; and the love of God, the foretaste of endless joy in Him.
Woe - “Rebellious and polluted;” “thou oppressive city!” . The address is the more abrupt, and bursts more upon her, since the prophet does not name her. He uses as her proper name, not her own name, city of peace,” but “rebellious,” “polluted;” then he sums up in one, thou “oppressive city.”
Jerusalem’s sin is threefold, actively rebelling against God; then, inwardly defiled by sin; then cruel to man. So then, toward God, in herself, toward man, she is wholly turned to evil, not in passing acts, but in her abiding state:
She is known only by what she has become, and what has been done for her in vain. She is rebellious, and so had had the law; defiled, and so had been cleansed; and therefore her state is the more hopeless.
She obeyed not the Voice - Of God, by the law or the prophets, teaching her His ways; and when, disobeying, He chastened her, “she received not correction,” and when He increased His chastisements, she, in the declining age of the state and deepening evil, turned not unto Him, as in the time of the judges, nor ceased to do evil.
In the Lord she trusted not - But in Assyria or Egypt or her idols. Our practical relation to God is summed up in the four words, “Mis-trust self; trust God.” Man reverses this, and when “self-trust” has of course failed him, then he “mistrusts God” . “Such rarely ask of God, what they hope they may obtain from man. They strain every nerve of their soul to obtain what they want; canvass, flatter, fawn, bribe, court favor; and betake themselves to God when all human help fails. They would be indebted, not to God, but to their own diligence. For the more they receive of God, the less, they see, can they exalt their own diligence, the more they are bound to thank God, and obey Him the more strictly.”
To her God she drew not nigh - Even in trouble, when all draw near unto Him, who are not wholly alien from Him; she drew not near by repentance, by faith hope or love, or by works meet for repentance, but in heart remained far from Him. And yet He was “her” own “God,” as He had shown Himself in times past, who changes not, while we change; is faithful to us, while we fail Him; is still our God, while we forget Him; “waits, to have mercy upon us;” shines on us while we interpose our earth-born clouds between us and Him. Dionysius: “Not in body nor in place, but spiritually and inwardly do we approach to the uncircumscribed God,” owning Him as our Father, to whom we daily say “Our Father.”
The prophet having declared the wickedness of the whole city, rehearses how each in Church and state, the ministers of God in either, who should have corrected the evil, themselves aggravated it. Not enemies, without, destroy her, but
Her princes within her - In the very midst of the flock, whom they should in God’s stead “feed with a true heart,” destroy her as they will, having no protection against them. “Her judges are evening wolves” (see Habakkuk 1:8); these who should in the Name of God redress all grievances and wrongs, are themselves like wild beasts, when most driven by famine. “They gnaw not the bones until the morrow or on the morrow” (literally, in the morning). They reserve nothing until the morning light, but do in darkness the works of darkness, shrinking from the light, and, in extreme rapacity, devouring at once the whole substance of the poor. As Isaiah says, “Thy princes are rebellious and companions of thieves” Isaiah 1:23, and “The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of His people and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard: the spoil of the poor is in your houses” Isaiah 3:14. And Ezekiel, “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves, ravening the prey to shed blood, to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain” Ezekiel 22:27.
Her prophets are light - , boiling and bubbling, up, like water boiling over , empty boasters claiming the gift of prophecy, which they have not; “boldly and rashly pouring out what they willed as they willed;” promising good things which shall not be. So they are “her” prophets, to whom they “prophesy smooth things” (see Micah 2:11), “the prophets of this people” not the prophets of God; “treacherous persons” (literally, men of treacheries) wholly given to manifold treacheries against God in whose Name they spake and to the people whom they deceived. Jerome: “They spake as if from the mouth of the Lord and uttered everything against the Lord.” “The leaders of the people,” those who profess to lead it aright, Isaiah says, “are its misleaders” (Isaiah 9:15 (Isaiah 9:16 in English)). “Thy prophets,” Jeremiah says, “have seen vain and foolish things for thee; they have seen for thee false visions and causes of banishment” Lamentations 2:14.
Her priests have polluted her sanctuary - Literally, “holiness,” and so holy rites, persons Ezra 8:28, things, places (as the sanctuary), sacrifices. All these they polluted, being themselves polluted; they polluted first themselves, then the holy things which they handled, handling them as they ought not; carelessly and irreverently, not as ordained by God; turning them to their own use and self-indulgence, instead of the glory of God; then they polluted them in the eyes of the people, “making them to abhor the offering of the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:17, since, living scandalously, they themselves regarded the Ministry entrusted to them by God so lightly. Their office was to “put difference between holy and unholy and between clean and unclean, and to teach the children all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by Moses” Leviticus 10:10-11; that they “should sanctify themselves and be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2, etc.). But they on the contrary, God says by Ezekiel, “have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no difference between holy and profane, and have taught none between clean and unclean” Ezekiel 22:26. “Holy” and “unholy” being the contradictory of each other, these changed what God had hallowed into its exact contrary. It was not a mere short-coming, but an annihilation (so to speak), of God’s purposes.
Cyril: “The priests of the Church then must keep strict watch, not to profane holy things. There is not one mode only of profaning them, but many and divers. For priests ought to be purified both in soul and body, and to cast aside every form of abominable pleasure. Rather should they be resplendent with zeal in well-doing, remembering what Paul saith, ‘walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh’ Galatians 5:16.”
They have oppressed, done violence, to the law - Openly violating it ; or straining it, or secretly wresting and using its forms to wrong and violence, as in the case of Naboth and of Him, of whom Naboth thus far bore the Image. “‘We have a law, and by our law He ought to die’ John 19:7. Law exists to restrain human violence; these reversed God’s ordinances; violence and law changed places: first, they did violence to the majesty of the law, which was the very voice of God, and then, through profaning it, did violence to man. Forerunners herein of those, who, when Christ came, “transgressed the commandment of God, and made it of none effect by their traditions” Matthew 15:6; omitting also the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith; full of extortion and excess!” Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:25.
But, beside these “evening wolves in the midst of her,” there standeth Another “in the midst of her,” whom they knew not, and so, very near to them although they would not draw near to Him. But He was near, to behold all the iniquities which they did in the very city and place called by His Name and in His very presence; He was in her to protect, foster her with a father’s love, but she, presuming on His mercy, had cast it off. And so He was near to punish, not to deliver; as a Judge, not as a Saviour. Dionysius: “God is everywhere, Who says by Jeremiah, ‘I fill heaven and earth’ Jeremiah 23:24. But since, as Solomon attesteth, ‘The Lord is far from the wicked’ Proverbs 15:29, how is He said here to be in the midst of these most wicked men? Because the Lord is far from the wicked, as regards the presence of love and grace; still in His Essence He is everywhere, and in this way He is equally present to all.”
The Lord is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity - Dionysius: “Since He is the primal rule and measure of all righteousness; therefore from the very fact that He doeth anything, it is just, for He cannot do amiss, being essentially holy. Therefore He will give to every man what he deserves. Therefore we chant, ‘The Lord is upright, and there is no unrighteousness in Him’ Psalms 92:15.” justice and injustice, purity and impurity, cannot be together. God’s presence then must destroy the sinners, if not the sin. He was “in the midst of them,” to sanctify them, giving them His judgments as a pattern of theirs; “He will not do iniquity:” but if they heeded it not, the judgment would fall upon themselves. It were for God to become “such an one as themselves” Psalms 50:21, and to connive at wickedness, were He to spare at last the impenitent.
Every morning - (Literally, in the morning, in the morning) one after the other, quickly, openly, daily, continually, bringing all secret things, all works of darkness, to light, as He said to David, “Thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” 2 Samuel 12:12. Doth He bring His judgments to light,” so that no sin should be hidden in the brightness of His Light, as He said by Hosea, “Thy judgments are a light which goeth forth.” Cyril: “Morning by morning, He shall execute His judgments, that is, in bright day and visibly, not restraining His anger, but bringing it forth in the midst, and making it conspicuous, and, as it were, setting in open vision what He had foreannounced.” Day by day God gives some warning of His judgments. By chastisements which are felt to be His on this side or on that or all around, He gives ensamples which speak to the sinner’s heart. “He faileth not.” As God said by Habakkuk, that His promises, although they seem to “linger,” were not “behind” Habakkuk 2:3 the real time, which lay in the Divine Mind, so, contrariwise, neither are His judgments. His hand is never missing at the appointed time. “But the unjust,” he, whose very being and character, “iniquity,” is the exact contrary to what he had said of the perfection of God, “Who doth not iniquity,” or, as Moses had taught them in his song, “all His ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” Deuteronomy 32:4. “Knoweth no shame,” as God saith by Jeremiah, “Thou refusedst to be ashamed” Jeremiah 3:3. They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 8:12. Even thus they would not be ashamed of their sins, “that they might be converted and God might heal them” Isaiah 6:10.
I have cut off the nations - God appeals to His judgments on pagan nations, not on any particular nation, as far as we know; but to past history, whether of those, of whose destruction Israel itself had been the instrument, or others. The judgments upon the nations before them were set forth to them, when they were about to enter on their inheritance, as a warning to themselves. “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things, for in all these have the nations defiled themselves, which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled; therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomiteth out her inhabitants. And ye, ye shall keep My statutes and My judgements and shall not commit any of these abominations - And the land shall not spue you out when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations which were before you” (Leviticus 18:24-26, Leviticus 18:28, add Leviticus 20:23). The very possession then of the land was a warning to them; the ruins, which crowned so many of its hilltops , were silent preachers to them; they lived among the memories of God’s visitations; if neglected, they were an earnest of future judgments on themselves.
Yet God’s judgments are not at one time only. Sennacherib appealed to their own knowledge, “Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly. Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?” Isaiah 37:11, Isaiah 37:13. Hezekiah owned it as a fact which he knew: “Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their land” Isaiah 37:18. And God owns him as His instrument: “Now I have brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps” Isaiah 37:26 : and, “I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil and to take the prey, and to tread them down as the mire of the streets,” and says of him, “It is in his heart to destroy and to cut off nations not a few” . The king of Babylon too he describes as “the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms. that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof” Isaiah 14:16-17. Habakkuk recently described the wide wasting by the Babylonians, and the helplessness of nations before him Habakkuk 1:14-16.
Their towers, corner towers - o, the most carefully fortified parts of their fortified cities, “are desolate; I made their streets waste.” The desolation is complete, within as well as without; ruin itself is hardly so desolate as the empty habitations and forsaken streets, once full of life, where
“The echoes and the empty tread
Would sound like voices from the dead.”
I said, surely thou wilt fear Me - God speaks of things here, as they are in their own nature. “It could not but be,” that in the very presence of the Hand of God, destroying others but as yet sparing them, they must learn to fear Him; they must stand in awe of Him for His judgments on others; they must be in filial fear of Him for His loving longsuffering toward themselves. “Thou ‘wilt’ receive instruction,” corrected and taught through God’s correction of others and the lighter judgments on themselves, as Solomon says, “I looked, I set my heart: I saw, I received instruction” Proverbs 24:32. He saith, “receive,” making it man’s free act. God brings it near, commends it to him, exhorts, entreats, but leaves him the awful power to “receive” or to refuse. God speaks with a wonderful tenderness. “Surely thou ‘wilt’ stand in awe of Me; thou ‘wilt’ receive instruction; thou wilt now do what hitherto thou hast refused to do.” There was (so to speak) nothing else left for them, in sight of those judgments. He pleads their own interests. The lightning was ready to fall. The prophet had, in vision, seen the enemy within the city. Yet even now God lingers, as it were, “If thou hadst known in this thy day, the things which are for thy peace” Luke 19:42.
So their - (her) dwelling should not be cut off His own holy land which He had given them. A Jew paraphrases , “And He will not cut off their dwellings from the land of the house of My Shechinah” (God’s visible presence in glory). Judah, who was before addressed “thou,” is now spoken of in the third person, “her;” and this also had wonderful tenderness. It is as though God were musing over her and the blessed fruits of her return to Him; “it shall not be needed to correct her further.” “Howsoever I punished them:” literally, “all” (that is, ‘all’ the offences) “which I visited upon her,” as God saith of Himself, “‘visiting’ the ‘sins’ of the fathers ‘upon’ the children” Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18, and this is mostly the meaning of the words “visit upon.” Amid and not withstanding all the offences which God had already chastised, He, in His love and compassion, still longeth, not utterly to remove them from His presence, if they would but receive instruction “now;” but they would not. “How often,” our Lord says, “would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” Matthew 23:37. “But indeed,” “probably, Of a truth” (it is a word strongly affirming what follows) “they rose early, they corrupted all their doings;” God gave them His warnings, awaited the result; they lost no time, they began with morning light; they hasted to rise, burdened themselves, made sure of having the whole day before them, to - seek God as He had sent His prophets, “rising early and sending them?” Jeremiah 7:13, Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 29:19.
No, nor even simply to do ill, but of set purpose. to do, not this or that corruptly, but “to corrupt all their doings.” Jerome: “They with diligence and eagerness rose early, that, with the same haste wherewith they ought to have returned to Me, they might shew forth in deed what they had conceived amiss in their mind.” There are as many aggravations of their sin as there are words. The four Hebrew words bespeak eagerness, willfulness, completeness enormity, in sin. They “rose early,” themselves deliberately “corrupted,” of their own mind made offensive, “all” their “doings,” not slight acts, but “deeds,” great works done with a high hand .
Therefore wait ye upon - (for) Me God so willeth not to punish, but that all should lay hold of His mercy, that He doth not here even name punishment. Judah had slighted His mercies; He was ready to forgive all they had sinned, if they would “now” receive instruction; they in return set themselves to corrupt “all” their doings. They had wholly forsaken Him. “Therefore” - we should have expected, as elsewhere, “Therefore I will visit all your iniquities upon you.” But not so. The chastisement is all veiled; the prophet points only to the mercy beyond. “Therefore wait ye for Me.” All the interval of chastisement is summed up in these words; that is, since neither My mercies toward you, nor My chastisement of others, lead you to obey Me, “therefore” the time shall be, when My Providence shall not seem to be over you, nor My presence among you (see Hosea 3:3-5); but then, “wait ye for Me” earnestly, intensely, perseveringly, “until the day, that I rise up to the prey.” “The day” is probably in the first instance, the deliverance from Babylon. But the words seem to be purposely enlarged, that they may embrace other judgments of God also.
For the words to “gather the nations, assemble the kingdoms,” describe some array of nations against God and His people; gathering themselves for their own end at that time, but, in His purpose, gathering themselves for their own destruction, rather than the mere tranquil reunion of those of different nations in the city of Babylon, when the Medes and Persians came against them. Nor again are they altogether fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, or any other event until now. For although then a vast number of the dispersed Jews were collected together, and were at that time “broken off” Romans 11:20 and out of covenant with God, they could hardly be called “nations,” (which are here and before Zeph. 5:6 spoken of in contrast with Judah), much less “kingdoms.” In its fullest sense the prophecy seems to belong to the same events in the last struggle of Anti-Christ, as at the close of Joel Joel 3:2, Joel 3:9-16 and Zechariah Zechariah 14.
With this agrees the largeness of the destruction; “to pour out upon them,” in full measure, emptying out so as to overwhelm them, “Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy” (see Psalms 69:24; Psalms 79:6; Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 14:16; Ezekiel 21:31; Revelation 16:1). The outpouring of all God’s wrath, the devouring of the whole earth, in the fullest sense of the words, belongs to the end of the world, when He shall say to the wicked, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” In lesser degrees, and less fully, the substance of the prophecy has again and again been fulfilled to the Jewish Church before Christ, at Babylon and under the Maccabees; and to the Christian, as when the Muslims hemmed in Christendom on all sides, and the waves of their conquests on the east and west threatened to meet, overwhelming Christendom. The Church, having sinned, had to “wait” for a while “for God” who by His Providence withdrew Himself, yet at last delivered it.
And since the whole history of the Church lies wrapt up in the Person of the Redeemer, “the day that I rise up to the prey,” is especially the Day in which the foundation of His Church was laid, or that in which it shall be completed; the Day whereon He rose again, as the first-fruits, or that Day in which He shall “stand again on the earth” , to judge it; “so coming even as He went up into heaven” Acts 1:11. Then, “the prey” must be, what God vouch-safes to account as His gain, “the prey” which is “taken from the mighty” Isaiah 49:24-25, and “the lawful captivity, the prey of the terrible one,” which shall be delivered; even that spoil which the Father bestowed on Him “Who made His soul an offering for sin” Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 53:12, the goods of the strong man Matthew 12:29 whom He bound, and spoiled us, His lawful goods and captives, since we had “sold” (Romans 7:14, coll; Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 52:3) ourselves “under sin” to him. Cyril: “Christ lived again having spoiled hell, because “it was not possible” (as it is written) “that He,” being by nature Life, “should be holden of death” Acts 2:24.
Here, where spoken of with relation to the Church, “the jealousy” of Almighty God is that love for His people (see the note at Nahum 1:2), which will not endure their ill-treatment by those who (as all anti-Christian power does) make themselves His rivals in the government of the world.
For then - In the order of God’s mercies. The deliverance from Babylon was the forerunner of that of the Gospel, which was its object. The spread of the Gospel then is spoken of in the connection of God’s Providence and plan, and time is overlooked. Its blessings are spoken of, as “then” given when the earnest was given, and the people, from whom according to the flesh Christ was to be born, were placed anew in the land where He was to be born. Lap.: “The prophet springs, as is his wont, to Christ and the time of the new law.” And in Christ, the End of the Law, the prophet ends.
I will turn - Contrary to what they had before, “to the people,” literally, “peoples,” the nations of the earth, “a pure language,” literally, “a purified lip.” It is a real conversion, as was said of Saul at the beginning 1 Samuel 10:9; “God” (literally) “turned to him another heart.” Before the dispersion of Babel the world was “of one lip,” but that, impure, for it was in rebellion against God. Now it shall be again of “one lip;” and that, “purified.” The purity is of faith and of life, “that they way call upon the Name of the Lord,” not as heretofore on idols, but that every tongue should confess the one true God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, in Whose Name they are baptized. This is purity of faith. To “call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13 is the very title of Christian worship; “all that called upon the Name” of Jesus, the very title of Christians Acts 9:14, Act 9:21; 1 Corinthians 1:2. “To serve Him with one consent,” literally, “with one shoulder,” evenly, steadfastly, “not unequally yoked,” but all with united strength, bearing Christ’s “easy yoke” and “one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ.” This is purity of life. The fruit of the lips is the “sacrifice of praise” Hebrews 13:15.
God gave back one pure language, when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Author of purity, came down in fiery tongues upon the Apostles, teaching them and guiding them “into the whole truth” John 16:13, and to “speak to every one in his own tongue, wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God” Acts 2:8, Acts 2:11. Thenceforth there was to be a higher unity than that of outward language. For speech is not the outer sound, but the thoughts which it conveys and embodies. The inward thought is the soul of the words. The outward confusion of Babel was to hinder oneness in evil and a worse confusion. At Pentecost, the unity restored was oneness of soul and heart, wrought by One Spirit, whose gift is the one Faith and the one Hope of our calling, in the One Lord, in whom we are one, grafted into the one body, by our baptism Ephesians 4:3-6. The Church, then created, is the One Holy Universal Church diffused throughout all the world, everywhere with one rule of Faith, “the Faith once for all delivered unto the saints,” confessing one God, the Trinity in Unity, and serving Him in the one law of the Gospel with one consent.
Christians, as Christians, speak the same language of Faith, and from all quarters of the world, one language of praise goes up to the One God and Father of all. : “God divided the tongues at Babel, lest, understanding one another, they should form a destructive unity. Through proud men tongues were divided; through humble Apostles tongues were gathered in one. The spirit of pride dispersed tongues; the Holy Spirit gathered tongues in one. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they spake with the tongues of all, were understood by all; the dispersed tongues were gathered into one. So then, if they are yet angry and Gentiles, it is better for them to have their tongues divided. If they wish for one tongue, let them come to the Church, for in diversity of the tongues of the flesh, there is one tongue in the Faith of the heart.” In whatever degree the oneness is impaired within the Church, while there is yet one faith of the creeds, He alone can restore it and ‘turn to her a purified language,’ who first gave it to those who waited for Him. Both praise and service are perfected above, where the Blessed, with one loud voice, ‘shall cry, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb; blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever’ Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:12. And they who ‘have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb,” shall be ‘before the Throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple’ Revelation 7:14-15.”
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia - (See Isaiah 18:1.) The farthest southern people, with whom the Jews had contact, stand as the type of the whole world beyond. The utmost bound of the known inhabited land should not be the bound of the Gospel. The conversion of Abyssinia is one, but the narrowest fulfillment of the prophecy. The whole new world, though not in the mind of the prophet, was in the mind of Him who spake by the prophet.
My suppliants - He names them as what they shall be when they shall come to Him. They shall come, as needy, to the Fountain of all good, asking for mercy of the unfailing Source of all mercy. He describes the very character of all who come to God through Christ. “The daughter of My dispersed.” God is, in the way of Providence, the Father of all, although, by sin, alienated from Him; from where Paul says, “we are the offspring of God” Acts 17:28. They were “dispersed,” severed from the oneness in Him and from His house and family; yet still, looking on them as already belonging to Him, He calls them, “My dispersed,” as by Caiaphas, being high priest, He prophesied that “Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” John 11:51-52.
Shall bring Mine offering - o The offering is the same as that which Malachi prophesies shall continue under the New Testament, which offering was to be offered to the Name of God, not in Jerusalem, but Malachi 1:11 “in every place from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same.” The dark skin of the Ethiopian is the image of ingrained sin, which man could not efface or change Jeremiah 13:23 : their conversion then declares how those steeped in sin shall be cleansed from all their darkness of mind, and washed white from their sins in Baptism and beautified by the grace of God. Cyril: “The word of prophecy endeth in truth. For not only through the Roman empire is the Gospel preached, but it circles round the barbarous nations. And there are Churches everywhere, shepherds and teachers, guides and instructors in mysteries, and sacred altars, and the Lamb is invisibly sacrificed by holy priests among Indians too and Ethiopians. And this was said plainly by another prophet also, ‘For I am a great King, saith the Lord, and My Name is great among the pagan, and in every place incense is offered to My Name and a pure sacrifice’ Malachi 1:11.”
In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings - Because God, forgiving them, will blot them out and no more remember them. This was first fulfilled in the Gospel. Cyril: “No one can doubt that when Christ came in the flesh, there was an amnesty and remission to all who believed. ‘For we are justified not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His great mercy.’ But we have been released from shame. For ‘He’ hath restored us to freedom of access to God, Who for our sakes arose from the dead, and for us ascended to heaven in the presence of the Father. ‘For Christ, our Forerunner, hath ascended for us now to appear in the presence of God.’ So then He took away the guilt of all and freed believers from failures and shame.” Peter, even in heaven, must remember his denial of our Lord, yet not so as to be ashamed or pained anymore, since the exceeding love of God will remove all shame or pain.
Rup.: “Mighty promise, mighty consolation. Now, before that Day comes, the Day of My Resurrection, thou wilt be ashamed and not without reason, since thou ownest by a true confession, ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’ Isaiah 64:6. But at that Day it will not be so, especially when that shall be which I promise thee in the prophets and the Psalms, ‘There shall be a Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness’ Zechariah 13:1; whence David also, exulting in good hope of the Holy Spirit, saith, ‘Thou shalt wash me and I shall be whiter than snow’ Psalms 51:7. For though he elsewhere saith, ‘they looked unto Him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed’ Psalms 34:5, yet in this mortal life, when the Day of My Resurrection doth not fully shine upon thee, thou art after some sort ashamed; as it is written, ‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?’ Romans 6:21, but that shame will bring glory, and, when that glory cometh in its place, will wholly pass away. But when the fullness of that day shall come, the fullness of My Resurrection, when the members shall rise, as the Head hath risen, will the memory of past foulness bring any confusion? Yea the very memory of the miseries will be the richest subject of singing, according to that, ‘My song shall be alway of the loving-kindness of the Lord’ Psalms 89:1.” For how shall the redeemed forget the mercies of their redemption, or yet how feel a painful shame even of the very miseries, out of which they were redeemed by the fullness of the overstreaming Love of God?
For then will I take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride - (Those of thee who exult in pride.) All confusion shall (cease, because all pride shall cease, the parent of sin and confusion. The very gift of God becomes to the carnal a source of pride. Pride was to the Jew also the great hindrance to the reception of the Gospel. He made his “boast of the law,” yea, in God Himself, that he “knew His will,” and was a “guide of others” Romans 2:17-20, Romans 2:23, and so was the more indignant, that the pagan was made equal to him, and that he too was called to repentance and faith in Christ. So, “going about to establish his own righteousness, he did not submit himself to the righteousness of God,” but shut himself out from the faith and grace and salvation of Christ, and rejected Himself. So (Rup.), “thy pride” may be the pride in being the people of God, and having Abraham for their father. “And thou shalt no more be haughty in My holy mountain,” “but thou shalt stand in the great and everlasting abiding-place of humility, knowing perfectly, that thou now ‘knowest in part’ only, and confessest truly that no one ever could or can by his own works be justified in the sight of God. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ Romans 3:23.” Pride which is ever offensive to God, is yet more hideous in a holy place or a holy office, “in” Mount Sion where the temple was or in the Christian priesthood.
I will also leave - (Over, as a remnant, it is still the same heavy prophecy, that a remnant only ‘shall be saved’) “an afflicted and poor people.” priests, (except that ‘great company who were obedient to the faith’) Acts 6:7, scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees were taken away; and there remained “the people of the land” , the “unlearned and ignorant” Acts 4:13, “the weak things of the world and the things despised” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 who bore the very title of their Master, “the poor and needy; poor in Spirit” Psalms 41:1; poor also in outward things, since “they who had lands, sold them and they had all things common” Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32, Acts 4:35. They were afflicted above measure outwardly in the (Acts 8:1; Acts 9:2, Acts 9:13-14; Acts 12:1-2; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:5, Acts 14:22; Acts 22; etc. Romans 8:17, Romans 8:35-36; Romans 12:14; 1Co 9:19; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:11-12; Hebrews 10:32-34; James 2:6-7; 1Pe 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9 etc.) persecutions, “reproaches, spoiling of” their “goods,” stripes, deaths, which they endured for Christ’s sake.
They knew too their own poverty, Rup: “knowing themselves to be sinners, and that they were justified only by faith in Jesus Christ.” When the rest were cast out “of the midst of her,” these should be left “in the midst of her” (the words stand in contrast with one another) in the bosom of the Church. “And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” “As they looked to be justified only in the Name of Christ,” and (Dionysius) “trusted in the grace and power of God alone, not in any power or wisdom or eloquence or riches of this world, they converted the world to a faith above nature.” Cyril: “Conformed in this too to Christ. Who for our sakes became poor and almost neglected both His divine glory and the supereminence of His nature, to subject Himself to the condition of a servant. So then those instructed in His laws after His example, think humbly of themselves, They became most exceedingly loved of God, and chiefly the divine disciples, who were set as lights of the world.”
The remnant of Israel - The same poor people, the “true Israel” of whom God said, “I leave over” (the word is the same) “a poor people,” few, compared with the rest who were blinded; of whom the Lord said, “I know whom I have chosen” John 13:18. These “shall not do iniquity nor speak lies.” Cyril: “This is a spiritual adorning, a most beautiful coronet of glorious virtues. For where meekness and humility are and the desire of righteousness, and the tongue unlearns vain words and sinful speech, and is the instrument of strict truth, there dawns a bright and most perfect virtue. And this beseems those who are in Christ. For the beauty of piety is not seen in the Law, but gleams forth in the power of Evangelic teachings.”
Our Lord said of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” John 1:47, and to the Apostles, “I send you forth as sheep among wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” Matthew 10:16; and of the first Christians it is said, “they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house did eat their merit with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” Acts 2:46-47. This is the character of Christians, as such, and it was at first fulfilled; “whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin” 1 John 3:9; “whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” 1 John 5:18. An Apologist, at the close of the second century, could appeal to the Roman Emperor , that no Christian was found among their criminals, “unless it be only as a Christian, or, if he be anything else, he is immediately no longer a Christian. We alone then are innocent! What wonder if this be so, of necessity? And truly of necessity it is so. Taught innocence by God, we both know it perfectly, as being revealed by a perfect Master; and we keep it faithfully, as being committed to us by an Observer, Who may not be despised.” : “Being so vast a multitude of men, almost the greater portion of every state, we live silently and modestly, known perhaps more as individuals than as a body, and to be known by no other sign than the reformation of our former sins.”
Now in the Church, which “our earth dimm’d eyes behold,” we can but say, as in regard to the cessation of war under the Gospel, that God’s promises are sure on His part, that still “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts,” that the Gospel is “a power of God unto salvation” Romans 1:16, that “the preaching of the Cross is, unto us which are saved, the power of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18; “unto them that are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24; that those who will, “are kept by God through faith unto salvation” 1 Peter 1:5; but that now too “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” Romans 9:6, and that “the faithlessness of man does not make the faith of God of none effect” Romans 3:3. : “The Church of God is universally holy in respect of all, by institutions and administrations of sanctity; the same Church is really holy in this world, in relation to all godly persons contained in it, by a real infused sanctity; the same is farther yet at the same time perfectly holy in reference to the saints departed and admitted to the presence of God; and the same Church shall hereafter be most completely holy in the world to come, when all the members, actually belonging to it, shall be at once perfected in holiness and completed in happiness.”
Most fully shall this be fulfilled in the Resurrection. Rup.: “O blessed day of the Resurrection, in whose fullness no one will sin in word or deed! O great and blessed reward to every soul, which, although it hath now “done iniquity” and “spoken falsehood,” yet willeth not to do it further! Great and blessed reward, that he shall now receive such. immovableness, as no longer to be able to do iniquity or speak falsehood, since the blessed soul, through the Spirit of everlasting love inseparably united with God its Creator, shall now no more be capable of an evil will!”
For they shall feed - On the hidden manna, Dionysius: “nourished most delicately by the Holy Spirit with inward delights, and spiritual food, the bread of life.” In the things of the body too was “distribution made unto every man according as he had need” Acts 4:35. “And they shall lie down” in the green pastures where He foldeth them; “and none shall make them afraid” 1 Peter 1:5, “for they were ready to suffer and to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 21:13. “They departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name” Acts 5:41. Before the Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, how great was the fearfulness, unsteadfastness, weakness of the disciples; how great, after the infusion of the Holy Spirit, was their constancy and imperturbableness, it is delightsome to estimate in their Acts,” when they “bare His Name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel” Acts 9:15, and he who had been afraid of a little maid, said to the high priest, “We ought to obey God rather than men” Acts 5:29. Cyril: “When Christ the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for His sheep, shone upon us, we are fed in gardens and pastured among lilies, and lie down in folds; for we are folded in Churches and holy shrines, no one scaring or spoiling us, no wolf assailing nor lion trampling on us, no robber breaking through, no one invading us, to steal and kill and destroy; but we abide in safety and participation of every good, being in charge of Christ the Saviour of all.”
Sing, O daughter of Sion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem - Very remarkable throughout all these verses is the use of the sacred number three, secretly conveying to the thoughtful soul the thought of Him, Father Son and Holy Spirit, the Holy and Undivided Trinity by whose operation these things shall be. Threefold is the description of their being freed from sins:
(1) they shall “not do iniquity,”
(2) “nor speak lies,”
(3) “neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.”
Threefold their blessedness; They shall:
(2) “lie down,”
(3) “none make them afraid.”
Threefold the exhortation to joy here. (Rup.): “Sing to God the Father; ‘shout’ to God the Son; ‘be glad and rejoice’ in God the Holy Spirit, which Holy Trinity is One God, from whom thou hast received it that thou art:
(1) ‘the daughter of Zion’
(3) ‘the daughter of Jerusalem’
‘The daughter of Zion’ by faith, ‘Israel’ by hope, ‘Jerusalem’ by charity.” And this hidden teaching of that holy mystery is continued; “The Lord,” God the Father, “hath taken away thy judgments; He God” the Son, “hath cast out (cleared quite away) thine enemy; the king of Israel, the Lord,” the Holy Spirit, “is in the midst of thee!” Zephaniah 3:15. The promise is threefold:
(1) “thou shalt not see evil anymore”
(2) “fear thou not”
(3) “let not thine hands be slack”
The love of God is threefold:
(1) “He will rejoice over thee with joy”
(2) “He will rest in His love”
(3) “He will joy over thee with singing”
Again the words in these four verses are so framed as to be “ful”- filled in the end. All in this life are but shadows of that fullness. First, whether the Church or the faithful soul, she is summoned by all her names, “daughter of Zion” (“the thirsty” athirst for God) “Israel” (“Prince with God”) “Jerusalem” (“City of Peace”). By all she is called to the fullest joy in God with every expression and every feeling. “Sing;” it is the inarticulate, thrilling, trembling burst of joy; “shout;” again the inarticulate yet louder swell of joy, a trumpet-blast; and then too, deep within, “be glad,” the calm even joy of the inward soul; “exult,” the triumph of the soul which cannot contain itself for joy; and this, “with the whole heart,” no corner of it not pervaded with joy. The ground of this is the complete removal of every evil, and the full presence of God.
The Lord hath taken away thy judgments - Her own, because brought upon her by her sins. But when God takes away the chastisements in mercy, He removes and forgives the sin too. Else, to remove “the judgments” only, would be to abandon the sinner. “He hath cast out,” literally, “cleared quite away” , as a man clears away all hindrances, all which stands in the way, so that there should be none whatever left - “thine enemy;” the one enemy, from whom every hindrance to our salvation comes, as He saith, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. The King of Israel, even the Lord” John 12:31, Christ the Lord, “is in the midst of thee,” of whom it is said, “He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” Revelation 7:15, and who Himself saith, “Lo I am with you always unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:20. “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of you” Matthew 18:20.
He who had removed “from the midst of her” the proud, Who had left “in the midst of her” those with whom He dwelleth, shall Himself dwell “in the midst of her” in mercy, as He had before in judgment Matthew 18:11-12, Matthew 18:15, Matthew 18:5. He cleanseth the soul for His indwelling, and so dwelleth in the mansion which He had prepared for Himself. “Thou shalt not see evil anymore.” For even the remains of evil, while we are yet in the flesh, are overruled, and “work together to good to those who love God” Romans 8:28. They cannot separate between the soul and Christ. Rather, He is nearer to her in them. We are bidden to “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations” James 1:2, for all sorrows are but medicine from a father’s hand. : “And truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ, and our door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ, that we may rise again from death and dwell with Him in everlasting life.”
So in the Revelation, it is first said that God should dwell with His people, and then that all pain shall cease. “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and be their God. And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain, for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:3-4. Cyril: “In the inmost meaning of the words, he could not but bid her rejoice and be exceeding glad and rejoice with her whole heart, her sins being done away through Christ. For the holy and spiritual Zion, the Church, the multitude of believers, is justified in Christ alone, and we are saved by Him and from Him, escaping the harms of our invisible enemies, and having in the midst of us the King and God of all, Who appeared in our likeness, the Word from God the Father, through whom we see not evil, that is, are freed from all who could do us evil. For He is the worker of our acceptableness, our peace, our wall, the bestower of incorruption, the dispenser of crowns, Who lighteneth the assaults of devils, Who giveth us to ‘tread on serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy’ Luke 10:19 - through whom we are in good hope of immortality and life, adoption and glory, through whom we shall not see evil anymore.”
In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not - For “perfect love casteth out fear” John 4:18; from where he saith, “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” Luke 12:32. Who then and what should the Church or the faithful soul fear, since “mightier is He that is in her, than he that is in the world? And to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack,” through faint-heartedness (see Hebrews 12:12), but work with all thy might; be ready to do or bear anything; since Christ worketh with, in, by thee, and “in due time we shall reap, if we faint not” Galatians 6:9.
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save - What can He then not do for thee, since He is Almighty? What will He not do for thee, since “He will save?” whom then should we fear? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. But then was He especially “in the midst of” us, when God “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and Truth” John 1:14. Thenceforth He ever is in the midst of His own. He with the Father and the Holy Spirit “come unto them and make Their abode with them” John 14:23, so that they are “the temple of God. He will save,” as He saith, “My Father is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are One” John 10:29-30. Of the same time of the Christ, Isaiah saith almost in the same words; “Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, Say to them that are of a feeble heart, Be strong, fear not, behold your God will come, He will come and save you” Isaiah 35:3-4; and of the Holy Trinity, “He will save us” Isaiah 33:22.
He will rejoice, over thee with joy - Love, joy, peace in man are shadows of that which is in God, by whom they are created in man. Only in God they exist undivided, uncreated. Hence, God speaks after the manner of men, of that which truly is in God. God joyeth “with an uncreated joy” over the works of His Hands or the objects of His Love, as man joyeth over the object of “his” love. So Isaiah saith, “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” Isaiah 62:5. As with uncreated love the Father resteth in good pleasure in His well-beloved Son, so “God is well-pleased with the sacrifices of loving deeds” Hebrews 13:16. and, “the Lord delighteth in thee” Isaiah 62:4; and, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people” Isaiah 65:19; and, “the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good” Deuteronomy 30:9. And so in a two-fold way God meeteth the longing of the heart of man.
The soul, until it hath found God, is evermore seeking some love to fill it, and can find none, since the love of God Alone can content it. Then too it longeth to be loved, even as it loveth. God tells it, that every feeling and expression of human love may be found in Him, whom if any love, he only “loveth Him, because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19. Every inward and outward expression or token of love are heaped together, to express the love of Him who broodeth and as it were yearneth “over” (it is twice repeated) His own whom He loveth. Then too He loveth thee as He biddeth thee to love Him; and since the love of man cannot be like the love of the Infinite God, He here pictures His own love in the words of man’s love, to convey to his soul the oneness wherewith love unites her unto God. He here echoes in a manner the joy of the Church, to which He had called her 1 John 4:14, in words the self-same or meaning the same.
We have “joy” here for “joy” there; “singing” or the unuttered unutterable jubilee of the heart, which cannot utter in words its joy and love, and joys and loves the more in its inmost depths because it cannot utter it. A shadow of the unutterable, because Infinite Love of God, and this repeated thrice; as being the eternal love of the Everblessed Trinity. This love and joy the prophet speaks of, as an exuberant joy, one which boundeth within the inmost self, and again is wholly “silent in His love,” as the deepest, tenderest, most yearning love broods over the object of its love, yet is held still in silence by the very depth of its love; and then, again, breaks forth in outward motion, and leaps for joy, and uttereth what it cannot form in words, for truly the love of God in its unspeakable love and joy is past belief, past utterance, past thought. Rup.: “Truly that joy wherewith ‘He will be silent in His love,’ that exultation wherewith ‘He will joy over thee with singing, ‘Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man’ 1 Corinthians 2:9.”
The Hebrew word also contains the meaning, “He in His love shall make no mention of past sins, He shall not bring them up against thee, shall not upbraid thee, yea, shall not remember them” Jeremiah 31:34; Jeremiah 33:8; Micah 7:18. It also may express the still, unvarying love of the Unchangeable God. And again trow the very silence of God, when He seemeth not to hear, as He did not seem to hear Paul, is a very fruit of His love. Yet that entire forgiveness of sins, and that seeming absence are but ways of showing His love. Hence, God speaks of His very love itself, “He will be silent in His love,” as, before and after, “He will rejoice, He will joy over thee.”
In the next few verses Zep 3:18-21 still continuing the number “three,” the prophecy closes with the final reversal of all which, in this imperfect state of things, seems turned upside down, when those who now mourn shall be comforted, they who now bear reproach and shame shall have glory, and those who now afflict the people of God shall be undone.
I will gather them that are sorrowful - for the solemn assembly, in which they were to “rejoice” Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 27:7 before God and which in their captivity God made to cease. “They were of thee” Lamentations 1:4; Lamentations 2:6, the true Israel who were “grieved for the affliction of Joseph; to whom the reproach of it was a burden” Amos 6:6 (rather , ‘on whom reproach was laid’): for this “reproach of Christ is greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” and such shall inherit the blessing, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and east out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake; rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy, for, behold your reward is great in heaven” Luke 6:22-23.
Behold, at that time I will undo - (Literally, I deal with . While God punisheth not, He seemeth to sit still Isaiah 18:4, be silent Habakkuk 1:13, asleep Psalms 44:23. Then He shall act, He shall “deal” according to their deserts with “all,” evil men or devils, “that afflict thee,” His Church. The prophecy looked for a larger fulfillment than the destruction of Jerusalem, since the Romans who, in God’s Hands, avenged the blood of His saints, themselves were among those who “afflicted her.” “And will save her,” the flock or sheep “that halteth” (see Micah 4:6-7), Dionysius: “imperfect in virtue and with trembling faith,” “and gather,” like a good and tender shepherd, “her that was driven out” (see Isaiah 40:11); scattered and dispersed through persecutions. All infirmities within shall be healed; all troubles without, removed.
And I will get them praise and fame - (Literally, I will make them a praise and a name) “in every land where they have been put to shame.” . Throughout the whole world have they been “the offscourings of all things” 1 Corinthians 4:13; throughout the whole world should their praise be, as it is said, “Thou shalt make them princes in all lands” Psalms 45:16. One of themselves saith, “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of this world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” 1 Corinthians 1:26-28. Rup.: “These He maketh a praise and a name there, where they were without name and dispraised, confounding by them and bringing to nought those wise and strong and mighty, in whose sight they were contemptible.”
At that time will I bring you in - that is, into the one fold, the one Church, the one “Household of God, even in the time that I gather you.” “That time” is the whole time of the Gospel; the one “day of salvation,” in which all who shall ever be gathered, shall be brought into the new Jerusalem. These words were fulfilled, when, at our Lord’s first Coming, the remnant, the true Israel, those “ordained to eternal life” were brought in. It shall be fulfilled again, when “the fullness of the Gentiles shall be “come in,” and so all Israel shall be saved” Romans 11:25-26. It shall most perfectly be fulfilled at the end, when there shall be no going out of those once “brought” in, and those who have gathered others into the Church, shall be “a name and a praise among all people of the earth,” those whom God hath “redeemed out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” Revelation 5:9, shining like stars forever and ever.
When I turn back your captivity - Rup.: “That conversion, then begun, now perfected, when the dead shall rise and they shall be placed on the right hand, soon to receive the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. O mighty spectacle of the reversed captivity of those once captives; mighty wonder at their present blessedness, as they review the misery of their past captivity!” “Before your eyes,” so that we shall see what we now believe and hope for, the end of all our sufferings, chastisements, losses, achings of the heart, the fullness of our Redemption. That which our eyes have looked for, “our eyes shall behold and not another,” the everliving God as He is, face to Face; “saith the Lord,” Who is the Truth Itself, all Whose words will be fulfilled. “heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away” Mark 13:31, saith He who is “God blessed forever.” And so the prophet closes in the thought of Him, Whose Name is I am, the Unchangeable, the everlasting Rest and Center of those who, having been once captives and halting and scattered among the vanities of the world, turn to Him, to whom be glory and thanksgiving forever and ever. Amen.