(calvin, minor prophets. part 5)

What seems here to be the singing of triumph before the victory is no
matter of wonder, for our faith, as it is well known, depends not on
the judgment of the flesh, nor regards what is openly evident, but it
is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not
seen (Heb. 11:1). As then, the firmness of faith is the same, though
what it apprehends is remote, and as faith ceaseth not to see things
hidden - for through the mirror of God's word it ascends above heaven
and earth, and penetrates into the spiritual kingdom of God - as
faith, then, possesses a view so distant, it is not to be wondered
that the prophet here boldly triumphs over the Babylonians and now
prescribes a derisive song for all nations. The prophet also intimates
that tyrants and their cruelty cannot be endured without great
weariness and sorrow; hence, almost the whole world sound forth these
words, How long? And this feeling, is it not implanted in us by the
Lord? But let us in the mean time see that no one of us should have to
say the same thing to himself which he brings forward against others.


GRANT Almighty God, that as thou deignest so far to condescend as to
sustain the care of this life, and to supply us with whatever is
needful for our pilgrimage, - O grant that we may learn also to rely
on thee and so trust to thy blessing as to abstain not only from all
plunder and all other evil deeds, but also from every unlawful
coveting; and to continue in thy fear, and so to learn also to bear
our poverty on the earth, that being content with those spiritual
riches, which thou offerest to us in thy gospel, and of which thou
makes us now partakers, we may ever cheerfully aspire after that
fullness of all blessings, which we shall enjoy when at length we
shall reach the celestial kingdom and be perfectly united to thee
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

     Chariots of Salvation

           Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger
           against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that
           thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of
           salvation? (Hab.3:8)

A QUESTION has much more force when it refers to what is in no way
doubtful. What! Can God be angry with rivers? Who can imagine God to
be so unreasonable as to disturb the sea and to change the nature of
things, when a certain order has been established by his own command?
Why should he dry the sea, unless he had something in view, even the
deliverance of his Church? Unless he intended to save his people from
extreme danger by stretching forth his hand to the Israelites when
they thought themselves utterly lost? He therefore denies that when
God dried the Red Sea, and when he stopped the flowing of Jordan, he
had put forth his power against the sea or against the river as though
he were angry with them. The design of God, says the prophet, was
quite another; for God rode on his horses, that is, he intended to
show that all the elements were under his command, and that for the
salvation of his people. That God, then, might be the redeemer of his
Church, he constrained the Jordan to turn back its course, he
constrained the Red Sea to make a passage for his miserable captives,
who would otherwise have been exposed, as it were, to slaughter.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as thou hast so often and in such various
ways testified formerly, how much care and solicitude thou hast for
the salvation of all those who may rely and call on thee, - O grant,
that we also at this day may experience the same, and though thy face
is justly hid from us, may we yet never hesitate to flee to thee since
thou hast made a covenant through thy Son, which is founded in thine
infinite mercy; grant, then, that we, being humbled in true penitence,
may so surrender ourselves to thy Son, that we may be led to thee, and
find thee no less a Father to us than to the faithful of old, as thou
everywhere testifies to us in thy word, until at length, being freed
from all troubles and dangers, we come to that blessed rest which
thine only Son has purchased for us by his own blood. Amen.

     Rejoicing in the Lord

           Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall
           fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail,
           and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut
           off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the
           Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my
           salvation. (Hab.3:17,18)

THE prophet teaches us what advantage it is to the faithful seasonably
to submit to God, and to entertain serious fear when he threatens them
and when he summons them to judgment; and he shows that though they
might perish a hundred times, they would yet not perish, for the Lord
would ever supply them with occasions of joy, and would also cherish
this joy within, so as to enable them to rise above all their
adversities. Though the land was threatened with famine, and though no
food would be supplied to them, they would yet be able always to
rejoice in the God of their salvation; for they knew him to be their
Father, though for a time he severely chastised them. Our joy shall
not depend on outward prosperity, for though the Lord may afflict us
in an extreme degree, there will yet always be some consolations to
sustain our minds, that they may not succumb under evils so grievous,
for we are fully persuaded that our salvation is in God's hand, and
that he is its faithful guardian. We shall, therefore, rest quietly;
yea, though God fulminated from heaven we shall yet be in a tranquil
state of mind, looking for his gratuitous salvation.


GRANT Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to provoke thy wrath
against us, and as the hardness and obstinacy of our flesh is so great
that it is necessary for us to be in various ways afflicted, - O grant
that we may patiently bear thy chastisements, and under a deep feeling
of sorrow flee to thy mercy; and maybe in the mean time persevere in
the hope of that mercy, which thou hast promised, and which has once
for all been exhibited toward us in Christ, so that we may not depend
on the earthly blessings of this perishable life, but, relying on thy
word, may proceed in the course of our calling until we shall at
length be gathered into that blessed rest which is laid up for us in
heaven, through Christ alone our Lord. Amen.

     Pride and Destruction

           This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said
           in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she
           become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!
           every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.

THE prophet reminds them here that though Nineveh was thus proud of
its wealth, yet it could not escape the hand of God; nay, he shows
that the greatness, on account of which Nineveh extolled itself, would
be the cause of its ruin; for it would cast itself down by its own
pride, as a wall when it swells will not stand. Such a destruction the
prophet denounces on the Ninevites and the Assyrians. Let us remember
that in this city is presented to us an example which belongs in
common to all nations, - that God cannot endure the presumption of
men, when inflated by their own greatness and power they do not think
themselves to be men, nor humble themselves in a way suitable to the
conditions of men, but forget themselves, as though they could exalt
themselves above the heavens. If, then, we desire to be protected by
God's hand, let us bear in mind what our condition is, and daily, yea
hourly, prepare ourselves for a change, except God be pleased to
sustain us. Our stability is to depend only on the aid of God, and
from consciousness of our infirmity to tremble in ourselves lest a
fearfulness of our state should creep in.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as thou triest us in the warfare of the
cross, and arousest most powerful enemies whose barbarity might justly
terrify, and dishearten us, were we not depending on thine aid, - O
grant, that we may call to mind how wonderfully thou didst in former
times deliver thy people, and how seasonably thou didst bring them
help, when they were oppressed and entirely overwhelmed, so that we
may learn at this day to flee to thy protection, and not doubt, that
when thou becomes propitious to us there is in thee sufficient power
to preserve us, and to lay prostrate our enemies, how much soever they
may now exult and think to triumph above the heavens, so that they may
at length know by experience that they are earthly and frail
creatures, whose life and condition is like the mist which soon
vanishes; and may we learn to aspire after that blessed eternity which
is laid up for us in heaven through Christ our Lord. Amen.

     Pure Lips

           For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that
           they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him
           with one consent. (Zep.3:9)

God intimates that he would propagate his grace wider after having
cleansed the earth, for he will be worshipped not only in Judea, but
by foreign nations, and even by the remotest. God has in his own hand
the means by which he will vindicate his own glory; for he will not
only defend his Church in Judea, but will also gather into it nations
far and wide, so that his name shall be everywhere celebrated. God
does not without reason promise that he will turn pure lips to the
nations - that is, that he will cause the nations to call on his name
with pure lips. We hence learn that God cannot rightly be invoked by
us until he draws us to himself, for we have profane and impure lips.
As to the word "all," it is to be referred to nations, not to each
individual, for it has not been brought to pass that every one has
called on God; but there have been some of all nations, as Paul also
says in the first chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, for
in addressing the faithful he adds, "With all that in every place call
upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" - that
is, not only in Judea; and elsewhere he says, "I will that men pray
everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." I Tim.
2: 8.


GRANT, Almighty God, that since it is the principal part of our
happiness that while we are absent from thee in this world there is
yet open to us a familiar access to thee by faith, -  O grant that we
may be able to come with a pure heart to thy presence; and when our
lips are polluted, O purify us by thy Spirit, so that we may not only
pray to thee with the mouth, but also prove that we do this sincerely,
without any dissimulation, and that we earnestly seek to spend our
whole life in glorifying thy name, until at length being gathered into
thy celestial kingdom, we may be really and truly united to thee, and
be made partakers of that glory which has been procured for us by the
blood of thine only Son. Amen.

     Uses of Affliction

           I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and
           poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.

IT ought to have been a compensation to ease their grief, when the
godly saw that God would be propitious to them, though he had treated
them with great severity. The Church could not have been preserved
without correcting and subduing that arrogance, which arose from a
false profession as to God. Zephaniah takes it now for granted that
pride could not be torn away from their hearts, unless they were
wholly cast down and thus made contrite. The Church is subdued by the
cross, that she may know her pride, which is so innate and so fixed in
the hearts of men that it cannot be removed, unless the Lord, so to
speak, roots it out by force. There is, therefore, no wonder that the
faithful are so much humbled by the Lord, and that the lot of the
Church is so contemptible; for if they had more vigour they would
soon, as is often the case, break out into an insolent spirit. We
hence see for what purpose God deprives us of all earthly trust, and
takes away from us every ground of glorying; it is, that we rely only
on his favour. This dependence ought not, indeed, to be extorted from
us, for what can be more desirable than to trust in God? But while men
arrogate to themselves more than what is right, and thus put
themselves in the place of God, they cannot really and sincerely trust
in him.


GRANT, Almighty God, that since the depravity of our nature is so
great that we cannot bear prosperity without some wantonness of the
flesh immediately raging in us, and without becoming even arrogant
against thee, - O grant that we may profit under the trials of the
cross, and when thou humblest us, may we with lowly hearts renouncing
our perverseness, submit ourselves to thee, and not only bear thy yoke
submissively, but proceed in this obedience through all our life, and
so contend against all temptations, as never to glory in ourselves,
and feel also convinced that all true and real glory is laid up for us
in thee, until we shall enjoy it in thy celestial kingdom, through
Christ our Lord. Amen.

     A Mirror for Ingratitude

           Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say,
           The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should
           be built. (Hagg.1:2)

WE may see here, as in a mirror, how great is the ingratitude of men.
The kindness of God had been especially worthy of being remembered,
the glory of which ought to have been borne in mind to the end of
time. They had been restored from exile in a manner beyond what they
had ever expected. What ought they to have done, but devote themselves
entirely to the service of their deliverer? But they built, no, not
even a tent for God, and sacrificed in the open air; and thus they
willfully trifled with God. But at the same time they dwelt at ease in
houses elegantly fitted up. No less shameful is the example witnessed
at this day among us.
     But we may hence also see how kindly God has provided for his
Church; for his purpose was that this reproof should continue extant,
that he might at this day stimulate us, and excite our fear as well as
our shame. For we also thus grow frigid in promoting the worship of
God whenever we are led to seek our own advantages. We may also add
that as God's temple is spiritual, our fault is the more atrocious
when we become thus slothful; since God does not bid us to collect
either wood, or stones, or cement, but to build a celestial temple in
which he may be truly worshipped.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as we must carry on a warfare in this world,
and as it is thy will to try us with many contests, - O grant that we
may never faint, however extreme may be the trials which we may have
to endure; and as thou hast favoured us with so great an honour as to
make us the framers and builders of thy spiritual temple, may every
one of us present and consecrate himself wholly to thee; and inasmuch
as each of us has received some peculiar gift, may we strive to employ
it in building this temple, so that thou mayest be worshipped among us
perpetually; and especially may each of us offer himself wholly as a
spiritual sacrifice to thee, until we shall at length be renewed in
thine image, and be received into a full participation of that glory
which has been attained for us by the blood of thine only begotten
Son. Amen.

     A Glorious Temple

           The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of
           hosts. (Hagg.2:8)

WHY does the prophet mention gold and silver? He did this in
conformity with what was usual and common, for whenever the prophets
speak of the kingdom of Christ they delineate or foreshadow its
splendour in figurative terms, suitable to their own age. When Isaiah
foretells the restoration of the Church he declares that the Church
would be all gold and silver, and whatever glittered with precious
stones; and in the sixtieth chapter he especially sets forth the
magnificence of the temple, as though nations from all parts were to
bring for sacrifice all their precious things. Isaiah speaks
figuratively, as all the other prophets do. But we must regard the
spiritual character of the priesthood, for since Christ has appeared
in the world it is not God's will to be served with gold and silver
vessels; so, also, there is no altar on which victims are to be
sacrificed, and no candlestick; in a word, all the symbols of the law
have ceased. Thus we perceive how the glory of the second temple is to
be greater than that of the first. For though they were to gather the
treasures of a thousand worlds into one mass, such a glory would yet
be corruptible; but when God the Father appeared in the person of his
own Son, he so glorified his temple that there was nothing wanting to
a complete perfection.


GRANT, Almighty God, that since we are by nature extremely prone to
superstition, we may carefully consider what is the true and right way
of serving thee, such as thou dost desire and approve even that we
offer ourselves spiritually to thee, and seek no other altar but
Christ, and relying on no other priest, hope to be acceptable and
devoted to thee, that he may imbue us with the Spirit which has been
fully poured on him so that we may from the heart devote ourselves to
thee, and thus proceed patiently in our course, that with minds raised
upward we may ever go on toward that glory which is as yet hid under
hope until it shall at length be manifested in his own time, when
thine only-begotten Son shall appear with the elect angels for our
final redemption. Amen.

     Abundant Blessing

           Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and
           twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that
           the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it.
           Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the
           fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not
           brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

THE "seed" refers not to what had been gathered, but to what had been
sown. The prophet speaks of God's blessing on the harvest which was to
come. As they were still in suspense, he says that God's blessing was
in readiness for them. The truth of the prophecy might be truly known
when God fulfilled what he had spoken by the mouth of his servant. It
was necessary for him to speak in a manner suitable to the
comprehension of the people, as a skilful teacher who instructs
children and those of a riper age in a different manner. The prophet
dwells on two things: he condemns the Jews for their neglect, and
proves that they were impious and ungrateful towards God, for they
disregarded the building of the temple; and then in order to animate
them and render them more active in the work they had begun, he sets
before them what had taken place.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as we are still restrained by our earthly
cares, and cannot ascend upward to heaven with so much readiness and
alacrity as we ought, - O grant that since thou extendest to us daily
so liberal a supply for the present life, we may at least learn that
thou art our Father, and that we may not at the same time fix our
thoughts on these perishable things, but learn to elevate our minds
higher, and so make continual advances in thy spiritual service until
at length we come to the full and complete fruition of that blessed
and celestial life which thou hast promised to us, and procured for us
by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen.

     Horns and Carpenters

           Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
           And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be
           these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have
           scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
           And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
           Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying,
           These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no
           man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them,
           to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up
           their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it. (Zech.1:18-

THOUGH enemies should rise up on every side against the Church and
cause it many troubles, there was yet a remedy in God's hand, as he
would break in pieces all horns by his hammers. He compares the
gentiles, who had been hostile to the Jews, to horns; and he
afterwards compares to workmen the other enemies, whose hand and
labour God would use for the purpose of breaking down the efforts of
all those who would be troublesome to the Church. The import of the

(continued in part 6...)

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