Verse 21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence. No swift judgment overthrew the sinner -- longsuffering reigned; no thunder was heard in threatening, and no bolt of fire was hurled in execution. Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself. The inference drawn from the Lord's patience was infamous; the respited culprit thought his judge to be one of the same order as himself. He offered sacrifice, and deemed it accepted; he continued in sin, and remained unpunished, and therefore he rudely said, "Why need believe these crazy prophets? God cares not how we live so long as we pay our tithes. Little does he consider how we get the plunder, so long as we bring a bullock to his altar." What will not men imagine of the Lord? At one time they liken the glory of Israel to a calf, and anon unto their brutish selves. But I will reprove thee. At last I will break silence and let them know my mind. And set them in order before thine eyes. I will marshall thy sins in battle array. I will make thee see them, I will put them down item by item, classified and arranged. Thou shalt know that if silent awhile, I was never blind or deaf. I will make thee perceive what thou hast tried to deny. I will leave the seat of mercy for the throne of judgment, and there I will let thee see how great the difference between thee and me.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence. Neither sleep nor slumber, nor connivance, nor neglect of anything can be incident to God. Because he doth not execute present judgment and visible destruction upon sinners, therefore blasphemy presumptuously infers -- will God trouble himself about such petty matters? So they imagined of their imaginary Jupiter. Non vacat exiguis rebus adesse Jovem. What a narrow and finite apprehension this is of God! He that causes and produces every action -- shall he not be present at every action? What can we do without him, that cannot move but in him? He that taketh notice of sparrows, and numbers the seeds which the very ploughman thrusts in the ground, can any action of man escape his knowledge, or slip from his contemplation? He may seem to wink at things, but never shuts his eyes. He doth not always manifest a reprehensive knowledge, yet he always retains an apprehensive knowledge. Though David smote not Shimei cursing, yet he heard Shimei cursing. As judges often determine to hear, but do not hear to determine; so though God does not see to like, ye he likes to see. Thomas Adams.
Verse 21. Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself. Such is the blindness and corruption of our nature, that we have very deformed and misshapen thoughts of him, till with the eye of faith we see his face in the glass of the word; and therefore Mr. Perkins affirms, that all men who ever came of Adam (Christ alone excepted) are by nature atheists; because at the same time that they acknowledge God, they deny his power, presence, and justice, and allow him to be only what pleaseth themselves. Indeed, it is natural for every man to desire to accommodate his lusts with a conception of God as may be most favourable to and suit best with them. God charges some for this: Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself. Sinners do with God as the Ethiopians do with angels, whom they picture with black faces that they may be like themselves. William Gurnall.
Verse 21. Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself. This men do when they plead for sins as little, as venial, as that which is below God to take notice of; because they themselves think it so, therefore God must think it so too. Man, with a giant like pride, would climb into the throne of the Almighty, and establish a contradiction to the will of God by making his own will, and not God's, the square and rule of his actions. This principle commenced and took date in Paradise, where Adam would not depend upon the will of God revealed to him, but upon himself and his own will, and thereby makes himself as God. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 21. I will set them in order before thine eyes. This is to be understood more militari, when sins shall be set in rank and file, in bloody array against thy soul; or more forensi, when they shall be set in order as so many indictments for thy rebellion and treason. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 21. And set them in order before thine eyes: as if he should say, Thou thoughtest all thy sins were scattered and dispersed; that there was not a sin to be found; that they should never be rallied and brought together; but I assure thee I will make an army of those sins, a complete army of them, I will set them in rank and file before thine eyes; and see how thou canst behold, much less contend with, such an host as they. Take heed therefore you do not levy war against your own souls; that's the worst of all civil or interstine wars. If an army of divine terrors be so fearful, what will an army of black, hellish sins be? when God shall bring whole regiments of sins against you -- here a regiment of oaths, there a regiment of lies, there a third of false dealings, here a troop of filthy actions, and there a legion of unclean or profane thoughts, all at once fighting against thy life and everlasting peace. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 21. Atheists do mock at those Scriptures which tell us that we shall give account of all our deeds; but God shall make them find the truth of it in that day of their reckoning. It is as easy for him to make their forgetful minds remember as to create the minds in them. When he applies his register to their forgetful spirits they shall see all their forgotten sins. When the printer presseth clean paper upon his oiled irons, it receiveth the print of every letter: so when God shall stamp their minds with his register, they shall see all their former sins in a view. The hand was ever writing against Belshazzar, as he was ever sinning, though he saw it not till the cup was filled: so is it to the wicked; their sins are numbered, and themselves weighed, and see not till they be divided by a fearful wakening. William Struther.
Verse 21. (last clause). God setteth his sins in order before his eyes. Imprimis, the sin of his conception. Item, the sins of his childhood. Item, of his youth. Item, of his man's estate, etc. Or, Imprimis, sins against the first table. Item, sins against the second; so many of ignorance, so many of knowledge, so many of presumption, severally sorted by themselves. He committed sins confusedly, huddling them up in heaps; but God sets them in order, and methodizes them to his hands. Thomas Fuller.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Man speaking and God silent.
- God speaking and man silent.
- God leaves men for a time to themselves.
- They judge of God on this account by themselves.
- He will in due time reveal their whole selves to themselves. "I will reprove," etc. G. R.
Verse 21,23. Note the alternative; a life rightly ordered now, or sins set in order hereafter.