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39. See now that 1, even I, am he. Those who attribute the preceding verses to the unbelievers, now introduce God speaking, as it were, abruptly, and asserting His glory, in rebuke of their blasphemies. But it is rather a confirmation of that holy boasting which He has just dictated to the believers, when God not only bids His people lift up their voices against the idols, but Himself comes forward to condemn the senselessness of the Gentiles; although the context clearly shows that He addresses Himself to the faithful, After, therefore, He has exhorted His people to despise the idols, He now adds that He supplies them with ample grounds of confidence in Himself. For when He bids them “look,” He signifies that no obscure manifestation of His power is before their eyes, if they will only pay attention to it. The repetition of the pronoun I is emphatic, both to arouse the people from their sluggishness, and to keep their minds steadfast, lest they should waver as if in doubt. For we know that men’s minds can hardly be drawn to the true knowledge of God, because they wind about by circuitous courses, so as not to direct themselves straight to Him. And again, when they do apprehend God, we are aware how easily they are drawn away from Him; since the vicissitudes of things becloud them, so that they wander hither and thither in uncertainly. For this reason, when God has overthrown all fictitious deities, He declares that He always remains the same, whether he kills or makes alive, so that in the thick darkness of affliction believers may not cease to look to Him. Let us learn from this passage that God is defrauded of His right, unless He alone is preeminent, all idols being reduced to nothing; and also that our faith is then truly fixed in Him, and has firm roots, if, amidst the various changes which occur, it does not stagger or waver, but surmounts such obstacles, so as not to cease to hope in Him even when He seems to “slay” us, as Job says, (<181315>Job 13:15.) And surely nothing is more unreasonable than that our faith should look round upon all events so as to depend upon them; since God would have His promises to quicken us in death itself. The close of the verse may fitly be referred to their enemies, inasmuch as God declares that none can deliver them out of His hand.

40. For f293 I lift up my, hand to heaven. Others render it, “When I shall have lifted up my hand,” and read it connectedly with the foregoing verse, that God’s power in destroying and preserving will be manifest, if He raises up His hand to heaven. I do not doubt, however, but that it is the beginning of a new sentence, and that God thus commences, in order to affirm more strongly what He immediately adds respecting the future destruction of their enemies. If, however, any prefer the adverb of time “when,” I have no great objection to offer, provided these clauses are connected, “As soon as I shall have lifted up my hand to heaven, I will put to confusion the enemies of my Church.”

To lift up the hand is explained in two ways; for some suppose it to be a manifestation of power, as men are wont, by the uplifting of their hand, to glow, when they are confident in their strength, and despise their enemies. Others, however, more correctly state it to be a form of adjuration God, who is exalted above all heavens, cannot, indeed, be literally said to lift His hand; but it is no new thing for Him to borrow modes of expression taken from men’s common habits and customs, especially when He suddenly rises again to sublimity, after having appeared for a while to sink below the level of His greatness. Certainly the words which follow contain in them an oath, “I live for ever;” and hence it is probable f294 that the elevation of His hand was expressive of His taking the oath.

God swears by His life in a very different sense from men. Sometimes, indeed, He adopts our common modes of speaking, as when He is said to swear by His soul; but here, “I live,” is tantamount to His swearing by Himself, or by His eternal essence.

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