HISTORY OF THE WORK OF REDEMPTION
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my navigation from generation to generation.
THE design of this chapter is to comfort the church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies. The argument of consolation insisted on is, the constancy and perpetuity of God’s mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally crowning her with victory and deliverance.
In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her. And therein we may observe,
1. How short lived the power and prosperity of the church’s enemies is, “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool,” i.e. however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory. They shall by degrees consume and vanish away a secret curse of God, until they come to nothing. All their power and glory, and so their persecutions, shall eternally cease. They will be finally and irrecoverably ruined, as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz. those that are the enemies of God’s people, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.”
2. The contrary happy lot and portion of God’s church, expressed in these words, “My righteousness shalt be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” Who are meant as those that shall have the benefit of this, we also learn by the preceding verse, viz. They “that know righteousness,” and “the people in whose heart is God’s law,” or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning this happiness of theirs here spoken of, we may observe two things, viz. 1. Wherein it consists. 2. Its continuance.
(1.) Wherein it consists, viz. In God’s righteousness and salvation towards them. By God’s righteousness here, is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises to his church, or his faithfulness towards his church and people in bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them. These benefits, though they are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, are altogether undeserved. Yet as God has been pleased, by the promises of the covenant of grace, to bind himself to bestow them, so they are bestowed in the exercise of God’s righteousness or justice. And therefore the Apostle says, Heb. 6:10, “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labor of love.” And so, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So the word righteousness, is very often used in Scripture for God’s covenant faithfulness. So it is used in Neh. 9:8, “Thou hast performed thy words, for thou art righteous.” So we are often to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same thing, as Psa. 24:5, “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psa. 36:10, “Continue thy loving kindness to them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.” And Psa. 51:14, “Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.” Dan. 9:16, “O Lord, according to thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away.” — And so in innumerable other places.
The other word here used is salvation. Of these two God’s righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God’s righteousness, or covenant mercy, is the root of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God’s covenant mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.
2. We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions, forever, and from generation to generation. The latter seems to be explanatory of the former. The phrase forever, is variously used in Scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. So it is said, the servant that has his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master, should be his forever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the continuance of the Jewish state. So of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws it is said, that they should be statutes forever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. So it is said, Ecc. 1:4, “One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.” Sometimes thereby is meant to all eternity. So it is said, “God is blessed for ever,” Rom. 1:25. And so it is said, John 6:51, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” — And which of these senses is here to be understood, the next words determine, viz. to the end of the world, or to the end of the generations of men. It is said in the next words, “and my salvation from generation to generation.” Indeed the fruits of God’s salvation shall remain after the end of the world, as appears by the 6th verse, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner, but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” But the work of salvation itself toward the church shall continue to be wrought until then, until the end of the world God will go on to accomplish deliverance and salvation for the church, from all her enemies. For that is what the prophet is here speaking of, until the end of the world, until her enemies cease to be, as to any power to molest the church. And this expression, “from generation to generation,” may determine us as to the time which God continues to carry on the work of salvation for his church, both with respect to the beginning and end. It is from generation to generation, i.e. throughout all generations, beginning with the generations of men on the earth, and not ending until these generations end, at the end of the world. And therefore we deduce from these words this.