Give ear, O you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.…
What a representation of gentleness! The doctrine shall not fall in torrents, but it shall drop; the speech shall not even be felt in its descent, for it shall distil. Yet who is it employs this gentlest of all gentle imagery? It is Moses: the self-same man who had pronounced the terrific judgments on Egypt. He had promulgated a system which was given forth in thunder, and lightning, and thick darkness, and a terrible tempest; the publication of this law was attended with the severest penalties. Notwithstanding every appearance to the contrary, it was true of every word which God spake by Moses, as well as of every word which Jesus spoke, that His doctrine dropped like the rain, and distilled like the dew. We need scarcely tell you that the term "doctrine" includes all God's teaching in every portion of His revelation to man. It matters not whether truth be found in direct assertions of great principles, or whether it be wrapped up in the imagery of poetry, the shadows of the types, the facts of history, or the allegories of parables; it is all the same truth. Thus not only is every form of God's Word "doctrine," but in its fertilising effects on the soul may most appropriately be compared to the dropping rain and distilling dew. But in order to understand this gentle character ascribed by Moses to God's doctrine, you must take heed that you do not fall into several errors which will perplex your belief in the dew-like influence of Divine truth. The first of these errors is to confound the effect of doctrine itself with that outward teaching by which it may often be set forth. The mere manner of teaching is no just criterion of the matter of teaching. There are differences of character which even demand differences of outward instruction. But, secondly, we must warn you against supposing that God does not sometimes adopt an internal as well as an external mode of teaching, which may appear to conflict with the statements of our text. How often do the threatenings of Divine wrath seem to lay hold on the spirit, and for a time keep it shrinking beneath the prospect of inevitable destruction! But notwithstanding these modes of teaching which God may often employ, yet we maintain that the substance of that teaching is what Moses describes it — gentle as the dropping rain, the distilling dew, the small rain, the soft shower. You will remark that the sacred writer declares that his doctrine is to be like "small rain on the tender herb"; and this sentence it is which explains the entire seeming anomaly we have noticed. God's truth does not fall like small rain on the hardy, tough, strong herb, but like small rain on the tender herb. There must be a preparation — a softening of the soul to receive the gentle influences of the Gospel. And not only at our first conversion to God, but even afterwards, the herb may become hardened, and require occasional softening, before the small rain is given. The advanced Christian sometimes complains of waves and billows; he hears deep calling to deep at the noise of God's waterspouts. But the sole reason of this is that there is some deficiency in the tenderness of the herb — some setting up of the head which needs the blast of the storm to bring it low, God loves not to see a proud look; He loves not a stiff-necked obedience; He loves not to find His servant chafing against the bit; He must have the herb tender. The ground being thus prepared, the doctrine of the Lord always drops as the rain and distils as the dew. But let us glance at a few brief practical truths which the imagery of our text suggests.
1. If you are watered by this heavenly dew, it must be all — pervading: Look at the. grass after the dew has fallen; it is thoroughly covered with moisture; nothing saturates it so completely; a storm would not wet it half so effectually; the plant is all over the same; no leaf but it sparkles with dewdrops; no blade escapes; all are steeped in dew. Now, is it the same with you? The operation of the Spirit is always total and entire. All things become new where He works.
2. Then, secondly, recollect that another of the characteristics of this dew is its diffusiveness. Not only is the dew the most equal and general giver of moisture, but the plants which receive it pass it on to others. From leaf to leaf, and from blade to blade it falls, so that if you pass through a forest on a dewy morning it is one constant dropping. So must it be with the Christian. He is not only to be influenced by the Spirit himself, but by the aid of the same Spirit he must pass on that influence to others.
3. Thirdly, still another feature of this dew is its fertilising effects. It often falls most heavily at times of the year when drought prevails, and when the plants would otherwise be scorched and withered. Its final effect is not superficial; it does not merely wet the leaves and flowers, but it percolates to the very root. The dew thus develops itself in fruits: it waters the plant, and makes it bring forth abundantly. And so with our dew. Whenever the influences of the Spirit are felt, the fruits of the Spirit are seen.
4. But, lastly, another feature of this dew is that it will prove specially and abundantly operative in the time of trial. It is not when the sun shines that the dew falls; it principally descends when the day is wrapped in evening shades or when the morning is still hidden in twilight, or when dark night has already set in: so likewise is sorrow a time of special dew falling. When have the promises and love of God so gentle and yet powerful an influence as in affliction's sad hour? When are His cheering truths so sweet as when trouble embitters the soul?
(D. F. Jarman, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.