Why say you, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?…
I. THE COMPLAINT OF THE PEOPLE. They feel themselves, or are tempted to feel themselves, forsaken of God. Their "way" seems to be hidden from him. The "way" is a figure for the course and condition of life. And is it not said in the first Psalm, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous"? There are times when this cannot be realized. The truth of a providence over the national and the personal life - what more consoling? "Thou art with me;" "Thou God seest me:" what might is there hot, in such thoughts to "warn, to comfort, to command"? There are other moods, and thoughts of another complexion. We suffer, and God seems indifferent. There is a sense of the injustice of the world, and God does not defend us. "Our right has been let slip by our God." He has living oracles for others, nut for us. We gaze into his words; luminous to others, they radiate not their meaning upon us. Who and what is that God in whom we have been taught to believe? A name, and nothing more? These are, indeed, dark moments. "Passed and passed my turn is," says a modern poet, in describing the "fears and scruples" of the drooping and despondent soul. The worst is that the weakness which is subjective, in ourselves, we are tempted to throw out of ourselves - to project on God. He must be growing weary and faint, and something less than God. This mood the prophet meets (cf. Isaiah 49:14; Job 27:2).
II. THE REPLY OF THE PROPHET.
1. He appeals to their intelligence. "Hast thou not perceived?" Look away from self and its restriction within the bonds of present distress; look at others who are expatiating on the "large places" of Jehovah's goodness. Look at the silent heavens with their "goings on;" the march of the seasons; the recurrence of seed-time and harvest; consider the breath which stirs the souls of men to progress in wisdom, culture, peace, civilization. Contemplate as a whole and in its parts the marvellous mechanism of the human world. Divert thy thoughts from the little self-world to the immense universe. Listen as well as look - to the immemorial tradition; to the oracles that have lived and cannot die; to the deep voice of prophets and the music of psalmists; to the simple accents of the babes and sucklings. One immense harmony starts upon the ear and the heart; the loving and eternal God its central theme. "Oh, my brothers, God exists; believing love will relieve us of a load of care." Intelligence and conscience combine with the sacred unbroken traditions of the race, to assure us that he is what he was and where he was.
2. The attributes of Jehovah. An everlasting God. Mortality means fickleness and caprice. His Name means constancy, faithfulness. His covenants are irreversible. In the English Testament of the Jews, that grand Name, "the Eternal," is preserved. He is "Creator of the ends of the earth;" i.e. of the "whole earth from end to end." Babylonia, then, the seat of the exile, is not beyond Jehovah's empire, as if he were only "the god of the hills of Palestine" (Cheyne). Creation infers providence. If God made the world, he governs it too. Men are dependent on him, and in their dependence is safety and bliss. He has no human infirmities: faints not, nor is weary. He works for his world both day and night (Genesis 1:5, etc.; Exodus 13:21; 1 Kings 8:29; Psalm 121:4). His unfathomable intelligence. (Cf. Job 5:9; Job 9:10; cf. Isaiah 34:24; 36:26.) Therefore there was a "wise purpose" in all this present procedure of providence, so dark as it seemed. We look upon the wavering ripples on the surface of the river; but the sunbeam strikes upon them with directness and certainty. And "God's hand is as steady as his eye." His self-communication. "Man's weakness, waiting upon God, its end can never miss." For he is self-imparting; and if there be a void in us, it is that he may fill it; a weakness in us, that his strength may be seen consummate in it. "Unto the powerless he maketh strength to abound."
3. The wisdom of waiting. Waiting! How much is included in that word! Faith, and hope, and endurance, and strength. Take the most vivid image of strength: the youth in his athletic vigour - the agile wrestler, the nimble runner. Is he strong? Nay, he shall stumble, while the stationary, waiting one "gathers fresh force." He seems to be on the wane, to be losing the dew and brightness of his youth. 'Tis but the moulting of the old eagle of fable - he will put forth fresh feathers. With "ages on his plumes," i.e. will still be travelling on. These waiters ate the stayers in the race. They may appear as stationary as earth itself; they roll on by the same momentum, they are the agents of the same force. Exertion without God: what more impotent? impotence touched by God's breath, God's hand: what can it not do? "Wait, I say, on the Lord." - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?