Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it…
I. THE MYSTERY. This consists partly in the particular subjects of it, and partly in the degree to which it has gone. It is spoken of here prophetically as a future thing that has already taken place; and the problem is stated accordingly as a realization, and not a thing only conceived of. From time to time the history of Israel and Judah presents such scenes. It is by no means one of uninterrupted progress. There are backboard movements, standings still, interruptions, sharp and humiliating national disasters, and long epochs of civil warp political nonentity, or foreign captivity.
I. Yet have there not been many gracious promises to the contrary!
2. On the whole, the past reverses of Israel have been retrieved, and a measure of continuous progress attained.
3. The special affliction referred to is unprecedented, and its result would almost appear to be final. The history of the Christian Church and of individual believers presents features analogous to this. The slow progress of the world's evangelization. The comparative absence of spiritual blessing in the midst of God's children. Their divisions, scientific skepticism, or unscientific superstition, like parasites, strangling the tree of the Church and draining away its life. Or the mystery appears in the individual Christian. His creed is orthodox, his behavior outwardly presenting little that is blameworthy; and yet worldly business is a constant series of reverses and dishonorable compromises; his influence is lost; afflictions come upon him, and he cannot bear up under them; the peace of Christ is not his; etc.
II. THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH IT IS TO BE REGARDED. This very important to be determined. The apostate people of God fail to realize the extent to which they have fallen, and confound the formal rites of religion with its spirit and reality. They at first attribute it to natural causes, or treat it as a temporary thing that will right itself, etc. The heathen, looking on ab extra, imagine that the Jehovah of Israel is no longer able to deliver, or that he has ceased to care for her. Here it is declared to be a judgment upon apostasy - utter departure from truth and righteousness, and the sterner because of that fact. And when we look at all the circumstances of the case, this interpretation seems more probable - to carry, as it were, its evidence with it. The key, therefore, is for the most part an inward one; at first, at any rate, wholly so. This it is which constitutes the main element of difficulty in the troubles of God's people. Hence the room there must be for mistakes, and the ease with which a wholly erroneous view may be taken with superficial probability. And this suggests how large a part of the Church's function is fulfilled in merely being a problem and a mystery to the carnal mind. When judgment begins at the house of God, it is time for all attentively to look on and inquire why it is so. Greater perils lie on the side of unfaithfulness than of mere unbelief. And in the last resort conscience must be appealed to in explanation of mysteries of reverse and trouble. Thereby God is knocking at the door of the heart both of the world and the Church. It is of the utmost importance that we settle the question between us and him.
III. AN INTERPRETER WANTED. (Ver. 12.) When men are at a loss, or there is radical difference of opinion, it is evident that some authority is required to decide the question. The world and its canons are by the nature of the problem ruled out of court. And the apostate is too blinded with his own sin and too callous through repeated acts and prolonged habits of wrong-doing to be trusted in the matter. At this juncture the advantage of revelation and of the prophetic office appears. So far as God is concerned, the seer speaks with the authority of direct inspiration; so far as the culprit is concerned, he occupies a representative position, and as one of those implicated, yet himself innocent, acts as general conscience. This is God's way - to raise a testimony and extract a confession from the heart of the transgressor himself, or from the midst of those upon whom his judgments fall. And the same end is accomplished now through the Spirit and the Word. The saint becomes the mouthpiece of the Savior, and the world is convinced of "sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?
WEB: Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and [who is] he to whom the mouth of Yahweh has spoken, that he may declare it? why is the land perished and burned up like a wilderness, so that none passes through?