3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
3. Et cognoscemus et persequemur ad cognitionem Jehovae: sicut aurora dispositus est egressus ejus, et veniet tanquam pluvia nobis, tanquam pluvia serotina pluvia terrae. 1
In this verse the faithful pursue what we have before considered, making the hope of salvation sure to themselves: nor is it a matter of wonder that the Prophet dwells more fully on this subject; for we know how prone we are to entertain doubt. There is nothing more difficult, especially when God shows to us signs of his wrath, than to recover us, so that we may be really persuaded that he is our physician, when he seems to visit us for our sins. We must then, in this case, earnestly strive, for it cannot be done without labour. Hence the faithful now say, We shall know, and we shall pursue to know Jehovah. They show then by these words that they distrust not, but that light would arise after darkness; for this is the meaning of the words: We shall then know, they say; that is, "Though there is now on every side horrible darkness, yet the Lord will manifest his goodness to us, even though it may not immediately appear." They therefore add, And we shall pursue after the knowledge of Jehovah. We now perceive the purport of the words.
Now this passage teaches us, that when God hides his face, we act foolishly if we cherish our unbelief; for we ought, on the contrary, as I have already said, to contend with this destructive disease, inasmuch as Satan seeks nothing else but to sink us in despair. This his device then ought to be understood by us, as Paul reminds us, (2 Corinthians 2:11;) and the Holy Spirit supplies us here with weapons, by which we may repel this temptation of Satan, "What? Thou seest that God is angry with thee; nor is it of any use to thee to attempt to come to him, for every access is shut up." This is what Satan suggests to us, when we are sensible of our sins. What is to be done? The Prophet here propounds a remedy, We shall know; "Though now we are sunk in thick darkness, though there never shines on us, no, not even a spark of light, yet we shall know (as Isaiah says, 'I will hope in the Lord, who hides his face from Jacob') that this is the true exercise of our faith, when we lift up our eyes to the light which seems to be extinguished, and when in the darkness of death we yet continue to promise to ourselves life, as we are here taught: We shall then know; further, We shall pursue after the knowledge of Jehovah; though God withdraws his face, and, as it were designedly, doubles the darkness, and all knowledge of his grace be, as it were, extinct, we shall yet pursue after this knowledge; that is, no obstacle shall keep us from striving, and our efforts will at length make their way to that grace which seems to be wholly excluded from us."
Some give this rendering, We shall know, and shall pursue on to know Jehovah, and explain the passage thus, -- that the Israelites had derived no such benefit from the law of Moses, but that they still expected the fuller doctrine, which Christ brought at his coming. They then think that this is a prophecy respecting that doctrine, which is now by the Gospel set forth to us in its full brightness, because God has manifested himself in his Son as in a living image. But this is too refined an exposition; and it is enough for us to keep close to the design of the Prophet. He indeed introduces the godly thus speaking for this reason -- because there was need of great and strong effort, that they might rise up to the hope of salvation; for it was not to be the exile of one day, but of seventy years. When therefore so heavy a trial awaited the godly, the Prophet here wished to prepare them for the laborious warfare: We shall then know, and follow on to know Jehovah.
Then he says, As the morning shall come to us his going forth, -- a similitude the most appropriate; for here the faithful call to mind the continued succession of days and nights. No wonder that God bids us to hope for his grace, the sight of which is yet hid from us; for except we had learnt by long experience, who could hope for sudden light when the darkness of night prevails? Should we not think that the earth is wholly deprived of light? But seeing that the dawn suddenly shines, and puts an end to the darkness of night, and dispels it, what wonder is it that the Lord should shine forth beyond our expectation? His going forth then shall be like the morning.
He here calls a new manifestation the going forth of God, that is, when God shows that he regards his people with favor, when he shows that he is mindful of the covenant which he made with Abraham; for as long as the people were exiled from their country, God seemed not, as we have said, to look on them any more; nay, the judgment of the flesh only suggested this, that God was far distant from his people. He then calls it the going forth of God, when God should show himself propitious to the captives, and should wholly restore them; then the going forth of God shall come, and shall be like the morning. We now then see that he confirms them by the order of nature, as Paul does, when he chides the unbelief of those to whom a future resurrection seemed incredible, because it surpasses the thoughts of the flesh; "O fool!" he says, "does thou not see that what thou sowest first decays and then germinates? God now sets before thee in a decaying seed an emblem of the future resurrection." So also in this place, since light daily rises to us, and the morning shines after the darkness of night, what then will not the Lord effect by himself, who works so powerfully by material things? When he will put forth his full power, what, think we, will he do? Will he not much more surpass all the thoughts of our flesh? We now then see why this similitude was added.
He afterwards describes to us the effect of this manifestation, He shall come, he says, as the rain to us, as the late rain, a rain to the earth. This comparison shows, that as soon as God will deign to look on his people, his countenance will be like the rain, which irrigates the earth. When the earth is dry after long heat and long drought, it seems to be incapable of producing fruit; but rain restores to it its moisture and vigor. Thus then the Prophet, in the person of the faithful, does here strengthen the hope of a full restoration. He shall come to us as the rain, as the late rain.
The Hebrews call the late rain Mwqlm, melakush, by which the corn was ripened. And it seems that the Prophet meant the vernal rain by the word Msg, geshem, But the sense is clearly this, that though the Israelites had become so dry that they had no longer any vigor, there would yet be no less virtue in God's grace than in the rain, which fructifies the earth when it seems to be barren. But when at the end he adds, a rain to the earth, I doubt not but that he meant seasonable rain, which is pleasant and acceptable to the earth, or which the earth really wants; for a violent shower cannot be called properly a rain to the earth, because it is destructive and hurtful. It follows --
The reference here seems to be only to "the crop-rain," the rain which ripened the crop. The only difficulty is about the word rendered "irrigating." Its leading idea is, to guide, direct, regulate: and doubtless what regulates and determines the produce of the earth is the rain. It may be rendered "regulating," that is, the fruitfulness of the earth. There is no other construction that suits the place, without supposing something left out, as the preposition l before "earth." "Which watereth the earth," is the version of Newcome. --Ed.