The LORD's voice cries to the city, and the man of wisdom shall see your name: hear you the rod, and who has appointed it.
I. THIS TEXT ANNOUNCES THAT THERE IS A MESSAGE SENT FROM GOD, The voice of the Lord, as the written Word, is the ordinary, the appointed means of conveying His will to men. By that means God has in every age announced His purposes, and made known to us our duty. But there are occasions when God adopts another mode of communication, and speaks to us in a different manner. There are times when He speaks to us through His providence, and conveys a lesson by a language which ensures respect, if it does not compel obedience. He speaks to us as individuals by afflictions, by calamities, by losses, by bereavements, and this makes the careless sensible, by addressing them in a form which ensures attention. At other times He raises His voice and addresses cities or communities by judgments of a far more comprehensive kind — by war, famine, or pestilence. Thus God speaks to a disobedient and rebellious people. If His Word is despised, if His frown is neglected, He must adopt another mode of procedure, He must smite; a sort of necessity compels Him to make use of means which are foreign to His nature, and differ from His ordinary treatment. All that we know of God leads us to suppose that the mode of His address will be adapted to the state of His people. If they are like sheep, gentle, docile, and obedient, He will lead them forth like a shepherd. If they are rebellious and proud, if they show by their behaviour that they are not the sheep of His pasture, "He must take up other instruments, and lead them in another way. In that case He must rebuke, He must chastise, He must subdue by affliction those whom He cannot draw by love, and must humble the pride which resists instruction. But though He speaks, we dare not say that all hear. There were those, of old time, who had eyes and could not see, and ears and could not hear. There are those, even now, who can read the written Word, and see nothing that applies to themselves; or can sit under the sound of the Gospel, and hear nothing that they understand.
II. THE TEXT NAMES THE PERSONS BY WHOM THAT MESSAGE WILL BE UNDERSTOOD. The men of wisdom, the few, the very few, whose hearts the Lord has opened, see what others overlook. They see His name, the end and the object of His doings, and learn to glorify God by being made acquainted with His nature in contemplating His works. Others see the rod, but do not perceive the hand that wields it. They see the event, but do not mark the providence. They see the afflictions, but will not observe the judgments. But just these things the man of wisdom does see. Nothing excites his attention which does not carry him to God, and lead him to look to God as the author of all that happens, the Ruler, the intelligent, the merciful Ruler of the world. The man of wisdom sees, and marks, and notes, what the fool does not; and the affliction which confounds the one becomes the means of illumination and correction to the other, while God is seen and considered in what is done.
III. THE TEXT DESCRIBES THE OBJECT AND PURPORT OF THE MESSAGE. Consider the inference which is drawn by the man of wisdom, and how he applies it. "Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it." Convinced that the affliction which they undergo is a rod which God uses for the rebuke and chastisement of His people, they urge "attention to what is passing." "Despise not the chastening of the Lord." "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due season." This is the language of wisdom, as wall as of piety. Admit the existence of God, and belief in His providence follows. Admit His providence, and you must see that providence such as His can have no limits. It extends to everything: it includes everything, the greatest as well as the least. But if this necessarily follows from the mere belief in God, remember that it is the part of wisdom to draw the necessary deduction, and to explain the event which appears by referring to the cause which produces it, and what is known of the character and will of Him with whom the event originates. Illustrate by reference to the failure of the potato crop during two succeeding seasons. We need not refer such calamities to any of the public or private iniquities which we have reason to lament. God deals with principles rather than with particulars. He corrects us by vindicating His own nature from our misconceptions; and a judgment which extends to all must be intended to convey to all a lesson which they need. We go to the root of all sins when we name the sinful heart of unbelief as the object of God's displeasure, and believe that God is reproving that evil heart by the judgments He sends. We do not mean that speculative unbelief which denies the existence of God, but that practical unbelief which forgets Him. But just in proportion as a man is endeavouring to forget God, it is necessary that he should be reminded of Him. Unless we are to be given up to our idols, and left to work out our own destruction, we must be taught the secret of our dependence on God, and be led to seek Him in the way He has appointed.
(Henry Raikes, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.