Look not on me, because I am black, because the sun has looked on me: my mother's children were angry with me…
It is the Church addressing her Lord; it is the condescending Saviour giving in reply the instruction required.
I. THE CHURCH ADDRESSES HER LORD.
1. A conscious love to her best friend.
(1) The Church loves Him for His personal excellence.
(2) The Church loves Him for His condescending gifts.
(3) The Church loves Him for His precious promises.
2. A dread of swerving from her loyalty to Him. "Why should I be as one that turneth aside, etc. Christ has many rivals: and that, not only in hearts which "the god of this world hath blinded, but even in those of His faithful followers. The spiritual Christian is aware that there are such rivals. He knows how ensnaring they are — how feeble and treacherous his own heart is.
3. An anxious petition for His pastoral care. "Tell me where Thou feedest," etc. A true believer needs food for his soul; something to nourish and strengthen him in the exercise of that spiritual life. And it is to Christ that He looks for it — "Tell me where Thou feedest," that I may "go in and out, and find pasture." He needs rest to his soul — peace from the war in his members — victory over the world, whether it allure or terrify him. And because Jesus has invited "all them that labour and are heavy laden," he "comes"; "Tell me where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon."
II. THE CONDESCENDING SAVIOUR REPLIES.
1. A gentle reproof: "If thou know not." They who know so much of Christ, as the petition implies, already possess the means of knowing more. But they are apt to forget their past experience of His care, and of the way in which they sought and found it, and impatiently desire some new and unusual means to be employed for their consolation. Then He will gently reprove — "How I knowest thou not? if I be not a Saviour to others, yet doubtless I am to thee I"
2. An expression of endearment: "O thou fairest among women!" Has He, then, forgotten that we are "conceived in sin " and "shapen in iniquity"
V. He sees, moreover, the graces of the Spirit which He Himself bestows upon His children; imperfect, indeed, but genuine — variable, but progressive — resisted by the flesh, but gradually victorious over it.
3. A significant reference. Certain questions had been asked: the Saviour will not give a direct answer, but refers the questioner to those who could satisfy the inquiry. "Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock," etc.
(1) Christ will have His people to be helpers of each other's faith, hope, and love.
(2) Christ puts especial honour upon His own ordinance, the preaching of the Gospel; and upon His ministers in that excellent work. He is Himself "the Chief Shepherd"; yet the tents of His under-shepherds must also be frequented.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.