Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come to us as the rain…
The most ancient Jewish commentators find the last fulfilment of these words in the great promised Messiah. It is Christ, then, whom our faith must grasp under these two figures, the day-dawn and the rain. The world is a great book of symbols for the soul of man to read God by. There is something of common likeness in these two figures, and yet something distinctive is conveyed. There is a twofold coming of the Son of God, the first in His own person to establish and confirm the Gospel, the second in His Holy Spirit, to apply it to the heart. The one of these may very fitly be compared to the morning, and the other to the rain.
I. THE DAY-DAWN AND THE RAIN REPRESENT SOME RESEMBLANCES BETWEEN THE COMING OF CHRIST IN HIS GOSPEL AND IN HIS SPIRIT.
1. They have the same manifest origin. The day dawn comes from heaven and so does the rain. They are not of man's ordering, but of God's. And it is not less so with the Gospel and Spirit of Christ. Man neither invented them nor discovered them. They carry their evidence with them, like heaven's sun and heaven's rain. We may learn the origin of our faith in a study of the grandeur and comprehensiveness of its plan, and in a feeling of its power in our souls. The same God who makes morning to the world by the sun, gives the dawn of a new creation to the spirits of men through the Saviour.
2. They have the same mode of operation on the part of God. That mode of operation is soft and silent. The greatest powers of nature work most calmly and noiselessly. And like to these in their operations are the Gospel and Spirit of Christ. When our Saviour came into the world, it was silent and alone. So it was with His entrance into the heart. There is no outward crisis to tell of the birth of souls.
3. They have the same form of approach to us — in perfect freeness and fulness. The morning light comes unfettered by any condition, and so, also, descends the rain. The Gospel opens on the world priceless and free as the light which waits but for the eye to be unclosed to see and share it all. As free is the Spirit of Christ. Nor has He less fulness.
4. They have the same object and end. It is the transformation of death into life, and the raising of that which lives into higher and fairer form. The Gospel and Spirit of Christ have the same aim — life and revival. The Gospel of Christ is the Word of life. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of life. As both work together for life, so both must co-operate for revival.
II. SOME POINTS OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THEM.
1. Christ's approach to men has a general and yet a special aspect. The sun comes every morning with a broad unbroken look, shining for all, and singling out none. There is a universality of kindness about him which men, with all their powers of limitation, have never been able to abridge. But the rain as it descends, breaks into drops, and hangs with its globules on every blade. There is a wonderfully individualising power in the rain. The Gospel of God's grace enters the world with the broad universal look of daylight. It singles out none that it may exclude none. The arms of God are as wide as His call, and the power of Christ's atonement is as unlimited as the invitation to it. But Christ comes after another manner with His Spirit. Here no man can tell how God is dealing with another.
2. Christ's coming is constant, and yet variable. The sunrise is of all things the most sure and settled. And Christ visits men in His Gospel, steady and unchanging as the sun. But with the Holy Spirit it is other wise. His coming varies in time and place, as the rain, whose arrival depends on causes we have not fathomed.
3. Christ's coming may be with gladness, but also with trouble. What can be more joyful than the returning sun? But God comes also in the cloud, and there is a shade over the face of nature. So Christ comes, through His Spirit, in the conviction of sin.
4. Christ's coming, in His Gospel and Spirit, may be separate for awhile, but they tend to a final and perfect union. They are indispensable to each other. Sunlight without rain, and rain without sunlight, can only work evil. The Gospel without the Spirit, would be the sun shining on a waterless waste. The Spirit without the Gospel, would be the rain falling in a starless night. Some have a very distinct perception of the Gospel in its freeness and fulness, but they have ceased to derive from it the comfort they once enjoyed. They need the rain. They have been too neglectful of the secret life of religion, which is its soul.
(John Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.