Verse 9. We see not our signs. Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest's bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer's presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud!
There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire.
Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 9. We see not our signs. As if they had said, heretofore God was wont to give us signs and tokens, he would even work miracles for us, or he would send a prophet to instruct and advise us what to do; we had those who could tell us how long, that is, how long our troubles should last, and when we should have our expected end of them; but now we are in trouble, and no man can tell us how long, now we are left to the wide world, to shift for ourselves as well as we can; the Lord will not advise us what to do, nor give us his mind what's best to be done, or how to proceed; thus deplorable was their condition upon the hiding of God's face from them. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 9. We see not our signs. These signs, which he mourned that he did not see, were certain outward marks of God's special favour, certain testimonies of his presence, certain memorials that he was with them to bless them. And it is said that there were five things in Solomon's temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, which were not in the second temple, which was erected after the Babylonish captivity. Five memorials or tokens of God's special presence were then wanting. One was the ark of the covenant; another, the fire from heaven upon the brazen altar; the third, the Shechaniah, or cloud that rested upon the mercyseat; the fourth, the Urim and Thummim which were in the breastplate of the high priest; and the fifth, the spirit of prophecy. For though there were the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, at the time of, and shortly after, the restoration; yet the spirit of prophecy ceased with Malachi, and did not reappear until John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus... The lamentation of the church here, then, was, that she saw not her signs. So now, the church of the living God, the regenerate family of Zion, have often reason to pour out the same melancholy complaint. Signs of God's favour, marks and testimonies of his work of grace upon their souls, are often so out of sight, so buried in obscurity, so enveloped in clouds of darkness, that the living family are compelled, from soul feeling, to take up the language of lamentation here expressed, and say, We see not our signs. J. C. Philpot. 1802-1869.
Verse 9. Our signs. The ordinary signs of Israel being God's peculiar people are the passover ( Exodus 12:13 ), the Sabbath ( Exodus 21:13 ), the temple, the altar, the sacrifices; the extraordinary ones are God's miracles wrought in his people's behalf ( Psalms 78:43 ). A. R. Fausset.
Verse 9. There is no more any prophet. By us it ought to be observed what they do not say: It is not, -- here is no more any giant or warlike leader who may deliver us from the adversary: but, there is no more any prophet. And yet when the prophets were with them, they were contemptible in the eyes of all, maltreated by the wicked and put to death. Musculus.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 9. (first clause).
- There are such things as signs, that is, tokens
and marks of God's special favour to the soul.
- There is also a seeing those signs when God, the
Holy Ghost, is pleased to shine upon them.
- There is a third state, where there is not seeing
the signs, those signs being enveloped in darkness,
dimness, and obscurity. J. C. Philpot.