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CRITICAL NOTES. Thou] invading army (not Judah). Us] The prophet identifies himself with the nation. Smite] The greatest insult (Lamentations 3:30; Matthew 5:39; Matthew 27:30). Judge] or king (Amos 2:3).
Micah 5:2. Beth.] The ensuing prophecy (Micah 5:1-5) combined with what goes before and what follows, consummates the witness of the O. T. concerning Christ, and is the groundwork of his history in the New [Words.]. Eph.] To distinguish it from another Beth, in Zebulon (Joshua 19:10; Joshua 19:15). Little] So insignificant in size and population that it was not enumerated among the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:21); nor in the list (Nehemiah 11:25); it became a city under Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:6). Thous.] Tribes divided into thousands, over which a leader presided, and commanded them in war (Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 1:16; Deuteronomy 1:15). ‘Family’ is given, Judges 6:15. Out] Lit. shall one come forth to me to be ruler. Out of] Beth., as his native place, antithetic to. From of old] Lit. from the days of eternity; expressing the eternity of Christ’s Divine nature and person [Gill]; and the displays of his power of old from everlasting, which may be referred to his covenant engagements, and to the work of creation [Boothr.].
Micah 5:3. Therefore] On account of this fixed plan of God, his people will be given up to suffer, until she] “the virgin” mother of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14); or the people of Judah, from whom a ruler was to come forth (Genesis 49:10). Suffering is the necessary travail-pain which precedes the joy of birth. Then] Blessings described which result from the Messiah’s birth. Rem.] The remainder, not only inhabitants of Judah left from the judgment, but members of the revolted ten tribes; all Israelites dispersed in foreign lands. Only brethren, sons of Israel, his race, have the right to return.
Micah 5:4. Feed] Lit. rule (Matthew 2:6) [margin]; (Isaiah 40:11). Stand] Persevering and diligent, in the attributes and name of his God, i.e. one in relation and purpose with Jehovah (Isaiah 9:5). They] Returned remnant. Abide] Dwell in perfect peace and security (cf. chap. Micah 4:4; Isaiah 14:30). Now] in the fulfilment. He] Alone (cf. Joel 2:20-21; Luke 1:32).
THE CHURCH MILITANT—Micah 5:1
Calamities are to precede prosperity. Lest Israel should fall into carnal security, she is warned of her danger, and roused to defend herself. Zion, in her warlike attitude, is a type of the Church militant.
I. She is endangered by the foe. “He hath laid siege against us.” In this world the Christian Church is engaged in conflict and exposed to suffering. The powers of evil have arrayed themselves against her. Infidelity, popery, and persecution have besieged her gates. Sin threatens her character, liberty, and existence. The foes are numerous, strong, disciplined to arms, and possessing manifold advantages. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” &c.
II. She is often deprived of earthly leaders. “They shall smite the judge of Israel.” Hengstenberg thinks this expression indicates a time when no king of the house of David reigned. Deplorable is the city with an enemy at the walls, and without a commander within to help. In early days the Church has been without leaders to teach and guide. Apostles were imprisoned and martyrs put to death. Men were determined to destroy the very existence of Christianity. Hence the great persecutions through which it has passed. But when the godly men cease and the faithful fail, then God will help (Psalms 12:1). “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our law-giver, the Lord is out king; he will save us.”
III. She is roused to action. “Now gather thyself in troops.”
1. Immediate action. “Now.” Every Christian, weak or strong, is commanded to arise and be ready. The present is the day for exertion, and those who work should do it with vigour.
2. United action. “Gather thyself in troops.” Dangers are great. United and personal action are required. Stragglers may be taken prisoners. Never let the enemies’ watchword prevail—“Divide and conquer.” Close thy ranks, and let each soldier keep his place. Supported by the promise and presence of God we should fear no evil and shun no duty. “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
THE RULER OF ISRAEL.—Micah 5:2-3
In the greatest danger and the deepest degradation of Zion a ruler shall arise to deliver her, and raise her to be a dreaded power in the world.
I. The place from which the ruler came. Bethlehem, the most insignificant, not Jerusalem, the royal, city, gave birth to Jesus. Little, in a worldly sense, it was not the least among the cities of Judah; but eclipsed them all in spiritual dignity. God perfects strength out of seeming weakness, and immortalizes obscure places by the events of his providence. Some men derive honours from, and others confer celebrity upon, the place in which they were born. Many cities have striven for the honour of Homer’s birth. In Bethlehem we see the Divine purpose to choose “the base things of the world, and to bring to nought things that are.”
II. The method in which the ruler came.
1. He was promised. “Out of thee shall he come forth.” Chief priests and scribes gave the right answer to Herod’s questions (Matthew 2:4-6). When it was rumoured that he would come out of Galilee, his enemies could say, “Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was.” When we think that the promise has failed, God is arranging events, choosing agents, and fulfilling his word.
2. He was appointed. In the purpose of God he was set apart, and according to the command of God he come. He came not of himself, but the Father sent and sealed him (John 6:27). “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me” (Psalms 40:7-8).
3. He was born of a woman. “She which travaileth hath brought forth.” He was born of a woman; the virgin conceived and bore a son (Isaiah 7:14). His goings forth were of old, but his birth was in time. He was real God and true man. God was manifest in the flesh; and in the coming of the Messiah we may read the truth of God, and discern the purpose and presence of God. “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass.”
III. The purpose for which the ruler came. “Who shall be ruler in Israel?” The circumstances of his birth and life seemed to bespeak anything rather than royal dominion. Pilate put the question, “Art thou a king, then?” The answer was, “I am a king. But my kingdom is not of this world.” He had no temporal dominions, but he governs the hearts and lives of his people. He rules the nations of the earth, and will rule to the end of time. The judge of Israel was smitten, the empire of Cæsar came to nought, but the reign of Christ shall endure for ever. Napoleon rose with rapidity to boundless inheritance, but finished his course in disgraceful exile; contrasted empires founded on force with that of Jesus founded upon love, and exclaimed, “What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, and adored, and is extending over the whole earth!”
IV. The results which spring from the ruler’s coming. “Then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.”
1. Deliverance from captivity. They shall return from bondage to Canaan and to Jehovah. The remnant shall become genuine sons of Israel, people again in covenant with God.
2. Restoration to unity. Exiled Jews, Gentiles of heathen nations, shall be united as brethren under his reign, and incorporated into a spiritual commonwealth. Then men become Israelites not in name, but in spirit and truth. Grace makes all sons of God. The promise is not only to Israel after the flesh, but to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:39).
THE INCARNATION AND BIRTH OF CHRIST
I. Who it was that sent Christ forth. “Out of thee shall he come forth to me.” Jesus Christ did not come forth without his Father’s permission, authority, and assistance. We are too apt to forget that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honour; and we frequently ascribe the honour of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. Contemplate that the Father sent him, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I Am.
II. Where did he come to at the time of his incarnation? First, it seemed necessary that Christ should be born in Bethlehem, because of Bethlehem’s history. Again, there is something in the name of the place. The word Bethlehem has a double meaning. It signifies “the house of bread,” and “the house of war.” Jesus is the bread of his people on which they feed. Here the bread of life was first given to man to eat. It is also called “the house of war,” because Christ is to every man “the house of bread” or “the house of war.” Ephratah signifies “fruitfulness” or “abundance.” All our fruitfulness is from Christ. His incarnation fattens the soil of our hearts. Next, notice the position of Bethlehem “Little among the thousands of Judah.” There are many little ones, unknown and dwelling in obscurity. Christ is always born among the little ones; lieth not in great hearts, but in little ones. A broken heart and a low spirit shall have the Saviour, and none else. Another thought, how wonderfully mysterious was that providence which brought Jesus Christ’s mother to Bethlehem at the very time when she was to be delivered.
III. What did Jesus come for? “To be ruler in Israel.” He was “born the King of the Jews.” Men are born princes, but seldom born kings. But he is not ruler of Israel after the flesh, but after the spirit. Hast thou submitted to the sway of Christ?
IV. Did Jesus ever come before? “Whose goings forth have been ever of old.” First, Christ has had his goings forth in his Godhead. “From everlasting.” He has not been a secret and a silent person up to this moment. That new-born child is the infant of to-day, but the ancient of eternity.
1. Of old he went forth as our covenant-head in election.
2. He had goings forth for his people, as their representative before the throne, even before they were begotten in the world. Secondly, we believe that Christ has come forth of old, even to men, so that men have beheld him. He appeared to Abraham, to Jacob, to Joshua, and to the three youths in the fiery furnace. Observe that each of these four great occurrences happened to the saints, when they were engaged in very eminent duty, or when they were about to be engaged in it. When Abraham interceded for Sodom, Jacob engaged in wrestling, Joshua exercising bravery, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in high places of persecution. Christ hath not left going forth yet. Recollect he goes to Bethlehem. Are you little? He will go forth to meet you. He will come to your poor house,—wretched heart. Trust him, and he will go forth to abide with you for ever [Spurgeon].
THE SHEPHERD KING.—Micah 5:4
The government of this ruler is further described under the similitude of a shepherd feeding and defending his flock, establishing and extending his kingdom in all the earth.
I. The work of the shepherd king. He shall “feed”—a word which indicates to feed by ruling, as in the Greek in Matthew 2:6, “Out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule (feed marg.) my people Israel.”
1. He will feed his flock. The soul is hungry, and men crave for food. The word of Christ can feed the soul, and satisfy the wants of humanity. Those who believe in him “shall not hunger nor thirst” any more.
2. He will rule his flock. He will teach and guide, rule and provide. We require control as well as nourishment. All his sheep “follow him, for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
II. The qualifications of the shepherd king. Israel’s princes had no power, but he shall stand, clad in the strength and displaying the glory of the Lord.
1. He has Divine power. “Rule in the strength of the Lord.” He is invested with power to defend his flock against wolves and robbers (John 10:11-12). Care would be in vain if the sheep could not be secured from danger. “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
2. He has Divine tenderness. His power is not tyrannical. He loves where he feeds. His might is used to protect, not to destroy the flock. He does not flee away like an hireling, but lays down his own life for the sheep. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
3. He has Divine majesty. “In the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” All power in earth and heaven is given to him. Majesty is displayed in his love and teaching, in his nature and work. He is invested with more dignity than ordinary kings. He bears the name of God (Isaiah 9:5; Isaiah 10:21); the spirit of might rests upon him (Isaiah 11:1); and in the greatness of his majesty he overthrows every enemy (Exodus 14:7).
III. The attitude of the shepherd king. “He shall stand and feed.”
1. He is actively engaged. To sit is the attitude of a judge, to stand is the position of one ready to succour and defend. He defended Israel from the attack of heathen nations. He will watch and feed his Church to the end of time. He is always present and vigilant. “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither sleep nor slumber.”
2. He is constantly engaged. He never sits down in ease and neglect. He stands fixed in purpose, and none can hinder or remove him. He endures, surveys, and guards his flock on every side. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged until he hath set judgment in the earth.”
IV. The blessings which flow from the work of the shepherd king. Through the care and providence of Christ his people shall be increased, established, and acquire greatness and dominion.
1. The perpetual existence of the Church. “And they shall abide.” His people shall not wander to and fro, as hitherto. They shall rest and abide in permanent security and peace. None can hurt or destroy them. Because he lives they shall live. The original promise, often forfeited through disobedience, shall be fulfilled: “Ye shall dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid” (Leviticus 26:6; Isaiah 14:30).
2. The increasing greatness of the Church. “For now shall he be great.” A “little flock” only follow him now, but this flock shall be great in numbers and influence. Its king shall become famous, precious, and attractive to others. “I have made thee a great name, like the name of the great that are in the earth.”
3. The universal dominion of the Church. “He shall be great unto the ends of the earth.” There shall be no end to the increase, no limit to the power of his empire. Souls shall be converted, nations brought under the yoke of Christ, thus the greatness of his love and grace shall be set forth to the very ends of the world. “I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. Christ’s ordinary harbingers and forerunners, when he is to come with mercies to his Church, are afflictions to fit them for such manifestations.
2. These afflictions are often very grievous. The contempt and injury done to authority and magistrates, under whom a people may be kept from confusion and the Church protected, is a special ingredient in the affliction of the visible Church. See Hutcheson. To be smitten on the face betokens shame; to smite with a rod betokens destruction. Now both shall meet in one; as in the Great Day, the wicked shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, and shall perish for ever [Pusey].
Micah 5:2. Bethlehem. God orders all in the continuous course of his wisdom. All lies in perfect harmony in the Divine mind. Each event is the sequel of what went before. So here the prophet joins on, what to us stands in such contrast with that simple and. Yet he describes the two conditions as bearing one another. He had said that the judge was smitten, and that Israel had no counsellor nor king; now he speaks of the Ruler in Israel. He had said that the rule was to come to the tower of the flock; now, retaining the word, he speaks of the ruler in whom it was to be established. But he has greater things to say, so he pauses—And thou! People have admired the brief appeal of the murdered Cæsar, “Thou too, Brutus.” The like energetic conciseness lies in the words, And thou! Bethlehem Ephratah [Pusey].
1. In the purposes of eternity.
2. In the creation of the world.
3. In the manifestations of Old Testament.
4. In human birth.
5. In the events of providence.
Micah 5:4. The shepherd character of Jesus indicates:—
1. The helpless and lost condition of man.
2. The love of God in assuming the character and office of a shepherd.
3. The benevolent design in redeeming mankind.
Feed. This expression shows how Christ stands towards his own, the sheep that have been intrusted to him. He does not rule over them like a dreadful tyrant, who oppresses his subjects with fear, but he is a shepherd, and cares for his sheep with all the gentleness that can be desired. But since we are surrounded with enemies, the prophet adds: He works with power; that is, with all the power there is in God, all the protection there is in Christ, as soon as there is need to protect the Church. We should learn, therefore, to expect from Christ just as much salvation as there is power in God [Calvin]. But neither feed nor rule conveys the full idea of the original expression (Matthew 2:6). The full idea is, who shall act the part of a shepherd to my people Israel,—who shall at once protect, and guide, and feed, and govern or rule them [Morrison].
“As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o’ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms;
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.” [Pope.]
The world hates the Church, and feasts its eyes upon its misery.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Micah 5:2. Bethlehem. By a remarkable interposition of providence, interwoven, however, with the course of events in the world, was it brought about that the promised King should be born in Bethlehem (as Micah the prophet had foretold), the very place where the house of David had its origin; while, at the same time, the lowly circumstances of his birth were in striking contrast with the inherent dignity and glory that were veiled in the new-born child [Neander]. Both names were derived from “fruitfulness,” “House of Bread” and “fruitfulness;” and despite of centuries of Mohammedan oppression, it is fertile still. It had been rich in the fruitfulness of this world; rich, thrice rich, should it be in spiritual fruitfulness [Pusey].
Micah 5:3. Give them up.
(1) Into the hands of their enemies. Indeed the far greater part never returned from the Captivity, but remained, although willingly, in the enemy’s land, outwardly shut out from the land of the promise and the hope of their fathers. But
(2) all were, more than before, given up to follow their own ways. God was less visibly present among them. Prophecy ceased soon after the return from captivity, and many tokens of the nearness of God and means of his communications with them,—the Ark and the Urim and Thummim,—were gone. It was a time of pause and waiting, wherein the fulness of God’s gifts was withdrawn, that they might look on to Him who was to come. Until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth, i.e. until the Virgin should conceive and bear a Son [Pusey].
Micah 5:5. Man] Heb. this, emphatic (Genesis 5:29); the cause or author of peace between God and man (Zechariah 9:10; Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:17; Colossians 1:20). Seven and eight] Numbers complete, victorious, and contrasted with the enemy (Job 5:19; Proverbs 6:16). Prin.] Shepherds equivalent to princes or rulers (Jeremiah 6:3; Nahum 3:18).
Micah 5:6. Entrances] The borders where garrisons and its chief strength lie (2 Kings 3:21). Waste] Lit. eat up; the metaphor of shepherds (Numbers 22:4). Sword] With her own naked swords (Psalms 55:21). He] Messiah.
THE PEACEFUL RULE OF CHRIST.—Micah 5:5-6
This one just mentioned will bring peace within his kingdom, and bestow means sufficient to secure it when given. Literally and spiritually this promise belongs to the whole Church, and indicates the peaceful reign of Christ over men,
I. He will give peace to His people. Peace to the individual and to the Church is the gift of God.
1. Peace in his own person. “This man shall be the peace.” The soul is dissatisfied and restless; filled with fear, anxiety, and a sense of guilt. The inner life of men is a prayer for peace. Everything points to God as the only sufficient satisfaction. Christ reconciles to God, gives peace with God, and peace with conscience. He is “the Prince of peace, and sends peace on earth” where all is strife. He “came and preached peace to you who were far off, and to them that were nigh.”
2. Peace by his own agencies. “Then shall he raise up seven shepherds,” &c. Whatever number this may signify, the soldiers of Christ in themselves are weaker than the armies of the world. But the feeblest become heroes in Christ to conquer the enemy and secure the Church. Valiant achievements have been made by the shepherds and princes of the Church. God requires not numbers nor prowess. His instrumentalities are feeble and more than enough. Grace is stronger than sin. God is mightier than man. The weapons of our warfare are “not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”
II. He will defend the peace which He has given to His people. The Church is in danger, the peace of the Christian is often disturbed, and “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” But this man gives and secures peace to the individual, the Church, and the country.
1. He delivers from the enemy. “Asshur is a type of the nations of the world by which the people of the Lord are attacked, because in the time of the prophet this power was the imperial power by which Israel was endangered.” Nimrod was the founder of the empire, Genesis 10:9, and indicates the hostility of this power. Notice—
(1) The imminent danger. The enemy treads within the borders—prevails in the land, and enters their palaces. Sennacherib’s army entered Judah, took defenced cities, and besieged Jerusalem itself, Isaiah 36:1; Isaiah 37:3.
(2) The complete deliverance. Asshur was driven back, confined, and wasted in his own territory with the sword. He was defeated and crushed at his own gates.
2. He defends from the enemy. When defeated once the attack is often renewed. But the Church will carry the battle into the dominions of sin and Satan. Those who try to waste her shall be foiled and wasted themselves. “Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.”
OUR PEACE IN TROUBLE.—Micah 5:5
The Messiah is here intended. The word man, in Italics, is not in the original. The translators should rather have put in the word Ruler or Shepherd. But if he himself be understood, it is all the same, whatever be the supplement. The Assyrian is used metaphorically, for some enemy. It is common for sacred writers to express any significant adversary by the name of Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon; for these powers distinguished themselves by their hatred, oppression, and enslaving of the Jews. We may include everything that annoys and alarms, that would injure and destroy. Be the case what it may, he is our relief. He does not exempt us from conflict, but affords help, comfort, and deliverance. Enemies assail, but he keeps our minds stayed upon him in perfect peace. Let us think of several Assyrians, and see how he is our peace, when they invade and would swallow us up. Does the broken law of God threaten us? A man has nothing to fear from the law when perfectly kept. The curse enters through every breach of transgression. Who is not therefore exposed? The commandment coming—sin reviving—hope dying—and nothing expected but a certain fearful looking for of judgment! But he is our peace, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification. Does our adversary the Devil terrify? When you think of his wiles and strength, and consider yourself, you are filled with despair. You are no more than a worm to a mountain. The promise is, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob; for thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small as dust.” In the Lord you have righteousness and strength. In all these things you are more than conquerors, through him that loved you. Do we complain of the sin that dwelleth in us? A Christian must feel and ought to feel it, and be deeply humbled. “O wretched man that I am!” &c. But where does he find relief? “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He has begun and will finish the good work in me. My sanctification will be as complete as my justification now is. He is not only able to keep me from falling, but to present me faultless. Do we consider the troubles of life? In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace. “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” Modern Christians may not be called to suffer persecution as the disciples did; but they may be subjects of the same personal and relative trials, which require the same support and solace: they equally belong to him, and are never dearer to his heart than in the hour of affliction. He will not leave them comfortless. But death! Death is called the king of terrors. Where would be the triumph of faith if we did not feel its approach? But it is possible to rise above this enemy. We know it from Scripture and observation. Whence comes the victory? There is only one relief when this Assyrian comes—to see Him that has “abolished death.” The enemy is not only disarmed by him but turned into a friend—the curse converted into a blessing. To die is gain. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” &c. From Jay.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Micah 5:5. This Man. Christ is our peace, because through him we have peace above us with God, within us in our conscience, around us with other men, and under us with Satan [Lange].
Micah 5:6. Seven shepherds. Feeble instrumentality. Contrasted with the powers of evil. Its work. Its strength. Its exploits. In the Church of God the work of pastoral teaching is always a work of warfare against error. In the escutcheon of the Church the sword is joined with the crook. Cf. Psalms 149:6-9 [Wordsworth]. The more widely the Gospel spreads itself among the nations of the world, the more bitter will be the spirit of unbelief and ungodliness [Keil].
Princes of men. Victorious army of believers and preachers [Wordsworth].
Shall waste. Note, says one, those that threaten ruin to the Church of God hasten ruin to themselves; and their destruction is the Church’s salvation.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Micah 5:5-6. Peace. How like a paradise the world would be, flourishing in joy and rest, if men would cheerfully conspire in affection, and hopefully contribute to each other’s content. Holy Scripture itself in that one term of “peace” most usually comprehends all joy and. contents, all felicity and prosperity; so that the heavenly consort of angels, when they agree most highly to bless and to wish the greatest happiness to mankind, could not better express their sense than by saying, “Be on earth peace, and good-will among men” [I. Barrow].
“Peace hath her victories
Not less renowned than war.”—[Milton.]
Micah 5:7. Rem.] Shall quicken and have the same influence as imperceptible dew] (Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalms 72:6). An earnest of greater blessings hereafter (Isaiah 66:19; Zechariah 8:13). Showers] From dâbăr to multiply, multitudes of drops; from God, and independent of human agency, as dew and rain.
ISRAEL AS THE DEW.—Micah 5:7
The remnant of Jacob through participation in the Messiah’s work shall have a beneficent power, and spiritually influence surrounding nations, as rain and dew revive withering grass.
I. The Divine origin of dew. “As a dew from the Lord.” Israel’s restoration and increase here entirely from the Lord. This “orient pearl” glistens with Divine light. It is one of “the precious things of heaven” (Deuteronomy 33:13). Everything that quickens and invigorates spiritual life, every influence that preserves it from corruption and decay, comes from God. “I will be as the dew unto Israel.”
II. The sovereign laws of dew. “That tarrieth not for man,” &c. It is independent of the contrivance of man. It does not originate by human caprice and calculation. Man with all his science and skill can neither make nor hinder it. God supplies it according to his own purpose and law. “Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?”
III. The blessed influence of dew. Distilled in the silent night by the influences of heaven and earth, it bathes and refreshes each blade and flower with stainless moisture, and becomes an image of choicest blessing.
1. It is quickening in its influence. Without rain a Christian or an ungodly community is like grass dry and withered in appearance. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”
2. It is gentle in its influence. The word showers implies multitude of drops. “Drops as the gentle dew from heaven.” Imagine sheets of water falling at once. What destruction to life and vegetation! God breaks the force by its distribution in the needed showers, and each shower into countless drops. Not even the tenderest plant is injured. It descends noiselessly and penetrates deeply. Herbs grow and flourish under the soft influence which waiteth not for the sons of men. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.”
3. It is copious in its influence. “As the showers.” Multitude of drops in falling rain we call a shower. Showers are dispersed in drops over the face of the earth. “God hath divided a watercourse for the overflowings of water” (Job 38:35). Pentecost and times of revivals illustrate this. Thus the influence of the Church upon the world should be like the effects of rain upon dry fields and withering plants. It should quicken and strengthen, make fruitful and fragrant. The godly should mitigate God’s anger which burns up the ungodly; draw blessings from heaven in personal and social life; and be as the dew “in the midst of many people.”
“Now sliding streams their thirsty plants renew,
And feed their fibres with reviving dew” [Pope].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Micah 5:7. Dew comes down from heaven, is of heavenly, not earthly, origin, transparent, glistening with light, reflecting the hues of heaven; gentle, slight, weak in itself, refreshing, cooling the strong heats of the day; consumed itself, yet thereby preserving life; falling on the dry and withered grass, wherein all nature droops, and recalling it to freshness of life. And still more in those lands, where from the beginning of April to the end of October, the close of the latter and the beginning of the early rain, during all the hot months of summer, the life of all herbage depends upon the dew alone [Pusey].
Micah 5:8. Lion] To take vengeance on her enemies (Isaiah 66:15-16; Zechariah 12:3-6; Zechariah 14:17-18); and strike terror into all opponents. A prediction of victory under the Maccabees and after-times.
Micah 5:9.] Exultant feeling; High be thy hand (Isaiah 26:11) to destroy the foe (Exodus 13:9).
ISRAEL AS A LION.—Micah 5:8-9
God and his people have not only a benignant but a terrible aspect towards men,—as dew to the well-disposed, and as a lion to the assailants. In many respects the Church may be like the lion.
I. In that religious awe which they exercise over the minds of ungodly men. The lion among beasts of the forest and the young lion among flocks of sheep are feared beyond description. The good examples and consistent lives of pious men often strike terror into the conscience, and check the evil practices of the wicked. They are awed by them and dare not harm them. Herod feared John because he was a holy man (Mark 6:20).
II. In the courage with which they attack antagonists. “If he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces.” It boldly faces and braves the force of arms. Wounds rather provoke than repress its fierceness. It is not daunted by numbers; will often attack an entire caravan, and if overpowered in the combat, instead of flying, will gradually retreat with its face to the enemy until it dies. Luther and Latimer were the lions of the Church. Christians now through God are Cœur-de-lions, and endued with invincible power. “Terrible as an army with banners.”
III. In the victory which they gain over the enemy. “Lifted up upon thine adversaries.”
1. The victory is resistless. “None can deliver,” however strong and determined.
2. The victory is complete. “All thine enemies shall be cut off.” Ceasing to be enemies or destroyed in their opposition. The victories of the Maccabees were earnests of future glories. The hand of the Church shall be strengthened by the might of Jehovah. All adversaries will shortly be bruised under her feet. “And he went forth conquering and to conquer.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Micah 5:8-9. The lion was the emblem of strength and sovereignty (The Lion of England). Illustrative of Israel (Numbers 24:9), and Judah (Genesis 49:9); the courage of brave men (2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 23:20), and the boldness of saints (Proverbs 28:1). The lion is fearless of men (Isaiah 31:4.; Nahum 2:11). What can a javelin do against his strength! But even the king of the forest can read the eye and the language of man. Moral force is greater than physical force. What then must be the strength of the Christian Church under the leadership of “The Lion of the tribe of Judah”!
Micah 5:10. Horses] All human resources on which to depend (Isaiah 2:6-8; Psalms 20:7). “The Church will never be safe till she is stripped of all creature-trusts, and rests on Jehovah alone” [Calvin].
Micah 5:11. Cities] Salvation so complete that neither forces nor strongholds would be wanted.
Micah 5:12. Witch.] Such offences would be no more found amongst them (cf. Isaiah 2:6-8) Sooth.] Signmongers by hand and observations of the sky.
Micah 5:13. Images] Graven idols made of wood or metal. Stand.] Statues, stone images, or stones dedicated to idols (1 Kings 14:23). “Thou shalt no more be an idolatrous people” [A. Clarke].
Micah 5:14. Groves] Lit. “Stems of trees, or posts standing upright, or set up as idols, which were dedicated to the Canaanitish goddess of nature” (cf. Exodus 34:13) [Keil]. Cities] In or near which idolatrous groves were planted (2 Kings 10:25). “These two rather subordinate objects are mentioned instar omnium, to express the entire abolition of war and idolatry” [Keil].
Micah 5:15.] The Lord will take vengeance upon nations that have not heard, i.e. not hearkened or obeyed his voice. “In other words, he will exterminate every ungodly power by a fierce judgment, so that nothing will ever be able to disturb the peace of his people and kingdom again” [Keil].
EXTERMINATION OF WAR AND IDOLATRY.—Micah 5:10-15
Jehovah will secure the peace of his people by the destruction of war instruments, the extermination of idolatry, and the infliction of judgment upon resisting nations. Appliances of war will not be required in universal peace and security.
I. War abolished. God will deprive them of everything to make war, that they may depend upon him alone.
1. Human aids will be taken away. Men multiply horses and chariots, and trust in them (Psalms 20:7). Israel was accustomed to rely on Egypt and Assyria (cf. Isaiah 31:1-3; Hosea 14:3), but the time will come when the Church of God will not lean on an arm of flesh.
2. Outward defences will be destroyed. Strongholds and fortified cities will be demolished. “And throw down all thy strongholds.” God will teach his people not to look to war-chariots and secular allies, not to seek refuge in temporal support. He will be their garrison and deliverer. Cities have been provisioned and besieged for years and yet have fallen: but God defends his people, “all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates.”
II. Idolatry destroyed. In the Church of God there may be illicit intercourse with idols. When men are impatient in affliction, restless in their mind, and curious to know the future, they set up gods and groves of their own.
1. Systems of divination will be destroyed. Witchcraft, conjuring, and fortune-telling will be cut off. The work of men’s hands shall not be worshipped. Necromancy, pyromancy, and astrology are diabolical arts. Such tricks are abomination to God, who will judge them in his wrath.
2. Idolatrous worship destroyed. Graven images will be demolished. Groves and plantations will be plucked up, and not a remnant of idolatry left behind. God will cut off whatever hinders his purpose and corrupts his people. Confidence in creatures is idolatry. Holiness before God is essential to victory over the foe. Every curious art and devilish practice is destined to fall before the preaching of the cross (Acts 19:19).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Micah 5:10-14. The purification of the Church. Everything of an ungodly and idolatrous nature must be taken away before it can conquer the world and be fit for God’s residence. This is,
1. A necessary work.
2. A painful work.
3. A Divine work. “The greater the glory and purity of the Church, the less it needs or hangs upon human aid. The more it is reft of human aid, the more it hangs upon God. So God promises, as a blessing, that he will remove from her all mere human resources, both what was in itself evil and what, although good, had been abused” [Pusey].
Micah 5:15. The doom of heathen nations and ungodly opponents.
1. Vengeance without mercy.
2. Vengeance unprecedented. “Such as they have not heard.” “In like way, the woe on those who obey not the truth, also looks on to the end. It too is final. There is nothing to soften it. Punishments in the course of life are medicinal. Here no mention is made of mercy, but only of executing vengeance; and that with wrath and fury; and that such as they have not heard. For as eye hath not seen, nor heart conceived, the good things laid up in store for those who love God, so neither the evil things prepared for those who in act show that they hate him” [Pusey].
The Prince of peace.
1. His coming, (a) In lowly guise, Micah 5:1; humble. (b) And yet to the throne, Micah 5:1; glorious. (c) Because he was appointed to this form of old; eternal. (d) At the appointed fulness of time, Micah 5:2; temporal.
2. His work. (a) To seek and save that which was lost, Micah 5:2. (b) To be a shepherd in truth, Micah 5:3. (c) To prepare God’s kingdom even to the ends of the world, Micah 5:3. (d) To give peace to his followers through the protection which he will afford and the bestowment of power, Micah 5:4. (e) To judge the world, Micah 5:5; Micah 5:14.
3. His congregation. (a) A spiritual congregation, Micah 5:6. (b) A powerful congregation, Micah 5:7-8. (c) A holy congregation:
(1) trusts in God alone, Micah 5:9-10;
(2) inquires after God’s will alone, Micah 5:11;
(3) fears God alone, Micah 5:12-13 [Lange].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Micah 5:10-15. Christianity is by its nature adapted to effect these and similar changes in the physical, intellectual, and social state of our world, and by the decree of the Eternal it is hastening their accomplishment. It came into the world not only to reinstate man in his proper relationship to God, but to restore to him the forfeited inheritance of earth. It has already done much. Europe has been indebted to it for most of its civilization. England owes to it most of its elements of happiness and security. Within our own time it has achieved much good in the enfranchisement of the slave, in the partial civilization of Polynesia, in a thousand instrumentalities of blessing that are now at work in almost every quarter of the globe. It shall go on until it has attained all its happy and benign results. It shall yet enter, penetrate, and suffuse the entire frame of mind and existence. The Church shall become an eternal excellence, and a joy of many generations. The field of the world shall present the aspect as of a paradise regained. The race of man shall appear as the ransomed of the Lord, joy and gladness on their heads, sorrow and sighing for ever fled away [Legge].
“O Scenes surpassing fable and yet true,
Scenes of accomplished bliss, which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
The soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy,—
The joy of an assembly such as earth
Saw never; such as heaven stoops down to see! [Cowper.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Micah 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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