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This is a most blessed Chapter, for the precious contents of which the Church of Christ hath found occasion in all ages since possessed of it, and will find occasion to bless God the Holy Ghost for it till time shall be no more. We have in it the memorable spot predicted where Christ should be born; with assurances of his spiritual government and kingdom, and the gracious marks by which his spiritual Israel should be known!
The Chapter is introduced with an account of Zion's troubles. She is to be brought down to great affliction. Troops of foes are to encompass her. No doubt this looked further than the captivity of the Church in Babylon, because the next verse is a comfortable promise in the midst of this trouble; and as it refers to the person, and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am inclined to think that the troops here spoken of mean the Roman government; under which Judea was a province in the moment of the birth of Christ. See, Reader! how when troubles abound, consolations abound!
Every word in this blessed verse is important; and therefore let us regard every word in it. Bethlehem means the house of bread! how suited this to him, and his birth, who is the bread of life. Ephratah, or Ephrath, meaning fruitfulness, was the name also of the city of Bethlehem, about two leagues from Jerusalem, supposed to have been so named from Ephrah, Caleb's wife; 1 Chronicles 2:19 . David was also born here. John 7:42 . Observe also, how humbly it is spoken of, little among the thousands of Judah. Yes! where Jesus the humble Saviour is born, all the corresponding circumstances shall be humble also! Now mark the features of the God-man, also Mediator. His goings forth have been from of old. How? not as God only, for then in that sense there is neither goings forth nor retirings. His immensity filling all space, is one of his divine attributes, and could not need mentioning. And not as man only, for then his goings forth could not have been eternal. But in the union of both, as God-man, Jesus-Mediator went forth in the decree of Jehovah from everlasting. Sweet and precious testimony this to the character of the Lord Jesus, as the Christ of God. His character of office is next to be noted, a Ruler in Israel. And so the Lord Jesus was amidst all the humbleness in which he appeared in the days of his flesh; for though he was despised and rejected of men, yet did he reign and rule in the hearts of all his redeemed, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him. John 2:11 . Blessed be God the Holy Ghost for this precious portion in the testimony of the Prophets, to the person, character, and offices of the Lord Jesus Christ! In confirmation of the whole, let the Reader consult, Matthew 2:6 . There is one sweet thought more in this verse which must not be overlooked, because it is highly important; and that is, who is the speaker of this memorable verse? Doubtless it is God the Father. Well then, Reader! see here a blessed testimony of God the Father, to the mission of his dear Son; that this Ruler, this Saviour in Israel, whose goings forth had been from everlasting, had been and should be, unto God: he shall come forth unto me, saith Jehovah. Here lies indeed the great blessedness in the commission of Christ, that it is the authority of God the Father. So spake Jesus. John 5:36-43 . So spake his servant John! 1 John 4:14 .
The sense of this verse seems to be, that there shall be great trouble in Israel, until this glorious event of Christ's birth should take place. And certain it is that Israel was brought very low before Christ was born. Some however make these words wholly spiritual with respect to the new birth, in the heart of Christ's people, whose awakenings in grace are well known to be called in scripture travailing in soul. Galatians 4:19 .
It is very easy to enter into a proper apprehension of what is here meant concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. His person being before proved, we may well suppose the Prophet is speaking of his offices. Feeding, comprehends the whole office of a shepherd; restoring, healing, leading, protecting, and the like. In this sense, Christ's kingly office, as well as his prophetical, and priestly, are plainly included. And as it takes in the whole of Christ's character, so it extends to the ends of the earth. Such was indeed, and is, and ever will be the dominion of the Lord Jesus. Psalms 72:8-17 .
Wherefore the translators of our Bible into English, put in the word man into the first of these verses, I know not, for certain it is they had no authority to do so, not being in the original. But we have no objection to the insertion of it, if by the expression they mean the God-man, the glory-man, spoken of before, whose goings forth had been from everlasting. For sure it is, the Prophet could mean no other. Christ alone is our peace, and hath made our peace in the blood of his cross. And he, and he alone, is this peace against every Assyrian, that is, every enemy from without, or from within. Seven shepherds, and eight principal men, it should seem had respect to some of the more eminent servants of the Lord, probably the apostles, or evangelists, or both. The number of seven, and eight, doth not I apprehend mean a specific, but a certain number mentioned for an uncertain.
This is a very lovely description of the people of God. They art called a remnant. So they are in the Gospel; and a little flock. Romans 9:27 . Taken from Isaiah 10:21-22 ; Luke 12:32 . They are promised to be distinguished from the world around them by divine blessings, as the fleece of Gideon, from the dry earth. Judges 6:36-38 . But how beautiful the figure. They are to be as the dew, and from the Lord. And what is this? and how is it known? The Lord hath said by Hosea, I will be as the dew unto Israel. Hosea 14:5 . First observe, it is all of the Lord, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord. Zec 4-6. Now as the dew is from the Lord, so are the remnant of Jacob. They are born, saith John, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of men, but of God. John 1:13 . Moreover, this remnant, though known and distinguished as the dew when fallen, yet what eye sees the dew fall? who observes the method of its coming? Precisely so by Jacob's remnant. The work of God the Holy Ghost upon the soul is unknown in the time of his operation, unnoticed, unperceived by the world; yea, the very receiver is for a while a stranger to the Lord's work within him. Still further in reference to this beautiful allusion; as the dew comes down in abundance on the earth, so the grace of God the Spirit comes down most plentifully on the soul. The promise to the Lord Jesus was, that from the womb of the morning he should have the dew of his youth. Psalms 110:3 . Multitudes of souls should be given to Christ, as incalculable as the dew-drops of the morning. And as the dew is like the crystal, clear, pellucid, and shining; so the remnant of Jacob should be amidst the unclean and clouded around. Hence David's song concerning Jesus, the Rock of Israel, and his people in him. 2 Samuel 23:4 . And not only dew, but showers; not only a few here and there, like the droppings of rain, but multitudes, like the plentiful outpouring of the clouds, that refresheth the whole earth with their copiousness. And what endears the whole, and recommends the whole to show the sovereignty of grace, and the good pleasure of the Lord in bestowing all these mercies; this remnant of Jacob shall be so blessed, not only before they ask for the blessing, or are deserving of it, but before they have any consciousness of the blessing itself, or their want of it; for it tarrieth not for man, neither waiteth for the sons of men. Reader! I do beseech you, pause over this rich verse, and read it again and again. And then may we both fall down before the mercy seat, and freely, fully give all the glory of rich, free, and sovereign grace, where alone it is due, crying out with the Apostle, now thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15 .
The same distinguishing blessings on Jacob's remnant, only adopting another figure, are here promised, to show the freedom of God's grace and love to his people. In the former Jacob's remnant is made passive in receiving blessings from the Lord, to denote the Lord's chosen. In this they are shown to be active, in going forth in the Lord's strength, to the Lord's cause. Acting under the name and authority of the lion of the tribe of Judah; the worm Jacob is enabled to thresh the mountains. Isaiah 41:14 .
Is not this spoken of Christ himself? I do not presume to answer the question. But if it be, it is a blessed promise. And if not, it is still blessed to Christ's people, for it must be to them in him?
I include all these verses under one reading. They all, according to my view, proclaim the same doctrine, namely, the Lord's promise that the remnant of Jacob shall be defended, blessed, and protected, by Jacob's Lord. They shall be stripped of all false confidences in themselves, and secured from all deceitful errors from others. The Lord undertakes for them, and will in one and the same moment keep them from all spiritual pride, and beat down all their spiritual foes. Precious promises of a more precious, promising, and performing God! Reader! what can be more blessed, than when the Lord engageth for himself, and engageth for his people. Do turn to that sweet scripture of the Prophet before you close your review of this Chapter. Jeremiah 32:37-41 .
BLESSED Lord Jesus! I would leave all other subjects, all other considerations, to follow thee thou Lamb of God, wherever I find thee in thy scriptures of truth. And as here in this Chapter thou didst commission thy servant Micah to tell the Church, ages before thine incarnation, where thou wouldest be born; at Bethlehem Ephratah would my soul meditate the mysterious birth of Him, whose name was, and is, and ever will be, Wonderful! Take wing, my soul, this morning, and fly to the honored spot. A greater light than the ministry of a star, which guided the wise men, will guide thee; for Jesus himself, by his blessed Spirit, will go before, and pointing to the place, will say, as in his own blessed words, this man was born here! But, oh! Almighty Jesus! even when in sweet meditation at Bethlehem, shall I not in devout thought run back into the contemplation of eternity, and call to mind that thy goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Indeed, indeed, my honored Lord, it was before all worlds that thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for their salvation wert thou then the anointed. So that all thou hast done afterwards in time, and all that thou art unceasingly engaged in now in eternity, and will be forever and ever, is on the same blessed design, for the glory of thy Father, in the redemption of his and thy chosen. Hail! thou Almighty God! Hail! thou Wonderful Man. Thou art, and wilt be, the peace of all thy redeemed, when the whole troops of Assyrians, even the whole host of the Church's enemies, shall come into our land. Thou will stand and feed thy flock in the strength of Jehovah, in the presence of their foes, and make their cup run over! And thy remnant shall be in the midst of many people, as a dew, so numerous, so beautiful, so refreshed and comely, from thy comeliness put upon them. And all this, yea, and more than eye, hath seen, or ear heard, or the mind can think, wholly from thyself, and to thyself, and thine own glory; not waiting their cry, or their deservings, but like the sweet influences of heaven in the falling showers, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. Lord! be thou thus according to thy promise, as the dew unto all thine Israel. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Micah 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany