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This is a beautiful Chapter, inasmuch as it sets forth the graciousness of the Lord in his expostulations with Israel.
This seems a new Sermon of the Prophet's, opening at this Chapter. The stile is as usual in the prophetic way. Not only the people are called upon, but the inanimate part of the creation, to be witness of Israel's stupidity. See Isaiah 1:2 , etc.
I beg the Reader particularly to notice in the very commencement of the Lord's discourse, that the covenant relation between the Lord and his Israel, is kept in remembrance. O my people! do not, I beg you, forget this, for it is most gracious and most blessed. Of all the parts of scripture, these are certainly what come home most powerfully to the heart; the Lord's appeal to his people concerning his unalterable goodness, and their continued rebellion. Jeremiah's prophecy is full of this. See Jeremiah 2:0 . In a short compass the Lord here sums up the outlines of the whole eventful history of his grace over Israel, in bringing them out of Egypt, and bringing them through the wilderness. And in the last of these verses the Lord as briefly sums up the blessings he had manifested to them, when bringing them into the promised land, and his special mercy in the case of Balaam and Barak, on the borders of it. Numbers 22:0 ; Numbers 23:0 ; Numbers 24:0 ; Numbers 25:0 . But I beg more particularly the Reader to observe with me, what the Lord here saith was his gracious design in all this; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; or, as it might be read, the righteousnesses of the Lord; for this doth not consist in one, or two, or ten thousand acts, but it is in all acts. The Hebrews delight in plurals in this way. So in the first Psalm, the word is blessedness is the man, that is the Man Christ Jesus. Meaning that he, and he alone, is blessedness, for there is blessing in no other. See Psalms 1:1 and Psalms 72:17 . I must observe once more on this part of the Prophet's verse, in the reason assigned that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; that the Syriac version applies this to the enemies of Israel, that they might know, that is Balak, and Balaam, and the rest of the reprobate crew, might know the righteousness of the God of Israel. And if read thus, it is equally beautiful. It is as if the Lord had said, that they shall know my love to my people, and my justice in punishing the malice of their unprovoked foes.
This is that memorable passage in scripture which hath given rise to numberless opinions, both in the moral and religious world, and by the perversion of it, untaught by God the Holy Ghost, hath produced endless disputes among the carnal and worldly minded in all ages. I beg the Reader's indulgence on this account, to be somewhat more particular upon it than I otherwise should have done; and when I have finished, I shall leave the whole before him that he may form his own judgment; begging of him first, as I now do, to seek the light and instruction of that Almighty Spirit which is promised, and whose office it is to guide into all truth! And first I should observe, that some have thought that the enquiry, wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and the proposal of burnt offerings, and the like, is not from Israel, but from Balak. They that are of this opinion, conceive, that before Balak and Balaam parted, the former put such questions as in these verses, and Balaam gave the answer as in the eighth verse. And the reason such writers have assigned, is, that Israel never could be so ignorant as to ask, whether they should offer human sacrifices, as in the gift of their first born for the sin of their soul. But I confess that this kind of reasoning doth not appear satisfactory to me. We know that in the case of Israel, at the very time of Balaam's hiring himself to curse the people of God, that by the advice of that infamous enchanter, Moab got Israel, by means of their daughters, to join the Moabites in their sacrifices. See Numbers 25:1-3 . Compared with Revelation 2:14 . I cannot but think therefore, that the enquiry is not Balak, but Israel. And I humbly conceive that it corresponds to the anxious enquiry of every soul, when first brought under the awakening distress of his own heart concerning sin, and before God the Holy Ghost hath brought him savingly acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ. Reader! let us accept the inquiry in this light; and now attend to the answer. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? that is, say some, in every department of life to do the just, the honest, the upright part; to be merciful according to a man's ability, in acts of alms-giving, and the like; and to observe an humble reverence towards God. This, say they, is the sum and substance of all moral and religious obligations. But I bless God, that I have not so learned Christ. For on this presumption, the words of the Lord Jesus Christ would be inverted, and instead of making the love of God the first, and grand concern; and causing the second, which is the love of our neighbor, to arise out of it; the love of men in this sense would become the first, and the love of God the last, and least. And did men attend to the plain sense of scripture, and not the presumptuous reasoning of their own minds, they would discover that those acts here spoken of, in doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly, are expressly said to be with God, that is, with an eye to Him, and serving Him in all. And if we thus accept this memorable passage of scripture, and explain it under the terms of the Gospel, the sense of it will be as plain and obvious as need be. Reader! you and I shall indeed do justly with our God, if we confess that in ourselves, by reason of sin, we justly deserve his wrath and indignation, having broken all his righteous laws. We shall indeed love mercy, if the Lord Jesus Christ be the mercy we love, who is himself the mercy promised; (Luke 1:72 .) and in his own person, blood, and righteousness, comprehends the whole of mercy and salvation. And we shall indeed walk humbly with our God, while from a daily sense of sin, and from feeling the workings of corruption within, we walk as those, who in the moment they seek mercy, constantly acknowledge their total undeservings of it. This is indeed to walk humbly with our God, when we make a free and full confession of all sin, and subscribe as fully and freely to the rights of God's justice. It is called in scripture, accepting the punishment of our iniquity. See Leviticus 26:40-41 . And it is also said to be justifying the divine government, in condemning ourselves. So did David. Psalms 51:4 . If, to the anxious inquiry in this memorable passage, we thus interpret scripture, according to the teaching of God the Holy Ghost. See John 16:8-11 . And under the humblings of the soul we do the first act of justice to the first of Beings, in acknowledging ourselves to be virtually nothing but sin; and in the consciousness of this most unquestionable truth, we so love mercy, as to accept on our bended knees in transports of rejoicing, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the whole of our salvation; then will follow all the blessed effects in walking humbly with God, and in love, justice, and charity with men. But to suppose that this blessed passage of scripture refers only, or even principally to the second branch of duties, while overlooking, or only slightly regarding the first, is, according to my views of the word of God, sadly perverting the whole purport of scripture. May the Lord be the teacher of him that writes, and him that reads, that to both may be given a right understanding in all things. Amen.
God's voice is his word, his ordinances, his providences, his mercies, his judgments. And the man of wisdom will see and regard it. In the margin of our old Bibles, the words are, thy name shall see that which is, that is, by the name is meant person; the Lord shall see. Thus the Lord saith, thou hast a few names in Sardis; that is, thou hast a few persons there. Revelation 3:4 . And speaking of Christ, it is said, in his name shall the Gentiles trust; that is, in Christ shall they trust. Matthew 12:21 . Hear the rod, is an uncommon expression. One might have expected it would have been said to feel it. But God's rods differ from the rods of men. His rods speak as well as correct; for the sinner is made to connect with the punishment the sin which brings it.
These expressions are all directed to one and the same end, namely, to teach Israel the enormity of his transgressions. Omri was a king in Israel, and so was Ahab, his son; both transgressors before the Lord, and yet their statutes were obeyed. How awful was it in Israel therefore to forget the Lord! 1 Kings 16:23-33 .
READER! what are all the controversies the Lord hath with his people, but on account of their transgression and sin? And how gracious must it be in God, still to bear with his people, and not cast them off as their iniquities deserve! And may it not be said, as in this Chapter, so in all ages of the Church, was there ever mercy like that which the Lord hath manifested to his Church? How tenderly doth the Lord call upon the people to become witnesses against themselves, and to his grace and kindness towards them? How did the Lord then, and how doth the Lord now, guard and fence his redeemed from all the Balaams and Balaks that would destroy them. And what doth the Lord require in return? Surely nothing but what common policy and common honesty would direct, even if thankfulness to the Lord was out of the question. Can we show justice to men, if we keep back and withhold justice to God? Convinced as we must be, that thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil, can be no acceptable service to the Lord; shall we not delight to offer that which is? And if infinite love, and infinite grace hath provided a full ransom for sin in the blood of Christ, shall we not in justice confess, that without it we are lost forever? If Jehovah hath set forth Jesus as the first born in the womb of mercy, yea, mercy itself in all the fulness of it, shall we not love Jesus for his great salvation, and God the Father for giving it? And if all that is required of a poor sinner, that is so poor and insolvent that he hath nothing to bring, is, to do this justice, and love this Jesus, and to walk thus humbly with his God; can there be terms more gracious, more blessed, and condescending? Lord! give both to Reader and Writer this grace, that we may hear the Lord's voice thus crying to the city, and under divine wisdom, see thy name, and rejoice in thy salvation. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Micah 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany