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PRAYER OUR GREAT PRESERVATIVE
Micah 7:7. I will look unto the Lord; 1 will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
IF we mark the discriminating character of the Lord’s people, we shall find, that from the beginning of the world it has consisted in this: The ungodly “call not upon God [Note: Psalms 14:4.];” but the “godly are a people near unto him [Note: Psalms 148:14.].” Abraham, the father of the faithful, built an altar to God in every place where he abode. Moses, David, and all the saints, familiarized themselves with God, if I may so speak; and carried their every want to him, as their Father and their Friend. The Prophet Micah, in his own conduct, well illustrates this. The awful state of the world around him he declares in very pathetic terms; crying, in the view of it, “Woe is me [Note: ver. 1.]!” And having represented this with the fidelity that became him, he declares, with no common measure of complacency, the manner in which he proposed to occupy his mind: “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me:” that is, the more others depart from God, the more will I seek his face.
From these words I shall take occasion to shew,
In what circumstances the godly are placed—
St. John expresses in one word all that can be said: “We are of God; and the whole world lieth in wickedness [Note: 1 John 5:19.].” To the same effect, the prophet here speaks of the godly, as living in a world,
Where iniquity abounds—
[So universal was the reign of sin in Judζa, that scarcely was a person of real piety to be found. And what is the state of things at this day? Is there not occasion for the same lamentation now? If you go into any place where the Gospel is not preached with power, and wish to refresh your spirit with the society of those who are truly alive to God, will you not find yourselves like a person in a vineyard after that the fruits have been gathered, where he can scarcely obtain a cluster to satisfy his longing appetite? There is nothing but a small remnant to which he can get access; and that, alas! of stinted growth, and destitute of the luscious flavour with which he had hoped to be regaled. If we look at Christians of more favoured times, it seems as if “the good man had now almost perished from the earth;” so few are there who resemble the saints and martyrs of former ages [Note: ver. 1, 2.].
In the administration of the laws, I confess, we widely differ from the Jews of old. The rich cannot oppress the poor; nor could they, amongst us, find judges corrupt enough to pervert the laws for gain. But in every other species of iniquity all classes of the community will uphold each other; insomuch, that, whether we notice the more refined sensuality of the rich, or the more degrading habits of the vulgar, all have their advocates; all are declared innocent, or treated with indulgent connivance: and “so they wrap it up.” Nothing is suffered to disgust us by its own proper character; but false names are imposed on every thing, to hide from us its deformity, and to give it a title to our regard. Not even palpable wickedness goes unexcused: licentiousness is made to wear the garb of piety; and worldliness of prudence. The rich and the poor, the old and the young, all shall have their appropriate gratifications; and all agree to hold each other innocent. “So (I say again) they wrap it up [Note: ver. 3.].”
And if we take persons of a better character, we shall find, that, however they may wear a good appearance at a distance, as a hedge of thorns or briers may do, the more closely you come in contact with them, the more you are pained by them; “the best of them proving as a brier, and the most upright of them as a thorn-hedge [Note: ver. 4.]:” insomuch that he is really the happiest man who has least dependence on, or, except in a very distant way, communication with, his fellow-man. Such was the state of society in that day: and such, alas! it is at this very hour.]
Where piety is discountenanced—
[At different periods of the Jewish history, it was at the peril of a man’s life to espouse the cause of the God of Israel; so entirely had idolatry superseded the worship of the one true God. At those seasons it was dangerous for a man to “trust his friend, or even the wife of his bosom,” if he was inclined to serve the living God. “A son would rise up against his father, and a daughter against her mother; and a man’s greatest enemies were often those of his own household.”
It is remarkable, that our blessed Lord has cited this very passage, not only as applicable to, but as particularly characteristic of, the dispensation which he came to introduce: “The brother,” says he, “shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes shall be those of his own household [Note: ver. 5, 6. with Matthew 10:21; Matthew 10:35-40.10.36.].” Such times have been in the very country in which we live: and such they would be again, if popery were to regain its ascendant. Not that we need go back to times of popery for acts of intolerance in reference to religion; for the same hatred of piety exists at the present day: and it not unfrequently happens, that persons are obliged to conceal from their parents, or from those under whom they live, their attachment to the Gospel of Christ; knowing that a disclosure of it would infallibly expose them to hatred and contempt.]
Such, then, are the circumstances under which the godly are placed: and, as they are confessedly arduous, it will be proper for me to shew,
To what measures they should have recourse—
Here the prophet’s example will point out to us the precise line which every Christian should pursue. Mark,
The determination of his mind—
[Difficult as it was to maintain his integrity in such a time as that, he determined to spread his case before the Lord, and to look to him for “strength according to his day.” And, if the Lord should not instantly impart all the succour he could desire, he would “wait for the Lord,” and tarry his leisure, and expect from him all that an indulgent Father can bestow.
Here is the line of conduct which all the godly must pursue. If they attempt to contend with these difficulties in their own strength, they must fail. The direction which God himself gives them is this: “Call upon me in the time of trouble; so I will hear thee; and thou shalt praise me [Note: Psalms 50:15.]” What then should we do, but adopt, every one of us for ourselves, the determination of David, saying, “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall hear me. Evening, and morning, and at noon-day, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice [Note: Psalms 55:16-19.55.17.].” Indeed David proposes himself to us as an example in this particular: “My soul,” says he, “wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, ye people: pour out your hearts before him: God is a refuge for us [Note: Psalms 62:5-19.62.8.].” In the New Testament, the directions to this effect are numberless: so that we may conclude, that humble, fervent, and persevering prayer is the true remedy for every saint, against all the evils which he either feels or fears.]
The conviction of his soul—
[There is something very imposing in that declaration of the prophet, “My God will hear me.” He speaks not of God’s assistance as a matter of hope, but as what he could not fail of obtaining: so great, so irresistible, was the efficacy of believing prayer. And what says the Apostle John on this subject? “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And, if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him [Note: 1 John 5:14-62.5.15.].” Nor is this a rash assertion: it is confirmed by actual experience. “I sought the Lord,” says David; “and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Yes: this poor man cried; and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles [Note: Psalms 34:4; Psalms 34:6. See also Psalms 40:1-19.40.3.].” I hesitate not, then, to say to all of you, that this measure shall be crowned with the desired success. “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass: he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day [Note: Psalms 37:4-19.37.6.].” God may not indeed interpose precisely at the time, or in the manner, that our impatient minds may dictate: but, “though he tarry long, he will come at last [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.];” and in the event will surely shew himself “mighty to save.” “Wait, then, on the Lord, every one of you; and be of good courage; and he will strengthen your heart: wait, I say, upon the Lord [Note: Psalms 27:14.].”]
As a further improvement of this subject, learn,
The benefit of trials—
[Trials of every kind are painful to flesh and blood: but they are, in reality, blessings in disguise. See the effect of them on the prophet’s mind. Were they unserviceable to him? Neither shall they be unprofitable to us. I will suppose that they are heavy: yet, if they bring you to God, and God to you, tell me, Have you any cause to complain? — — — God deals with you as a skilful person does with a wheel and engine that is under his controul. He lets down upon it so much water as will accomplish his own purposes; but whatsoever is superfluous, and would injure its movements, he turns off in another course. So does God deal with his people; permitting the wrath of man to prevail against them so far as shall be conducive to their best interests, but restraining the remainder, which would counteract his views [Note: Psalms 76:10.]. He has promised, that you shall not be “tempted above that ye are able; but shall, with the temptation, have also a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” And, “if you lose father or mother, houses or lands, for his sake, you shall receive an hundred-fold more in this life, to supply their loss; and in the world to come, eternal life [Note: Mark 10:29-41.10.30.].” To exchange the creature for the Creator, need never be to any a subject of regret.]
The blessedness of those who have the Lord for their God—
[The world know not where to go in a time of trouble: but the righteous have God himself for their refuge. Perhaps a person viewing the ungodly in their prosperity, and the poor persecuted prophet in his troubles, would be ready to envy the wicked, and to regard the persecuted saint as an object of compassion. But who that turns aside the veil, and beholds the saint in communion with his God, will be of that opinion? Who that should see God attending to the supplications of his afflicted child, and giving his angels charge concerning him, and sending down the Comforter into his soul, and preparing for him a weight of glory proportioned to his trials, would not rather congratulate the saint, and say, “Blessed is the man whose God is the Lord!” Seek him, then, as your reconciled God in Christ Jesus; and then all things are yours: “whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23.].”]
ADDRESS OF THE JEWISH CHURCH TO HER ENEMIES
Micah 7:8-33.7.10. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God? Mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
IT is a matter of general complaint, that the minor prophets are difficult to be understood: and this is true to a considerable extent: but we apprehend that it arises very much from our not sufficiently bearing in mind the subjects on which they wrote. We do right in looking for many things applicable to the Messiah, and to his Church and kingdom: but we err in not having more respect to the Jewish Church as it existed in the times when the prophets wrote; and as it shall exist at a period yet future, when that people shall be gathered in from their present dispersion, and be restored to their own land. We complain that we cannot unlock those Scriptures; but we neglect to take the key that alone will fit the wards. If we kept the Jews more in view, many of the difficulties would vanish; and innumerable beauties would be seen in passages that are now passed over as devoid of interest. We believe verily that the day is fast approaching, in which “God will shew them marvellous things,” not a whit inferior to those which he wrought for them when he brought them out of Egypt [Note: ver. 15.]: and it is their privilege to be looking forward to that period, with earnest and assured expectation of the blessings prepared for them. In the prospect of that period, the Jewish Church is represented by the prophet as consoling herself with the reflections which we have just read: in our further consideration of which we shall notice,
The address of the Jewish Church to her enemies—
Bitter in the extreme was the enmity of many surrounding nations against the Jews; far more bitter, we apprehend, than in any of them against each other. The favours conferred upon the Jewish nation by Jehovah, and the entire separation of the Jews from all other people by the ordinances of their religion, tended to call forth this enmity, and to keep it, as it were, in continual exercise. In like manner at the present day, when they have ceased to exist in their national character, and are blended with the different nations where they dwell, they are still hated, and despised above any other people upon earth. This, no doubt, is a judgment inflicted on them for their murder of their Messiah: and under their present sufferings they may well adopt the language of our text. It is the language,
Of deep submission—
[Great were the iniquities of the Jewish people at the time that the prophet wrote [Note: ver. 2–6.]; and heavy were the judgments which God inflicted on them in Babylon on account of them. But far greater is the guilt which they have contracted in rejecting their Messiah, and in crucifying the Lord of glory. For this they have been punished now these seventeen hundred years, and been made a bye-word and a hissing amongst all nations. Under these circumstances, what will be the reflections of a pious Jew? He will say, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” Indeed, this, we apprehend, is, in words at least, the language of the Jews at this time generally, or perhaps universally, through the world. It is on account of their sinfulness that they suppose God has not yet sent them the Messiah that was promised to them so long ago, and who, but for their wickedness, would have come to them at the appointed time: and they submit to the dispensations of God towards them from this very consideration, that they are not yet in a state fit to receive his promised mercies. This is a favourable circumstance for their future conversion: and when this submission to the Divine chastisements shall be accompanied with suitable penitence and contrition, their deliverance will be speedily vouchsafed.]
Of patient hope—
[As the Edomites, the Ammonites, and others, formerly exulted over Jerusalem, and rejoiced in her calamities, so at this time her enemies regarded her as forsaken by her God, and doomed to interminable degradation. But the believing Jew knows that God has not forgotten to be gracious; nor so far shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure, as to be merciful to him no more. He knows, that even in the midst of all his troubles God is able to support and comfort him, and that in due season he will interpose to rescue his people from their oppressors. Hence he “encourages himself in the Lord his God;” and comforts himself with the hope, that, though his night of sorrow may be long and dreary, there is a morning of joy awaiting him, when he shall “put off his sackcloth, and gird him with gladness.”]
Of joyful assurance—
[The Scriptures everywhere denounce the heaviest judgments on those who oppress the Jews, and who shall labour to obstruct their future restoration. Their enemies will be as incapable of offering to them any effectual opposition, as Pharaoh and his armies were of preventing the departure of their forefathers from the land of Egypt. Their enemies will indeed gather together for the purpose of preventing their re-establishment in their own land: but they will be only as “sheaves” collected into the barn “to be threshed out by men, or trodden out” by oxen [Note: Micah 4:11-33.4.13.]. Before them their adversaries will be only as sheep before the devouring lion [Note: Micah 5:8-33.5.9.]. An universal terror will seize on them, such as filled the Canaanites when Joshua invaded and subdued their land [Note: ver. 16. 17.]. Though they appear weak and contemptible as a worm, yet says God to them, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and make the hills as chaff; thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel [Note: Isaiah 41:14-23.41.16.].” To this period the believing Jew may look forward with confidence, assured that his present degradation shall be more than equalled by his future exaltation [Note: Isaiah 49:24-23.49.26; Isaiah 51:21-23.51.23.].]
But if we would improve this passage aright, we must consider,
The lessons it teaches to the Church of God in all ages—
The Church of Christ bears a strong resemblance to the state of the Jewish Church: it is hated and despised by an ungodly world: it is “a speckled bird; and all the birds round about are against her [Note: Jeremiah 12:9.].” All who truly follow the Lord Jesus, and “walk as he walked,” are “for signs and for wonders;” “nor can they live godly in Christ Jesus without suffering persecution.”
But from the address of the Jewish Church they may learn,
Submission to God’s chastisements—
[From whatever quarter our trials may come, we should view the hand of God in them, and receive them as from him. We must always however distinguish between the inflictions of judicial wrath, and the chastisements of paternal love. As a Father, God chastens his most beloved children: and they can never err in saying, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” When Shimei cursed David, and Abishai desired permission to go and inflict on him the punishment he deserved, David would not suffer it, but with holy meekness submitted to the indignity, saying, “Let him alone; and let him curse: for the Lord hath bidden him [Note: 2 Samuel 16:7-10.16.11.].” It is surprising what composure this will bring into the mind amidst all the sufferings that can be inflicted on us. The consideration that they are sent by a wise and gracious God will reconcile us to them: but the thought of their being chastisements for sin, and means of purifying us from our corruption, will make us to “kiss the rod, and to say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”Let us only see that he is “chastening us for our profit, and however we may, under the pressure of our anguish, deprecate the dispensation, we shall from our inmost souls refer ourselves to his all-wise disposal, saying, “Not my will, but thine be done.”]
Hope in his mercy—
[However severely God may see fit to chastise his people, there are two things which he gives them for their support; namely, a sense of his presence with them in their affliction, and the prospect of a happy issue out of it. They may, by reason of his dispensations, “sit for a time in darkness: but he will be a light unto them.” They may, like St. Paul, be “troubled on every side; yet shall not be so distressed” as not to know what to do: they may be “perplexed; but shall not be in despair:” they may be “persecuted; but shall not be forsaken; and cast down, but shall not be destroyed [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:8-47.4.9.].” He will “hide them, as it were, in his pavilion,” or rather, as it is yet more beautifully expressed, “in the secret of his presence;” so that, though in the fire, they shall not be burned; and though in the lion’s den, they shall not be hurt. Besides, when his dispensations have produced their desired effect, he, as a refiner watching over the vessels which he has put into the furnace, will take them out, and shew that they have been purified by means of it, and have lost nothing in it but their dross. Under our afflictions the ungodly are ready to triumph over us, and to conclude, that God is visiting us in anger for some iniquity, which, though hidden from men, has been seen by him: but he will appear for us in due season, and “bring forth our righteousness as the noon-day.” Thus he did for David, under all his persecutions from Saul: thus he did also for his only dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when he raised him from the dead: and thus he will do for all who put their trust in him. If we only “humble ourselves under his mighty hand, he will in due season lift us up, to our greater comfort, and to the everlasting honour of his own name.]
An assured expectation of final victory—
[Even in this life the enemies of his people are often put to shame, and constrained, as Job’s friends were, to confess that they had erred in judgment respecting us. But O! what shame will seize them in the last day, when they shall see those whom they once despised and persecuted for their religion, openly acknowledged by their Lord as good and faithful servants; and they themselves be bidden to depart from his presence, and to take their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! Then will “their day come;” and “the righteous shall see it: they shall sit as assessors with Christ in judgment, and shall approve of the sentence denounced against them. Such is the honour reserved for all the saints. “No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper; but every tongue that rises against them in judgment shall they condemn [Note: Isaiah 54:17.].” Sooner or later will justice be administered both to the friends and enemies of Jehovah; and that which is spoken by the prophet, be verified in all its extent; “Behold, my servants shall eat; but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink; but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice; but ye shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart; but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit [Note: Isaiah 65:13-23.65.14.].” Well may this prospect compose the minds of all God’s afflicted people; and well may they be contented to go on their way weeping for a season, when they have a prospect of such a harvest, and an assurance of bringing with them such sheaves into the garner of their God.]
GOD’S MERCY, AS RESERVED FOR THE JEWS
Micah 7:18-33.7.20. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities: and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old [Note: This Discourse is added to the foregoing, not only in order to elucidate it more fully, but especially in order to mark the connexion of the text with the future restoration and conversion of the Jews.].
TO acquire the knowledge of God, we must examine what is spoken of him in his word; and more especially the delineation which he has given of his own character, when, by an audible voice, he revealed himself to Moses [Note: Exodus 34:6-2.34.7.]. Yet we must by no means overlook his character, as it is embodied in his works. In the works of creation, of providence, and of redemption, all his perfections are displayed; and in such a way as to make the deepest possible impression on our minds. The passage which we have just read, if taken apart from the context, exhibits Jehovah in the most glorious colours: but if we take it in connexion with the whole preceding prophecy, from which it results, it will present us with a view of the Deity surprisingly grand. It is evident that the prophet has been meditating on the Divine character as displayed in some stupendous acts of mercy, either already exercised, or designed to be exercised at some future period. Let us, then consider,
The dispensation which is here contemplated—
The Prophet Micah enters very fully into the subject of the Millennium, and opens it as circumstantially, especially as far as the Jewish nation are interested in it, as any prophet whatever. Let us hear what he says respecting it,
In the former part of his prophecy—
[In the fourth chapter he opens the subject nearly in the same terms with the Prophet Isaiah: “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not rise against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts hath spoken it [Note: Micah 4:1-33.4.4. with Isaiah 2:2-23.2.4.].”
He then proceeds to show the blessings of which the Jews shall partake in that day: “In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth; and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted: and I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever [Note: Micah 4:6-33.4.7.].” This, he adds, shall be accomplished, in part, by their deliverance from Babylon [Note: Micah 4:10.]: but yet, in immediate connexion with that, he foretells events which were not accomplished at that period, nor shall be till the time fixed for their future restoration to their own land: “Now, also, many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord; neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. Arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth [Note: Micah 4:11-33.4.13.].” Nothing like this was effected at any time subsequent to the Babylonish Captivity: and therefore we must, of necessity, look to some future period for its accomplishment. But the prophet himself goes on to declare, that these glorious events were not to take place till after that the Messiah should have been born at Bethlehem: “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he (the Messiah) shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they (the Jewish remnant) shall abide: for NOW shall he be great unto the ends of the earth [Note: Micah 4:2-33.4.4.]. This shall be the time for the universal reign of Christ: at which time the Jews are destined to act a most conspicuous part upon the theatre of the world; being, on the one hand, God’s instruments for the conversion of the Gentile world; and, on the other hand, his agents for the destruction of all who shall oppose his will: “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. The remnant of Jacob shall also be among the Gentiles, in the midst of many people, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off [Note: Micah 5:7-33.5.9.].” Now, in this passage we have a complete summary of all that shall take place in that day. The whole world of Jews and Gentiles shall be converted to Christ; but the Jews shall lead the way, and be God’s honoured instruments for bringing in the Gentiles; by whom, in the first instance, they shall be fiercely opposed; but over whom they shall triumph with immense slaughter, and with the same facility as a lion triumphs over a flock of sheep.
Not less fully does the prophet speak also,]
In the chapter before us—
[He represents, in very moving terms, the Jew anticipating this blessed period: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God? Mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down, as the mire of the streets [Note: ver. 8–10.].” Then, after confirming this expectation as certainly to be fulfilled at the time appointed for the termination of their present sufferings [Note: ver. 11–13.], he himself cries to God in their behalf: “Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old [Note: ver. 14.].” And to this prayer God returns a most gracious answer; declaring, that he would interpose for them as wonderfully and effectually as he did for them at the time of their deliverance from Egypt, to the utter surprise and dismay of all surrounding nations: “According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things. The nations shall see, and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf: they shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall move out of their holes, like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee [Note: ver. 15–17.].”
Thus it is that the words of my text are introduced: they arise altogether out of the foregoing subject, and ought to be considered in connexion with it. Let us then next mark,]
The soliloquy uttered in the contemplation of it—
The soliloquy may be regarded as proceeding from the prophet himself, or from any pious and believing Jew.
Picture to yourselves, then, a Jew contemplating this event—
[He breaks forth into a devout ascription of praise to God: first, in a general view of the dispensation; then, in a view of the particular mercies that shall be vouchsafed under it; and, lastly, in a view of the great result. Let us follow him in each successive step.
‘Who is a God like unto thee, O Lord, who dealest thus with the remnant of thine heritage? As thine “heritage,” we were bound to serve thee: and as a “remnant” preserved from so many dangers, we were still more bound to manifest the greatness of our obligations to thee. Yet have we been a rebellious people from the day that thou calledst us. Our sins against thee have been greatly multiplied: but most of all have we deserved thy wrathful indignation for our rejection of thine only dear Son, whom thou didst send to be our Saviour and Redeemer. I am amazed that thou shouldest “pardon such iniquities,” and “pass by such inconceivable transgressions.” But I trace it to thine own love of mercy. It would have been impossible but that thou must have “retained thine anger” for ever, if it had depended on us to get it removed: but within thine own bosom thou hast found motives which could have been found no where else: and I am beyond measure astonished that ever thou shouldst contemplate such mercy towards thine offending people.
‘The things which are so indispensable to our happiness, thou hast of thine own mercy decreed to give. Though we have so provoked thee to anger by our unparalleled iniquities, yet “wilt thou turn again, and have compassion upon us;” subduing for us the sins which have led us captive, and “casting into the very depths of the sea” the sins which have subjected us to thy displeasure. Once we saw our enemies subdued, and dead upon the sea-shore: and our sins, which are infinitely more formidable enemies, wilt thou treat in the same way, making us happy monuments of thine unbounded power and grace. O Lord, I look forward to that blissful period with eager expectation, and adore thee from my inmost soul, that thou hast such blessings in reserve for us.
‘Then shall all thy promises to our nation be fulfilled in their utmost extent. To Abraham they were the fruits of “mercy,” of free, unmerited mercy altogether: but to Jacob they were memorials of thy “truth;” seeing that thou hadst made them over to Abraham and his seed, by covenant and by oath. Then shall all that thou hast “sworn” receive its full accomplishment. Then shall the seed of Abraham possess, to a far greater extent than they have ever yet done, their promised inheritance; and, at the same time, “in him shall also all the nations of the earth be blessed.” When I look forward to these glorious events, I am altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise.’]
But, as we also are interested in this salvation, let us also contemplate God’s perfections as displayed in it—
[Here we may see distinctly marked, yea, written as with a sun-beam, his mercy and loving-kindness, his power and grace, his truth and faithfulness.
How greatly have we provoked him to anger, times without number! Yet “will he not retain his anger against us,” but “will pass by our transgressions,” yea, and “pardon them,” and “blot them out as a morning cloud;” and solely “because he delighteth in mercy.” It shall be in him altogether an act of sovereign love. Nothing have we ever done to merit it; nor is it possible for us, by any thing that we ever can do, to merit it: but the motives which he cannot derive from us, he will find within his own bosom: “he will have mercy, because he will have mercy; and will have compassion, because he will have compassion.”
And what is there that he will not do for us? Verily, there is no limit either to his power or grace. Has the guilt of sin subjected us to his heavy displeasure? and is it like a millstone around our necks, ready to sink us into the bottomless abyss of hell? He will cancel it; and “put it away from us, as far as the east is from the west;” yea, “and cast it behind him irrecoverably into the very depths of the sea;” so that to us, no less than unto the Jews, shall that gracious promise be fulfilled, “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve [Note: Jeremiah 50:20.];” Nor is this all. He well knows that sin, if suffered to retain its power over us, would still be, as it were, a hell within us, and infallibly plunge us into everlasting perdition: he therefore takes to him his mighty power, and, by the effectual operation of his grace, subdues it in us; so that we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and are “transformed into his image in righteousness and true holiness.” Thus, whilst he delivers us from hell, “he makes us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
And where is the person who ever laid hold on his covenant, and has not had it fulfilled to him in all its parts? No, verily: God has said, “I will never leave thee; never, never forsake thee:” and he is faithful to his word; nor has one jot or tittle of it ever failed. No, blessed Lord; to the final accomplishment of thy promises we look with unutterable joy. And, when we are once arrived at that promised land, the heavenly Canaan, O! what wonders of truth and faithfulness shall we have to contemplate! We shall view the acquisition doubtless as “mercy,” in the first instance; but we shall view it also as “truth:” for “thou hast sworn” to give it to thy believing people: and thou didst “confirm thy promise with an oath, on purpose that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for thee to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to the hope that is set before us [Note: Hebrews 6:18.].” Lord, keep us unto that day; and “fulfil unto every one of us that word wherein thou hast caused us to put our trust!”]
A reflection or two shall close our subject—
If such be the prospects of the Jew, in what a noble work are they engaged who are helping forward the attainment of them!
[God sent a Moses and an Aaron to bring his people out of Egypt. And shall he use no means to gather them from their present dispersion, and to restore them to the enjoyment of his favour? The whole Scriptures attest the contrary; and assuredly, when the time draws near, he will find persons to send to them, and will bless to the intended end their benevolent endeavours. What then should be our state in reference to them? Should we not say with the Prophet Isaiah, “Here am I: send me?” It is much to be lamented, that the Christian world feel a backwardness to this work, far beyond any which they feel in reference to the Gentiles. But wherefore is this? Has not God engaged to bring them to himself? And is he not as able to effect their salvation, as the salvation of the Gentile world? The truth is, that this backwardness is a remnant of that hatred and contempt which have subsisted against the Jews these eighteen hundred years, and have not even yet been dispelled by the kindlier offices of love. It is a scandal, however, to the Christian world, that this neglect of them should continue, in the midst of all the light which we now enjoy. It is a shame to ministers that they do not more unfold to their people the purposes of God respecting them; and to private Christians, that they never study the Prophecies relating to them. But I appeal to all of you: Is it not desirable that the glorious prospects of the Jews should be realized, and that Almighty God should receive the glory due unto his name? If, when Israel was saved from Egypt, they sang, “Who is like unto thee, O God, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” should we not labour, that more elevated songs of praise should be poured forth to him on account of that infinitely greater deliverance reserved for them? I call upon you, then, to unite in this blessed work. I call upon you to anticipate the event with confidence, and to help it forward with zeal.]
If such be the feelings of a Jew, in the mere anticipation of those promised mercies, what should ours be, who are in the actual possession of them?
[Thanks be to God! we are in possession of them. We know what it is to have “our iniquities forgiven, and our sins covered:” yea, we know what it is to “have peace with God, and to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Greatly as God has been provoked by us, we know that “his anger is turned away from us, and that he has comforted us.” True it is, that, at the period before referred to, these blessings will be enjoyed in a far higher degree; for, “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound [Note: Isaiah 30:26.].” But still our privileges are exceeding great: and we should contemplate them, not with indifference or with some transient emotions of joy: no; we should feel ourselves altogether overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness to us; and, in the spirit of our minds at least, if not in the audible expressions, we should be saying day and night, “O God, who is like unto thee?” I must say, that, if this be not our state, we are far from appreciating God’s mercy to us as we ought. And I call on all of you so to meditate on his kindness to you, that your present sense of it may be a foretaste of heaven, and your songs of thanksgiving be a recital of those which you shall sing for ever in the realms of bliss.
I know, indeed, that the trembling sinner feels it difficult to view God in this endearing light. But I would ask of any one, what evidence would you wish for of God’s disposition to forgive sin? Can you have greater evidence of it than in God’s promised return to his outcast people, even to that people who imbrued their hands in the blood of his only dear Son, and have for so many hundreds of years cast all possible odium upon his name? I say then, Hear the Jew speaking in my text, and adopt his language in reference to yourselves. And know, that, as God will return to the Jewish people in due season, so shall “mercy rejoice over judgment,” in reference to you: and, as they shall yet become most distinguished monuments of his mercy and truth, so shall mercy and truth abound towards you, and God be glorified in you for ever and ever. If there be here any one who is ready to suppose that the magnitude and long-continuance of his sins preclude a possibility of obtaining mercy, I would say to him, Though thou hadst upon thine own individual soul all the sins that ever were committed by the whole Jewish nation, if thou hadst even murdered the Son of God himself, and persisted in thy hatred of him eighteen hundred years; yet, on thy desiring to obtain mercy, thou shouldst find God all that he is represented to thee in the text. Let this saying sink down into your ears; and trembling as you are, your sorrows shall all be turned into joy.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Micah 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany