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Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel
What civil rulers ought always to be. They ought always to “know judgment,” that is, always practically to know the right. What is the standard of right? Not public sentiment, not human law, but the Divine will. God’s being is the foundation of right; God’s will is the standard of right; God’s Christ is the completest revelation of that standard.
II. What civil rulers often are. What were these rulers?
1. Morally corrupt.
2. Socially cruel.
3. Divinely abandoned.
The Monarch of the universe is no respecter of persons. (Homilist.)
Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make My people err
Here the prophet attacks the false prophets, as before he had attacked the “princes.
I. They are DECEIVING. God says, they “make My people err” Preachers often make their hearers err.
(1) In theology. They propound ideas, crude and ill digested, concerning God, Christ, moral conditions and relations, utterly inconsistent with truth.
(2) In worship.
(3) In morality. Their standard of duty is often wrong.
II. They are avaricious. They “bite with their teeth, and cry peace.” Greed governs them in all their ministries.
III. They are confounded.
1. Confounded in darkness. “Night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.”
2. Confounded in shame. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners be confounded. Jehovah ignores them. “There is no answer of God.” “Those,” says Matthew Henry, “who deceive others are but preparing confusion for their own faces.” (Homilist.)
But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of Judgment, and of might
The prophetic endowment
The three gifts, power, judgment, might, are the fruits of the one Spirit of God, through whom the prophet was filled with them.
Of these, power is always strength residing in the person, whether it be the “power, or might of wisdom” of Almighty God Himself, or power which He imparts or implants. But it is always power lodged in the person, to be put forth on him. Here it is Divine power, given through God the Holy Ghost, to accomplish that for which He was sent. “Judgment” is, from its form, not so much discernment in the human being as “the thing judged,” pronounced by God, the righteous judgment of God, and righteous judgment in man conformably therewith. “Might” is courage or boldness to deliver the message of God; not awed or hindered by any adversaries. “Whoso is so strengthened and arrayed uttereth fiery words, whereby hearers’ hearts are moved and changed. But whoso speaketh of his own mind doth good neither to himself nor others.” So then, of these three gifts, power expresses the Divine might lodged in him; judgment, the substance of what he had to deliver; might or courage, the strength to deliver it in face of human power, persecution, ridicule, death. These gifts the prophets know are not their own, but are from the Spirit of God, and are by Him inspired into them. Such was the spirit of Elijah, of John Baptist, of Paul, of the apostles. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
The Holy Spirit the Author of all ministerial qualifications
The work of the ministry is the most arduous, the most important, the most honourable work in which a man can be engaged. Arduous, because it requires constant diligence, watch fulness, zeal, and perseverance. Important, because it involves the eternal interests of man. Honourable, because it is the work of God, and in the due discharge of it the glory of God is most promoted.
I. The minister’s appointment. This is not of man, but of God; of God the Holy Spirit. God has set apart certain persons to this office, who from time to time, as the services of His Church require, are raised up, converted, qualified, and sent for this office. Jesus sends His ministers whither He Himself will come. All the qualifications of ministers for their office are of God, both gifts and graces. Ministers are men of God sent from God to work for God, and bring sinners to God.
I. Their faithfulness in the discharge of their holy duties is of God the Holy Spirit. The first ministers were commanded to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with “power from on high” (Acts 1:8). The prophets under the Old Testament and all the ministers of Christ in the present day have been and are equally indebted to this gracious operation. Nor can we be surprised at this, when the blessed Saviour Himself is represented in His mediatorial character as qualified and sustained by the Holy Ghost. Ministers know not what to preach, except as the Holy Spirit teaches them.
III. That ministers’ success is of the spirit. And this Spirit is poured out just in proportion as Christ is preached. Learn--
1. Where to look for a blessing. All our fresh springs are in Jesus.
2. Ask whether the Lord is among us or not?
3. To whom we should give the glory, all the glory, for any benefit that we at any time receive from the ministry. (R. Simpson, M. A.)
The true prophet
It is supposed that this chapter belongs to the reign of Hezekiah; if so, the mournful state of matters which it depicts cannot have begun until towards its close. These words lead us to consider the true prophet.
I. The work of a true prophet. “To declare unto Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” It is a characteristic of all true prophets that they have a keen moral sense to discern wrong, to loathe it, and to burn at it. No man is a true prophet who is not roused to thunder by the wrong. Where have we men now to “declare unto Jacob his transgression, and unto Israel his sin”?
1. This is a painful work. It will incur the disfavour of some and rouse the antagonism of the delinquents.
2. This is an urgent work. No work is more needed in England to day. To expose wrong goes a great way towards its extinction. St. Peter on the day of Pentecost charged home the terrible crime of the crucifixion to the men he addressed!
II. The power of a true prophet. “Truly, I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment and of might.” There is no egotism in this. A powerful man knows his power and will ascribe it to the right source--the “Spirit of the Lord.” His power was moral; it was the might of conscience, moral conviction of invincible sympathy with eternal right and truth. This is a very different power to that of mere intellect, imagina tion, or what is called genius. It is higher, more creditable, more influential, more Godlike.
III. The fidelity of a true prophet. This is seen here in three things--
1. In the class he denounces. “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, princes of the house of Israel.” He struck at the higher classes of life.
2. The prophet’s fidelity is seen in the charges he makes. “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.”
(1) He charges them with extortionate cruelty.
(2) With base mercenariness.
Money was the motive power of all. The prophet’s faithfulness is seen--
3. In the doom he proclaims. The reference may be to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. (Homilist.)
A faithful prophet
During the Chartist agitation many of Kingsley’s friends and relations tried to withdraw him from the people’s cause, fearful lest his prospects in life might be seriously prejudiced; but to all of them he turned a deaf ear, and in writing to his wife on the subject he says: “I will not be a liar. I will speak in season and out of season. I will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. My path is clear, and I will follow in it,” (A. Bell, B. A.)
Showing the transgression
The great power of Charles G. Finney in dealing with awakened souls consisted in this: he used to pin a man down to his favourite sins, and say to him: “Are you willing to give up this in order to obey Christ?” At that decisive point came the defeat or victory. He once knelt down beside an inquirer, and as he enumerated various sins the man responded that he would surrender them. At length Mr. Finney said: “I agree to serve God in my business.” The man was silent. “What is the matter?” said Mr. F. kindly; “can you not do that?. . .No,” stammered the poor fellow; “I am in the liquor trade.” And in it he continued. He rose from his knees and went back to his cursed business, with a fresh weight of guilt upon his head.
Hear this . . . ye heads of the house of Jacob . . . that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity
There is an eternal law of “right” that should govern man in all his relations. Right, as a sentiment, is one of the deepest, most ineradicable and operative sentiments in humanity. All men feel that there is such a thing as right. What the right is is a subject on which there has been and is a variety of opinion. Right implies a standard, and men differ about the standard. Some say the law of your country is the standard; some say public sentiment is the standard; some say temporal expediency is the standard. All these are fearfully mistaken. Philosophy and the Bible teach that there is but one standard, that is the will of the Creator. That will He reveals in many ways--in nature, in history, in conscience, in Christ. Conformity to that will is right.
1. The law of Christ should govern man in his relations with God. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” etc.
2. The law of right should govern man in his relation to his fellow men--“Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.” This law of right is immutable. It admits of no modification. It is universal. It is binding alike on all moral beings in the universe. It is benevolent. It seeks the happiness of all.
II. That a practical disregard of this law leads to fraud and violence. “For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.” The magnates of Samaria had no respect for the practice of right, hence they “stored up violence and robbery in their palaces.” Fraud and violence are the two great primary crimes in all social life.
III. That fraud and violence must ultimately meet with condign punishment. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God: An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.” How was this realised? “Against him came up Shalmaneser, king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan and in the cities of the Medes” (2Ki 17:3; 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:9-12.18.11). The cheats and murderers of mankind will, as sure as there is justice in the world, meet with a terrible doom. “Punishment is the recoil of crime; and the strength of the backstroke is in proportion to the original blow.” (Homilist.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Micah 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent