§ 4. The prophet suddenly announces the future glory of the temple mountain and the ideal happiness of the people
But. There is no adversative particle here; the verse is merely connected with what precedes without any expressed contrast. What is implied is that it was impossible that the temple, to which God's high promises attached, should lie waste forever. The passage, Micah 4:1-3, occurs in Isaiah 2:2-4, The question as to which prophecy is the earlier cannot be settled. Possibly both prophets borrowed the language of some earlier work, as Isaiah is thought to have done on other occasions, e.g. Isaiah 15:1-9. and 16. the community of ideas leading them to the same source of testimony. In the last days; literally, at the end of the days; Cheyne, "in the days to come." It is the usual phrase to designate the time of Messiah, unto which the prophet's thoughts are directed, and for which all preceding events and periods are a preparation. Septuagint, ἐπ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, "at the last days." The phrase may often suitably be rendered, "in latter days," as spoken not absolutely, but relatively to preceding times. The mountain of the house of the Lord. Mount Moriah, the ruin of which was foretold (Micah 3:12). But the term here seems to include Jerusalem itself. Shall be established, firmly and permanently (as 1 Kings 2:45), no longer subject to ruin and devastation. In the top of the mountains; better, on the head of the mountains. The idea is that the temple mountain shall be raised above, and stand forth prominently from the lower hills that surround it and form its basis (comp. Ezekiel 40:2; Zechariah 14:10; Revelation 21:10). The prophet speaks as if he contemplated a physical change, expressing thereby with singular force the notion that the worship of the true God (of which the temple was the symbol) shall be promulgated among all nations of the world; that from the old Jewish centre of religion a new order of things shall arise, not transitory, nor local, but extending to all time and pervading the utmost parts of the earth. And people (peoples) shall flow unto it. The prophet beholds the nations of the world coming up in formal procession to join in the service of the temple. Thus is adumbrated the comprehension of all nations in the Catholic Church. Isaiah says "all nations" in the parallel passage (comp. Zephaniah 2:11 and Zechariah 8:22, and notes there).
The prophet further explains his last statement The new revelation shall be so conspicuous and so attractive that all men shall hear, and desire to become partakers of it. Many nations. In contrast to the one nation from whom the Leer emanated. They shall exhort one another to resort to the great religious metropolis, i.e. to the true religion. Of his ways. His plans in the moral government of the world, and the way in which he would have men walk in order to please him. For the law (torah); teaching, direction; not the Mosaic Law, but a rule of life (Proverbs 6:23). This is the reason given by the prophet for the eagerness of the nations to resort to Jerusalem. They would seek instruction at the hand of those authorized to give it (see note on Micah 3:11). The word of the Lord. The revelation of Jehovah, the gospel. From Jerusalem. It is obvious that in a defined sense the gospel sprang from Jerusalem, the place where Christ exercised his ministry, died, rose, ascended; where the apostles received their commission and the gift of the Holy Ghost (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8); the gospel being not set up in opposition to the Law, but being its fulfilment and development.
The effect of this reception of true religion shall be universal peace. He shall judge among many people; or better, between many peoples. The Lord shall be the Arbiter to whom all disputes shall be referred, as in the next clause. When his reign is acknowledged and his Law obeyed, all war and all causes of war shall cease. The gospel is a gospel of peace and love, and when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ" (Revelation 11:15), peace and love shall everywhere abound. (For the phrase in the text, comp. 11:27; 1 Samuel 24:12,1 Samuel 24:15.) Rebuke strong nations afar off. The word rendered '"rebuke" means here "decide concerning," "act as umpire for." The arbitration of the sword shall no more be resorted to. The words "afar off" are omitted in the similar passage of Isaiah. Beat their swords into ploughshares; i.e. they shall practise the arts of peace instead of war. Literally, the short broad sword of the Israelites might readily be converted into a share, and the spear forged into a pruning hook (comp. Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:10). Martial has an epigram entitled, "Falx ex ense" (14:34)—
"Pax me certa ducis placidos curvavit in usus:
Agricolae nunc sum, militis ante fui."
The reverse process is seen in Joel 3:10, where ploughshares are beaten into swords. Thus Virgil, 'Georg.,' 1.508—
"El curvae rigidum falces conflantur in ensem."
(Comp. Ovid, 'Fast.,' 1.699, etc.)
This verse is omitted in Isaiah. They shall sit every man under his vine. This image of plenty and security is derived from the account of the material prosperity of Israel in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:25), in accordance with the Mosaic promise (Le Isaiah 26:4, etc.). It passed into a proverb expressive of peace and happiness (comp. Zechariah 3:10; 1 Macc. 14:12). The mouth of the Lord of hosts. The great promise is thus confirmed (Isaiah 58:14). The LXX. usually renders this expression in Jeremiah and the minor prophets by κύριος παντοκράτωρ, elsewhere by κύριος σαβαώθ, and κύριος δυνάμεων. It means, "the Lord of the powers of heaven and earth," the idea being originally that God was the Leader of the armies of Israel.
This verse gives the reason why Israel is thus strong and safe. In the parallel passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 2:5) it is converted into an injunction to the house of Jacob. All people will walk; rather, all nations walk. Everyone in the name of his god. "To walk" is generally used of moral and religious habits (e.g. 2 Chronicles 17:4; Psalms 89:31; Ezekiel 5:6, etc.); so here the meaning is that all other nations adhere to their false gods, and frame their life and conduct relying on the power and protection of these inanities, and, by implication, shall find their hope deceived. And we will walk in the name of the Lord our God. This is the secret of Israel's strength. The heathen can never prevail against the true believers who put their whole trust in the Lord, and live in union with him. By saying we, the prophet identifies himself with the faithful people. Forever and ever. The Church shall never fail. Heathen powers last for a time; the kingdom of Messiah is everlasting.
Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7
§ 5. In this promised restoration all Israel is included, if they choose to accept, the offer.
In that day. The Messianic age of Micah 4:1. Her that halteth; Septuagint, τὴν συντετριμμένην, "her that is bruised;" Vulgate, claudicantem. Under the image of a flock footsore and dispersed, the prophet signifies the depressed condition of the excelled Hebrews (comp. Micah 2:12; Zephaniah 3:19). It is the sick and afflicted here who are to he gathered together, the remnant, that is (verse 7), wherever found, which turns to the Lord in repentance and humility.
I will make her that halted a remnant. The" remnant" is "the election," that portion of Israel which accepts the offered redemption (Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5); and God declares that he will treat this section, now miserable and depressed, as sharers in the Messianic promises (see note on Zephaniah 3:19). As commonly, the restoration from captivity and the privileges of Messiah's kingdom are combined in one foreshortened view. But this "remnant" shall be made into a strong nation, which no power shall overthrow (Isaiah 11:14; Isaiah 55:1-13 :22). The Lord shall reign over them. Not through an earthly representative, but by himself (comp. Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 52:7; Obadiah 1:21; Zechariah 14:9). In Mount Zion. This prophecy does not necessarily point to any literal earthly fulfilment, but rather to the establishment of Christ's spiritual kingdom, and the revelation of that new Jerusalem which St. John saw "descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10).
§ 6. After a certain period of calamity and captivity the kingdom of David shall be revived.
And thou, O tower of the flock (migdal-edar). There was a village with a tower so called near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:21), and it is thought that Micah refers to it as the home of David and as destined to be the birthplace of Messiah. But the context compels us to consider the expression as a periphrasis for Jerusalem, which the prophet here addressee, declaring that the royal power shall be restored to her. It is evidently the same place as the stronghold (ophel, "the hill") of the daughter of Zion. The name "Ophel" is affixed to the southern spur of Moriah, opposite to the Mount Zion, from which it was separated by the Tyropoeon Valley. It was fortified by Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:3) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:14), and on it were the king's house, i.e. the old palace of David, and "the tower that lieth out," or the upper tower (see Nehemiah 3:26, Nehemiah 3:27). This is probably the "flock tower" mentioned in the text (comp. Isaiah 32:14, where Ophel and the watch tower are named together); and it is so called as having been originally a place of refuge for flocks, or of observation for shepherds. Micah uses the two expressions to represent the power and dominion of Jerusalem. The propriety of the usa of the term "flock tower" is seen when we remember that David was a shepherd before he was king, and that the Israelites are the sheep of the Lord's pasture. The reference to a flock in the prceeding verses may also have influenced the prophet's thought. Owing to a slight variation in the reading, the LXX. renders Ophel by αἰχμώδης, "dark;" so Jerome, "nebulosa;" Aquila, σκοτώδης: Symmachus, ἀπόκρυφος. These translators would refer the term to the ruinous condition of the tower. The first dominion shall come, i.e. the former, original empire, such as it was in the days of David and Solomon, and which had been lost in later times. The LXX. adds, ἐκ βαβυλῶνος: and hence the Greek expositors explain the passage as referring to the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. The kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. The verb "shall come" is better taken with "the first dominion," and this clause in apposition to the former, "the kingdom of" or "the reign over the daughter of Jerusalem." Sovereignty over Jerusalem, or, as others take it, that appertains to Jerusalem, represents rule over the whole country. In Messiah the glory and power are restored to the throne of David (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33).
Before this glorious revival the prophet foresees calamity and exile in the nearer future; yet he bids the people not to despair. Why dost thou cry out aloud? The prophet hears the cry of Zion, and asks the cause. Septuagint, ἱνατί ἔγνως κακά; "Why knowest thou evils?" from a variation in reading. Is there no king in thee? Hast thou lost thy king? Is this the reason of thy sorrow? The allusion is to the captivity of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:1-20; 2 Kings 25:1-30.). The loss of the king, the representative of the help and favour of God, was a token of the withdrawal of the Divine protection (comp. Lamentations 4:20; Hosea 13:10). Thy counsellor. A synonym for "king." Cheyne notes that the root of melech ("king") in Aramaic means "to counsel." In Isaiah 9:6 Messiah is called "Counsellor." The Septuagint, treating the word as a collective, renders, ἡ βουλή σου, "thy counsel." Pangs, etc. The comparison of sorrow of heart to the anguish of labour pains is very common (comp. Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 6:1-30 :43; Hosea 13:13).
Be in pain. The anguish is not to be resisted, but shall end, like birth pains, in deliverance. Septuagint, ωδινε καὶ ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἔγγιζε, "Be in pain, and do bravely, and draw near," which is like Aeneas's encouragement to his friends (Virgil, 'AEneid,' 1.207)—
"Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis."
For now shalt thou go forth. The prophet leaves his metaphor, and announces that the people shall "go forth" into captivity. He says "now,"as having the scene before his eyes. They must leave their city, live shelterless in the open country, be carried to a distant land, even to Babylon. Shall dwell in the field; i.e. while they are making their way to the place of their captivity. Thou shall go even to Babylon. This is simple prophecy, and could have been known to Micah only by inspiration. In his day Assyria was the enemy whom Israel had to dread (as Micah 5:5, Micah 5:6), Babylon being at this time in the position of a conquered country, and not becoming again powerful and independent for another century, So Isaiah prophesied of the captivity to Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8), if modern critics have not shaken our faith in the genuineness of that chapter. Micah does not define the time of the Captivity, or the agents; he notes merely the place whither the Jews were at last to be deported. Even in this case "Babylon" may have its typical import, and be taken to represent the great world power arrayed against the chosen race; and the prophecy may look forward to other fulfilments in succeeding ages. Some commentators think that Babylon is here mentioned as the most distant country known, or as a portion of the Assyrian empire. Others suppose that Sargon transported some Israelitish captives to Babylon to replace the rebellious Babylonians whom he exiled to Palestine, and that thus Micah was naturally led to represent the Judaeans as following their brethren. Whichever explanation we take, there is no reason to consider that the reference to Babylon is the interpolation of a late editor of the prophetic writings. There shall thou be delivered. In Babylon deliverance shall arise. This prophecy was first literally fulfilled in the return from captivity under Cyrus; it is further fulfilled, under Christ, in the rescue of the true Israelites from the bondage of sin and the world.
§ 7. Rescued from Babylon, Zion overcomes all enemies in the strength of God.
Now also; and now. A new scene is presented in contrast to the view in Micah 4:1-4. Many nations are gathered against thee. Primarily the Assyrians are meant (Isaiah 33:3), whose armies were composed of various nationalities (Isaiah 22:6; see below, Micah 5:5). Pusey thinks that the reference is rather to the attacks of petty enemies, e.g. in Maccabean times, and in the Samaritans' opposition to the rebuilding of the temple. Cheyne would place Micah 4:5-10 in a parenthesis, and connect the present with the ideal description in Micah 4:1-4. Let her be defiled; i.e.. profaned, despoiled of her boasted holiness and inviolability. LXX; ἐπιχαρούμεθα, "we will rejoice." The Vulgate, lapidetur, points to her punishment as an adulteress, which does not suit the context. Let our eye look upon Zion. The heathen anticipate with malicious pleasure the sight of the humiliation of Jerusalem (comp. Obadiah 1:12, Obadiah 1:13).
But the enemies who came to exult over Zion do not know God's design while blindly working it out. God's people are not to be destroyed, but their adversaries. They know not the thoughts of the Lord. The heathen, who were the instruments of God's wrath against his people, knew nothing of his purpose in thus afflicting them, nor perceived that they themselves were drawn together for punishment. He shall gather (hath gathered) them as the sheaves into the floor. Their blindness is proved by their not perceiving till too late that God has brought them together before Jerusalem, as sheaves are brought into the threshing floor, in order to be broken up and destroyed (comp. Isaiah 21:10; Jeremiah 51:23). The metaphor is carried on in the next verse. Various are the explanations of the prophet's reference in this prophecy. Many commentators see in it a reference to the destruction of the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35); others discern a defeat of the Scythians after the return from captivity; others, again, place it in the times of the Maccabees; and others interpret it of the defeat of the mystical adversaries of God's Church adumbrated in Ezekiel 38:1-23.; Zechariah 12:1-14.; and Revelation 20:1-15. But the prophet has not one definite event in view, but looks forward to the general conflict between the powers of the world and the Church, of which the historical events and material enemies were the types. Certain historical circumstances may exactly suit the prediction, but they do not exhaust it. And indeed we do wrong to seek for minute and definite fulfilment of particular predictions. Such utterances are often conditional and are modified by subsequent circumstances. The prophets are concerned with great moral truths and the righteous government of the world, and are not always to be interpreted with literal exactness.
Arise. Shake off thy sorrow and fear and despair. And thresh. Tread thine enemies underfoot, now that they are gathered in the floor, as the oxen tread out the corn (Isaiah 41:15, etc.; Jeremiah 51:33.) Thine horn. The horn is an emblem of power and victory, as appertaining to the wild ox, the most powerful animal in Canaan (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11.) The metaphor of threshing is dropped for the moment, but resumed in the next clause. Hoofs. In allusion to the mode of threshing mentioned above (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9). People; peoples. Israel shall crush all the nations that rise up against her. I (God) will consecrate. So the Masoretic text; but the second person, which the ancient versions give, is preferable. Septuagint, ἀναθήσεις, "thou shalt dedicate;" Vulgate, interficies. Thou, Zion, shalt devote their gain unto the Lord. This consecration, or devotion, to the Lord in the case of living things involved death, the restitution to the Lord of the life which he had given (see Le 27:21, 28, 29; Zechariah 14:21). Thus the spiritual Israel, purified by suffering, and redeemed, shall consecrate to the Lord the power of the world; and all the wealth and might of earth shall be subservient to the glory of the kingdom of God,
The Messiah's spiritual kingdom.
These verses call us away from the contemplation of sin and its effects as set forth in the previous chapters, and hid us turn our thoughts to the golden age that rose before the prophet's vision, and animated and cheered his heart in the dark days in which his lot was cast. We live in happier times. Much that was to him only distant expectation has become fully realized by us. "Blessed are our eyes," etc. (Matthew 13:16, Matthew 13:17). Still, favoured as we are, the kingdom of Christ has not, even in our own day, attained unto the highest perfection. The noontide splendour of his rule has not yet been reached. The cross has brought the crown, and the Lord Christ now reigneth as King in Zion; but u we see not yet all things put under him." There are still many difficulties and discouragements, and there is much to sicken and sadden the hearts of all to whom his Name is precious, and his truth and kingdom dear. And amidst all this we do well, like this seer, to look on to the ultimate complete triumph which the Christ shall assuredly win, and by this bright vision to gain the renewal of heart and hope. We have indicated here—
I. CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MESSIAH'S KINGDOM.
1. Its spirituality. We shall assuredly lose sight of the beauty of these prophetic descriptions if we give to them a literal and material significance. This, indeed, is what the Jews themselves did, and hence the true Messiah was by them "despised and rejected." "As upon the figure of David the prophetic figure of the Messiah is developed, so upon the figure of Jerusalem is the prophetic figure of the holy community of the future" (Lange). Connecting Micah 4:1 with the last verse of the previous chapter, we are reminded that whilst the material kingdom was marked to fall, and should, in due course and as the result of national guilt, decay and pass away, yet this mournful apostasy of the chosen race should be rendered in the Divine wisdom "the riches of the world" (Romans 11:11, Romans 11:12). The old economy should eventually disappear, but the new dispensation should follow. The long promised Messiah should appear and establish a spiritual kingdom, the subjects of which should be renewed and sanctified men; to which kingdom higher privileges and honours should be attached than Judaism had ever presented, and the influence of which should extend to the wide world.
2. Its pure and righteous principles of government. "For the Law shall go forth of Zion," etc. (Micah 4:2). These have been framed with a due regard to the interests of all the subjects; they are not only designed to regulate the outward conduct and actions of men, but they go deeper and effect the heart and the secret springs of action. The great law of the kingdom is love—love to God and to man. "Love is the fulfilling of the Law" (Romans 13:10).
3. Its comprehensiveness. "Peoples shall flow unto it" (Micah 4:1); "And many nations shall come" (Micah 4:2). Judaism was marked by its exclusiveness. Its privileges were confined to a particular nationality. But lo! it is here declared that the kingdom of the Messiah should be world embracing. It shall become indeed "a great nation," for "unto it" all peoples and tribes "shall flow." The King whom Jehovah has "set upon his holy hill of Zion," and who shall "reign in righteousness," shall sway his sceptre at length over a ransomed, regenerated, happy world.
4. Its perpetuity. "It shall be abidingly established" (Micah 4:1). "The Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever" (Micah 4:7). The kingdoms of this world are unenduring. "They all shall perish." They rise, progress, attain unto their zenith, and then decline and pass away. Egypt and Tyre, Assyria and Babylon, Greece and Rome, powers that once dominated the world, their glory is laid in the dust, their pomp has passed away like a dream, their works survive only in chambers of antiquity, and their deeds have only a record in historical lore. So perishes the glory of this world! But this spiritual kingdom of the Lord Christ lives and shall never fail. Its throne shall never be shaken, its riches shall never be impoverished, its glory shall never be dimmed. "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom," etc. (Psalms 145:13).
5. And hence, its pre-eminence. "It shall be exalted above the hills" (Micah 4:1). It shall attain unto heights such as no worldly power has ever reached, and its King shall enjoy distinction and honour such as earthly monarchs have never known. "He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" (Isaiah 52:13); "And he shall bear the glory" (Zechariah 6:13).
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THE MESSIAH'S RULE. It is here predicted that this should be of the most healthy and beneficent nature. Under his sway:
1. Enthusiasm should be enkindled. "Come, and let us go up," etc. (Micah 4:2). Men drawn to him in the spirit of whole souled devotion should seek to lead others to participate with them in the enjoyment of the blessings he imparts. "The love of Christ" has "constrained" men to the consecration of all their energies to his service. So Paul (Acts 20:23, Acts 20:24). Xavier said, "You say they will kill me by poison. It is an honour unto which such a poor sinner as I dare not aspire; but I am ready to die ten thousand deaths for the salvation of a single soul." In our own day we have seen men thus impelled to go forth to distant and uncivilized tribes; and when they have been stricken down by fever ending in death, lo! others have been found ready to be "baptized for the dead."
2. Knowledge should be diffused. "And he will teach us," etc. (Micah 4:2). The true Messiah is also "the true Light," "the Light of men," "the Light of the world." He came to rule, but his rule should be an enlightened one. Where his influence touches there is light. He dissipates the darkness of error, superstition, idolatry; and his enlightening power shall extend until the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth" (Isaiah 11:9).
3. Obedience should be rendered. "And we will walk in his paths" (Micah 4:2). The connection between this and the preceding sentence is very intimate. All true knowledge is designed to affect the conduct and life. Knowing and doing are closely related (John 13:17). How purifying and elevating Christ's moral influence upon the world has proved! Wherever the influence of his truth is felt, there, as sure as day succeeds night, a higher morality becomes developed.
4. Peace should be established. (Micah 4:3.) The Messiah is "the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). "Glory to God in the highest," etc. (Luke 2:14), was the song of angels as they welcomed his advent. Strange, then, that men should ascribe to his religion the prevalence in the world of war and conflict. His religion has often been made the pretext for entering into deadly strife; but underlying this there has been some ambitious design which has been the real though concealed cause. The growing disposition amongst the nations to seek peaceful solutions of existing difficulties, and not to draw the sword until these have been exhausted, is an effect of the influence of the principles of Christ upon society at large. The universal dissemination of his truth shall be followed by the complete fulfilment of this glowing prediction (Micah 4:3).
5. Security should be realized. (Micah 4:4.) In the Assyrian monuments representations are given of men in a reclining posture, with the vines in rich profusion over their heads, suggestive of quiet and rest and freedom from everything calculated to disturb and alarm. And this is the idea expressed here. Fear had taken possession of the hearts of those whom the prophet was addressing. They thought with sadness and dismay of the awaiting judgments to follow national sin. The enemy had come well nigh to the gates; but lo! the seer cheers them by the prospect of happier days which should at length dawn upon them. As it had been with the nation in the peaceful days of Solomon, so he declared it should be in a spiritual sense under the rule of the Messiah. "Such is that most quiet fearlessness which the law of Christ bringeth as being the law of charity, peace, and concord."
6. Restoration should be effected. (Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7.) Into the enjoyment of these high blessings even they should be brought who had erred from God's ways, who had "halted" in his service, and had divided their allegiance between him and Baal. They must, in consequence of their sin, be "driven out" and "afflicted" and "cast off;" yet in their exile he would watch over them, seeking them in his deep compassion, "devising means that his banished be not expelled from him" (2 Samuel 14:14), and in his own time and way these should be brought in with "the fulness of the Gentiles," to form "a strong nation" over whom he would reign forever and ever (Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7).
III. THE CERTAINTY OF THE REALIZATION OF ALL THUS EXPRESSED. The seer throughout uses the language of holy confidence. And he was warranted in this; for:
1. Such is the Divine purpose. The issue is divinely guaranteed. God has promised the kingdom to his Son.
2. This Divine purpose has been repeatedly expressed. "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Micah 4:4).
3. That which God has purposed and declared, his power can and will fulfil. Despite the humble circumstances and conditions through which the chosen of Heaven would have to pass, "the kingdom should come to the daughter of Jerusalem"—"the first or former dominion;" i.e. the rich spiritual honour which had been promised to David's line should be bestowed (Micah 4:8), for such was the Divine will and which the Divine power would assuredly accomplish. Our hope for a bright future rests upon the same foundation. And as God requires us to put him in remembrance of his Word, we will say, "For Zion's sake," etc. (Isaiah 62:1); and will cry in the words of our own Milton, "Come forth out of thy royal chamber, O Prince of all the kings of the earth! Put on the visible robes of thy imperial majesty; take up that unlimited sceptre which thy Almighty Father hath bequeathed thee; for now the voice of thy bride calls thee, and all creatures sigh to be renewed."
Enthusiasm in religion.
I. THE SPIRIT OF ENTHUSIASM IN RELATION TO RELIGION IS EMINENTLY DESIRABLE. It is SO:
1. As indicating the possession of loving devotion to God.
2. As prompting to endeavour with a view to the spiritual well being of others. (Micah 4:2, "Come, and let us go up," etc.; John 1:41, John 1:42, John 1:45, John 1:46; John 4:28, John 4:29.)
3. As being contagious. For, all aglow themselves, they will be the means of inspiring others with the same fervour.
II. THIS SPIRIT, UNLESS UNDER WISE CONTROL, MAY PROVE INJURIOUS. It may seem a very simple matter to invite others to God, to say to them, "Come, let us go up," etc.; but it is possible, by undue familiarity of approach, or by extravagance of language, to alienate those it is desired to win.
III. THIS SPIRIT IS IN SAFE KEEPING IF ITS POSSESSOR CULTIVATES THE DISPOSITIONS HERE EXPRESSED (Micah 4:2), viz.:
1. Of seeking to understand God's truth more dearly. "And he will teach us of his ways." The consciousness of his imperfect attainments will keep him humble, and preserve him from mere dogmatism and self-conceit.
2. Of endeavouring to be obedient in heart and life to God's will. "And we will walk in his paths." His realization of the importance of ethical practical life will preserve him from either thinking or advocating the false notion that piety consists in profuse verbal declarations and mere outward professions.
Higher spiritual life.
"Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord." We are too prone to be content with living at a very low level of spiritual attainment. We need to hear and heed the voice of God's own Spirit addressing us through our own consciences, and through all the holy influences encompassing us, and bidding us leave the ordinary plain on which we have been content to dwell, and to ascend the mount of the Lord, and thus to rise to the nobler heights of spiritual privilege and goodness. "Let us go up," etc.
I. WHAT IS THIS HIGHER SPIRITUAL LIFE? It is a life of obedience to God and of faith in him. It is a life of holy and hallowed fellowship with the invisible. It is a life sustained and strengthened by hidden Divine springs. It is not perfect life, but life characterized by constant endeavour after the perfect. It is a life characterized by the patient endurance of trial, the successful resistance of temptation, and the cheerful performance of duty. It is a life animated by hopes entering "within the veil," and in which is increasingly realized union with the spiritual world.
II. HOW MAY IT BE REACHED?
1. The ministration of the truth is designed to this end. The advancement of the good in Divine knowledge and in the varied graces of the Christian character is one aim of the Christian ministry (Ephesians 5:11-13).
2. The commonest duties of our daily life may be so discharged as to be made to contribute to our spiritual elevation. The aim should be to make every duty subservient to the great end of our spiritual advancement.
3. The sorrowful experiences of our life are all designed to secure to us "more life and fuller." These constitute the threshings of the spiritual man by means of which God would separate his servants from evil, and enable them to enter into the higher joys of his kingdom.
4. And this soul elevation is to be secured not only by receiving, but also by imparting, holy influences. We rise ourselves as we invite others to rise; as we speak to them the encouraging word, and hold out to them the helping hand. Ruskin reminds us that the name which of all others is most expressive of the being of God is that of "the Helpful One," or, in our softer Saxon, "the Holy One." And we may each know what one has beautifully called the holiness of helpfulness.
III. WHAT ADVANTAGES WILL ACCRUE FROM ITS ATTAINMENT?
1. There will be greater enjoyment in connection with religious privileges than can otherwise be experienced.
2. Tranquillity will possess the heart amidst the disappointments, changes, and bereavements of life.
3. A clearer apprehension of the truth of God will be gained. (Micah 4:2.)
4. More effective service to God in the world will be rendered. Certain saints of God belonging to the past are sometimes set forth as having been specially eminent, and as though the same altitude could not be reached nowadays; whereas we are to be "followers" of such (Hebrews 6:12), and the "helps" they used am as available to us. Use them, and say
"Go up, go up, my heart!
Be not a trifler here;
Ascend above these clouds,
Dwell in a higher sphere.
Let not thy love go out
To things so soiled and dim:
Go up to heaven, and God
Take up thy love to him."
God our Teacher.
"And he will teach us of his ways." How?
I. BY WORKING IN OUR HEARTS THE SPIRIT OF TRUE HUMILITY. There must be humility in order that we may apprehend spiritual things. We must become "as little children" would we enter the kingdom of truth. And this disposition is fitting; for what, after all, are we but children in relation to such knowledge? "Embryos we are all." Too many, forgetting this, and cherishing the opposite spirit, misapprehend or pervert the meaning of God's truth. Pride of intellect is cherished, and, strong and dogmatic in their adherence to false intellectual conceptions, they miss the highest truth. "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." As low trees and shrubs are free from many violent gusts and blasts of wind which shake and rend the taller trees, so humble souls are free from those gusts and blasts of error that rend and tear proud lofty souls." "The high tide quickly ebbs." "The valleys laugh with fatness when the hills are bare." "I thank thee, O Father," etc. (Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26).
II. BY CONSTRAINING US TO CHERISH THE SPIRIT OF HEARTY OBEDIENCE. By the gentle constraints of Divine love the will is brought into harmony with the higher and perfect will of God; and to the man thus obedient there is unfolded the glorious treasures of Divine wisdom and knowledge. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant" (Psalms 25:14); "Then shall we know, if we follow on," etc. (Hosea 6:3).
III. BY IMPARTING UNTO US SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT. The heart being rendered humble and obedient, light springs up within; a spiritual insight is imparted; the unction of the Holy One rests upon the man; higher perceptions are his; he apprehends and understands truths which formerly were unperceived or distorted by him. "Pure in heart," he "sees God;" spiritually minded, he discovers spiritual things. God's ways stand revealed to him, and God's Word is no longer a dead letter, but is instinct with life and power to his soul. Then, with an earnest desire to enter into the full significance of spiritual realities, and with a deep consciousness of our own weakness and need of guidance, we do well to cry, "Lead us in thy truth and teach us;" and to rejoice in the encouraging assurance, "And he will teach us of his ways."
Obedience to the Divine will.
"And we will walk in his paths." The idea is—living obediently to the will of God. Observe—
I. GOD HAS REVEALED HIS WILL UNTO MAN. "The Law has gone forth," etc. (Micah 4:8). The revelation of what God requires of his creatures has been given
II. TO OBEY THAT WILL INDICATES THE POSSESSION OF TRUE PIETY. Sincere piety does not consist in outward observances, although these have so high a value that we are not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together" for Christian fellowship and teaching; nor does it consist in Church association, although there are many advantages resulting from Christians banding themselves together that thus they may be helpful to each other in the spiritual life, and by combined, action the more effectually do God's work; nor does it consist in the repetition of a Creed, however admirably conceived and expressed, and however desirable it may be for us to be well grounded in the foundation doctrines of our holy religion; but it consists in obedience to the will of God, and in seeking, like the great Exemplar, to act in harmony with God's holy Law.
"Nor name, nor form, nor ritual,
But simply following thee."
III. IN THIS OBEDIENCE LIES THE TRUEST WELL BEING BOTH OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND OF THE RACE. Walking in these paths, it is found that they are "right paths," that they yield "peace" and "pleasantness;" "mercy and truth" also abound to the obedient, whilst the wide adoption of this course by the children of men is pointed to as the token of the coming of "the latter day glory." "A world wide Christ-likeness is the great necessity. If, in imitation of him, there were truth on every tongue and kindness in every heart, gentleness in every spirit and obedience to God in every will, purity in every life and blamelessness in every character, the bloom and blessedness of Eden would be seen tomorrow," Too many, alas I still resolve that "they will walk every one in the name of his god" (Micah 4:5); but our hope for humanity lies in the growing number whose feet are being turned into "the ways of righteousness," and who are impelled to say, "And we will walk in his paths." "We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God forever and ever" (Micah 4:5).
Micah 4:9-13; Micah 5:1
Through trial to triumph.
There is a very natural connection between these and the previous verses. The seer has presented a glowing picture of the ultimate triumphs of the Messiah's kingdom. In choicest language he has unfolded the nature of the Messiah's rule, and the beneficent effects to be secured thereby. And now he reminds us that this victory should be won by suffering—that God's order is through trial to triumph. Notice—
I. THE EXPERIENCE OF SORROW AS PREPARATORY TO JOY; OF CONFLICT AS PREPARATORY TO VICTORY. (Micah 5:9-13; Micah 5:1.) Whatever view may be taken as to the true application of these verses, it is very clear that they refer to deep sorrow, through which the nation must pass before the manifestation of the true spiritual King whose coming is so clearly indicated in the chapter following. Captivity must be experienced; conflict must be engaged in with "many nations;" loss of rulers and leaders must be sustained; war an siege must be felt. Yet all these should prove but preparatory to the experience of joy and victory; they should be but as the pangs preceding birth; out of and following these throes there should come the establishment of a kingdom which should never be moved, and which their material kingdom, now being so shaken, even in its most prosperous and peaceful days only faintly symbolized. And this is ever the Divine order of procedure. It is the all-wise appointment of God that his servants should pass through trial and be made perfect through suffering. He takes the seed and plants it in rough soil, and as the result he causes to arise beauteous flowers. The tear often precedes the smile. The thick cloud gathers over our heads, and lo! afterwards the triumphant arch spans the sky, telling of the Divine faithfulness and love. We must suffer would we ultimately reign; we must bear the cross would we wear the crown. God's servants are soldiers, and the soldier must "endure hardness" (2 Timothy 2:3), and engage in sharp conflict ere he reaps the warrior's reward. His followers are trees of righteousness, and God prunes his trees that they may bring forth much fruit" (John 15:2).
II. STIMULATING THOUGHTS AMIDST THESE DARKER EXPERIENCES OF LIFE. Several such thoughts are suggested here.
1. There's "a needs be" for these sorrows. (Micah 5:10.) It is here declared that there was a necessity for the sorrows here predicted. The trials are referred to as experiences that must be, and that could not be avoided. The travail must be endured, the captivity must be experienced, the discipline must be passed through. The nation had woefully transgressed, and only thus could it be purged and purified. As the crushing of the seed results in a more abundant increase, so the oppression of God's servants should result in the upspringing of "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." "Of sorrow, sanctity is born." Here is one solution of "the mystery of suffering." It is designed to work purification; it is a healthful discipline. It is not that our Father-God is wanting in sympathy that we have to pass through adverse scenes, but because his sympathy is so large and so perfect that it extends to the whole of our being. When he says, "Be in pain," etc. (Micah 5:10), it is not that he does not feel with us, but rather because his sympathy is so large that he deigns to lift us up to a higher level, and to lead us to attain unto a purer and more perfect character and life; and hence, whilst "he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax," he will also "send forth judgment unto victory" (Isaiah 42:2, Isaiah 42:3).
2. There is an overruling Providence. (Micah 5:11, Micah 5:12.) In these verses the heathen nations are represented as encouraging each other to make a decisive onslaught, upon the favoured people, and as speaking as though, their plans, could very easily be executed, the overthrow of Judah be effected, and they gaze with satisfaction upon the downfall and desolation (Micah 5:11). But there was a higher than any mere human power swaying the destinies of the peoples of the earth. The Lord God omnipotent was reigning. He had his purposes and plans of which, the nations took no account, but which nevertheless were to be developed. And in the unfolding of these all the dark designs of the evil would be overruled, and whilst the nation of his choice should. thus be tried as by fire, and so have its dross consumes, they who, prompted by their own mercenary and ambitious ends, assaulted it, should be brought to utter confusion and shame (Micah 5:13). The world still abounds in evil doers who am pursuing their own ends, and that they may gain these are ever planning and contriving harm; but it may well comfort and strengthen our hearts, amidst the anxiety and distress such occasion, that there is still an overruling Providence guiding human affairs, and that under God's all-wise and loving direction good only shall eventually come to the good, whilst the counsel of the wicked shall perish, and the arm of their power be broken.
3. There is the Divine abiding presence. This is implied in Micah 5:9. The prophet, abounding in deepest sympathy with his people in their calamities, would, nevertheless, have them feel that they were not left utterly destitute; that, though earthly rulers had failed them, there was One who ever abides, and who, if they but trusted him, would bear them safely through all. He who had been the King and Guide of their nation before earthly monarch had ever been appointed over it (1 Samuel 12:12) would not forsake them now that human supports had given way, but would make their present sorrows to end in higher joy than they had formerly experienced (Hosea 13:9, Hosea 13:14). Nor need we fear in the time of trouble, so long as it remaineth that "the Lord of hosts is with us," etc. (Psalms 46:7).
4. There is ultimate deliverance. (Micah 5:10.) The Lord would assuredly "turn again the captivity of Zion" (Psalms 126:1-6). Through fire and through water they should be brought out into a wealthy place (Psalms 116:12). Weeping might endure for a night, but joy should come in the morning (Psalms 30:5). And so with his servants in every age. The way he would have us take, despite all its difficulties and discouragements, shall bring us at length to the palace and to our crown.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
Micah 4:1, Micah 4:2
A new Mount Zion.
The threat of Micah 3:12 has been fulfilled. Mount Zion, the glory of the nation on account of its situation, its buildings, its history, and its religious associations, has become as a forest, or as desolate heaps of ruins. But while the prophet gazes through the tears which patriotism and piety bring to his eyes, as in some dissolving view a new vision unfolds itself before him. Instead of a ploughed field and a ruinous mound, he sees an exceeding high mountain, a glorious city, and countless multitudes flocking towards it. It is the new Mount Zion.
I. ITS ELEVATION. There were other hills or mountains that already were or soon would be of note among men, such as the "high places" of a corrupt worship in Judaea and Samaria, the huge artificial hill of Babylon sacred to Belus, the acropolis of Athens, the seven hills of Rome. But this Mount Zion was founded on the summits of the world's loftiest heights, and towered above them all. Thus the mountain is seen to be spiritual and the elevation figurative. It is a vision of "the latter days," of the days of the Messiah, when the new kingdom of God is set up. Because it is "the mountain of the house of the Lord," it is thus exalted. Illustrate from Ezekiel's vision of the "very high mountain" (Ezekiel 40:2), and the sublime conclusion of it, "Jehovah-Shammah" (Ezekiel 48:35; and of. 1 Timothy 3:15). "This mountain of the Church of Christ transcends all laws, schools, doctrines, religions, synagogues, and philosophies, which seemed to rise among men like mountain tops" (Corn. a Lapide, in Pusey). It is "a city set on a hill."
II. ITS CONGREGATION. The prophet sees a stream of worshippers ascending that hill; not an unfamiliar sight in the old days of the literal Zion. But much earnestness is needed to scale this lofty mountain. And it is a miracle of grace that not only the chosen people of God, but "the peoples" of the world lying in wickedness, should be attracted by a Church so lofty and so pure. For, as the prophet watches, he sees strange companies gathering, of varied colours, costumes, and languages—negroes from Ethiopia, Chinese from the land of Sinim, and pale-faced strangers from the western isles of Europe. Contrast the mountain-like tower of Babel, man's scheme of unity, issuing in dispersion, and this Mount Zion, God's way of union, attracting a congregation from all kindreds and peoples and tongues (Isaiah 55:8, Isaiah 55:9). The prophet hears their language as they encourage one another," Come ye," etc. They thus confess:
1. Their ignorance. "He shall teach us of his ways"—a comprehensive term (Psalms 25:4, Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:9).
2. Their dissatisfaction. Their old paths had been "broad;" "destruction and misery had been in them. Henceforth they desire to walk in other "paths," in God's way of holiness.
3. Their confidence; that the God of Jacob alone was both able and willing to supply their need. The prophet foresaw what Christ still more clearly predicted (Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12), and what we are seeing in these days of missionary enterprise.
III. ITS EMANATIONS. As light and heat stream from the sun, and fragrance from the flowers, so from this new Mount Zion, this city of God, there stream forth the very blessings which the nations need—truth, light, life. It is a Divine power that first draws this congregation towards the Church of Christ (John 6:44, John 6:45). And the blessings they need and receive are summed up in two terms.
1. "The Law." They receive it as a rule of life, as an ideal of daily conduct. It goes forth as a stream of blessing which can turn the wastes of heathen life into a paradise. But more than law is needed:
2. "The Word of the Lord." This is a more comprehensive term. It includes the revelation of his will, his mercy and grace, "the word of the truth of the gospel." This goes forth with all the attractiveness of a message of mercy (Luke 24:47, etc.), but also with all the authority of a law (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23). The preaching of the cross proves itself the power of God. This word of the Lord has free course and is glorified. No wonder that such blessings follow as are described in the following verses.—E.S.P.
Micah 4:3, Micah 4:4
The peaceable fruit of righteousness.
The wonders of Micah's vision (verses 1 and 2) are not yet at an end. He sees a succession of the most improbable and incredible events, as the nations return from their pilgrimage to the new Mount Zion to their distant capitals and homesteads. With those distant and "strong" heathen nations there are associations of horror and dread in the minds of the Hebrews, especially of the godly among them. Illustrate this from what we know through Hebrew prophets and historians of the Gentile nations near and afar off; e.g. border wars and frequent invasions of the Philistines (2 Chronicles 21:16, 2 Chronicles 21:17), Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, and others (Psalms 83:1-18.; and cf. the impressive messages of judgment in Amos 1:1-15. and 2.). Egypt, at one time their oppressor or invader (2 Chronicles 12:1-16.), later on their untrustworthy ally, always the home of degrading idolatries (Isaiah 19:1-25.; Isaiah 30:1-7). Assyria, the seat of a relentless despotism, the captors of their northern brethren, casting its war cloud over Hezekiah's kingdom (Nahum 3:1-19.). Beyond these were the mountaineers of Media, the barbarous tribes of the far north, "Meshech and Tubal," and the sons of Greece in the distant west. The gloomy vision of Ezekiel (32) graphically describes how the sword and bloodshed are bound up with the histories of these and other nations. All these are seen welcoming a new King, who "shall reign in righteousness," new legislation and new customs. The strangest of all these new customs is that "the peoples that delight in war" are seen changing their weapons into instruments of peace, and enjoying a tranquillity equal to that of the palmy days of Solomon. The mystery is explained by the fact that the word of the Lord had gone forth from Jerusalem. We learn—
I. THE GOSPEL OF GOD PREPARES FOR THE REIGN OF GOD.
1. It reveals God's love. It thus comes as a revelation, startling, almost incredible to heathens, in whose minds lust not love, hatred not mercy, are bound up with their thoughts of God. That central verse of the New Testament (John 3:16), a "miniature Bible," as Martin Luther called it, applied by the Spirit of God, has broken many a rocky heathen heart, and opened the way for the blessings that God's love has prepared for sinful souls (1 John 4:19).
2. It inspires men's hope. Those who were once living "having no hope, and without God in the world," find that all things are become new. All the most bright and buoyant emotions, love, hope, joy, are called forth by the gospel of God. The brightest visions of a golden age in the future which heathen poets have sung about are seen to be possible under the reign of a righteous and merciful God. They are "saved by hope."
3. It awakens men's consciences. An educational process ensues. The dormant conscience is awakened; the blind conscience sees the light of truth; the blunt conscience is made sensitive and tender. Thus gradually things which were tolerated in the individual or the community are branded as unchristian, or even infamous. Illustrate from 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. and 6. In those whose spiritual education is most advanced, every thought is brought "into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Thus gradually the average standard of morality is raised first in the Church and then in the nation, and the gospel of God is seen to have prepared the way for the reign of God.
II. THE REIGN OF GOD WILL BE A REIGN OF PEACE. War is a terrible defiance of God and of his authority, and yet it is one of the most popular forms of wickedness. The press, the clubs, "the forces," often make it hard even for a government calling itself Christian to resist the gusts of popular passion which sweep nations into war. Even as late as 1882 we were told that on board the ironclads off Alexandria the countenances of the officers fell as the sight of a flag of truce made it possible that after all their new guns might not be tested by a bombardment. Yet even this unclean spirit will be exorcised by the power of the gospel of Christ, which has already been at work in many ways; e.g. "the truce of God" in the Middle Ages, providing for the suspension of hostilities during Advent, Lent, and other seasons; the sparing of the lives of prisoners; the care and kindness shown towards the wounded; the power of the public opinion, even of a minority, to restrain governments from hastily rushing into war; the introduction of arbitration, in which the British Government set so honourable an example at Geneva in 1872. In such cases it may be said that God, through the judgments of upright men, is called to "judge between many peoples," and "reprove" even strong nations when they wronged their neighbours. Thus gradually war will be banished, even as duelling and other abominations have been. "Fraternity" will be one of the watchwords of the future, and war will be regarded as fratricide. Lucian says of Christians, "Their first Lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brethren." Christianity is working towards the restoration of that ideal. Then Solomon's days shall be reproduced in more than their ancient glory. New princes of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts at the court of the Prince of Peace, whose subjects shall "dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil." The glorious visions of Psalms 72:1-20.; Isaiah 60:1-22; etc; shall be fulfilled, "for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it."
1. That the only hope of true national righteousness is in the reign of Christ.
2. That the Christian who witnesses for unpopular truths is the noblest among patriots.
3. That the sanctification of individual souls through the power of the gospel is the surest method of securing the ultimate and universal reign of Christ on earth.—E.S.P.
Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7
The restoration of Israel.
It is the Gentile nations for whom the blessings of "the last days" have just been predicted (Micah 4:2-4). The new Mount Zion of the Messiah's days will have a magnetic power on "the East and the West" (Matthew 8:11; John 12:32). But Israel, through whom these blessings reach the nations, shall not be excluded from a share in them. Yet the form of the prediction reminds us of the abject condition of God's ancient people and of the gradual extension of the glories of Messiah's reign over them.
I. THEIR ABJECT CONDITION. They are described as:
1. Halting. This was the result of internal infirmity or of injury from without, or of both. The Jewish people at the advent were suffering both from ecclesiastical and moral corruptions, which made them figuratively like the folk at Bethesda, "halt, withered, impotent."
2. "Driven out." Multitudes had been driven out of their heritage in Palestine by the decrees of conquerors or the oppressions of foreign tyrants. Centuries before, Jeremiah had declared, "Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the King of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar King of Babylon hath broken his bones" (Jeremiah 50:17). In subsequent centuries similar captivities or oppressions were endured at the hands of the Ptolemies, the Seleucidae, the Idumeans, and the Romans. Those who remained were as strangers in their own fatherland. And soon a far more fearful catastrophe scattered them from one end of the heavens to the other, after the destruction of their city by the Romans.
"But we must wander witheringly
In other lands to die;
And where our fathers' ashes be
Our own must never lie:
Our temple hath not left a stone,
And Mockery sits on Salem's throne."
3. "Stricken of God, and afflicted." Unfaithful "shepherds" among their own rulers (Ezekiel 34:1-6) or heathen conquerors were the scourges; but "shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Devout men recognized this, and uttered such penitential wails as we find in Psalms 44:1-26; Psalms 74:1-23.; Lamentations 1:1-22; Lamentations 2:1-22; etc.
II. THEIR RESTORATION. The establishment of the new kingdom of God—Christ's kingdom—on Mount Zion was itself a pledge of the restoration of the Jews and of their participation in its blessings. For it could not be that Christ should reign over the Gentile nations and leave "his own people" (John 1:11) to perish finally in unbelief. This would be opposed both to the ancient promises of God (Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 59:20, Isaiah 59:21, etc.) as well as to the predictions and the heart of Christ (Matthew 23:37-39). Yet there are stages in this process of restoration.
1. The halting ones are restored, but they are only a remnant. (Cf. Micah 5:3, Micah 5:7, Micah 5:8.) The immediate effect of the establishment of Christ's kingdom was seen in a great religious revival among the Jews from Pentecost onwards. But all the converts were but a remnant of the nation which, because of its unbelief, was "broken off" (Romans 11:1-5, Romans 11:17-20). Yet in the fact of the salvation of the few the Apostle Paul sees the pledge of the final salvation of the many.
2. The banished ones shall be made a strong nation. Trace St. Paul's inspired argument in Romans 11:1-36. till he arrives at the sublime conclusion in Romans 11:32-36. The nation's restoration to God will be accompanied by a restoration to their own land (Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 14:8-11, etc.).
3. "The Lord shall reign ever them in Mount Zion." We look for the restoration of Israel to their Saviour and to their land as one of the marvellous evidences of the truth of the prophetic word which God is reserving for the scepticism of these latter days. We need not anticipate a literal and local throne of Christ at Jerusalem. But the Lord Christ, being enthroned in the hearts of his long faithless yet much beloved people, will as truly "reign over them in Mount Zion" as though they had his glorified humanity always manifested in their midst. And then his reign shall be "from henceforth, even forever." "I the Lord will hasten it in his time."
"O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice: Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!"
Micah 4:9, Micah 4:10
Discipline and deliverance.
A glorious future has been held up to the view of the Jewish nation (Micah 4:6-8). It is like the ideals of peace and blessedness presented to all in the Word of God; like the visions of the heavenly glory set before even the most ungodly. Such promises are attractive; even the godless Jews in Micah's time would exult in the thought of "the former dominion," the days of David and Solomon returning to Zion. But the vision again changes. Cries of pain and distress are heard. There passes before the prophet's mind a view of the discipline and chastisement which must fall on the disobedient nation before the promised blessings can be enjoyed.
I. THE SALUTARY DISCIPLINE. In brief, vivid words a succession of calamities is sketched.
1. Their monarchy is overthrown. "Is there no king in thee?" Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah in succession were dethroned by foreign conquerors, and carried into exile. Many national premises and blessings were bound up with the name and family of David (2 Samuel 7:1-29), so that the loss of their king was no ordinary loss. He was their chief stay and "counsellor" (cf. Isaiah 9:6), "the breath of their nostrils" (Lamentations 4:20). No wonder their consternation and distress: "pangs," etc..(cf. Psalms 89:38-51). Thus one step in Divine discipline then and now may be the striking down to the ground of the chief objects of our confidence, the earthly props which we seek to substitute for God.
2. They are humiliated before their foes. They "go forth out of the city;" some in a vain attempt to escape, like Zedekiah and his troops (2 Kings 25:4-6); others as prisoners of war from a city which has capitulated and is being sacked by its conquerors. Illustrate from Lamentations 5:1-16. They are driven forth into "the field;" without shelter even from the elements unless in tents (contrast their former "ease in Zion," Amos 6:1-7, etc.); without the protection of the old towers and bulwarks in which they had prided themselves (Psalms 48:12, Psalms 48:13); without weapons or leaders, and thus exposed to any indignities that these conquerors choose to inflict upon them. Thus may it be with those whose way God "turneth upside down," stripping them of all their old sources of security—money, position, friends; turning them out of the "nest" in which they expected peacefully to spend the remainder of their days. Illustrate from contrasts in Job 29:1-25. and 30.
3. They are carried captive "even to Babylon." Babel in early days had been a symbol of a godless world power. It does not rise again on the Hebrew horizon till the days of Isaiah and Micah. Making friendly overtures to Hezekiah, it is presented to his view, by his faithful seer, as a distant, mysterious, hut formidable foe of the future—ignotum pro mirifico (Isaiah 39:1-8.). As the ten tribes had been carried captive to Halah and Habor and adjacent districts, so should Judah be taken "even to Babylon." Thus is it in God's discipline with his prodigals now. They may find themselves in "a far country," brought down to the lowest depth of humiliation, shut out from all earthly help, shut up to God. And even now, in the midst of the pleasures of sin, prophetic voices within may warn them: "Thou shalt go forth … thou shalt go even to—." The dreadful possibilities of judgment, whether in this world or another, may at times mar their peace. For, unlike the servants of God, they dare not say, "Things to come … are ours."
4. In the house of bondage pangs of sorrow must be borne. "Seventy years!"—a long lifetime of captivity. "Tribulation ten days!" a time of discipline indefinite to us, though fixed by the counsel of God. Those pangs will be "resistless, remediless, doubling the whole frame, redoubled till the end for which God sends them is accomplished, and then ceasing in joy" (Pusey). For the very term "daughter of Zion" suggests hope. It is a term of friendliness, like "Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9), which reminds us of the essential relations between us and our God, and gives us a pledge that in wrath he will remember mercy (cf. Isaiah 57:16).
II. "THE END OF THE LORD." Then and there the end for which the trials are sent will be reached, and deliverance will come. As with their king Manasseh, so shall it be with the nation. In their affliction they will seek the Lord (Jeremiah 29:10-13).
1. They shall be delivered. Set free from the burden of their sins, a burden too grievous to be borne; purged from idolatry; blessed with a revival of religion, as shown by a renewed regard to God's Law through the gracious work of his own "free Spirit" (Ezekiel 36:16-27).
2. They shall be redeemed from the hand of their enemies. God will visit them as their Goel, their Kinsman-Redeemer, who has not forgotten or forsaken them (Jeremiah 30:8-11). By the manifestation of his righteous grace and irresistible power they shall be "redeemed without money" (Isaiah 52:3), restored to their land and to the enjoyment of ancient privileges. Such is "the end of the Lord" in the discipline of life. The revelation of the Fatherhood of God in the Person of Christ and in his sacrificial death for the redemption of sinners assures us that he chastens "for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness." But it is only by sitting at his feet and learning of him, and thus being "exercised" by our trials, that we can hope to win from them "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:9-11).—E.S.P.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The gospel age.
"But 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," etc. "The last days" is an expression frequently used in the Old Testament. It points to the future, beginning with the Christian dispensation and running on to its close. It means the times of the Messiah. The patriarchal times had passed away, the Mosaic epoch was on the wane, and would soon vanish. The times of the Messiah, or "the last days," would succeed, and run on to the end of time. This prophecy, with scarcely any variation, is found in Isaiah 2:1-22. Whether Isaiah borrowed it from Micah, or Micah from Isaiah, or both from some older prophecy, does not appear. One thing seems certain, that the prophecy has never yet been fulfilled in the history of the world, and that its accomplishment must be in some distant period—"the last days." It enables us to make certain remarks concerning the true religion of the gospel age.
I. THE TRUE RELIGION OF THE GOSPEL AGE WILL BECOME A GREAT POWER, "The mountain of the house of the Lord." Referring particularly to the temple that was built on Mount Moriah, and called the mountain of the Lord's house. The temple was the greatest thing in the religion of the Jews; it was the "mountain" in their scenery. The true religion is to become a mountain. The little stone will become a mountain, and fill the whole earth. In truth, the true religion, where it exists, is the biggest thing. In the individual soul it is the largest thing. It is the dominant power, it is the mountain in the scenery of a good man's experience. Let all men possess it, and then it will be to the whole world what it is to the individual. In sooth, true religion is either everything or nothing; supremacy is its essence the supreme thought, the supreme love, the supreme aim. Two things are here stated about this mountain.
1. It is to become established. How is it to be established? By civil authority, legislative enactments? Our foolish forefathers have thought so, and many of the dolts of this generation think so too. But this to the last point is unphilosophic and absurd. The weakness of religion in Christendom today may be ascribed to the futile attempts of unwise and ambitious men to establish it by law. You may as well endeavour to govern the planetary universe by the ten commandments as to establish religion by civil laws.
2. It is to become conspicuous. "In the top of the mountains." It will be seen from afar—the most elevated power of the world. It will be the chief thing in the markets, professions, and governments of the world, high up on the top of all.
II. THE TRUE RELIGION OF THE GOSPEL AGE WILL BECOME UNIVERSALLY ATTRACTIVE. "And people shall flow unto it." "This is a figurative expression, denoting that they shall be converted to the true religion. It indicates that they shall come in multitudes, like the flowing of a mighty river. The idea of the flowing of the nation is of the movement of many people towards an object like a broad stream on the tides of the ocean, and is one that is very grand and sublime" (Barnes). In this period the social element will be brought into lull play in connection with true religion. Men will stimulate each other to inquire after truth. "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."
1. They will study its laws in order to obey them. "He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." In those good times that are coming, men will study God's ways, and not man's theories, and study these ways, not as a matter of intellectual speculation, but in order to obey them, to walk in his ways. Religion in those days will be practical; it will be the law of every one's life, the great regulative force of society.
2. They will study its laws at the fountainhead. "For the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Jerusalem was the fountainhead of Christianity. Christ commanded his disciples to tarry at Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. There also he commanded that the first sermon should be preached, a sermon concerning repentance and remission of sins; and there Peter opened his commission in his wonderful Pentecostal discourse. In those days men will go for religious instruction, not to patristic, puritanic, Anglican, or any other theological school, but to the fountainhead, to Jerusalem, where it is fresh and pure, most potent in spiritual stimulation and suggestion. Men in these days have gone far away from the theology of Jerusalem. In that theology there are none of those miserable dogmas that are now preached, but facts concerning a Person, and that Person none other than the Son of man and the Son of God.
III. THE TRUE RELIGION OF THE GOSPEL AGE WILL BECOME POWERFUL TO TERMINATE ALL WARS.
1. Here is the destruction of war. "Beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." The arts of war destroyed, in their stead will flourish the arts of peace. The sword and spear, what ills of immeasurable enormity they have inflicted upon the race! Implements of hell, instruments by which all the infernal passions of the human heart have been excited and gratified. War is antichrist.
2. Here is the establishment of peace. "Shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree." The words, "sit under his vine," are taken from 1 Kings 4:25, etc. Most incredible must this prediction have been to the men of Micah's time; but it will be accomplished, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. If he has spoken it and it does not come to pass, it must be for one of three reasons:
Man's religious nature.
"For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the Name of the Lord our God forever and ever." It is trite to say, what has been said a thousand times, that man has a religious nature. Albeit the practical recognition of the fact is of immense importance; without it, more than half the history of the world would be inexplicable, all methods for its true improvement would be futile, and man would pass through this world to another without a God or any hope for a future. This verse suggests the wrong and the right development of this nature.
I. THE WRONG DEVELOPMENT. What is that? Idolatry. "All people will walk every one in the name of his god." Polytheism proper is, and generally has been, the most popular religion in the world. Men have gods which they have made, palpable objects which they fashioned after an ideal, and the ideal not unfrequently of the most base and loathsome kind. And they walk after these gods. The mariners in Jonah's vessel, when the storm came on, cried every man unto his god. Whence the cause of polytheism? The one great cause, which comprehends all others, is depravity. Depravity:
1. Involves moral corruption. What are heathen gods, as a rule, but the deification of the lower passions and vices of mankind?
2. Involves carnality. Depraved men are so carnal that they have no idea of real things which have not size and form and tangible properties. Hence they want a god they can see and handle and touch.
3. Involves thoughtlessnss. Polytheism cannot stand reasoning. It is supported by the thoughtless millions through the craft and sophistry of the priests. Every true thought will shatter a heathen deity.
II. THE RIGHT DEVELOPMENT. What is that? Practical monotheism. "We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
1. This is rational. The one God is the sum total of all moral properties, the Proprietor of all resources, and the Bestower of all the existences and all the blessings therewith. What can be more rational than to walk in his way? In truth, it is the only true rational way in life.
2. This is obligatory. No man is bound to walk in the name of an idol; nay, he is commanded not to do so. But every man is bound to walk in the Name of the Lord—bound on the ground of his supreme excellence, his relations to man, and the obligation springing therefrom.
3. This is blessed. To walk in his Name is to walk through sunny fields abounding with all beauty and fruitfulness.—D.T.
The moral monarchy of Christ in the world.
"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 bet that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever. And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem." Whether the subject of these verses is the restoration of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity or the gathering of men by Christ into a grand spiritual community, is a question on which there has been considerable discussion among biblical scholars, and therefore should preclude anything like dogmatism on either side. I am disposed, however, to entertain the latter idea, because it seems most in accordance with the previous verses, in which there is an undoubted reference to the gospel age, and because it gives the passage a wide practical application. Delitzsch says, "'In that day' points back to the end of the days. At the time when many nations shall go on pilgrimage to the highly exalted mountain of the Lord, and therefore Zion-Jerusalem will not only be restored but greatly glorified, the Lord will assemble that which limps and is scattered abroad." We shall take the words, then, as illustrating certain facts connected with the moral monarchy of Christ in the world.
I. IT EMBRACES AMONGST ITS SUBJECTS THE MOST WRETCHED AND SCATTERED OF MEN. "In that clay, saith the Lord, will I assemble [gather] her that halteth [that which limpeth], and I will gather her that is driven out [that which was thrust out] and her that [which] I have afflicted; and I will make her that [that which] halted [limps] a remnant, and her that [that which] was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever." Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6), and his invitation was to all that are "weary" and "heavy laden." The Church of Christ from the beginning has comprised those who were the most afflicted, the most scattered, and the most distressed of mankind. It has been and is the grand asylum for the tried and the sorrowful and those who are counted "the offscouring of all things" (1 Corinthians 4:13).
1. Christ's moral monarchy knows nothing of favouritism. It does not treat men according to their physical condition, social status, or temporal circumstances. It has respect to souls. It is as much interested in the soul of the pauper as in that of the prince, the soul of the slave as in that of the sovereign. Human monarchies have ever been taken up with man in his material relations. The more wealthy and influential a man is, the more favours will worldly kings bestow; the indigent and the homeless are only regarded as beasts of burden. Not so with Christ as the Monarch. Every soul to him is a matter of profound practical interest.
2. Christ's moral monarchy is remedial in its design. It brings all the miserable together in order to rid them of their sorrows. By working into human souls right principles of action and expelling wrong ones, it indirectly, though most efficiently, heals all the temporary woes of mankind. "Seek first the things from above, and all others shall be added unto you." "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come."
II. IT ESTABLISHES ITSELF AS THE GUARDIAN OF MEN FOREVER. "And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion," etc. The address to the "tower of the flock" shows that, as the most wretched and scattered of men will be brought into a great community, so shall the reign of the daughter of Zion be restored, i.e. the Jews be converted and brought in with the Gentiles. The watch tower spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 32:14) is most likely the tower here referred to by Micah. "Flock tower" is a good expression, inasmuch as it indicates the watchfulness of Christ as a moral Shepherd, the great Shepherd of souls. It is said here that "the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem." It did so come; it began with the Jews. "He came to his own, and his own received him not." Although oh his last visit to Jerusalem the common people did receive him as their King: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" What a Guardian, what a "Bishop of souls," is Christ!
1. He knows all his sheep. Each of the millions is known to him—his idiosyncrasies, imperfections, necessities, etc.
2. He has ample provision for all his sheep. His provisions are adapted to all, and are inexhaustible.
3. He has power to protect all his sheep.
CONCLUSION. Thank God this moral monarchy of Christ is established on our earth! The kingdom of God is come unto us. Thousands of all grades and classes have entered into it, and they have found it to be "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Would that it were universal! It will be so one day. It is not so yet, because, being moral, men have the power of resisting it.—D.T.
The moral regeneration of the world.
"Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion," etc. The prophet here, without doubt, refers to the carrying away of the Jews to Babylon. He refers to the consternation in which the Jews would be placed on the approach of the Chaldean army, The questions relative to a "king" and a "counsellor" (Micah 4:9) are, it is thought, put forth in bitter irony, in order to provoke an answer. "Is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished?" The answer, perhaps, would be, "Yes, we have a king, and we have counsellors, but they are utterly worthless; they have power neither to protect us from the terrible calamities nor to invent means for our escape." The metaphor of the parturient woman seems intended to shadow forth the agony of their consternation at the idea of going forth from the city of Jerusalem, being located in the open country, and afterwards conveyed to Babylon. After this comes the promise of emancipation. "There the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." Their restoration is metaphorically represented by a travailing woman. Whilst it is unfair to attach to Scripture a wrong interpretation, it is perfectly fair to use its passages as symbols of truths applicable to man in all ages and all lands. These words may serve to illustrate, therefore, some points in relation to the moral regeneration of the world.
I. THE STATE OF MANKIND REQUIRES IT. "Is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished?" It was more serious for the Jewish people to be deprived of a king than for any other people, for their king was theocratic; he was supposed to be the voice and vicegerent of God. The prophet means to say that when the Chaldeans would come and carry them away, they would have no king and no counsellors. Now, men in an unregenerate state:
1. Have no king. A political ruler is to man, as a spiritual energy, only a king in name. He does not command the moral affections, rule the conscience, or legislate for the inner and primal springs of all activity. Such a king is the deep want of man; he wants some one to be enthroned on his heart, to whom his conscience can render homage. No man in an unregenerate state has such a king; he has gods many and lords many, of a sort, but none to rule him, and to bring all the powers of his soul into one harmonious channel of obedience.
2. Have no counsellor. Society abounds with counsellors who proffer their advice; but some of them are wicked, most of them worthless, few, if any, satisfactory, that is, to conscience. What the soul wants is not the mere book counsellor—though it be the Bible itself—but the spirit of that book, the spirit of reverence, love, Christ-like trust. Such a spirit, when it comes to us, will guide us into all truth; it is the "unction from the Holy One."
3. Have no ease. "Pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail." The unregenerate soul is always liable to consternation, remorse; it often writhes in agony. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Now, moral regeneration brings the man a true King, a true Counsellor, a true Peace—a peace "that passeth all understanding."
II. IT IS OPPOSED BY FORMIDABLE ANTAGONISTS. "Many nations are gathered against thee." The nations here referred to are those that composed the army of Nebuchadnezzar, or those that joined it in the attack against the Jews. What formidable opponents there are to the conversion of man!
1. The depraved elements of the soul. Unbelief, selfishness, carnality, etc. These are Canaanites that battle mightily against the moral Joshua.
2. The corrupt influence of society. How much, in this country and this age especially, is there struggling against man's regeneration custom, fashion, amusements, pleasures! And then, too, acting through all these forces within and without, there are the principalities and powers of darkness; so that it comes to pass that it is no very easy thing to effect the regeneration of men; there are nations of moral forces battling against it.
III. IT IS GUARANTEED BY THE WORD OF ALMIGHTY GOD. "They know not the thoughts of the Lord," etc. The enemies of the Jews were utterly ignorant of God's purpose to deliver his people from Babylonish captivity. "They had not the most distant idea that the object of Jehovah, in permitting his people to be so treated, was to recover them from idolatry, and thus prepare them for a triumphant restoration. The metaphor taken from the process of threshing out grain is frequently used by the prophets to denote the complete destruction of a people."
1. Man in ignorance fights against God's purpose. The Chaldeans and all the enemies of the Jews did so now. Men are always doing this. "Had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
2. Man, in fighting against God's purpose, brings ruin on himself. It is here predicted that the enemies of the Jews should be as "sheaves," and that the Jews themselves should be strengthened. "I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass." "When God," says an old writer, "has conquering work for his people to do, he will furnish them with strength and ability for it—will make the horn iron and the hoofs brass; and when he does so, they must exert the power he gives them, and execute the commission: even the daughter of Zion may arise and thresh." The nations thought to ruin Christianity in its infancy, but it was victorious over them. Those who persisted in their enmity were broken to pieces (Matthew 21:44), particularly the Jewish nation; but multitudes by Divine grace were joined to the Church, and they and their substance were consecrated to the Lord Jesus, the Lord of the whole earth.—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Micah 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter