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§ 8. After Zion's degradation Messiah shall be born, and shall bring the world into subjection.
This verse is joined to the preceding chapter in the Hebrew. Jerusalem is addressed, as in Micah 4:9, Micah 4:11, not the invading army. The prophet returns to the view of the misery and humiliation expressed in that passage. Gather thyself in troops; or, thou shalt gather thyself, etc. Jerusalem must collect its armies to defend itself from the enemy. O daughter of troops. Jerusalem is thus named from the number of soldiers collected within her walls, from whence marauding expeditions were wont to set forth. Pusey considers that she is so called from the acts of violence, robbery, and bloodshed which are done within her (Micah 2:8; Micah 3:2, etc.; Jeremiah 7:11). Keil thinks the prophet represents the people crowding together in fear. It is more natural to refer the expression to the abnormal assemblage of soldiers and fugitives within the walls of a besieged city. Septuagint, Ἐμφραχθήσεσαι θυγάτηρ ἐμφραγμᾷ, "The daughter shall be wholly hemmed in;" Vulgate, Vastaberis, filia latronis. He hath laid siege. The enemy is spoken of by an abrupt change of person (comp. Isaiah 1:29). Against us. The prophet identifies himself with the besieged people. They shall smite the judge of Israel, etc. "The judge" represents the supreme authority, whether king or other governor (Amos 2:3); but he is called here "judge," that the sacred name of king may not be spoken of as dishonoured. To smite upon the cheek is the grossest insult When Zion is thus besieged, and its rulers suffer the utmost contumely, its condition must look hopeless, Such a state of things was realized in the treatment of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-30.), and in many subsequent sieges of Jerusalem. But the underlying idea is that Israel shall suffer dire distress at the hands of her enemies until Messiah comes, and she herself turns to the Lord. The LXX. translates shophet, "judge," by φυλάς, "tribes," but the other Greek translators give κριτήν.
At the time of Zion's deepest distress, and when her earthly king is suffering the grossest degradation, reduced as it were to the shepherd house at Bethlehem, a Deliverer shall arise thence who shall do wonderful things. This passage was quoted by the Sanhedrin to answer Herod's question where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:6; comp. John 7:42). But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah. Ephratah (Ephrathah, or Ephrath), "fruitfulness," is another name for Bethlehem, "House of bread" (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 1:1-31 Saul Genesis 17:12; Ruth 1:2); from its position it is also called Bethlehem Judah (Judges 17:7), being situated in the tribal lot of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem, and thus distinguished from a town of the same name in Zebulun(Joshua 19:15). Septuagint, κιὰ σὺ Βηθλεὲμ οἷκος Ἐφραθά τοῦ Ἐφραθά Alex.]. "And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrathah." The rest of the clause is best translated, too little to be among the thousands of Judah. Each tribe was divided into "thousands," which would be equivalent to clans, with its own head. Probably the reckoning was made of fighting men (see note on Zechariah 9:7; and comp. Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:21, Joshua 22:30; 1 Samuel 10:19). Bethlehem, called in the text Bethlehem Ephratah for solemnity's sake, was a small place (κάμη, John 7:42), of such slight importance as not to be named among the possessions of Judah in Joshua 15:1-63; or in the catalogue of Nehemiah 11:25, etc. Yet out of thee shall he (one) come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel. In spite of its insignificance, this birthplace of David shall be the birthplace of Messiah. "Shall some forth" is spoken sometimes of birth and descent, as in Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 35:11; at other times it contains merely the notion of proceeding from, as in Jeremiah 30:21. In the present ease both ideas are suitable. Unto me (Jehovah is speaking). To my praise and glory, to do my will. Micah by these words would recall the announcement concerning David made to Samuel, "I have provided me a king" (1 Samuel 16:1), and thus show the typical relation of David to the Messiah (Keil). Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. The meaning of the word rendered "goings forth" (motsaoth) is somewhat doubtful. Septuagint, ἔξοδοι: Vulgate, egressus. The Fathers see in it a declaration of the eternal generation of the Son: he who was born in time at Bethlehem hath an eternal existence. In this case the plural form of the word is a plural of majesty, or an abstract expression (comp. Psalms 114:2, "dominions;" Isaiah 54:2. "habitations"). To Christians, who believe in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the plural would express the continual generation or the Son from the Father from everlasting and to everlasting, never beginning and never ending; as the Council of Lateran says, "Without beginning ever and without end, the Father begetting, the Son being born (nascens), and the Holy Ghost proceeding." Many commentators take the "goings forth" to be the ancient promises, the revelations of the Angel of the covenant to the patriarchs, the various preparations made in type and history for the appearance of the great Son of David in due time; but this is a forced interpretation of the word. Granted that Micah's contemporaries understood the prophecy to state merely that a Saviour should arise from the lineage of David who traced his descent from hoar antiquity, and might be said to have lived in the days of old, this fact (if it be a fact) does not preclude us, with our more perfect knowledge, from seeing a deeper meaning in the inspired utterance, an adumbration of the nature of that Prince whom Isaiah calls "Everlasting" (Isaiah 9:6), the Word who "was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1, John 1:2). We may note certain contrasts in these two first verses. Zion, "the daughter of troops," is contrasted with the mean and insignificant Bethlehem; yet the former shall be shamefully handled, the latter highly honoured; that one's king shall be dethroned and disgraced, this one's Ruler is from everlasting and to everlasting.
Therefore; i.e. because God hath designed to punish before delivering, and this deliverance is to arise from the little Bethlehem, not from Jerusalem. This presupposes that the house of David will have lost the throne and have been reduced to a low condition. Will he give them up. Jehovah will give up the people to its enemies; this is the way in which the house of David shall come to low estate. She which travaileth hath brought forth. Many commentators have taken the travailing woman to be the afflicted community of Israel, or Zion; but we may not altogether reject the old interpretation which regards this as a prophecy of the birth of Christ from the Virgin, in accordance with the received Messianic exposition of Isaiah's great prediction, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive" (Isaiah 7:14). Such an announcement comes in naturally after the announcement of the Ruler coming forth from Bethlehem. Israel shall be oppressed until the time ordained when "she who is to bear" shall bring forth. Then (rather, and, i.e. until) the remnant of his brethren shall return unto (with) the children of Israel. The remnant of his brethren are the rescued of the Judaeans, who are the brethren of Messiah according to the flesh; these in a literal sense shall return from exile together with the others, and in a spiritual sense shall be converted and be joined with the true Israelites, the true seeder Abraham.
He shall stand. The Ruler, Messiah, shall stand as a good shepherd, guiding and ordering his flock, watchful and ready to aid and defend (comp. Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:11). Septuagint, στήσεται καὶ ὄψεται, "shall stand and see." Feed; i.e. his flock. Septuagint, ποιμανεῖ τὸ ποίμνιον αὐτοῦ. In the strength of the Lord, with which he is invested and which he displays in the care of his people. In the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. Messiah shall rule in all the power and glory with which God hath revealed himself on earth (comp. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:18; John 1:14). They shall abide; Septuagint, ὑπάρξουσι "they shall be." The children of Israel shall sit, dwell, in rest and peace in their own land (Micah 4:4; Leviticus 26:5, Leviticus 26:6; Joel 3:20; Amos 9:14, Amos 9:15). The Vulgate, from a different pointing of the Hebrew, renders, convertentur. With this the Chaldee and Syriac agree. But this idea is already expressed in Micah 5:3. Now shall he be great. When the prophecy is fulfilled and Messiah is feeding his flock, his dominion shall extend unto the ends of the earth (comp, Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:14; Psalms 2:8; Psalms 72:8; Luke 1:32).
Micah 5:5, Micah 5:6
§ 9. Under Messiah's rule shall be peace. Cheyne considers these verses to have been inserted by an afterthought, either to explain the "many nations" and "many peoples" of Micah 4:11, Micah 4:13, or to rectify the omission of the period of foreign rule. This may be reasonably allowed; but it is not necessary to the explanation of the paragraph, which is merely a further description of Messiah's kingdom.
And this Man shall be the Peace; and he shall be Peace; Vulgate, et erit iste Pax. This same Ruler will not only bring peace, and be the Author of peace, but be himself Peace; as Isaiah (Isaiah 9:5) calls him "Prince of Peace," and St. Paul (Ephesians 2:14) "our Peace." Peace personified (comp. Zechariah 9:9). It is best to put a full stop here, and remove the colon at "land" in the next clause. There may be an allusion to Solomon, the peaceful king, who erected the temple and whose reign exhibited the ideal of happy times. .Septuagint, καὶ ἔσται αὐτῇ εἰρήνη, "and to her shall be peace." When the Assyrian shall come. The prophet, in this and the following verses, shows what is that peace which Messiah shall bring. Asshur is named as the type of Israel's deadliest foe, and as that which even then was threatening the kingdom: witness Sennaeherib's invasion in Hezekiah's time, when the angel of the Lord smote the alien army with sudden destruction (2 Kings 19:1-37.). The prophecy looks forward to a far distant future, when the world power is strayed against God's people; the details (as often in such prophecies) do not exactly suit the actual facts in contemporary history. Then shall we raise against him seven shepherds. We, the Israel of God, shall be enabled to repel the enemy. "Shepherds," i.e. princes, and those in abundance. "Seven" is the perfect number, representing completeness and rest. And eight principal men; or, princes among men, appointed by the Ruler as his subordinates and representatives. These are said to be "eight," to imply their great number: there should be a superabundance of able leaders. (On a similar use of numbers, see note on Amos 1:3.) The LXX. renders, ὀκτὼ δήγματα ἀνθρώπων, "eight attacks of men," reading differently.
They shall waste. The word rendered "waste" (raah) is capable of two interpretations according as it is derived. It may mean "to break" or "to feed;" and in the latter sense may signify either "to eat up" or "to be shepherd over," as the Septuagint, ποιμανοῦσι, The addition, with the sword, however, limits the explanation, whichever verb we refer it to. These leaders shall not only defend their own land against the enemy, but shall carry the war into the hostile territory, conquer it, and rule with rigour (for the phrase, comp. Psalms 2:9; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5). True religion has always a war to wage with error and worldliness, but shall conquer in the power of Christ. The land of Nimrod. This is taken by some commentators to mean Babylon, the other great enemy of the Church of God. But Babylon is nowhere in Scripture called "the land of Nimrod," though Nimrod is connected with Babel in Genesis 10:10; and the term is better explained here as a synonym of Assyria, used to recall the "rebel" (so Nimrod is interpreted) who founded the first empire (Genesis 10:8-12), and gives the character to the kingdom of this world. In the entrances thereof; literally, in the gates thereof; i.e. in the cities and fortresses, corresponding to the "palaces" of Genesis 10:5 (comp. Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 13:2; Nahum 3:13). Septuagint, ἐν τῇ τάφρῳ αὐτῆς, with her trench;" Vulgate, in lanceis ejus, which, if the Hebrew he taken as Jerome reads it, will he in close parallelism with the words in the preceding clause, "with the sword." Thus (and) he shall deliver us. Israel has to undergo much tribulation and many struggles, but Messiah shall save her.
§ 10. The people under Messiah's rule have a mission to execute; they are to be not only conquerors, but saviours also.
First, Israel in God's hands shall be an instrument of life and health to the nations. The remnant of Jacob. The faithful, Messianic Israel, as Micah 4:7; Isaiah 10:21. Many people; rather; many peoples (Micah 4:11,Micah 4:13); so in Isaiah 10:8. The LXX. inserts ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, "among the nations," as in Isaiah 10:8. As a dew from the Lord. Converted Israel shall act as Messiah himself in refreshing and stimulating the nations. Receiving grace from him, she shall diffuse it to others. (For the metaphor of dew thus used, comp. Deuteronomy 32:2; Hosea 14:6.) It is especially appropriate in a country where from May to October the life of herbage depends chiefly on the copious dews (comp. Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 33:13, Deuteronomy 33:28; Haggai 1:10). As the showers upon the grass. The dew is called "showers" as appearing to descend in a multitude of drops. That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. This refers to the dew, which is wholly the gift of God, and is not artificially supplied by man's labour, as Egypt is "watered by the foot" (Deuteronomy 11:10). So grace is God's free, unmerited gift, and will come upon the nation! in his good time and way. The LXX. has here a curious rendering, Καὶ ὡς ἄρνες ἐπὶ ἄγρωστιν ὅπως μὴ συναχθῇ μηδεὶς μηδὲ ὑποστῇ ἐν υἱοῖς ἀνθρώπων, which Jerome explains of the obdurate Gentiles who continue in unbelief, "as lambs upon the grass, that none may assemble nor withstand among the sons of men."
Secondly, Israel shall be a terrible power among the nations, and invincible in strength. ("Nova theocratica agit suaviter et fortiter" (Knabenbauer). As a lion. The Lamb of God is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5; Numbers 23:24), and he "is set for the fall and rising again of many" (Luke 2:34). In his irresistible strength Israel shall overcome all enemies. So Judas Maccabaeus is compared to a lion (1Mal Micah 3:4).
The prophet's exulting prayer for the success of his people. Thine band shall be, etc.; rather, let thine hand be lifted up; and so in the next clause, "let thine enemies be out off." The phrase, "high be thy hand upon, or over," recalls the expression in Exodus 14:8, "The children of Israel went out with an high hand" (comp. Numbers 33:3; Isaiah 26:11; and our idiom, "to get the upper hand"). (For the promise contained in the prayer, see Isaiah 60:12.)
§ 11. Messiah shall destroy all the instruments of war, and put down all idolatry, having taught his people to rely upon him alone.
In that day. When Messiah's kingdom is established. Micah depicts the interior perfection of the Church, as he had before explained its relation to external nations. Horses … chariots. The things most used in attack and defence, and forbidden by God as betraying distrust in his providence (comp. Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 2:7; Zechariah 9:10). In the reign of the Prince of Peace all war shall cease (Isaiah 9:4-6).
Cities. Abodes of luxury and pride. From Messiah's kingdom all pomp and vain glory shall be shut out. Strongholds. Such defences shall not be needed nor allowed (comp. Isaiah 2:15; Zechariah 2:4, Zechariah 2:5).
Witchcrafts. Magic and sorcery, which were much practised in Syria and Palestine, as in Chaldea, the literature of which country consists in great part of spells and charms. It is to the belief in the efficacy of such incantations that we owe the episode of Balak and Balaam (Numbers 22-24.), and the enactments in the Law; e.g. Deuteronomy 18:10, etc. (comp. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 47:12). Septuagint, τὰ φάρμακά σου, "thy poisons;" Vulgate, maleficia. Soothsayers; properly, cloud diviners, or storm makers; either persons who professed to divine by means of the shape and colour of clouds, or, as the old Scandinavian witches, charlatans who assumed the power of musing and directing storms. Cheyne compares the common name of sorcerers among savages, "rain makers."
Graven images, of stone or metal (Leviticus 26:1). Standing images; Septuagint, τὰς στηλάς σου, "thy columns;" Vulgate, statuas tuas These are stone images or pillars dedicated to false gods (1 Kings 14:23). A pillar to mark a place consecrated to the worship of the Lord was allowed (see Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:13, Genesis 31:45; Isaiah 19:17). It was when this custom degenerated into idolatry that it was sternly denounced (Deuteronomy 16:22; Deuteronomy 27:15, etc.).
Thy groves (Asherim); Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, etc. Ashersh was a Canaanitish goddess, whose worship was celebrated with licentious rites. She corresponds to the Ashtoreth of the Phoenicians and Ishtar of the Assyrians, and seems to have been adored as the goddess of the productive power of nature. Her symbol was a tree or a wooden post. So (and) will I destroy thy cities; i.e. those cities which have been the centres of idolatry, or are especially connected with such worship (comp. Amos 5:5). The word rendered "cities" has by some been translated, and by others has been so altered as to be translated, "adversaries;" but there is no variety in the reading, or in the rendering of the ancient versions (except the Targum); and, explained as above, it is no mere repetition of the thought in Deuteronomy 7:11.
The time of Messiah is the era when judgment shall fall on the obdurate heathen. Such as they have not heard; rather, which have not hearkened, which are disobedient. Septuagint, "Because they hearkened not" (comp. Isaiah 66:15-18; Joel 3:9, etc.; Zephaniah 3:8; Haggai 2:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). It is implied that some of the heathen will hearken to the revelation of Jehovah by the Messiah.
I. THE NAME OF THE PLACE IS VERY SUGGESTIVE. Bethlehem; i.e. "House of bread." Ephratah; i.e. "Fruitfulness." Both thus signified plenty, abundance, fertility. They were most appropriate as designating the spot, for fertility has been and is still characteristic of that locality. "It is now a large village, beautifully situated on the brow of a high hill, which commands an extensive view of the surrounding mountainous country, and rises in parterres of vineyards, almond groves, and fig plantations, watered by gentle rivulets that murmur through the terraces; and is diversified by towers and wine presses". The place in its rich fruitfulness was symbolical of that spiritual abundance which should be secured to the world by him who is "the Bread of life" (John 6:33-35), and the seed corn to fall into the ground and die, and thus to bring forth much fruit (John 12:24).
II. THE LOWLINESS OF THE PLACE IS ALSO SUGGESTIVE. From Numbers 1:5-16 and Numbers 10:4 we learn that each of the tribes of Israel had its thousands of fighting men, each thousand having its appointed leader; whilst from the Book of Joshua we gather that this appointment was continued after the settlement of Canaan (Joshua 22:21, Joshua 22:30). So insignificant, however, was Bethlehem that it could make but a small contribution towards this arrangement, and hence was "least among the thousands of Judah." Yet upon this lowly place honour was to be conferred in the birth there of the world's Redeemer. The small was to become great, and the mean exalted. Around its plains the glory of the Lord should shine, and the songs of angels should resound, chanting the natal song, "Glory to God in the highest," etc. (Luke 2:14). And if a humble village through its connection with the Christ of God became thus exalted, much more surely shall human hearts and lives. Associated with him, they who, judged by the world's standards, are accounted mean and despicable, secure to themselves present dignity and eternal honour.
III. THIS PROPHECY RESPECTING THE MESSIAH'S LOWLY BIRTHPLACE LIVED IN THE MEMORIES AND HEARTS OF GOD'S ANCIENT PEOPLE. Two striking confirmations of this are given in the Gospels.
1. In connection with the visit of the Magians to Jerusalem. Herod in his alarm gathered the Jewish Sanhedrin together, and imperiously demanded information from the priests and scribes as to where, in accordance with Jewish traditions, the Messiah was to be born. And their reply (Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:6) indicates that they had in their memory this prophecy by Micah; whilst the readiness with which they replied to the inquiry of Herod manifests how clearly this prophecy had become impressed upon the Jewish mind.
2. In connection with Christ's appearance in Jerusalem at "the Feast of Tabernacles." His hearers, moved by his marvellous teaching, began to acknowledge him as the Messiah, when lo! the Pharisees cried, "Shall Christ came out of Galilea? Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of Bethlehem, where David was?" (John 7:42). It is evident that these Pharisees knew all about this ancient prediction, and that they expected the Messiah, in accordance with it, to appear in Bethlehem. Note—
IV. THE REMARKABLE FULFILMENT, IN THE ORDER OF PROVIDENCE, OF THIS NATIONAL EXPECTATION. The decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled (Luke 2:1). The emperor, in issuing the decree, thought only of his imperial authority and the glory of the empire; but God was working through all, and making the earthly kingdom to serve the heavenly, and bringing about the fulfilment of the prophecy that in Bethlehem the Christ should appear. So, earthly princes and potentates, statesmen and diplomatists, are ever at work, thinking only of the interests of their own nations; but above all is the God of nations, the supreme Ruler, sitting on the throne of his majesty in perfect repose, and overruling all to the accomplishment of his purposes of love and mercy towards the whole race (Proverbs 21:1; Proverbs 16:33).
The nature of the Messiah's rule. That is to be Ruler in Israel.
In the first verse Micah had spoken of the failure of earthly rulers. "The judge of Israel should be smitten with a rod upon the cheek." The rulers who had so lamentably failed in their administration should come to nought, but there should rise up in the time appointed "a King to reign in righteousness," and who should establish a kingdom which should never be moved. Unfortunately, however, in the Jewish mind, the nature of this kingdom took a visible shape; and they anticipated that the Messiah should establish a kingdom which should be marked by regal splendour and worldly power. Hence, when he appeared, the appeal was made to him to free them from paying tribute to Caesar (Matthew 22:17-22); to sit in judgment, and to settle disputes (Luke 12:13; John 8:2-11); and they sought to take him by force, and to compel him to set up his throne (John 6:15). And it is easy to understand how that, cherishing these mistaken notions, the Christ of God became an enigma to them; and that, disappointed in the course he pursued, they turned aside from him, cherished hostility towards him, and even cried, "Away with him! crucify him!" But, for all this, in the spiritual sense predicted by Micah and others, he was the true King of Israel, and his claim can be fully vindicated. He was "Ruler in Israel" in a far higher and nobler sense than David and his successors had ever been the sovereigns of the people. The functions which Jesus declined to fulfil were, after all, the lesser and inferior functions of the King of Israel. The higher functions were those which the Lord God himself had fulfilled in relation to the Jewish nation, and before that nation in the pride of its heart had demanded an earthly ruler. God had been their King. David and his successors were but Jehovah's deputies, and were appointed by him to discharge the lesser and secondary functions; but them were higher functions, which Jehovah alone had fulfilled. It was he who by his appointment and power had separated that people from among the nations, and it was he who of his infinite wisdom framed those Divine laws by which the people thus separated were to be governed, and in obedience to which they were to find happiness and security. And Christ Jesus became in the highest sense "the Ruler in Israel," in that he came to gather a people to his praise out of the wreck and ruin sin had wrought among the nations, and to give them that Christian law of rectitude and righteousness, of mercy and love, the embodiment and perfecting of all previous revelations, and in following which there should be experienced the truest peace and the most abiding joy. He came to set up on earth "the kingdom of heaven" and to establish amongst men a Divine and heavenly rule. His is not a kingdom of the senses, but of the spirit; it consists not in "meat and drink," but in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). He is "the Ruler," and the principles of his rule are such as, finding a lodgment in the heart and drawing the soul to him in loving loyalty and devotion, renders it true and good, holy and happy. And all that is needed in order to render the world sin has blighted bright and blessed, is that his rulership be universally acknowledged and his reign be established in every human soul.
"Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song."
Micah 5:2 (last clause)
The eternal goings forth of the Christ of God.
"When he says his beginnings are from the beginning, from the days of antiquity, he shows his pre-existent nature, as when he says he will go forth as Ruler to feed his people Israel he shows his temporal birth" (Chrysostom) "Going forth is here opposed to going forth—a going forth out of Bethlehem to a going forth from eternity; a going forth which then was still to come, to a going forth which had been long ago, from the days of eternity. The word expresses pre-existence, an eternal existence backwards as well as forwards, the incommunicable attribute of God" (Pusey, in loc.). The expression here naturally leads us to think of the words with which St. John commences his Gospel (John 1:1). We can offer no explanation as to how this could be. We fully acknowledge the difficulty, and which lies within the Divine nature itself. We bow before the mystery. "God is great, and we know him not." Reason is baffled when it inquires concerning the Divine Personality; but where reason cannot penetrate, faith can reverentially and tranquilly rest. And certainly the Prophet Micah here, and the Evangelist John in the prologue to his Gospel, claimed no more for the Messiah than the Christ claimed for himself (comp. John 6:62; John 8:58; John 17:5, John 17:24; Revelation 1:8). This eternal Son of God is presented to us here in his Divine manifestations; for the seer speaks of "his goings forth."
I. TRACE THESE "GOINGS FORTH." We may do so:
1. In creation. In view of his oneness with God, this is declared to have been his work (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:17).
2. In providence. In feeding the Old Testament in its allusions to the Divine care exercised over eminent saints of God, we find a Divine exalted Personage occasionally referred to as manifesting himself to such—to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-33.); to Jacob (Genesis 32:24, Genesis 32:30) to the Israelites through Moses (Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21); to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15). There are insuperable difficulties if we simply regard these as angelic ministries expressive of the Divine care over the good as the God of providence. It would not have been said in reference to any angel, "Provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions;" nor would any mere angelic intelligence have accepted the adoration of Joshua, but would have said, "See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant," etc. (Revelation 22:9). The most reasonable conclusion is that these were the "goings forth" in providence of the pre-existent Son of God.
3. In grace.
(1) In the counsels of the Godhead. Man by transgression mournfully departed from his God. He lost the Divine favour and the light of the Divine countenance. And when his condition became helpless and hopeless, lo! Divine interpositions with a view to his salvation. And it was in the depths of the compassion of the eternal Son of God that the stream of Divine mercy took its rise, and which shall flow on to bless the whole world; and from him, "the Sun of Righteousness," has emanated the cheering ray of Hope to ruined man. Nor, in speaking thus of the love of the eternal Son, do we slight the love of the eternal Father. Observe, in this verse God, speaking of his Son, says. "He shall come forth unto me," meaning surely that Christ, in his incarnation, with all that was thus involved of mercy and grace, would, in rescuing and restoring man, fulfil the Divine purpose and accomplish the Divine will. The Divine Father is no wrathful Being, needing to be appeased by the sacrifice of his Son. The Father "so loved the world, that he gave," etc. (John 3:16). The eternal Spirit, too, strives and pleads with men. There never has been schism in the eternal counsels. The mercy that saves us had its origin in the free and unbought love of the Godhead.
(2) In the life and work of the incarnate Christ. The life of Jesus is the most wonderful ever lived in the flesh. The lives of patriarchs, prophets, and righteous men through all ages pale in the presence of this life. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." "His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting;" but none of his manifestations has ever equalled that which took place when he clothed himself in the veil of our mortal flesh, and enabled man, through his perfect character and self-sacrificing work, to behold expressed in their very midst the glory of the Lord.
II. CONNECT THESE "GOINGS FORTH" WITH WHAT WAS PREDICTED HERE RESPECTING THE ADVENT OF CHRIST. As we behold him in his eternal existence and glory, Creator of all things, the Giver of life, the Imparter of light, manifesting himself in all the departments of the Divine operation; and then think of him as condescending to the limitations and conditions of our humanity, humbling himself to "the poor manger" at Bethlehem, and "the bitter cross" at Calvary, we are filled with wonder; yet love also inflames and inspires our souls. With profoundest gratitude and holiest joy we raise our carols. As we think of him as "the Ancient of days" and also the Babe of Bethlehem, our hearts are drawn to him, and we are impelled to adopt as our own the strain of Micah's great contemporary Isaiah, and to sing exultantly, "For unto us a Child is born," etc. (Isaiah 9:6).
Success; but in God's own time.
There is a certain degree of ambiguity about these words, yet amidst this we find certain practical teachings very clearly enunciated.
I. WE ARE REMINDED OF DELAYS IN THE DIVINE WORKING. Seven hundred years must elapse ere the predictions respecting the advent of the Redeemer should be fulfilled and "the time" come. God's purposes in grace, as well as in nature and providence, are developed gradually. He makes demands upon human patience, bidding us wait. He often, by slow processes, brings to pass that which he has planned. "Rest in the Lord," etc. (Psalms 37:7).
II. WE ARE REMINDED OF THE WITHDRAWAL OF PRIVILEGE. "Therefore will he give them up until," etc. The favoured people had slighted the privileges, which God had so richly bestowed upon them. He had not dealt so graciously with any other nation, but the blessings granted they had failed to improve, and hence these were now to be withdrawn. God had delivered them from their foes, but now they were to go into the land of captivity. The precious symbols of his near presence with them were no longer to be seen. The voice of prophecy, too, should soon become silent. Through sad and solemn losses they were to be led to look with ardent hope to the seining of "the Consolation of Israel."
III. WE ARE REMINDED HERE OF ULTIMATE GLORIOUS INCREASE "Then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel." Some limit these words to the conversion of the Jews, and understand by "the children of Israel" the true spiritual Israelites like Simeon and Anna, who waited for the advent of a spiritual Redeemer, and regard the words as intimating that to these in Messianic times there should be gathered "the remnant of Christ's brethren," i.e. the more spiritually minded amongst his own nation who should be constrained to welcome him to their hearts, and to consecrate themselves to his service. According to this interpretation the prophecy received its partial fulfilment in the conversion of the Jews in apostolic times, and shall yet be more completely fulfilled when the Jewish nation shall be brought in, and when "all Israel shall be saved." Others, however, give the words s yet wider meaning, and understand by "brethren" all who "hear the Word of God and keep it," and who are obedient to the will of Christ's Father and theirs, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; and see in these words a pre-intimation in prophetic times of the coming of that happy am when "the Ruler in Israel" shall sway his sceptre over a ransomed and redeemed world. And to that bright day of God we look on with longing hearts. Dawn upon our darkened world it surely will. God has not totally "given up" and abandoned our sin-stricken and sin-stained world. Even his withdrawals are with a view to the spiritual good of his children, and are followed, when the discipline is accomplished, by brighter and more glorious manifestations of his love and grace. "At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess him Lord." His kingdom shall come, and his "will be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven."
The ministering Christ.
The whole of this chapter is more or less occupied with graphic descriptions of the Christ of God drawn ages before he appeared, and setting forth his nature, his work, and his influence upon the world and the race. A little child has been called "an unsolved problem," We dare not be so bold as to attempt to forecast the future of any child. This, however, is done here respecting the "Babe of Bethlehem." Distinct Divine pre-intimations were given concerning the destiny of this mighty Child, and to which he has proved himself gloriously true. Here he is presented to us as the ministering Christ. We have predicted here—
I. THE HOLY MINISTERING LIFE OF THE CHRIST OF GOD. "And he shall stand and feed," etc. (Micah 5:4). It was thus declared that the very coming of Christ would be a descent with a view to helpfulness. In his advent the lofty would descend to the low, the strong to the feeble, for the express purpose of ministering unto them in order that he might lift up the fallen and restore the erring, and strengthen the weak by his own great might and love, This ministering character of the life of the Christ who was to appear was set forth by this and other Hebrew seers under the figure of a shepherd tending his flock. This was natural in view of the national history. The Jewish people gloried in David as one raised from the sheepfold to the throne, and rejoiced in him as their shepherd king. Hence with appropriateness the prophets referred to "great David's greater Son" under this simple yet beautiful emblem. The allusions, too, were in harmony with the destined birthplace of the Messiah—a locality so thoroughly pastoral in its character, and upon the plains of which district the Eastern shepherds kept constant watch. The emblem is admirably suggestive of the character and work of the Messiah, setting forth:
1. His gentleness; the weak, the tired, the tempted, the erring, being tended by him with patient love (Isaiah 40:11).
2. His watchfulness. "He shall stand," etc. (Micah 5:4); the posture indicating alertness, readiness to protect and defend.
3. His succors. He should "feed' the flock, supplying abundantly the spiritual wants of his people, and fully satisfying the longings and aspirations of their hearts. The records of the evangelists indicate how truly "ministering" in character the life of Christ was, and how that the most trusty shepherd watching over the flock committed to his charge but faintly images his wondrous care (Matthew 20:28). His followers are to emulate his example, and to live ministering lives (Matthew 20:26, Matthew 20:27). He, as "the Man Christ Jesus," pursued his course of holy service "in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God." And this Divine influence is available to all his servants.
II. THE PROSPERITY OF ALL WHO AVAIL THEMSELVES OF HIS MINISTERINGS AND WHO COMMIT THEMSELVES UNTO HIS CARE. "And they shall abide."
1. The thought of rest is suggested. "And they shall abide;" literally, "sit." The idea is the same as in Psalms 23:2, "He maketh me to lie down," etc. Delightful repose, rest for the weary. The pastures of sin are dry and parched, and its waters are troubled, and man seeks in vain therein freedom from unrest; but when the heart reposes in Christ, then it knows what it is to lie down on the pastures of tender grass and by the waters of quietness.
2. The thought of security is also suggested. They shall sit without fear of harm overtaking them, because he "stands," their Guardian against all intrusion and invasion, ready as their champion to defend them from all peril, and to maintain their cause. So shall they dwell at rest and in security, and true prosperity be theirs perpetually. "And they shall abide."
III. THE HONOUR WITH WHICH THE MINISTERING CHRIST, BY REASON OF HIS CONDESCENDING AND GRACIOUS SERVICE, SHALL BE CROWNED. "For now shall he be great unto: the ends of the earth." "For now." The far distant future was present to the prophet's gaze as he uttered these words, and he referred to it as though it had already come. His faith had peered beyond the centuries intervening before the advent of the Messiah, and had rendered that event very real to him; and now he took by faith a yet wider range of vision, and locked on to the ages following the advent, and saw the ever-growing, ever-widening influence and honour the Christ should enjoy, and even beheld this as extending to earth's remotest bounds. Long and weary ages had passed since the prophet of God uttered this prediction; and we today, in the partial fulfilment of his words, have every ground of encouragement to look on to their complete accomplishment. What name is so powerful to inspire within men the holiest emotions, and to move them to devoted consecration, as that of Jesus Christ? He is indeed "great" in the marvellous influence he exerts upon human hearts and lives; and despite all the discouragements which meet us in Christian service, we find this influence widening, and behold cheering signs of the coming of that bright day in which all the ends of the earth shall see his salvation, and the assurance of the angel Gabriel to Mary be fully realized (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33). Let us make room for One who comes with such eager gladness to bind up the world's wounds, and to pour into them the balm of his healing love. Let us yield to his holy and heavenly ministerings, and cast ourselves upon his loving, gentle care. True happiness and peace shall then be ours. The path of usefulness shall open out before us here, and in the day of his complete triumph we shall be sharers with him in his victory, and whoa his glory shall be revealed we also shall be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13).
Micah 5:5, Micah 5:6
The Prince of Peace.
Solomon as well as David was a type of Christ; and just as Micah, when he said (verse 4), "He shall stand and feed," etc; probably thought of the shepherd youth, raised to the throne of Israel, as typical of Israel's spiritual King, who would eventually appear and bring heavenly strength and succour to a needy world, so when he added respecting the Messiah, "And this Man shall be the Peace," he thought of the peaceful rule of Solomon, and saw in this a symbol of that spiritual tranquillity which the Christ, the greater than Solomon, should, through his appearing, bring to human hearts, and ultimately to the world at large. And the same characteristic of the Messiah was present to the mind of Isaiah, and found expression in one of the titles employed by him in that remarkable cluster of designations (see Isaiah 9:6), so rich in spiritual significance—"The Prince of Peace." The text applies to—
I. THE DISTRACTIONS WHICH ARISE TO US IN OUR PERSONAL LIFE.
1. In our sinfulness we find peace in Christ. Sin is attended by distraction. It separates from God, the true Source of rest. It creates inward disquiet; for whilst when we do right conscience approves, "in whisper gentle and secret, like the murmur of a brook beneath the foliage," yet when we do wrong its accusations prey upon the spirit as with a fever's strength. And there is no deliverance from all this disquietude but in Christ (Matthew 11:28; Romans 5:1).
2. In our sorrowfulness we find peace in Christ. He traverses the stormy seas of sorrow, and these adverse waves obey his voice. Amidst all the strifes and struggles of our life occasioned by our darker experiences he can give our spirits rest. Though in the world we must have tribulation, yet in him we have peace.
3. In our intellectual questionings and doubtings we find peace in Christ. The spirit of inquiry is rife in this age. Increased light is being shed upon various questions, and may necessitate the laying aside of opinions and forms of thought, long cherished. But, amidst this shaking and uprooting, the historical Christ remains, and his words, so charmingly simple and clear, so confident and reassuring, abide forever. And reposing with childlike trust in him and in his utterances, in which he has revealed to us the true way of life here, and has assured us of a blessed immortality with him hereafter, all mental unrest ceases, and our minds stayed thus shall ever be kept at perfect rest. "And this Man shall be the Peace."
II. THE DIFFERENCES WHICH PREVAIL BETWEEN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES.
1. From within. There will be such differences. Truth is many-sided, and our mental constitution varies. But amidst these diversities there is a centre of unity—Christ himself. Sharing his spirit, and being under the inspiration of his love, men become united in heart, and, despite their differences, are mane one through the possession of a common life and love. This is the true unity, the being one in life, and therefore in spirit, aim, endeavour, and in sympathy with our Father who is in heaven, and with his Christ, who came to save his people from all selfishness and sin, and to establish a universal brotherhood amongst men. It was for this that the great Intercessor prayed in his memorable high priestly prayer (John 17:21).
2. From without. Verses 5 and 6 dearly refer to assaults from without. Whether we take the reference to Assyria metaphorically or literally, the allusion must be to external attacks. And God in Christ is the Refuge and Strength of his Church, and amidst these will keep her in perfect peace whilst she rests in him (Psalms 46:1-11.).
III. THE CONFLICTS BETWEEN NATIONS. It is mournful to reflect upon the method adopted, even by civilized and enlightened nations, in order to settle the disputes which arise between them. The appeal is made to the arbitrament of the sword. The heart sickens at the very thought of the battlefield, with all the suffering and desolation connected with it, and yearns with ardent desire for the coming of that bright day of God in which such strife shall cease. And our assurance of its coming rests upon Christ. Peace is a distinguishing characteristic of his holy gospel, which shall at length universally be accepted (James 3:17; Galatians 5:22), and the acceptance of which shall be followed by peoples dwelling in amity and concord (Isaiah 11:6-9; Micah 4:3). Christ's disciples should be eminently distinguished by this spirit of peace. No contentious jarring spirit, out of tune, and hence marring the harmony of the concert, should be found amongst them, but all their voices should be in agreement, thus producing the sweetest music (Psalms 133:1-3.).
The spiritual influence of good men symbolized.
By "the remnant of Jacob" is intended the good who were to be found in the land of Judah; for in the most corrupt times God has ever had a people to show forth his praise. The expression may be taken as descriptive of good, holy, spiritual men; and it is here declared that these shall exert among the nations a gracious influence. Notice—
I. THE SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE OF GOOD MEN IS HERE SET FORTH BY MEANS OF SYMBOLS.
1. This is likened to the influence of the dew and the rain (Micah 5:7). The symbol is suggestive of the preservative influence of the good. We know what a wasteful, scorching drought means to the natural world. Hills and dales, fields and downs, are arrayed in robes of sorrow. Branches that were covered with leaves have become "withered sprays." Meadows that were clothed with grass have become converted into "short, unmowed hay." Flocks once skipping about are pining through hunger and thirst. Earth's fruits are become "abortive," and her clods "stark and dry." Clouds of dust sweep over her plains, and from her banks the river seems to shrink. And thus desolate spiritually had the world been but for the influence of good men. Between the time of "the early and latter rains" vegetable life in Palestine was entirely dependent upon the dew. It was this which kept vegetation from becoming dry and withered, and preserved the land from drought and desolation. And even so the influence of good men in the world is preservative. Bad as the world is today morally and spiritually, it is not so bad as it would have been save for the influence exerted by those who are under the motive force of pure and holy principles. This preservative influence of the good is silent, quiet, noiseless in its operation. How gentle is the dew, and how copious when all is calm and tranquil! And how gently the rain falls from heaven in the refreshing shower, penetrating deeply into the thirsty land! There is quiet power, yet very effectual withal. So is it with the influence of the good. In the olden time here referred to, when princes and nobles, priests and prophets, had corrupted their way, a remnant was to be found among the people, unknown ones for the most part, but who nevertheless by their holy virtues and heavenly graces kept piety alive, and whose influence upon society was as that of the dew upon the parched, needy ground. So shall it ever be that our God shall not be left without faithful witnesses to honour and glorify his great Name.
2. The other symbol employed here is that of the lion (Micah 5:8, Micah 5:9). This suggests the thought of courage, boldness, fearlessness, together with strength and might. "The remnant of Jacob" are ever such as dare to do right, who resolutely follow their convictions, who possess a strong sense of justice and rectitude, and who act upon this at all risks and costs. They "trust in God and do the right." They are unyielding where true principle is at stake. "The wicked fleeth," etc. (Proverbs 28:1). And ultimately the victory is with such. The unprincipled shall be subdued and go down before them, as surely as sheep yield before the beasts of the forest.
II. THIS MORAL AND SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE OF GOOD MEN THUS SET FORTH IS DIVINELY DERIVED. It cometh "from the Lord" (Micah 5:7). He alone can impart to us the quiet, refreshing, reinvigorating power typified by the dew and the showers; and he alone can make us valiant in the maintenance and defence of truth and righteousness. We need hence to be found constantly looking unto him, that, divinely strengthened and sustained, it may be manifest that we belong to "the remnant" through whom it is his purpose to fertilize and bless the world.
III. IN ORDER TO THIS BENEFICENT INFLUENCE BEING EXERTED THERE MUST BE PURITY OF HEART AND SEPARATION FROM EVIL. (Micah 5:10-14.) God's ancient people were placed in the most favourable circumstances for being the medium of good W other nations and tribes; but, forgetful of their "high calling," they yielded to the contaminating influences of the world around, and even exceeded the heathen nations in the practice of sin, and hence their honour was laid in the dust, and they were threatened with national decay. And for the comfort of "the remnant" the assurance was given that there should be brought about the purification of the Church (Micah 5:10-14). True spiritual influence is ever the outcome of true spiritual excellence. Would we be influential for good, we must "follow after holiness." We must be watchful over our lips that we offend not with our tongues. All self-seeking, strifes, jealousies, must be put away from us. "Let every one that nameth," etc. (2 Timothy 2:19). Then "God will bless us," and through us others (Psalms 67:1-7.).
IV. THIS SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE SHALL ULTIMATELY PREVAIL. (Micah 5:15.) Whilst evil sometimes appears victorious, the cause of truth and righteousness shall finally triumph. This chapter, which begins with declaring the coming of "the Babe of Bethlehem," ends with a solemn declaration of the final discomfiture of all who oppose the sway of this "Ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:15). Array not yourselves "against the Lord and his Anointed." His foes shall become his footstool. "Kiss the Son" (Psalms 2:12).
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
A new David: the lowliness and majesty of the Messiah.
Thoughts respecting the lowliness of the Messiah cluster around the reference to his birthplace. Bethlehem was so small and unimportant that it was "little to be among the thousands of Israel." It was like one of our hamlets, not even attaining to the dignity of a parish. From this village there went forth a youth unknown to fame, and almost unnoticed among his own kindred (1 Samuel 16:11; Psalms 78:70, Psalms 78:71). Even after the establishment of David on the throne, his birthplace was allowed to remain in its former insignificance; or, if honoured for a time, sank into obscurity again (as Micah testifies), just as the royal family of David itself sank into such a low estate that it could be compared to the stump of a tree cut down and giving little promise of a renewed vigorous vitality (Isaiah 11:1). This lowly condition of both the home and the house of David corresponds to the debased condition of the Jewish Church at the time of the advent. It was "despised," "hated," "afflicted" (Isa 55:1-13 :14, 15). In that hamlet Jesus, the Christ, was born. Now note the contrasts that have followed.
1. Bethlehem has become one of the most notable places in the world—a theme for poets, a subject for artists, a goal for pilgrims. Its names have received a new and higher significance. Bethlehem has become a "house of bread" for a dying world; Ephratah has been "fruitful" in the richest blessings for the human race.
2. The family of David is now, through Jesus Christ, the most exalted family of the earth. Contrast the Ptolemies, Caesars, and other royal names.
3. The Jewish Church sprang to a now life. It has taken a place of supreme influence among the nations, not simply through Christ himself, but through the works and writings of his apostles and evangelists. Great as these blessings are already, we shall see greater things than these. "The kingdom" shall be restored, "yea, the former dominion shall come (Micah 4:8). For ages there had been "no king" (Micah 4:9), at the best only a temporary "judge" (Micah 5:1). Israel still held as its ideal king David the great. Its ideal should be more than realized. A new David shall come forth "unto me," and in God's Name and strength shall rule (Micah 5:4). Victory is promised under figures suggested By existing foes (Micah 5:5-9). In those spiritual triumphs of Jesus Christ we shall see the fulfilment of the predictions of his everlasting dominion. And in these victories of grace his nation will take a share, and will be still further glorious in the eyes of God and man (Isaiah 55:1-13, Isaiah 66:1-24, etc.). The prediction of a Ruler so mighty, yet of such lowly origin, prepares for the description of a still greater glory. And the fact of the power and influence in the world of the Babe of Bethlehem prepares us to receive, nay, more, requires us to believe in, his Divine dignity. The "coming forth" from Bethlehem can only be explained by previous "goings forth." These words declare:
(1) The preexistence of the Messiah (John 8:58).
(2) His previous manifestations and operations—in creation (John 1:3), providence (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3), and as the Divine Angel of Jehovah (Genesis 18:1-33; etc.).
(3) Eternal existence. Because thou art "from everlasting," therefore "thou art God" (Psalms 90:2; John 1:1). Nothing but the truth of the Deity of Christ can explain the predictions of him or unlock the mysteries of his character and his life. The more lowly his origin and all the facts of his earthly life, the more inexplicable his present majesty, unless we acknowledge him as personally Divine.—E.S.P.
The gentleness and terribleness of the people of God.
"The remnant of Jacob" is the faithful few who remain loyal to God's truth and the duty of the day, whether in the times of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), Uzziah (Isaiah 1:9), or Christ (Romans 11:5). The people of God, the Church of Christ dispersed among the "peoples" of the earth, have a twofold aspect—gentleness and terribleness. This twofold aspect is seen in God (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7; Psalms 18:25, Psalms 18:26; Isaiah 8:13, Isaiah 8:14), in Christ (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42-44; Luke 2:34), who is both a "Lamb" and a "Lion;" and therefore in his people who are called into fellowship with himself. They are—
I. GENTLE TO BLESS. Notice the figures.
1. "A dew from the Lord." The dew is of heavenly origin, and comes fresh from the hand of God (Job 38:28; cf. John 1:13; John 3:3, "from above"), reflecting God's light, transparent and glistering (of. Matthew 5:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Philippians 2:15, Philippians 2:16), evanescent and apparently one of the frailest of nature's forces, yet powerful to quicken and sustain life that would otherwise perish (cf. Corinthians 1:26-28; 4:15; 2 Corinthians 4:12; James 5:19, James 5:20). Such spiritual qualifications in individuals made the Church of Christ a life-giving power. Issuing from Judaea, Christ's disciples were as dew to the parched and perishing Roman world, both by their teaching (Deuteronomy 32:2) and still more by the testimony of the wondrous beauty of their lives (Psalms 133:3). Therefore they were scattered abroad—John to Asia, Thomas to India, Paul to Rome, etc.—that the life-giving dew might be conveyed to the distant "peoples" of the earth.
2. "The showers upon the grass." Christ "shall come down like rain," etc. (Psalms 72:6), not only by his individual blessings, but through his people. Like the rain, they "tarried not for man." Once the vision was seen and the appeal heard before the mission was commenced (Acts 16:9); yet even then, as elsewhere, the prophecy was fulfilled in the disciples as well as the Master, "I am found of them that sought me not" (Isaiah 65:1). Nor did they depend upon or, "wait for the sons of men" (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). By both proclaiming and living God's Word they became identified with the promise, and sharers in the blessing of the old Messianic predictions (Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 55:10, Isaiah 55:11).
II. TERRIBLE TO VANQUISH OR DESTROY. Courage and fearlessness are implied, such as were promised (Luke 21:15) and enjoyed (Acts 4:13-21; Acts 5:29-42, etc.). But the lion is not always on the defensive. The Church of Christ, with its new doctrines, maxims, morals, and threats of a wrath to come, was terrible to the pagan world of the first century, with its foul gods, its godless creeds, its nameless immoralities, its revolting cruelties and crimes. The contrast of the "dew" and the "lion" may be marked even in the apostles' teaching both to heathen and to professing Christians (Acts 17:24 Acts 17:31; Acts 24:24, Act 24:25; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 13:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Its one object was to vanquish souls by destroying sin and bringing them into captivity to Christ. It trod down its foes and "went forth conquering and to conquer" (cf. Acts 21:20; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 2:14), till, less than two hundred years later, Tertullian could speak of the Christians thus: "We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you—cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum; we have left nothing. to you but the temples of your gods" ('Apology,' c. 38). In a similar way the Church of the Reformation was terrible to the corruptions of the papacy, which it sought to "tear in pieces" with weapons not carnal, but spiritual. And today the true Church of Christ, with its lofty standards and ideals, is hateful to the world with its maxims of expediency and fraud, its sins and shams; and to many also who would claim the sacred name of Christian. Such foes of Christ and his people must submit (Isaiah 60:14) or perish (Isaiah 60:12). The Church of God will at last be terrible in the day of the destruction of those who love darkness rather than light, and who will be driven away in their wickedness. "The saints shall judge the world" (1 Corinthians 6:3; Jud 1 Corinthians 1:14, 1 Corinthians 1:15; Revelation 19:11-15); "Let thine hand be lifted up," etc. (verse 9).—E.S.P.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
The promise of Messiah.
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This is one of the most definite of the Messianic prophecies. In the previous verse Micah foretells a period of deep degradation. The people of God would troop together before the invader, as sheep huddle together before a snowstorm. All resistance would prove vain. The judge would be smitten on the cheek, i.e. righteous rule and self rule would perish. But when things were at their worst a new Ruler would arise. He would come, not from the city of Jerusalem, but from the village of Bethlehem, so small a place that it was never reckoned amongst "the thousands" (the chief divisions of the tribe) of Judah. Yet he who came from that obscure birthplace would be "he whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This prophecy was universally regarded as applicable to the Messiah. It was quoted by the scribes in their reply to Herod (Matthew 2:6); and at a later period, when it was popularly supposed that Jesus was of Nazareth, it was used as an argument against those who believed him to be the Christ (John 7:42, etc.).
I. WHENCE CAME THE PROMISED KING?
1. In his origin he is Divine. "His goings forth," etc. The prophet and the New Testament concur in asserting the pre-existence and Divinity of our Lord. Jehovah, speaking through the prophet, says, "he shall come forth unto me." i.e. was a son is born to his father; and the disciples heard a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son," etc. Micah says, "His goings forth have been from of old;" and in harmony with this John declares, "In the beginning was the Word," etc. Divinity was a necessity to the Redeemer-King. He could not save humanity if he was simply part of it. He could not suffer as the spotless Lamb of God if it was true of him as of us, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity," etc. In order to assume a true humanity he was "born of a woman;" but the active cause of his earthly being was not in man, but in God. Hence Gabriel said, "That holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Highest." "The Word was made flesh," etc. Signs of his Divine origin may be seen in the accompaniments or his birth—the angels' song; the effect of the emperor's edict in bringing Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; the star seen in the east; the Scripture evidence (Matthew 2:6) unwittingly adduced by the scribes; the general expectation which presaged the advent, as the fragrance of the spice islands foretells to the sailor that they are near. The Babe of Bethlehem was the Son of God.
2. In his birth he was human. In spite of its association with David and with Ruth, Bethlehem never became great. From the first God chose "things despised." To a people like the Jews, to whom names were never without significance, these in the text would be suggestive. Bethelehem the "House of bread." was the birthplace of him who spoke of himself as "the Bread of life" (John 6:1-71.). Ephratah, the old and still the poetic name of the village, signifying "the Fruit field," was connected with him who was the seed corn of the worm's life (John 12:24). Had he been born in Jerusalem, an earthly policy might have sought to use him; but being born in Bethlehem, only loyal hearts welcomed him, so that the cradle, like the cross, tested men. Further, had Jerusalem been his birthplace, it might have been considered the world centre of his kingdom, which we know is "not of this world."
II. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF HIS RULE?
1. He reigns by lawful right. If he is "from everlasting," we should approach him with reverence. Insistence on Christ's humanity has been of advantage in making him less a theological abstraction, and more manifestly our Brother; but there is some danger of our forgetting his royal dignity. The familiar expressions, "dear Jesus," "my Jesus," etc; are too lightly used of our Lord. Nor are we justified in speaking of him as one superior to other teachers merely in his moral excellence and mental power. Ours should be the reverence of Thomas, who exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!"
2. He reigns by the power of love. Because he will only rule thus he lost, and is losing, an earthly kingdom. If he appeared in the glory of his power, defiance would break down, hesitation would cease. Yet he is satisfied that instead of this men should be stirred by an exhortation the effect of which may soon pass. Why? Because he only cares for willing service; he would not weaken moral responsibility, and would only have that sway which is deepest and widest, because truest. His is not the power of a tyrant who is repressing by force the aspirations of his people, but the influence of a father who bids his child do something which he is free to leave undone, though he is confident the child, for love's sake, will do more than he says.
3. He reigns for the welfare of his people. Note the association of "feed" and "rule" in Scripture. David had training for the exercise of royal power, and at the same time saw a type of it, in his care for the sheep at Bethlehem. Show how Christ used the figure of the shepherd to denote his work and sacrifice. Contrast his reign and its issues with that of many an earthly monarch.
III. WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS OF HIS SWAY? Not always those whom we should expect. Not the scribes, with their knowledge and preparation and responsibility as religious leaders. Not the Jewish people, who did not find their expectations fulfilled in the Babe of Bethlehem, the Lad of Nazareth, the Prophet of Galilee. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Who are the "Israel" now—heirs of the promises? The men who have come from a far country like the Magians, because they seek holiness and truth; the women like Mary, whose hearts are big with hope of "sweeter manners, purer laws;" the children who pray with all their hearts, "Thy kingdom come;" the busy men like Joseph, who are struggling with temptation, and wanting help and hope outside themselves; the sinful and outcasts, who find rest at Jesus' feet, etc. These are the heirs of Jacob, who at Bethel gained his name "Israel;" for they see in Christ the ladder that reaches heaven, though its foot rests on earth; they pledge themselves to serve him, and in agonizing prayer say, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
CONCLUSION. May we have given to us of God some thought which shall be to us what the star in the East was to the Wise Men, that we may say, "Where is he who is born to be King? for we have seen his star … and have come to worship him"!—A.R.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The Church of God.
"Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." The prophet, as if fearful that his previous promises would be somewhat too reassuring, so that the people would lose the due impression of the perils to which they would be exposed, here reminds them of the calamities which would befall them before the promised prosperity would be realized. "O daughter of troops!" Jerusalem was so called on account of the numerous troops that it possessed. "He hath laid siege against us." That is, the enemy hath—the invading army. "He shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek" Zedekiah, the judge or king of Israel (Amos 2:3), was so insulted by the Chaldeans as if he had been smitten on the checks To smite on the cheek was esteemed by the Orientals the greatest affront. This insult, we know, was offered by the nation to him who is the "Prince of the kings of the earth." "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheek to them that plucked out the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). It is perfectly legitimate to take these words as a symbolical portrait of the Church of God. Look at it—
I. AS MILITANT IN ITS CHARACTER. Jerusalem is addressed as "daughter of troops." As Jerusalem was a military city, containing a great body of soldiers within her walls, so is the Church on earth; it is military. The life of all true men here is a battle; all are soldiers, bound to be valiant for the truth. They are commanded to fight the good fight, to war the good warfare. They are to "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places." The warfare is spiritual, righteous, indispensable, personal. No one can fight the battle by proxy.
II. AS PERILOUS IN ITS POSITION. "He hath laid siege against us." The dangerous condition of Jerusalem, when the Chaldean army surrounded its walls in order to force an entrance, is only a faint shadow of the perilous position of the Church of God. It is besieged by mighty hosts of errors and evil passions, and mighty lusts that "war against the soul." Hosts of enemies are encamped round every human soul. The siege is planned with strategic skill and with malignant determination. How it becomes every spirit to be on its watch tower, fully armed for the fight of defence I "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God," etc. (Ephesians 6:13).
III. AS INSULTED BY ITS ENEMIES. "They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." Were the enemies of Christianity ever more insolent than in this age? And their insolence, we regret to state, has been encouraged by the brainless utterances and doings of religious fanatics. The argumentative opponents of conventional evangelicism seem to me mere insulting in their spirit and behaviour than ever.
IV. AS SUMMONED TO ACTION. "Now gather thyself in troops." The men of Jerusalem are here commanded by Heaven to marshal their troops and to prepare for battle, since the enemies are outside their walls. Far more urgent is the duty of the Church to collect, arrange, and concentrate all its forces against the mighty hosts that encompass it. "Let us not sleep as do others;" "let us quit ourselves like men," etc. "Gather thyself in troops."
"Sounds the trumpet from afar!
Soldiers of the holy war,
Rise! for you your Captain waits;
Rise! the foe is at the gates.
"Arm! the conflict has begun;
Fight! the battle must be won;
Lift the banner to the sky,
Wave its blazing folds on high."
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." For the sake of continuity we here transfer thoughts on this passage which have appeared before. Our subject is Christ, and the text leads us to consider—
I. HIS BIRTH AS THE SON OF MAN. Two remarks are suggested here.
1. He was born in obscurity. "But thou, Bethlehem," etc. Bethlehem Ephratah, where Jacob says, "Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come into Ephrath:… the same is Bethlehem" (Genesis 48:7), or Bethlehem-Judah, so called to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulon. It is a few miles southwest of Jerusalem Bethlehem means "the House of bread;" Ephrath means "Fruitful;" both names referring to the fertility of the region. "Though thou be little among"—though thou be scarcely large enough to be reckoned among, etc. It was insignificant in size and population, so that in Joshua 15:21 it is not enumerated among the cities of Judah; nor in the list in Nehemiah 11:25. Under Rehoboam it became a city (2 Chronicles 11:6). He built even Bethlehem. The scribes quotation of Micah, in answer to Herod's inquiry prompted by the Wise Men of the East, who asked, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:6), seems to contradict Micah, thou art not the least, but the contradiction is only seeming. What is meant in Matthew is that though "thou art least in worldly importance, thou art morally greatest, inasmuch as thou art the birthplace of the Messiah." Why was this Illustrious One thus born in such obscurity? He had what no other man ever had—the power of selecting his own parentage and birthplace. He might have been born of royalty and nursed in a palace. No doubt there was the highest reason for this. It was a protest to the ages against the popular and influential opinion that human dignity consists in birth and ancestral distinctions.
2. He was born according to Divine plan. "Out of thee shall he come forth unto me." Unto whom? Jehovah. The fact of his birth, the scene of his birth, the object of his birth, were all according to a Divine plan. "He shall be called Great, and … the Son of the Highest." "Behold my Servant, whom I upheld, mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth." "He shall come forth unto me"
(1) according to my will;
(2) to do my will.
3. He was born to an empire. "To be Ruler in Israel." He is the Prince of Peace, on whose shoulder the government is laid. He is a Ruler. Not a temporal ruler; temporal rule is but a shadow. He is to rule thought, intelligence, soul. He is the greatest king who governs mind; and no one has obtained such a government over mind as he who, eighteen centuries ago, "came forth out of Bethlehem Ephratah." His kingdom is increasing every day. "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty," etc. Speed the time when the "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ," etc.
II. HIS HISTORY AS THE SON OF GOD. "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," or, as Delitzsch says, "whose goings forth are from olden time, from the days of eternity." Micah does not announce here the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, or of the Loges from God, the generatio Filii aeterna, as the earlier orthodox commentators suppose. Eternal generation, humanly speaking, is a theological fiction, a philosophical absurdity. He who was before all time. "I was set up from everlasting;" "In the beginning was the Word;" "He was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times;" "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee; Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." "Goings forth!" What for? To furnish immensity with innumerable worlds, and to people them with sentient and intelligent beings, to participate in the infinite bountihood of God. As the Son of God, he never has had a beginning and has always been active. "The Father worketh hitherto, and I work." His activity explains the origin and phenomena of the universe. "By him were all things created."
"Oh, who can strive
To comprehend the vast, the awful truth
Of the eternity that hath gone by,
And not recoil from the dismaying sense
Of human impotence? The life of man
Is summed in birthdays and in sepulchres;
But the eternal God hath no beginning;
He hath no end. Time had been with him
Foreverlasting, ere the Doedal world
Rose from the gulf in loveliness. Like him
It knew no source; like him 'twas uncreate.
What is it, then? The past eternity!"
Micah 5:3, Micah 5:4
Christ as the great Shepherd of mankind.
"Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." "Therefore will he give them up, until the time when a travailing woman hath brought forth: and the remnant of his brethren will return, together with the sons of Israel. And he will stand and feed in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the Name of Jehovah his God; and they will dwell: for now will he be great to the ends of the earth" (Delitzsch). The following quotation from Delitzsch on this passage we think the David, out of which it is to spring, will have lost the throne and have fallen into poverty. This could only arise from the giving up of Israel into the power of its enemies. Micah had already stated clearly enough, in what precedes, that this fate would fall upon the nation and the royal house of David, on account of its apostasy from the Lord; so that he could overlook this here, and give prominence to the other side alone, viz. to the fact that according to the counsel of God the future Deliverer and Ruler of Israel would also resemble his royal ancestor David in the fact that he was not to spring from Zion, the royal city built on high, but from the insignificant country town of Bethlehem, and that for this very reason Israel was to remain so long under the power of the nations of the world." These words may be regarded as presenting to us Christ as the great, Shepherd of mankind; and looking at them in this light the following points come up to notice.
I. HIS INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD AS A SHEPHERD. "Therefore will he give them up [that is, leave them to suffer their calamities], until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth." Christ came into the world through sufferings that may be fairly represented as partarient. The whole Jewish nation groaned and travailed together until he came; and although the throes of his mother are perhaps specially referred to here, the Hebrew people through all preceding times had struggled in agony in order to give birth to the Messiah. Herein is a mystery—the world's Deliverer came into the world through suffering. And does not all the good we have come out of anguish? Every true enjoyment, like every birth, implies previous pain. "Through much tribulation" we enter into kingdoms. "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.
II. HIS QUALIFICATION FOR HIS WORK AS A SHEPHERD. "He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God." Observe:
1. His attitude. "He shall stand." The word "stand" here may mean one of two things—either a commanding position, by which he can observe and direct all, or stability, indicating his endurance and unswerving perseverance. He is settled and fixed in his work as a Shepherd. Both these ideas are true. It is true that Christ, as a Shepherd, has a commanding view of all, and a controlling power over all; and it is also true that he stands immovable as a Shepherd. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, until he hath set judgment in the earth" (Isaiah 42:4).
2. His Divinity. "In the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God." He is endowed with the strength of Omnipotence, he is invested with the majesty of God himself. He is "Almighty to save," he is the Image of the invisible God. Here is a competent Shepherd!
III. HIS BENEFICENCE IN HIS WORK AS A SHEPHERD. He "shall feed in the strength of the Lord." The word "feed" means both "feed" and" rule;" indeed, feed implies rule, for human souls can scarcely be nourished without a wise and merciful control. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11); "They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat or the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them" (Isaiah 49:10).
IV. THE EXTENSION OF HIS FAME ON THE EARTH AS A SHEPHERD. "For now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." His authority on the earth as a spiritual Shepherd is limited today, but is wider than it has been; and it will widen and widen until it fills the earth. His Name will one day be above every name on the earth. All other names will be esteemed as mean and contemptible unless they reflect his.
CONCLUSION. "All we like sheep have gone astray," etc. But a Shepherd from heaven has come to seek and restore us. Would that all heard and responded to his Voice! "Come unto me, all that are weary and heavy laden."
"Good Shepherd, hasten thou that glorious day,
When we shall all in the one fold abide with thee for aye!"
Micah 5:5, Micah 5:6
"And this Man shall be the Peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders." "And this same shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall invade our land, and tread our palaces, we will raise against him seven shepherds, and eight anointed men. And they shall afflict the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at the entrances thereof; and there shall be deliverance from the Assyrian, when he shall invade our land, and when he shall tread our borders" (Henderson). Assyria is here made the representative of all the foes of Israel in all ages, who shall see the destruction of all its enemies at the Messiah's appearance. "Seven shepherds and eight principal men." Seven expresses perfection.; seven and eight are an idiom for s full and sufficient number. "And they" (that is, these seven and eight shepherds) "shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof." The land of Nimrod means Babylon, including Assyria, to which it extended its borders. "Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land." As the Assyrians invade our borders, so shall their own borders and entrances be invaded. "He." Who? The Messiah, mentioned in the fifth verse, "This Man shall be the Peace." We have here two things.
I. A TERRIBLE INVASION. The Assyrian, which, as we have said, may be regarded as the representative of all the enemies of Israel, enters the Holy Land, takes Jerusalem, and treads in the "palaces" of the chosen people. A faint picture is the Assyrian of the hellish invader of human souls. He breaks his way through all bulwarks, enters the sacred territory, and treads even in the palaces of the intellect and heart. Satan is a strong man armed, that enters the human soul and "keepeth his palace." Moral invasion is the worst of all invasions.
II. A TRIUMPHANT DEFENDER. There are "seven shepherds, and eight principal men" who now hurled back the Assyrian invader, entered his own territory, and carried war into the midst. Who is the Deliverer? "This Man shall be the Peace." The Man mentioned in the preceding verses, "whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." He did it.
1. He did it successfully. "Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian." "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils." Christ will one day ruin this moral Assyrian; as "lightning falleth from heaven he shall fall." He will hurl him from the habitation of men.
2. Christ, in doing this, uses human instrumentality. "Seven shepherds, and eight principal men." Christ destroys the works of the devil by the instrumentality of men.
(1) The instrumentality that he employs may seem to us very feeble. "Seven shepherds, and eight principal men," against unnumbered hosts of the enemies. "He chooseth the foolish things of the world to confound the wise," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:27).
(2) Though the instrumentality may seem feeble, it was sufficient. The work was done. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6).—D.T.
God's people, their tender and terrible aspect in the world.
"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." Two things are here predicted concerning the Jews after their restoration from Babylon. I their influence upon the nations would be as refreshing dew. "Their signal victories against such formidable armies, attracting attention to him whom they worshipped, and to whom they ascribed their success. During the existence of the new Jewish state, the members of the theocracy had much intercourse with foreigners, multitudes of whom became proselytes to the faith of Jehovah, and were thus prepared to receive the gospel when preached by the apostles" (Henderson).
2. Their power on the nations would be as terrible as the lion's on the herds of the flock. It will not, I think, be unfair to use the passage to illustrate the twofold aspect of the people of God in this world—the tender and terrible, the restorative and the destructive. Like Israel of old, godly men in every age have only been a remnant, a very small minority of the generation in which they lived. It will not always be so. Speed the day when they shall become, not merely the majority, but the whole. Notice—
I. THE TENDER ASPECT OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They are spoken of here as "dew." Silent in its fall, beautiful in its appearance, refreshing in its influence. Three things are suggested concerning this "dew."
1. It is Divine. It is "from the Lord." All that is quickening and refreshing in the thoughts, spirits, character of good men on this earth descends from heaven. "Every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights," etc. (James 1:17).
2. It is copious. "As the showers upon the grass." There have been seasons when those spiritual influences have descended on men with plenitude and power, such as on the Day of Pentecost. Would it were so now! The moral heavens seem, alas I closed, and only a few drops fall here and there.
3. It is undeserved of men. "That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." Man has something to do in bringing down those moral showers. Though he is powerless to unseal the natural clouds and bring down the rain, these moral showers do not descend altogether independent of his efforts. Good men in this world are to their generation what the gentle dew and the fertilizing shower are to the thirsty earth. Their speech distils as dew and their influence descends on the souls of men like rain upon the new-mown grass.
II. THE TERRIBLE ASPECT OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. The same men as are represented under the metaphor of dew are here spoken of as a "lion." Bold, terrible, and destructive. Elijah was a lion in his age, so was John the Baptist, so was Luther, so was Latimer, etc. Indeed, every good man has these two aspects, the tender and the terrible—gentle, sympathetic, succouring towards the weak in goodness, but strong in indignation towards wrong wherever found. Christ, the great Model, who did not "cause his voice to be heard in the street," hurled his fulminations on the ears of hypocrites. In truth, love—which is the essence of all goodness—is constantly taking these two forms. The same love which whispers in the softest tones of pity, often comes out in the fiercest thunder and lightning: no wrath is so terrible as the wrath of love. Every good man is like the pillar that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness; it gleamed a guiding light to the Hebrews through the sea, but threw a shadow of confounding darkness to the Egyptians who assayed to follow.
CONCLUSION. This subject suggests:
1. A picture of the unregenerate world. There are some germs of goodness in its soil that require the fertilizing influence of Heaven to quicken and develop; and there are some things in it so pernicious and baneful that it requires all the courage, force, and passion of moral lions to destroy.
2. A picture of the completeness of moral character. A complete character is not all "dew" or all "lion," but both combined.—D.T.
God's depriving dispensation towards men.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: and I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds." "The prophet now returns to times near his own, and predicts the beneficial moral changes that were to be effected in the condition of his countrymen by the Babylonish conquest and captivity. They had, contrary to the express command of the Lord (Deuteronomy 17:16), kept up a formidable body of cavalry and war chariots, trusted in their fortified cities, encouraged sorcery, and indulged in abominable idolatry. These were all to be removed when the Jewish state was broken up; and after God had employed the heathen in punishing his apostate people, they in their turn should be punished for their obstinate adherence to idol worship, notwithstanding the testimony borne against their conduct by the Jews who lived among them." The grand subject of these words is God's depriving dispensation towards men. Here the Almighty is represented as taking away from Israel many things they greatly valued—"horses, chariots, cities, soothsayers, witchcrafts, graven images, groves," etc. God's providence deprives as well as bestows. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away." He is constantly taking away from men. In relation to his depriving dispensations I offer two remarks.
I. THEY ARE VERY PAINFUL. The things here referred to were the dearest things to the hearts of Israel. They loved them, they trusted in them, and they would feel life to be perilous, if not intolerable, without them; yet they were to be taken away. The thugs he takes away are of two classes.
1. The temporally valuable. Here chariots and horses and cities are taken away. These are valuable. Whatever is dearest to the heart—property, friends, health, fame—is the most painful to lose. And is not the Almighty constantly, in his providence, taking these things from men? He takes from the rich man his property, the strong man his health, the ambitious man his power, the social man his dearest friends. And such deprivations are the constant sources of human sorrow and anguish. All temporal good must go—chariots, horses, cities, etc. The other class of things he takes away are:
2. The morally vile. Here are "witchcrafts, soothsayers, graven images," etc. Whatever man indulges in that is wrong—false worship, all the sorceries of intellectual or physical pleasure—must go, the sooner the better. It is well when all that is morally wrong is taken from us in this world.
II. THEY ARE VERY USEFUL. It is often well to be stripped of temporary good; it is always necessary to be stripped of the morally wrong. All is done in mercy for the soul. God takes away temporal property from a man in order that he may get spiritual wealth; and often does a man's secular fall lead to his spiritual life. He takes away physical health from a man in order that he may get spiritual; and often do the diseases of the body lead to the cure of the soul. Did we understand things thoroughly, see them as we shall when we have done with this mundane system, we should often acknowledge more mercy in God's depriving than in his bestowing providences. Ever should we remember that the great end of all his dealings with us is our spiritual advancement in intelligence, holiness, power, and blessedness. "Lo, all these things worketh God with man, that he may bring him back from the pit in order to enlighten him with the light of the living" (Job 33:30).
CONCLUSION. Though I know not the future—and no one does—I know that severe depriving providences are ahead, but that mercy underlies the whole.
"And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.
"I know not where his islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond his love and care.
And thou, O Lord, by whom are seen
Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
My human heart on thee."
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Micah 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13