Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Micah 7

Verses 1-20

EXPOSITION

Micah 7:1-6

§ 5. Israel's penitential acknowledgment of the general corruption.

Micah 7:1

Woe is me! (Job 10:15). Micah threatens no more; he represents repentant Israel confessing its corruption and lamenting the necessity of punishment. I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits; literally, I am as the gatherings of the fruit harvest. The point of comparison is only to be inferred from the context. At the fruit. harvest no early figs are to be found, and (in the next clause) after the vintage no more grapes; so in Israel there is none righteous left. The Septuagint gives a plainer exposition, Ἐγενήθην ὡς συνάγων καλάμην ἐν ἀμητῷ, "I became as one that gathereth straw in harvest;" so the Vulgate, Factus sum sicut qui collegit in autumno racemos vindimiae, joining the two clauses together. My soul desired the first ripe fruit; better, nor early fig which my soul desired. The holiness and grace of more primitive times are wholly absent from this later period (see Hosea 9:10, where a similar figure is used; compare also Christ's dealing with the barren fig tree, Matthew 21:18, etc.). The first ripe figs were proverbially sweet and good (see Isaiah 28:4; Jeremiah 24:2; and Hosea, loc cit.).

Micah 7:2

This verse explains the preceding comparison; the grape and the early fig represent the righteous man. The good man; LXX; εὐσεβής, the godly, pious man. The Hebrew word (khasidh) implies one who exercises love to others, who is merciful, loving, and righteous. Is perished out of the earth; has disappeared from the world (comp. Psalms 14:2, Psalms 14:3; and especially Isaiah 57:1). They all lie in wait for blood. They all practise violence and rapine, and meditate how they may pursue their evil designs, even to the shedding of blood. LXX; πάντες εἰς αἶματα δικάζονται, which narrows the charge to one special kind of iniquity, vie. committing judicial murders. They hunt every man his brother with a net. They ought to love their brethren, their fellow countrymen, partakers of the same hope and privileges (Leviticus 19:18). Instead of this, they pursue them as the fowler traps birds, or the hunter beasts. The word rendered "net" (cherem) is in most versions translated "destruction." Thus, Septuagint, ἐκθλίβουσιν ἐκθλιβῇ: Vulgate, ad mortem venatur; so the Syriac and Chaldee. In the present connection it is best taken as "net" (Habakkuk 1:15).

Micah 7:3

That they may do evil, etc. rather, both hands are upon (equivalent to "busy with") evil to do it thoroughly. This clause and the rest of the verse are very obscure Cheyne supposes the text to be corrupt. Henderson renders, "For evil their hands are well prepared;" so virtually Hitzig, Pusey, and the Septuagint. Caspari agrees rather with the Vulgate (Malum manuum suarum dicunt bonum)," Hands are (busy) upon evil to make (it seem) good," which looks to that extremity of iniquity when men "call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). The general meaning is that they are ready enough to do evil, and, as the next clause says, can be bribed to do anything. The prince asketh; makes some nefarious demand of the judge, some perversion of justice at his hands, as in the case of Naboth (1 Kings 21:1-29.). The judge asketh (is ready) for a reward. The judge is willing to do what the prince wishes, if he is bribed for it. LXX; Ὁ κριτής εἰρηνικοὺς λόγους ἐλάλησε, "The judge speaks words of peace" (comp. Micah 3:11; Isaiah 1:23; Zephaniah 3:8). He uttereth his mischievous desire; or, the mischief of his soul. The rich man speaks out unblushingly the evil that he has conceived in his heart, the wicked design which he meditates. So they wrap it up; better, and they weave it together. The prince, the judge, and the rich man weave their evil plan together, to make it strong and right in others' eyes. The passage is altered in meaning by a different grouping of the Hebrew letters, thus: "The prince demandeth (a reward) to do good; and the judge, for the recompense of a great man, uttereth what he himself desireth. And they entangle the good more than briars, and the righteous more than a thorn hedge." The LXX. carries on the sense to the next verse, Καὶ ἐξελοῦμαι τὰ ἀγαθὰ αὐτῶν ὠς σὴς ἐκτρώγων, "And I will destroy their goods as a consuming moth."

Micah 7:4

The best of them is as a briar; hard and piercing, catching and holding all that passes by. The plant intended by the word chedek is a thorny one used for hedges (Proverbs 15:19). Under another aspect thorns are a symbol of what is noxious and worthless (2 Samuel 23:6), or of sin and temptation. The most upright is sharper (worse) than a thorn hedge. Those who seem comparatively upright are more injurious, tangled, and inaccessible than a hedge of thorns. In punishment of all this corruption, the prophet points to the day of judgment. The day of thy watchmen. The day of retribution foretold by the prophets (Isaiah 21:6; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17). And (even) thy visitation; in apposition with the day, the time, and explanatory of punishment. Cometh; is come—the perfect tense denoting the certainty of the future event. Septuagint, Οὐαὶ αἱ ἐκδικήσεις σου ἥκασι, "Woe! thy vengeance is come." Now shall be their perplexity. When this day of the Lord comes, there shall be confusion (Isaiah 22:5); it shall bring chastise ment before deliverance. The prophet here, as elsewhere, changes from the second to the third person, speaking of the people gene rally. Septuagint, Νῦν ἔσονται κλαυθμοὶ αὐτῶν "Now shall be their weeping;" so the Syriac. Pusey notes the paronomasia here. They were as bad as a thorn hedge (merucah); they shall fall into perplexity (mebucah).

Micah 7:5

Such is the moral corruption that the nearest relations cannot be trusted: selfishness reigns everywhere The prophet emphasizes this universal evil by warning the better portion of the people. Friend … guide. There is a gradation here, beginning with "neighbour," or "common acquaintance," and ending with "wife." The word rendered "guide" means "closest, most familiar friend, as in Psalms 55:13 (14, Hebrew). Our version is sanctioned by the Septuagint, ἡγουμένοις, "leaders;" and the Vulgate, duce; but the context confirms the other translation (comp. Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 17:9). Our Lord has used some of the expressions in the next verso in describing the miseries of the latter day (Matthew 10:21, Matthew 10:35, Matthew 10:36; Matthew 24:12; comp. Luke 12:53; Luke 21:16; 2 Timothy 3:2). Keep the doors of thy mouth. Guard thy secrets. (For the phrase, comp. Psalms 141:3.) Her that lieth in thy bosom. Thy wife (Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 28:54).

Micah 7:6

For the son dishonoureth; Septuagint, ἀτιμάζει: Vulgate, contumeliam facit; literally, treats as a fool, despises (Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:15). (For the rest of the verse, see Matthew 10:21, Matthew 10:35, etc.) Men of his own house. His domestic servants (Genesis 17:27). Henderson, referring to this dissolution of every natural tie, compares Ovid, 'Metamorph.,' 1:144, etc.—

"Vivitur ex rapto; non hospes ab hespite tutus,

Non socer a genero; fratrum quoque gratia rara est;
Imminet exitio vir conjugis, illa mariti;
Lurida terribiles miscent aconita novercae;
Filius ante diem patrios iuquirit in annos;
Victa jacet pietas
."

Micah 7:7-13

§ 6. Israel expresses her faith in God, though she suffers grievous tribulation, and is confident in the fulfilment of the promised restoration.

Micah 7:7

Therefore I; rather, but as for me, I, etc. The prophet speaks in the name of the ideal Israel. Though love and confidence have disappeared, and the day of visitation has come, and human help fails, yet Israel loses not her trust in the Lord. Will look; gaze intently, as if posted on a watch tower to look out for help. Will wait with longing trust, unbroken by delay. The God of my salvation. The God from whom my salvation comes (Psalms 18:46; Psalms 25:5; Psalms 27:9; Habakkuk 3:18) My God will hear me. My prayer is sure to be answered (Isaiah 30:19).

Micah 7:8

Israel in her sorrow and captivity asserts her undiminished confidence in the Lord. O mine enemy. The oppressor of the Church, the worldly power, is represented at one time by Asshur, at another by Babylon. God uses these heathen kingdoms as agents of his vengeance. When I fall; have I fallen; if I have fallen; i.e. suppose I have suffered calamity and loss (Amos 5:2). Sit in darkness. Darkness is another metaphor for distress (Psalms 23:4; Isaiah 9:2; Lamentations 3:6; Amos 5:18). The Lord shall be a light unto me, giving me gladness and true discernment (comp. Psalms 27:1; Psalms 97:11). The distinction between darkness and the full light of day is more marked in Eastern countries than in our Northern climes.

Micah 7:9

I will bear the indignation of the Lord. However long may be the delay before relief comes, Israel will patiently bear the chastisements inflicted upon her, because she knows that they are deserved. This is the language of the penitent people, owning the justice of the sentence, yet trusting to the covenant God, who in wrath remembers mercy. Until he plead my cause. Until God considers that the punishment has done its work, and takes my cause in hand, and judges between me and the instruments of his vengeance. Execute judgment for me. Secure my rights, violated by the heathen, who misuse the power given them by God. The light (see note on Micah 7:8). His righteousness (Micah 6:5); his faithfulness to his premises exhibited in the destruction of the enemies and the restoration of his people. For this conception of the Divine righteousness, Cheyne compares 1 John 1:9, "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins."

Micah 7:10

She that is mine enemy. The worldly power is here personified, as so often "the daughter of Jerusalem." Shall see it. She shall see that Israel was not conquered because God was powerless to save. Where is the Lord thy God? The Assyrians always attributed their success in arms to the assistance, of their gods and the superiority of their deities to those of the conquered nations (comp. Isaiah 10:9-11; Isaiah 37:10-13). Thus the inscription of the palace of Khorsabad begins, "The gods Assur, Nebo, and Merodach have conferred on me the royalty of the nations.... By the grace and power of the great gods, my masters, I have flung my arms, by my force I have defeated my enemies" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9.). (For taunts like that in the text, see Psalms 42:3; Psalms 79:10; Psalms 115:2; Joel 2:17.) Mine eyes shall behold her. Israel shall behold the destruction of the enemy. As the mire of the streets (Isaiah 10:6; Zechariah 10:5).

Micah 7:11

The prophet here addresses Zion, and announces her restoration. In the day that thy walls are to be built; rather, a day for building thy walls (gader) cometh. Zion is represented as a vineyard whose fence has been destroyed (Isaiah 5:5, Isaiah 5:7). The announcement is given abruptly and concisely in three short sentences. In that day shall the decree be far removed. The decree (Zephaniah 2:2) is explained by Hengstenberg and many commentators, ancient and modern, to he that of the enemy by which they held Israel captive. Keil and others suppose the law to be meant which separated Israel from all other nations, the ancient ordinance which confined God's people and the blessings of the theocracy to narrow limits. This is now to be set aside (comp. Ephesians 2:11-16), when heathen nations flock to the city of God. Oaspari, Hitzig, Cheyne, and others translate, "shall the bound be afar off," i.e. the boundaries of the land of Israel shall be widely extended (comp. Isaiah 33:17, which Cheyne explains, "Thine eyes shall behold a widely extended territory"). Wordsworth obtains much the same meaning by taking the verb in the sense of "promulgated," and referring the "decree," as in Psalms 2:7, Psalms 2:8, to God's purpose of giving to Messiah the utmost parts of the earth for a possession. The building, of the walls does not indicate the narowing of the limits of the theocratic kingdom. Whether chok be taken to signify "decree" (lex, Vulgate) or "boundary," the effect of its removal afar is seen by the next verse to be the entrance of foreign nations into the kingdom of God. The LXX. favours the first interpretation, Ἀποτρίψεται [ἀπώσεται, Alex.] νόμιμά σου [σου omit, Alex.] ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη, "That day shall utterly abolish thy ordinances."

Micah 7:12

He shall come; they shall come. Men shall flock to Zion as the metropolis of the new kingdom (Micah 4:2). The countries named are those in which the Jews were dispersed (see Isaiah 11:11). Micah embraces in one view the restoration of Israel and the conversion of the heathen (comp. Isaiah 19:24; Isaiah 27:12, Isaiah 27:13). Assyria. The type of the greatest enemy of God. The fortified cities; rather, the cities of Mazor, the strong land, i.e. Egypt. The usual term for Egypt is Mizraim; but Mazor is found in 2 Kings 19:24; Isaiah 19:6; Isaiah 37:25. Cheyne compares the Assyrian name for this country, Mucar. From the fortress; from Mazor; Septuagint, ἀπὸ Τύρου, "from Tyre" or Tsor. Even to the river. From Egypt to the Euphrates, which was the river par excellence. (Genesis 15:18). From sea to sea. Not necessarily from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea or to the Persian Gulf (as Joel 2:20), but generally, from one sea to another, from the earth as bounded by the seas; so, from mountain to mountain; i.e. not from Lebanon to Sinai, or from Hor (Numbers 20:22) to Hor (Numbers 34:7), which is too limited, but from all lands situated between mountain barriers, which are the bounds of the world (comp. Isaiah 60:3, etc.).

Micah 7:13

Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate. Very many commentators consider the land of Canaan to be here intended, the prophet recurring to threatenings of judgment before the great restoration comes to pass; but it is best to regard the clause as referring to all the world, exclusive of Canaan. While the Messianic kingdom is set up, judgment shall fail upon the sinful world. "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isaiah 60:12; comp. Revelation 12:12). And the material world shall suffer with its inhabitants (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 3:18; Genesis 6:13; Genesis 19:25; Isaiah 34:4, etc.). Their doings. Their evil deeds, especially the rejection of Messiah.

Micah 7:14-17

§ 7. The prophet in the name of the people prays for this promised salvation, and the Lord assures him that his mercies shall not fail, and that the hostile nations shall be humbled.

Micah 7:14

Feed thy people with thy rod. The prophet prays to the Shepherd of Israel (Genesis 49:24; Psalms 80:1), beseeching him to rule and lead his people, and to find them pasture. The "rod" is the shepherd's staff (Leviticus 27:32; Psalms 23:4). The flock of thine heritage. So Israel is called (Psalms 28:9; Psalms 95:7; comp. Zephaniah 3:13). Which dwell solitarily; or, so that they dwell; separate from all other nations, religiously and physically, by institution and geo graphical position. Compare Balaam's words (Numbers 23:9; also Deuteronomy 33:28). It was Israel's special characteristic to be holy, i.e. set apart, and it was only when she observed her duty in this respect that she prospered (see Exodus 33:16). In the wood (forest) in the midst of Carmel. The forest would isolate the flock, and secure it from interference. The chief pasture lands west and east of Jordan are named, and the whole country is included in the description. (For Carmel, see note on Amos 1:2.) Bashan and Gilead were also celebrated for their rich pasture. "Bulls of Bashan" were a proverb for well fed animals, and a metaphor for bloated, proud aristocrats (Deuteronomy 32:14; Psalms 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 4:1). Gilead was so excellently adapted for cattle that Reuben and Gad were irresistibly drawn to settle there (Numbers 32:1, Numbers 32:5; 1 Chronicles 5:9; see the parallel to this passage in Isaiah 65:9, Isaiah 65:10, and Ezekiel 34:13, Ezekiel 34:14). As in the days of old; usually taken to refer to the time of Moses and Joshua, but also and more probably, to that of David and Solomon, which realized the ideal of peace and prosperity (comp. Micah 4:4).

Micah 7:15

According to (as in) the days. The Lord answers the prophet's prayer, taking up his last word, and promising even more than he asks, engaging to equal the wonders which marked the exodus from Egypt. That great deliverance was a type and foreshadowing of Messianic salvation (comp. Isaiah 43:15, etc.; Isaiah 51:10; 1 Corinthians 10:1, etc.). Unto him; unto the people of Israel (Micah 7:14). Marvellous things; Septuagint, Οψεσθε θαυμαστά, "Ye shall see marvellous things." Supernatural occurrences are meant, as Exodus 3:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalms 77:14. We do not read of any special miracles at the return from captivity, so the people were led to look onward to the advent of Messiah for these wonders.

Micah 7:16

Shall see. The heathen shall see these marvellous things. Be confounded at (ashamed of) all their might. Hostile nations shall be ashamed when they find the impotence of their boasted power. Compare the effect of the Exodus on contiguous nations (Exodus 15:14, etc.; Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:10). They shall lay their hand upon their mouth. They shall be silent from awe and astonishment (Judges 18:19; Job 21:5; Isaiah 52:15). Their ears shall be deaf. Their senses shall be stupefied by the wonders which they see—that which Job (Job 26:14) calls "the thunder of his mighty deeds." There may also be an allusion to their wilful obstinacy, and unbelief.

Micah 7:17

They shall lick the dust like a serpent (Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25). The enemies of God's people "shall lick the dust" (Psalms 72:9), shall be reduced to the utmost degradation (Isaiah 49:23). They shall move out of their holes, etc.; rather, they come trembling out of their close places (or, fastnesses, Psalms 18:46), like crawling things of the earth. They who prided themselves on their security shall come forth from their strongholds in utter fear, driven out like snakes from their lairs (comp. Psalms 2:11; Hosea 11:10, etc.). They shall be afraid of (whine with fear unto) the Lord our God. They shall be driven by terror to acknowledge the God of Israel. The expression is ambiguous, and may mean servile fear, which makes a man shrink from God. or that fear. which is one step towards repentance; the latter seems intended here, as in Hosea 3:5, where, as Pusey says, the words, "and his goodness," determine the character of the fear. Because of (or, before) thee. It is the heathen who are still the subject, not the Israelites (Jeremiah 10:7). The sudden change of persons is quite in the prophet's style.

Micah 7:18-20

§ 8. The book ends with a lyric ode in praise of God's mercy and faithfulness.

Micah 7:18

In view of the many provocations and backslidings of the people, Micah is filled with wonder at the goodness and long suffering of God. Who is a God like unto thee? The question seems to recall the prophet's own name, which means, "Who is like Jehovah?" and the clause in Moses' song (Exodus 15:11), "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" Such comparisons are made from the standpoint of the nations who believe in the real existence of their false gods. That pardoneth iniquty (comp. Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18). Passeth by the transgression; Septuagint, ὑπερβαίνων ἀσεβείας, "passing over iniquities;" Vulgate, transis peccatum. To pass by, or pass over, is to forgive, as Amos 7:8. There is probably an allusion, as Jerome says, to the night of the Exodus. As the destroying angel passed over the Israelites and destroyed them not, so God spares his people, imputing not their iniquities unto them. The remnant (Micah 2:12; Micah 4:6, Micah 4:7). The true Israel, which is only s remnant (Isaiah 10:21; Romans 9:27). He retaineth not his anger forever (Psalms 103:9). The word rendered "forever" is translated by Jerome ultra, and by the Septuagint εἰς μαρτύριον, i.e. to testify the justice of his punishment. He delighteth in mercy. As the Collect says, "O God, whose nature and property is always to have mercy and to forgive" (comp. Wis. 11:24).

Micah 7:19

He will turn again, and have compassion upon us. The verb "turn again," joined with another verb, often denotes the repetition of an action, as in Job 7:7; Hosea 14:8, etc.; so here we may translate simply, "He will again have compassion." He will subdue; literally, tread underfoot. Sin is regarded as a personal enemy, which by God's sovereign grace will be entirely subdued. So, according to one interpretation, sin is personified (Genesis 4:7; comp. Psalms 65:8). Cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt blot out and bury completely and forever, as once thou didst overwhelm the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:4, Exodus 15:10, Exodus 15:21). The miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Exodus is a type of the greater deliverance of the true Israelites in Christ (Psalms 103:12; 1 John 1:7; comp. Isaiah 43:25).

Micah 7:20

Thou wilt perform (literally, give) the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham. Jacob and Abraham are mentioned as the chiefs and representatives of the chosen family; and "the truth" (i.e. God's faithfulness to his promises) and "mercy" are equally given to both, separately assigned only for the sake of the parallelism. Knabenbaner compares such passages as Psalms 114:1, "When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language" (Psalm or. 6; Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 63:16, etc.). The general meaning, therefore, is that God will perform the promises made to the forefathers, as Luke 1:72, etc. Hast sworn, as in Genesis 22:16. etc.; Genesis 28:13, etc.; Deuteronomy 7:12. With the close of the ode Hengstenberg compares Romans 11:33-36. Thus the checkered prophecy ends with the glow of faith and happy hope.

HOMILETICS

Micah 7:1-13

The good in degenerate times.

We are not to understand these verses as referring specially to the prophet himself. In Micah 1:8, Micah 1:9 we have his own lamentation in view of the prevailing ungodliness; here "the speaker is not the prophet, but the true Israel, i.e. Israel within Israel, personified" (Cheyne). God has never left himself without witnesses. Even in the most corrupt and degenerate times he has had a people to show forth his praise. It was so in the age to which this book of Scripture refers. Widespread though the depravity was, "a remnant" continued faithful, true, loyal to God and obedient to his will; and Micah here speaks simply as the mouthpiece of these, setting forth their sadness in view of the abounding wickedness, yet withal their unshaken confidence in the triumph of truth and righteousness; whilst then, as the prophet of the Lord, he declared that this confidence should not be disappointed, but the victory anticipated be most surely won. Notice here, concerning the Church of God—

I. HER BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT. (Verses 1-6.)

1. The desire for spiritual excellence was ardently cherished. This aspiration of the good is here expressed figuratively. "My soul desired the first ripe figs" (verse 1). These were accounted the choicest and sweetest, and were very refreshing and very welcome to the weary traveller, and hence were chosen as the symbol of spiritual excellence. So elsewhere in the prophetical writings (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10.). The meaning, then, is that the good longed for the prevalence of piety in the nation, and to see the people bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. This is the aspiration of the good in every age. As the sculptor ardently desires to see the rough block transformed into the perfect statue, or the artist to see the bare canvas before him covered with the creations of his genius, or the horticulturist to see the waste field transformed into a garden of delight, and bearing, in infinite variety, the flowers and fruits; so all good men yearn to see the spiritual transformation of the world. "My soul desired the first ripe figs" (verse 1).

2. This ardently cherished desire was unrealized. (Verse 1.) The verse brings vividly before us the sense of disappointment arising from the spiritual barrenness and unproductiveness that prevailed in the land. The scene presented was not that of an abundant harvest, but of a land bare and barren, whose best days were of yore, in which so little good remained as to be but like gleanings when the vintage is over, not even a cluster remaining. "I am as when they have gathered," etc. (verse 1). And as further illustrating this disappointment, a graphic description is given of the prevailing spiritual desolation.

(1) Mortality and martyrdom had impoverished the land in the removal from it of the tender, the trusty, the true (verse 2; Isaiah 57:1).

(2) Anarchy reigned, with its accompanying violence, treachery, and injustice (verses 2, 3).

(3) The administration of justice had become a burlesque, its administrators working together, "wrapping it up," weaving it together so as to keep up the form, and to appear just, whilst really seeking their own selfish ends (verse 3), and even "the best" amongst them being "hard and piercing," even as a briar, and "the most upright" being as "a thorn hedge which, set for protection, inflicts injury." (verse 4).

(4) Friendship, "sweet'ner of life and solder of society," had become insincere and unreal; yea, even the most sacred relationships of life had become perverted, and natural affection sacrificed and changed to hate (verses 5, 6).

3. This non-realization occasioned bitter disappointment. "Woe is me!" (verse 1). A life of piety is marked by the experience of true joy (Psalms 1:1-3; Proverbs 3:17). Yet it is not always sunshine even with the good. "If we listen to David's harp, we shall hear as many hearse-like harmonies as carols" (Bacon). And a very large ingredient in the cup of sorrow to the good is occasioned by the contemplation of the blighting effects of sin. As looking around them, and despite their endeavours to disseminate truth and righteousness, they see multitudes walking according to the world's maxims, cherishing its spirit and reaping its sad harvest, sorrow fills their hearts, and they become desponding and sad. And hence the lament of the Church in view of her small numbers and the general corruption, as here expressed, "Woe is me!" etc. (verse 1).

II. HER UNSWERVING CONFIDENCE. (Verses 7-10.)

1. This confidence rested in God. "Therefore I will look unto the Lord" (verse 7). In times of seeming non success in holy service we should cherish unswerving trust in the God of truth, and having faithfully discharged our duty, should commit the rest unto him.

2. This confidence as expressed in patient waiting for God. He had "spoken good concerning Israel," and had declared "glorious things" respecting Zion, the city of God. And in the dark days his servants were prepared patiently to wait for the fulfilment of these, even as she mariner waits for fair winds and favourable tide, or as the watchman waits through the long night for the coming of the day. "I will walt for the God of my salvation" (verse 7).

3. This confidence was sustained by inspiring hope. "My God will hear me." So did hope cast her bow of promise across the stormy cloud and kindle the bright star in the dark sky.

4. This confidence triumphed even in the midst of adversity. The worm was very evil, and the good in the land were few. Iniquity, appeared to be victorious, and might to triumph over right. The hearts of the pious, full of patriotism and of the love of God, were sad; yet their reliance was unshaken and unswerving. Dark days were before them, severe chastisement must be experienced, and they would soon feel the rod of the oppressor and be exposed to the taunts of the heathen, who would mockingly ask, "Where is the Lord thy God?" But they could rest in the assurance that the Lord would be their Light in darkness; that he would interpose on their behalf, bringing them forth out of the gloom into the light covering their foes with shame, and vindicating his own righteousness. "Rejoice not against me," etc. (verses 8-10).

III. HER ASSURED VICTORY. (Verses 11-13.) In these verses, speaking, not as the mouthpiece of the good but prophetically as the seer, Micah delivers the assurance he was inspired by God to utter, and bearing upon the time to come. His words, as rendered in the Authorized Version, are somewhat obscure, but we gather from them that a brighter future should dawn upon the world sin had darkened and defiled, and of that glorious era he here speaks. And as his people, in the days when they "sat by the rivers of Babylon, and wept as they remembered Zion," and thought of the desolation sin had wrought, turned to these and similar assurances of the golden age yet to come, who can tell to what an extent they became nerved afresh and inspired with renewed courage and hope! Even so let those today who grieve, with the good through all ages, over the blighting effects of sin, rejoice in the prospect of the ultimate victory. "Lift up your heads redemption draweth nigh." Now death reigns and sin triumphs; but ere long grace shall reign through righteousness untoeternal life. Every throe of sorrow is bringing us nearer to the time of the world's full deliverance from the power of evil. The triumph is sure. "The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." This suggestive paragraph closes with a note of warning. "Notwithstanding," etc. (verse 13). There is a glorious future awaiting the Church of God, but meanwhile the work of judgment must be perfected. Notwithstanding the bright prospect here unfolded, sin will assuredly work its dire effects. The triumph of righteousness carries with it the defeat of unrighteousness. One of the poets sings of a bell suspended on the Inchcape rock, that the sound might warn the sailors of their nearness to danger; and tells how pirates cut the bell so as to silence the sound; and how that subsequently these same pirates struck upon the very rock which they had deprived of its means of warning them. Let us not thus treat this note of warning, but be constrained to "break off sin by righteousness," as it reminds us that "God is not mocked," and that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Micah 7:7

Waiting for God.

"I will wait for the God of my salvation." The good, personified, are here represented as declaring that they would place themselves in harmony with the wise and holy will of God; that they would trustingly acquiesce and quietly endure, drawing from intimate personal relationship to God that holy inspiration which would enable them in the dark days now before them, with true heroism to encounter every difficulty, and with calm resignation to bear every sorrow, and to find in so doing tranquillity and peace. "I will wait," etc. (Micah 7:7).

I. OUR CIRCUMSTANCES IN LIFE OFTEN CALL FOR THE EXERCISE OF THIS SPIRIT OF PATIENT WAITING FOR GOD. It is the method of our God by slow processes to bring to pass all that he has designed, whether in nature, in providence, or in grace. His purposes are gradually evolved. His delays are for wise and gracious reasons. Hence instead of fretting and repining and growing impatient under adversity, as though some strange thing were happening to us, it behoves us to "rest in the Lord," and so be cheerful even in the night and under the shadow of the cloud, assured that to those rightly exercised by sorrow "tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope" (Romans 5:8, Romans 5:4).

II. THE CHERISHING OF THIS SPIRIT ENNOBLES HUMAN CHARACTER.

1. You see in such a case a man who is continually gaining triumphs where multitudes are worsted and defeated. There are many who can do, but who cannot bear. They can actively serve God and strive to promote the interests of men, but they cannot passively yield themselves up to the will of God, and, without resentment, bear the reproaches of those who seek their hurt. And certainly the man who is able to do this is the more royal. Who can doubt the wisdom of Solomon when he said, "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32)?

2. You see in such a case a man who is clearly under the influence of high Christian motives. The influences which impel a man calmly and trustingly to submit to God's all-wise but often inscrutable appointments, are not human, but Divine. There is nothing in mere earthly considerations that is at all calculated to inspire this patience. It is only as we bring the realities of eternity to bear upon our present experiences that we become lifted up to a higher realm, and are enabled patiently to endure.

III. BY THIS PATIENT WAITING GOD IS GLORIFIED AND SERVED. The thought of service to God is too often restricted to active endeavour. It is overlooked that he may be nerved by us passively as well as actively; by quiet resignation to his will as well as by open and earnest toil in seeking the good of others. "They also serve who only stand and wait." Great was the service rendered by the Man Christ Jesus as he traversed the cities and villages of Palestine, going about doing good, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; but yet higher service was rendered by him as with holy resignation he acquiesced in the great Father's will and "endured the cross, despising the shame."

IV. THIS WAITING FOR THE LORD SHALL IN NO WISE LOSE ITS REWARD. There shall be ultimate deliverance; salvation shall come, and the thankful acknowledgment shall be, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he hath saved us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will evermore be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:9).

Micah 7:8, Micah 7:9

From darkness into light.

"When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a Light unto me.. He will bring me forth to the light." The Bible is "the heart book of the world." 'In order to the unravelment of its deep spiritual teaching, we must study it in the light of our own soul experiences - of our joys and sorrows and needs. It is one thing to be able to understand the volume in the meaning of its words and the construction of its phrases and forms of expression; but it is quite another thing to feel that it is ours to enter into the inward experiences of God's saints of old, through whom he speaks to us in these wondrous pages—experiences by which he has fitted them to be his messengers of help and hope to the world; and to enter into these we must bring our hearts as well as our intellects to the study of the book, and endeavour to trace the application of its teachings to the wants and aspirations of the human spirit. Notice in the human experience here described—

I. DARKNESS. The adverse influences of life are thus symbolized. We are constantly attended by these. It must be so. Human life is a pilgrimage, and no traveller can expect to reach the end of his journey without feeling weary and worn. It is a voyage, and hence we must encounter storms. The world is a stage, and we are the players, and although to outward appearances it may seem that we are acting our respective parts with ease, who can tell what anxiety is encountered behind the scenes? These adverse influences meet us in life's daily duties. They are often occasioned by differences in temper and disposition, giving rise to misunderstanding; or by the temporal circumstances being straitened; or by prolonged and tedious suspense in reference to the success or failure of certain projects; or by baffled hopes and expecta

tions. They come to us in the form of the sorrows of life. There is failure of health, with the anxious days and weary nights it brings to the household. There is bereavement, with its attendant grief and gloom. There are also cruel misrepresentations, malicious censures, unjust reproaches (Micah 7:10). And these adverse influences follow in quick succession.

When sorrows come, they come not single spies,

But in battalions"

They fill the heart with sadness, and there settles down upon the troubled spirit the darkness of night. "I sit in darkness."

II. LIGHT IN DARKNESS. Light is revealing, restoring, gladdening, in its effects. Under its influence that which was before concealed becomes manifest to us; new life is put into us, and joy and gladness become inspired within. So shall it be with the good in a spiritual sense. In their gloomiest seasons these gracious influences shall be experienced by them by reason of the presence with them of the Lord their God. It is not so much that the Lord will cause light to break in upon them (although that is gloriously true), as that he himself will be with them as their Light. "When I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a Light unto me;" "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation." (Psalms 27:1); "In his favour is life" (Psalms 30:5). Light in darkness, springing from the conscious presence of the Lord, is the thought here expressed. And in the next verse is the additional, yet closely related thought of—

III. PASSING OUT OF DARKNESS INTO THE LIGHT. "He will bring me forth to the light" (Micah 7:9). So has it been in the past in the experience of the good. Jacob (comp. Genesis 42:36. with Genesis 45:26-28); Elijah; the Sunammite; the Captivity (comp. Psalms 123:1-4. with Psalms 126:1-6.). So still to all trusting hearts; and so hereafter, "The Lord shall be thine everlasting Light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (Isaiah 60:20).

Micah 7:14-17

Prayer and its response.

How mysteriously great is the privilege of prayer! How wonderful that finite creatures may thus draw near to the Infinite, carrying their needs into the Divine presence, breathing their desires into the ear of God, and obtaining from him all required mercy and grace! We think of the patriarch who, weary and worn with his wanderings, slept, with a stone for his pillow, and we speak of the ladder he beheld connecting the spot where he lay with the very throne of God, as his vision; but the thought of prayer changes this into a blessed reality, for communication between earth and heaven has been established, and thus human spirits rise to God, and enrichments descend from him to satisfy men's deepest needs! Prayer, in the highest conception of it, is a thoughtful communion with God. It is intercourse with God. It is sympathetic contact with him. It is an exercise in which we engage that we may have fellowship with the Invisible, and may thus understand the Divine will, and become increasingly disposed to become obedient thereunto. Helpful, indeed, is the influence we derive from communion with the pure and holy amongst men; then say how elevating must be contact with him who is perfect in purity, the Eternal Spirit! But prayer is also supplication. We have wants. God has constituted us dependent beings. Needs, both temporal and spiritual, press upon us at times with a heavy weight. And prayer is the soul, deeply conscious of these necessities, coming to God with intense desire seeking their supply. Our supplications, however, should rise beyond our own individual wants. Prayer should be presented by us on behalf of others. In this holy exercise we should seize upon interests broader than those pertaining to our own personal life, and, with a true concern, should bear these up before the throne of God. As the great Intercessor pleads for us before his Father's throne, so we also in our measure are to be intercessors for men. The Prophet Micah comes before us in these verses as exercising this intercessory function. Note here—

I. THE DEVOTED SEER PLEADING WITH GOD ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE. (Verse 14.) Observe:

1. He makes mention of their peculiar relationship to the Most High:

(1) As being his chosen servants. "Thy people;" "the flock of thine inheritance."

(2) As separated from the nations to his praise: "which dwell solitarily."

2. He recalls the frowner manifestations to them of the Divine goodness in the bestowment of rich blessings. "The days of old."

3. He supplicates the Divine Shepherd to be with them in the dark days now before them, sustaining them and enriching them with plenty (verse 14).

II. THE DIVINE RESPONSE TO THE EARNEST SUPPLICATION OF THE PROPHET.

1. The prophet was assured that there should be deliverance wrought for his people by Divine interposition (verse 15).

2. It was declared to him that the foes who would triumph over them should ultimately be covered with confusion and shame (verses 16, 17). Intercessory prayer is still an essential part of the ministry of the Church; it is mighty and prevailing; it commands and wields the forces of heaven. "The effectual fervent prayer of s righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).

Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19

The forgiving God.

No words could possibly have been more appropriate than these by way of bringing this brief book of prophecy to a close. When we think of the degenerate character of the age in which this prophet lived, and when we remember that he had constantly to deal with human guilt and depravity, to declare the Divine judgments, and to endeavour by warnings and threatenings to bring home to men a sense of their sinfulness,—what could be more fitting than that, in closing his contribution to the Divine oracles, he should expatiate, as he does here so impressively, upon Jehovah as being the forgiving God. His design in these verses clearly was to extol the grace and mercy of the Lord his God. As he thought of the Divine forgiving love, he felt that with the Most High none can compare. With warmest admiration, combined with the profoundest adoration, he asks, "Who is aged like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?" (Micah 7:18). And instead of attempting to answer his own inquiry, he indicates what his answer would be by enlarging yet further upon God's pardoning grace: "He retaineth not," etc. (Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19). Let us reflect upon the incomparableness of the Lord our God, viewed as the Divine Forgiver. Consider—

I. WHAT THIS DIVINE FORGIVENESS IMPLIES.

1. The great fact of sin. There are those who have endeavoured to explain away this solemn fact of sin; who contend that there is not to be found in man any intentional preference of wrong to right; that what we call sin is something predicable of society rather than of the individual; that man himself is right enough, but lacks the science required to organize society rightly; and that what we call sin is after all only the development of these discordant causes in society. See Bushnell's reply to this, setting forth on this theory our inconsistency in blaming the persons by whom sinful acts have been wrought, and in censuring ourselves when we have done unworthy acts, etc. ('Nature and the Supernatural,' Micah 5:1-15.). There is no escape from admitting the great fact of sin. The Word is unerring as it declares that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23); that "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12); and that "every mouth must be stopped, and the whole world stand guilty before God" (Romans 3:19).

2. The Divine interposition with a view to the deliverance of the race from this terrible blight. We can form no true conception of the Divine forgiveness unless these facts of personal guilt and transgression, and of the Divine interposition in order to our deliverance, are kept prominently before us. And even at this stage our admiration is called into exercise, and we cry, "Who is a God like unto thee?" This is intensified as we consider—

II. WHAT THIS DIVINE FORGIVENESS INCLUDES. It includes deliverance from the sad consequences of sire Note what these are.

1. Mark the consequences of sin to the individual.

(1) There is loss of power. Every spiritual defeat is attended by the weakening of moral strength.

(2) There is disquietude of conscience.

(3) Separation from God. There can be no communion where there is contrariety of nature. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?"

(4) Suffering and death. The connection between the spirit and the body is so intimate that the body necessarily suffers through the disorganization sin has wrought in the soul.

2. Consequences resulting to society. These also are sad and distressing. "The bad inheritance passes, and fears, frauds, crimes against property, character, and life, abuses of power, oppressions of the weak, persecutions of the good, piracies, wars of revolt, wars of conquest, are the staple of the world's bitter history. It is a pitiless and dreadful power, as fallen society must necessarily be". The Divine forgiveness means deliverance from all these sad consequences of evil It is not a bare pardon merely, but it carries with it enfranchisement from the blighting effects of evil There is the impartation to the forgiven of a Divine power, an inward spiritual force to enable them to resist the evil and downward tendencies; the lost power is restored, and which is mighty in "subduing our iniquities" (verse 19). There is the impartation to the forgiven of peace of conscience; the discordant and disturbing elements are hushed; the harmonies are restored. There is the experience of renewed communion with the Eternal. The soul, accepted and renewed, would ever abide at the feet of the Lord. There is oneness and agreement now, and hence fellowship is possible and practicable, yea, is felt to be desirable and essential "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." And whilst suffering and death remain, yet by a Divine alchemy the character of these life sorrows becomes entirely changed, and they cease to he viewed as harsh inflictions, but are accepted as the loving discipline by which the Divine Father renders the character perfect and entire, whilst "the sting of death" having been taken away, the terror also is gone. And as men become thus brought into this holy experience will the regeneration of the world and its complete deliverance from evil be brought to pass. What a fulness of meaning, then, there is when God is spoken of as "pardoning iniquity"! And as we think how that this forgiveness carries with it all the privileges, honours, and enjoyments here and hereafter of the spiritual life, our admiration of him who has made all this possible to the individual and the race rises higher still, and we cry with wondering and adoring love, "Who is a God like unto thee?"

III. WHAT THIS DIVINE FORGIVENESS INVOLVES.

1. It has involved on the part of God all that is comprehended in the gift and work of his Son Jesus Christ; for it is through Christ alone that this forgiveness of sin is secured. "In him have we redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins" (Colossians 1:14). It involved the heavenly Shepherd's coming forth to seek his lost and fallen world. "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Lo! the Christ of God, the Gift of the Father's love, clothed himself in our humanity, obeyed the Law we had broken, atoned for sin in the death of the cross, that we might not perish, that we might exchange the wilderness for the fold, be lifted out of the lost condition into hope, dignity, and character here, and be raised hereafter to immortal purity, peace, and joy. The power of human language is too weak adequately to describe the love of God as expressed even in the minutest of his doings; but in reference to this seeking the erring, with a view to their restoration, it signally fails, and we can only adoringly cry, "Who is a God like unto thee?"

2. On the part of man this Divine forgiveness involves penitence and faith. "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). On conditions thus simple the vilest transgressor may find mercy of the Lord. And if there is another thought which leads us to feel this pardoning love of God to be the more wonderful, it is the remembrance that he has not only provided the pardon, but even condescends to plead with men, that they may be led to fulfil the righteous conditions and to receive the boon (Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 3:20). Let us not repel him who has come to bless us by turning us away from our iniquities, but rather give him a hearty greeting. Then, with this ancient seer and with the forgiven through all ages, we shall cry, with hearts overflowing, with love and praise, "Who is a God like unto thee?" (verses 18, 19).

Micah 7:20

The Divine promises and their fulfilment.

These words bear upon them the impress of deep human experience. They form the crowning testimony of a man who had long proved the reality of that which they affirm. In closing his book of prophecy he would, with all his heart and soul, affix his seal to the bright declaration that God is ever faithful and true. Jehovah was to him a living reality, the centre of his affections and the strength of his heart. "He endured as seeing him who is invisible." And Divine, indeed, is that trust in the eternal Lord which fires the soul and nerves it for entering into "the holy war;" which stands the warrior in good stead, and proves invulnerable whilst he engages in the strife; and which also, when the good soldier, having fought well and grown grey in the service, begins to lay aside his armour and quietly to await the summons to the presence and joy of the Lord he has served, proves his consolation and support. Micah doubtless had in mind the rich promises given by God, first to Abraham, and then reiterated to Jacob, that they should be blessed and multiplied, and that through their line lasting blessings should flow to all the families of the earth (Genesis 22:16-18; Genesis 28:13, Genesis 28:14). Notice—

I. HE REPRESENTS THE DIVINE PROMISES AS CHARACTERIZED BY "MERCY" AND "TRUTH." "The truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham" (verse 20). The expression is, at first sight, rather peculiar; yet it may easily be explained. By "mercy" we understand favour shown to the undeserving. Grand hero as Abraham was, there was nothing in him to merit such distinguishing honour as was conferred upon him. The choice was altogether traceable to the abounding mercy and grace of God. So also with Jacob, who, at the outset of his career, was about as unlovely as man could well be. Then why, it may be asked, the change in the form of expression? Why not "the mercy to Abraham" and the mercy to Jacob"? Why "the mercy to Abraham and the "truth to Jacob"? Simply to introduce the additional thought of "truth." "Truth" here means the bringing into clearer light that which had been partially hinted at. "What was free mercy to Abraham became, when God had once promised it, his truth" (Pusey). And his revelation of truth became clearer and brighter, until at length he appeared in whom both "grace and truth" came in their unveiled clearness and their unrestricted fulness.

II. HE TRACES THESE DIVINE PROMISES AS HAVING THEIR SOURCE AND SPRING IN THE ETERNAL LOVE OF GOD." From the days of old" i.e. from eternity, God has cherished the loving purpose of enriching us thus. It is not "a modern project, but an ancient charter."

III. HE REJOICES IN THE ASSURANCE THAT THESE DIVINE PROMISES SHALL BE UNDOUBTEDLY FULFILLED. "Thou wilt perform," etc. This assurance rested on the Divine pledge ("which thou hast sworn unto our fathers"), and which the faithful Promiser is both able and willing to redeem. "He cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). In building the temple of Solomon two pillars were set up in the porch of the edifice—the left one being called Boaz, i.e. "In God is strength;" and the other on the right being named Jachin, i.e. "He will establish"—thus beautifully associating together the thoughts of God's ability and his willing resolve to bless. Let these thoughts dwell in our minds respecting him, for on these pillars our faith and hope may ever securely rest.

HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT

Micah 7:1, Micah 7:2

A moral dearth in the land.

The prophet, speaking in the name of the godly remnant of the land, laments their terrible isolation. We are thus reminded of the sad condition of a land in which there is a dearth of good men. For:

1. They are the choice fruit of the land—wholesome, fragrant, delicious. The ideal Israel is compared to "grapes" and "the first ripe in the fig tree" (Hosea 9:10). The Lord "taketh pleasure" in such; they satisfy the hunger of the Divine heart for godliness in the creature (Psalms 147:11; Psalms 149:4; Proverbs 11:20). So far as they share the spirit of Christ, they are, like him, "beloved of God," and should be attractive to men.

2. They are the salt of the earth—the one element that preserves from universal corruption. The picture presented to us is the gradual dying out of the godly; they "cease" (Psalms 12:1), they "perish" (Isaiah 57:1). Some few remain, "two or three in the top of the uttermost bough," which were not touched, or those unripe which were but imperfect and poor, or those which had fallen, "and thus were fouled and stained, and yet were not utterly carried away." The promise, "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children" (Psalms 45:16), is no longer fulfilled. The sons and daughters of the godly do not rise up to fill their places in the Church The few godly survivors are heard lamenting and longing for the pious companions of former days; "my soul desireth the first ripe fig" (desiderio tam cari capitis). The fewer the good that remain, the more difficult it is for them to retain the fervour of their piety. Embers dispersed soon die out. It is hard to keep up a June temperature under December skies. From this dearth of the godly many evils follow. There is a loss of confidence, first in spiritual fellowship, and then in social relations (Micah 7:5). There is a loosening of the most sacred family bends. Depravity and degradation become deeper and darker (Micah 7:3, Micah 7:4). The little remnant of God's servants are increasingly depressed and discouraged: "Woe is me!" (cf. Psalms 120:5; Isaiah 6:5). This results from constant contact with sin and from the heart-sickness which it causes; "great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart" (Romans 9:2). Thus we learn:

1. The greatest calamity to a nation is not war, pestilence, or famine, but the withholding of the Spirit of grace to convert the hearts of men, and consequently the dying out of the righteous. The famine of bread is bad; the famine "of hearing the words of the Lord" is worse. But worst of all is the dearth of living witnesses for God in the land.

2. The winning of souls to God is the greatest wisdom and the most enlightened patriotism.

3. The welfare of a nation is bound up with the living God, the true Church, and believing prayer.—E.S.P.

Micah 7:3

Earnest sinners.

A contrast is suggested between various grades of evil doing. Some are. not so much active as passive in sin. They drift; they are led; when sinners entice them they "consent," perhaps reluctantly at first. For want of resisting power they are found walking "in the counsel of the ungodly." Ere long they bestir themselves to gratify some sinful desire. At first they are half-hearted in the service of sin, for memory and conscience still restrain them. "Their heart is divided," and it is only one band they stretch out to grasp the forbidden fruit. Their other hand has gill hold on the book of the Law of their God which they learned at their mother's knee. They soon find that they cannot serve two masters. The book of God is dropped; the hand that held it, released from the mysterious magnetic power which the Bible exerts on those that study it, is stretched out to cooperate with its fellow in deeds of sin. Practice makes perfect; the appetite grows by what it feeds upon; and soon the transgressor, who not so long ago blushed even at the enticements to sin that were addressed to him, now is foremost among those who "do evil with both blinds earnestly." In these earnest sinners we note the following points.

1. Unity of purpose. They are men of one idea—how to please themselves. As they have abandoned all thought of seeking their pleasure in doing the will of God, and doing "good unto all men;" they concentrate their energies, "both hands," on gratifying every desire whatever the cost may be.

2. Perversion of conscience. We are reminded of this by Jerome's rendering, "They call the evil of their hands good." They speak of the evil done as "well done." They could hardly be so earnest in sin unless they had in some way perverted conscience. Some of the forms of iniquity disclosed in Micah 7:3-6 imply this. And certainly this is one of the most fatal results of sinning. Acts of sin form habits of sinning which react on the judgment and pervert it till the doom is incurred, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil!" etc. (Isaiah 5:20).

3. A conspiracy of men of influence. We expect a certain amount of crime and moral obliquity in what has been called the residuum of society; but profligacy in high places is a scandal and "a reproach to any people." See Jeremiah's experience (Jeremiah 5:1-5). Wherever the infection began, it has spread now to the court and the judgment hall: "Death is entered into our palaces." There is such a dearth of good men (verses 1, 2) that the restraint of their protests, or even of the silent testimony of their presence, is awanting. The princes expect bribes, or "black mail." The judges judge for reward. The testimony of contemporaneous and later prophets on this point is very strong (Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:27; Hosea 4:18; Amos 5:12). And they veil these crimes under milder names. The prince demands, but calls it "asking." The judge's bribe is called a reward for service rendered. The great man hesitates not to "utter his mischievous desire" in the presence of meaner men, who, he knows, will be ready enough to carry it out, if they can thus curry favour with him or earn money, though it be the price of blood; "thus they weave it together" (Revised Version). Illustrate by the conspiracy of Ahab, Jezebel, and the elders and nobles in the robbery and murder of Naboth.

4. We see this infection extending to the most sacred scenes of family life. What a terrible picture is suggested by verses 5, 61 The great men who have conspired in crime carry the contagion home with them. They cannot leave their sin on the threshold, like an infected garment. Their children catch the plague. Even a wife is not above suspicion. Thus curses come home to roost. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. Families are demoralized. "The end of those things is death."

Learn.

1. Earnestness is not in itself an excellent thing. The devil is terribly in earnest, "going about as a roaring lion," etc. (1 Peter 5:8). False teachers are sometimes more earnest than the true. "They zealously seek you in no good way" (Galatians 4:17). Earnestness may be as glowing as a fire, and as destructive.

2. Earnest sinners should be a motive and stimulus to the servants of Christ. If they are so eager in the work of destruction, what manner of persons ought we to be in the work of salvation? Yet some move neither hand, but stand all the day idle. Others are half-hearted, and therefore ply their work with but one hand, not devoting all their faculties to him whom they own as both Redeemer and Lord. Illustrate from King Joash's interview with Elisha (2 Kings 13:14 2 Kings 13:19). Loyalty to our Saviour-King demands concentration of energy and enthusiasm of devotion, that we may do good "with both hands earnestly."—E.S.P.

Micah 7:7

A soul shut up to God.

The word "therefore," or the term in the Revised Version, "but as for me," marks the transition from a terrible necessity to a priceless privilege. It was a time when it was needful to be suspicious of those who ought to have been worthy of unlimited confidence. Neither a companion nor a familiar friend, nor even a child or a wife, could be trusted (Micah 7:5, Micah 7:6). Such had been the experience of many in the past. Samson had been betrayed by his tribesmen, his friend, hie father-in-law (Judges 14:20), and her that "lay in his bosom." David had found his confidence betrayed by the men of Judah (1 Samuel 23:12, 1 Samuel 23:19), by Joab (2 Samuel 3:22-39), by Ahithophel, and by Absalom. As it was in the days of Micah, so would it be in the days of Jesus Christ, when many of his disciples would go back and walk no more with him, and when an apostle would betray him. No wonder that some of his servants are called to a similar experience (Matthew 10:24, Matthew 10:34-36). The prospect manward is thus dark and depressing in the extreme. Note what a disintegrating and destructive force sin is. It not only separates between man and God (Isaiah 59:2), but has a tendency to alienate friends, to break up families, to destroy human confidences, and gender a pessimism which finds expression in the passionate, though not deliberate, verdict of the psalmist, "All men are liars." If we cannot repose confidence in others, can we trust in ourselves? Our consciousness of sin and utter failure forbids this (verses 8, 9; Jeremiah 17:9). Thus we are utterly shut up to God. A military man, suffering from some obscure disease of the mind, was in the habit of promenading in a certain track on the ramparts, after sunset. When he walked eastward, and had nothing but the dark sky to look on, extreme dejection oppressed his clouded mind. But no sooner did he turn towards the west, where his eyes caught the brightness left by the sun that had set, than hope and peace revived in his heart. There are times when, if we look anywhere but towards God, our Sun, we may feel ready to despond or despair. Then we know what it is to be shut up to God. "But as for me, I will look unto the Lord." That look implies hope: "I will wait;" and faith: "My God will hear me." When we thus look, wait, trust, our thoughts may express themselves in the following thoughts about God, and our "meditation of him shall be sweet."

I. HOW MUCH WE HAVE IN GOD.

1. His name, Jehovah, describes his nature. He is the eternal, unchangeable, faithful, covenant keeping God. He revealed himself by that new name when he came as the Redeemer of his distressed people. And this Jehovah is "my God." Martin Luther remarks, "There is a great deal of divinity in the pronouns." The theology taught in the term "my God" is worth more than all the lectures ever given on "the attributes."

2. The figures employed for God remind us of the treasure we have in him. Look, for example, at a single group of figures in the sixty-second psalm. There God is described as "my Rock," on which I can safely rest and securely build; as "my high Tower" (Revised Version); "my strong Habitation, whereunto I may continually resort" (Psalms 71:3); and therefore as "my Refuge," where I may be safe from the sword of the avenger of blood, or from any other foe. The city of Metz prided itself in the name "La Pucelle," the virgin fortress; but in October, 1870, its fair fame was tarnished by its fall, and its inhabitants were at the mercy of their foes. But no such disaster can ever overtake those who can say of the Lord, "Fie is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; in him will I trust."

II. HOW MUCH WE MAY EXPECT FROM GOD. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." Among the blessings we may expect are the two crowning mercies which the prophet claims by faith.

1. Answers to prayer; which will be definite, appropriate, decisive ("My God will hear me"), such as God's servants of old received; e.g. Jacob (Genesis 32:1-32.), Moses (Numbers 14:18-20), Asa (2 Chronicles 14:11, 2 Chronicles 14:12), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1-37.). These prayers will bring:

2. Deliverance; for "my God" is "the God of my salvation." Thus in the midst of dangers from without or from within we can say, with the psalmist," I shall not be greatly moved" (Psalms 62:2). Like the rockingstones on the Cornish coast, we may at tunes be slightly shaken but not "greatly moved;" moved, but not removed. Like the magnet, we may oscillate for a time, and be slightly affected by changing conditions, but never greatly moved from our purpose of witnessing faithfully for God and his truth. Yet our confidence in regard to our stability is not in ourselves, but in our God, in "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

III. HOW WORTHY HE IS OF UNLIMITED CONFIDENCE. "I will look;" "I will wait;" "My soul, wait thou only upon God;" "Trust in him at all times." "It is comparatively easy," says Dr. Edward Payson, "to wait upon God, but to wait upon him only—to feel, so far as our strength, happiness, and usefulness are concerned, as if all creatures and second causes were annihilated, and we were alone in the universe with God is, I suspect a difficult and rare attainment." This is the unlimited confidence to which we aspire. Then we may not only wait upon God, but wait for God, leaving the tune and method of our deliverance to him (Psalms 37:7-9; Psalms 130:5, Psalms 130:6). Then we shall not only be shut up to God, but shut in with God (Psalms 91:1). With God on our side we are in the majority. "How many do you count me for?" asked an ancient commander of an officer who was alarmed at the disparity of the forces they could array against the foe. "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."

"Be thou my God, and the whole world is mine;

Whilst thou art Sovereign, I'm secure;
I shall be rich till thou art poor;

For all I fear and all I wish, heaven,

Earth, and hell are thine."

E.S.P.

Micah 7:8, Micah 7:9

God the Vindicator of the penitent.

The truths here taught might be applied to the people of Israel, with whom the prophet identifies himself, when humbled before exulting foes like the Edomites (Obadiah 1:8-15) or their Chaldean conquerors. Light came to them in Babylon, through the witness borne by Daniel and his friends, the ministry of Ezekiel, the favour of Cyrus, and above all by their deliverance from the curse of idolatry before their restoration to their land. They may be applied also to a Church in a depressed or fallen state. A godly remnant could yet look forward to deliverance and revival. E.g. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-5). We may also use the words as describing the experience of a sinner humbled before God and man. Notice—

I. HIS PRESENT STATE.

1. He has fallen. Then he had stood before. He has been no hypocrite, but a pilgrim on the highway from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Like Christian in Bunyan's immortal allegory, he has been confronted by Apollyon. In the struggle he has been wounded in the head, the hand, and the foot. "Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and, wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand." Prostrate and powerless, he seems "drawn unto death and ready to be slain."

2. He sits in darkness. A hardened sinner in such a crisis may have a light, such as it is ("Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled," Isaiah 50:11). But the fallen Christian is heard bemoaning himself (Job 29:2, Job 29:3). The sun, the light of God's countenance, is gone. It is a night of mist. Not even a star of promise can be seen except when the mist is for a moment or two dispersed before a rising breath of the Divine Comforter, who, though grieved, will not depart.

3. He is exposed to the indignation of the Lord. He cannot attribute his darkness to sickness or nervous depression. In the gloom caused by conscience he sees the shadow caused by the righteous anger of God. "Therefore we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness," "For our transgressions are multiplied," etc. (verses 9, 12).

4. He has to bear the scorn of men. His enemies rejoice. This makes the cup of bitterness overflow. The self-righteous formalist thanks God he is not as other men, or even at this Christian. The profligate man finds one more excuse for asserting that there is no such thing as real religion (cf. Psalms 35:15, Psalms 35:16, Psalms 35:21, Psalms 35:25). We can imagine the morbid curiosity in the streets of Jerusalem, when it began to be whispered that a dark deed had been committed in the palace of King David, and that Uriah's death had been procured by foul means. Would not the men of Belial mock at the royal psalmist—seducer—murderer Samuel Ezekiel 12:14)? How the soldiers and the servants round the fire within the judgment must have chuckled while Peter was weeping without! The world may hold its most riotous carnival, not when martyrs are burning at the stake, or their dead bodies are lying in the street of Sodom, but when the Saviour is wounded in the house of his friends, and the Church is mourning over the lost reputations of its fallen members (Luke 17:1).

II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CONFIDENCE FOR THE FUTURE. The fallen Christian looks forward to rising again. He anticipates a new day when the Sun of Righteousness shall again rise on him. He speaks boldly (Ezekiel 12:8). This is either the grossest presumption or the noblest faith. It is like Samson's boast, "I will go out as at other times;" or like David's trustful anticipation, "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways," etc. That these words are no vain vaunting we learn from the grounds of his confidence.

1. He resolves quietly to endure God's chastening strokes. Such submission is one sign of genuine repentance. Illust.: The Jews in captivity (Leviticus 26:40-42, "and they then accept, the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant, etc.); Eli (1 Samuel 3:18); David, all through his long chastisement (see e.g, 2Sa 12:20; 2 Samuel 15:25, 2 Samuel 15:26; 2 Samuel 16:11; cf. Job 34:1-37 :81; Lamentations 3:39; Hebrews 12:5-7).

2. He puts his trust entirely is God. He has just before (Ezekiel 12:7) spoken of himself as shut up to God. Again he returns to him and repeatedly expresses his faith, "The Lord shall be a Light unto me: he shall plead my cause: he will bring me forth to the light." His godly sorrow and cheerful submission are signs that there is a mystic film, a spiritual cord that binds him, even in his fallen state, to his Father-God And he has promises to plead (Psalms 37:24; Proverbs 24:16). Illust.: Jonah (Jonah 2:3, Jonah 2:4), St. Paul (Romans 7:24, Romans 7:25). Grievous as are the sins of God's adopted children, they are provided for: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin"—if any one of you little children sin, grievous and aggravated as your sin may be—"we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2). God vindicates such a penitent. He restores his soul. He renews his peace. He re-establishes his tarnished reputation. He puts a new song in his mouth (Psalms 40:1-3; Isaiah 12:1, Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 57:18, Isaiah 57:19).—E.S.P.

Micah 7:13

The fruit of their doings.

This expression is a most suggestive one. It occurs three times in the Prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 17:10 God declares, as one of the signs of his omniscient, heart-searching power, that he can not only recompense each individual according to his ways, but "according to the fruit of his doings." In Jeremiah 21:14 a similar declaration is addressed to the royal house of David: "I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings." And in Jeremiah 32:17-19 the prophet expresses his admiration at the discriminating omnipotence of God—"great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon the ways of the sons of men: to give unto every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Our text calls for exposition and admits of illustration.

I. EXPOSITION. An act is one thing; the fruit of that act is another thing. By fruit we understand that which is the natural result of the acts we perform. Those natural results under the reign of moral law we might foresee. Acts, like trees, bring forth fruit "after their kind." For such fruit we are held responsible. Responsibility varies according to knowledge acquired or attainable. A child's falsehood, though fraught with lifelong disasters, is lees criminal than the less injurious lie of an adult. But we cannot disconnect our acts and their fruit. We cannot kill them in the seed, or nip them in the bud, or blight them in the flower; they will bear fruit of some kind. We are not held responsible for what we may call the accidental issues of our acts Our good may be evil spoken of. The most unjustifiable inferences may be drawn from our words or deeds. Our Lord's teaching has been the occasion of discord in families and strife in states (Matthew 10:34-36). St. Paul's doctrine was perverted (Romans 3:8). A clear judgment is needed to discern what will be the natural effect of our conduct. We may not, dare not, leave our influence on others out of the account. We must use the enlightening Word, and pray for the aid of the illuminating Spirit, that we may acquire an enlightened conscience. And then we must seek so to live that the fruit of our doings will bring honour to God and be for our own "praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

II. ILLUSTRATION. Our first class of illustrations will be those in which the fruit of our doings, like the fruit of the tree in the garden, is "good ' and "pleasant to the eyes," and "to Be desired" as food for the soul,, through all eternity.

1. The life and work of Jesus Christ. The "good Master" "went about doing good." He did the will of him that sent him, and in doing it "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," What is the fruit of these doings? Eternity alone can reveal. His reward will be according to it—according to the glory brought to God and the blessedness to men (Isaiah 53:11,Isaiah 53:12).

2. The characters and labours of devoted servants of Christ. The life and work of Christ is a pattern and an encouragement to all his followers (Luke 6:40). Sow now the seed of Christian bring and doing. It may seem to be lost, like the seed cast on the surface of flooded lands, but you shall find it after many days. You may die without seeing the fruitage in this life; you may rest from your labours, but your works will follow you (Galatians 6:7-9). Incidents confirming this frequently come to light. At a Unitarian anniversary in New England a few years ago, one of the ministers, speaking of the small results of his work, added, "It must be remembered where my field is. The Connecticut valley is the home of Jonathan Edwards, and though he has been dead a century, he is a great name and a power for orthodoxy through all that country today." A devoted Pastor, Rev. Thomas Hall, laboured for twenty-seven years at Heckmondwike, Yorkshire amid great discouragement because he saw so little fruit from his labours. His successor could report that for a long time after his death most of those who were added to the fellowship of the Curch acknowledged their indebtedness to their deceased pastor for their first religious impressions or some other special spiritual help. Take courage, fellow labourers. If you seem to have laboured in vain, you can add, "My judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God" (Isaiah 49:4). He will recompense you according to the natural results of your life's work, "the fruit of your doings" (Isaiah 3:10). Yet this fruit must vary with the quality of our work (see this lesson taught in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15). But the truth of our text has its shady as well as its sunny side.

3. A nation will be recompensed according to its national sins and the fruit of them. Illust.: Great Britain and the opium traffic. Even national repentance and reformation may not avert some of the disastrous consequences of past transgressions. Colonial slavery has left some of its foul stains on the present generation.

4. Sinners must await "the harvest" which is "the end of the world" before they can receive the just recompense of their deeds. William Cowper, in a letter to John Newton, alluding to the translation of Homer on which he was engaged, says very truly, "An author had need narrowly to watch his pen, lest a line should escape it which by possibility may do mischief when he has been long dead and buried. What we have done when we have written a book will never be known till the day of judgment; then the account will be liquidated, and all the good that it has occasioned will witness either for or against us." Homer himself supplies an illustration of this. We are told it was the 'Iliad' that did much to mould the character of Alexander of Macedon. The life of Alexander was the inspiration of two other notorious warriors—Julius Caesar and Charles XII. of Sweden. In contrast to the posthumous influence of Jonathan Edwards, there stands on record the baneful effect on a village in Berkshire of the infidel, wit, and libertine, Lord Bolingbroke. He died in 1751; but he had so poisoned the minds of the poor villagers against religion, that three quarters of a century afterwards "the fruit of his doings" was most distinctly to be traced. Nor need our acts be flagrantly evil to bring forth hitter fruit. The neglect of duty tends to make others neglect it, and thus to leave that duty altogether undone. The neglect of "assembling ourselves together" in public worship tends to the dissolution of such assemblies and the abandonment of such worship. The fruit of secret discipleship would be the dying out of Christian Churches. What can be the fruit of sin but sorrow, suffering, loss? "The harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow" (Isaiah 17:11). Even though sin be forgiven through repentance and faith, the consequences of misused or wasted years will remain. And as those consequences, ever widening, cannot be summed up till the great day of God, "we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Let us therefore "make it our aim … to be well pleasing unto him" (2 Corinthians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:10).—E.S.P.

Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19

Matchless mercy.

"The Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee." These words of Moses receive a striking illustration in the fact that every one of the "minor" prophets who threatens judgments against Israel ends by promises of deliverance which anticipate the days of the Messiah. In none is this more strikingly seen than in Micah. In this chapter the prophet, who has been lamenting the universal corruption of the people (verses 1-6), finds comfort in God alone, to whom he looks with submission and hope, and obtains an assurance of renewed Divine favour when the chastisement is past (verses 7-15). This encourages him to pray (verse 14). His prayer is answered by a promise of deliverance such as God accomplished for his people in Egypt (verses 15-17). Upon this he breaks forth in adoration of God's matchless mercy, and anticipates the fulfilment of promises which would only be realized by the coming of the long looked for Deliverer (verses 18-20; and cf. Luke 1:70-75). This matchless mercy is shown both in God's essential character and in his treatment of sinners. Each clause suggests some fresh thought on this attractive subject.

I. "WHO IS A GOD LIKE UNTO THEE?" The reference to the Exodus (verse 15) reminds us of Moses' words (Exodus 15:11). If there is none like God, "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," what wonder can be so great as deliverance from sin? If even ungodly men are charmed rote adoration for a brief period as some deliverance from danger, how profoundly and unceasingly should we adore and glorify God for salvation from sin, which is a more dreadful evil than cholera, lunacy, or death! Notice how a question like this is often asked or answered; e.g. in regard to God's power (Deuteronomy 33:26), his faithfulness (1 Kings 8:23), his deliverance of the oppressed (Psalms 35:10), his condescension to the lowly (Psalms 113:5, Psalms 113:6). In a word, in his character and in all his dealings he stands alone (Psalms 89:6-8).

II. "THAT PARDONETH INIQUITY." This is as essential a part of God's character as is maternal love in a mother's heart. When Moses said to God, "I Beseech thee, show me thy glory," the answer was, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before thee" (Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:19). And when the sublime proclamation was made, one of the essential elements of Jehovah's character, as revealed in his Name, was "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:5-7). God loves to be reminded of his Name, and to see that it is that on which our hopes of pardon rest; e.g. Numbers 14:17-20; Psalms 25:11; Psalms 86:5, Psalms 86:15; Psalms 130:4; Daniel 9:9.

III. "AND PASSETH BY THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE REMNANT OF HIS HERITAGE." This denotes a continual action on the part of God. Isolated acts of pardon would not meet the case. He comes with his eyes as a flame of fire, and yet he does not "mark iniquities" (Psalms 130:3; and cf. Numbers 23:21). What he commends he practises (Proverbs 19:11). Yet not because of any laxity in his relations to sin, but because of his righteous grace. Such declarations of Divine mercy as the Old Testament is full of can only be perfectly understood when read in the light of the New Testament, and of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, "for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant;" "Whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his Mood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done afore time, in the forbearance of God" (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15).

IV. "HE RETAINETH NOT HIS ANGER FOREVER, BECAUSE HE DELIGHTETH IN MERCY." In the midst of words of grace we have a distinct recognition of anger as one of God's perfections. So in Exodus 34:7, "that will by no means clear the guilty." If he were not angry with sinners he would be less perfect. This truth needs to be emphasized in the present days of superficial views of sin. But if he were to retain his anger forever, it would be fatal (Isaiah 57:16). So "he will not always chide," etc.; he "will not cast off forever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies" (Psalms 103:9; Lamentations 3:31, Lamentations 3:32). And this "because he delighteth in mercy." In its literal sense "he is bent on mercy." Proofs of this crowd on us from every side. We see it in the history of Israel (Nehemiah 9:16-19, Nehemiah 9:26-31; Psalms 78:1-72.), in the cross of Christ (1 John 4:10), in the long lives of many of the most impenitent (Romans 2:4), and in the experience of those who are now rejoicing in salvation (Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7). It is therefore a joy to God to forgive and save. The parables of Luke 15:1-10 remind us of this. The pearl of parables that follows might be called, not "The prodigal son," but "The long suffering and rejoicing father."

V. "HE WILL TURN AGAIN, HE WILL HAVE COMPASSION UPON US." In our idiom "He will again have compassion on us." When God sent Jesus Christ "preaching peace" to Israel, it was no new thing. It was the latest and sublimest illustration of a Divine habit (Hebrews 1:1). In the wilderness days, "he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath" (Psalms 78:38). Thus God treated them all through their history. See the summary of the later history of Judah in 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, "...till there was no remedy," etc. But he again had compassion; he turned again their captivity, according to his promises by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1-6). And though they crucified the Christ, and were "broken off," they are still "beloved for the father's sake." God will again have compassion on them (Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 13:1). "And so all Israel shall be saved." These repeated acts of the mercy in which God delights may encourage the vilest to appeal for forgiveness, "according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies" (Psalms 51:1).

VI. "HE WILL SUBDUE OUR INIQUITIES" He will tread them down, trample them underfoot. One of the marked peculiarities of the Divine forgiveness is the result on the sinner himself. No one pardons with such a good effect on the sinner pardoned. Some are disappointed in those they forgive. Not so God. Whenever he remits sin he reforms the sinner. His salvation being from the love and the power as well as the punishment of sin; a sinner cannot grasp the pardon and neglect the purity. Nor does he desire to. The most sacred motives forbid. The promise of pardon is accompanied with the assurance of the purifying Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Romans 8:1, Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Sin is a serpent to be crushed under the heel (Romans 16:20). It is a foe to be conquered, and who shall be conquered because we are "not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). The victory is God's, though the blessedness of it is ours (Psalms 98:1), "He will subdue our iniquities."

VII. "THOU WILT CAST ALL THEIR SINS INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA." This indicates the completeness of the Divine salvation. Elsewhere we have the promise (Psalms 103:12). Hezekiah says, "Thou hast cast all my sins behind my back," so that the accuser cannot get them without going behind the very throne of God; and God himself will never turn to see them. Here the figure is still more striking; sins cast, not in the shallows, subject to the tidal waves which might throw them up into sight again, but into the depths of the sea (cf. Jer 1:1-19 :20). Other figures are used to teach the same truth—the cloud blotted out, never to be seen again (Isaiah 44:22); sin forgotten, even by God himself (Isaiah 43:25). Such is God's matchless mercy in pardoning sin. And when our sins are finally subdued as well as pardoned, cast into the depths of the sea, while we are standing on the eternal shore, justified, sanctified, glorified, then we shall sing the final song, "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." And because we are already being saved by a God of such matchless mercy, in whom we have placed our trust, we have no fear as to the issue (Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39).

"We lift our hands exulting

In thine Almighty favour,

The love Divine, which made us thine,

Shall keep us thine forever."

E.S.P.

HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND

Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19

A pardoning God.

In the days of Micah the social and religious condition of Jerusalem was deplorable. All through the country evils prevailed, but they were worst at its centre. Instinctively the vicious make their way to a crowded city. If vice is condemned in the nation, its disgracefulness is less conspicuous in a crowd; and if vice is not condemned, the city affords the best opportunities for the gratification of unholy desire. It still needs courage and wisdom to recognize and combat evils prevailing in great cities, and God still requires knights of the cross who will fight, not as of old for the grave of Christ, but for his Church. Micah was one of these. The prevalent sins of the prophet's days were threatening the existence of society, loosening the ties which gave unity to the nation, and dividing into factions members of the same family. The wealthy were sucking the very life blood of the poor, and the judges openly asked for bribes, without the smallest sense of shame; so that the prophets were not only the teachers of truth, but also the tribunes of the people. Unbelief in God lay at the root of such wrong doing, for unless rulers recognize responsibility to him, one of the greatest safeguards against their abuse of authority is destroyed. Persuading themselves that God was such a one as themselves, idolatry prevailed, and although the temple still stood and its worship was as gorgeous as ever, unreality and hypocrisy rendered such religion worse than useless. A few voices were lifted up boldly against this condition of things. Isaiah and Micah stood side by side in their protests, and did much to stem the tide of iniquity. With all their vigorous denunciation of sin, however, hope was constantly held out to the sinner, and never was the mercy of God more clearly set forth than in the words of our text. Seven hundred years after this prophet's death, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem inquiring for him who was born to be the King of the Jews and the Light of the world. They were answered in the words of Micah, and it was through following his directions that they saw and worshipped the infant Jesus. Even in our day we may say, "He being dead yet speaketh," While the splendid orations of Cicero and Demosthenes have no influence over modern society, and the speeches recorded by Tacitus and Thucydides have only their marvellous literary value, the words of thin ancient prophet meet our necessities, give us guidance and comfort, emboldening us to trust in the mercy of a pardoning God. The subject of Divine pardon suggested here will now have our consideration.

I. THE PREROGATIVE OF PARDON IS CLAIMED BY GOD FOR HIMSELF. He knew the needs of his children, and therefore proclaimed his pardoning love from the first. Even amid the terrors of Sinai he revealed himself as a God "pardoning iniquity." David was emboldened to come into his presence, after the commission of most grievous sins, praying, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to thy loving kindness," etc. He pardons of his own free will, because, as Micah says," he delighteth in mercy; and with a perfect knowledge of what is worst in us, he declares his willingness to forgive all who are penitent. This power he has delegated to no man. If Jesus had simply been human, the Pharisees would have been justified in saying, "This man blasphemeth," when he forgave the sins of the paralytic. Nor did our Lord's declaration to his apostles, "Whose sins soever ye remit, they are remitted unto them," endue them with a super natural or exclusive privilege. Their right was only ministerial and declarative, and is shared by all those who, by Divine grace, have been made "kings and priests unto God."

II. DIVINE PARDON SEEMS THE MORE WONDERFUL WHEN COMPARED WITH MAN'S FORGIVENESS. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways," etc. Suppose the case of an employee, who, having robbed his master, is detected, but on evidence of sincere contrition is reinstated in his position. His restitution is accompanied by hard terms, he is watched suspiciously, and his employer considers that he has been exceptionally generous to restore him at all. Contrast this with what our Lord tells of God's pardoning love in his parable of the prodigal son. Instead of being refused, his father sees him "when a great way off;" instead of angry reproaches, he has "compassion upon him;" instead of cold reserve, he falls on his neck, and kisses him; instead of suspicion, there is gladness, and all the house is filled with music and dancing. Or take, as another contrast, the reception given at home to a girl who has gone wrong, with the touching story of our Lord's love to the woman who was a sinner. And Jesus says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?"

III. DIVINE PARDON IS PROFFERED FOE ALL KINDS OF SIN. Different words are used here and elsewhere in order to show that no sort of wrong doing is exempt from pardon; so that the moral and the vicious, those who have sinned inwardly or outwardly, may alike be encouraged to return to the Lord. "Transgression" is an act of evil committed against a Law acknowledged to be holy. It signifies stepping across a line which is drawn and visible. "Inquiry" is the inward tendency which responds to suggestions of evil; which we cannot root out, and which makes self-reformation hopeless. "Sins" are acts done from wrong motives. All these it is promised shall be done away with on our repentance.

IV. DIVINE PARDON IS COMPLETE AND THOROUGH.

1. "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." If we drop a knife into a tidal pool, we can see it and regain it; but if we sail out of sight of land, and drop it overboard in the "depths of the sea," it is gone forever. So completely gone are our forgiven sins.

2. "He will subdue our iniquities." If our nature is not sanctified, we shall only do again our evil deeds. All our affections and thoughts must be subjected to the Divine will, and this can only be the result of God's own work.

CONCLUSION. How can God be just, and yet our Justifier! This mystery, which lies at the root of his moral government, finds its only answer in the cross of Christ. God's laws are eternal and inexorable. He cannot swerve from absolute righteousness. Sin must bring shame, misery, and death, here and hereafter. If, therefore, God had said all shall be overlooked, the penalty shall be removed, the Law repealed, it would appear to myriads of intelligent beings (compared with whose multitude the human race is as nothing) that the Law was either unjust in its enunciation or unjust in its repeal. Yet a sense of the perfect integrity of God is the foundation of his creature's bliss. But the Son of God became the Son of man. He gathered up into himself all the sympathies, powers, and sufferings of our race. He stood forth as our Representative, vindicating the Law by his obedience, and dying on the cross for transgressors. This would evoke grander reverence for Law than if the race had been punished; and such a display of love wins all hearts from disobedience.

"My faith would lay her hand

On that dear head of thine,

While like a penitent I stand,

And there confess my sin."

A.R.

HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS

Micah 7:1-6

The wail of a true patriot on the moral corruptions of his country.

"Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the first ripe fruit," etc. In these verses the prophet bewails the moral condition of his country. The picture he draws of its wickedness is a very hideous one. It answers not only to the character of the people in the reign of Ahaz, but to their character under the reign of other kings and in other times. Take the words as presenting the wail of a true patriot over the moral corruptions of his country. "Woe is me!" etc. He means to say, "It is with me as one seeking fruit after the harvest, grapes after the vintage; there is not one cluster." There are several things that he bemoans.

I. THE DEPARTURE OF EXCELLENCE FROM HIS COUNTRY. "The good man is perished out of the earth." Who are the good men referred to here is not known. The statement is put in general terms, and may imply merely that there are no good men to be found in the country. Or do the words, as some think, point especially to Hezekiah, Josiah, or to good men unknown to fame? They had, however, departed. Whether they had emigrated to distant lands or gone into the great eternity, is not said. The latter is the more probable idea. In any case, the departure of such men is a great loss—a loss which true patriots may well bemoan. Good men are the "lights of the world." They are the "salt of the earth." Their influence penetrates the mass, counteracts its tendency to corruption, removes its moral insipidity, gives it a new spirit—a spirit pungent and savoury. They are the conservators of the good and the peaceful reformers of the bad. "Perished out of the earth." It does not say, "perished out of being." They had left the land, but not the universe. They were thinking, feeling, active still. There is a sense, indeed, in which they could not perish out of the land. Good men leave behind them principles, ideas, a character, which will live and spread and work to the end of time.

II. THE RAMPANCY OF AVARICE IN HIS COUNTRY. The workings of avarice are Indicated in the latter end of the second and two following verses.

1. Here we have its working amongst the general community. "They all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net." To get wealth for themselves was with them such a furious passion, that the rights and lives of others were disregarded. Their avarice was as ravenous as the passion of a wild beast. Nay, they looked upon men only as victims for their prey. Does not this avarice work thus in English society? Man has come to value man just in proportion as he can render him service, enrich his exchequer, and advance his aggrandizement. What nets are spread out in every street, in every mart and office, in every journal, in order to catch men! "They hunt every man."

2. Here we have its working amongst the higher classes. "That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up." The idea seems to be this—that the "great man," the "prince," for some corrupt motive, seeks the condemnation of some innocent person; and the "judge," for a bribe, gratifies his wish. A judge from avarice will pronounce an innocent man guilty. All this is done very industriously "with two hands." The business must be despatched as soon as possible, lest some event should start up to thwart them; and when it is done "they wrap it up." "So they wrap it up." Avarice, like all sinful passions, seeks to wrap up its crimes. But the Authorized Version is probably wrong, and the rendering should be "they weave it together," i.e. join in plotting (see Exposition).

III. THE MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF THE BEST IN HIS COUNTRY. "The best of them is as a briar: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge." There is a gradation of wickedness of the men in the country, but the best of them is like a prickly thorn and worse than a thorn hedge. The prophet is so struck with this that the thought of retribution takes hold of him, and he says, "The day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity."

IV. THE LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS IN THE COUNTRY. "Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide," etc. "Place no faith in a companion; trust not a familiar friend; from her that lieth in thy bosom guard the doors of thy mouth. For the son despiseth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the members of his own family" (Henderson). All social faith was gone; a man had lost all confidence in his brother. social scepticism and suspicion prevailed in all circles. No faith was to be put in a friend. The very lips were to be sealed. No confidence in the wife, no longer was she to be treated as an object of trust. No confidence in the son, the daughter, or the mother. The nearest relations were counted as enemies, "A man's enemies are the men of his own house."

CONCLUSION. Such were the evils over which this patriotic prophet pours forth his lamentations. What right-hearted man would not bewail such a moral corruption in his country? Jeremiah said, "Oh that mine head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night!" etc. Paul said, "Would that I were accursed!" etc. Christ said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" etc. It is the characteristic of a true patriot that he feels a deeper concern for the moral state of his country than for its educational or commercial condition.—D.T.

Micah 7:7-9

The possibilities of godly men falling into great trouble.

"Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me," etc. The prophet, having reverted in the preceding verses of this chapter to the wickedness of his people, which he had before depicted in most dark and dreadful colours, here proceeds to represent them in their state of captivity, reduced to repentance, and yearning for that Divine interposition which would involve the complete destruction of their enemies. I take the words as exhibiting the possibilities of godly?

I. THE POSSIBILITY OF GODLY MEN FALLING INTO GREAT TROUBLE. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise." Who is the enemy here referred to scarcely matters, whether Babylon, Edom, or some other persons or peoples. All godly men have ever had their enemies. All who have ever endeavoured to lead a godly life have suffered persecution in some mode and measure. Two things are referred to here concerning the trouble.

1. It was a "fall." Godly men are liable to many falls—falls from health to sickness, from wealth to poverty, from social friendship to desolation; but the greatest fail is moral—the fall of character. To this the best of men are liable, e.g. Moses, David, Peter.

2. The trouble was a "darkness." "When I sit in darkness." Light and darkness are frequently used for prosperity and adversity. There are many things that darken the soul. Disappointment is a cloud, remorse is a cloud, despair is a cloud. Some of these clouds often mantle the mental heaven in sackcloth. Godly men are often permitted to walk in darkness and to have no light.

II. THE POSSIBILITY OF GODLY MEN BEING GLORIOUSLY SUSTAINED IN TROUBLE. "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation," etc. The godly man has a power within him, with the Divine help, of lifting his soul above the crushing cares, sufferings, and sorrows of life. "Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." How does he do it?

1. By looking at God. "Therefore I will look unto the Lord." The man who fastens his eyes on the sun becomes unconscious of the small things around him. The soul which feels God to be the grand object in its horizon can scarcely fail to be buoyant and courageous.

2. By waiting upon God. "I will wait for the God of my salvation." He is sure to come to my deliverance; it is only a question of time, and I will wait. As the farmer in the snows and storms of winter waits for the vernal season, certain that it will come, so the godly man, in trial, waits for God's approach.

3. By trusting in God. "My God will hear me." He has promised,, to do so; he has done so before; he is a prayer hearing God. He has said, "Unto that man will I look," etc.

4. By submitting to God. "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him." I will not repine nor rebel under my suffering; I will bow to his will, for I deserve punishment, as I have sinned against him. The sufferings I endure are insignificant compared to the sins I have committed.

5. By hoping for God. "He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh with the morning." Thus it is possible for godly men to rise in courage and even triumph in the greatest calamities. Sunk in the deepest affliction, they may look their enemies in the face and say, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise." Though l am now down, I shall rise again. Blessed hope!

"It whispers o'er the cradled child

Fast locked in peaceful sleep,

Ere its pure soul is sin beguiled,

Ere sorrow bids it weep.

"It soothes the mother's ear with hope,

Like sweet bells' silver chime,

And bodies forth the unknown scope

Of dark, mysterious Time!

"'Tis heard in manhood's risen day,

And nerves the soul to might,

When life shines forth with fullest ray,

Forewarning least of night.

"It speaks of noble ends to gain,

A world to mend by love

That tempers strength of hand and brain

With softness of the dove.

"It falls upon the aged ear

Though deaf to human voice,

And when man's evening doses drear,

It bids him still rejoice.

"It tells of bliss beyond the grave,

The parted souls to thrill—

The guerdon of the truly brave

Who fought the powers of ill."
(Household Words.)

―D.T.

Micah 7:10

Religious persecutors.

"Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets." "And may mine enemy see it, and shame cover her who hath said to me, Where is Jehovah thy God? Mine eyes will see it; now will she be for a treading down like mire in the streets" (Delitzsch). "Although, for example, God had given up his nation to the power of its enemies, the nations of the world, on account of its sins, so that they accomplished the will of God by destroying the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and carrying away the people into exile; yet they grew proud of their own might in so doing, and did not recognize themselves as instruments of punishment in the hand of the Lord, but attributed their victories to the power of their own arm, and even amidst the destruction of Israel with scornful defiance of the living God. Thus they violated the rights of Israel, so that the Lord was obliged to conduct the contest of his people with the heathen, and secure the rights of Israel by the overthrow of the heathen power of the world" (ibid.). The words present to us a few thoughts concerning

I. THEIR HUMILIATING VISION. "Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her." "See" what? The deliverance, the exaltation which God wrought for the victims. Few things are more painful to a malign nature than to witness the prosperity and happiness of the object of its intense aversion. Every beam of delight in the hated one falls as fire on the soul nerves of the hater. Witness Haman and Mordecai. It is destined that every ungodly persecutor shall witness one day the happiness of the godly whom he has tormented. The songs of the martyr shall fall on the ears of the human demons that forged his chains, kindled his fires, and tortured him when living. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Another thing in the passage presented to us concerning religious persecutors is—

II. THEIR TAUNTING SPIRIT. "Where is the Lord thy God?" Scorn is one of the leading dements in the soul of the persecutor. "My tears," said David, "have been my food day and night, while mine enemies continually say, Where is now thy God?" Again, "Mine enemies reproach, saying daily unto me, Where is thy God?" Again, "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?" How this taunting spirit was shown in those who persecuted and put to death the Son of God! "They that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40). The taunting spirit is generally malific. It is fiendish, has in it the venom of hell. The taunting spirit is generally haughty. "Proud and haughty scorner is his name" (Proverbs 21:24). The taunting spirit is generally ignorant. He who deals in ridicule generally lacks the power of information and argument.

III. THEIR UTTER RUIN. "Now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets." There is a God that judges on the earth, and his retributive forces are ever on the heels of crime. The blood of martyrs cries to heaven, and stirs these forces to action. "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10).

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones

Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,

Forget not: in thy book record their groans

Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rooks. Their moans

The vales redoubled to the hills, and they

To heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
O'er all th' Italian fields, where still doth sway

The triple tyrant; that from these may grow

A hundredfold, who, having learned thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe."
(Milton.)

D.T.

Micah 7:11, Micah 7:12

The good time coming.

"In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed. In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain." The prophet here speaks in the name of Israel, and seems to exult in the expectation of the full restoration of Jerusalem. Her walls would be rebuilt, and her scattered citizens would be gathered unto her from Assyria to Egypt, from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain. "The most natural construction," says Henderson, "is that the decree of God respecting the political changes that were to take place was not to be confined to Babylon, but was to be extended to all the countries round about Judaea, in consequence of which great numbers would become proselytes to the Jewish faith?" The words may be used to illustrate two things concerning the good time coming.

I. IT WILL BE A TIME FOR REBUILDING THE RUINED. "In the day that thy walls are to be built." The walls of Jerusalem are referred to—the walls of fortification, protection; these are to be rebuilt. Daniel said that they were to be rebuilt in troublesome times (Daniel 9:25). There is, however, a more important rebuilding than this—a rebuilding that is going on, and will go on; until the great, moral city shall be complete.

1. The human soul is a building. It is a temple, a "spiritual house" reared as a residence for the Eternal, a home for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. It is "a city whose Builder and Maker is God."

2. The human soul is a building in ruins. The walls are broken down; its columns, arches, roof, rooms, all in ruins.

3. The human soul is a building to be rebuilt. Christ is to be the Foundationstone, etc. "Ye are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22). This rebuilding is going on according to a plan of the great moral Architect; is being worked out by agents that know nothing of the plan. It will be completed one day; the topstone will be brought forth one day, with shouts of "Grace, grace!" (Zechariah 4:7). This new Jerusalem established on earth, what a magnificent city it will be! The words may be used to illustrate another thing concerning the good time coming.

II. IT WILL BE A TIME FOR REGATHERING THE SCATTERED. "In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortresses even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain." "All," says an old writer, "that belong to the land of Israel, whithersoever dispersed and however distressed, far and wide over the face of the whole earth, shall come flocking to it again. He shall come even to thee, having liberty to return and a heart to return from Assyria, whither the ten tribes were carried away, though it lay remote from the fortified cities and from the fortress—those strongholds in which they thought they had them fast; for when God's time comes, though Pharaoh will not let the people go, God will fetch them out with a high hand. They shall come from all the remote parts, from sea to sea, and mountain to mountain, not turning back for fear of your discouragements, but they shall go from strength to strength, till they come to Zion" The human family, which Heaven intended to live as one grand brotherhood, has been riven into moral sections, antagonistic to each other, and scattered all over the world. The time will come when they shall be gathered together, not, of course, in a local sense, but in a spiritual—in unity of sentiment, sympathy, aim, soul. All shall be one in Christ. They will be gathered in spirit together from the four winds of heaven.

CONCLUSION. Haste this good time! May the chariot wheels of Providence revolve with greater speed!

"One song employs all nations; and all cry,
'Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!'
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy;
Till, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous Hosanna round."

(Cowper.) ― D.T.

Micah 7:13

Man's ruin the fruit of his own conduct.

"Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings." Here is a prediction of what would take place before the advent of those glorious events pointed out in the preceding verses. There will be a dark night before the morning, a great storm before the calm. The subject here is—Man's ruin the fruit of his own conduct. The reason why the land should be "desolate" before the coming of the glorious times is here stated—"for the fruit of their doings." That man's ruin springs from his conduct is demonstrated by universal experience as well as by the Word of God. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself... O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity" (Hosea 13:9; Hosea 14:1). It is the man who heareth the sayings of Christ and doeth them not that will be ruined at last. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Assuming it to be a fact that man's ruin is evermore the fruit of his own conduct, four things follow.

I. THAT HIS MISERY WILL BE IDENTIFIED WITH REMORSE. Morally it is impossible for a man to ascribe his ruin to his organization, to circumstances, or to any force over which he has no control. He must feel that he has brought it on himself; and this feeling it is that makes his miserable condition a very hell. The suffering of remorse is the soul of suffering. "A wounded spirit who can bear?"

II. THAT IN HIS SUFFERINGS HE MUST VINDICATE THE DIVINE CHARACTER. Forced to see and feel that all his sin and miseries spring from his own conduct, he will be compelled to say, "Just and right art thou," etc. (Revelation 15:3). Into the deepest heart of such God speaks the words, "They hated knowledge, they despised all my reproof; therefore shall they eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices" (Proverbs 1:29). All their misery is but the eating of the fruit of their own doings; they reap that which they have sown. As fruit answers to seed, as echoes to sound, their calamities answer to their conduct.

III. THAT HIS SALVATION FROM RUIN REQUIRES A CHANGE OF LIFE. Men's conduct is fashioned and ruled by their likings and dislikings, their sympathies and antipathies; in other words, if their conduct is bad, it can only be made good by a change of heart. "Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again."

IV. THAT CHRISTIANITY IS THE ONLY SYSTEM THAT CAN MEET HIS CASE. The mission of Christianity is to change the heart, to renew the life, and effect a spiritual reformation. This it is designed to do, this it is fitted to do, this it has done, this it is doing; and no other system on earth is capable of accomplishing this work.—D.T.

Micah 7:14

A prayer.

"Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old." Here is a prayer addressed by the prophet to Almighty God. It is brief, but beautiful, beautiful in spirit and style. It has a prophetic aspect. This prayer recognizes three things.

I. AN INTERESTING RELATION BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE, FLOCK AND SHEPHERD. The Jews, here as elsewhere, are metaphorically referred to as a flock, and Jehovah as their Shepherd (Psalms 80:1; Psalms 95:7, etc.). "The Lord is my Shepherd;" "I am the good Shepherd." What a Shepherd is he!

1. He is the absolute Owner of the flock. "My sheep are mine, and I know them." "All souls are mine." How incalculably valuable is one soul!—a free, ever active, influential, undying spirit! How rich is this Shepherd, to own untold millions of such!

2. He has a perfect knowledge of the flock. He knows what they are, what they have been, what they will be through all the future. "I know my sheep," etc. (John 10:1-42.).

3. He has an infinite love for the flock. The good Shepherd hath laid down his life for them

4. He has abundant supplies for the flock. Though their wants are varied, numerous, urgent, ever-recurring, he is able to meet them all. "I give unto my sheep eternal life, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands;" "He is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20); "Feed thy people with thy rod," or staff. It recognizes—

II. THE TRYING CONDITION IN WHICH GOD'S PEOPLE ARE SOMETIMES FOUND. "Which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel." The primary reference is to their captivity in Babylon. (For another view, see Exposition.) They were as sheep in the forest or wood; in danger of being lost in the thickets or being devoured by beasts of prey. Human souls in this world are in a moral wilderness; beset with perils on every hand. "They are scattered on the mountains as sheep having no shepherd." Two facts render this condition peculiarly distressing.

1. It is caused by self. Souls have not been driven away into moral captivity. "All we like sheep have gone astray."

2. It is undeliverable by self. No soul ever found its way back to God by its own unaided efforts; hence Christ came to "seek and to save the lost."

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF RESTORATION TO FORMER ENJOYMENTS. "Lot; them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old." The regions of Bashan and Gilead, on the east of the Jordan, were celebrated for their rich pasturage, and on this account were chosen by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 12:1-16.; Deuteronomy 3:17). Morally, the great need of man is the restoration of normal rights, normal virtues, normal enjoyments.

"Good Shepherd, hasten thou that glorious day,

When we shall all

In the one fold abide with thee for aye!"

D.T.

Micah 7:15-17

The ultimate deliverance of man from sin.

"According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their cars shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee." In this passage there is an answer to the prophet's prayer. It contains a Divine assurance that wonders analogous to those displayed in the deliverance of the Jaws from Egypt would be vouchsafed in their deliverance from Babylonish captivity; and that the display of those wonders would lead to the utter confusion and ruin of the "nations" who were their enemies. They would feel that all their strength was contemptible impotence in the presence of God's great power. This deliverance, thus described, resembles the ultimate deliverance of man from sin and ruin in two respects.

I. IT INVOLVES THE EXHIBITION OF THE MARVELLOUS. There were "marvellous things" shown when the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt; marvellous things when they were brought out of Babylonian captivity; but these marvellous things are but mere shadows of the marvels displayed in the moral redemption of mankind. The incarnation of Christ; the wonders that his mighty hand performed; the extraordinary phenomena connected with his death, his resurrection, and ascension to heaven; the revolutions in the moral character and institutions of mankind;—all these are, in truth the wonders of the wonderful, the marvels of the marvellous.

II. IT INVOLVES THE CONFUSION OF ENEMIES. "The nations shall be confounded at their might, they shall lay their hand upon their mouth," etc. As Egypt and Babylon were confounded, humbled, and terrified at God's marvels in their deliverance, so will all the spiritual foes of Christ be ultimately overwhelmed at the wonders displayed at the redemption of the world. Matthew Henry's remarks on this passage are worth quoting. "1. Those that had exulted over the people of God in their distress, and gloried that when they had them down they would keep them down, shall be confounded when they see them thus surprisingly rising up; they shall be confounded at all the might with which the captives shall now exert themselves, whom they thought forever disabled. They shall now lay their hands upon their mouths as being ashamed of what they have said, and not be able to say any more by way of triumph over Israel. Nay, their ears shall be deaf too, so much so that they shall be ashamed at the wonderful deliverance; they shall stop their ears as being not willing to hear any more of God's wonders wrought for that people whom they had so despised and exulted over.

2. Those that had impudently confronted God himself shall now be struck with a fear of him, and thereby brought, in profession at least, to submit w him. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall be so mortified as if they were to be sentenced to the same curse the serpent was laid under (Genesis 3:14). They shall be brought to the lowest abasements imaginable, and shall be so dispirited that they shall tamely submit to them. They shall lick the dust of the Church's feet (Isaiah 49:23). Proud oppressors shall be made sensible how mean and little they are before the great God; and they shall with trembling and the lowest submission move out of the holes into which they had crept, like worms of the earth as they are, being ashamed and afraid to show their heads; so low shall they be brought and such abjects shall they be when they are abased. When God did wonders for his Church, many of the people of the land became Jews because the fear of the Jews and of their God fell on them (Esther 8:17). So it is promised here that they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee, O Israel! Forced submissions are often feigned submissions; yet they redound to the glory of God and the Church, though not to the benefit of the dissemblers themselves."—D.T.

Micah 7:18

The incomparableness of God illustrated in his forgiveness of sin: 1. The nature of his forgiveness.

"Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?" The prophet here—anticipating the full deliverance, not only of the Jews from Babylonian captivity, but probably of humanity itself from the curse of sin through Jesus Christ—breaks forth in a sublime strain of praise and admiration in relation to the incomparable character of God. "Who is a God like unto thee?" The subject of the two verses (18, 19) is Divine forgiveness, its nature, its source, and its completeness. We shall confine ourselves now to the nature of Divine forgiveness. God's forgiveness here is represented in the words, he "passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage." This does not mean that God is unobservant of sin, for all things are naked and open unto him; nor that it is not an offence to him, for it is "an abomination in his sight" but that he regards it in no fault-finding spirit, but with a noble generosity. As loving parents are disposed to overlook much in their children of which they cannot approve, the great Father is disposed to overlook much. "He is not strict to mark iniquity." He passes it by, pursues his benevolent march as if it did not exist. Theology, which has thrown a haze over many of the bright things of revelation, has clouded this, one of its most glorious orbs. Forgetting that the Bible is a popular book, using language in accommodation to our habits of thought and expression, it has constructed its theories upon the etymology of words. The truth and pertinence of this remark will be seen if, at the outset, we consider the very diversified forms in which the Bible represents to us the doctrine of Divine forgiveness. Generally, indeed, I find it set forth under figures corresponding to the aspects in which sin stands before the mind of the writer at the time. For example—

I. WHEN SIN APPEARS AS A DEBT, AN UNFULFILLED OBLIGATION, THEN PARDON IS SPOKEN OF AS A CANCELING. Thus in the forty-third chapter of Isaiah Jehovah is represented as saying, "I, even I, am he who blotteth out thy transgressions;" and Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, exhorts his vast auditory to "repent, that their sins may be blotted out" When a man has paid his debts, or when some one else has discharged them, the creditor takes his pen in hand and strikes from the ledger both the name of the debtor and the amount. But sin is a debt in a very figurative sense, and therefore such representations of pardon must not be taken in a literal meaning.

II. WHEN SIN APPEARS AS AN ESTRANGEMENT FROM GOD, THEN FORGIVENESS IS REPRESENTED AS RECONCILIATION. But as the estrangement is not mutual, it being exclusively on man's part; in the reconciliation there is no mutual change of mind. God cannot change, and need not change, to be reconciled to the sinner.

III. WHEN SIN APPEARS AS AN INDICTMENT, FORGIVENESS IS SPOKEN OF AS A JUSTIFICATION. But justification can in the nature of the case have but a very remote resemblance to the forensic term as used by men. In civil justification, for instance, the charge has been found false, the accused demands justification as a right, and retires from the court with a high sense of insulted innocence.

IV. WHEN SIN APPEARS AS A POLLUTION, FORGIVENESS IS REPRESENTED AS A CLEANSING. Hence we read of Christ's blood cleansing from all sin. But it is only in a very figurative sense that you can employ the word "washing" to the mind, which is an invisible and impalpable power.

V. WHEN SIN APPEARS AS A DISEASE, FORGIVENESS IS REPRESENTED AS A HEALING. "I will heal your backsliding;" "I am come to bind up the broken hearted."

VI. WHEN KIN APPEARS AS AN OBSTRUCTION BETWEEN THE SOUL AND GOD, FORGIVENESS IS REPRESENTED AS A CLEARING. The mountains are levelled, the clouds are dispersed, the foes are crushed and are buried as Pharaoh and his host were buried in the depths of the sea. There are three points of contrast between Divine forgiveness and human.

1. In human governments forgiveness is exercised with most cautious limitations. Human Sovereigns, however generous their natures, can only bestow pardon on a few out of numerous criminals. Were forgiveness to become general, the power of the government to maintain order would be weakened. There is no such limitation to the exercise of this prerogative in God. He offers pardon to all.

2. In human forelimbs there is no guarantee against future criminality. The prisoner pardoned by a human Sovereign may be inspired by gratitude and prompted perhaps to resolve upon a life of future obedience, and yet his heart remain unchanged. The principles that led to his crime may still be in him, and, being there, they may break forth again. But in Divine forgiveness it is not so. The pardoned man is a changed man: he has a new heart put within him—a heart inspired with such love to the Sovereign as will secure a joyous and constant obedience.

3. Human forgiveness can never put the criminal in such a good position as he had before his transgression. He has his freedom as before, but he has not his self-respect, he has not the same standing in society; his contemporaries will never look upon him in the same light again. Some will shun him, others will suspect him, and few will venture to give him their confidence and their love. But in Divine forgiveness the criminal is raised to a higher status even than that of innocence. I know not whether the angels would have been his servants had he never fallen; but after his forgiveness they become so. They rejoice with him on his conversion, they cheer him on his pilgrimage, they bear him on their pinions to their heavenly scenes. He is brought into an "innumerable company of angels." We see partially from his state in Eden what relations man would have entered into with his Maker had he never sinned; but I believe that he never would have had what the pardoned sinner has - the honour of seeing his Maker, in the Person of Jesus, on the throne of the universe, gazed on by every eye and worshipped by every eye and worshipped by every heart.—D.T.

Micah 7:18

The incomparableness of God illustrated in his forgiveness of sin: 2. The source of his forgiveness.

"He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy." Anger in God is not passion, but principle; not antagonism to existence, but to the evils that curse existence. His anger is but love excited against everything that tends to disturb the harmony, cloud the brightness, and injure the happiness of his creation. "Fury is not in me," etc. (Isaiah 27:4). Here is the source of forgiveness: "He delighteth in mercy."

I. FORGIVENESS IS A MERCIFUL ACT. It is not an act of equity, but of compassion; not of justice, but of love. It is the prerogative of mercy. "The Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Again, "The Lord is long suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression." It is mercy that cancels the debt, blots out the cloud, effects the reconciliation, cleanses the stain, and heals the disease. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done," etc. All the redeemed in heaven acknowledge this: "Unto him that loved us, and washed [loosed] us from our sins in his own blood," etc. (Revelation 1:5).

II. THIS ACT OF MERCY IS THE DELIGHT OF GOD. "He delighteth in mercy." Mercy is a modification of benevolence. It always implies misery, for if there were no misery there would be no mercy. Whilst God does not delight in misery, he delights in removing it. What greater delight has a loving parent than in restoring to health and vigour a diseased and suffering child? To a true soul the delight of moral restoration is even greater than this. A noble father has perhaps more delight in the virtues and fellowship of the son whom he has been the means of raising from moral depravity to spiritual purity and power, than in those of the one who has always pursued the virtuous way. It is thus with him from whom all human love proceeds, he delights in mercy. Will not the song of the redeemed have more music in his ear than the lofty strains of those who have never fallen? He delights to welcome to his besom and his home his returning prodigals.

1. If he delights in mercy, then hush forever the pulpits that blasphemously represent him as malign. The God that you have in the Calvinian theology is not the God of the Bible, but the God of ill-natured, morose, and vindictive souls. Hence the masses of England turn away in horror from some modern pulpits. "He delighteth in mercy." Let us declare this! "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc.; "Come, let us reason together," etc.; "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden," etc.

2. If he delights in mercy, then let no sinner despair on account of the enormity of his sins. Let all the sins of the world be embodied in one man's life; let that one man return to God, and he will "abundantly pardon" him, He will do it, not reluctantly, not half-heartedly, but with aboundings of joy. He will rejoice over you. "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth," etc.

3. If he delights in mercy, may we not hope that one day there will come an end to all the misery of the moral universe? "He retaineth not his anger forever" Who shall say but in some distant future, by some way not revealed, every discord in the moral universe shall be hushed, every prison opened, all sufferers delivered, and all hells quenched? What generous heart would not a thousand times rather believe in this, if they could, than in eternal torment or utter extinction?—D.T.

Micah 7:19

The incomparableness of God illustrated in his forgiveness of sin: 3. The completeness of his forgiveness.

"He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." The reference is here, perhaps, to the destruction of Pharaoh and his host. "He will destroy their sins as he destroyed them, and buried them in the depths of the sea" (Exodus 15:4, Exodus 15:10).

I. THE ENTIRE SUBJUGATION OF ALL SINS. "Sin," says Henderson, "must ever be regarded as hostile to man. It is not only contrary to his interests, but it powerfully opposes and combats the moral principles of his nature and the higher principles implanted by grace; and, but for the counteracting energy of Divine influence, must prove victorious. Without the subjugation of evil propensities, pardon would not be a blessing. If the idolatrous and rebellious disposition of the Jews had not been subdued during their stay in Babylon, they would not have been restored." Sin is the enemy of all enemies. If it is in us, it sets the holy, happy heavens against us. Take it from us, and hell becomes our minister for good. This God subdues. In truth, Divine forgiveness is the destruction of sin in us, nothing else. It is not something outside; it is all within.

II. THE ENTIRE SUBMISSION OF ALL SIN. "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea? Forgiveness is deliverance from sin. How strong is the imagery employed in the Bible to represent the completeness of this deliverance! It is as the blotting out of a thick cloud." See that dark mass of cloud up yonder; how it hides the sun and chills the air! A breeze has sprung up, and it is gone—the sky is azure, the scene is bright, and the flowing air warm with life. That cloud can never come again; no more may thy sins. It is as the throwing of them behind God. "Thou hast cast all my sine behind thy back." Who knows where the beck of God is? I see his face in nature. His smiles are the beauty of the world. I see his face in Jesus, "the Brightness of his glory." But where is his back? It is the fathomless abyss of nothingness. It is a separation as far as the east is from the west. Tell me the distance from the east to the west, and I will tell you the distance which the pardoned. sinner is from sin. It is a casting them into the "depths of the sea." Not on the shore, to be washed back by the incoming waves, but into the "depths." Into the abysses of some mighty Atlantic, where no storms shall stir them up, no trump shall wake them from their graves. "In those days, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and shall not be found." But where are they buried? In the forgetfulness of infinite love. "I will remember their sin no more." Can Infinite Intelligence forget? Yes, and his forgetfulness is one of the radiant attributes of his character. Does not all true forgiveness involve forgetfulness? Those who say they forgive and cannot forget, lack the faculty of forgiveness; as yet, Heaven has not endowed them with the power of granting absolution. It is of the very nature of love to hide injuries. Charity covereth sins. God has the power of forgetting injuries, because he is Love. I see the power of love in hiding injuries working everywhere in nature. The sea hastes to cover up the wounds which ruthless ships have ploughed into its noble besom. The tree, bleeding with the sores which the woodman has inflicted, loses no time in its efforts to conceal the marks of violence it has received. Day by day goes on, until the year comes round, when, amidst its luxurious foliage you look in vain foe the old scars. And thus, as the waves of the sea and the flowing sap, love ever works. It hastes to cover up from the eye of memory the injuries it has received. How soon the love of a wife buries in forgetfulness any injuries she has received from the man she loves too well! The countless pains which the thoughtlessness and waywardness of children in their early days inflict upon the parental heart are soon buried in the sea of parental love. Love digs in the heart of parents a grave for the wrongs, and builds a museum for the virtues of their children. All this is of God, God-like. Infinite love "passeth by the transgression." He leaves it behind him as he proceeds, in the majesty of his goodness, to diffuse wider and wider forever the blessedness of his own being.—D.T.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Micah 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/micah-7.html. 1897.