Pulpit Commentary - Micah 6:1 - 6:16

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Pulpit Commentary - Micah 6:1 - 6:16

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Verse 6:1-7:20

Part III. In this address, which is later than the preceding parts, the prophet sets forth the way of salvation: PUNISHMENT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIN; REPENTANCE IS THE ONLY GROUND FOR HOPE OF PARTICIPATING IN THE COVENANT MERCIES.


1. God's controversy with his people for their ingratitude.


Hear ye now. The whole nation is addressed and bidden to give heed to God's pleading. Arise, contend thou. These are God's words to Micah, bidding him put himself in his people's place, and plead as advocate before the great inanimate tribunal. Before the mountains; i.e. in the presence of the everlasting hills, which have as it were witnessed God's gracious dealings with his people from old time and Israel's long ingratitude (comp. Mic_1:2).


Hear ye, O mountains. Insensate nature is called upon as a witness. (For similar appeals, comp. Deu_4:26; Deu_32:1; Isa_1:2; Jer_22:29.) The Lord's controversy. So God calls his pleading with his people to show them their sin and thankless unbelief; as he says in Isa_1:18, "Come, and let us reason together" (comp. Hos_4:1; Hos_12:2). Ye strong (enduring) foundations of the earth. The mountains are called everlasting (Gen_49:26; Deu_33:15), as being firm, unchangeable, and as compared with man's life and doings, which are but transitory. The LXX. offers an interpretation as well as a translation, Αἱ φάραγγες θεμέλια τῆς γῆς , "Ye valleys, the foundations of the earth." With his people. It is because Israel is God's people that her sin is so heinous, and that God condescends to plead with her. He would thus touch her conscience by recalling his benefits. So in the following verses.


O my people. The controversy takes the form of a loving expostulation; and thus in his wonderful condescension Jehovah opens the suit. What have I done unto thee? What has occasioned thy fall from me? Hast thou aught to accuse me of, that thou art wearied of me? Have my requirements been too hard, or have I not kept my promises to thee (comp. Isa_43:23, etc.; Jer_2:5)? Testify. A judicial term; make a formal defence or reply to judicial interrogatories; depose (Num_35:30) (Pusey).


God answers his own question by recounting some of his chief mercies to Israel. He has not burdened the people, but loaded them with benefits. I brought thee up, etc. The Exodus was the most wonderful instance of God's intervention and to it the prophets often refer (comp. Isa_63:11, etc.; Jer_2:6; Amo_2:10). Out of the house of servants; of bondage , quoting the language of the Pentateuch, to show the greatness of the benefit (Exo_13:3, Exo_13:14; Deu_8:14, etc.). I sent before thee. As leaders of the Lord's flock (Psa_77:20). Moses, the inspired leader, teacher, and lawgiver. Aaron, the priest, the director of Divine worship. Miriam, the prophetess, who led the praises of the people at their great deliverance (Exo_15:20), and who probably was charged with some special mission to the women of Israel (see Num_12:1, Num_12:2).


The Lord reminds the people of another great benefit subsequent to the Exodus, viz. the defeat of the designs of Balak, and the sorceries of Balaam. Consulted. United with the elders of Midian in a plot against thee (see Num_22:1-41. etc.). Answered him. There ought to be a stop here. The answer of Balaam was the blessing which he was constrained to give, instead of the curse which he was hired to pronounce (comp. Jos_24:10). From Shittim unto Gilgal. This is a fresh consideration, referring to mercies under Joshua, and may be made plainer by inserting "remember" (which has, perhaps, dropped out of the text), as in the Revised Version. Shittim was the Israelites' last station before crossing the Jordan, and Gilgal the first in the land of Canaan; and so God bids them remember all that happened to them between those places—their sin in Shittim and the mercy then shown them (Num_25:1-18.), the miraculous passage of the Jordan, the renewal of the covenant at Gilgal (Jos_5:9). Shittim; the acacia meadow (Abel-Shittim), hod. Ghor-es-Seisaban, was at the southeastern corner of the Ciccar, or Plain of Jordan, some seven miles from the Dead Sea. Gilgal (see note on Amo_4:4). That ye may know the righteousness (righteous acts) of the Lord. All these instances of God's interposition prove how faithful he is to his promises, how he cares for his elect, what are his gracious counsels towards them (see the same expression, Jdg_5:11; 1Sa_12:7).


§ 2. The people, awakened to its ingratitude and need of atonement, asks how to please God, and is referred for answer to the moral requirements of the Law.


It is greatly doubted who is the speaker here. Bishop Butler, in his sermon "Upon the Character of Balaam," adopts the view that Balak is the speaker of Mic_6:6 and Mic_6:7, and Balaam answers in Mic_6:8. Knabenbauer considers Micah himself as the interlocutor, speaking in the character of the people; which makes the apparent change of persons in verse 8 very awkward. Most commentators, ancient and modern, take the questions in verses 6 and 7 to be asked by the people personified, though they are not agreed as to the spirit from which they proceed, some thinking that they are uttered in self-righteousness, as if the speakers had done all that and more than could be required of them; others regarding the inquiries as representing a certain acknowledgment of sin and a desire for means of propitiation, though there is exhibited a want of appreciation of the nature of God and of the service which alone is acceptable to him. The latter view is most reasonable, and in accordance with Micah's manner. Wherewith; i.e. with what offering? The prophet represents the congregation as asking him to tell them how to propitiate the offended Lord, and obtain his favour. Come before; go to meet, appear in the presence of the Lord. Septuagint, καταλάβω , "attain to." Bow myself before the high God; literally, God of the height, who has his throne on high (Isa_33:5; Isa_57:15); Vulgate, curvabo genu Deo excelso; Septuagint, ἀντιλήψομαι Θεοῦ μου ὑψίστου , "shall I lay hold of my God most high." Calves of a year old. Such were deemed the choicest victims (comp. Exo_12:5; Le Exo_9:2, Exo_9:3).


Thousands of rams, as though the quantity enhanced the value, and tended to dispose the Lord to regard the offerer's thousandfold sinfulness with greater favour. Ten thousands of rivers (torrents, as in Job_20:17) of oil. Oil was used in the daily meal offering, and in that which accompanied every burnt offering (see Exo_29:40; Le Exo_7:10-12; Num_15:4, etc.). The Vulgate has a different reading, In multis millibus hircorum pinguium; so the Septuagint, ἐν μυριάσι χιμάρων [ ἀρνῶν , Alex.] πτόνων , "with ten thousands of fat goats," so also the Syriac. The alteration has been introduced probably with some idea of making the parallelism more exact. Shall I give my firstborn? Micah exactly represents the people's feeling; they would do anything but what God required; they would make the costliest sacrifice, even, m their exaggerated devotion, holding themselves ready to make a forbidden offering; but they would not attend to the moral requirements of the Law. It is probably by a mere hyperbole that the question in the text is asked. The practice of human sacrifice was founded on the notion that man ought to offer to God his dearest and costliest, and that the acceptability of an offering was proportioned to its preciousness. The Hebrews had learned the custom from their neighbours, e.g. the Phoenicians and Moabites, and had for centuries offered their children to Moloch, in defiance of the stern prohibitions of Moses and their prophets (Le 18:21; 2Ki_16:3; Isa_57:5). They might have learned, from many facts and inferences, that man's self-surrender was not to be realized by this ritual; the sanctity of human life (Gen_9:6), the substitution of the ram for Isaac (Gen_22:13), the redemption of the firstborn (Exo_13:13), all made for this truth. But the heathen idea retained its hold among them, so that the inquiry above is in strict keeping with the circumstances. The fruit of my body; i.e. the rest of my children (Deu_28:4).


The prophet answers in his own person the questions in Mic_6:6 and Mic_6:7, by showing the worthlessness of outward observances when the moral precepts and not observed. He hath showed thee; literally, one has told thee, or, it has been told thee, i.e. by Moses and in the Law (Deu_10:12, etc.). Septuagint, Εἰ ἀνηγγέλη σοι ,"Hath it not been told thee?" What doth the Lord require of thee? The prophets often enforce the truth that the principles of righteous conduct are required from men, and not mere formal worship. This might well be a comfort to the Israelites when they heard that they were doomed to be cast out of their country, and that the temple was to be destroyed, and that the ritual on which they laid such stress would for a time become impracticable. So the inculcation of moral virtues is often connected with the prediction of woe or captivity. (For the prophetic view of the paramount importance of righteousness, see 1Sa_15:22; Psa_40:6, etc.: Psa_50:8, etc.; Isa_1:11-17; Jer_6:20; Hos_6:6, etc.; see on Zec_7:7.) To do justly. To act equitably, to hurt nobody by word or deed, which was the exact contrary of the conduct previously mentioned (Mic_2:1, Mic_2:2, Mic_2:8; Mic_3:2, etc.). To love mercy. To be guided in conduct to others by loving kindness. These two rules contain the whole duty to the neighbour. Compare Christ's description of genuine religion (Mat_23:23). To walk humbly with thy God. This precept comprises man's duty to God, humility and obedience. "To walk" is an expression implying "to live and act" as the patriarchs are said to have "walked with God," denoting that they lived as consciously under his eye and referred all their actions to him. Humility is greatly enforced in the Scriptures (see e.g. Isa_2:11, etc.). Septuagint, ἕτοιμον εἶναι τοῦ πορεύεσθαι μετὰ Κυρίου , "to be ready to walk with the Lord;" Vulgate, Solicitum ambulare cum Deo; Syriac, "Be prepared to follow thy God." But our version is doubtless correct.


§ 3. Because Israel was very far from acting in this spirit, God sternly rebukes her for prevailing sins.


The Lord's voice (Isa_30:31; Joe_2:11; Amo_1:2). These are no longer the words of the prophet, but those of God himself, and not spoken in secret, but unto the city, that all may hear the sentence who dwell in Jerusalem. The man of wisdom shall see thy Name; i.e. he who is wise regards thy Name and obeys time, does not simply hear, but profits by what he hears. The reading is uncertain. Others render, "Blessed is he who sees thy Name;" but the construction is against this. Others, "Thy Name looketh to wisdom" (or prosperity), has the true wisdom of life in sight. The versions read "fear" for "see." Thus the LXX; Σώσει φοβουμένους τὸ Ονομα αὐτοῦ , "Shall save those that fear his Name;" Vulgate, Salus erit timentibus Nomen tuum; Syriac, "He imparts instruction to those that fear his Name;" Chaldee, "The teachers fear his Name." This reading depends upon a change of vowel pointing. Orelli renders, "Happy is he who fears thy Name." The Authorized translation, which seems on the whole to be well established, takes the abstract noun "wisdom" as equivalent to "the wise," or "the man of wisdom." For similar expressions, Henderson refers to Psa_109:4; Pro_13:6; Pro_19:15. The prophet parenthetically announces that, however the bulk of the people might receive the message, the truly wise would listen and profit by it. Hear ye the rod. Observe the rod of God's anger, the threatened judgments (so Isa_9:4 [3, Hebrew]; Isa_10:5, Isa_10:24). The power of Assyria is meant, The LXX. renders differently,] Ακουε φυλή , "Hear, O tribe;" so the Vulgate, Audite, tribus. And who hath appointed it. Mark who it is who hath ordained this chastisement. It is from the Lord's hand. Septuagint, Τίς κοσμήσει πόλιν ; "Who will adorn the city?" with some reference, perhaps, to Jer_31:4, "Again shalt thou be adorned with thy tabrets;" Vulgate, Et quis approbabit illud? This implies that few indeed will profit by the warning.


The reproof is given in the form of questions, in order to rouse the sleeping conscience of the people. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked? Do the wicked still continue to bring into their houses treasures obtained by wrong? The old versions compare this ill-gotten wealth to a fire which shall consume the homes of its possessors. Septuagint, Μὴ πῦρ καὶ οἶκος ἀνόμου θησαυρίζω θησαυρουμους ; "Is there fire and the house of the wicked treasuring up wicked treasures?" Vulgate, Adhuc ignis in domo impii thesauri iniquitatis? So the Syriac; the Chaldee keeps to the Masoretic reading. The scant measure; literally, the ephah of leanness. The ephah was about three pecks. According to Josephus ('Ant.,' 15.9. 2), it contained one Attic medimnus, which would be nearly a bushel and a half. Fraudulent weights and measures are often denounced (Le 19:35, etc.; Deu_25:14, etc.; Pro_20:10, Pro_20:23; Amo_8:5). Vulgate, Mensura minor irae plena, where the Hebrew has, that is abominable. Such frauds are hateful to God, and are marked with his wrath.


Shall I count them pure? literally, Shall I be pure? The clause is obscure. The Authorized Version regards the speaker as the same as in Mic_6:10, and translates with some violence to the text. It may be that the prophet speaks as the representative of the awakened transgressor, "Can I be guiltless with such deceit about me?" But the sudden change of personification and of state of feeling is very harsh. Hence some follow Jerome in regarding God as the speaker, and rendering, "Shall I justify the wicked balance?" others, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee, Εἰ δικαιωθήσεται ἐν ζυγῷ ἄνομος ; "Shall the wicked be justified by the balance?" Cheyne is inclined to read the verb in the second person, "Canst thou (O Jerusalem) be pure?" since in the next verse the prophet proceeds, "the rich men thereof" (i.e. of Jerusalem). If we retain the present reading, "Can I be innocent?" we must consider the question as put, for effect's sake, in the mouth of one of the rich oppressors. Jerome's translation is contrary to the use of the verb, which is always intransitive in kal.


The rich men thereof; i.e. of the city mentioned in Mic_6:9. They have just been charged with injustice and fraud, now they are denounced for practising every kind of violence. And not only the rich, but all the inhabitants fall under censure for lying and deceit. Their tongue is deceitful; literally, deceit; they cannot open their mouth without speaking dangerous and destructive lies.


§ 4. For all this God threatens punishment.


Will I make thee sick in smiting thee; literally, have made the smiting thee sick; i.e. incurable, as Nah_3:19, or, "have made the blows mortal that are given thee." The perfect is used to express the certainty of the future. The Septuagint and Vulgate read, "I have begun [or, will begin] to smite thee."


Thou shalt eat, etc. The punishment answers to the sin (which proves that it comes from God), and recalls the threats of the Law (Le 26:25, etc.; Deu_28:29, etc.; comp. Hos_4:10; Hag_1:6). Thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; i.e. thy humiliation, thy decay and downfall, shall occur in the very centre of thy wealth and strength, where thou hast laid up thy treasure and practised thy wickedness. But the meaning of the Hebrew is very uncertain, and the text may be corrupt. The LXX. had a different reading, συσκοτάσει εν σοι , "darkness shall be in thee." The Syriac and Chaldee interpret the word rendered "casting down" ( éùç , which is found nowhere else) of some disease like dysentery. It is most suitable to understand this clause as connected with the preceding threat of hunger, and to take the unusual word in the sense of "emptiness." Thus, "Thy emptiness (of stomach) shall remain in thee." Jeremiah (Jer_52:6)speaks of the famine in the city at the time of its siege. Thou shalt take hold; rather, thou shalt remove (thy goods). This is the second chastisement. They should try to take their goods and families out of the reach of the enemy, but should not be able to save them. The LXX. interprets the verb of escaping by flight. That which thou deliverest. If by chance anything is carried away, it shall fall into the hands of the enemy.


Here is another judgment in accordance with the threatenings of the Law (Deu_28:33, Deu_28:38, etc.; comp. Amo_5:11; Zep_1:13; Hag_1:6). Shalt not reap. The effect may be owing to the judicial sterility of the soil, but more likely to the incursions of the enemy. Trochon quotes Virgil, ' Eel.,' 1:70—

"Impius haec tam culta novalia miles habebit?

Barbarus has segetes? en, quo discordia cives

Produxit miseros! his nos consevimus agros!

Tread the olives. Olives were usually pressed or crushed in a mill, in order to extract the oil; the process of treading; was probably adopted by the poor. Gethsemane took its name from the oil presses there. The oil was applied to the person for comfort, luxury, and ceremony, and was almost indispensable in a hot country. Sweet wine. Thou shalt tread the new wine of the vintage, but shalt have to leave it for the enemy (comp. Amo_5:11). The Septuagint has here an interpolation, Καὶ ἀφανισθήσεται νόμιμα λαοῦ μου , "And the ordinances of my people shall vanish away," which has arisen partly from a confusion between Omri, the proper name in the next verse, and ammi, "my people."


The threatening is closed by repeating its cause: the punishment is the just reward of ungodly conduct. The first part of the verse corresponds to Mic_6:10-12, the second part to Mic_6:13-15. The statutes of Omri. The statutes are the rules of worship prescribed by him of whom it is said (1Ki_16:25) that he "wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him." No special "statutes" of his are anywhere mentioned; but he is named here as the founder of that evil dynasty which gave Ahab to Israel, and the murderess Athaliah (who is called in 2Ki_8:26, "the daughter of Omri") to Judah. The people keep his statutes instead of the Lord's (Le 20:22). The works of the house of Ahab are their crimes and sins, especially the idolatrous practices observed by that family, such as the worship of Baal, which became the national religion (1Ki_16:31, etc.). Such apostasy had a disastrous effect upon the neighbouring kingdom of Judah (2Ki_8:18). Walk in their counsels. Take your tone and policy from them. That I should make thee. "The punishment was as certainly connected with the sin, in the purpose of God, as if its infliction had been the end at which they aimed" (Henderson). The prophet hero threatens a threefold penalty, as he had mentioned a threefold guiltiness. A desolation; ἀφανισμόν ; perditionem (Vulgate). According to Keil, "an object of horror," as Deu_28:37; Jer_25:9. Micah addresses Jerusalem itself in the first clause, its inhabitants in the second, and the whole nation in the last. An hissing; i.e. an object of derision, as Jer_19:8; Jer_25:18, etc. Therefore (and) ye shall bear the reproach of my people. Ye shall have to hear yourselves reproached at the mouth of the heathen, in that, though ye were the Lord's peculiar people, ye were cast out and given into the hands of your enemies. The Septuagint, from a different reading, renders, Καιδη λαῶν λήψεσθε , "Ye shall receive the reproaches of nations," which is like Eze_34:29; Eze_36:6, Eze_36:15.



The memories of the way.

Truly affecting are those portions of Scripture in which God is represented as expostulating and pleading with erring men (Hos_6:4; Hos_11:8; Isa_1:16-20; Jer_2:1-14). The opening verses of this chapter are of the same character. God testifies, and in so doing calls upon the mountains and hills and strong foundations of the earth which have stood from age to age to bear him witness and confirm his testimony (Mic_6:2). "O my people," he cries, "what have I done unto thee," etc.? What sadness, what piercing grief, what ineffable sorrow, is implied in these words! Truly God grieves over sinning men. He is not impassive, but is infinitely sensible to the sins and sorrows of men, and every transgression strikes a pang into the heart of the Divine Father. Surely this sorrow of Divine love over the evils inflicted by man upon himself through sin should lead us back to God in humility, in penitence, and in submission to his authority and will. How remarkable is the faculty of memory, strengthening the affections, aiding progress, increasing enjoyment, and alleviating sorrow! Well may the poet sing of "the morning star of memory." The prophet desired his people to review the past of their national history, that by these "memories of the way" they might be impelled to "return unto the Lord." Concerning these memories, note—

I. THEIR REMARKABLE VARIETY. There were memories of:

1. Wondrous deliverances. From Egyptian bondage (Mic_6:3); from the curse pronounced by Balaam (Mic_6:4).

2. Heavenly guidance. "I sent before thee Moses" (Mic_6:4)—the distinguished leader and lawgiver.

3. Sacred fellowship. "Aaron" (Mic_6:4)—their high priest and intercessor, who led them in thought into "the holiest of all."

4. Grateful adoration. "Miriam" (Mic_6:4), with timbrel and dance inspiring them to celebrate in rapturous praise God's redeeming mercy.

5. Continuous interposition. "From Shittim unto Gllgal" (Mic_6:5), i.e. from the desert unto the promised laud; by miracle, type, prophecy, and promise, they were continually experiencing Divine help and encouragement. So with us; mercies temporal and spiritual have been bestowed upon us in infinite variety; whilst in number they have been more than could be counted.

II. THEIR INTENDED INFLUENCE. These remembrances and memories of God's great goodness are designed to lead men to "know the righteousness of the Lord" (Mic_6:5), and to give him the unswerving confidence of their hearts. Through all his dealings with the children of men he has been calling them to repentance, faith, newness of life, the putting away of cherished sin, the detaching themselves from ungodly associations, the breaking away from habits of evil, the experience of the most satisfying good, and to the purest and noblest service.

III. THEIR EMPHATIC TESTIMONY. The Most High, in deigning to expostulate with erring men, makes his appeal to these (Mic_6:3). He asks, "O my people, what have I done unto thee?" And must not this be our answer, "Nothing but good; good, only good"? "Wherein have I wearied thee?" he asks. And must we not reply, "Thy commandments are not grievous; yet surely we have wearied thee by the way in which we have slighted and neglected them, and have failed to yield to them the true obedience of our hearts and lives?" "Testify against me," says God. "Nay, we can only testify against ourselves." To thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, but unto us shame and confusion of face'" (Dan_9:7). "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God," etc. (Rom_12:1). Then all must be well with us here, and at last we shall enter the land of light and rest and fulness of joy, where, with memory never failing, and with gratitude rising ever higher, we shall reflect upon the entire course along which we have been guided and upheld by him whose mercy and love endure forevermore.


Man's spiritual need, and its supply.

These verses form one of the most striking passages in the Old Testament Scriptures. Let any one inquire as to the nature of true religion, and he may find the exposition of it expressed here with marvellous vigour and terseness of speech, and with a completeness leaving nothing to be supplied. The false conception respecting true religion as consisting in that which is external is swept clean away as with a besom, and the loftiest view concerning it is set before us in diction so simple that it cannot be misunderstood and in tone so earnest that it cannot fall to come home to the conscience and the heart.

I. THERE UNDERLIES THESE WORDS THE THOUGHT OF MAN'S DEEP NEED OF GOD. To "come before the Lord" and to "bow before the most high God" is a necessity of humanity. Uncentred from God, the children of men are ever craving after seine unattained good, and which alone consists in the Divine favour and blessing. They turn to objects that are unworthy and that can never meet the wants of their higher nature. They seek satisfaction in that which is material, in cherishing attachment to the outward, the fleeting, the unreal; even as these people of Judah turned to luxury, ease, and self-indulgence; and the result is and ever must be miserable disappointment. Or they turn to objects such as are really worthy—wealth, scholarship, oratory, political and civic honours; but anticipating getting more out of these than they had any right to expect, there is failure and consequent disquietude. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good." God has declared that true heart rest can alone be found in himself. "Thou hast formed us for thyself, and our heart is disquieted till it resteth in thee". Consider—

II. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF FINDING THE SATISFACTION OF THIS DEEP NEED OF THE SOUL IN A MERELY FORMAL AND EXTERNAL SERVICE. It is a great thing when a true reformer succeeds in making an impression. When evils have become deep-rooted, when men have become accustomed to perverted ways, there is an indifference and callousness about them which it is difficult indeed to overcome. And the distinction of this Hebrew seer is seen in the success he achieved where so many have signally failed. By the force of his own personal character, combined with the simplicity and vividness, the mingled severity, tenderness, and the intense earnestness of his language, he succeeded in rousing many to a sense of their sinfulness, and in awakening within them desires and aspirations after a truer life, and impelling them to cry, "Wherewith shall I come," etc.? (Mic_6:6). But mark what followed. Micah prophesied in the reign of Hezekiah, and the history shows that the people rested in outward reformation and external forms. They cried, "Shall I come before him with burnt offerings …rivers of oil?" (verses 6, 7); i.e. shall I bring the costliest and choicest sacrifices, and cause the oil which accompanies the offerings to flow plenteously? "Shall I" (following the practice of the heathen) "give my firstborn," etc.? (verse 7). And they acted in the spirit of these inquiries. The interest in the temple and its services became revived, the Law was read, the sacrifices renewed, the fasts and feasts once more observed, and the threatened judgments were delayed. But all this was only temporary, there was outward reformation, but unaccompanied by inward renewal; the observance of external forms and the resting in these instead of in God; so that the spiritual unrest continued, and the process of national decay went on, whilst the voice of God was heard uttering the strongest denunciations, saying, "To what purpose," etc.?(Isa_1:11-15). Beware of cherishing a merely formal piety, of honouring God with your lips whilst your hearts are far from him, of resting in outward reformation and external worship (Psa_51:16, Psa_51:17; Joh_4:23, Joh_4:24).

III. THIS NEED OF THE HEART IS MET IN THE POSSESSION OF SINCERE AND GENUINE PIETY. Such piety is described (verse 8) as consisting in doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. It is spiritual in its nature, and has its seat in the heart. Possessing a heart renewed, trustful, and obedient to the Divine will, God will dwell with us, will be cur chief joy, and in all places and at all seasons will manifest himself to us. So shall we at all times and under all circumstances find tranquillity and peace. So shall we sing—

"Without thee life and time are sadness,

No fragrance breathes around;

But with thee even grief is gladness,

The heart its home hath found."


The Divine response to the cry of humanity.

"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good." "Who will show us any good?" (Psa_4:6) is the cry of humanity, and has been its reiterated inquiry all through the ages of the world's history. And not only has man ceaselessly raised the question, but he has sought its solution, and has thus fallen into errors, which are corrected by the response God has given to this aspiration of the human spirit. We turn, in our darkness, to his unerring Word, and we find light shed upon this otherwise dark problem.





True piety: its clear delination.

"And what doth the Lord require of thee," etc.?

I. To "DO JUSTLY." He requires that rectitude and uprightness should characterize us in all our relationships. We are not to oppress or defraud. We are not to seek to damage the reputation of another, or by word or deed to endeavour to lessen the good opinion which has been formed respecting him. The golden rule is to be acted upon, and we "do unto others as we would that they should do unto us."

II. To "LOVE MERCY." There are two ideas here that of forgiveness, and that of compassion. Mercy is forgiveness towards the erring and benevolence towards the tried; over both the sinful and the suffering she spreads her wing. This quality is truly royal in its character. "Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge." It is indeed God-like and Divine, and cannot Be exercised without securing to us real happiness. "It is twice blessed," etc. It is well for men to be upright towards their fellow men, to "do justly;" but let this be joined to "loving mercy," we seeking thus to smooth each other's path through life. We respect the man whose conduct is regulated in accordance with strict justice; but we can love the man who rises higher than this, and who, whilst doing that which is just, is also large hearted and generous.

III. To "WALK HUMBLY WITH THY GOD." To walk with God is to make it our fixed purpose and determination to live to him; to devote ourselves to his service. To walk with God is to acknowledge him as our Sovereign and our Father; to set him ever before us; to live a life of hallowed communion with him; to make his glory the great object and end of life; to seek to do only those things which are well pleasing in his sight. To walk with God is to have our mind and will brought into subjection to his; to strive to do all he would have us do and to be all he would have us be; to endeavour more and more to resemble him, and to have taken from us whatever in us is contrary unto him. To walk with God is to love him; to rejoice in his presence; to feel ourselves attracted towards him; to value nothing more than his favour; to deprecate nothing more than his displeasure. To walk with God is to have him dwelling continually in our hearts; ever to seek his approval; ever to make it the great business of life to glorify and to honour him. And in all this true humility is to mark us as we think of his greatness and our own littleness and unworthiness. True piety thus covers the whole range of human duty; it embraces our duty towards God and towards our fellow men. The fulfilment of this is "required" of us, and in such obedience lies the evidence that we are the possessors of sincere and vital godliness.


True piety: its exalted character.

"And what doth the Lord require of thee," etc.? The standard God has set up for human conduct is very high. His law covers the whole range of man's relationships, and demands lofty attainments. Note—


1. In its eminently practical character. It is to enter into all the concerns of our daily life. It does not ignore the emotional in man, but it insists upon holy feeling being transmuted into holy service to God and to man.

2. In its being synonymous with morality. The distinction often drawn between "a religious man" and "a moral man" has no recognition here. God's Law has two tables—the one having reference to our obligations to God, and the other to our duties to man; and, correctly speaking, the term "morality" can only be applied to those who are endeavouriug to heed both these requirements, and he has no claim to it who regards only one of these tables, and that the lesser, and who virtually excludes God from his own Law. And the converse is also true. As there can be no true morality apart from piety, so also there can be no true piety apart from morality; in other words, that these cannot practically be separated. Profession and life must go together, and be in harmony; it is the union of religion and morality that constitutes the life of true and vital godliness.

II. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THIS EXALTED NATURE OF TRUE PIETY IS CALCULATED TO EXERT A DEPRESSING INFLUENCE UPON OUR HEARTS. When we reflect upon the Divine requirement in the light of our own actions and conduct, we feel how infinitely and painfully short we have fallen below what we ought to have been. The standard set up is so lofty that we fear we shall never reach it. "It is high, we cannot attain unto it," we cry, and almost feel despairing and hopeless.


1. The Divine purpose. What encouragement lies in the thought that he who has revealed this perfect Law for human conduct, and who has the hearts of all men at his own disposal, will not rest until by the power of his grace and Spirit he has so touched and elevated the life of man as that the ideal shall become actual, and the race be delivered, fully and forever, from guilt and sin.

2. The obedience of Christ. In accordance with this Divine purpose, God gave his own Son, and the Christ appeared amongst men. Think of the life he lived, and how complete a transcript of the Divine Law it was And whilst he exemplified that Law in his life, in his voluntary surrender to the stroke of death as a sacrifice for human guilt he put lasting honour upon it. By that memorable death he declared silently the purity of the Divine Law, and attested the righteousness of the penalty attached to its violation. It has been truly said that "man convinced of sin is ready to sacrifice what is dearest to him rather than give up his own will and give himself to God" (W. Robertson Smith). It is easier to offer "to come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old," than to lay our proud wills at his feet and to yield to him our hearts. But as we contemplate the obedience of Christ and his yielding himself up for us, and see in him expressed the great Father's love, that which was difficult becomes light—we own ourselves subdued, we view sin now in the light of the cross, and see its loathsomeness, and desire to be more entirely delivered from its practice, whilst as we contemplate God's Law, under the influence of the feelings and emotions thus excited within us, we are impelled to cry in all the fulness of a consecrated heart, "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man!" (Rom_7:22); "O how I love thy Law!" (Psa_119:97).

Mic_6:9, Mic_6:13-15

Divine chastisement.

I. A SOLEMN DECLARATION OF COMING CHASTISEMENT. (Mic_6:13-15.) The form this chastisement would assume is suggestive of the thought of utter disappointment. Their gain should be turned into loss; their expectations should be completely frustrated; all that they hoped to realize as the result of their deceptions and extortions should fail them, even as the brook fails the parched traveller when coming to it to slake his burning thirst, lo! he finds it dried up. They should be made desolate because of their sins (Mic_6:13). Surrounded for a time, and through their ill-gotten gains, with all material comforts, they should no more be satisfied by these than he can be upon whom disease has fastened its deadly grasp (Mic_6:13). Nor should these material comforts abide. Internal conflicts and foreign invasion should result in their impoverishment. The toil of the sowing had been theirs, but they should not experience "the joy of harvest;" they had trodden the olives and had pressed the grapes, but they should not rejoice in the oil that makes the face to shine, or the wine that makes glad the heart of man (Mic_6:14, Mic_6:15). They had broken God's Law, and the judgment threatened in that Law they must now inevitably experience (Le 26:16; Deu_28:30, Deu_28:38).

II. THIS CHASTISEMENT APPOINTED BY GOD. (Mic_6:9.) "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city," bidding men hear him who had "appointed" the judgment (Mic_6:9). "I will make thee sick," etc. (Mic_6:13). Their sin was allowed to work out its evil consequences upon them, that they might be led to see how evil a thing it was. God turns events into teachers, and sorrows into discipline. He allows the reeds upon which men were leaning to break, and the earthly pleasures upon which their hearts were set to yield only the bitterness of gall and wormwood, that thus they may be led to look to him, the unfailing Spring. It is not by chance that trials meet the children of men in the pathway of life. It is the Divine arrangement that men should be thus met, if perchance they may be impelled to turn away from an unsatisfying world, and be led to seek in him their chief good. Sometimes we are so wayward that we will not pause in our wandering until God reveals the peril that is in our path. The prodigal had to feel shame and hunger before "he came to himself." So we need at times to be startled and chastened into obedience. Even God's chastisements are love. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth," etc. (Heb_12:6-8); "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten" (Rev_3:19).

III. THE WISDOM OF RECOGNIZING GOD IN THESE ADVERSE EXPERIENCES OF LIFE. "And the men of wisdom," etc. (Mic_6:9). We show the possession by us of this wisdom when we

(1) accept our life sorrows as coming to us with this wise and loving intent;

(2) when we calmly and trustingly bow to the Divine will in the seasons of grief;

(3) When we cherish solicitude that the gracious ends designed may be fulfilled in us; and

(4) when, our bonds "loosed," and the sorrow overpast, the grateful acknowledgment, springing from our inmost souls, breaks forth from our lips, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psa_119:71); "Before I was afflicted I went astray," etc. (Psa_119:67).


Weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

Having expounded the nature of true piety, the prophet, proceeds in these verses to apply the principles thus enunciated to the case of his people, endeavouring by means of searching inquiries to bring home to their hearts a sense of their guilt and depravity.


1. Dishonesty in trade as opposed to "doing justly." Rectitude in all the transactions of life was repeatedly insisted upon in the Law of God as given by Moses (Le 19:35, 36; Deu_25:14, Deu_25:15). Disregard of this requirement was an indictment constantly brought against the Jewish people by their faithful seers (Amo_8:4-6; Eze_45:9, Eze_45:10; Hos_12:7, Hos_12:8). To be engaged in trade has been regarded by some as a badge of social inferiority. No right-minded man could speak or even think thus. All honest trades are honourable. None need be ashamed of their callings because these belong to the shop and the mart. The dishonour lies in fraud, trickery, deceit, and sharp practice; but let all these be eschewed, and the principles of uprightness and honour prevail, and the humblest trade, conducted on these lines, is thereby ennobled. "Royalty in her robes of state is not so majestic as Commerce clothed in spotless integrity and commanding unlimited confidence. Victory, raising her trophies from the spoils of a conquered army, is not so glorious as Commerce, patiently and perseveringly, slowly but surely, gaining its end by scorning and disdaining the arts which promise a speedy but treacherous elevation" (Dr. Robert Halley).

2. Oppression and violence as opposed to "loving mercy" (Mic_6:12). Men, making haste to be rich, fall into many hurtful snares (1Ti_6:9), and one of these is that of oppressing those less favoured than themselves. They become hard, and are led to take undue advantage of those who are needy and who can in any way be made tributary to their interests. Provision against this was made in the Law of Moses (Deu_24:10-22). This provision of that Divine law, which so marvellously met every circumstance and condition of life, the prophet charged his people with disregarding. "The rich men thereof are full of violence" (Mic_6:12; Isa_1:23; Isa_5:7; Amo_5:11; Mal_3:5). The love of mercy was sacrificed to the love of gain. Man, consumed by lust of wealth, used his fellow men as mere steppingstones, trampling them beneath his feet.

3. Degeneration in speech as altogether incompatible with "walking humbly with God?' (Mic_6:12.) Very glorious is the power of utterance, the ability to give audible expression, with clearness and perspicuity, to the thoughts which may be filling our minds and stirring our very souls.

"And when she spake

Sweet words, like dropping honey, she did shed:

And 'twixt the pearls and rubies softly brake

A silver sound that heavenly music seemed to make."

(Spenser's 'Faery Queene.')

Speech is a very sure index to character. "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee" (Luk_19:22). "A bell may have a crack, and you may not see it, but take the cropper and strike it, and you'll soon perceive that it is flawed." Degradation is stamped, not only upon the physical form of savage tribes, but also upon the very language they employ. When, as the result of a long course of transgression or of prolonged banishment from civilization, noble thoughts and high spiritual conceptions have dropped away from them, there has attended this the loss even of the very words by which these thoughts and conceptions are expressed, so that the language of such people has become woefully impoverished. Clearly, then, would we have our speech right, we must get our hearts right. "The weights and wheels are in the heart, and the clock strikes according to their motion. Truth in the inward parts is the certain cure for all evil in the tongue." The prevailing degeneracy over which this seer so deeply mourned is indicated in his words, "The inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth" (Mic_6:12). And, this being the case, they were utterly unfitted for complying with the requirement that they should walk humbly "with their God;" for only "the pure in heart" can have fellowship with him. "Weighed" thus "in the balances" of the requirements of God's pure Law, they were "found wanting."

II. ALTHOUGH DIFFERING IN DEGREE, YET IT IS TRUE UNIVERSALLY THAT HUMAN CONDUCT, PROVED THUS, WILL NOT STAND THE TEST. God's Law is "holy, just, and true," and man is by nature and practice so sinful that, judged by that high standard, "every mouth must be stopped, and the whole world appear guilty before God" (Rom_3:19).

III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS SHOULD LEAD US TO WELCOME THE CHRIST OF GOD, WHOSE ADVENT THIS PROPHET PREDICTED, AND TO REJOICE IN HIS WORK ON OUR BEHALF. We cannot meet God on the ground of obedience to his pure Law. If we take that stand, then he righteously and imperatively requires that the whole Law be kept; and this is impossible to us, since even if we were capable of perfect obedience in the future, this would not atone for the failures of the past. The true meeting place is not Sinai, but Calvary (2Ti_1:9; Rom_3:20-26).


The influence of evil men.

These are the last recorded words of Micah declarative of coming judgment; and they are deeply impressive as setting forth the influence exerted by evil men.

I. ITS PERPETUITY. "For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels" (verse 16). God had separated this people from among the nations, and had specially favoured them with a revelation of his will. He had given unto them his pure Law. Their fathers had gathered in the olden time at Sinai, that

"Separate from the world, their breast

Might duly take and strongly keep

The print of heaven to be exprest

Ere long on Zion's steep."


God had conferred signal honour upon them in constituting them the depositaries of his truth, and his witnesses unto the ends of the earth. They were bound by the most sacred obligations, the most solemn vows repeatedly renewed, and by pains and penalties too, "to keep his statues" and "to obey his commandments." But they lamentably failed to fulfil their high mission, and the failure is in no small degree traced in these records to the influence of their kings. Jeroboam, Omri, and Ahab stand out conspicuously in the history of the kingdom of Israel as having sinned and caused Israel to sin, and the evil influence thus exerted spread to the kingdom of Judah, and descended from generation to generation. One hundred and seventy years had passed since the death of Ahab, nearly two hundred since the death of Omri, and about two hundred and thirty since the death of Jeroboam; yet their pernicious influence was still felt, and the people were keeping their statutes instead of God's, and walking in their ways instead of in "the way of holiness." It is clear, then, that, whilst we may by a true life be helpers, even to those who come after us, in all that is good, we may also, by the perversion of this power, prove hinderers to them, and keep them back from the highest bliss. Evil deeds as well as good actions have the stamp of permanence upon them. "Being dead," men "yet speak" for ill as for good. You cannot limit the influence of wrong doing to the men who commit it. Generations yet unborn will experience the dire effects of the sins men are committing now. "For the statutes of Omri" (verse 16).

II. ITS PERNICIOUSNESS. "That I should make thee," etc. (verse 16). The injurious effects thus wrought in a nation are here specially set forth.

1. It leads on to national decay. "That I should make thee a desolation" (verse 16).

2. It excites the contempt of the adversaries. "And the inhabitants thereof an hissing" (verse 16).

3. It lays spiritual honour in the very dust, and causes the foes of God and of his truth to blaspheme. "Therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people" (verse 16; Eze_36:20; Psa_89:4; Psa_44:13-16).



A protest and a retrospect.

The serious state of the cue between Jehovah and his people is shown by this appeal to the hills and mountains. As though among all the nations none could be found impartial enough to be umpires, or even witnesses, inanimate nature must supply its testimony. (Illustrate from Job_12:7, Job_12:8; Isa_1:2, Isa_1:3; Luk_19:40; 2Pe_2:16.) The mountains hays stability; not so the favoured nation. They have survived many generations of God's ungrateful beneficiaries, and have been witnesses of the blessings those thankless ones have received. The cliffs of Horeb have echoed back the precepts and promises of Jehovah, and the gentler tones of his "still small voice," but his people have remained deaf to his appeals. Hence—

I. A PROTEST. Before Jehovah passes judgment he permits himself to be regarded as the defendant if his people can venture to bring any charge against him. He knows that nothing but unrighteous treatment on his part could justify them in departing from him. Hence the appeal in Jer_2:5, and the similar remonstrances of Christ in Joh_8:46 and Joh_10:32. Nothing but intolerable grievances can justify a national revolt or a desertion of the paternal home. Had God "wearied" Israel by unreasonable treatment? The whole history of the nation refutes the suggested libel. Or can we make any such charges against God? What can they be?

1. Undue severity? Can "my people" (what a sermon in that mere term!) say so (Job_11:6; Psa_103:10; Dan_9:7)?

2. A harsh and trying temper? The very opposite is the spirit of "the Father of mercies" (Psa_145:8, Psa_145:9).

3. Unreasonable exactions of service? No; he can make the appeal, "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense" (Isa_43:23). His "yoke is easy;" "His commandments are not grievous."

4. Negligence in his training of us? Far from it; he can declare, "What could have been done more?" etc. (Isa_5:1-4). Forbearance, loving kindness, and thoughtful consideration have marked God's conduct throughout. The case against God utterly breaks down. Instead of desiring to remonstrate, or even "reason with God," u at one time Job did, every reasonable soul, hearing God's words and catching some vision of his glory, must acknowledge, as that patriarch did, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (cf. Job_13:3; Job_42:5, Job_42:6). The way is cleared. O God, thou art justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou art judged. And now God's messenger may take up his parable, like Samuel (1Sa_12:7), and God himself may make the appeal in verses 4, 5.

II. A RETROSPECT. Jehovah selects specimens of his gracious dealings with them from their early history. He reminds them of:

1. A grand redemption. (Verse 4.) We, too, as a nation can speak of great deliverances from political and ecclesiastical bondage. See T.H. Gill's hymn—

"Lift thy song among the nations,

England of the Lord beloved." etc.

And for each of us has been provided a redemption from a worse than Egyptian bondage, through "Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us."

2. Illustrious leaders. Moses, their inspired lawgiver and the friend of God (Num_12:8); Aaron, their high priest and intercessor; Miriam, a singer, poet, prophetess. What memories of "the loving kindnesses of the Lord" these names would recall—the Paschal night, the morning of final deliverance and song of triumph by the Red Sea, the manna, the plague stayed, etc.! We, too, can look back on our illustrious leaders in English history. And in common with the whole of Christendom, "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas"—the apostles, the martyrs, the preachers, the poets of the past—"all are yours" by right, if not by actual enjoyment.

3. Foes frustrated. (Verse 5.) "Remember now"—a word of tender appeal, as though God would say, "Oh, do remember." Balak was a representative foe, striving against Israel, first by policy (Num_22:1-41.), then by villainy (Num_25:1-18.), and finally by violence (Num_31:1-54.). Again the parallel may be traced in national and individual history.

4. Curses turned into blessings. (Deu_23:5.) So has it been with many of the trials of the past. "Remember from Shittim unto Gilgal" (cf. Num_25:1 and Jos_4:19). What a contrast! Sins forgiven; reproach "rolled away" (Jos_5:9); chastisements blessed; the long looked for land of promise entered. All these blessings show us "the righteous acts of the Lord." They remind us of the successive acts of God's righteous grace. They make sin against him shamefully ungrateful as well as grossly unjust. Oh, that the goodness of God may lead to repentance! that he may overcome our evil by his good! that "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" may constrain us to live henceforth, not to ourselves, but to him!—E.S.P.


The essentials of godliness.

If the questions of Mic_6:6 and Mic_6:7 are those of Balak and the answers are Balaam's, they remind us of how a man may know and explain clearly the path of righteousness and peace, and yet neglect it. Balsam may prophesy; Demas may preach; Judas may cast out devils; but "I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity!" Or if we regard the questions as proposed, either by the nation convicted of sin (Mic_6:1-5), or by any one sin-stricken soul, we learn the same truths. It is the old controversy, older than Balak, between God and man, as to the grounds of man's acceptance with God and the essential requirements from man by God. We see—

I. ANXIOUS QUESTIONS. (Mic_6:6, Mic_6:7.) These questions remind us of:

1. Man's sense of distance from God. He is not consciously walking "with God," like Enoch; "before God," like Abraham.

2. His conviction that he cannot come to God by any right or merit of his own. "Wherewith?" He cannot come just as he is, empty-handed. He has no right of entry to the court of the Divine King.

3. And that if he comes at all he must "bow," as an inferior, conscious of absolute dependence.