Pulpit Commentary - Micah 7:1 - 7:20

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Pulpit Commentary - Micah 7:1 - 7:20

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


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 Hos_9:10, where a similar figure is used; compare also Christ's dealing with the barren fig tree, Mat_21:18, etc.). The first ripe figs were proverbially sweet and good (see Isa_28:4; Jer_24:2; and Hosea, loc cit.).


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. Psa_14:2, Psa_14:3; and especially Isa_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 (Le 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" (Hab_1:15).


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" (Isa_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 (1Ki_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. Mic_3:11; Isa_1:23; Zep_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."


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 (Pro_15:19). Under another aspect thorns are a symbol of what is noxious and worthless (2Sa_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 (Isa_21:6; Jer_6:17; Eze_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 (Isa_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).


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 Psa_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. Pro_16:28; Pro_17:9). Our Lord has used some of the expressions in the next verso in describing the miseries of the latter day (Mat_10:21, Mat_10:35, Mat_10:36; Mat_24:12; comp. Luk_12:53; Luk_21:16; 2Ti_3:2). Keep the doors of thy mouth. Guard thy secrets. (For the phrase, comp. Psa_141:3.) Her that lieth in thy bosom. Thy wife (Deu_13:6; Deu_28:54).


For the son dishonoureth; Septuagint, ἀτιμάζει : Vulgate, contumeliam facit; literally, treats as a fool, despises (Deu_32:6, Deu_32:15). (For the rest of the verse, see Mat_10:21, Mat_10:35, etc.) Men of his own house. His domestic servants (Gen_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


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


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 (Psa_18:46; Psa_25:5; Psa_27:9; Hab_3:18) My God will hear me. My prayer is sure to be answered (Isa_30:19).


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 (Amo_5:2). Sit in darkness. Darkness is another metaphor for distress (Psa_23:4; Isa_9:2; Lam_3:6; Amo_5:18). The Lord shall be a light unto me, giving me gladness and true discernment (comp. Psa_27:1; Psa_97:11). The distinction between darkness and the full light of day is more marked in Eastern countries than in our Northern climes.


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 Mic_7:8). His righteousness (Mic_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 1Jn_1:9, "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins."


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. Isa_10:9-11; Isa_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 Psa_42:3; Psa_79:10; Psa_115:2; Joe_2:17.) Mine eyes shall behold her. Israel shall behold the destruction of the enemy. As the mire of the streets (Isa_10:6; Zec_10:5).


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 (Isa_5:5, Isa_5:7). The announcement is given abruptly and concisely in three short sentences. In that day shall the decree be far removed. The decree (Zep_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. Eph_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. Isa_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 Psa_2:7, Psa_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."


He shall come; they shall come. Men shall flock to Zion as the metropolis of the new kingdom (Mic_4:2). The countries named are those in which the Jews were dispersed (see Isa_11:11). Micah embraces in one view the restoration of Israel and the conversion of the heathen (comp. Isa_19:24; Isa_27:12, Isa_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 2Ki_19:24; Isa_19:6; Isa_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. (Gen_15:18). From sea to sea. Not necessarily from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea or to the Persian Gulf (as Joe_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 (Num_20:22) to Hor (Num_34:7), which is too limited, but from all lands situated between mountain barriers, which are the bounds of the world (comp. Isa_60:3, etc.).


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" (Isa_60:12; comp. Rev_12:12). And the material world shall suffer with its inhabitants (Gen_3:15, Gen_3:18; Gen_6:13; Gen_19:25; Isa_34:4, etc.). Their doings. Their evil deeds, especially the rejection of Messiah.


§ 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.


Feed thy people with thy rod. The prophet prays to the Shepherd of Israel (Gen_49:24; Psa_80:1), beseeching him to rule and lead his people, and to find them pasture. The "rod" is the shepherd's staff (Le 27:32; Psa_23:4). The flock of thine heritage. So Israel is called (Psa_28:9; Psa_95:7; comp. Zep_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 (Num_23:9; also Deu_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 Exo_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 Amo_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 (Deu_32:14; Psa_22:12; Eze_39:18; Amo_4:1). Gilead was so excellently adapted for cattle that Reuben and Gad were irresistibly drawn to settle there (Num_32:1, Num_32:5; 1Ch_5:9; see the parallel to this passage in Isa_65:9, Isa_65:10, and Eze_34:13, Eze_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. Mic_4:4).


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. Isa_43:15, etc.; Isa_51:10; 1Co_10:1, etc.). Unto him; unto the people of Israel (Mic_7:14). Marvellous things; Septuagint, Οψεσθε θαυμαστά , "Ye shall see marvellous things." Supernatural occurrences are meant, as Exo_3:20; Exo_15:11; Psa_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.


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 (Exo_15:14, etc.; Jos_2:9, Jos_2:10). They shall lay their hand upon their mouth. They shall be silent from awe and astonishment (Jdg_18:19; Job_21:5; Isa_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.


They shall lick the dust like a serpent (Gen_3:14; Isa_65:25). The enemies of God's people "shall lick the dust" (Psa_72:9), shall be reduced to the utmost degradation (Isa_49:23). They shall move out of their holes, etc.; rather, they come trembling out of their close places (or, fastnesses, Psa_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. Psa_2:11; Hos_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 Hos_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 (Jer_10:7). The sudden change of persons is quite in the prophet's style.


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


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 (Exo_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. Exo_34:7; Num_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 Amo_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 (Mic_2:12; Mic_4:6, Mic_4:7). The true Israel, which is only s remnant (Isa_10:21; Rom_9:27). He retaineth not his anger forever (Psa_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).


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; Hos_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 (Gen_4:7; comp. Psa_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 (Exo_15:1, Exo_15:4, Exo_15:10, Exo_15:21). The miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Exodus is a type of the greater deliverance of the true Israelites in Christ (Psa_103:12; 1Jn_1:7; comp. Isa_43:25).


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 Psa_114:1, "When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language" (Psalm or. 6; Isa_41:8; Isa_63:16, etc.). The general meaning, therefore, is that God will perform the promises made to the forefathers, as Luk_1:72, etc. Hast sworn, as in Gen_22:16. etc.; Gen_28:13, etc.; Deu_7:12. With the close of the ode Hengstenberg compares Rom_11:33-36. Thus the checkered prophecy ends with the glow of faith and happy hope.



The good in degenerate times.

We are not to understand these verses as referring specially to the prophet himself. In Mic_1:8, Mic_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—


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 (Hos_9:10; Jer_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; Isa_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 (Psa_1:1-3; Pro_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).


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."


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. (Mic_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" (Rom_5:8, Rom_5:4).


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" (Pro_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" (Isa_25:9).

Mic_7:8, Mic_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 (Mic_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." (Psa_27:1); "In his favour is life" (Psa_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" (Mic_7:9). So has it been in the past in the experience of the good. Jacob (comp. Gen_42:36. with Gen_45:26-28); Elijah; the Sunammite; the Captivity (comp. Psa_123:1-4. with Psa_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" (Isa_60:20).


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—


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).


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" (Jas_5:16).

Mic_7:18, Mic_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?" (Mic_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. (Mic_7:18, Mic_7:19). Let us reflect upon the incomparableness of the Lord our God, viewed as the Divine Forgiver. Consider—


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,' Mic_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" (Rom_3:23); that "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom_3:12); and that "every mouth must be stopped, and the whole world stand guilty before God" (Rom_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?"


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" (Col_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" (Luk_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" (Mar_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 (Isa_1:18; Rev_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).


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 (Gen_22:16-18; Gen_28:13, Gen_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" (2Ti_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.


Mic_7:1, Mic_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" (Hoe. 9:10). The Lord "taketh pleasure" in such; they satisfy the hunger of the Divine heart for godliness in the creature (Psa_147:11; Psa_149:4; Pro_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" (Psa_12:1), they "perish" (Isa_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" (Psa_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 (Mic_7:5). There is a loosening of the most sacred family bends. Depravity and degradation become deeper and darker (Mic_7:3, Mic_7:4). The little remnant of God's servants are increasingly depressed and discouraged: "Woe is me!" (cf. Psa_120:5; Isa_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" (Rom_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.


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