J. G. Bellett.
Section 6 of: The Minor Prophets
(Ed. W. Kelly, Allan, 1870.)
This prophet is mentioned and quoted in Jer. 26:18. He was called to be one of the Lord's watchmen, much at the same time with Isaiah, and it was a marked time. The history of things in Judah was taking a peculiar character, and things in Israel were ripening for the sickle of the Assyrian. It was a day in importance only second to the day of the Chaldean; but it was second to that, I grant. For the captivity of Israel, or the removal of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, did not involve the house of God as did that of Judah. The glory was still in the land, though Israel had gone away to the river Gozan. But the Chaldean sacked the city of the king, and spoiled the sanctuary of God; and the glory had to depart when Judah became a captive and Jerusalem a desolation. And as the prophetic spirit was largely poured out in that day of the Chaldean, as in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and others, so was it now, as in Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, and others.
2 Kings 17 is an important scripture in connexion with Micah. It details the sins of Israel on the ground of which the captivity of the Ten Tribes had come. It gives us an account also of the beginning of that people who, in the New Testament, are called, "Samaritans." It shows us their origin as a religious sect, holding truth, which the Jew had corrupted by a mixture with the various lies which the heathen conquerors of Israel had brought with them into the land. As to this little book of Micah we may see it in three parts:
Micah 1 - 3. These chapters give us a gloomy burthen over the sins and consequent miseries of Israel and Judah.
Micah 4, 5. These chapters anticipate the political or national recovery of the People.
Micah 6, 7. These chapters exhibit their experience or moral recovery.
Micah 1 - 3. The strain begins with anticipations of judgment, specially on Samaria, but not entirely overlooking Jerusalem, and then details the sins which led to this; thus, in prophetic style, telling us what we may have already read in the historic style, in that chapter referred to, 2 Kings 17.
Judah had transgressed as well as Israel, and the Assyrian rod, now prepared by the Lord in righteous anger, is raised against Jerusalem as well as Samaria. The day of Ahaz there, had been as the day of Hoshea here. But Hezekiah, who came after Ahaz, did right in the sight of the Lord, and therefore the Lord debated with His rod, and the Assyrian did not prevail over Judah, as he had over Israel.
Such was the condition of things in those days, and spoke as the Lord's watchman.
Princes, priests, prophets, and people, are all severally challenged by him, and are all found guilty and condemned. That land which had been redeemed out of the hand of the Amorites, and been made the clean vessel among the nations, and the Lord's dwelling place, has now acquired for itself another character altogether; and now, if there be any ear to hear, any circumcised heart among the people, they are addressed in these words, concerning this land, "arise, depart, for this is not your rest, it is polluted." Strange and humbling indeed! How has the fine gold become dim!
Waste and desolation are to follow in the train of pollution. But in the midst of all this, the prophet himself is full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and he talks of judgment in the hearing of the nations. "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field; and Jerusalem shall become heaps upon the mountains of the house of Israel, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest."
Micah 4, 5. The very first expression of the goodly estate of Zion in the days of the kingdom, here called "the last days," which Micah gives us in these chapters, is that fine one — presented also by Isaiah in his second chapter — i.e., the peoples of the earth, all the world over, coming up to her to learn the ways or statutes of the king of glory then seated there.
This is highly characteristic. Now, in this time of the ministry of grace, the Saviour's messengers go forth, carrying glad tidings with them, and beseeching sinners to be reconciled. For love is active in goodness; it busies itself at its own cost about the blessing of others. But royalty and judgment take a different attitude. Judgment enthrones itself, and will be waited upon and listened to. If a king reign in righteousness, the people must be in attendance. His courts must be filled. His will is to be learned and observed: and thus it is here.
But if it be a sceptre of righteousness, it shall be also of peace; and a willing, happy world shall witness that a morning has risen without clouds, and that another Solomon, a greater than Solomon, has taken rule in Zion over the whole earth. (2 Sam. 23:3-4) The remnant now scattered are brought home; and in Jerusalem the Lord, the Messiah, reigns over them, His natural-born subjects.
The prophet speaks of all this, and then turning to Judah, leaves the Assyrian of his day for the Chaldean of a coming day; and the daughter of Zion is taught to know that she must go to Babylon, ere she can be brought forth in the majesty that is to be hers in the days of the kingdom. It is in Babylon her pains, her travailing is to end; but the progress of the delivery is noticed; "Thou shalt go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon, and there shalt thou be delivered, there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." Zion must reach her joy through captivity and come to honour through sore sorrow. As it had been told Abraham of old, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land for centuries, ere they came to their inheritance; so it was — the brick-kilns of Egypt went before the victories of Joshua. And now again, Babylon is as a second Egypt to the children of Zion, ere "the first dominion" came to them, ere the palmy days of David and Solomon be restored.
The day of the Chaldean leads the prophet to the day of Israel's confederated enemies at the close. (Jer. 4:10-11*) This closing visitation will be severe, and the rejection of Christ is brought forward as the occasion and the warrant for this. Judah insulted Messiah when He came to them. The Judge of Israel was smitten on the cheek. (Mat. 27:30) But the One whom they refused and insulted, shall be their only hope. This is Joseph again, and Moses again. Those whom the nation once refused, are their only strength and expectation in the day of their calamity. And thus, because of Messiah, whom they once insulted, the Assyrian of the last days shall seek to trouble Israel in vain.
*Between the times of these two verses there is a long interval, not noticed, however, by Micah.
The condition of the people under such a Messiah is then detailed. They shall be purified, while their enemies shall be destroyed. The remnant shall now "abide," because their Messiah in strength and majesty "shall be great unto the ends of the earth." They shall be also as "dew from the Lord," and as "a young lion among the flocks," the occasion of either blessing or judgment to all around them.
And in the midst of all this, Messiah the ruler is presented in various glories, personal and official; and poor Bethlehem, little in Judah, is honoured because of Him. For as the poor carpenter's wife of Nazereth, His mother, so the poor town of Bethlehem, His birth-place, take honour and blessing because of Him. This leaves us at the end of Micah 5.
Micah 6, 7. The earlier chapters of this prophet have been giving us a view of the Lord's hand with Israel: here we get the way of His Spirit with them. These two subjects very much occupy all the prophets some way or another. They constitute the political and the moral history of God's people, all the restoration and the conversion of Israel.
The work of the Spirit, in these chapters of Micah, is given to us in the form of a dialogue. The exercises of the soul are delineated as in a living person, and the dealings of God in answer are given to us as upon the voice of the Lord Himself; and, therefore, these chapters may remind us of the Psalms, where the pulses of the heart are so constantly felt, and the path of the spirit of a man as led of God is so variously tracked. We get personality here as there.
It is the Lord that opens this dialogue. He challenges the ways of His people; and this He does as in the hewing of the mountains and the hills and the foundations of the earth. He refuses not, as it were, to let the whole creation be present when He judges. The Judge of all the earth does right; therefore let heaven and earth wait as in the courts of His righteousness, and before the throne of His judgments. (See Deut 32:1)
This challenge has been heard by a remnant, and they answer it in verses 6, 7. They are awakened to know the sword of the Lord which has now been lifted up. They are alarmed, and would fain find a refuge. Ignorance of God and His ways and truth mark their words. But no matter. It is no longer the sleep or stupidity of the soul: there has been a quickening.
The Lord shortly answers them. He lets the awakened, enquiring ones learn what is "good" and what is "required." That which is "good" is shown to them. God reveals it, as we know, as belonging to Himself. "There is none good but one, that is God." The gospel reveals this in its fulness. That which is "required," or demanded, is nothing of man's cattle for offerings; it is not rivers of oil, or the fruit of his body: it is that only which is morally fitting, that we should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. (Ver.8)
This is perfect in its place. But having thus shortly answered the remnant, (the "man," as he is here called, the one that had ears to hear in the midst of the reprobate nation), the Lord goes on with His challenges of the nation, detailing still further, and with awful disclosures, the ways and iniquities of Israel. For His voice was to the city, though He will surely hear and answer the cry of His remnant, who have heard His rod and Him that hath appointed it. (Ver. 9-16)
The, quickened ones then, at once, take up the word, and seal the judgment which had been just pronounced, owning that things were indeed as bad as they could be, that few were left to form a goodly seed in the midst of the people, and that the nearest and the dearest relationships were violated. But they avoid where they had not found their refuge and relief, even in God Himself, so that they could challenge all that might oppose them. And yet, with all this happy, holy boldness in the presence of their enemies, they humble themselves under the Lord's hand, knowing and owning that, as of a sinning, unclean people, they had no answer for Him. (Micah 7:1-10)
To this the Lord again replies, and it is beautiful. If the godly had just set their seal to the righteousness of His judgments, He now, in His way, sets His seal to their expectations, and talks to them of the day when their captivity should be turned — when they should be re-established in their own land and city, and the purposes of their adversaries be all frustrated, and when they should be sought by the nations around them, after their penal righteous desolations. (Ver. 11-13)
Again the remnant take up the word. Being encouraged, they seek for a restoration of those days, when all the tribes were at home in their inheritance, even in the distant eastern places of Bashan and Gilead. (Ver. 14)
The Lord, in answering, exceeds this desire; for grace, I may surely say, abounds over faith, as well as over sin. Sin does not exhaust it — faith does not measure it. The Lord here pledges that the day of the Exodus shall be renewed, and that His Israel shall again enjoy strange and magnificent displays of His power on their behalf, as once they did, when He brought them forth from the land of Egypt. (Ver. 15-17)
These gracious words, however, the remnant interrupt, insisting (as it were, when they had listened to the story of these mercies) on giving all the glory to God, and that the secret of their deliverance lay in the fear of Him, which their enemies were then to know. This interruption is seen in the last clause of verse 17.
But then, having thus taken the words to themselves, ascribing the honour of these great, final, delivering mercies to the Lord alone, they continue in that strain; and in fervency of spirit utter the praises of His grace and faithfulness. (Ver. 18-20)