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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Micah 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ micah-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Micah 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops
The Church of God
As militant in its character. Jerusalem is addressed as “daughter of troops.” As Jerusalem was a military city containing a great body of soldiers within her walls, so is the Church on earth, it is military. The life of all true men here is that of a battle; all are soldiers, bound to be valiant for the truth. They are commanded to fight the good fight, to war the good warfare. The warfare is spiritual, righteous, indispensable, personal. No one can fight the battle by proxy. Look at the Church--
II. As perilous in its position. “He hath laid siege against us.” The dangerous condition of Jerusalem when the Chaldean army surrounded its walls in order to force an entrance, is only a faint shadow of the perilous position of the Church of God. It is besieged by mighty hosts of errors and evil passions, and mighty lusts that “war against the soul.” The siege is planned with strategic skill, and with malignant determination.
III. As resulted by its enemies. “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” Were the enemies of Christianity ever more insolent than in this age?
IV. As summoned to action. “Now gather thyself in troops.” The men of Jerusalem are here commanded by heaven to marshal their troops and to prepare for battle, since the enemies are outside their walls. Far more urgent is the duty of the Church to collect, arrange, and concentrate all its forces against the mighty hosts that encompass it. (Homilist.)
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah
Bethlehem and its Babe
The Jews regarded this text as a prophecy of Messiah’s birthplace.
Micah, though a prophet of Divine wrath, is also a prophet of Divine promise. Next to Isaiah, he is richest in Messianic prediction.
I. Concerning Bethlehem. Micah is noted for his “rapid transitions” from one topic to another--from threats to promises. The prophet addresses the village by both its names, Bethlehem Ephratah. The patriarchal name Ephratah means “fruitfulness.” It was one of the most fertile parts of Palestine, and its natural fruitfulness was a prophecy of its spiritual fruitfulness. Bethlehem means the “house of bread,” and points to its specific form of fertility, its rich corn land. The prophet marks with wonder its insignificance. It was too remote ever to become a place of importance.
II. Concerning christ. We cannot select our birthplace and circumstances, but Christ could. The Saviour came to teach humility, and to reverse the maxims of the world. Bethlehem was the city of David, and Christ was to be of the seed of David. We have also the description of Christ’s office. “Ruler in Israel.” He came to found a kingdom. The description of Christ’s person, the eternity of God the Son, is also contained in the text.
1. We are taught the grace of lowliness.
2. The name “house of bread” reminds us of the great Sacrament.
3. The prophetic description helps us to realise the two natures in one Divine Person.
4. Obedience to our King is the way to reach up to the higher mystery of His timeless generation (John 7:17). (The Thinker.)
The littleness of Bethlehem, and the greatness of Christ
Bethlehem cannot account for Jesus. Do mangers bring forth Messiahs? Things bring forth after their kind. It is true that genius often arises from lowliest station, and the great human powers seem to make way for themselves through narrowest surroundings.
1. Consider the meaning of this fact, that from the lowliest of peasants sprang the soul that has swayed the mightiest intellects of the world. The moving powers of the eighteen centuries have been themselves moved by Jesus Christ.
2. That out of the most materialistic of religions came the most spiritual of teachers. Judaism clung with almost ferocious tenacity to external signs and symbols.
3. That out of the narrowest of races came the most universal of teachers. The characteristic of Judaism, ancient and modern, is its refusal to recognise the universal element in religion or in humanity.
4. That out of an age which exalted power as supreme, came One who exalted love as supreme in God and in man. The symbol of Rome was the rapacious, unwearied eagle. Military virtues were supreme. The Jews wanted a conquering general as Messiah. Out of such environment and atmosphere came One who exalted the feminine virtues, and proclaimed that the meek should inherit the earth. And as Bethlehem could not produce Christ, it could not confine Christ. (W. H. P. Faunce.)
Prophecy of the Nativity
One great use of prophecy is to give authority and weight to the doctrines delivered by the prophet. In order that the evidence arising from prophecy may be perfectly convincing, it seems necessary that the meaning of the prediction should be somewhat obscure at first; otherwise the friends and followers of the prophet might perhaps find means to bring about a fulfilment of it; or his opposers might, in some cases, prevent its accomplishment. It must, however, be sufficiently precise to verify the event when it comes to pass. However obscure and mysterious, a prophet’s words could not fail to be striking and interesting. The text pro vides an excellent specimen of prophetic methods. Suppose you had never heard of any event which could be regarded as a fulfilment of Micah’s prediction, in what light would it appear to you? However perplexing, there is one thing you would understand. A town is distinctly referred to. There the Person foretold by Micah was born seven hundred years later.
I. The human birth of Jesus. It is a human birth that is foretold. The place where David was born was to be the birthplace of a second David, the Saviour of the world. Observe how singularly the prediction was fulfilled, without the least suspicion of human contrivance, merely by God’s secret overruling providence.
II. The eternal Godhead of Christ. “Whose goings forth have been from everlasting.” To those who first heard this language, how strange it would appear! Something more than human is here described. Words like these are never applied to any creature; but to God the Creator they are frequently applied. The language of Micah gives the twofold character of the Messiah.
III. His mediatorial dignity. He is--
1. Our Ruler.
2. Our Restorer.
3. Our Shepherd.
His administration of all these offices shall one day be universal. (J. Jowett.)
I. His birth as the Son of Man.
1. He was born in obscurity. As a protest to the ages against the popular and influential opinion that human dignity consists in birth and ancestral distinctions.
2. He was born according to Divine plan. “Out of thee shall He come forth unto Me.” Who? Jehovah. The fact of His birth, the scene of His birth, the object of His birth, were all according to a Divine plan. “He shall come forth unto Me.”
(1) According to My will.
(2) To do My will.
3. He was born to an empire. “To be Ruler in Israel.” He is the Prince of Peace on whose shoulder the government is laid. He is a Ruler. Not a temporal ruler, temporal rule is but a shadow. He is to rule thought, intelligence, soul. He is the greatest king who governs mind; and no one has obtained such a government over mind as He who, eighteen centuries ago, “came forth out of Bethlehem Ephratah.” His kingdom is increasing every day.
II. His history as the Son of God. “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” or, as Delitzsch says, “Whose goings forth are from olden time, from the days of eternity.” (Homilist.)
Of the Nativity
There is no applying this verse to any but to Christ.
I. The place of His birth. Bethlehem; spoken of as little, and Ephrata fruitful.” There were two Bethlehems. One in the tribe of Zebulon. It was a sorry poor village.
II. The Person that cometh from this place.
III. Of both His natures. “As Man from Bethlehem; as God from everlasting.
IV. His office. Go before us, and be our Guide. He not only leads, He feeds. (Launcelot Andrewes, D. D.)
The King of Zion
I. The promised Messiah in His true nature. A Man. Come out of Bethlehem. He was born there. More than man. The prophet speaks of a twofold going forth, of Bethlehem, and “from everlasting.” True God as well as true Man.
II. Jesus in His character as Ruler. What are regal acts? The exercise of legislative and judicial authority. The legislative consists in making and repealing laws. The judicial in executing or applying laws.
III. Jesus in His character as Shepherd. Who are His sheep? First the Jews, then the Gentiles. As a shepherd His care is constant--He changes not. It is tender and discriminating care. It is effectual. He gives us life. (J. Summerfield, A. M.)
This passage has always been regarded as one of the clearest and most striking of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah. The gradations in the revelations of Christ have always awakened the attention of Bible readers. First, we have the old word in Eden from the lips of the Lord God to the serpent about his seed and the seed of Eve: “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Out of which dim Messianic germ grows the whole wonderful mediatorial history, its conflicts, its alterations, its reversals, and its eternal triumph in the endless overthrow of its great adversary. Then, about 1600 years later, the Shemitic division of the human race is indicated as the favoured one, rather than Japhet or Ham. By and by Abraham was selected from the sons of Shem to be the head of the Hebrew race, from whom the Redeemer should come. Two hundred years later Jacob, on his dying bed, points out the particular tribe of Israel from whom the Shiloh or Prince of Peace shall be born. No further revelation was then made for about seven hundred years, when the house of David, of the tribe of Judah, was declared to be the favoured family, and about three hundred years after that, in the days of Hezekiah, the prophet Micah reveals the place where Messiah shall be born. This was all that was known for the next seven hundred years, but every intelligent Jew knew that the coming Messiah was to be the Son of David, and was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah. “Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah.” So unimportant was Bethlehem in the old times, that Joshua in his enumeration of the cities and villages of Judah gives it no mention: Rehoboam made it a sort of outlying fortress to Jerusalem, and the Philistines at one time had a garrison there, the place being a strong natural position. But it never grew to size, or became of any national importance, except for its associations. Although the birthplace of David, the great king, yet it never rose above the grade of an obscure Jewish village. In the list of Judean villages which Nehemiah gives after the Captivity it is not named, and in the New Testament, after the birth of Jesus and in that connection, its name never once occurs. So little was Bethlehem Ephratah. And it did not seem destined to any more commanding place in history when, in later times, a plain-looking couple drew near the village, a young wife and her husband, travelling on foot, because very poor, although both of the lineage of David. For not only was Bethlehem little, but the exceeding low condition to which the family of the great king had sunk appears from the fact that Joseph and Mary, who could trace their pedigree up to David through a long line of kings, were thus poor, and received no sort of recognition in the crowded village. But Bethlehem Ephratah was now to be immortalised indeed. Athens, Ephesus, Alexandria, Rome, all were extant, some of them at the very pinnacle of their glory, but the glory of Bethlehem was henceforth to surpass them all. You will mark here the words “unto Me.” The birth of Christ was an event whose relations were chiefly Godward. Christ’s coming to the earth is inconceivably the greatest of all events to us; but, after all, God the Father, and the eternal glory of the Godhead, are concerned in it in a way we cannot now fully understand, but of which the Scriptures give us distinct intimations. It would be quite in accordance with the choice of little Bethlehem as the birth place of the Divine Lord, and the passing by of the great places of the world, if God should have chosen our small earth, this little globe, to be the scene of the wondrous Incarnation, passing by those far mightier worlds in space whose magnitude dwarfs into insignificance this minute planet; here, in a world whose absence would hardly be missed from the vast system, to enact scenes of unparalleled importance to all worlds, illustrating all the principles of the Divine government and the most precious attributes of the Divine Nature. The word “Ruler” is suggestive. The usual Old Testament idea of Christ is that of the head of a kingdom or dynasty. The representations of Isaiah, chapter 53, and of the prophet Zechariah, are exceptions to the general Old Testament thought of the Messiah. Elsewhere it, is the Shiloh or Prince, the King in Zion, the son of David enthroned--He upon whose shoulders has been laid the government, who is to reign over the house of Jacob forever, and to whose kingdom there is to be no end. The connection of these last words with the former words of the prophecy are wonderfully instructive; “He shall come forth out of thee, little Bethlehem,” and the words, “He whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Have they not great suggestions of the nature of the coming Messiah? Does the Old Testament know nothing of the mystery and the miracle of the Saviour’s birth, of the human and the divine, of the advent in time and the glory with the Father before the makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.” It is used to denote that which proceeds out from any one, as speech or language. Deuteronomy 8:3, “By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live.” Thus it comes to have the meaning of origin, descent, an outgoing of existence, which is its import in our text The old divines declare it to be a proof text of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Without feeling called on to adopt that phrase, yet I fully agree with one of them who says, “We have here Christ’s existence from eternity; the phrase, ‘His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,’ is so signal a description of Christ’s eternal generation, or His going forth as the Son of God begotten of the Father before all worlds, that this prophecy must belong only to Him, and could never, be verified of any other.” We embrace the mysterious truth of Christ’s humanity and divinity as herein declared; one of the clearest prophecies of this sublime foundation doctrine of the Scriptures which they anywhere contain. With what greatness does this invest the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem! If He had indeed come to little Bethlehem, whose goings forth were from everlasting, then all the miracles He performed were the simplest outstretching of His hand; the obedience to Him of demons, of nature, of death, were mere matters of course; the attendant angels, the awaiting legions ready at His call, were but the renewed services of cherubim and seraphim who had of old listened to His commands standing round His heavenly throne. There is not time even to glance at the triumphs which this birth in Bethlehem has already won. How it has given the era to all human history, guided the life of nations, subjected the intellects of the greatest of men, moulded the sentiments of civilised society, yea, made true society a possibility; rescued women and the family from degradation, uplifted the poor, guarded the rights of the weak; won the deep, unquenchable love of millions upon millions of true human hearts; stood by the martyr’s rack, walked with him in the furnace; put the arms of support beneath dying pillows, and uplifted to the eternal hills the successive generations of the believing children of God. All these things have been done through that birth in Bethlehem Ephratah. There can be no greater things in kind, but there are yet to be greater in the extent of the victory. (R. Aikman, D. D.)
The thought of the prophet is, that God is about to restore the monarchy in Israel by a return to its original starting point, the ancestral house and home of David, and to restore it in surpassing greatness and power. As in the days of Saul’s apostasy and the kingdom’s peril, He had taken from thence a man to sit upon the throne, so again when wickedness with its long train of miseries had brought the nation low, a Deliverer was to come forth from the place that had given David to Israel. The prophet had asked (Micah 4:9) as he beheld the desolation of his country, “Is there no king in thee?” And here the answer is given. Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries. The former was the prophet of the city, the latter of the country. The power and wealth of the kingdoms had become centralised in the two cities, Samaria and Jerusalem. The condition of the country was like France in the years before the Revolution, when Paris was France, and the provinces were despised and oppressed; pillaged to feed the luxuries and vices of the metropolis; It was joy to the rural prophet to know that God would pass by the pomp and pride of the city, and bring forth the king from a place that was little among the thousands of Judah.” A parallel is plainly instituted between what God had once done in Israel’s history and what He is about to do. Bethlehem, that had already furnished one king, the typical king, should furnish yet another. The scene of Christ’s advent, its significance concerning Himself.
1. It declared His advent to be the advent of a King. Bethlehem was identified in every mind With the throne of Israel, with the royal house of David. Insignificant in itself, it was famous through its association with Israel’s great king. The kingly idea was enshrined in Bethlehem. It is a prediction of His royalty.
2. It declared His advent to be not according to human ideas and expectations. It was a surprise to Samuel when he was sent to Bethlehem to anoint the son of Jesse, and his surprise deepened as the stalwart elder brethren were rejected. The wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, naturally expecting to find the new king in the great city. But they found him not at Jerusalem, but at Bethlehem. He is to be a King after God’s mind, and not according to human thought. His royalty is to be the royalty of His own nature, and not of earthly circumstance and rank.
3. It declared the character of His kingly rule. “He chose David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds. He brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.” It intimated that his shepherd life was the preparation and the pattern of his kingly life, that as a shepherd with his flock so was the king over his people; ruling them for their good, defending them from their enemies, risking his life for them, carrying into the affairs of his kingdom the spirit of a shepherd with his sheep. In like manner when we hear that another King is to rise from Bethlehem we conclude that His rule will be of the same kind. He too will be a Shepherd King, ruling not by force but by gentleness, seeking not His own gain but the good of His people, caring for the weak, recovering the lost.
4. It declared that His advent was demanded by the condition of others, by the need, the misery of those to whom He came. Men have sought sovereignty at the bidding of their own ambition. The Bethlehem King was called to it by God Himself, called to it by the national crisis, by the misery of the people, the degradation of the land. The prophet sees everywhere anarchy and confusion, oppression and wrong, weakness and suffering. The advent of Christ is the advent of a King whose presence is demanded by the need and misery of men. He does not come to set up a kingdom for Himself, that is, for personal ends. He comes into the world because the world cannot do without Him.
5. The unprecedented greatness of the future King, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Coming into the world centuries after David had fallen on sleep, He is yet before David. He is David’s Lord as well as David’s Son. His advent is the manifestation of One whose nature knows neither youth nor age, whose sovereignty has no beginning and no end. “From of old, from everlasting.” The scene of His advent teaches chiefly the greatness of His condescension and humiliation. He “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” links Himself with time, enters into human history, associates Himself with earthly places. (W. Perkins.)
He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord
The Mighty Shepherd
His activity and zeal. “He shall stand.” We read of idle shepherds, who lie down and sleep and neglect their flock. This attitude of standing shows--
1. Dignity. He is the Royal Shepherd.
2. Observation. He who stands can survey all around.
3. Attention. He does not withdraw His eyes. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
II. His regard. “He shall feed.” The term feed is not confined to providing food. It applies to all the duties of a shepherd. And this office consists of unwearied care, such as--
1. Causing them to rest. The weary child of God must pause, and the wise Shepherd selects the time and place.
2. Leading them. The Eastern shepherd treads the ground before his flock.
3. Restoring the wanderers. There are always the erring and wandering--headstrong, foolish, daring.
4. Healing the wounded.
5. Defending the weak and securing the flock.
III. His ability. “In the strength of the Lord.” This does not mean “borrowed” strength; the strength of the Lord is His own. And power is needed. Who can realise the danger and difficulties of the Church on earth, or the trials of a struggling soul?
IV. His dignity. “In the majesty of His God.” Majesty combined with strength. How majestic was Christ, even in His humiliation! Majesty combined with simplicity; majesty and gentleness. But Christ is terrible in majesty, terrible to His foes. Who shall abide His day? Yea, He is terrible to the foes of His flock. (Homilist.)
The Shepherd and His mission
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Many other things were predicted in the Scriptures; but incidentally, relatively, subordinately; this testimony was the fixed subject and steady aim of the whole. All the prophets testified of Jesus, though not all in the same way or in the same degree. They did not always understand their own predictions. From this prediction consider--
I. His implied character. It is that of a shepherd. The character of a shepherd now is far less respectable than it was in early ages, and especially in the East. The character of a good shepherd has been applied to a good ruler. Christ is called the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and God’s Shepherd. And we are told that both His kindness and His love are unexampled.
II. Observe His work. “Stand and feed.” The pastures in which He feeds His people are His Word and ordinances. We are not to restrain the work of this Divine Shepherd to feeding only. He affords repose; for His flock need rest as well as provision. A shepherd also guides them. Christ guides His people by His Word, by His Spirit, and by His providence. By His Word He shows them the way in which they should go. By His Spirit He gives them the inclination, and works in them to walk in the way of His pleasure. By His providence He arranges all, and fixes all their circumstances in life for the advancement of His own glory and their real welfare. As a shepherd He restores; for they sometimes, nay often, go astray. As a shepherd He heals their sicknesses. He renders all His ordinances and all His dispensations salutary. As a shepherd He defends them all, else they would be destroyed.
III. How He is to perform His work.
1. He will do this attentively. “Stand and feed.”
2. Powerfully. “In the strength of the Lord.”
3. Nobly or gracefully. “In the majesty of the . . . name of the Lord His God . . . Power . . . is not always, dignity; authority, when it is not softened by condescension, has in it something harsh and repelling.
Some who feel their strength, think of nothing else. Christ is mild and gentle. He exerted His power mildly, kindly, if you will, majestically.
IV. The safety of the flock. “And they shall abide.” To abide is to continue, to endure, to be able to withstand any foe, and to go forth against it. There is, however, a difference between the fact and the comfort of it. The believer is often filled with fear, and is ready to suppose that God is going to destroy us. At other times Christians are able to realise this fact by faith.
V. The extension of His own renown. “Now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth.” In order to this He must be known, and to make Himself known is all that is necessary to this. The more He is known, the more will He be loved and adored. And does He not deserve to be known? The Christians’ grief is that Christ is so little known and adored. There are, however, two things to console them.
1. That it is not so in the other world.
2. They know that it will not be so always, nor long, even in this world.
They know that He shall have “the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.” (William Jay.)
And this Man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land
Peace in Christ amid invading foes
This is an announcement of the mission of our Saviour.
He is to be peace. Two facts in the text.
1. A special danger is apprehended.
2. A provision is made to meet the danger.
I. The crisis of danger. Two great nations invaded the Holy Land, the Assyrian and the Babylonian. These differed. The former was heathen, the latter idolatrous. The one sought to destroy all worship; the other to establish the worship of its own gods. These two nations represent the different forces that battle against Christianity to the present time. In the philosophy of the infidel we see the one; in the superstition of Rome we see the other.
II. The provision to meet the danger. This Man, Christ, is our peace. Christ meets the infidel successfully at every turn. Human unbelief directs its whole power to break down the truth of God in Christ, and to destroy the hope of man. Sometimes by outward, open, organised attack, at other times by private, insidious attacks on the heart Of man. In the midst of all this hostility the advent of our Saviour is our peace.
III. Some of the weapons of this Assyrian enemy.
1. It contested the authenticity of the Scriptures. This was the method of attack, from Porphyry and Celsus down to Hume and Gibbon. This mode of attack is ended.
2. The impossibility, the absurdity of the incarnation of Christ is urged. The Assyrian rejects the personality of God, the immortality of man. He seeks the enthronement of matter.
3. There is a private, a personal hostility. Many a man retains his peace amid all the outward conflict, but when assailed by doubt and fear the citadel of the soul is carried. But this Man--this Saviour--is the strength of the soul forever. (Stephen H. Tyng, D. D.)
Christ our peace
The term “Assyrian” may he regarded as symbolically used, the great enemy of the Jews being made to represent generally the enemies of man, or particularly of the Church. One of the titles under which Isaiah announces the Child that should be born is “Prince of Peace.” The chorus of the angels mentions “peace.” The angels associated the incarnation of the Saviour with the reestablishment of peace on the disquieted earth. In the apostolic writings peace is equally associated with Christ, and especially attributed to His death. Except through Him there could be no reconciliation of the human race to God. Christ Jesus, by His obedience and death, removed every obstacle to the free forgiveness of sinners, and thus in the largest sense reconciled the world unto God. There are other reasons why Christ may be affirmed to have accomplished our text. It is the tendency and property of the Christian religion to heal all differences between man and man, and to produce and preserve universal harmony. In the very degree in which the religion of Christ now gains a hold on individuals or families, it vindicates its character as a religion of peace. It cannot establish its dominion in the heart without producing a disposition towards goodwill to all men. Christianity, going straightway to the inner man, throws the salt, as it were, into the very fountains of the waters of strife, and by healing the springs, sweetens all their after flowings. Who shall order the jarring elements of the world into harmony? Make true Christians of all men, and then, such will be the principles which are universally acted on, such the motives which will be universally at work, such the ends which will be universally proposed, that divisions must disappear, because every one will seek the good of others in seeking his own. In an individual and personal sense, too, Christ is our peace. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
The peace from God
In some crystals that coat, as with shining frost work, the sides of a vessel, we have all the salts that give perpetual freshness to the ocean, their life to the weeds that clothe its rocks, and their energy to the fish that swim its depths and hollows. In some drops of oil distilled from rose leaves of Indian lands, and valued at many times their weight in gold, we have enclosed within one small phial the perfume of a whole field of roses, that which, diffused through ten thousand leaves, gave every flower its fragrance. Like these our text contains the essence of the Gospel; peace to a world at enmity against God; peace to a race of sinners at variance with God; peace and joy in believing. Peace.
I. Who is here spoken of? The Man; the Christ. He stands alone as the Man. This is His distinguishing feature. Micah has just uttered a prediction fixing the birthplace of the promised Messiah. He is called “the Man,” because He is--
1. The Divine Man. God manifest in the flesh. He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him.
2. As the sinless Man. “He knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” A Lamb for sacrifice, “without blemish and without spot.”
II. What is He to be to us? Christ our peace. In Him God provides for the destruction of all causes of enmity and disorder. This work of destruction was to be the foundation for peace between God and man. For peace between God and man as a sinner, and as a saint. Peace He brings for the sinner. The true peace is in Christ, through His precious bloodshedding, and by His atoning death. Peace He brings for the believer. It is built upon His own promise and Word, and is compatible with the most calm and considerate view of all truth. God’s peace is with one’s self, with our conscience, with God, in fact, through the blood of Jesus. It is that we want.
III. How is He to be peace to us?
1. He satisfied Jehovah. By bearing our sins in His own body on the tree; by making peace through the blood of His Cross; by dying the just for the unjust to bring us to God; by making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness.
2. He overcame the enmity of the human heart. This peace is purchased for us by His Divinely efficacious bloodshedding, but it is bestowed upon us by the mysterious communication of His Spirit. The source of true peace is faith, realising and resting on the faithful and unchanging promises of God.
IV. When may Christ be said to be our peace? “When the Assyrian cometh into our land.” The allusion is to the invasion of Judaea by Sennacherib, in the reign of Hezekiah. Some think that Hezekiah is the man here referred to. But note that this Man was born at Bethlehem; and He was a Man whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting. This must be the Son of God. It is in the very presence of the Assyrian that the child of God has peace. We do not say that the consequences of our sins are taken away. And yet there is peace; Christ works it by destroying the painful sense of the corruption of the spirit’s purity, and the deadly evil poisoning of all the springs of being. He is our peace, able and willing to hush every storm, and fill us with all peace and joy. Apply both to our corruption and to our affliction. Then, if there is no true peace in time or eternity but what comes from God in Christ, then let the believer live near to God. Let him, through the aids of the Holy Spirit, maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and man. (William Adamson.)
I. A terrible invasion. The Assyrian, who may be regarded as the representative of all the enemies of Israel, enters the Holy Land, takes Jerusalem, and treads the “palaces” of the chosen people. A faint picture is the Assyrian of the hellish invader of human souls. He breaks his way through all bulwarks, enters the sacred territory, and treads even in the palaces of the intellect and heart.
II. A triumphant defender. There are “seven shepherds and eight principal men” who now hurled back the Assyrian invader, entered his own territory, and carried war into the midst. Who is the deliverer? “This Man shall be the peace.”
1. He did it successfully. “Thus shall He deliver us from the Assyrian.” Christ will one day ruin this moral Assyrian, as lightning falleth from heaven he shall fall. He will hurl him from the habitation of men.
2. Christ, in doing this, uses human instrumentality. “Seven shepherds and eight principal men.” Christ destroys the works of the devil by the instrumentality of men.
(1) The instrumentality that He employs may seem to us very feeble. “Seven shepherds and eight principal men,” against unnumbered hosts of enemies. “He chooseth the foolish things of the world to confound the wise,” etc.
(2) Though the instrumentality may seem feeble, it was sufficient. The work was done. “Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Homilist.)
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord
This text may suggest the beneficial influence which God’s people are intended and calculated to exert upon surrounding society, wherever their lot may be cast, and whatever may be the circumstances in which they are placed.
God has never failed to preserve for Himself a people in the world. The principles of spiritual religion, embodied in living character, and manifested in suitable conduct, have had the effect of spreading an illumination which has operated beneficially upon the spiritual interests of mankind, and led many an ignorant wanderer to salvation and heaven. It is hardly possible to estimate too highly the beneficial influence of Christian character, when consistently and properly exemplified. It operates in a manner most beautiful and efficient. This character is composed of such elements that it cannot be successfully imitated. It is what no worldly system or agency is capable of producing. The influence which belongs legitimately to the character of God’s people does not depend for its successful exertion upon associated numbers, or outward circumstances of wealth, respectability, and prosperity. More importance has been attached to these things than properly belongs to them. The potency of religious influence depends not upon mere accumulated numbers, but upon character. It will prove a fatal mistake, wherever the outward accessories of religion are allowed to supplant its spiritualities. The machinery of Christianity cannot be successfully worked, except by the hands of those who are under its sanctifying influence. This Christian influence is not something natural to a certain class of individuals, distinguished from the rest of their species by mysterious endowments. And the influence of Christian character must not be understood as superseding and disparaging the influence of those other agencies by which Christianity is to be spread and propagated in the world. We need not disparage the Christian ministry; or the doctrines of Christianity. The truth and grace in the Gospel are destined to issue in the formation of a holy character, and to display themselves in corresponding practical results. It is in vain to pretend to the possession of Christian character, where those appropriate practical results are not witnessed. On the exemplification of religion in its excellence and beauty, the usefulness of professing Christians very materially and essentially depends. Worldly observers will justly come to the conclusion that the religion is worthless, the offspring of hypocritical ostentation, of infatuated superstition, which does not ameliorate and elevate the character. These are just expectations, and ought to be realised. How great then ought to be the circumspection of those who bear the Christian name, that they may not dishonour it by any unbecoming conduct. It is a matter of great importance, that religious character should develop itself, free from all those blemishes which would have the effect of tarnishing its Divine lustre and impairing its reputation. Those who would exemplify the legitimate influence of Christian character in its fullest efficiency, must live in close fellowship with the Divine throne. Nothing else can render us beneficially influential. The influence of genuine Christian character is always mild, and beneficent, and diffusive. Individual Christians should reflect much upon their responsibility. (William Hurt.)
The paucity, position, and power of the true
The truth in this verse may be said to have met with its partial fulfilment in the unique and marvellous experience of the Jews; for
(1) They are but a “remnant” of the human family, being but a fragment, a fraction of the whole human race.
(2) They dwell in “remnants,” in detached, broken, and fragmentary portions, “here a little and there a little.”
(3) They dwell “in the midst of many people,” so that there is hardly a single nation or people in which there is not at present some small remnant of the Abrahamic seed.
(4) They exist, and are preserved as a witness on the behalf of heaven and its truth.
(5) All this has been continued irrespective of, and, in many cases, in opposition to the most earnest human effort, “tarrying not for man,” etc.
I. The paucity of the true. God has ever had a people peculiarly His own; and who will dare dispute His right to have a more special regard to some, than He may have to others? Calvinian or Arminian, we all agree that “the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself”; the true from among the false, and the pure from amongst the vile. From the dawn of human history these have been but a “remnant” of the human family. Look at the flood, and at Egypt. Thus the holy and the true are but a “remnant” in nations, in towns, and in families.
II. The position of the true. “In the midst,” etc. It might be more in harmony with our own natural tastes and preferences to be a separate people in one land swarming together, without any of the false about us, but such is not God’s arrangement. Shiploads of Christians may leave our shores for some Canterbury or other settlement, where they may hope to live and not see the face of an unbeliever, but sadly do such men err in expecting this. Should the whole Church but settle down in one land, it would be a most grievous curse and woe to the world. We are to settle down only in heaven. The distribution of the Church “in the midst,” etc., is necessary in order to promote the Divine purpose; for it exists not for itself alone, but as leaven in meal, as salt, as Divine seed, here a grain and there a grain. Learn this, that God hath placed you “in the midst” of your enemies, by contact to bless them, for each has his sphere.
III. The purpose of the true. The design of their dispersion has a vital relation to the people amongst whom they are placed, as the dew and showers to the grass. As the showers are of heavenly origin, so is Israel “born from above.” As the dew is a pure and crystal liquid, so the true Israel is composed of the choicest natures and sweetest spirits in the world. Dew is silently produced, and so the mightiest work may be accomplished in the human soul, “without observation.” As the dew and showers are entirely independent of the human, so the Church, like the truth, lives not upon human sufferance. This purpose will be fulfilled. Many weak and unbelieving minds have thought that the true, being but a “remnant,” their influence would waste and die, but thank God this cannot be, for the source is unfailing and Divine. (E. D. Green.)
God’s people, their tender and terrible aspect in the world
Two things are predicted concerning the Jews after their restoration from Babylon.
1. Their influence upon the nations would be as refreshing dew.
2. Their power on the nations would be as terrible as the lion’s on the herds, and on the flocks.
It will not, I think, be unfair to use the passage to illustrate the twofold aspect of the people of God in this world--the tender and terrible, the restorative and the destructive. Like Israel of old, godly men in every age have only been a remnant, a very small minority of the generation in which they lived. It will not always be so.
I. The tender aspect of God’s people in the world. They are spoken of here as “dew.” Silent in its fall, beautiful in its appearance, refreshing in its influence. Three things are suggested concerning this “dew.”
1. It is Divine. It is “from the Lord.” All that is quickening and refreshing in the thoughts, spirits, character of good men on this earth descends from heaven. “Every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights,” etc.
2. It is copious. “As the showers upon the grass.” There have been seasons when those spiritual influences have descended on men with plenitude and power, such as on the day of Pentecost. Would it were so now!
3. It is undeserved of men. “That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.” Good men on this earth are to their generation what the gentle dew and the fertilising shower are to the thirsty earth. Their speech distils as dew, and their influence descends on the souls of men like rain upon the new mown grass.
II. The terrible aspect of God’s people in the world. The same men as are represented under the metaphor of dew are here spoken of as a “lion.” Bold, terrible, and destructive. Elijah was a lion in his age, so was John the Baptist, so was Luther, so was Latimer, etc. This subject suggests--
1. A picture of the unregenerate world. There are some germs of goodness in its soil that require the fertilising influence of heaven to quicken and develop, and there are some things in it so pernicious and baneful that it requires all the courage, force, and passion of moral lions to destroy.
2. A picture of the completeness of moral character, Not all “dew,” nor all “lion,” but both combined. (Homilist.)
God’s purposes of mercy
We are imperfect judges of moral power, both as to what really constitutes moral power and as to its extent and influence. We are very prone to transfer the idea of largeness, mass, weight from the physical to the moral world; to place our trust in numbers, in wealth, in outward visible power, and are disposed to despond even of the very best cause when it has not these upon its side. In the management of public affairs men come to have implicit faith in majorities, rather than in truth and in righteousness. We are apt to think the Church strong and prosperous when it is popular with the crowd; when its coffers are filled with wealth; when it is surrounded with the bulwarks and appliances of secular power and favour. There is forgetfulness of that which constitutes the real strength and power of a moral system; which is the goodness of the cause; and the faith, earnestness, and zeal of those who are its advocates and its professors. One man, with God’s truth in him, which he thoroughly believes and which he has the courage to speak out, has more real weight in him than a whole community that are ignorant of that truth, or opposed to it. The strength of God’s Church lies in the truth of her doctrines, in the purity of her morality, in the piety and zeal of her members. By means of these she is leaven in the mass. Thus she becomes a great blessing to the nation. The higher meaning of our text has reference to the Church as such, to the spiritual Church of God in all times and ages.
1. We need not be surprised to find the Church of God existing as a small remnant. It has, indeed, never yet been otherwise. At no period has the Church ever been in a majority. At times the spiritual body has seemed to be almost lost to the eye of sense. Seen ever at her best estate, she is but a remnant in the midst of many people.
2. The proper place of this remnant is in the midst of the community. God has so placed His Church. Sometimes the Church, or individual members of the Church, would have it otherwise. Secluding themselves in coteries or cloisters. Whilst Christians keep themselves sedulously pure from the contamination of evil example or corrupt conversation, they are not to go out of the world. They are to abide in the calling in which they were when God called them. They are to be friendly, social, courteous, benevolent towards all men.
3. The Church possesses a mighty power tint benefiting a community. It is amongst them “as a dew from the Lord, and as showers that water the grass.” Dew and rain came to be regarded as special gifts of God. And so they were taken in Scripture as symbols of what is directly and immediately God produced. They are thus a fitting emblem of the Church, in its position and its working in the world. God has formed the Church as an instrument in His hands for the accomplishment of His immediate purpose of grace and mercy to the world.
4. This working does not depend upon man’s will or permission. It is not by our favour that the Church of God is in the midst of the nations as a dew from the Lord, exerting a conservative, vivifying, renovating, ameliorating power upon the world. God has ever been with His own cause. Neither from fear nor favour must the Church wait upon man, nor lean upon an arm of flesh. It is when God is with His Church that she is strong and powerful and good. Learn, then--
(1) The importance and the responsibility of the Church’s position in the midst of the nations.
(2) The condition on which the Church’s usefulness depends. It is that it be as a dew from the Lord. He must be in the midst of His Church, and His Church must be prayerfully dependent on Him. (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)
The Church in the world
I. The influence which the Church may exert in the world.
1. Their influence is great. Dew and rain rank among the most powerful natural agencies. In the energy of these we have a fit image of the influence of the Church. The resources which the members of the Church may command, and the instrumentality which they can employ, are “mighty through God.” This is evident from the purposes they are called to fulfil; the field upon which they are to operate; the promises and provisions on which they may rely; the responsibility under which they are laid; the influence, limited indeed, but vast, which they have already exerted, and the prophecies which they must yet fulfil. What might not the Church accomplish did she put forth her strength? but at what a low standard have Christians commonly estimated their power.
2. This influence is beneficial. Who can adequately calculate the consequence of being deprived, but for a single season, of the rain and the dew from heaven! It is our peculiar prerogative and privilege to possess a power which can convert the sources of man’s present evil into means and channels of permanent good; to render every society and institution and mind under heaven an unmixed blessing.
3. This influence is diffusive. It is delightful to consider it within a narrow circle and on a limited scale--in the family, neighbourhood, Sabbath school. But it is adapted and designed for all the nations and tribes and families of men, and for all the classes and individuals that compose them. This universal adaptation of the influence of the Church arises not merely from the nature of that influence, but also from the diversified gifts and circumstances of those who possess it. These are marked by an almost boundless variety.
4. This influence is Divine. It is not inherent in the Church nor independent of God. If the Church has power, it is endued from on high. She is mighty through God.
II. The position which the Church should occupy. “In the midst of many people.” Rain and dew are but images of the far more genial influences which the Church is able and destined to diffuse through the world. In what position, and by what process, can we best employ this power? “Teach all nations.” How far has our Saviour’s design been met? Much has been done; but the labours of the Church are but begun. Much remains to be done at home and abroad. Why is progress so slow It cannot be traced to deficient power; to inadequate means, to want of opportunity, or to any inability in the Church to furnish the requisite agency. It is due to imperfectness of consecration, and the partial employment of the Church’s resources.
III. The independence which the Church may claim. “That tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.” The principal source of independence is the power and presence of Him from whom she has received her commission. Enjoying this, she need not, she dare not “wait for man.” Shall we wait till civilisation and law have smoothed and opened our way? But while the Church must not tarry for man, God waits for His Church. Then listen not to the dictates of the selfish; follow not the course of the indolent; look not to others; let each in his sphere, and according to his ability, arise and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. (E. Prout.)
The world’s silent benefactor
It must be evident to every thoughtful man that we are all apt to judge unfairly of moral force. We are so much more familiar with the sphere of sense than with the sphere of spirit that we constantly transfer ideas gained from the former into the latter, although its nature is quite different. We judge of matter by its bulk, we judge of machinery by its clever adaptations, and we carry these criteria from the physical into the spiritual sphere. Because we see great effects produced by the movement of mighty bodies, we argue that it must be so everywhere, and that what the world requires is a Niagara-like Church, which will make itself felt by noise and impetus and quantity. Hence we get very depressed if, in connection with a religious society, we see small numbers and hear of diminished funds, while we congratulate ourselves all round if, in regard to these, we hear a good report. This false method of judgment asserts itself in various directions. Many of us trust to majorities, instead of to conscience. We are very respectable to public opinion, and wait cautiously to see which way the wind blows before we commit ourselves to a policy. Power and victory were our Lord’s, not because He won the majority over to His way of thinking, not because He devised complex ecclesiastical machinery cleverly adapted to the times, not because He had on His side the weight of money bags and the prestige of social respectability, but because His followers, though few and unlearned, were inspired by Him with an enthusiasm of faith which proved resistless. I say, then, that the real strength of a moral system does not lie in its mass; but in its truth and goodness, and in the faith and zeal of its advocates. Even in the physical world there are not wanting examples of quality overmatching quantity. The heaviest sword made of poor material cannot do what even a light rapier would do, in attack and defence, if the rapier be of well-tempered steel. A handful of men, trained and brave, have often held out victoriously against the impact of a vast horde of undisciplined savages. And this is equally true of a Church. Its fellowship may not be numerous, its members may not be individually influential, but if it be distinguished for piety and prayerfulness, it does more for the cause of Christ than far larger Churches not so rich in them. The influence which the world’s wiseacres contemn is mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. Now, it is in the light of these truths you can most clearly see the meaning of our text. It compares God’s people not to a mighty storm or to a resistless sea, but to the silent dew and the gentle showers, which are mighty, not because of the stir they make, but because of what they themselves are. And this analogy is accordant with all the parables of our Lord, on the nature of His kingdom, in which He likened it to the mustard seed, and to the leaven hidden in three measures of meal. Every one knows that dew is absolutely essential to the continued life of nature in the lands to which this prophet referred. From the beginning of April to the end of October--in other words, from the close of the “latter” to the beginning of the “former rains”--during all the hot summer months, the life of herbage depends there on dew alone. That dew is transparent, beautiful, glistening with light, gentle and silent, weak in itself, yet mighty in its aggregate effect, refreshing and cooling beyond power of description, and preserving the life it touches, while it is itself consumed in giving the blessing. Then as for the “showers.” Often, after a long period of drought, and of dry, searching winds, the face of the sky has been covered with clouds, and showers have fallen on every field and garden throughout the land, descending without effort, yet penetrating deeply to nourish forgotten seeds and parched roots, and though no one drop of rain was of any great value in itself yet the aggregate of drops which we call a “shower” has proved of Divine and incalculable worth. It is to these two means--showers and dew--which God employs to bless the natural world, that Micah likens “the remnant of Jacob,” the handful of people which alone would represent God among the heathen; and the Christian Churches, who represent the same God, may fairly regard the description as applicable to themselves.
1. Our attention is called here first to the Church’s insignificance. It is referred to as a “remnant.” It has seldom been otherwise. Insignificance, in the scale of the world’s judgment, is its normal condition. Earnest, religious men have never been a majority at any time in the world’s history. Once the Church consisted of a single family called from idolatry in Ur of the Chaldees. Indeed, even now, what is the Christian Church but a “remnant”? Compare the number even of professing Christians--with the teeming millions of those who follow Mahomet, Confucius, or Buddha--and your heart will sink in hopelessness, if you do not believe that on your side is the living God--the Eternal Truth--the Almighty Saviour! God does His work by despised agencies, and this He does also in the moral enlightenment of the world and in its regeneration, choosing the weak things” and the things which are despised, that the excellency of the power may be of God “and not of us.” Do not suppose, then, that you are on the losing side because you hold a religious faith which as yet only the minority of the race accepts.
2. But we are also reminded by our text of the Church’s association. It is in contact with the world. The remnant of Jacob is “in the midst of the people.” The dew and the showers are blessings, because they actually touch the earth. There have been times when Christian people have sought to have it otherwise. They have retired to cells in the desert, and to monasteries and convents. We are followers of Jesus Christ, brethren, and He went to eat with publicans and sinners, and talked to folk the Pharisees would have had nothing to do with. Now, you perhaps are thrown by God’s providence, as a Christian man, into business. You cannot help yourself. There you see people of all sorts--men sensual and men spiritual; men avaricious and men open handed; men saint-like and men worldly; men who believe in Christ and men who scorn Him. Do not, I beseech you, resent that position; do not go about your daily work as if you were ashamed of it. Do not give the cold shoulder to everybody who differs from you. You are put there as God’s representative to the worldly, as well as to the pious.
3. The Church’s beneficence, i.e., its capacity for doing good, is suggested in the figures of the dew and the showers. These powers in nature are the gifts of God. We cannot create them by any of our scientific appliances, nor can we foretell them with any approach to accuracy. Has not the apostle said, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained before that we should walk in them”? And Jehovah Himself declared, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise.” In other words, God has given you such religious life as you have. You are a Christian because He has made you a new creature in Christ. And He has done this, not that you may complacently congratulate yourself on your own salvation, and contentedly but selfishly enjoy your religious privileges, but that you may bless others, and that you may serve Him. Do your own part faithfully and prayerfully, and you will do much more than you think, and perhaps the results you did not aim at will prove greater than those you did.
4. The fourth and final suggestion which this verse aroused in my mind was one respecting the Church’s independence of mere human planning. Of the dew and of the showers, to which Micah likens the Church, he says, “They tarry not for man, nor wait for the sons of men.” The Church of Jesus Christ did not depend for its existence on man’s permission. It originated in God’s free gift of His only Son. If you have some God-given indication of your work, do not hesitate for a moment to follow it up. Just throw yourself right into it at once, for you are amongst those who are not to tarry for man nor to wait for the sons of men. Do not give up the idea of it because your friends would dissuade you. Depend upon it, if we go out in God’s strength and at His call; if, in the name of our God, we set up our banners, success is certain. If you would be a blessing to others you need yourself to receive a fuller blessing. The morning dew only appears when there is a certain relation between heaven and earth, and if there be not that, no power we know of can create the dew. The earth must give off its own heat, under an open heaven, when the air is still, and then the dew will be deposited abundantly. There is something you have to give forth--namely, your own love and longing; and if these rise heavenward in the stillness of thought and prayer, and there be no cloud of doubt between you and heaven, you, too, may become as the dew, pure in itself and as a means of blessing to others. Therefore, let us pray for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. (A. Rowland, D. D.)
A dew from the Lord
The simple natural science of the Hebrews saw a mystery in the production of the dew on a clear night, and the poetic imagination found in it a fit symbol for all silent and gentle influences from Heaven that refreshed and quickened parched and dusty souls. Where the dew fell the scorched vegetation lifted its drooping head. That is what Israel is to be in the world, says Micah. He saw very deep into God’s mind, and into the function of the nation. It may be a question as to whether the text refers more especially to the place and office of Israel when planted in its own land, or when dispersed among the nations. For, as you see, he speaks of “the remnant of Jacob” as if he was thinking of the survivors of some great calamity which had swept away the greater portion of the nation. Both things are true.
I. The function of each Christian in his place. “The remnant of Jacob shall be as a dew from the Lord in the midst of many nations.” What made Israel “as a dew”? One thing only: its religion, its knowledge of God, and its consequent purer morality. It could teach Greece no philosophy, no art, no refinement, no sensitiveness to the beautiful. It could teach Rome no lessons of policy or government. It could bring no wisdom to Egypt, no power or wealth to Assyria. The same thing is true about Christian people. We cannot teach the world science, we cannot teach it philosophy or art, but we can teach it God. Now, the possibility brings with it the obligation. The personal experience of Jesus Christ in our hearts, as the dew that brings to us life and fertility, carries with it a commission as distinct and imperative as if it had been pealed into each single ear by a voice from heaven. Remember, too, that, strange as it may seem, the only way by which that knowledge of God which was bestowed upon Israel could become the possession of the world was by its, first of all, being made the possession of a few. Art, literature, science, political wisdom, they are all entrusted to a few who are made their apostles; and the purpose is their universal diffusion from these human centres. So to us the message comes: “The Lord hath need of thee.” Now, that diffusion from individual centres of the life that is in Jesus Christ is the chiefest reason--or, at all events, is one chief reason--for the strange and inextricable intertwining in modern society of saint and sinner, of Christian and non-Christian. The seed is sown among the thorns; the wheat springs up amongst the tares. The renmant of Jacob is in the midst of many peoples; and you and I are all encompassed by those who need our Christ, and who do not know Him or love Him; and one great reason for the close inter twining is that, scattered we may diffuse, and that at all points the world may be in contact with those who ought to be working to preserve it from putrefaction and decay. Now, there are two ways by which this function may be discharged. The one is by direct efforts to impart to others the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ which we have, and which we profess to be the very root of our lives. We can do all that if we will, and we are here to do it. Every one of us has somebody or other close to us, bound to us, perhaps, by the tie of kindred and love, who will listen to us more than they will to anybody else. Christian men and women, have you utilised these channels which God Himself, by the arrangements of society, has dug for you, that through them you may pour upon some thirsty ground the water of life? But there is another way by which “the remnant of Jacob” is to be “a dew from the Lord,” and that is by trying to bring to bear Christian thoughts and Christian principles upon all the relations of life in which we stand, and all the societies, be they greater or smaller--the family, the city, or the nation--of which we form parts. Have you ever lifted a finger to abate drunkenness? Have you ever done anything to help to make it possible that the masses of our town communities should live in places better than the pigstyes in which many of them have to wallow? Time was when a bastard piety shrank back from intermeddling with these affairs and gathered up its skirts about it in an ecstasy of unwholesome unworldliness. There is not much danger of that now, when Christian men are in the full swim of the currents of civic, professional, literary, national life.
II. The function of English Christians in the world. I have suggested in an earlier part of this sermon that possibly the application of this text originally was to the scattered remnant. Be that as it may, wherever you go you find the Jew and the Englishman. I need not dwell upon the ubiquity of our race. But I do wish to remind you that that ubiquity has its obligation. We hear a great deal today about Imperialism, about “the Greater Britain,” about “the expansion of England.” And on one side all that new atmosphere of feeling is good, for it speaks of a vivid consciousness which is all to the good in the pulsations of the national life. But there is another side to it that is not so good. What is the expansion sought for? Trade? Yes! necessarily; and no man who lives in Lancashire will speak lightly of that necessity. My text tells us why expansion should be sought, and what are the obligations it brings with it. “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people aa a dew from the Lord.” “He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant”; and the dominion founded on unselfish surrender for others is the only dominion that will last. That is the spirit in which alone England will keep its empire over the world. I need not remind you that the gift which we have to carry to the heathen nations, the subject peoples who are under the aegis of our laws, is not merely our literature, our science, our Western civilisation, still less the products of our commerce, for all of which some of them are asking; but it is the gift that they do not ask for.
III. The failure to fulfil the function. Israel failed. Pharisaism was the end of it. And so destruction came, and the fire on the hearth was scattered and died out, and the vineyard was taken from them and “given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” “A dew from the Lord!” Say rather a malaria from the devil! “By you,” said the prophet, “is the name of God blasphemed among the Gentiles.” And by Englishmen the missionary’s efforts are, in a hundred cases, neutralised, or hampered if not neutralised. We have failed because, as Christian people, we have not been adequately in earnest. No man can say with truth that the churches of England are awake to the imperative obligation of this missionary enterprise. Israel’s religion was not diffusive, therefore it corrupted; Israel’s religion did not reach out a hand to the nations, therefore its heart was paralysed and stricken. They who bring the Gospel to others increase their own hold upon it. There is a joy of activity, there is a firmer faith, as new evidences of its power are presented before them. There is the blessing that comes down upon all faithful discharge of duty. If our fleece is wet and we leave the ground dry, our fleece will soon be dry, though the ground may be bedewed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee
God’s depriving dispensation towards men
Here the Almighty is represented as taking away from Israel many things they greatly valued.
God’s providence deprives as well as bestows. Depriving dispensations are--
I. Very painful. The things He takes away are--
1. The temporally valuable. Whatever is dearest to the heart--property, friends, health, fame--is the most painful to lose. The other class of things He takes away are--
2. The morally vile. Here are “witchcrafts, soothsayers, graven images,” etc. Whatever man indulges in that is wrong--false worship, all the sorceries of intellectual or physical pleasure--must go, the sooner the better.
II. They are very useful. God takes away temporal property from a man in order that he may get spiritual wealth; and often does a man’s secular fall lead to his spiritual rise. He takes away physical health from a man in order that he may get spiritual; and often do the diseases of the body lead to the care of the soul. (Homilist.)