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essence of their office in the redemptive purpose of God. It is a beautiful lesson on the tender mercy of God and his longsuffering patience.
Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and therefore, before the
MICAH HE Prophet Micah was contemporary with the great Isaiah, and not unworthy of such association.
He prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and dark shadows of the great captivity had fallen across the nation's path. The word of the Lord that came to him concerned Samaria as well as Jerusalem-Israel and Judah. The book may be divided conveniently into three parts:
I. Chapters 1-v consists of a series of seven sermons on the same general theme, the destruction that would surely come upon both Samaria and Jerusalem, unless they turned from their iniquity. The doom of the northern kingdom seems most imminent; sometimes it is spoken of as already being executed.
The indictment brought against Judah is chiefly the charge of greed and avarice, which led to cruelty and oppression of the poor and the helpless. There is no gentleness of touch in the hand which wields the rod in these rebukes.
"Hear this, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment and prevent all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, 'Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us.' Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.” 11:9-12.
Such was his manner toward his contemporary rulers; definite and specific in his charges, unsparing in his denunciations.
But he was no mere pessimistic critic of his people, but the most hopeful of seers, and most fervent of orators pleading for reform. He does not conceal his contempt for the prophets who preach smooth things, and belittle the fear of judgment to come:
"If a man walking in wind and falsehood do lie saying, 'I will prophesy unto thee of wine and strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people,'”—the kind of prophet they desire.
Micah's sympathy is with the poor and the oppressed, and he has been well called the prophet of the poor; a most sane and wholesome prophet for the poor in every age, for there is no trace of sickly sentiment, nor the class prejudice, which so often mars the well meant preachments to the poor.
But Micah is at his best when he turns to the visions of the future. The unfaithfulness of his contemporaries, though it might involve the nation in very great disasters, -as indeed it did, --could not break God's covenant, nor destroy the hope of glory to come in the fullness of the time.
Isaiah himself has nothing brighter than this vision of the latter days: “But in the latter days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow into it; and many nations shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge between many peoples, and shall reprove strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of
the Lord hath spoken it.” IV:1-4. The first three of these verses occur also in Isaiah 11:2-4, but are generally supposed to be quoted from Micah, or both quoted from some earlier prophet.
Section II. Chapter vi:1-8 is a little drama-probably the most exquisite in the world. It is entitled The Lord's Controversy with His People.
The scene presents a court of justice,or perhaps we should describe it more exactly as a court of arbitration, which is asked to decide upon the equity of Jehovah's claims upon all men, but particularly, upon those to whom he had given such clear revelation of his will.
The court, in the drama, is “the mountains and the strong foundations of the earth." What a fine figure it is! The calmness, the majesty, the poise and dignity, that should ever clothe the office of the judge, are nowhere else so splendidly exhibited as in the massive mountains with their spotless ermine of eternal snow.
Doubtless, "the mountains and the strong foundations of the earth" stand for the essential constitution of the world—the order of the universe—the nature of things; and God's challenge is to test his claims by the everlasting and immutable principles of fairness, equity and justice. His "case" is to prove the reasonableness of his commandments.
In the statement of his case he makes no appeal to his right as creator to dictate to his creature; no claim to superior wisdom. He presents his claim on the broad and common ground of moral rightness, and presses it as sweetly reasonable.
As evidence of his kindness he offers historic facts, which were well known and undisputed:
"I brought thee out of the land of Egypt;
He calls Baalam as a witness of his gracious purpose which he accomplished in the "great and terrible wilderness.”
“Remember,” he pleads, "only remember your history”; and with this he rests his case.
The answer of the people—vs 6-8—is peevish and uncandid. It consists of two complaints; first, that they did not understand what God would have them do. “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God"; second, that the required service does not seem to them to be reasonable, or effective to their good.
"Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil ? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, or the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?"
This is the best case they can possibly make out. It is essentially the answer of the irreligious everywhere, querulous, and not ingenuous.
These brief statements set the case before the court, and the court delivers its judgment; and this is, of course, the gist of the matter, the substance of the message which the prophet delivers to the people.
The judgment is concise and dignified and absolute.
"The Lord hath showed thee, O man, what is good.” The plea of ignorance is rejected. The calm judgment of the unprejudiced mountains—the dispassionate conclusion of common sense and human intelligence, is that we do know what is right. God has showed us what is good. Our instinct of righteousness is a light-a law written in our heart, our thoughts meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.
This is the fact of the matter, by nature and revelation God hath showed thee what is good.
Moreover, that which God demands is nothing strange or mysterious, or unreasonable, as they had implied it was. "What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”