The Biblical Illustrator
The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains
The moral grandeur of the Christian Church
The gift of prophecy would have been to its possessor a source of the most exquisite misery if it had been restricted only to the dark passages of human history. But the future had a bright side as well as a dark, and it was as cheering to contemplate the former as it was dismal to apprehend the latter. As the sorrows of the prophets were greater, their joys also were higher than those of ordinary mere In the chapter immediately preceding the text the prophet had announced the future desolation of Zion and Jerusalem. The sins of her priests and princes, he foresaw, would attain such a height of aggravation that the very day itself would, in a manner, be dark over them. But as in the ashes of winter the husbandman can read the glories of spring, the prophetic eye could discern in the ruin of one city the establishment of another more glorious by far. Seine goes on to expatiate with rapture on the glory that was to follow. By “last days” are meant the times of the Messiah, or, in other words, the Christian era. The meaning is, that the Christian dispensation would be the last of all, and that no other economy would be after it. It was an economy that was to last until the end of time. In these “last days” it is foretold by the prophet that “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills.” In a mountainous region, among the multitude of hills that rise one above another in sublimity and grandeur, there is generally one that proudly and preeminently lifts its head above them all. It is seen from a greater distance than any of the others, and towers in glorious majesty over the heights which are allied to it. Under this bold and significant image, the prophet exhibits to us the moral grandeur and elevation of the Christian Church. It was, like the loftiest of mountains in an extensive range, to be visible from afar. A house, or temple, was to be reared on its summit. The Christian religion would surpass every other in majesty, and look down triumphantly on every other system of worship. This prophecy is fulfilled in part. Where is there a creed or system of theology that can compare with it? In the Gospel there is prominence, there is attractiveness, there is conspicuity. The hill of Calvary is more illustrious than the mountains of any land. He who was lifted up there, draws towards Him the eyes of many nations. The language of the prophet implies that, before this mountain could be exalted, there must be a shaking of the hills around. The prediction is to receive its full and perfect accomplishment in days still future--in, if we may so speak, the latest of the last days. Then indeed shall the mountain of the Lord’s house rise sublimely above all the hills. There is reason, too, for believing, that just as at the first propagation of the Gospel, so likewise at its universal diffusion, there shall be a series of great and momentous changes in the political world. The great battle of contending principles must be fought out--the old warfare between sense and spirit must be renewed--and a period of intense misery must precede the final adjustment of the question. Nevertheless, truth which is mighty must prevail. At the close of the first verse the prophet intimates the triumph of the Gospel, and the immense number of its converts. “People shall flow unto it.” The metaphor signifies that the triumph of the Gospel would be sure and certain, though it looked like a physical impossibility. The nations of the earth are not only compared to a river, but to a river flowing upward. To a certain extent this part of the prophecy has already been accomplished. The success of the Gospel hitherto in the world has been like the flowing of a river up a hill. Nothing, humanly speaking, could have been pronounced more improbable than the conversion of the nations to Christianity. It is the religion of purity; and the hearts of men are naturally unclean. It is the religion of benevolence and peace; but the spirit that is in men lusteth to envy. It is the religion of principle; and the heart of man is naturally disposed to content itself with forms. It were a curious enough question whether the age in which we ourselves live is an approximation to that glorious period of which the prophet speaks. But we dare not with certainty affirm it. While we rejoice in the symptoms of good, it becomes us, before pronouncing a positive judgment on the matter, to tremble at so many prognostications of evil. We may take warning against any fanatical use of this doctrine. The passage is not to be understood literally. The very terms of it intimate as much. The ultimate establishment of Messiah’s throne will not interfere with the forms and modes of earthly government. There will be liberty and equality and fraternity. It will not be the grossly misnamed liberty, equality, and fraternity of infidel and republican France. It will be a liberty, not from the salutary restraints of government, but from Satan and the tyranny of evil passions. An equality, not of spoil, plunder, and substance, but of principle and unity of spirit. A fraternisation, not of robbery, under the mask of communism, but of love and generosity, and of men preferring one another in honour. (J. L. Adamson.)
A vision of the latter-day glories
The prophets frequently described what they saw with spiritual eyes after the form or fashion of something which could be seen by the eye of nature. The Church will be like a high mountain, for she will be preeminently conspicuous. I believe that at this period the thoughts of men are more engaged upon the religion of Christ than upon any other. The Christian religion has become more conspicuous now than ever it was. The Church will become awful and venerable in her grandeur. There is something awfully grand in a mountain, but how much more so in such a mountain as is described in our text, which is to be exalted above all hills, and above all the highest mountains of the earth. Now the Church is despised; the infidel barketh at her. But the day shall come when the Cross shall command universal homage. The day is coming when the Church shall have absolute supremacy. Now she has to fight for her existence. The day is coming when she shall be so mighty that there shall be nought left to compete with her. Here is the meaning of the text, the Church growing and rising up till she becomes conspicuous, venerable, and supreme. But how is this to be done? Three things will ensure the growth of the Church.
1. The individual exertion of every Christian. We shall indeed see something more than natural agency, but this is to contribute to it.
2. The Church has within her a living influence. This must expand and grow.
3. The great hope of the Church is the second advent of Christ. When He shall come, then shall the mountain of the Lord’s house be exalted above the hills. We know not when Jesus may come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The established Church
Such is the established Church predicted in ancient prophecy. Compare the similar prophecy in Isaiah
2. In the chapter immediately preceding this passage God denounces the severest and most unsparing judgments upon a guilty people. The text is couched in the language of promise. In order to cheer those on whom God was about to pour many and merited judgments, He gives them--not a precept, which would only depress them; not another threatening, for that might overwhelm them; not an invitation, for that they might not be able to obey--but a promise, causing the future to unbosom rays of light for the comfort of the present. From this prophecy, see that the last days of the Gospel are predicted as the brightest. Divisions and discords have been the history of the visible Church from its cradle downwards to the present hour. Notice the epithet. The Church of Christ is here called “a mountain.” This symbol is taken from the fact that the sacred site of the temple at Jerusalem was a mountain--Mount Moriah. It suggests that the Church of Christ shall be exalted above all the obstructions or impediments of the world; principalities and powers bending before it. Notwithstanding then all the difficulties, discords, divisions, heresies, Schisms, errors, misconstruction, and misapprehensions that prevail amid the Church of God, not one of them is retarding in the least degree the ultimate and glorious outburst. The Church is beautifully and suitably symbolised by a mountain. A mountain is a fixed and stable thing. In Scripture strength and stability are represented by mountains. A mountain most suitably represents the varied climacterics of the Church of Christ, from this circumstance, that it is sometimes covered with clouds, and thereby involved in darkness, and swept by the hurricane, while at other times it basks and spreads its bosom before the uninterrupted and meridian sunbeams. This is precisely the history of the Church. A mountain is a place of safety or retreat. The true Church becomes a place of retreat, in which there is found the Rock of Ages, and the shadow of those wings beneath which there is safety. A mountain is a source of streams and rivulets. The dews descend from heaven upon it; those dews collect into streams, which irrigate and refresh the valley below. The Church of Christ is the great preserver of the earth. A mountain is the spot, standing on which we can see to the greatest distance. In this is shadowed one of the great functions which the Church of Christ is meant to discharge, namely, to enable the believer to see the Sun of Righteousness more clearly and distinctly. A mountain was selected in the ancient economy for those who sounded the trumpet of jubilee. And the “acceptable year of the Lord” ought to be proclaimed in the pulpits of every true and apostolic Church. It is predicted that this mountain “shall be established in the top of the mountains.” “Establishment” is not to be understood as popularly applied to certain modern Churches. The passage does not mean that the Church is established or built upon Peter. There cannot be two foundations. If Christ be the foundation, there can be no room for another; whatever comes next must be laid upon the foundation, and must be part of the superstructure, and not the foundation. The Church is established on Christ, the Rock of Ages. This is a tried foundation. It is Called “precious.” It is called a living rock, and the cornerstone. This foundation is an everlasting foundation. (John Cumming, A. M.)
A missionary discourse
II. A description of the Church. Such phrases as “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” and “Zion,” signify, in such connection as this, the Church of God. The visible Church has, from “the beginning, always had an existence; but its boundaries have generally been very limited, and its situation has often been very obscure. But the Church shall be conspicuous to all; as on the top of the mountains. She shall be exalted above the hills. And philosophy, idolatry, superstition, and errors, shall no longer obstruct her view, or obscure her glory. And she shall be established. She has been tossed about by Commotions. One day she shall be no longer oppressed by persecutions, or disturbed by the arm of human power.
II. A disposition in all towards the Church. “All nations shall flow into it.” Their movements shall he characterised by friendly cooperation. By a definite and sacred object. By proper intentions and correct views. By right dispositions. By confidence in the excellency of the Divine instructions.
III. The blessings resulting from these circumstances. Taught from above, then, nations generally will own the authority of God, acknowledge His right to judge, and submit to His laws.
IV. The period of these great events, “In the last days.” The Church of God has had her days; and these days have been somewhat commensurate with the progress of time, and with the limited or more extended population of the earth. Day of patriarchal Church was a day of small things. But patriarchs and prophets spoke of another day, of other days, which they called the “last days.” Evidently the prophet referred to the days of the Gospel. Improvement--
1. Let our spirits be cheered though so few have hitherto embraced real Christianity.
2. We may well be excited to renewed exertions in rendering Divine truth conspicuous to all.
3. Let this prospect call forth the gratitude of all who already participate in the blessings of redemption. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
The law of the Spirit
Pentecost is the culminating point of Divine revelation. This great event is the focus of all prophecy. The text is not exhausted in its reference to Israel, but stretches forward to the renovation of mankind in the Church by the Holy Ghost.
I. The law of the Spirit is an universal law. Adapted to all men, in all circumstances, and in all times. Because it is the announcing of eternal principles, accompanied with Divine power to enforce them.
II. Hence its preeminence over all laws. It absorbs and expresses the truth of all other laws. All nations recognise it as something higher, deeper, more complete than their previous revelation or religion.
III. Mark its effects.
1. In judgment (verse 3). It is the conviction of right and wrong, good and evil. It is the conviction that right will be maintained and vindicated, and wrong put down. This must be the foundation of all real moral and spiritual life.
2. In producing obedience (verse 2). Not mere conviction, but submission.
3. In working love. The real root of obedience. Leading men to mutual respect, and to a care for each other’s good.
4. In producing safety and security, This can never be fully attained by mere external law and restrictive measures. The best laws will be obeyed only when men’s hearts are in harmony with their requirements. The true way to safety is by the spirit of love and mutual consideration. The great lesson of Pentecost is this,--When love is universal, discord of acts and words and purpose will cease. (William R. Clark, M. A.)
The promise of God regarding. His Church
The sin of the Church had necessitated frequent denunciations and words of warning on the part of God. He had been speaking very tempestuously to His people; He now exhibits the gentler aspects of His character. There is a pause--a calm after tempest; and the sweet birds of promise troop forth with their notes of peace and gladness.
I. The Church’s hope. “In the last days.” etc. Who can interpret these words? Not the man of mere dates. The world has not seen its brightest day yet. The light is still struggling--not meridian glory. This world has a rich promise hidden in its heart, like the snow drops of winter--anticipatory of spring. Death is now in the majority. It shall not always be so. The Church, like youth, lives in hope--of brighter days to come--of what it is to be. Thou livest in the infinitive mood!
II. The Church’s revival. “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord . . . and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths,” etc. (Micah 4:2-3). Then shall the Church illustrate the fulness of meaning contained in the Saviour’s words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Souls shall be enfranchised, and know the liberty of infinitude, etc.
III. The Church’s security. “They shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). The history of human progress has been written in fear. “For fear of the Jews” the disciples had to move about cautiously, and assemble in quiet and concealed places. Not until “the doors were shut” could they worship with any sense of security. And through all subsequent ages the history of religious progress has thus been illustrated. In the fastnesses of the wilderness and fissures of the rocks, the low murmurings of sacred song have been heard by God alone, “for fear” of the persecuting hand; as in the days of the Covenanters, Lollards, and others. But behold, the days come--“the last days”--when doors shall be no longer shut, when bolts shall be all withdrawn, every gate thrown wide open, and no barrier intervene between the soul and its perfected liberty.
IV. The improbability of all this. Looked at in the light of the present state of the world, this bright perspective is a dream--an extravaganza--insanity’s wild vision. Look at the corruption of the world; look at a Church dying of doctrine; and see whether such a future be probable. Apart from “the Word of the Lord “it is not; but the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it” (Micah 4:4). What are the improbabilities of a frozen river, or field, in winter? Shall the waters ever flow again, or the field wave its ears of corn again? Yes. What is the guarantee? “The mouth of the Lord” that says: “seed time and harvest, summer and winter, shall not cease.” The text speaks of a life flowing upwards “all people shall flow unto it”--to the “top of the mountains.” Who ever heard of water flowing upwards, or fire burning downwards? You say to one unacquainted with electricity: “I can send a message to a friend in India, and get an answer in the course of an hour or two.” “How utterly absurd,” is the reply. There are laws that defy gravitation; a life sublimer than science, and more eloquent than music. Sceptical science says: “This thing cannot be.” Faith says: “It shall be, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
The Gospel age
The “last days” means the times of the Messiah.
I. The true religion on the Gospel age will become a great power. The temple was the greatest thing in the religion of the Jews; it was the “mountain” in their scenery. The true religion is to become a mountain. The true religion, where it exists, is the biggest thing. It is either everything or nothing.
II. The true religion of the Gospel age will become universally attractive. “And people shall flow unto it.” “This is a figurative expression, denoting that they shall be converted to the true religion. It indicates that they shall come in multitudes, like the flowing of a mighty river. The idea of the flowing of the nation, as of the movement of many people towards an object like a broad stream on the tides of the ocean, is one that is very grand and sublime” (Barnes). In this period the social element will be brought into full play in connection with true religion,
1. They will study its laws, in order to obey them. “He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.”
2. They will study its laws at the fountain head. “For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
III. The true religion of the Gospel age will become powerful to terminate all wars.
1. Here is the destruction of war. “Beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
2. Here is the establishment of peace. “Shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree.” Most incredible must this prediction have been to the men of Micah’s time; but it will be accomplished, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. If He has spoken it and it does not come to pass, it must be for one of three reasons--
Mountain top religion
The true way to conquer temptations is not to fight them in detail, but to go up into a loftier region where they cease to be temptations. How is it that grown men do not like the sweetmeats that used to tempt them when they were children? They have outgrown them. Then outgrow the temptations of the world! How is it that there are no mosquitoes nor malaria on the mountain tops? They cannot rise above the level of the swamps by the river. Go up to the mountain top, and neither malaria nor mosquito will follow you,--which, being interpreted, is, live near Jesus Christ and keep your hearts and minds occupied with Him, and you will dwell in a region high above the temptations which buzz and sting, which infest and slay on the lower levels. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The Saviour’s kingdom
The world has always had its dreams of a Golden Age. A better state of things than that which exists, has been felt to be not only possible, but normal, and so men have reasoned that what ought to be, either has been in the old time, or will be in the new. Either as a memory or a hope, this idea has done much to reconcile men to the confusion and contradictions of life. To the vagueness and mist of that human dream Scripture gives the sharpness and substance of fact. It speaks with positiveness. The Golden Age has not passed. Humanity is on the way to the realisation of its long hope. The Scripture idea, however, differs from the human in the importance which it attaches to the spiritual element. The transformations in society, which must precede the ushering in of the golden age, are moral, not material. Betterment of laws, advance in knowledge, multiplication of industrial arts, increase of wealth--these things cannot transfigure humanity. It is the established and recognised sovereignty of Christ and His truth on which the desired blessed ness depends. It is important to emphasise this truth at the present time, when religion is depreciated in the popular estimate. There is a prevalent idea that it is weak and on the wane. It has recently been said that “fifty years hence no one will go to church except for culture.” Note that the function of religion is not limited to the regeneration of a single man. It works through the individual, upon the organic life of the race. And it employs varied methods. Sometimes it sparks on the surface of history; sometimes it works out of sight. There is a river in Kentucky that, after unrolling its silver thread through leagues of verdant meadows, suddenly disappears. The earth swallows it up. But though lost to view, its flow is not checked. It channels its way through the hidden rocks; it hollows out the vast halls and the glittering galleries of the Mammoth Cave. It springs the arches of that grandest of cathedrals, and inlays the rocky roof with stars, after the pattern of the heavens. The sculpture of the silent waters outstrips the skill of human artists. The weird and the beautiful, the quaint and the sublime are clustered in groupings, whose impressiveness is eloquent of the wonder workings of the Divine hand. So Christ’s religion has its epochs of disappearance from the surface of life. But it works nevertheless, works persistently, works mightily. Divine truth never comes to a standstill. In sight, or out of sight it is forever busy. Standing at the easement of prospect, let us note some of the glories of the coming kingdom.
1. The acknowledged supremacy of the Christian Church (Micah 4:1).
2. A universal desire to know and obey the truth (Micah 4:1-2). Till now, religious truth has had to be carried to men and pressed upon their attention.
3. An adjustment of international relations on the basis of righteousness (Micah 4:3). The two forces which men have always used for the regulation of international affairs, are diplomacy and war. The cunning of intrigue or the edge of the sword is employed to untangle or cut every knot of dispute. By and by righteousness shall be both the basis and substance of the international code.
4. Safety of life and property secured by individual piety (Micah 4:4-5). One principal office of organised society is to surround with safeguards the individual man. Barbarism is every man for himself; communism is the rule of the caprice or frenzy of a mob; civilisation is the effort of all for the good of each; and yet the efficient agent in these widely diverse types of society is the same,--brute force. In the coming kingdom individual character is to be the security of society.
5. The elimination of the elements of weakness in society (Micah 4:6-7). What is to be done with the dependent and dangerous classes? What society cannot do, God can, and by and by He will. The value of such an outlook as has been now attempted is incalculable. It gives men the inspiration of a great expectation; composure of mind in the midst of discouragements; and the true ideal of life. This blessed consummation, whether near or far off, is not so near but what it needs our help; it is not so far off but what we can make ourselves felt as a force in it. We need to clothe our selves in workman’s garments, not in the ascension robes of those who sit down and dream about the second advent. (Monday Club Sermons.)
The golden age
“But in the latter days it shall come to pass” The prophet lifts his eyes away to the latter days to gain refreshment in his present toil. He feasts his soul upon the golden age which is to be, in order that he may serve himself in his immediate service. Without the anticipation of a golden age he would lose his buoyancy, and the spirit of endeavour would go out of his work. Our visions always determine the quality of our tasks. Our dominant thought regulates our activities. What pattern am I working by? What golden age have I in my mind? What do I see as the possible consummation of my labours? There is your child at home. You are ministering to him in your daily attention and service. What is your pattern in the mind? What sort of a man do you see in your boy? How would you fill up this imperfect phrase concerning him, “In the latter days it shall come to pass”? Have you ever painted his possibilities? If you have no clear golden age for the boy your training will be un certain, your discipline will be a guesswork and a chance. Our vision of possibilities helps to shape the actuality. There is the scholar in the school. When a teacher goes to his class, be it of boys or girls, what kind of men or women has he in his eye? Surely we do not go to work among our children in blind and good humoured chance? We are the architects and builders of their characters, and we must have some completed conception even before we begin our work. I suppose the architect sees the finished building in his eye even before he takes a pencil in his hand, and certainly long before the pick and the spade touch the virgin soil. That boy who gives the teacher so much trouble, restless, indifferent, bursting with animal vitality, how is he depicted as man in your chamber of imagery? Do you only see him as he is? Little, then, will be your influence to make him what he might be. Let me assume that your work is among the outcasts. When you go to court and alley, or to the elegant house in the favoured suburb, and find men and women, sunk in animalism, trailing the robes of human dignity in unamiable mire, how do you see them with the eyes of the soul? “In the latter days it shall come to pass . . . ” What? To the eye of sense they are filthy, offensive, repellant. What like are their faces, and what sort of robes do they wear in the vision of the soul? Are we dealing with the “might-be” or only with the thing that is? Sir Titus Salt was pacing the docks at Liverpool and saw great quantities of dirty, waste material lying in unregarded heaps. He looked at the unpromising substance, and in the mind’s eye saw finished fabrics and warm and welcome garments; and ere long the power of the imagination devised ministeries for converting the outcast stuff into refined and finished robes. We must look at all our waste material in human life and see the vision of the “might-be.” Surely this was the Master’s way! He is always calling the thing that is by the name of its “might-be.” “Thou art Simon,” a mere hearer; “Thou shalt be called Peter,” a rock. To the woman of sin, the outcast child of the city, He addressed the gracious word “daughter,” and spoke to her as if she were already a child of the golden age; her weary heart leapt to the welcome speech. And so we have got to come to our work with visions of the latter days. I am not surprised, therefore, that all great reformers and all men and women who have profoundly influenced the life and thought of their day have been visionaries, having a clear sight of things as they might be, feeling the cheery glow of the light and heat of the golden age. In the latter days the spiritual is to have emphasis above pleasure, money, armaments. In whatever prominence these may be seen, they are all to be subordinate to the reverence and worship of God. Military prowess and money making and pleasure seeking are to be put in their own place, and not to be permitted to leave it. First things first! In the beginning God.” This is the first characteristic of the golden age. “And many nations shall come and say: Come 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 His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” Then the second characteristic of the golden age is that people are to find their confluence and unity in common worship. The brotherhood is to be discovered in spiritual communion. We are not to find profound community upon the river of pleasure or in the ways of business or in the armaments of the castle. These are never permanently cohesive. Pleasure is more frequently divisive than cohesive. No, it is in the mountain of the Lord’s house the peoples will discover their unity and kinship. It is in the common worship of the one Lord. “And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” Then the third characteristic of the golden age is to be the conversion of merely destructive force into positive and constructive ministries. No energy is to be destroyed; it is all to be transfigured. The sword is to become a ploughshare; the weapon of destruction an implement of culture. After the Franco-German war many of the cannon balls were remade into church bells. One of our manufacturers in Birmingham told me only a week ago that he was busy turning the empty bases of the shells used in the recent war into dinner gongs! That is the suggestion we seek in the golden age: all destructive forces are to be changed into helpful ministries. Tongues that speak nothing but malice are to be turned into instructors of wisdom. All men’s gifts and powers and all material forces are to be used in the employment of the kingdom of God. “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree.” There is to be a distribution of comforts. Life’s monotony is to be broken up. Sweet and winsome things are to be brought into the common life. Dinginess and want are both to be banished. There is to be a little beauty for everybody, something of the vine and the fig tree. There is to be a little ease for everybody, time to sit down and rest. To every mortal man there is to be given a little treasure, a little leisure, and a little pleasure. “And none shall make them afraid.” And they are not only to have comfort, but the added glory of peace. The gift of the vine and fig tree would be nothing if peace remained an exile. And now mark the beautiful final touches in this prophet’s dream: “I will assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out and her that is afflicted.” They are all to be found in God’s family. “Her that halteth,” the child of “ifs” and “buts” and fears and indecision, she shall lose her halting and obtain a firm and confident step. “And her that is driven out,” the child of exile, the self-banished son or daughter, the outcast by reason of sin; they shall all be home again. “He gathereth together the outcasts.” And along with these there is to come “her that is afflicted,” the child of sorrows. The day of grief is to be ended, mourning shall be the thing of the preparatory day which is over; “He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
He will teach us of His ways--
Gaining knowledge of God
They do not go to God because they know Him, but that they may know Him. They are drawn by a mighty impulse towards Him. Howsoever attracted, they come, not making bargains with God what they should be taught, that He should reveal to them nothing transcending reason, nothing exceeding or contradicting their notions of God; they do not come with reserves, that God should not take away this or that error, or should not disclose anything of His incomprehensibleness. They come in holy simplicity, to learn whatever He will condescend to tell them; in holy confidence, that He, the infallible truth, will teach them infallibly. They say “of His ways,” for all learning is by degrees, and all which all creatures could learn in all eternity falls infinitely short of His truth and holiness. Nay, in all eternity, the highest creature which He has made, and which He has admitted most deeply into the secrets of His wisdom will be as infinitely removed as ever from the full knowledge of His wisdom and His love. For what is finite, enlarged, expanded, accumulated to the utmost degree possible, remains finite still. It has no proportion to the infinite. But even here, all growth in grace implies growth in knowledge. The more we love God, the more we know of Him; and with increased knowledge of Him come higher perceptions of worship, praise, thanksgiving, of the character of faith, hope, charity, of our outward and inward acts and relations to God, the unboundedness of God’s love to us, and the manifoldness of the ways of pleasing Him, which, in His love, He has given us. St. Paul was ever learning in intensity what he knew by revelation. “The way of life to Godwards is one, in that it looketh to one end, to please God: but there are many tracks along it, as there are many modes of life”; and each several grace is a part of the way to God. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
The law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem--
Christianity--its nature, diffusion, and effects
Immortality, guilt, and danger, are intuitions of our common nature always felt to possess arresting attractive power. Unprepared to throw away the hope of immortality, the question arises: how can we forecast its issues, or determine its conditions? Whither shall we turn for light and guidance? The revelations of Christianity are alone able to solve the mystery. The Bible is the book and the gift of God. The Christian revelation was not intended merely or mainly to gratify the intellectual curiosity and enrich the mind of man, but so to change his nature and reverse his moral condition as to establish him in the final virtue and happiness of heaven. The portion of prophecy now claiming attention relates to the entire of the Christian dispensation.
1. Some of the more distinguishing elements and attributes of the Gospel denominated in our subject, with distinctive significance, the law and Word of Jehovah.
2. The extent of the provisions of the Gospel, and its corresponding publication. Glance at a few of its provisional adaptations.
3. The agency and means by the operation and instrumentality of which the Gospel was to go forth from the place of its first publication, and, disdaining all locality, diffuse itself among the nations. Providence will prepare the way. Divine influence will prepare the heart. Divine truth--the Bible--shall be the grand exclusive instrument. The spread of the Gospel will receive its direction from the purposes, and its impulse from the energy of heaven, while the pulpit, press, social intercourse, and the force of example, shall secure its acceleration.
4. What will be the effect of the whole? An incalculable enlargement of the Church, both in extent and influence--a boundless multiplication of its numbers and blessings. Consider also its more distinctive influence upon--
Christianity is identified with the growth and the glory of the ages. Her work cannot be retarded. The indestructible elements of rejuvenescence and immortality found in the Gospel will secure the triumph and multiply the conquests of Christianity, until the empire of sin is destroyed, and death is swallowed up in victory. It is reserved for Christianity to realise the fable of the bird of Jove; grasping the thunder of heaven in her hand, and spreading her wings from sunrise to the oceans of the West, she throws her shadow over the world; and the laurels of peaceful triumph and imperishable glory shall encircle her brow when the wreath of the Caesars shall only be remembered as the badge of crime. (Bishop H. B. Bascom, D. D.)
And He shall judge among many people, etc.
The time of which the prophet speaks has evidently not yet arrived. Let us assume that what the prophet saw was a real purpose of the Lord, a purpose which might be worked out gradually or suddenly, quickly or after a long interval, but distinct in its character and practical in its effects--that peace amongst the nations was, and therefore is, in the counsels of the eternal God. Looking at the prophecy in this light, we ought not to be slow to admit that a very real progress has been made towards the prophet’s goal. Compare what the world is now with what it was before Christ came, and the difference as regards the peaceable enjoyment of life is immense; and the improvement is everywhere associated with Christian civilisation. History does not leave us without hope, or mock the encouragement to be drawn from such prophecies as those we are considering. In this prophecy the peace is set forth as a result produced by an antecedent cause. The nations are described as agreeing together to go up to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach them His ways, and that they may walk in His paths. In modem words, it is through an increasing prevalence of the authority of justice, through the growth of an international sentiment recognising Christian obligations that international peace is to be looked for. We need not wonder that the prospect of universal peace is still remote, when we consider how slow a progress has been made in international morality. There must be a morality between nations as well as a morality between persons. A biblical ideal of true concord amongst the nations has been beckoning on mankind through the ages, though men have been slow to pay it due homage. But it is probably in accordance with the laws of appointed development that the sentiment of international obligation should be of late growth. Family duty seems to come first. Some think that duty to the clan, or larger family, takes precedence even of that. Then follows duty to the chief, or sovereign, or nation, and to fellow members of the same community. Personal duty towards persons of a different race and country and tongue is felt later and less strongly. But perhaps that which waits to the last to be felt is the duty of a nation as a body to other national branches of the great family of man. The theory of international duty is not altogether a simple matter. A man is certainly not so free to give up the interests of his country as he is to give up his own private interests. Our country is a sacred name, including nearly all that is dear to us. Is patriotism selfish? No. But there may be a selfish taint in it. Experience and the common sense of mankind bear witness that it is not impossible to reconcile the due moral sentiment of the small circle with the due moral sentiment of the larger. A man may love his family, and yet feel that it would be a shame to him to push its interests to the detriment of other families of his people. A man may be ardently patriotic, and may not the less wish well to other countries. In all moral perplexities resulting from an apparent conflict of obligations, our wisdom is to go forward tentatively and in faith, following after the better ideal, yielding to the nobler instinct. Micah lifts us up to the higher international atmosphere towards which we ought to aspire. He shows us nations persuaded and constrained into mutual peace by a common reverence for the righteous and merciful God. These nations have been chastened by the judgments and rebukes of God, so that they have learnt not to abuse their strength for wrong doing, but to use it rather for the righting of the injured and the help of the weak. (J. Llewelyn Davies, M. A.)
An emblem of peace
Upon the plains of Waterloo there stands a great bronze lion, forged from the captured guns of Britain’s foes in 1815. The beast’s mouth is open, and seems snarling through his teeth over the battlefield. When I saw it last, one spring noonday, a bird had built its nest right in the lion’s mouth, twining the twigs of the downy bed where the fledglings nestled around the very teeth of the metal monster, and from the very jaws of the bronze beast the chirp of the swallows seemed to twitter forth timidly the tocsin of peace. It was the audacity of hope. May it be prophetic!
For all people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever
Every nation its God
That this chapter contains a prophecy of the glorious times of the Gospel is the general opinion of all Christian interpreters.
Some things are foretold in it which have never been accomplished in the times of the Jewish Church.
1. That there shall be a general confluence to the true religion and worship of God.
2. That this great and conspicuous society of the Church shall enjoy peace and tranquillity.
3. That internal zeal and devotion shall accompany all this external glory and happiness. That all these would admirably become the Christian Church cannot be doubted.
I. All nations and people generally have some god and religion or other. Atheism is contrary to the common sense of mankind. It will be very hard, if not impossible, to find any nation or people that have lived without a God.
II. All those nations and people that have any belief of a god, have also some devotion, and pay some remarkable reverence towards the deity. The nature and notion of God is so great that it cannot ordinarily miss of affecting men with the greatest seriousness. If any man acknowledges the true God, and has ripe notions of Him, he then apprehends a mighty majesty, invested with infinite power, wisdom, justice, and goodness. He that can think of such a God without a religious reverence must have either something below a human folly, or beyond a human hardiness.
III. The greater the god, and the truer the religion, the more ought to be the devotion. It is most genuine, natural, and reasonable, that the best religion should be attended with the greatest devotion, and the most holy lives. Show--
1. The excellency of our principles, and how much the religion which we profess is better than any other. Represent four things
IV. With the more ardent zeal and devotion we should treat the true God and the true religion.
1. We ought to be more steadfast and unmovable in our religion than other people are.
2. We ought to outstrip them in good life, in zeal and fervency, as much as we do in our principles and advantages. (J. Goodman, D. D.)
The great resolve
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower.” We invite you to “go about Zion, tell the towers thereof.” The various towers of this great spiritual fortress are nothing else than the titles and attributes with which, in His own inspired volume, God has seen meet to make Himself known.
I. Jehovah-Tsidkenu; the Tower of righteousness. Any shelter we can rear is a tower of sand--a citadel of bulrushes--that will leave us naked and defenceless in that solemn hour which is to try every man’s work, and every man’s righteousness, of what sort it is. Christ hath finished transgression, and made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness. To attempt aught of our own by way of supplement or addition to the merits of the Divine surety, would be to seek to gild refined gold, or holding up the taper to help the sunlight.
II. Jehovah-Shalom; the Lord my peace. This spiritual tower of peace stands side by side with the tower of righteousness. “The work of righteousness shall be peace.” “Having made peace, through the blood of His Cross.” What a repose this Gospel peace gives amid all the petty troubles of life! It “keeps the heart,” as in a citadel or garrison. A calm elevation is imparted to the present, and the future can be contemplated undismayed. All that belongs to the Christian; his duties; his engagements; his very cares and difficulties are softened and mellowed with this calm tranquillity; just as in nature the setting sun transforms and metamorphoses the whole landscape into gold.
III. Jehovah-Shammah; the Tower of the Divine presence. God is everywhere. It is a blessed thing for the believer to bear constantly about with him the realised sense of the Divine nearness, and it is his peculiar privilege and prerogative to do so. He is the living God in nature and in providence, guiding and supervising all. But there is a nobler and preeminent sense in which His covenant people can flee into this strong tower. Walking in the name of their God, they can say, “The Lord of hosts is with us.” “Our fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
IV. Jehovah-Nissi; the Tower of defence. We are still in an enemy’s country. He that is for us is greater than all that can be against us. The Lord is our defence.
V. Jehovah-Jireh; the Tower of trust. A conquering army must keep near its supplies. And the Christian has His promises of assured help. Each apparently capricious turn in life’s way, all its accidents and incidents are the appointments of infinite wisdom; and “they that know Thy name, shall put their trust in Thee.” Trust is a staff not for level plains and smooth highways. It is the alpenstock, the pilgrim prop for the mountaineer, for the rugged ascent, for the slippery path, for the glacier crevasse. God is a rich, sure, willing, and wise Provider.
VI. Jehovah-Rophi; the Tower of healing. He proclaims as His name, “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” He is the true “healing tree,” which, cast into your bitterest Marsh pool, will make its waters sweet. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
Heathen zeal and Christian lukewarmness
The survey of missions under their most glorious aspects may keep men from considering them under less striking, but not less important points of view. Missions, whether successful or unsuccessful, so far as the conversion of pagans is concerned, return one hundredfold multiplied to the land whence they sprang,--return in demonstration of human corruption, and of the need of a Mediator; and of the truth and power of the Gospel,--return in a stimulus to self-examination, in incentive to prayer, and in warning against caring for others, and neglecting ourselves. It is a very peculiar use which may be said to be made of missions in our text. The heathen are surveyed not as abandoning their falsehood and superstition, but as adhering to them with the greatest earnestness and tenacity. From this steadfastness of the heathen the argument is drawn for making the resolve, “And we will walk in the name of our Lord God forever and ever.” If the pagan adheres to what is false, we will cleave to what is true. The tenacity with which false deities are adhered to, does but set in stronger light the fickleness of the professed servants of the true. What the missionary ascertains is not that idolaters refuse to add to the number of their idols, but only that they will not exchange their idols. If they admit new, they nevertheless adhere to the old. Shall the pagan adhere to his idols, because they were the idols of his fathers; and shall we virtually revolt from that God whom our ancestors served, and whose truth, though at the cost of substance and life, they handed down to us as the most precious possession? We may change our gods, if we will, yielding to the opposition of science, falsely so called; we may burn incense before images, which the madness of speculation would set up, when reason is too proud to bow meekly to revelation. In either case we should be “changing our glory for that which cannot profit.” Our God is the God of the Bible, a God who has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, providing through His obedience and death for our pardon and life. We ask the missionaries this question, Has a people ceased to “walk in the name of its god”? They have as yet nothing very encouraging to answer. There are cases of individual conversion. The missionary report is a report of adhering to error, and opposition to truth. What inferences are to be drawn from this report--inferences reproachful to ourselves, or containing lessons which it may become us to study and apply with the utmost diligence? The gist of the text is, that the tenacity with which the heathen adhere to their idols, helps to condemn, or display in its atrociousness, the conduct of the Jew, or the Christian, who shall renounce or be cold in the service of his Creator and Redeemer. (Henry Mevill, B. D.)
Man’s religious nature
It is trite to say that man has a religious nature. This verse suggests the wrong and the right development of this nature.
I. The wrong development. Idolatry. Polytheism proper is, and generally has been, the most popular religion in the world. Whence comes polytheism? The one great cause, which comprehends all others, is depravity. Which--
1. Involves moral corruption. What are heathen gods, as a rule, but the deification of the lower passions and vices of mankind?
2. Involves carnality. Hence they want a god they can see and handle and touch.
3. Involves thoughtlessness. Polytheism cannot stand reasoning.
II. The right development. What is that? Practical monotheism. “We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.”
1. This is rational. The one God is the sum total of all moral properties, the Proprietor of all resources, and the Bestower of all existences and all the blessings therewith. What can be more rational than to walk in His way?
2. This is obligatory. No man is bound to walk in the name of an idol; nay, he is commanded not to. But every man is bound to walk in the name of the Lord--bound on the ground of His supreme excellence, His relations to man, and the obligation springing therefrom.
3. This is blessed. To walk in His name is to walk through sunny fields abounding with all beauty and fruitfulness. (Homilist.)
The Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion
The blessing of the ingathered ones
The character of the assembly.
1. The halt.
2. The banished.
3. The afflicted.
From this gather the ruined condition of man.
II. Their gracious advancement and honour. “I will make her that halteth a remnant.” A remnant is a small quantity or number. A definitive or proportioned remnant. An eternally saved remnant. A gathered or collected remnant. A prosperous or happy remnant. A holy and righteous remnant. An opposed remnant. Yet finally a successful remnant. “And her that was cast far off a strong nation.” Strong by reason of its situation; its fortifications; its judicious and good laws; its military skill; its ruler’s wisdom. Consequently a blessed nation. “And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth forever.” They are made submissive to Christ. Christ reigns in the Church generally. He reigns in the Church’s officers. He reigns in the Church members. He reigns in the understandings of His people. He reigns in their will, subduing them. He reigns in their hearts. This reign is by the power of Divine grace.
III. Their positive and infallible security (Micah 4:8). Represented by a flock of sheep, denotive of feebleness, and liability to danger. But Christ is their tower of defence. A high and lofty tower, and a strong and safe tower. “The stronghold of the daughter of Zion.” By the word daughter is meant the Church. This stronghold denotes that we have enemies. It is a hiding place for the Lord’s prisoners. “Unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion.” An eternally decreed dominion, over sin, Satan, the world, death. “The kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” The kingdom of God’s power; grace; glory. Improvement--
1. This subject teaches us man’s total depravity and utter helplessness.
2. It also further proves that our salvation is entirely of grace.
3. It evinces the final security of all true believers. (T. B. Baker.)
The moral monarchy of Christ in the world
Whether the subject of these verses is the restoration of the Jews after the Babylonish Captivity or the gathering of men by Christ into a grand spiritual community, is a question on which there has been considerable discussion among biblical scholars, and, therefrom, should preclude anything like dogmatism on either side.
I. It embraces amongst its subjects the most wretched and scattered of men. “In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble [gather] her that halteth [that which limpeth], and I will gather her that is driven out [that which was thrust out], and her that [which] I have afflicted; and I will make her that [that which] halted [limps] a remnant, and her that [that which] was cast off a strong nation: End the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever.” Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6), and His invitation was to all that are “weary” and “heavy laden.” The Church of Christ from the beginning has comprised those who were the most afflicted, the most scattered, and the most distressed of mankind.
1. Christ’s moral monarchy knows nothing of favouritism. Every soul to Him is a matter of profound practical interest.
2. Christ’s moral monarchy is remedial in its design. It brings all the miserable together in order to rid them of their sorrows.
II. It establishes itself as the guardian of men forever. “And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion,” etc. The watchtower spoken of by Isaiah is most likely the tower here referred to by Micah. Flock tower is a good expression, inasmuch as it indicates the watchfulness of Christ as a moral Shepherd, the great Shepherd of souls. What a Guardian, what a “Bishop of souls” is Christ!
1. He knows all His sheep.
2. He has ample provision for all His sheep.
3. He has power to protect all His sheep. Thank God this moral kingdom is established on our earth. Because it is moral, men have the power of resisting it. (Homilist.)
Prophecies relative to the Jewish nation
The Jewish nation, when restored, will be the most glorious of the nations of the earth. There is, in this passage, a comparison instituted between the glory of other nations; and it is stated that her glory shall be superior to that of all others.
I. Reasons drawn from the nature of national glory. The glory of the Jewish nation cannot be what is generally considered as the glory of nations.
1. Because the glory of common nations is inseparable from unrighteousness. Self is the moving power of the machine, interest and vanity form its mainspring.
2. Because it leads to war and bloodshed, to wretchedness and misery.
3. Because it may consist with infidelity.
II. Reasons drawn from what is revealed respecting the Jews.
1. Because the Jews, when brought back to their own land, will be a righteous nation.
2. It will be a peaceful, happy nation.
3. A nation of faithful worshippers of the one only living and true God. What then will be her glory? It will consist in righteousness, penitence, godliness, purity, and devotion.
1. A political lesson. The duty of the Christian is submission to the powers that be, patiently waiting for the time when righteousness alone shall prevail.
2. A religious lesson. How should this subject enhance the importance of being snatched out of the vortex of this present state, and of becoming so established as to be able to sing, by anticipation, the songs of joy which are here set to be sung by the ransomed of the Lord in Zion. (Hugh M’Neile.)
The Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies
The moral regeneration of the world
I. The state of mankind requires it. “Is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished?” It was more serious for the Jewish people to be deprived of a king than for any other people, for their king was theocratic, he was supposed to be the Voice and vicegerent of God. The prophet means to say, that when the Chaldeans would come and carry them away, they would have no king and no counsellors. Now, men in an unregenerate state--
1. Have no king. A political ruler is to man, as a spiritual existent, only a king in name. He does not command the moral affections, rule the conscience, or legislate for the inner and primal springs of all activity. Such a king is the deep want of man, he wants some one to be enthroned on his heart, to whom his conscience can render homage. No man in an unregenerate state has such a king; he has gods many and lords many, of a sort, but none to rule him, and to bring all the powers of his soul into one harmonious channel of obedience.
2. Have no counsellor. Society abounds with counsellors who proffer their advice; but some of them are wicked, most of them worthless, few, if any, satisfactory, that is, to conscience. What the soul wants, is not the mere book counsellor,--though it be the Bible itself,--but the spirit of that book, the spirit of reverence, love, Christlike trust.
3. Have no ease. “Pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.” The unregenerate soul is always liable to consternation, remorse, it often writhes in agony. “There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked.” Now, moral regeneration brings the man a true King, a true Counsellor, a true Peace--a peace “that passeth all understanding.”
II. It is opposed by formidable antagonists. The nations referred to are those that composed the army of Nebuchadnezzar. What formidable opponents there are to the conversion of man!
1. The depraved elements of the soul. Unbelief, selfishness, carnality, etc.
2. The corrupt influence of society. Custom, fashion, amusements, pleasures!
III. It is guaranteed by the Word of Almighty God. The enemies of the Jews were utterly ignorant of God’s purpose to deliver His people from Babylonish Captivity.
1. Man in ignorance fights against God’s purpose.
2. Man, in fighting against God’s purpose, brings ruin on himself.
The nations thought to ruin Christianity in its infancy, but it was victorious over them! (Homilist.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Micah 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25