The Word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite
I. It is the word of the lord. What is a word?
1. A mind manifesting power. In his word a true man manifests himself, his thought, feeling, character. His word is important according to the measure of his faculties, experiences, attainments. Divine revelation manifests the mind of God, especially the moral characteristics of that mind--His rectitude, holiness, mercy, etc.
2. A mind influencing power. Man uses his word to influence other minds, to bring other minds into sympathy with his own. Thus God uses His Word. He uses it to correct human errors, dispel human ignorance, remove human perversities, and turn human thought and sympathy into a course harmonious with His own mind.
II. It is made to individual men. It came to Micah, not to his con temporaries. Why certain men were chosen as the special recipients of God’s Word is a problem whose solution must be left for eternity.
III. It is for all mankind. God did not speak to any individual man specially that the communication might be kept to himself, but that he might communicate it to others. He makes one man the special recipient of truth that he may become the organ and promoter of it. God’s Word is for the world. (Homilist.)
This was a place in the Shepbelah, or range of low hills which lie between the hill country of Judah and the Philistine plain. It is the opposite exposure from the wilderness of Tekoa, some seventeen miles away across the watershed. As the home of Amos is bare and desert, so the home of Micah is fair and fertile. The irregular chalk hills are separated by broad glens, in which the soil is alluvial and red, with room for cornfields on either side of the perennial, or almost perennial streams. The olive groves on the braes are finer than either those of the plain below or of the Judaean table land above. There is herbage for cattle. Bees murmur everywhere, larks are singing, and although today you may wander in the maze of hills for hours without meeting a man, or seeing a house, you are never out of sight of the traces of human habitation, and seldom beyond the sound of the human voice--shepherds and ploughmen calling to their flocks and to each other across the glens. There are none of the conditions, or of the occasions, of a large town. But, like the south of England, the country is one of villages and homesteads, breeding good yeomen--men satisfied and in love with their soil, yet borderers with a fair outlook and a keen vigilance and sensibility. The Shephelah is sufficiently detached from the capital and body of the land to beget in her sons an independence of mind and feeling, but so much upon the edge of the open world as to endue them at the same time with that sense of the responsibilities of warfare, which the national statesmen, aloof and at ease in Zion, could not possibly have shared. Upon one of the westmost terraces of the Shephelah, nearly a thousand feet above the sea, lay Moresheth itself. (Geo. Adam Smith, D. D.)
For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place
God’s procedure in relation to sin
This is a highly figurative and sublime representation of the Almighty in His retributive work, especially in relation to Samaria and Jerusalem.
He is represented as leaving His holy temple, coming out of His place, and marching with overwhelming grandeur over the high places of the earth, to deal out punishment to the wicked. “The description of this theophany,” says Delitzsch, “is founded upon the idea of a terrible storm and earthquake, as in Psalms 18:8. The mountains melt (Judges 5:4, and Psalms 68:9) with the streams of water which discharge themselves from heaven (Judges 5:4), and the valleys split with the deep channels cut out by the torrents of water. The similes ‘like wax,’ etc. (as in Psalms 68:3), and ‘like water’ are intended to express the complete dissolution of mountains and valleys. The actual facts answering to this description are the destructive influences exerted upon nature by great national judgments.” The reference is undoubtedly to the destruction of the king of Israel by Shalmaneser, and the invasion of Judah by the armies of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, by the latter of whom the Jews were carried away captive. The passage is an inexpressibly grand representation of God’s procedure in relation to sin.
I. As it apears to the eye of man. The Bible is eminently anthropomorphic.
1. God, in dealing out retribution, appears to man in an extraordinary position. “He cometh forth out of His place.” What is His place? To all intelligent beings, the settled place of the Almighty is the temple of love, the pavilion of goodness, the mercy seat. The general beauty, order, and happiness of the universe give all intelligent creatures this impression of Him. But when confusion and misery fall on the sinner, the Almighty seems to man to come out of His “place,” to step aside from His ordinary procedure. Judgment is God’s strange work. He comes out of His place to execute it.
2. God, in dealing out retribution, appears to man in a terrific aspect. He does not appear as in the silent march of the stars or the serenity of the sun; but as in thunderstorms and volcanic eruptions. “The mountains shall be molten under Him,” etc.
II. As it affects a sinful people. In God’s procedure in relation to sin what disastrous effects were brought upon Samaria and Jerusalem!
1. God, in His procedure in relation to sin, brings material ruin upon people. Sin brings on commercial decay, political ruin; it destroys the health of the body, and brings it ultimately to the dust.
2. God, in His procedure in relation to sin, brings mental anguish upon a people. A disruption between the soul and the objects of its supreme affections involves the greatest anguish. The gods of a people, whatever they may be, are these objects, and these are to be destroyed. Conclusion--Mark well that God has a course of conduct in relation to sin, or rather, that God, in His beneficent march, must ever appear terrible to the sinner, and bring ruin on his head. It is the wisdom as well as the duty of all intelligent creatures to move in thought, sympathy, and purpose, as God moves--move with Him, not against Him. (Homilist.)
God’s way of taking vengeance
The justice of God taking vengeance on enemies is further described from the way of manifesting thereof, which is slowly but certainly; the Lord forbearing, neither because He purposes to give, nor because He wants power; as may appear from His majesty and state, when He appeareth environed with whirlwinds and tempests raised by His power. Doctrine--
1. The Lord, even toward enemies, is long suffering, and slow in executing of anger, that their destruction may be seen to be of themselves, that in His holy providence they may stumble more upon His indulgence, and fill up their measure; and that His Church’s faith and patience may be tried.
2. When the Lord spareth His enemies, it is not because He is not able to meet with them, nor ought we to judge from any outward appearance that they are invincible; for, how unlikely soever the destruction of enemies may be in the eyes of men, yet the Lord who is “slow to anger” is also “great in power.”
3. As the Lord is able to reach His enemies when He pleaseth, so His forbearing of them is no evidence that they shall be exempted altogether; but He will undoubtedly give proof of His power, in dealing with them as their way deserveth.
4. The Lord is able by His power speedily to bring to pass greatest things, and can, when He pleaseth, overturn, confound, and darken all things which appeared to be stable, well ordered, and clear.
5. The Lord, manifesting Himself in His great glory, doth but, so to say, obscure Himself in respect of our infirmity, which cannot comprehend His glory in its brightness; for so much doth His manifestation of Himself environed with dark storms or tempests and thick lowering clouds teach.
6. God’s dispensations, even when they are most dreadful and terrible in effects, may yet be deep and unsearchable, and His purpose and counsel in them hard to discern; for so much doth His way in whirlwinds, storms, and clouds (which involve and darken all) teach. (George Hutcheson.)
For her wound is incurable
Samaria and Jerusalem were, in a material and political sense, in a desperate and hopeless condition.
I. Moral incurableness is a condition into which men may fall.
1. Mental philosophy shows this. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that the repetition of an act can generate an uncontrollable tendency to repeat it; and the repetition of a sin deadens altogether that moral sensibility which constitutionally recoils from the wrong. The mind often makes habit, not only second nature, but the sovereign of nature.
2. Observation shows this. That man’s circle of acquaintance must be exceedingly limited who does not know men who become morally incurable. There are incurable liars, incurable misers, incurable sensualists, and incurable drunkards. No moral logician, however great his dialectic skill, can forge an argument strong enough to move them from their old ways, even when urged by the seraphic fervour of the highest rhetoric.
3. The Bible shows this. “Speak not in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.” We often speak of retribution as if it always lay beyond the grave, and the day of grace as extending through the whole life of man; but such is not the fact. Retribution begins with many men here.
II. It is a condition for the profoundest lamentation. “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked. I will make a wailing like the dragons and mourning as the owls.” Christ wept when He considered the moral incurableness of the men of Jerusalem. There is no sight more distressing than the sight of a morally incurable soul. There is no building that I pass that strikes me with greater sadness than the Hospital for “Incurables”; but what are incurable bodies, compared to morally incurable souls? There are anodynes that may deaden their pains, and death will relieve them of their torture; but a morally incurable soul is destined to pass into anguish, intense and more intense as existence runs on, and peradventure without end. The incurable body may not necessarily be an injury to others; but a morally incurable soul must be a curse as long as it lives. (Homilist.)
An incurable wound
The late Dr. A.J. Gordon gave the following anecdote in one of the last sermons he preached: “Dr. Westmoreland, an eminent army surgeon, tells of a soldier who was shot in the neck, the ball just grazing and wounding the carotid artery. The doctor knew that his life hung on a hair, and one day as he was dressing the wound the walls of the artery gave way. Instantly the surgeon pressed his finger upon the artery, and held the blood in check; and the patient asked, ‘What does this mean?’ ‘It means that you are a dead man,’ answered the doctor. ‘How long can I live?’ ‘As long as I keep my hand on the artery.’ ‘Can I have time to dictate a letter to my wife and child?’ ‘Yes.’ And so the letter was written for him, full of tender farewell messages, and when all was finished he calmly closed his eyes and said ‘I am ready, doctor.’ The purple tide ebbed quickly away and all was over. What a parable is here of a far more solemn fact. Oh, unsaved one, you are by nature ‘dead through trespasses and sins’! But God keeps His hand upon your pulse, preserving your life that you may have an opportunity to repent and be saved.”
Bind the chariot to the swift beast
These words are addressed to the inhabitants of Lachish.
Our subject is promptitude in action.
I. Be quick in your material engagements. The distinction between the secular and the spiritual is not real but fictitious. A man should be quick in all his legitimate temporal engagements, whatever they may be. By quickness is not meant the hurry of confusion, but adroit expertness, skilful promptitude. As Shakespeare said, “What the wise do quickly, is not done rashly.”
1. The quicker you are the more you will accomplish. An expert man will accomplish more in an hour than a slow man in a day.
2. The quicker you are, the better for your faculties. The quick movement of the limb is healthier than the slow; the quick action of the mental faculties is more invigorating than the slow. As a rule, the quick man is in every way healthier and happier than the slow.
3. The quicker you are, the more valuable you are in the market of the world. The skilful man who cultivates the habit of quickness and despatch increases his commercial value every day.
II. Be quick in your intellectual pursuits. You have an enormous amount of mental work to do, if you act up to your duty, and discharge your mission in life.
1. The quicker you are, the more you will attain. The more fields of truth you will traverse, the more fruits you will gather from the tree of knowledge. Some men in their studies move like elephants, and only traverse a small space. Others, like eagles, sweep continents in a day. The quick eye will see what escapes the dull eye, the quick ear will catch voices unheard by the slow of hearing.
2. The quicker you are, the better for your faculties. It is the brisk walker that best strengthens his limbs, the brisk fighter that wins the greatest victories. It is by quick action that the steel is polished and that weapons are sharpened. Intellectual quickness whets the faculties, makes them keen, agile, and apt. “Bind the chariot to the swift beast.”
III. Be quick in your spiritual affairs.
1. Morally you have a work to do for your own soul. The work is great and urgent.
2. Morally you have a work to do for others. There are souls around you demanding your most earnest efforts, etc.
(1) Be quick; the work must be done during your life here, if ever done.
(2) Be quick; your life here is very short and uncertain.
(3) Be quick; the longer you delay the more difficult it is to do. (Homilist.)
Promptitude in action
An officer of high rank in the British Army relates how he won the first step of the ladder to recognition and promotion, He was then a young sub-lieutenant of engineers in Ceylon. One morning, while at a quiet game in the amusement room, unaware that any duty was being neglected, the governor of the island saw him. “What are you doing here, youngster?” said his chief. “I thought you would have been at Negombo by this time! What to do there, sir? What! Have you not received your orders? Go to the quartermaster-general at once.” But it was nearly one o’clock before the young fellow could find that officer. When found, his instructions were to proceed to Negombo, an old fort twenty-three miles north, make a plan of the barracks there, and note various important details. But the sub-lieutenant was vexed; for that evening he was obliged to attend a dinner party at the Government House, and there was not much time to spare. However, he saddled his Arab horse, that could do almost anything except fly, and covered the twenty-three miles in two hours. Next, field book and tape line in hand, he made the necessary measurements and calculations, sketching plans, and writing down facts and figures. Having drafted an accurate report, he remounted his faithful steed, and was back in Colombo before the dinner hour. Walking in quietly with the other guests, the governor saw him, and exclaimed: “You here, sir! What were your orders? Why are you not attending to them? Be off at once!” “My orders were to go to Negombo, sir,” replied the young officer, repeating the instructions. “Then, what do you mean by neglecting them?” “I have not,” was the answer. “The report is finished, and will be laid before you tomorrow morning.” The governor showed his delight by the glow of satisfaction on his face. He detailed the matter to his staff, dwelling on the smart and accurate obedience manifested, and from that day the young man rose steadily in his profession. (Sunday companion.)