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6 O my
For the Lord has spoken: I have nourished up children, and they have rebelled against me," Is. i. 2; see also Ezek. vi. 2, 3.
It follows in the third verse of this chapter : people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.” God condescends by the prophet, to expostulate with the people of Israel. And he gives them leave to come and make their complaints against him, if they had any: and show their reasons, if they could assign any: why they had forsaken him, neglected his laws, and gone after strange gods.
In Jeremiah are some appeals to the Jewish people very much resembling this : “ Thus saith the Lord: What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain ?" Jer, ii. 5. Again, “ Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, a land of darkness ?” ver. 31.
Ver. 4. “ For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants, and I sent before thee Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam.”
They had no injuries, or neglects, to complain of. And farther, God reminds them of the benefits he had bestowed upon them, particularly their remarkable deliverance from the bondage of Egypt: when they were brought out thence, and were formed into a distinct nation, and made a great people.
Ver. 5. “ Remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord.” • Remember also the consultations and designs
of Balak against you, and how Balaam was constrained to • bless, instead of pronouncing a curse upon you: and that * though you were then brought into a heinous transgression, you were not utterly cut off and destroyed; but I bore with you, and preserved you, until I had brought you into the land of Canaan, and given you rest there. Recollect these things, that you may be convinced of my righteous' ness and equity, my mercy and compassion, my fidelity
and veracity, in fulfilling the promises I had made, and * I
that I have not failed to do you good. You will then • perceive, that you have no just ground of complaint · against me: and that if some desirable blessings are with• held, it cannot be owing to want of goodness in me, but it * must be rather owing to some failure of duty in you: • which is the cause of the evils you suffer, and the ground • of the controversy between us.'
Since the deliverance from the designs of Balak is here 60 particularly mentioned, as a very remarkable, and eminent proof of the divine regard, it may be worth while to observe, that elsewhere it is also mentioned in a very special manner among other mercies vouchsafed this people in the wilderness. “ They hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor, of Pethor, in Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam: but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee," Deut. xxiii. 4,5. And in another place: “ Then Balak the son of Zippor king of Moab arose and warred against Israel : and sent, and called Balaam the son of Beor, to curse you. But I would not liearken unto Balaam. Therefore he blessed you still. So I delivered you out of his hand,” Josh. xxiv. 9, 10.
Then, at the sixth verse of this chapter we have these words: “ Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God."
After the foregoing pathetic expostulation with the Jewish people, and the reproof of their ingratitude, they are introduced by the prophet, as anxiously inquisitive, how they might appease the divine displeasure, avert his judgments, and obtain favour and acceptance. If it were requisite, they would bring the most numerous, and the most costly offerings.
“ Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old ?" • Will God accept now of the ordi• nary sacrifices, such as we offer upon other occasions, and . are required in his law.'
Ver. 7. “ Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ?” • Or does he • expect a more costly offering, such as our kings have some• times made upon extraordinary occasions? We are ready, • if that will be accepted, to offer up thousands of rams, and to add in proportion, meat-offerings, prepared with oil, • though it would amount to a very great quantity.'
“ Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?” • Or shall we 6 offer up our own children, as some do to appease their • deities? We are not averse even to this, though the firstborn should be demanded.'
The answer is in the text: “ He has showed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God " • This is the most acceptable service to • God. This is preferable to all the sacrifices before men
* tioned. Let but these things be resolved upon and per• formed, and the controversy is removed: the difference is • reconciled and made up: the wrath of God is appeased, • and he will show you favour, and bless and prosper you.'
This matter is also farther illustrated in the remaining part of the chapter. “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights?" ver. 10, 11. • It is in vain to think I should be reconciled to those who continue to practise fraud and injustice: or that I should approve of and bless those who persist in their
idolatrous worship.' And thus the chapter concludes: “ For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab. And ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a reproach,” ver. 16. That is, the ordinances and practices of Omri and Ahab, two of the most wicked of their kings, were still observed and followed. And it is plainly declared, that if they persisted therein, their ruin was inevitable.
Such is the context: and in this way, I think, the coherence appears clear and easy.
I now proceed to explain the words of the text. After which I shall add a reflection or two by way of application, and conclude.
I. I begin with a distinct explication, of the several particulars in the text.
“ He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good.” This some understand, as if the prophet said: “ I will show you," or “ God will now show you by me,” giving the following answer to your inquiry.
Others understand the original expression exactly as here rendered in our translation : “ He hath shewed thee, O man.” Whoever amongst you make this inquiry, if you think and consider, may perceive, that God has already taught you what are the services he requires, and what things are the most acceptable to him. He teaches you by your own reason, if
will use it. He has also showed you this in his word, in the law, and in all the revelations he has made unto you.
So in the law of Moses : “ And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul : to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day, for thy good ?” Deut. x.
, 12, 13. Again : “ For this commandment, which I command thee this day: it is not hidden from thee, neither is it afar off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst
Who shall go up to heaven for us, and bring it to us ?. -But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayst do it. See I have set before thee life and death,” ch. xxx. 11, 12.
And the particulars, here insisted on, are but the sum and substance of the ten laws, or precepts, delivered with so much solemnity at mount Sinai.
And many of the prophets speak in perfect agreement the same with what is here said in Micah. So in Isaiah: “ Wash ye, make you clean: put away the evil of your
, doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” Is. i. 16, 17. And in Hosea : “ I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of the Lord more than burnt-offerings," Hos. vi. 6.
Therefore what is here said had been before, and often taught, and shown to this people by reason, and by other prophets and messengers. " But God now reminds them of it, and shows it them again by this prophet.
“ He hath shewed thee what is good,” or right: what is in itself reasonable and excellent, useful and profitable.
“ He hath sbewed thee, O man,” whosoever thou art, that makest this inquiry, and art desirous of satisfaction, “ what is good.” “ And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ?"
These particulars need not to be much enlarged upon. You have often heard them discoursed of. A brief explication therefore of these words, reminding you of what you know already, will suffice.
The several branches of our duty are sometimes reduced in scripture to the “ love of God, and our neighbour.” At other times they are ranged under three general heads. St. Paul says: “ The grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us, that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” Tit. ii. 12.
The order, likewise, in which these general branches are mentioned, is varied. Our Lord says, that the love of God is the “ first and great commandment.” And in the law of Moses, written on two tables, the duties immediately respect
ing God are first placed. But in this text it is first said, we should do justly, and love mercy :" then, “ walk humbly with God.' And in the place just cited from Paul, " living godly” is mentioned last.
But the order is of little moment. For these several branches of duty can never be separated. And our Saviour having said, that “ to love the Lord our God with all the heart and with all the soul is the first and great commandment,” presently adds : " and the second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Matt. xxii. 37-39. And St. John says:
66 He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen; how can he love God, whom be hath not seen ? And this commandment have we from him : that he who loveth God, love his brother also," 1 John iv, 20, 21.
The duty of sobriety is not particularly mentioned in this text of Micah: it is also omitted elsewhere, when our duty is summarily comprehended in the love of God and our neighbour. But it is always supposed or implied, though not expressly mentioned. For without it we cannot perform any part of worship and service to God in a reasonable and acceptable manner. And divers instances of intemperance are social, and directly injurious to our neighbour: and others lead to unrighteousness. A prevailing love of this world, an inordinate affection for earthly things, covetousness, and ambition, are inconsistent both with the love of God, and our neighbour.
" What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly ?” This comprehends every thing that is fair and equal between man and man, according to the relations they hear, or the obligations they are under to each other.
In this chapter, presently after the text, God by his prophet reproves divers things contrary to this branch of duty: without amending of which unrighteous conduct, they could never hope to be accepted of him. “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights ? For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.”
We are to be just in our dealings with men, without imposing on their ignorance or credulity by unfair artifices or falsehood.
As in our common traffic with men we are to observe truth in our words, so upon all other occasions are we to