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God's View of a great City

(Jon. IV.

10. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night : II. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand ; and also much cattle ? Glory be to Thee, O Lord, for granting ‘repentance unto life' to

Gentile hearts ! Glory be to Thee for the widening out of Thy mercies over heathen lands in our own day! Let my words, my name, pass speedily into oblivion if but Thou art more widely known and glorified. The gourd had lasted for a while, and its foliage was grateful to the Prophet, but its time had come to pass away. Why lament it? Let believers look to that which alone lasts, let them acknowledge God's mercy in revealing His eternal Self to His perishing creatures. The world's great city, with its innumerable inhabitants, many of whom are like children, lies before me in its darkness and error: shall I cling to privileges or comforts of my own when all those souls need to be awakened to know their God ? Many Christians have in this been like Jews; all they cared for was their own comfort, and they forgot the work of conversion which God had entrusted them to do.

MICAH

CHAPTER I

M HE word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite

1 in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. 2. Hear, all ye people ; hearken, 0 earth, and all that therein is : and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. Micah began his prophecy with the words of his great namesake,

Micaiah, the son of Imlah, who had lived one hundred and fifty years before. He, when he had predicted Ahab's ruin and death, said, 'Hearken, 0 people, every one of you'(1 Kings xxii. 28). So Micah in his day bids all people listen with attention to God's message. The Prophets come forward as heralds to utter the great King's proclamation. They bid the wicked tremble at the coming of their Judge. Human witness has been set at nought, so God bears witness Himself; or human eyes did not see, but God from His holy Temple saw and weighed all that was done. It is evident from Jeremiah xxvi. 18, 19, that the memory of Micah's boldness and the good effect of his words lasted long. He won king and people to hearken. Nor in our own day does the good God lack heralds or a message, had we but ears to discern it.

3. For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. 4. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, und as the waters that are poured down a steep place. When God comes forth to judgment, earth bows before Him. Solid

mountains crumble at His flashes of lightning, firm ground becomes a rushing stream when His storm-flood rises. This prediction refers literally to times of great convulsion, when firmest 100

The Fall of Samaria

[Mic. I.

institutions totter. But if my lot is cast in quieter days, I must take care not to mistake earth's heights for God's Eternal Rock. He alone is a lasting refuge, a sure foundation. All else cracks and totters under the shocks of time.

5. For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria ? and what are the high places of Judah ? are they not Jerusalem ? 6. Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard : and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof. 7. And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate : for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot. God would sweep away, as at the Flood, this corrupt world, and

make a new world where fresh life should begin. The glories of Samaria were acquired by intercourse with false gods, and they would be carried off to the temples of false gods. In this passage the downfall of Samaria is more fully described than anywhere else in Scripture. To this would come the fortress capital, the renown of Ahab or of Jehu, the long-standing power and wealth of the northern kingdom (which far exceeded Judah in power). It was in God's sight all mixed up with corruption, the time was come for it to pass away utterly. Nor does God deal only with kingdoms and cities, but brings down judgment upon proud hearts. I see represented here the history and downfall of those who trust in themselves.

8. 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. 9. For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah ; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem. Saints of God do not exult over their own virtue or security. The

downfall of their brethren is a cause of woe to them. They participate in the tears of sufferers and of penitents. Especially do they grieve to see that the world has penetrated into the Church and corrupted the hearts and ways of Christians. It may be that I cannot amend what is evil, nor do good by preaching about it, but at least I can grieve over it, can complain of it to God. Is it nothing that so many souls should be corrupted ; should quit their true Master and Friend, in Whose service they were enrolled at baptism, and become slaves to sin and unbelief? Is all this not worth a regret ?

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10. Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all : in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust. 11. Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Beth-ezel ; he shall receive of you his standing. 12. For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem. 13. O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast : she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion : for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee. 14. Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moresheth-gath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. 15. Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel. 16. Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children ; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle ; for they are gone into captivity from thee. In these verses the Prophet recounts the names of many towns and

villages in his own neighbourhood (the part of Judah that bordered on Philistia), and draws from each name something which reminds him of the desolation that is approaching. It is hard to render in English the play upon the names, but the impression of the whole passage is that sorrow is coming instead of joy, shame for glory, flight in place of security. An invader seizes the Lord's heritage, carries off His children captive. When the Prophets speak thus of Israel about to be devastated by Assyrian or Babylonian conquerors, I am reminded of the state of God's Church as faith sees it. I see that error, division, corruption abound; that the enemy enslaves and carries off souls; that the Church of God,

Which gave in her fair youth

Prime pattern of the might which order brings,' is now disordered and oppressed. Saints tell of the glory, unity, triumphs of the Holy Jerusalem, God's Church, in old days; but we cannot but feel

Now is the autumn of the Tree of Life.' Still, the darker the prospect grows, faithful Christians must persevere with prayers and good works; and they will find promises of mercy come true, no less than threatenings of judgment.

102

Devisers of Harm

(Mic. II.

CHAPTER II

W OE to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their

beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. 2. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. 3. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks ; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.

The Lord devises evil against the devisers of evil. They plan, but

He has His plans too. In these verses we read of persons like Ahab (1 Kings xxi. 4), who lay on his bed and sulked because he could not acquire Naboth's piece of land, and presently lent himself to a scheme for depriving Naboth of life as well as of land. God was preparing recompence for such spoilers. Amongst Jews of old, covetousness and oppression prevailed ; God saw and was displeased. The Gospel when it came had a spell to abolish covetousness. Many of the early Christians 'took joyfully the spoiling of their goods' (Hebrews x. 34), and left it to the Lord to avenge them. They felt that, losing earth's transitory goods but keeping hold on the hope of an eternal reward, they had not been made wholly destitute. They trusted that God would correct the injustice which He allowed to subsist for a time.

4. In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people : how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields. 5. Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord. Among the Hebrews grave or sad thoughts, no less than feelings

of joy, found place in sententious verse. The heart of the people, like that of David, the sweet singer and hero king, found relief in poetic expression. So here, when the captivity comes, men will lament over it, as the Prophet Jeremiah did. But the complaint which best answers to this prediction is the wail of the Apostle Paul, who, when he thought over his own people, had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart,' grieved over their rejection, marvelled at God's strange dealings with them.

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