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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Micah 7

 

 

Verse 8-9

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

‘Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him.’

Micah 7:8-9

I. Men commonly think a sin to be cancelled when it is done and over; or, in other words, that amendment is an expiation.—They do not take the trouble to repent. Regret, vexation, sorrow—such feelings seem to this busy, practical, unspiritual generation as idle; as something despicable and unmanly, just as tears may be. They are unbelieving, they are irrational, if they are nothing more than remorse, gloom, and despondency. Such is ‘the sorrow of the world,’ which ‘worketh death.’ Yet there is a ‘godly sorrow’ also; a positive sorrowing for sin, and a deprecation of its consequences, and that quite distinct from faith or amendment; and this, so far from being a barren sorrow, worketh, as the Apostle assures us, ‘repentance to salvation not to be repented of.’

II. When Christians have gone wrong in any way, whether in belief or in practice, scandalously or secretly, it seems that pardon is not explicitly, definitely, promised them in Scripture as a matter of course; and the mere fact that they afterwards become better men, and are restored to God’s favour, does not decide the question whether they are in every sense pardoned; for David was restored, and yet was afterwards punished. It is still a question whether a debt is not standing against them for their past sins, and is not now operating, or to operate, to their disadvantage. What the payment consists in and how it will be exacted is quite another question, and a hidden one. God may spare us, He may punish. In either case, however, our duty is to surrender ourselves into His hands, that He may do what He will.

Illustration

‘It has been said recently that cases of answered prayer are the exception, and not the rule. Would it not be better to say that our prayers are always answered, though the petitions are not granted just in the way we had hoped. God is so wise, good, and faithful that, however urgently we pressed our case, it would not be for our best interests if He were to do as we ask. When we reach the other world we shall have abundant reason, in the pure light of eternity, to thank God that He did not grant all our petitions, though he always answered our real prayers. We asked for stones, but He gave us bread; for scorpions, but He gave us fish. He could not for love’s sake give us the poison we clamoured for. We ask amiss, and know not what we ask. But He, reading right our wrong request, gives what we would ask did we know. We are also hot-blooded. It is so hard for us to wait for God. The hand moves so slowly round the dial-plate, it seems as though the hour will never strike. In the meanwhile the enemy speaks strongly in our ears of God having forsaken us; but it is not so. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise! My soul, wait thou only upon God.’


Verse 20

‘WHO IS A PARDONING GOD LIKE THEE?’

‘Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old.’

Micah 7:20

Listen! We shall not hear many more Old Testament words before Advent; this is almost the last sound of the Old Testament trumpet before Isaiah takes up the strain to proclaim an Incarnate Saviour. And the words are all the more remarkable because they come from Micah, the prophet of whom what we most readily remember is that he alone foretells Bethlehem as the Saviour’s birthplace. He has been sent from the land of Judah, to which he belonged, to bear a testimony to the kingdom of Israel. And his testimony, for the greater part of it, is one of stern reproof and warning. The nation was far gone in wickedness of every kind; their doom was near at hand. Yet before they fell the Lord gave them this solemn admonition, with here and there glimpses interspersed of a coming and brighter day. For so it has ever been: no nation falls unwarned, though warnings now are not spoken by a prophet’s voice, but are enshrined in the word once written for all men’s learning.

And now, at the very close, there is a complete change of strain, these closing verses contain a rich, full Gospel message, glad tidings of great joy to every stricken and mourning heart. It came too late for Israel as a nation; but doubtless there were souls among that godless people, like the seven thousand in Elijah’s day, to whom it would bring peace and joy. It bears peace and joy still to all who have learned to mourn for sin.

Let us hear what Micah tells us of the God with whom we have to do.

I. He is great, because rich in mercy.—(a) This is the special note of the one true God. Mark it well. Many in the present day, who think they are good Protestants, shrink from this attitude of God. They cannot deny it; it is too clearly revealed. But they put it in the background, and almost try to hide it, while they dwell on the renewing work of grace to train the soul to holy living. Quite true, and precious truth! Never forget it. Never cease to impress it on yourself, and on all whom you can influence, that an accepted and pardoned believer must needs have received from the Holy Spirit, as the seal of his acceptance, the new heart and the right mind, and be trained by the same Holy Spirit to earnest walking and fighting the good fight of faith. But still this is not the truth which lies at the foundation, not that which made the heart of the prophet glow within him as he exclaimed, ‘Who is a God like unto Thee?’ He knew full well, as Apostles knew in after-days, that we must first set forth the free mercy of God; and the more firmly we do so the more clearly do we establish His greatness as far above all so-called gods. (b) Mark the full and unqualified language. Words seem to fail him to bring out his thought. See how it struggles for expression. ‘Pardoneth,’ ‘passeth by,’ ‘retaineth not anger,’ ‘delighteth in mercy,’ ‘will turn again,’ ‘will have compassion,’ ‘will subdue our iniquities,’ ‘will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.’ Could you frame other or stronger language? He who rejects or shrinks from the truth of God’s unbounded mercy to sinners may be ever so wise as the modern world reckons wisdom; but he is not in the way of making men ‘wise unto salvation.’

II. This assurance is based on promise.—(a) To Israelites the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You see, Micah had no doubt of the old story of the call of Abram and the special dealing with Isaac and Jacob. To him these were no fancies, no vague traditions, passed from mouth to mouth from generation to generation. The story was true if ever history was true. The call was no dream of Moses, or of any one writing in his name: it was a real call, a real separating of one nation to be the Lord’s own; and they, with all their faults, had (almost in spite of themselves) kept alive in the world the knowledge of the one true God. Yes, and is that covenant now dead? Israel herself does not think so. Though dispersed and homeless, she still claims her fathers’ birthright, and looks onward to the day when she shall once more be settled in their Promised Land and sit enthroned on God’s holy hill. How this may be I know not; they have much to learn first of God’s dealings with them. Meanwhile, their existence and the living power of their traditions are a standing witness to the truth of the old record and the reality of the old covenant. (b) Then, secondly, to us it is a type of our spiritual inheritance. When the Holy Spirit, by the pen of Micah, speaks of ‘the truth’ assured to Jacob, ‘the mercy to Abraham,’ we cannot think that His words point to an earthly land of promise or an earthly kingdom as the beginning and ending of it all. Nay, surely, He bids us look to the reign of the true King, of Him Whose day Abraham saw afar off, and rejoiced to see. Brethren, cling to that belief. For here also the unbelieving spirit of the day comes in, and would fain persuade you to separate the promise of present happiness or future glory from all reference to the Cross of Jesus, or to the faith by which we are joined to Him. Not so speaks the Scripture. Even the Old Testament prophet can teach us deeper things. For even under the old covenant the Chosen People had ever to look to the undeserved mercy of their God. Far more must we, if we claim to be among His adopted ones now, be ever looking to the death of Jesus, and delighting to think how our Father has sealed to us all His promises by giving His Son to die for us and to rise again.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Micah 7:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/micah-7.html. 1876.

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