Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 6 (... continued from part 5) Lecture Eighty-sixth. Let us proceed to explain that sentence of the Prophet, in which he shows the cause why the teachers deceived the people and turned the truth of God to a lie; and this was, because they were greedy of gains and were wholly given to avarice. We hence see, according to the testimony of Paul, that avarice affords a cause to all evils, (1 Tim. 6: 10;) and that wherever this contagion comes, all things necessarily fall into decay: for when avarice reigns in the hearts of men, the truth of God especially is ever adulterated. But Micah adduces two evidences of avarice, - that they cried, "Peace", when well fed and filled, - and that they proclaimed war, when they were hungry. Then as to the first points he says, "hannoshchim beshinneihem wekar'u shalom", that is, "who bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace." But the sentence is to be so understood, that when they did bite well, they announced peace with full confidence: for by the word, bite, the Prophet means their gormandizing; for they who, under the guise of God's name, sought only their own advantage, were not satisfied with a moderate support, inasmuch as they were like hungry dogs. They therefore devoured, and gorged themselves, without any limits or moderation. This is the reason why he says that they did bite: for he compares them either to lions or to bears; and we know that wild beasts are not satiated with a small quantity of food, but that they gnash as it were their teeth except they are always pampered. So also Micah says, that the false teachers of his age were voracious men, who demanded a large proportion of food. We see the same thing in our day as to the monks under the Papacy, especially those who, under the name of mendacity, devour the substance of all people. Except they are pampered, they always murmur; nay, they are not content with murmurs, they proclaim war, as the Prophet says here. We indeed see at the same time, that they are insatiable; for when they come to tables well furnished, no one would say that they are men, but beasts, for they devour every thing. We now then understand the Prophet's meaning. But it is not voracity alone that is reprehended: he says, that they sold their blessings. when they were well filled and had their stomach well supplied. In the same manner the monks also are wont to pronounce peace when they are well fed, - "O! ye do good, when ye take care of the brethren; for they are careful of you: when ye sleep in your beds, they watch, and their prayers make you rich; for how could the world stand, were it not that the brethren make amends for it? As then ye are so kind to our community, all things shall turn out well and prosperously to you, and God also will bless you." This then is the practice of those who for reward sell their blessings; they cry, Peace, that is, they confidently declare that all things shall be well, they make God propitious, provided such liberality towards their order be ever continued. But, on the other hand, he also says, "If any one gives not to their mouth, they instantly sanctify war against you:" but I give a different rendering, as the passage requires, - that they reclaim war; though the word is literally to sanctify. But we have seen in Joel chap. 2, that the word is used to designate any solemn proclamation, - "Sanctify a fast," that is, Proclaim a fast. So also in this place, They sanctify war, that is, they proclaim war, when any one does not feed them, nor satisfy their gormandizing; for they could not bear want. In short, the Prophet shows, that these false teachers were so blinded by avarice, that they discerned not the difference between right and wrong; but only praised those who fed them: and, on the other hand, when they found that they and their stomach were not cared for nor satisfied, they cursed, fulminated, and uttered nothing but anathemas; as we see to be done at this day by the monks under the Papacy. The Prophet now says - Micah 3:6,7 Therefore night [shall be] unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for [there is] no answer of God. God declares here to the false teachers by the mouth of Micah, that he would inflict punishment on them, so that they should be exposed to the reproach of all. Hence the kind of punishment of which the Prophet speaks is - that he would strip the false teachers of all their dignity, so that they should hereafter in vain put on an appearance, and claim the honorable name which they had so long abused. We indeed know, when ungodly and profane men clothe themselves with the dignified titles of being the princes, or bishops, or prelates of the Church, how audaciously they pervert every thing, and do so with impunity. There is then no other remedy, except God pulls off the mask from them, and openly discovers to all their baseness. Of this punishment Micah now speaks. "There shall be to you a night from vision"; so is the phrase literally, but the particle "mem" means often, for, or, on account of; and we can easily see that the Prophet represents night as the reward for visions and darkness for divination. "As then my people have been deceived by your fallacies, for your visions and divinations have been nothing but lies and deceits, I will repay you with the reward which you have deserved: for instead of a vision you shall have night, and instead of divination you shall have thick darkness." It is indeed certain, that the false teachers, even when they were, as they say, in great reputation, that is, when they retained the honor and the title of their office, were blind and wholly destitute of all light: but the Prophet here declares, that as their baseness did not appear to the common people, God would cause it to be made at length fully evident. As for instance, there is nothing at this day more stupid and senseless than the bishops of the Papacy: for when any one draws from them any expression about religion, they instantly betray not only their ignorance, but also their shameful stupidity. With regard to the monks, though they be the most audacious kind of animals, yet we know how unlearned and ignorant they are. Therefore at this time the night has not yet passed away, nor the darkness, of which Micah speaks here. We now then understand what the Holy Spirit teaches here, and that is, - that God would at length strip those false teachers of that imaginary dignity, on account of which no one dared to speak against them, but received as an oracle whatever they uttered. Night, then, shall be to you instead of a vision; that is, "The whole world shall understand that you are not what you boast yourselves to be: for I will show that there is not in you, no, not a particle of the prophetic spirit, but that ye are men as dark as night, and darkness shall be to you instead of divination. Ye boast of great acuteness and great perspicuity of mind; but I will discover your baseness, so that the very children may know that you are not endued with the spirit." To the same purpose is what he adds, "Go down shall the sun upon you, and darkened over you shall be the day"; that is, such will be that darkness, that even at noon they will see nothing; the sun will shine on all, but they shall grope as in the dark; so that Gods vengeance would be made so manifest, that it might be noticed by all, from the least to the greatest. He confirms the same thing in the next verse, "And ashamed shall be the seers and confounded the diviners, and they shall cover their lip"; that is they will put veils on their mouths. In short, he means, that they would become a reproach to all, so that they would be ashamed of themselves, and no more dare to boast with so much confidence of their name and of the prophetic office. As to this form of expression, "we'atu 'al-safam", some think that the practice of mourners is referred to; but this interpretation is frigid. I have therefore no doubt but that Micah intimates that the mouths of the false teachers would be closed. There is nearly the same denunciation mentioned by Zechariah; for speaking of the restoration of the Church, he says, - They who before went about boasting greatly, and gloried in the name of Prophets, shall cast away their mantle, and will no longer dare to show themselves; yea, when they shall come abroad, they shall be as it were herdsman or private persons, and shall say, "I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I am chastised by my father;" that is, they shall profess themselves unworthy of being called prophets; but that they are scholars under discipline, (Zech. 13: 5.) So also in this place, "They deceive at this day my people," saith the Lord; "I will reward them as they deserve; I will fill them with disgrace and contempt. They shall not then dare hereafter to show themselves as they have been wont to do; they shall not presume boastingly to profess themselves to be the pillars of the Church, that the whole world may be made subject to them; they shall not dare with tyrannical force to oppress the common and ignorant portions of society." Veil, then, shall they their mouth; that is, "I will cause their mouth to be closed, so that they shall not dare hereafter to utter even a word." It follows, "For there will be no answer from God". Some so explain this sentence, as though the Prophet upbraided them with their old deceits, which they boasted were the words of God: as then they were not faithful to God, but lied to miserable men, when they said, that they were sent from above, and brought messages from heaven, while they only uttered their own inventions or fables, they should on these accounts be constrained to cover their mouth. But different is the meaning of the Prophet, and it is this, - that they were to be deprived of any answer, so that their want of knowledge might be easily perceived even by the most ignorant: for false teachers, though they possess nothing certain, yet deceive the simple with disguises, and render plausible their absurdities, that they may seem to be the interpreters of God; and they further add great confidence: and then the stupidity of the people concedes to them such great power, according to what is said by Jeremiah in chapter 5, where he says that the priests received gifts and that for gifts the Prophets divined, and that the people loved such deprivations. But Micah declares here that such delusions would no longer be allowed, for God would dissipate them. It will then be made evident, that you have no answer from God; that is, "All will perceive that you are void and destitute of every celestial truth, and that you were formerly but gross cheats, when ye passed yourselves as God's servants, though you had no ground for doing so." We now perceive what the Prophet means. But this punishment might have then contributed to the benefit of the people: for as it is a cause of ruin to the world, when there is no difference made between light and darkness; so when the baseness of those is discovered, who abuse God's name and adulterate his pure truth, there is then a door open to repentance. Rightly then is this combination addressed to false prophets. It now follows - Micah 3:8 But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Here Micah, in a courageous spirit, stands up alone against all the false teachers even when he saw that they were a large number, and that they appealed to their number, according to their usual practice, as their shield. Hence he says, "I am filled with power by the Spirit of Jehovah." This confidence is what all God's servants should possess, that they may not succumb to the empty and vain boastings of those who subvert the whole order of the Church. Whenever then, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false teachers, and them to be popular among those high in honour, as well as the multitude, let this striking example be remembered by us, lest we be discouraged, lest the firmness and invincible power of the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts, but that we may proceed in the course of our calling, and learn to oppose the name of God to all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our service is approved by him, as being faithful. Since, then, Micah says, that he was filled with power, he no doubt stood, as it were, in the presence of the whole people, and alone pitched his camp against the whole multitude; for there were then false teachers going about every where, as the devil sows always seed enough, whenever God lets loose the reins. Though then their number was not small, yet Micah hesitated not to go forth among them: "I", he says; there is stress to be laid on the pronoun "'anochi",- "Ye despise me, being one man, and ye despise a few men; ye may think that I alone serve the Lord; but I am a match for a thousand, yea, for an innumerable multitude; for God is on my side, and he approves of my ministry as it is. from him, nor do I bring any thing to you but what he has commanded: It is then "I" He further expresses a fuller confidence by using the word "'ulam"; "Verily, he says, I am filled with power". This "verily" or truly is opposed to those lofty boastings by which the false prophets were ever wont to attain a name and honour among the people. But Micah intimates that all that they uttered was only evanescent: "Ye are," he says, "wonderful prophets; nay, ye are superior to the angels, if you are to be believed; but show that you are so in reality; let there be some proof by which your calling can be confirmed. There is no proof. It then follows, that ye are only men of wind, and not really spiritual: but there is really in me what ye boast of with your mouths." And he says, that he was filled, that he might not be thought one of the common sort: and Micah no doubt shows here, on account of the necessity of the occasion, that he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power; for, according as God employs the labors of his servants, so is he present with them, and furnishes them with suitable protection. When any one is not exercised with great difficulties in discharging his office of teaching, a common measure of the Spirit is only necessary for the performance of his duties; but when any one is drawn into arduous and difficult struggles, he is at the same time especially strengthened by the Lord: and we see daily examples of this; for many simple men, who have never been trained up in learning, have yet been so endued by the celestial Spirit, when they came to great trials, that they have closed the mouths of great doctors, who seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God openly proves at this day, that he is the same now as when he formerly endued his servant Micah with a power so rare and so extraordinary. This then is the reason why he says, that he was filled with power. He afterwards adds, "By the Spirit of Jehovah". Here the Prophet casts aside every suspicious token of arrogance; lest he should seem to claim anything as his own, he says, that this power was conferred on him from above: and this circumstance ought to be particularly noticed. Though Micah rightly and justly claimed to himself the name of a teacher, he yet had nothing different from others before the world; for all his opponents discharged the same office, and obtained the same honor: the office was common to both parties. Micah was either alone, or connected with Isaiah and a few others. Since then he here dares to set up himself, we see that his call alone must be regarded; for we know how great is the propensity of Satan to oppose the kingdom of Christ, and also how proud and fierce are false teachers. Since then the rage of Satan is well known and the presumption of false teachers, there is no reason why the faithful should make much of mere naked titles: and when they, who lived at that time, declared, as Papists do at this day, that they had no discrimination nor judgment to know, whether of them ought to have been deemed impostors or the ministers of God, inasmuch as Micah was alone and they were many, and also that the others were prophets that at least they had the name and repute of being so, - what was to be done? This was the reason why I have said that this circumstance was worthy of special notice, - that though their vocation was common, yet as they had acted perfidiously, and Micah alone, or with few others, had faithfully performed what the Lord had commanded, he alone is to be deemed a Prophet and a teacher: in short, there is no reason for false prophets to set up against us a mere coveting, when they cannot prove that they are endued with the Spirit of God. Whosoever then desires to be deemed a servant of God, and a teacher in his Church, must have this seal which Micah here adduces; he must be endued with the Spirit of God; honor then will be given to God. But if any one brings nothing but the name, we see how vain before God it is. He afterwards subjoins "With judgment and courage". By judgment, I have no doubt, he understands discernment, as this is also the common meaning of the word. He then adds courage. These two things are especially necessary for all ministers of the word, - that is, to excel in wisdom, to understand what is true and right, and to be also endued with inflexible firmness, by which they may overcome both Satan and the whole world, and never turn aside from their course, though the devil may in all ways assail them. We hence see what these two words import. He had put "koach", first, power; but now he mentions "gevurah", courage or magnanimity. By the term, power, he meant generally all the endowments, with which all who take upon them the office of teaching ought to be adorned. This qualification is then first required, and it is a general one: but Micah divides this power of the prophets into two kinds, even into wisdom or judgment, and into courage; and he did this, that they might understand what God intended: Let them excel in doctrine; and then that they may be confirmed, let them not yield to any gales that may blow, nor be overcome by threats and terrors; let them not bend here and there to please the world; in a word, let them not succumb to any corruptions: it is therefore necessary to add courage to judgment. He then adds, "To declare to Jacob his wickedness, and to Israel his sin". We here see that the Prophet did not hunt for the favor of the people. Had he courted their approbation, he must have soothed with flatteries those who sought flatteries; and were already seized with such hatred and malignant feelings, that they had rejected Micah. He must then have spoken softly to them, to please them; but this he did not do. "On the one hand," he says, "these men sell to you their blessings and deceive you with the hope of peace; and, on the other, they denounce war, except their voracity is satisfied; and thus it is that they please you; for so ye wish, and ye seek such teachers as will promise you wine and strong drink: but I am sent to you for another purpose; for the Lord has not deposited flatteries with me, such as may be pleasant to you; but he has deposited reproofs and threatenings. I shall therefore uncover your crimes, and will not hesitate to condemn you before the whole world, for ye deserve to be thus treated." We now perceive why the Prophet says, that he was endued with power to declare his wickedness to Jacob, &c. But we hence learn how necessary it is for us to be supported by celestial firmness, when we have to do with insincere and wicked men; and this is almost the common and uniform lot of all God's servants; for all who are sent to teach the word are sent to carry on a contest. It is therefore not enough to teach faithfully what God commands, except we also contend: and though the wicked may violently rise up against us, we must yet put on a brazen front, as it is said in Ezek. 3: 8, 9; nor must we yield to their fury, but preserve invincible firmness. Since then we have a contest with the devil, with the world, and with all the wicked, that we may faithfully execute our office, we must be furnished with this courage of which Micah speaks. As I have already shown that God's servants ought courageously to break through all those obstacles by which Satan may attempt either to delay or to force them backward; so also the doctrine taught here ought to be applied to all the godly: they ought wisely to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors who falsely pretend his name. Then no one, who desires truly and from the heart to obey God, will be deceived; for the Lord will ever give the spirit of judgment and discrimination. And the reason why at this day many miserable souls are led to endless ruin is, because they either shut their eyes, or willfully dissemble, or designedly involve themselves in such subterfuges as these, - "I cannot form any judgment; I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, at least those who are in some repute and esteem: some call me to the right hand, and others to the left, where am I to retake myself? I therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears." Thus many, seeking a cloak for their sloth, often manifest their ignorance: for we see that the eyes must be opened when the Lord exercises and tries our faith: and he suffers discords and contentions to arise in the Church that some may choose this, and others that. Though God then relaxes the reins of Satan, that contests and turmoils of this kind may be excited in the Church, there is yet no excuse for us, if we follow not what the Lord prescribes; for he will ever guide us by his Spirit, provided we foster not our own slothfulness. It follows - Micah 3:9,10 Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The Prophet begins really to prove what he had stated, - that he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: and it was, as they say, an actual proof, when the Prophet dreaded no worldly power, but boldly addressed the princes and provoked their rage against him, "Hear", he says, "ye heads, ye rulers of the house of Jacob", ye men who are cruel, bloody, and iniquitous. We then see that the Prophet had not boasted of what he did not without delay really confirm. But he began with saying, that he was filled with the Spirit of God, that he might more freely address them, and that he might check their insolence. We indeed know that the ungodly are so led on headlong by Satan, that they hesitate not to resist God himself: but yet the name of God is often to them a sort of a hidden chain. However much then the wicked may rage, they yet become less ferocious when the name of God is introduced. This is the reason why the Prophet had mentioned the Spirit of God; it was, that there might be a freer course to his doctrine. When he now says, Ye heads of the house of Jacob, ye rulers of the house of Israel, it is by way of concession, as though he had said, that these were indeed splendid titles, and that he was not so absurd as not to acknowledge what had been given them by God, even that they were eminent, a chosen race, being the children of Abraham. The Prophet then concedes to the princes what belonged to them, as though he had said, that he was not a seditious man, who had no care nor consideration for civil order. And this defense was very necessary, for nothing is more common than for the ungodly to charge God's servants with sedition, whenever they use a freedom of speech as it becomes them. Hence all who govern the state, when they hear their corruptions reproved, or their avarice, or their cruelty, or any of their other crimes, immediately cry out, - "What! if we suffer these things, every thing will be upset: for when all respect is gone, what will follow but brutal outrage? for every one of the common people will rise up against the magistrates and the judges." Thus then the wicked ever say, that God's servants are seditious whenever they boldly reprove them. This is the reason why the Prophet concedes to the princes and judges of the people their honor; but a qualifying clause immediately follows, - "Ye are indeed the heads, ye are rulers; but 'yet they hate judgment:'" he does not think them worthy of being any longer addressed. He had indeed bidden them to hear as with authority; but having ordered them to hear, he now uncovers their wickedness, "They hate, he says, judgments and all rectitude pervert:" each of them builds Zion by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity; that is, they turn their pillages into buildings: "This, forsooth, is the splendor of my holy city even of Zion! where I designed the ark of my covenant to be placed, as in my only habitation, even there buildings are seen constructed by blood and by plunder! See, he says, how wickedly these princes conduct themselves under the cover of their dignity!" We now see that the word of God is not bound, but that it puts forth its power against the highest as well as the lowest; for it is the Spirit's office to arraign the whole world, and not a part only. 'When the Spirit shall come,' says Christ, 'it will convince the world,' (John 16: 8.) He speaks not there of the common people only, but of the whole world, of which princes and magistrates form a prominent part. Let us then know, that though we ought to show respect to judges, (as the Lord has honored them with dignified titles, calling them his vicegerents and also gods,) yet the mouths of Prophets ought not to be closed; but they ought, without making any difference, to correct whatever is deserving of reproof, and not to spare even the chief men themselves. This is what ought in the first place to be observed. Then when he says, that Zion was built by blood, and Jerusalem by iniquity, it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that whatever the great men expended on their palaces had been procured, and, as it were, scraped together from blood and plunder. The judges could not have possibly seized on spoils on every side, without being bloody, that is, without pillaging the poor: for the judges were for the most part corrupted by the rich and the great; and then they destroyed the miserable and the innocent. He then who is corrupted by money will become at the same time a thief; and he will not only extort money, but will also shed blood. There is then no wonder that Micah says, that Zion was built by blood. He afterwards extends wider his meaning and mentions iniquity, as he wished to cast off every excuse from hypocrites. The expression is indeed somewhat strong, when he says, that Zion was built by blood. They might have objected and said, that they were not so cruel, though they could not wholly clear themselves from the charge of avarice. "When I speak of blood," says the Prophet, "there is no reason that we should contend about a name; for all iniquity is blood before God: if then your houses have been built by plunder, your cruelty is sufficiently proved; it is as though miserable and innocent men had been slain by your own hands." The words, Zion and Jerusalem, enhance their sin; for they polluted the holy city and the mount on which the temple was built by the order and command of God. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have us to be ruled by the preaching of thy word, - O grant, that those who have to discharge this office may be really endued with thy celestial power, that they may not attempt any thing of themselves, but with all devotedness spend all their labors for thee and for our benefit, that through them we may be thus edified, so that thou mayest ever dwell among us, and that we through our whole life may become the habitation of thy Majesty, and that finally we may come to thy heavenly sanctuary, where thou daily invites us, as an entrance there has been once for all opened to us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 6 (continued in part 7...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-06.txt .