Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 12 (... continued from part 11) Lecture Ninety-second. Micah 5:7,8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Mica promises here two things as to the future state of the Church, - that God shall defend it without the help and aid of men, - and that he will supply it with strength, so that it will become superior to all enemies. In the first place, to show that the preservation of the Church depends on the mere favor of God, and that there is no need of any earthly aids, he makes use of a most suitable similitude; he says, that the people of God are like a dewy meadow. The Prophet speaks not what is strictly correct; for what he says of the rain and dew is to be applied to the grass or the meadow. "The residue of Jacob, he says, shall be as dew from Jehovah, and drops of rain on the grass". This cannot be applied according to the design of the Prophet, except you take the dew, as I have already said, for the dewy meadows or for the grass, which draws moisture and vigor from the rains. The sense indeed is by no means obscure, which is, - that God will make his people to grow like the grass, which is fed only by celestial dew, without any culture or labour on the part of men: and this is also what the Prophet expressly mentions; for he says, that the grass of which he speaks waits not for men, nor grows through men's care, but grows through the dew of heaven. But that we may better understand the Prophet's intention, I shall briefly notice the words. "There shall be, he says, the residue of Jacob". He shows here that the whole people would not he preserved; for he had before spoken of their destruction. We hence see that this promise is to be confined to the seed, which God had wonderfully preserved in the calamitous state of the Church, yea, even in its almost total destruction. Then this promise belongs not to the whole body of the people, but to a small number; and hence he uses as before, the word "she'erit", a remnant or residue. There shall then be the residue of Jacob; that is, though the people shall nearly all perish, yet there shall be some residue. He then adds, "Among great or many nations". There is here a contrast between the remnants and great nations: and the Prophet has not unnecessarily added the expression "bekerev", in the midst. There are then three things to be observed here, - that God does not promise deliverance to the whole people, but to a residue only, - and then, that he promises this deliverance among powerful or many nations, as though he said, - "Though the Church of God shall not excel in number, nay, so great may be the number of its enemies, as to be sufficient to overwhelm it, yet God will cause it to grow and to propagate: in a word, its enemies, though many in number, and strong in force and power, shall not yet hinder the Lord, that he should not increase his Church more and more;" - and the third particular is what the expression, "in the midst", intimates, and that is, that the people of God shall be besieged on every side. When enemies come upon us only from one part, it is not so very distressing, but when they surround us, being in front, and behind, and on both sides, then our condition seems miserable indeed; for when they thus press on us on all sides, they hardly allow us time to draw our breath. But the Prophet declares, that though surrounded on all sides by enemies, yet the Church would be safe. He now adds, "ketal m'et Jehovah", As a dew from Jehovah; that is, it shall be, as I have said, as the grass, which is nourished and grows by means of dew from heaven, and as grass, which flourishes, not through the culture or labour of men, but which God himself makes to grow. He might have merely said, as the dew, but he adds, from Jehovah, that he might make a distinction between God and man, and show that the power of God is alone sufficient to support and sustain the Church, though men brought no assistance. And this is expressed more clearly in the next clause, when he says, "As drops of rain on the grass, which waits not for man, nor tarries for the sons of men". We now then see that the faithful have their attention called to God alone, that they may understand that they are to be safe through his favour, that if all helps on earth failed, they ought not to fear, since they can be effectually sustained by the power of God alone: for God makes grass to grow on mountains and in meadows without the help and labour of man; and thus he can defend his Church without any foreign aid, but by his own hidden, and, so to speak, his own intrinsic power. Then follows this promise, - that God will arm his people with invincible and irresistible power, that they may be superior to all their enemies. Hence he says, that "the residue of Israel shall be like a lion among the beasts of the forests and like a young lion among a flock of sheep. As a strong lion then is superior to other beasts, and as a young lion dares ferociously to attack a flock of sheep; so he says, the people of Israel shall be; they shall be like lions, filling their enemies with terror, yea, and plundering and scattering them, so that no one will dare to resist them. The Prophet, by speaking thus, does not mean, that the people of God would be cruel and sanguinary: for we know that when the Prophets use similes of this kind, they express something not strictly suitable; for who would be so foolish as to select every thing that belongs to a lion, and apply it to the Church of God. Then the reason for this similitude must be observed; it was to show, that the faithful shall be endued with a power so superior to that of their enemies, that they shall be a terror to them. It does not hence follow that they shall be cruel. But we must, at the same time, see what the Lord promises to his Church. Though God then recommends to his children the spirit of meekness, yet the faithful may still be a thread to their enemies; they ought, however, to observe what is just towards them, and to keep themselves within proper bounds. And yet Micah says, that they shall be endued with such power that they shall drive their enemies afar off; yea, that they shall plunder and tear them in pieces, while no one will be able to resist them. But these two things are necessary as to the preservation of the Church, that God may make it grow; for except it be miraculously increased, it can never grow; and then it has need of a strong and powerful defense against her enemies; for we know that there are always wicked men who oppose the Church, yea, who apply all their powers to destroy it: it is therefore necessary that it should be supplied by the Lord with invincible strength, as our Prophet declares here. Let us proceed - Micah 5:9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. He confirms what is said in the last verse, and expresses in other words what he meant, and what we have explained, - that though the Church must contend with many strong and violent enemies, it will not yet fail, for the Lord will supply it with strength from heaven. "Exalted, he says, shall be thy hand, that all thine enemies may be cut off". He promises not that the Church shall be in a quiet state, but victorious, and declares also that there will never be wanting enemies. This promise, then, ought to arm us for enduring patiently, as we cannot conquer except by fighting. As then there will be always enemies to oppose the Church of God; yea, to attempt its ruin, the Prophet says here, Exalted shall be thy hand above thine enemies. But it may be asked, When has this promise been fulfilled? For we know that since the people had been led away into the Babylonian exile, they had always been either tributaries, or kept under cruel tyranny, or at least had been unequal to their enemies. But this principle ought ever to be remembered, - that the faithful ought to be satisfied with victory, - that however hard they may be pressed, and however constant may be the contests which they have to carry on, and however wearisome, this one thing ought still to be sufficient for them - that they shall not wholly perish. And it appears evident, that God's people have always been preserved by his invincible hand, however numerous have been their opposing enemies. We must also keep in mind what we have just heard, - that the promise here is not made to the whole people, but to a residue only. And it surpasses the expectation of the whole world, that even a small member could have survived so many slaughters, by which they might have been swallowed up a hundred times. Now then we see that it had not been without reason promised to the faithful, that they should be made conquerors over all their enemies. But this has not been really fulfilled, except under the conflict of the cross. It now follows - Micah 5:10-15 10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: 11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: 12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no [more] soothsayers: 13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. 14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. 15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard. There is introduced here a most necessary admonition, in order that the faithful may know, how they are to be preserved by the hand and favor of God, even when they shall be stripped of all their helps, yea, even when God shall take away all those impediments, which would otherwise close up the way against his favor. The sum of the whole then is, - that the Church shall not otherwise be saved by God's kindness than by being deprived of all her strength and defenses, and also by having her obstacles removed by God, even those which in a manner prevented his hand from being put forth to save his people. For the Prophet mentions here cities, then fortified places, he mentions horses and chariots. These, we know, are not in themselves to be condemned: but he means, that as the people foolishly placed confidence in earthly things, the salvation of God could not otherwise come to them than by stripping them of all vain and false confidence. This is one thing. Then, on the other hand, he mentions groves, he mentions carved images and statues, he mentions augurs and diviners: these were corruptions, which closed the door against the favor of God; for a people, given to idolatry, could not call upon God nor hope in him as the author of salvation. We now then perceive the Prophet's design. It now remains for me to run over the words. He says first, "It shall be in that day, saith Jehovah, that I will cut off thine horses." Here the Prophet enumerates those things which could not in themselves be ascribed to any thing wrong: for as God has created horses for the use of men, so also he allows them to be for our service. Why then does the Prophet say, that the Church could not be delivered, except horses were taken away? It was owing to an accidental fault; for when men abound in forces, they instantly fix their hope on them. As then such an abuse of God's gifts had prevailed among the people of Israel, it was necessary that horses should be taken away. God indeed could have humbled their minds or withdrawn their confidence from their horses and chariots: but it hence appears how deep are the roots of presumption in the hearts of men, that they cannot be otherwise torn up, than by having the things themselves cut off. To have horses and to have chariots is the bounty of God: for how can we have chariots and horses and other things, except through God's kindness? And yet God cannot find a way by which he can do us good, except by taking away his former gifts. Here then Micah touches the hearts of the people much more sharply than before, when he says, that salvation cannot proceed from the Lord, except their horses were destroyed; as though he said, - "Ye see how great is your wickedness; God has hitherto dealt bountifully with you, since he has enriched yon, and has also given you horses. Now as he sees that you abuse these gifts, he complains that all ways of access to you are closed up, as ye do not receive his kindness. Inasmuch as your horses and your chariots engross your attention, ye in a manner drive God far away from you. That he may therefore come to you, he will open a way for himself by removing all the obstacles and hindrances." We hence learn, that though all God's benefits ought to raise us up to heaven, serving as kinds of vehicles, they are yet turned, through our wickedness, to another purpose, and are made intervening obstacles between us and God. Hereby then is our ingratitude proved; and hence it comes, that God, when he intends to make his salvation known to us is in a manner constrained to take away and remove from us his benefits. We now then understand what the Prophet had in view when he mentioned horses and chariots. For he does not threaten here, as some think, that the people would be merely deprived of all God's gifts that they might see in their destitution and want only signs of a curse; by no means, but it is rather a promise, that is, that God will turn aside all impediments by which he was for a time prevented from bringing help to his people. This doctrine ought at the same time to avail for bringing no ordinary comfort. It is hard and bitter to the flesh to be brought down. Hence the people of Israel were little able at first to bear their lot with submission, when they saw themselves stripped of God's benefits: but the Prophet sets before them a compensations which was capable of soothing all their grief, - "This," he says, "shall be for your chief good - that God will deprive you of horses and chariots; for the way which your horses and chariots now occupy shall be cleared. While ye are replenished with abundant forces, ye drive away God far from you, and there is no way open for him. He will therefore prepare a way for himself; and this will be the case when your land shall be made naked, when nothing will intervene to prevent him from coming to you." He afterwards subjoins, I will cut off the cities of thy land, and I will destroy all thy fortresses. This verse is to be taken in the same sense. That the people dwelt in fortified cities, and had defenses and fortified places, was not of itself displeasing to God. But as the people habituated themselves to a false confidence, and as it were hardened themselves in it, so that this evil could not be remedied without taking away those things to which it is attached, the Prophet says here, "I will cut off the cities of your land," and then, "I will cut off your defenses and fortified places". Is it that they may be plundered with impunity by their enemies? By no means, but that the favor of God may be made glorious in their deliverance. For they could not ascribe it to their cities that they kept off enemies, but were constrained to acknowledge the hand of God, and to confess him to have been their only deliverer; for they were exposed to enemies, and there was no aid for them in the land. God then will thus render more evident his favor, when their cities and fortified places shall be cut off. We hence learn that the faithful at this day have no cause to murmur if they are without great riches, and if they are not formidable for the multitude of their horses, nor for the number and strength of their men. Why so? Because it is the Lord's will that we should be like sheep, that we might depend wholly on his power, and know that we cannot be otherwise safe than under his protection. This reason then ought to comfort us, that it may not be grievous to us, when we find that we are in the midst of wolves, and that we have no equal strength to contend with them; for even this destitution hardly extorts from us a real confession that our safety is in the hand of God. We are always proud. How would it be, were the Church at this day in a flourishing state and all enemies subdued, were there no danger, no fear? Surely earth and heaven could not bear the foolish self-confidence of men. There is therefore no wonder that God thus holds us in, and that while he supports us by his grace, he deprives us of all earthly helps and aids, that we may learn that he alone is the author of our salvation. This truth ought to be carefully contemplated by us. Whenever we see that the Church of God, though not possessing any great power, is yet diminished daily, yea, and becomes, so to speak, like a naked land, without any defenses, it so happens, in order that the protection of God may be alone sufficient for us, and that he may wholly tear away from our hearts all haughtiness and pride, and dissipate all those vain confidences by which we not only obscure the glory of God, but, as far as we can, entirely cover it over. In short, as there is nothing better for us than to be preserved by the hand of God, we ought to bear patiently the removal of all those impediments which close up the way against God, and, in a manner, keep off his hand from us, when he is ready to extend it for the purpose of delivering us. For when our minds are inflated with foolish self-confidence, we neglect God; and thus a wall intervenes, which prevents him to help us. Who would not wish, seeing himself in extreme danger and help not far distant, that an intercepting wall should immediately fall down? Thus God is near at hand, as he has promised; but there are many walls and many obstacles, from the ruin of which, if we would be safe, we must desire and seek, that God may find an open and free way, in order that he may be able to afford us aid. The Prophet comes now to the second kind of impediments. We have already said that some things become impediments, as it were, accidentally, when, through our wickedness and misapplication, we turn God's benefits to an end contrary to what he has designed. If, for instance, horses and chariots are given us, to possess them is not in itself an evil, but becomes so through our blindness, that is, when we, blinded by earthly possessions, think ourselves safe, and thus neglect God. But there are other impediments, which are, in their nature, and in themselves, vicious. To these the Prophet now leads us. "I will cut off, he says, the sorcerers, "keshafim". Some render the word jugglers, and others, augurs or diviners. We cannot know of a certainty what kind of superstition it was, nor the other which immediately follows: for the Prophet mentions here two words which mean nearly the same thing. There is no doubt but that some, in that age, were called augurs or diviners, and others called jugglers or astrologers who are now called fortune-tellers. But on this subject there is no necessity of much labour; for the Prophet simply shows here that the people could not be preserved by Gods unless they were cleansed from these defilements. These superstitions, we know, were forbidden and condemned by God's Law: but the Law was not able to restrain the wickedness of that people; for they continually turned aside to these evils. God then here shows, that until they had purged the Church, it could not continue safe. Now, in these words, the Prophet reminds the Jews, and also the Israelites, for their benefit, that it was, and had been, through their own fault, that they labored under constant miseries and were not helped by the hand of God. - How so? Because there was no room, as God shows here, for the exercise of his favour; for they were full of auguries and divinations, and of other diabolical arts. "How," he says, "can I help you, for I have no agreement with Satan? As you are wholly given to wicked superstitions, my favor is rejected by you." One thing is, that the Prophet intended to humble the people, so that every one might know that it had been through their fault, that God had not brought them help as they wished: but there is another thing, - God promises a cleansing, which would open a way for his favor, - I will take away, he says, all the diviners. Let us then know, that it ought to be deemed the greatest benefit when God takes away from us our superstitions and other vices. For since a diminution, however hard and grievous it may be at first, is useful to us, as we see, when we willfully and openly drive away God from us; is it not a singular favor in God when he suffers us not to be thus separated from him, but prepares a way for himself to be connected with us, and has ever his hand extended to bring us help? Thus much as to these two kinds of impediments. He now adds, "I will cut off thy graven images and thy statues from the midst of thee; and thou shalt not hereafter bend down before the works of thine hands". This verse is plain and contains nothing new: for the Prophet teaches that God cannot become propitious to his Church, to keep and make her safe, until he purges her from her filth, even from idolatry and other vices, by which the worship of God was corrupted, or even entirely subverted. I will, therefore, cut off thy graven images and statues from the midst of thee. We see that God anticipates us by his gratuitous goodness, not only by forgiving us, but also by calling us back, when wandering, into the right way. Since then we have deviated from the right way, and God thus withdraws his hand that it might appear that he has cast us away it is certain that we ought not only to pray him to have mercy on us, but also to ascribe to him a higher favor, inasmuch as he takes away the very impediments which separate us from him, and suffer him not to come nigh us. We hence see that God is not only inclined to pardon when men repent, but that it is his peculiar office to remove the obstacles. This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may know that our salvation, from the first beginning, proceeds from the mere favor of God, - and that we may also learn, that all those things, of which the Papists vainly talk respecting preparations, are mere figments. He then adds, "thou shalt not bend hereafter before the work of thine hands". God expresses here the cause why he so much abominates idols, even because he sees that his honor is transferred to them: this is one thing. He further arraigns the Jews as guilty, while he makes evident their defection: for surely nothing could have been more shameful, than to take away from God his honor and worship, and to transfer them to dead things; and he says here by way of reproach, that they were the work of their hands. What can be more insane, than for men to ascribe divinity to their own inventions, or to believe that it is in the power of men to make a god from wood or stone? This is surely monstrous in the extreme. Then the Prophet by this form of speaking aggravates the sin of the people of Israel, that is, when he says that they bowed the head before the work of their oven hands. He afterwards subjoins, "I will take away thy groves". The groves, we know, formed a part of their idolatry: they are therefore mentioned here as an addition by the Prophet. For he speaks not simply of trees, but refers to the wicked practices of the people: for wherever there were high and lofty trees, they thought that something divine was hid under their shade; hence their superstition. When therefore the Prophet mentions groves, it must be understood of vicious and false modes of worship; for they thought that those places acquired a sort of sanctity from the trees; as they also thought that they were nearer to God when they were on a hill. We hence see that this verse is to be connected with the last; as though the Prophet had said, that the Church could not be in safety and recover her pristine vigor, without being well cleansed from all the filth of idolatry. For we indeed know that some pious kings when they took away idols did not cut down the groves; and this exception to their praise is added, that they worshipped God, but that the high places were suffered to stand. We see that the Holy Spirit does not fully commend those kings who did not destroy the groves. - Why? Because they were the materials of corruption. And further, had the Jews been really penitent, they would have exterminated those groves by which they had so shamefully abused and profaned the worship of God. The sum of the whole then is, that when God shall have well cleansed his Church and wiped away all its stains, he will then become the unfailing preserver of its safety. He afterwards subjoins, And "I will destroy thy enemies". "'Areycha" may be rendered, enemies, and many so render it: but others translate it, cities; and the word, cities, would be the most suitable, were it not that the Prophet had previously mentioned cities. I do not therefore see that it would be proper to render it here by this term. The word "'areycha" then, ought doubtless to be rendered, thy enemies. Let us inquire why the prophet says, that the enemies of the Church were to be destroyed. This sentence ought to be thus explained, (I leave the former ones, and take only this the last,) "And I will demolish thy groves from the midst of thee, that I may destroy thine enemies": the copulative is then to be considered as a final particle; and this meaning is the most suitable; as though the Prophet had said, as I have already often stated, that the door was closed against God, so that he could bring no aid to his Church, and deliver it from enemies, as long as it held to false confidence, and was attached to the filth of idolatry, which was still worse. "That I may then destroy thine enemies, it is necessary first that every thing in thee that prevents or hinders my favor should be taken away and removed." At last he adds, "And I will execute vengeance in wrath and in fury". He goes on with what I have just said of enemies; "I will then execute vengeance in wrath and in fury on the nations". Here God mentions his wrath and his fury, that the faithful might feel greater confidence, that though now their enemies poured forth grievous threatening, yet this could not prevent God from aiding his people. - How so? Because if we compare the wrath and fury of God with all the terrors of men, doubtless the threats of men would appear as nothing but smoke. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning in these words. And he says in the last place, I will execute vengeance on the nations who have not heard. Almost all interpreters join the relative, "'asher" with the preceding word, "goyim", - I will then take vengeance on the nations who have not heard, that is, who have been rebellious against God: not to hear, as they explain, is obstinately to despise the power of God, and not to be moved by his promises or by his threatenings. But a fitter sense may perhaps be elicited, if we refer "'asher" to vengeance, - I will then execute vengeance on the nations which they have not heard, that is, I will take vengeance on all the nations in a manner unheard of and incredible: and by nations, he understands indiscriminately all the enemies of the Church, as we have elsewhere seen. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since thou so kindly invites us to thy self, and promises that thy aid should never be wanting to us, provided we do not close the door against thee, - O grant, that though many earthly benefits may be granted to us, we may not yet trust in them and depart from thee, but, on the contrary, recomb on thy grace only: and then should it happen to us to be deprived of all helps, that our minds may be awakened, and that we may thus learn to hasten to thee, may nothing impede our course, that we may not, with the greatest haste and ardent desire, long to deliver up and devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may be made safe under the care and protection of thy only-begotten Son, whom thou hast appointed to be the guardian of our safety. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 12 (continued in part 13...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-12.txt .