Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 16
(... continued from part 15)

Lecture Ninety-sixth 
Micah 7:5,6 
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the 
doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. 
For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against 
her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's 
enemies [are] the men of his own house. 
    The Prophet pursues the subject we discussed yesterday, - that 
liberty, in iniquity, bad arrived to its highest point, for no 
faithfulness remained among men; nay, there was no more any 
humanity; for the son performed not his duty towards his father, nor 
the daughter-in-law towards her mother-in-law; in short, there was 
then no mutual love and concord. He does not here speak of that 
false confidence, by which many deceive themselves, who rely on 
mortals, and transfer to them the glory which belongs to God. Those 
therefore without any reason, philosophize here, who say, that we 
ought not to trust in men; for this was not the design of the 
Prophet. But our Prophet complains of his times according to the 
tenor of Ovid's description of the iron age, who says - 
         "---A guest is not safe from his host; 
         Nor a brother-in-law from a son-in-law; 
         and brotherly love is rare: 
         A husband seeks the death of his wife, 
         and she, of her husband; 
         Cruel stepmothers mingle the lurid poison; 
         The son, before the day, 
         inquires into the years of his father." 
    So also our Prophet says, that there was no regard to humanity 
among men; for the wife was ready to betray her husband, the son 
treated his father with reproach; in short, they had all forgotten 
humanity or natural affection. We now then understand what the 
Prophet means by saying, "Trust not a friend;" that is, if any one 
hopes for any thing from a friend, he will be deceived; for nothing 
can be found among men but perfidy. 
    "Put no faith in a counselor". So I render the word "'aluf"; 
some translate it, an elder brother; but there is no necessity to 
constrain us to depart from the proper and true meaning of the word. 
As then the Prophet had spoken of an associate or a friend, so he 
now adds a counselor. And it proves what he had in view, when he 
says in the next clause, that no enemies are worse than domestics. 
We hence see that the Prophet simply means, that the men of his age 
were not only avaricious and cruel to one another, but that without 
any regard to human feelings the son rebelled against his father, 
and thus subverted the whole order of nature; So that they had none 
of those affections, which seem at the same time to be incapable of 
being extinguished in men. Let us now proceed - 
Micah 7:7 
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my 
salvation: my God will hear me. 
    The Prophet points out here the only remedy, to preserve the 
faithful from being led away by bad examples and that is, to fix 
their eyes on God, and to believe that he will be their deliverer. 
Nothing is more difficult than to refrain from doing wrong, when the 
ungodly provoke us; for they seem to afford us a good reason for 
retaliation. And when no one injures us, yet custom is deemed almost 
a law: thus it happens that we think that to be lawful which is 
sanctioned by the manners and customs of the age; and when success 
attends the wicked, this becomes a very strong incentive. Thus it 
happens, that the faithful can hardly, and with no small difficulty, 
keep themselves within proper bounds: when they see that wickedness 
reigns everywhere, and that with impunity; and still more, when they 
see the abettors of wickedness increasing in esteem and wealth, 
immediately the corrupt lust of emulation creeps in. But when the 
faithful themselves are provoked by injuries, there seems then to be 
a just reason for doing wrong; for they say that they willfully do 
harm to no one, but only resist an injury done to them, or retaliate 
fraud with fraud: this they think is lawful. The Prophet, in order 
to prevent this temptation, bids the faithful to look to God. The 
same sentiment we often meet with in Psalm 119: its import is, that 
the faithful are not to suffer themselves to be led away by bad 
examples, but to continue ever obedient to God's word, however great 
and violent the provocations they may receive. Let us now consider 
the words of the Prophet. 
    "To Jehovah, he says, will I look". The verb "tzafah" properly 
means to look on, to behold; it is sometimes taken in the sense of 
expecting; but I am inclined to retain its proper meaning, "I will 
look, he says, on God"; that is, I will do the same as though the 
only true God were before my eyes. How indeed does it happen that 
even the good indulge themselves while living among the wicked and 
ungodly, except that they are too much occupied with things around 
them? If then we desire to maintain integrity, while the world 
presents to us nothing but examples of sin, let us learn to pass by 
these temptations as with closed eyes. This may be done, if we 
direct our eyes to God alone. I will look, he says, to Jehovah. 
    He then adds, "I will wait for the God of my salvation". The 
Prophet says nothing new here, but only explains more clearly the 
last clause, defining the manner of the looking of which he had 
spoken; as though he said, - "Patiently will I bear, while God helps 
me:" for when the wicked harass us on every side, we shall no doubt 
soon turn away our eyes from Gods except we be armed with patience. 
And how comes patience, unless we be fully persuaded that God will 
be our deliverer, when the suitable time shall come? We now perceive 
the intention of the Prophet. He shows that the godly cannot 
otherwise continue constant in their integrity, except they turn 
their eyes to the only true God. Then he adds, that they cannot be 
preserved in this contemplation, unless they wait patiently for God, 
that is, for his help. 
    And he calls him "the God of his salvation"; by which he 
intimates that, relying on his word, he thus perseveres in enduring 
injuries: for it cannot be but that every one will submit himself to 
God, and surrender himself to be protected by him, if this truth be 
first fixed in his mind - that God will never forsake his own 
people. This then is the reason why he calls him the God of his 
salvation. But this title must be referred to his present 
circumstances, as though he said, - "Though God's hand does not now 
appear to help or to bring me aid, I yet feel assured of his favor, 
and I know that my salvation is secured by it." 
    He then adds, "Hear me will my God". He here confirms what we 
have already said, - that, being supported by the promises of God, 
he thus composes his mind to patience; for patience would often 
vanish or would be shaken off by temptations, unless we were surely 
persuaded that God provides for our salvation, and that we shall not 
hope in him in vain. Nor is it to no purpose that he says, that God 
was his God. He was one of his people; and this seems to have been 
the common privilege of all the Jews: yet the Prophet no doubt 
connects God with himself here in a peculiar manner; for men in 
general had fallen away into ungodliness. They all indeed gloried in 
the name of God, but absurdly and falsely. Hence the Prophet 
intimates, that he was under his protection in a manner different 
from the rest: for when any one allows himself the liberty of doing 
evil, he, at the same time, renounces God and his protection. 
Therefore, the Prophet no doubt alludes indirectly to the irreligion 
of the people. For though the vain boasting, that they had been 
adopted by God, that they were the holy race of Abraham, was 
everywhere in the mouth of all, yet hardly one in a hundred had any 
regard for God. But it is also of importance to notice, that the 
Prophet, by saying, Hear me will God, gives a testimony, at the same 
time, respecting his own faith, - that he would always apply to God 
for help, and exercise himself in prayer whenever necessity urged 
him; for God hears not except when he is called upon. The Prophet 
then recommends here, by his example, an attention to prayer. 
    Now this verse shows to us in general that there is no excuse 
for us if we suffer ourselves to be led away, as it is daily the 
case, by bad examples. And then to look to God is especially 
needful, when all excesses of wickedness prevail in the world: when 
the lusts of men become the rule and the law, we ought then to 
renounce in a manner the society of men, that they may not implicate 
us in their wickedness. They, therefore, who allege for themselves 
the examples of others, employ a frivolous excuse, as many do in the 
present day, who set up the shield of custom: though they are 
clearly condemned by the word of God, yet they think it a sufficient 
defense, that they follow others. But we see how frivolous is this 
confidence; for the Prophet no doubt prescribes here a law for all 
the children of God as to what they ought to do, when the devil 
tempts them to sin by the bad examples and shameful deeds of the 
majority. Let us go on - 
Micah 7:8 
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. 
    Here the Prophet assumes the character of the Church and repels 
a temptation, which proves very severe to us in adversities; for 
there is not so much bitterness in the evil itself, as in the 
mockery of the wicked, when they petulantly insult us and deride our 
faith. And to noble minds reproach is ever sharper than death 
itself: and yet the devil almost always employs this artifice; for 
when he sees that we stand firm in temptations, he suborns the 
wicked and sharpens their tongues to speak evil of use and to wound 
us with slanders. This is the reason why the Prophet directs his 
discourse now to the enemies of the Church. But as God calls the 
Church his spouse, and as she is described to us under the character 
of a woman, so also he compares here the enemies of the holy people 
to a petulant woman. As, therefore, when there is emulation between 
two women, she, who sees her enemy pressed down by evils and adverse 
events, immediately raises up herself and triumphs; so also the 
Prophet says respecting the enemies of the Church; they sharpened 
their tongues, and vomited forth their bitterness, as soon as they 
saw the children of God in trouble or nearly overwhelmed with 
adversities. We now then understand the design of the Prophet, - 
that he wished to arm us, as I have said, against the taunts of the 
ungodly, lest they should prevail against us when God presses us 
down with adversities, but that we may stand courageously, and with 
composed and tranquil minds, swallow down the indignity. 
    "Rejoice not over me, he says, O my enemy". Why not? He adds a 
consolation; for it would not be enough for one to repel with 
disdain the taunts of his enemy; but the Prophet says here, Rejoice 
not, for should I fall, I shall rise; or though I fall, I shall 
rise: and the passage seems to harmonize better when there is a 
pause after "Rejoice not over me"; and then to add, "Though I fall, 
I shall rise, though I sit in darkness, Jehovah shall be a light to 
me." The Prophet means, that the state of the Church was not past 
hope. There would be ample room for our enemies to taunt us, were it 
not that this promise cannot fail us, - seven times in the day the 
just falls, and rises again, (Prov. 24: 16.) - How so? For God puts 
under him his own hand. We now perceive the meaning of this passage. 
For if God deprived us of all hope, enemies might justly deride us, 
and we must be silent: but since we are surely persuaded that God is 
ready at hand to restore us again, we can boldly answer our enemies 
when they annoy with their derisions; though I fall, I shall rise: 
"There is now no reason for thee to triumph over me when I fall; for 
it is God's will that I should fall, but it is for this end - that I 
may soon rise again; and though I now lie in darkness, yet the Lord 
will be my light." 
    We hence see that our hope triumphs against all temptations: 
and this passage shows in a striking manner, how true is that saying 
of John, - that our faith gains the victory over the world, (1 John 
5: 4.) For when sorrow and trouble take possession of our hearts, we 
shall not fail if this comes to our mind - that God will be our aid 
in the time of need. And when men vomit forth their poison against 
us, we ought to be furnished with the same weapons: then our minds 
shall never succumb, but boldly repel all the taunts of Satan and of 
wicked men. This we learn from this passage. 
    Now, from what the Prophet says, "Though I fall, I shall rise 
again", we see what God would have us to expect, even a happy and 
joyful exit at all times from our miseries; but on this subject I 
shall have to speak more copiously a little farther on. As to the 
latter clause, "When I sit in darkness, God will be my light", it 
seems to be a confirmation of the preceding sentence, where the 
Prophet declares, that the fall of the Church would not be fatal. 
But yet some think that more is expressed, namely, that in the very 
darkness some spark of light would still shine. They then 
distinguish between this clause and the former one, which speaks of 
the fall and the rise of the faithful, in this manner, - that while 
they lie, as it were, sunk in darkness, they shall not even then be 
without consolation, for God's favor would ever shine on them. And 
this seems to be a correct view: for it cannot be that any one will 
expect the deliverance of which the Prophet speaks, except he sees 
some light even in the thickest darkness, and sustains himself by 
partaking, in some measure, of God's goodness: and a taste of God's 
favor in distresses is suitably compared to light; as when one is 
cast into a deep pit, by raising upward his eyes, he sees at a 
distance the light of the sun; so also the obscure and thick 
darkness of tribulations may not so far prevail as to shut out from 
us every spark of light, and to prevent faith from raising our eyes 
upwards, that we may have some taste of God's goodness. Let us 
proceed - 
Micah 7:9 
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned 
against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: 
he will bring me forth to the light, [and] I shall behold his 
    Here the Church of God animates and encourages herself to 
exercise patience, and does so especially by two arguments. She 
first sets before herself her sins, and thus humbles herself before 
God, whom she acknowledges to be a just Judge; and, in the second 
place, she embraces the hope of the forgiveness of her sins, and 
from this arises confidence as to her deliverance. By these two 
supports the Church sustains herself, that she fails not in her 
troubles, and gathers strength, as I have already said, to endure 
    First then he says, "The wrath of Jehovah will I bear, for 
sinned have I against him". This passage shows, that when any one is 
seriously touched with the conviction of God's judgment, he is at 
the same time prepared to exercise patience; for it cannot be, but 
that a sinner, conscious of evil, and knowing that he suffers justly 
will humbly and thankfully submit to the will of God. Hence when men 
perversely glamour against God, or murmur, it is certain that they 
have not as yet been made sensible of their sins. I allow indeed 
that many feel guilty who yet struggle against God, and fiercely 
resist his hand as much as they can, and also blaspheme his name 
when he chastises them: but they are not touched hitherto with the 
true feeling of penitence, so as to abhor themselves. Judas owned 
indeed that he had sinned, and freely made such confession, (Matth. 
27: 3.) Cain tried to cover his sin, but the Lord drew from him an 
unwilling confession, (Gen. 4: 13.) They did not yet repent; nay, 
they ceased not to contend with God; for Cain complained that his 
punishment was too heavy to be borne; Judas despaired. And the same 
thing happens to all the reprobate. They seemed then to have been 
sufficiently convinced to acknowledge their guilt, and, as it were, 
to assent to the justice of God's judgment; but they did not really 
know their sins, so as to abhor themselves, as I have said, on 
account of their sins. For true penitence is ever connected with the 
submission of which the Prophet now speaks. Whosoever then is really 
conscious of his sins, renders himself at the same time obedient to 
God, and submits himself altogether to his will. Thus repentance 
does ever of itself lead to the bearing of the cross; so that he who 
sets himself before God's tribunal allows himself to be at the same 
time chastised, and bears punishment with a submissive mind: as the 
ox, that is tamed, always takes the yoke without any resistance, so 
also is he prepared who is really touched with the sense of his 
sins, to bear any punishment which God may be pleased to inflict on 
him. This then is the first thing which we ought to learn from these 
words of the Prophet, The wrath of Jehovah will I bear, for sinned 
have I against him. 
    We also learn from this passage, that all who do not patiently 
bear his scourges contend with God; for though they do not openly 
accuse God, and say that they are just, they do not yet ascribe to 
him his legitimate glory, by confessing that he is a righteous 
judge. - How so? Because these two things are united together and 
joined by an indissoluble knot - to be sensible of sin - and to 
submit patiently to the will of the Judge when he inflicts 
    Now follows the other argument, "Until he decides my cause, and 
vindicates my right; he will bring me forth into the light, I shall 
see his righteousness". Here the Church leans on another support; 
for though the Lord should most heavily afflict her, she would not 
yet cast aside the hope of deliverance; for she knew, as we have 
already seen, that she was chastised for her good: and indeed no one 
could even for a moment continue patient in a state of misery, 
except he entertained the hope of being delivered, and promised to 
himself a happy escape. These two things then ought not to be 
separated, and cannot be, - the acknowledgment of our sins, which 
will humble us before God, - and the knowledge of his goodness, and 
a firm assurance as to our salvation; for God has testified that he 
will be ever propitious to us, how much soever he may punish us for 
our sins, and that he will remember mercy, as Habakkuk says, in the 
midst of his wrath, (Hab. 3: 2.) It would not then be sufficient for 
us to feel our evils, except the consolation, which proceeds from 
the promises of grace, be added. 
    The Prophet shows further, that the Church was innocent, with 
regard to its enemies, though justly suffering punishment. And this 
ought to be carefully observed; for whenever we have to do with the 
wicked, we think that there is no blame belonging to us. But these 
two things ought to be considered, - that the wicked trouble us 
without reason, and thus our cause as to them is just, - and yet 
that we are justly afflicted by God; for we shall ever find many 
reasons why the Lord should chastise us. These two things, then, 
ought to be both considered by us, as the Prophet seems to intimate 
here: for at the beginning of the verse he says, "The wrath of God 
will I bear, for sinned have I against him;" and now he adds, "The 
Lord will yet vindicate my right," literally, "will debate my 
dispute," that is, plead my cause. Since the Church is guilty before 
God, nay, waits not for the sentence of the judge, but anticipates 
it, and freely confesses herself to be worthy of such punishment, 
what does this mean, - that the Lord will decide her quarrel, that 
he will undertake her cause? These two things seem to militate the 
one against the other: but they agree well together when viewed in 
their different bearings. The Church had confessed that she had 
sinned against God; she now turns her eyes to another quarter; for 
she knew that she was unjustly oppressed by enemies; she knew that 
they were led to do wrong by cruelty alone. This then is the reason 
why the Church entertained hope, and expected that God would become 
the defender of her innocence, that is, against the wicked: and yet 
she humbly acknowledged that she had sinned against God. Whenever, 
then, our enemies do us harm, let us lay hold on this truth, - that 
God will become our defender; for he is ever the patron of justice 
and equity: it cannot then be, that God will abandon us to the 
violence of the wicked. He will then at length plead our pleading, 
or undertake our cause, and be its advocate. But, in the meantime, 
let our sins be remembered by us, that, being truly humbled before 
God, we may not hope for the salvation which he promises to us, 
except through gratuitous pardon. Why then are the faithful bidden 
to be of good comfort in their afflictions? Because God has promised 
to be their Father; he has received them under his protection, he 
has testified that his help shall never be wanting to them. But 
whence is this confidence? Is it because they are worthy? Is it 
because they have deserved something of this kind? By no means: but 
they acknowledge themselves to be guilty, when they humbly prostrate 
themselves before God, and when they willingly condemn themselves 
before his tribunal, that they may anticipate his judgment. We now 
see how well the Prophet connects together these two things, which 
might otherwise seem contradictory. 
    Now follow the words, "He will bring me to the light, I shall 
see his righteousness!" The Church still confirms herself in the 
hope of deliverance: art it is hence also manifest how God is light 
to the faithful in obscure darkness, because they see that there is 
prepared for them an escape from their evils; but they see it at a 
distance, for they extend their hope beyond the boundaries of this 
life. As then the truth of God diffuses itself through heaven and 
earth, so the faithful extend their hope far and wide. Thus it is, 
that they can see light afar off, which seems to be very remote from 
them. And having this confidence, the Prophet says, The Lord will 
bring me into the light. They have, in the meantime, as I have 
already said, some light; they enjoy a taste of God's goodness in 
the midst of their evils: but the Prophet now refers to that coming 
forth which we ought to look for even in the worst circumstances. 
    He then adds, "I shall see his righteousness". By God's 
righteousness is to be understood, as it has been elsewhere stated, 
his favor towards the faithful; not that God returns for their works 
the salvation which he bestows, as ungodly men foolishly imagine; 
for they lay hold on the word righteousness, and think that whatever 
favors God freely grants us are due to our merits. - How so? For God 
in this way shows his own righteousness. But far different is the 
reason for this mode of speaking. God, in order to show how dear and 
precious to him is our salvation, does indeed say, that he designs 
to give an evidence of his justice in delivering us: but there is a 
reference in this word righteousness to something else; for God has 
promised that our salvation shall be the object of his care, hence 
he appears just whenever he delivers us from our troubles. Then the 
righteousness of God is not to be referred to the merits of works, 
but, on the contrary, to the promise by which he has bound himself 
to us; and so also in the same dense God is often said to be 
faithful. In a word, the righteousness and faithfulness of God mean 
the same thing. When the Prophet says now in the person of the 
Church, "I shall see his righteousness", he means, that though God 
concealed his favour for a time, and withdrew his hand, so that no 
hope of aid remained, it could not yet be, as he is just, but that 
he would succor us: I shall see then his righteousness, that is, God 
will at length really show that he is righteous. It now follows - 
Micah 7:10 
Then [she that is] mine enemy shall see [it], and shame shall cover 
her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall 
behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the 
    But I cannot finish the subject now. 
Grant, Almighty God, that seeing we are at this day surrounded by so 
many miseries, yea, wherever we turn our eyes, innumerable evils 
meet us everywhere, which are so many evidences of thy displeasure, 
- O grant, that we being truly humbled before thee, may be enabled 
at the same time to raise up our eyes to the promises of thy free 
goodness and paternal favor, which thou hast made to us in thine own 
Son, that we may not doubt, but that thou wilt be propitious to us, 
inasmuch as thou hast adopted us as thy people: and while our 
enemies, fully armed, rage and ferociously rise even daily against 
us, may we not doubt, but that thou wilt be our protection, as thou 
knowest that we are unjustly troubled by them; and may we thus go 
on, trusting in thy goodness, seeing that we ever groan under the, 
burden of our sins, and daily confess that we are worthy of thousand 
deaths before thee, wert not thou pleased in thine infinite mercy 
always to receive and restore us to favor, through thy Son our Lord. 

Calvin, Commentary on Micah, Part 16
(continued in part 17...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvmic-16.txt