Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
But (And) in the last days it shall come to pass - God's promises, goodness, truth, fail not. He withdraws His Presence from those who receive Him not, only to give Himself to those who will receive Him. Mercy is the sequel and end of chastisement. Micah then joins on this great prophecy of future mercy to the preceding woe, as its issue in the order of God's Will. "And it shall be." He fixes the mind to some great thing which shall come to pass; "it shall be." Then follows, in marked reference to the preceding privations, a superabundance of mercy. For "the mountain of the house," which should be as a forest and which was left unto them desolate, there is "the mountain of the Lord's house established;" for the heap of dust and the plowed field, there is the flowing-in of the Gentiles; for the night and darkness, that there shall be no vision, there is the fullness of revelation; for corrupt judgment, teaching, divining, a law from God Himself going forth through the world; for the building of Jerusalem with blood, one universal peace.
In the last days - Literally, the end of the days, that is, of those days which are in the thoughts of the speaker. Politically, there are many beginnings and many endings; as many endings as there are beginnings, since all human polity begins, only to end, and to be displaced in its turn by some new beginning, which too runs its course, only to end. Religiously, there are but two consummations. All time, since man fell, is divided into two halves, the looking forward to Christ to come in humility; the looking forward to His coming in glory. These are the two events on which man's history turns. To that former people the whole period of Christ's kingdom was one future, the fullness of all their own shadows, types, sacrifices, services, prophecies, longing, being. The "end of their days" was the beginning of the new Day of Christ: the coming of His Day was necessarily the close of the former days, the period of the dispensation which prepared for it.
The prophets then by the words, "the end of the days," always mean the times of the Gospel . "The end of the days" is the close of all which went before, the last dispensation, after which there shall be no other. Yet this too hast "last days" of its own, which shall close God's kingdom of grace and shall issue in the Second Coming of Christ; as the end of those former days, which closed the times of "the law," issued in His First Coming. We are then at once living in the last times, and looking on to a last time still to come. In the one way Peter speaks Eph 1:20 of the last times, or the end of the times , in which Christ was manifested for us, in contrast with the foundations of the world, before which He was foreordained.
And Paul contrasts God's Heb 1:1 speaking to the fathers in the prophets, and at the end of these days speaking to us in the Son; and of our Lord coming Heb 9:26 at the end, consummation, of the times , to put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself; and says that the things which befell the Jews Co1 10:11 were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the times (that is, of those of the former people of whom he had been speaking) are come; and John speaks of this as Jo1 2:18 the last time. In the other way, they contrast the last days, not with the times before them but with their own, and then plainly they are a last and distant part of this their own last time .
The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith ; In the last days perilous times shall come : There shall come at the end of the days scoffers : They told you that there should be mockers in the last time. The Jews distributed all time between "this world" and "the coming world" , including under "the coming world" the time of grace under the Messiah's reign, and the future glory. To us the names have shifted, since this present world Mat 13:40; Eph 1:21; Tit 2:12 is to us the kingdom of Christ, and there remains nothing further on this earth to look to, beyond what God has already given us. Our future then, placed as we are between the two Comings of our Lord, is, of necessity, beyond this world .
The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be - abidingly
Established - He does not say merely, "it shall be established." Kingdoms may be established at one time, and then come to an end. He says, "it shall be a thing established" . His saying is expanded by Daniel; "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed forever, and it shall abide forever" Dan 2:44. The house of the Lord was the center of His worship, the token of His Presence, the pledge of His revelations and of His abiding acceptance, protection, favor. All these were to be increased and continuous. The image is one familiar to us in the Hebrew Scriptures. People were said to go up to it, as to a place of dignity.
In the Psalm on the carrying of the Ark thither, the hill of God is compared to the many-topped mountains of Basan Psa 68:16-17, (the Hermon-peaks which bound Basan,) and so declared to be greater than they, as being the object of God's choice. The mountain where God was worshiped rose above the mountains of idolatry. Ezekiel, varying the image, speaks of the Gospel as an overshadowing cedar Eze 17:22-23, planted by God upon an high mountain and an eminent, in the mountain of the height of Israel, under which should dwell all fowl of every wing; and, in his vision of the Temple, he sees this, the image of the Christian Church Eze 40:2, upon a very high mountain. Our Lord speaks of His Apostles and the Church in them, as Mat 5:14 a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid. The seat of God's worship was to be seen far and wide; nothing was to obscure it. It, now lower than the surrounding hills, was then to be as on the summit of them. Human elevation, the more exalted it is, the more unstable is it. Divine greatness alone is at once solid and exalted. The new kingdom of God was at once to be "exalted above the hills," and "established on the top of the mountains;" "exalted," at once, above everything human, and yet "established," strong as the mountains on which it rested, and unassailable, unconquerable, seated secure aloft, between heaven, whence it came and to which it tends, and earth, on which it just tests in the sublime serenity of its majesty.
The image sets forth the supereminence of the Lord's House above all things earthly. It does not define wherein that greatness consists. The flowing in of the nations is a fruit of it Mic 4:1-2. The immediate object of their coming is explained to be, to learn to know and to do the will of God Mic 4:2. But the new revelation does not form all its greatness. That greatness is from the Presence of God, revealing and evermore teaching His Will, ruling, judging, rebuking, peacemaking Mic 4:3-4. Dionysius: "The 'mountain of the Lord's House' was then 'exalted above the hills' by the bodily Presence of Christ, when He, in the Temple built on that mountain, spake, preached, worked so many miracles; as, on the same ground, Haggai says, 'the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former' Hag 2:9." Lap.: "This 'mountain,' the church of Christ, transcends all laws, schools, doctrines, religions, Synagogues of Jews and Philosophers, which seemed to rise aloft among men, like mountain-tops, yea, whatever under the sun is sublime and lofty, it will overpass, trample on, subdue to itself."
Even Jews have seen the meaning of this figure. Their oldest mystical book explains it. Zohar, f. 93: "'And it shall be in the last days,' when namely the Lord shall visit the daughter of Jacob, then shall 'the mountain of the house of the Lord be firmly established, that is, the Jerusalem which is above, which shall stand firmly in its place, that it may shine by the light which is above. (For no light can retain its existence, except through the light from above.) For in that time shall the light from above shine sevenfold more than before; according to that, Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people and healeth the stroke of their wound" Isa 30:26. Another, of the dry literal school, says (Aben Ezra), "It is well known that the house of the Temple is not high. The meaning then is, that its fame shall go forth far, and there shall return to it from all quarters persons with offerings, so that it shall be, as if it were on the top of all hills, so that all the inhabitants of the earth should see it."
Some interpret "the mountain" to be Christ, who is called the Rock Co1 10:4-6, on the confession of whom, God-Man, "the house of the Lord," that is, the Church is built , the precious Cornerstone Isa 28:16; Pe1 2:6; Eph 2:20, which is laid, beside which no foundation can be laid Co1 3:11; "the great mountain," of which Daniel Dan 2:35 prophesied. It is "firmly established," so that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, being built thereon; "exalted above hills and mountains", that is above all beside, greater or smaller, which has any eminence; for He in truth is Phi 2:9 highly exalted and hath a Name above every name, being Eph 1:20-23 at the Right Hand of God in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come; and all things are under His Feet. And this for us, in that He, the Same, is the Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. Rup.: "He is God and Man, King and Priest, King of kings, and a Priest abiding forever. Since then His Majesty reacheth to the Right Hand of God, neither mountains nor hills, Angels nor holy men, reach thereto; for "to which of the Angels said God at any time, Sit thou on My Right Hand?" Heb 1:13.
Cyril: "Aloft then is the Church of God raised, both in that its Head is in heaven and the Lord of all, and that, on earth, it is not like the Temple, in one small people, but "set on a hill that it cannot be hid" Mat 5:14, or remain unseen even to those tar from it. Its doctrine too and life are far above the wisdom of this world, showing in them nothing of earth, but are above; its wisdom is the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, and its life is bid with Christ in God, in those who are justified in Him and hallowed by His Spirit." In Him, it is lifted above all things, and with the eyes of the mind beholdeth (as far as may be) the glory of God, soaring on high toward Him who is the Author of all being, and, filled with divine light, it owneth Him the Maker of all.
And people (peoples, nations) shall flow unto (literally upon) it - A mighty tide should set in to the Gospel. The word is used only figuratively) is appropriated to the streaming in of multitudes, such as of old poured into Babylon, the merchant-empress of the world Jer 51:44. It is used of the distant nations who should throng in one continuous stream into the Gospel, or of Israel streaming together from the four corners of the world . So, Isaiah foretells, "Thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that they may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought" (Isa 60:11, add Rev 21:25-26). These were to flow upon it, perhaps so as to cover it, expressing both the multitude and density of the throng of nations, how full the Church should be, as the swollen river spreads itself over the whole champaign country, and the surging flood-tide climbs up the face of the rock which hounds it. The flood once covered the highest mountains to destroy life; this flood should pour in for the saving of life. Lap.: "It is a miracle, if waters ascend from a valley and flow to a mountain. So is it a miracle that earthly nations should ascend to the church, whose doctrine and life are lofty, arduous, sublime. This the grace of Christ effecteth, mighty and lofty, as being sent from heaven. As then waters, conducted from the fountains by pipes into a valley, in that valley bound up and rise nearly to their original height, so these waters of heavenly grace, brought down into valleys, that is, the hearts of men, make them to bound up with them into heaven and enter upon and embrace a heavenly life."
And many nations shall come - Isaiah Isa 2:2 added the world all to Micah's prophecy. So our Lord said, "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations" Mat 24:14; and the elect are to be gathered out "of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues" Rev 7:9. All nations shall flow into it. The all might be many or few. Both prophets say that those all should be many. Judah probably knew already of many. The history of Genesis gave them a wide-expanding knowledge of the enlargement of mankind alter the flood, in Europe, Asia, Africa, as they then existed in their nations. The sons of Japhet had already spread over the whole coast of our Western sea, and far North; the Cimmerians , or Cwmry, Scandinavians , Carpathians , (probably Celts,) Armenians ; (including the kindred Phrygians,) Scythians , Medes, Ionians , Aeolians , Iberians , Cypriotes , Dardani , Tybarenes , Moschi , and the Turseni , or perhaps the Thracians. On the East, the sons of Shem had spread in Elam, Asshur, Arrapachitis ; they occupied the intervening tract of Aram; in the northwest they reached to Lydia. Southward the sons of Joktan were in Arabia. Micah's hearers knew how, of the sons of Ham, Cush had spread far to the southeast and south from Babylonia to Aethiopia; Egypt they remembered too well, and, beyond it, they knew of the far-scattered tribes of the Libyans, who extended along the coast of Africa. Phoenician trade filled up this great outline.
They themselves had, in Solomon's time, traded with India ; about this time, we know that they were acquainted with the furthest East, China . Such was the sight before the human mind of the prophet; such the extent of the nations whom his people knew of.
Some were the deadly enemies of his people; some were to be its conquerors. He knew that the the ten tribes were to be abidingly wanderers among the nations , despised by them ; "a people, the strangers and sojourners of the whole world" . He knew many of those nations to be sunk in idolatry, viciousness; proud, contemptuous, lawless; he saw them fixed in their idolatries. "All people will walk every one in the name of his god." But he saw what eye of man could not see, what the will of man could not accomplish, that He, whom now Judah alone partially worshiped, would turn the hearts of His creatures to Himself, to seek Him, not in their own ways, but as He should reveal Himself at Jerusalem. Micah tells them distinctly, that those who should believe would be a great multitude from many nations. In like way Isaiah expresses the great multitude of those for whom Christ should atone Isa 53:12. He bare the sin of many Isa 53:11. By knowledge of Him shall My righteous Servant make many righteous. And our Lord Himself says Mat 20:28; The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many (Mat 26:28, add Rom 5:15). This is my Blood - which is shed for many for the remission of sins. In Micah's time not one people, scarcely some poor fragments of the Jewish people, went up to worship God at Zion, to call to remembrance His benefits, to learn of Him. Those who should thereafter worship Him, should be many nations.
And say - Exhorting one another, in fervor and mutual love, as Andrew exhorted his brother Simon, and Philip Nathanael, and the woman of Samaria those of her city, to come to Christ: and so all since, who have been won by Him, by word or example, by preaching or by deed, in public or in private, bear along with them others to seek Him whom they themselves have found.
Let us go up - leaving the lowness and earthliness of their former conversation, and mounting upward on high where Christ is, desiring righteousness, and athirst to know His ways.
To the house of the God of Jacob - They shall seek Him as Jacob sought Him, , "who left his father's house and removed into another land, was a man of heavy toils and served for hire, but obtained special help from God, and, undistinguished as he was, became most glorious. So too the Church, leaving all pagan wisdom, and having its conversation in Heaven, and therefore persecuted and enduring many hardships, enjoys now glory with God."
And He - , that is, the God of Jacob of whom he had just spoken, shall teach us of His ways They do not go to God, because they know Him, but that they may know Him. They are drawn by a mighty impulse toward Him. Howsoever attracted, they come, not making bargains with God, (as some now would,) what they should be taught, that He should reveal to them nothing transcending reason, nothing exceeding or contradicting their notions of God; they do not come with reserves, that God should not take away this or that error, or should not disclose anything of His incomprehensibleness. They come in holy simplicity, to learn whatever He will condescend to tell them; in holy confidence, that He, the Infallible Truth, will teach them infallibly. They say, "of His ways." For all learning is by degrees, and all which all creatures could learn in all eternity falls infinitely short of His truth and Holiness. Nay, in all eternity the highest creature which He has made and which He has admitted most deeply into the secrets of His Wisdom will be as infinitely removed as ever from the full knowledge of His Wisdom and His Love. For what is finite, enlarged, expanded, accumulated to the utmost degree possible, remains finite still.
It has no proportion to the Infinite. But even here, all growth in grace implies growth in knowledge. The more we love God, the more we know of Him; and with increased knowledge of Him come higher perceptions of worship, praise, thanksgiving, of the character of faith, hope, charity, of our outward and inward acts and relations to God, the unboundedness of God's love to us and the manifoldness of the ways of pleasing Him, which, in His love, He has given us. Since then the whole Christian life is a growth in grace, and even Paul Phi 3:13-14, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those which are before, pressed toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, then Paul too was ever learning, in intensity, what he knew certainly by revelation, of His ways. Again, as each blade of grass is said to differ from another, so, and much more, each soul of man which God has created for Himself. No one ever saw or could imagine two human beings, in whom the grace of God had unfolded itself in exactly the same way.
Each saint will have his distinct beauty around the throne. But then each will have learnt "of His ways," in a different proportion or degree. His greatest saints, yea His Apostles, have been pre-eminent, the one in one grace, another in another. John the Immerser came as a pattern of repentance and contempt of self; John the Evangelist stood out pre-eminent in deep tender burning personal love; Paul was known for his zeal to spread the knowledge of Christ Crucified; Mary Magdelene was famous for her loving penitence. Even the Blessed Virgin herself, under inspiration, seems, in part, to speak of her lowly lowness , as that which God specially regarded in her, when He made her the Mother of God. Eternity only will set forth the fullness of the two words "He will teach us of His ways." For eternity will shew, how in all Co1 12:11 worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will; and how the countless multitude of the redeemed have corresponded to His gifts and drawings. : "The way of the life to God-ward is one, in that it looketh to one end, to please God; but there are many tracks along it, as there are many modes of life;" and each several grace is a part of the way to God.
And we will walk in His paths - o: "By believing, hoping, loving, well-doing, and bearing patiently all trouble." Rup.: "For it sufficeth not to believe, unless we act as He commandeth, and strive to enter on His ways, the strait and narrow path which leadeth unto life. He Himself then, when He had said, "Go, teach all nations," baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, added, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" Mat 28:19-20. They say too, "we will walk," that is, go on from strength to strength, not stand still after having labored for a while to do His Will, but hold on to all His ways and to Himself who is the Way, until they appear before the Lord in Zion.
For the law - (literally, law,) shall go forth from Zion These are the prophet's words, declaring why the nations should so flock to Zion. For he says, "shall go forth," but the nations were not gathered to Zion, until the Gospel was already gone forth. He speaks of it as law simply, not the Jewish law as such, but a rule of life Man's better nature is ill at ease, being out of harmony with God. It cannot be otherwise. Having been made in His likeness, it must be distressed by its unlikeness; having been made by Him for Himself, it must be restless without Him. What they indistinctly longed for, what drew them, was the hope to be conformed by Him to Him. The sight of superhuman holiness, life, love, endurance, ever won and wins those without to the Gospel or the church. Our Lord Himself gives it, as the substance of prophecy Luk 24:47, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. The image may be that of a stream, issuing forth from Jerusalem and watering the whole world. Theodoret: "The law of the Gospel and the word of the Apostles, beginning from Jerusalem, as from a fountain, ran through the whole world, watering those who approached with faith." But in that it "went forth," it may be meant, that it left those from among whom it "went forth," and Cyril, "Zion was indeed desolate of the law and Jerusalem bared of the divine word." Jerome: "The word of God passed from Jerusalem to the Gentiles." Rup.: "For the shadow was done away, and the types ceased, and sacrifices were abolished, and everything of Moses was, in the letter, brought to a close."
He does not say here, through whom God would so teach, but he does speak of a direct teaching of God. He does not say only, "God will give us a law," or "will make a revelation of Himself." He speaks of a Personal, direct, continuous act of teaching by God, carried on upon earth, whether the teacher be our Lord's word spoken once on earth, which does "not pass away" Mat 24:35, or God the Holy Spirit, as teaching in the Church and in the hearts which receive Him. The words which follow speak of a personal reign, as these speak of personal teaching.
And He shall judge among many people and rebuke strong nations afar off - Hitherto, they had walked each in their own ways Isa 53:6; now, they sought to be taught in the ways of God. Before, they had been lords of the world; now they should own a Judge higher than themselves. They were no common, but mighty nations, such as had heretofore been the oppressors of Israel. They were to be many, and those mighty, nations. He should , "not only command, but "rebuke," not weak or petty nations only, but mighty, and those not only near but afar." Mohammed had moral strength through what he stole from the law and the Gospel, and by his owning Christ as the Word of God. He was a heretic, rather than a pagan. Fearful scourge as he was, and as his successors have been, all is now decayed, and no mighty nation is left upon earth, which does not profess the Name of Christ.
He shall rebuke them - For it was an office of the Holy Ghost "to reprove the world as to its sin, the righteousness of Christ, the judgment of the prince of this world" Joh 16:8-11. The Gospel conquered the world, not by compromises or concordants, but by convicting it. It alone could "rebuke" with power; for it was, like its Author, all-holy. It could rebuke with efficacy; for it was the word of Him who knew what is in man. It could rebuke with awe; for it knew the secrets of eternal Judgment. It could rebuke winningly; for it knew "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge" Eph 3:19. Its martyrs suffered and rebuked their judges; and the world was amazed at the impotence of power and the might of suffering. It rebuked the enthroned idolatry of centuries; it set in rebellion by its rebukes every sinful passion of man, and it subdued them. Tyrants, whom no human power could reach, trembled before its censures. Then only is it powerless, if its corrupted or timid or paralyzed ministers forfeit in themselves the power of rebuke.
And they shall beat their spears into plowshares - "All things are made new in Christ." As the inward disquiet of evil men makes them restless, and vents itself toward others in envy, hatred, maliciousness, wrong, so the inward peace whereof He saith, My peace I give unto you, shall, wherever it reacheth, spread out abroad and, by the power of grace, bring to "all nations unity, peace, and concord." All, being brought under the one empire of Christ, shall be in harmony, one with the other. As far as in it lies, the Gospel is a Gospel of peace, and makes peace. Christians, as far as they obey Christ, are at peace, both in themselves and with one another. And this is what is here prophesied. The peace follows from His rule. Where He judges and rebukes, there even the mighty "beat their swords into plowshares." The universal peace, amid which our Lord was born in the flesh, the first which there had been since the foundation of the Roman empire, was, in God's Providence, a fruit of His kingdom.
It was no chance coincidence, since nothing is by chance. God willed that they should be contemporaneous. It was fitting that the world should be still, when its Lord, the Prince of peace, was born in it. That outward cessation of public strife, though but for a brief time, was an image how His peace spread backward as well as forward, and of the peace which through Him, our Peace, was dawning on the world. : "First, according to the letter, before That Child was born to us, "on whose shoulder the government is" Isa. 1, the whole world was full of blood; people fought against people, kings against kings, nations against nations. Lastly, the Roman state itself was torn by civil wars, in whose battles all kingdoms shed blood. But after that, at the time of the Empire of Christ, Rome gained an undivided empire, the world was laid open to the journeys of Apostles, and the gates of cities were open to them, and, for the preaching of the One God, one single empire was formed.
It may too be understood as an image, that, on receiving the faith of Christ, anger and unrestrained revilings were laid aside, so that each putteth his hand to the plow and looketh not back, and, breaking in pieces the shafts of contumelies, seeketh to reap spiritual fruit, so that, others laboriing, we enter into their labors; and of us it is said, "They shall come with joy, bringing their sheaves" Psa 126:6. Now no one fighteth; for we read "Blessed are the peacemakers" Mat 5:9; no one learneth to "strive, to the subverting of the hearers" Ti2 2:14. And every one shall rest under his vine, so as to press out that "Wine which gladdeneth the heart of man" Psa 104:15, under that "Vine," whereof the "Father is the Husbandman" Joh 15:1; and under his fig tree, gathering the sweet "fruits of the Holy Spirit love, joy, peace, and the rest" Gal 5:22.
The fathers had indeed a joy, which we have not, that wars were not between Christians; for although "just wars are lawful," war cannot be on both sides just; very few wars have not, on both sides, what is against the spirit of the Gospel. For, except where there is exceeding wickedness on one side, or peril of further evil, the words of our Lord would hold good, in public as in private, "I say unto you, that ye resist not evil" Mat 5:39.
This prophecy then is fulfilled:
(1) in the character of the Gospel. Ribera: "The law of the Gospel worketh and preserveth peace. For it plucketh up altogether the roots of all war, avarice, ambition, injustice, wrath. Then, it teacheth to bear injuries, and, so far from requiting them, willeth that we be prepared to receive fresh wrongs. He saith, "If anyone smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also ..." Mat 5:39-42. "I say unto you, Love your enemies ..." Mat 5:44-48. For neither did the old law give these counsels, nor did it explain so clearly the precept implied in them, nor had it that wonderful and most efficacious example of the and love of Christ, nor did it supply whereby peace could be preserved; whereas now the first fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness."
(2) The prophecy has been fulfilled within and without, among individuals or bodies of men, in body or mind, in temper or in deed, as far as the Gospel has prevailed. "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one mind" Act 4:32; one, through One indwelling Spirit; one, though a great multitude, through one bond of love. : "See how these Christians love one another;" "see how ready they are to die for one another," was, in the third century, a pagan proverb as to Christian love. : "They love one another, almost before they know one another." : "Their first lawgiver has persuaded them that they are all brethren." "We (which grieves you,)" the Christian answered , "so love one another, because we know not how to hate. We call ourselves 'brethren' which you take ill, as men who have one Father, God, and are sharers in one faith, in one hope, coheirs."
For centuries too, there was, for the most part, public peace of Christians among themselves. Christian soldiers fought only, as constrained by the civil law, or against Barbarian invaders, to defend life, wife, children, not for ambition, anger, or pride. Christians could then appeal, in fulfillment of the prophecy, to this outward, the fruit of the inward, peace. "We," says an early martyr, , "who formerly stained ourselves with mutual slaughter, not only do not wage war with foes, but even, in order not to lie and deceive those who consume us, willingly professing Christ, meet death." "From the coming of the Lord," says another martyr, . "the New Testament, reconciling unto peace, and a life-giving law, went forth into all lands. If then another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, produced such peace among the nations which received it, and thereby reproved much people of want of wisdom, then it would follow that the prophets spake of some other. But if the law of liberty, that is, the law of God preached by the Apostles, which went forth out of Jerusalem to all the world, worked such a transformation, that swords and spears of war He wrought into plow-shares and pruning-hooks, instruments of peace, and now men know not how to fight, but, when smitten, yield the other cheek, then the prophets spake of no other, but of Him who brought it to pass." "Even from this," says Tertullian , "you may know that Christ was promised, not as one mighty in war, but as a peace-bringer. Either deny that these things were prophesied, since they are plain to see; or, since they are written, deny that they are fulfilled. But if thou mayest deny neither, thou must own that they are fulfilled in Him, of whom they are prophesied." "Of old" , says Athanasius, "Greeks and Barbarians, being idolaters, warred with one another, and were fierce toward those akin. For through their implacable warfare no one might pass land or sea, unarmed. Their whole life was passed in arms; the sword was to them for staff and stay. They worshiped idols, sacrificed to demons, and yet from their reverence for idols they could gain no help to correct their minds. But when they passed into the school of Christ, then, of a truth, pricked in mind, they wondrously laid aside their savage slaughters, and now think no more of things of war; for now all peace and friendship are alone their mind's delight. who then did this, who blended in peace those who hated one another, save the Beloved Son of the Father, the common Saviour of all, Christ Jesus, who, through His love, endured all things for our salvation?
For of old too, the peace which should hold sway from Him was prophesied, "they shall beat their swords into plowshares." Nor is this incredible, since now too, the Barbarians with innate savageness, while they yet sacrifice to their idols, are mad with one another, and cannot for one hour part with their swords. But when they have received the teaching of Christ, immediately forever they turn to husbandry; and, in lieu of arming their hands with swords, stretch them out to prayer. And altogether, instead of warring with one another, they arm themselves against the devil and demons, warring against them with modesty and virtue of soul. This is a token of the Godhead of the Saviour. For what men could not learn among idols, this they have learned from Him. Christ's disciples, having no war with one another, array themselves against demons by their life and deeds of virtue, chase them and mock their captain the devil, chaste in youth, enduring in temptation, strong in toils, tranquil when insulted, unconcerned when despoiled."
And yet later, Chrysostom says , "Before the Coming of Christ, all men armed themselves and no one was exempt from this service, and cities fought with cities, and everywhere were men trained to war. But now most of the world is in peace; all engage in mechanical art or agriculture or commerce, and few are employed in military service for all. And of this too the occasion would cease, if we acted as we ought and did not need to be reminded by afflictions." : "After the Sun of righteousness dawned, so far are all cities and nations from living in such perils, that they know not even how to take in hand any affairs of war. - Or if there be still any war, it is far off at the extremity of the Roman Empire, not in each city and country, as heretofore. For then, in any one nation, there were countless seditions and multiform wars. But now the whole earth which the sun surveys from the Tigris to the British isles, and therewith Lybia too and Egypt and Palestine, yea, all beneath the Roman rule, - ye know how all enjoy complete security, and learn of war only by hearsay."
Cyril (on Isa. 2 and here) and Theodoret (on Isa. 2 and here) carry on this account into the fifth century after our Lord's Coming. Christians then during those four centuries could point to a present fulfillment of prophecy, when we, for our sins, can only speak of the past Isa 59:1-2. The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but our iniquities have separated between us, and our God, and our sins have hid His Face from us, that He will not hear. Those first Christians could urge against the Jews the fulfillment of their prophecies herein, where the Jews can now urge upon us their seeming non-fulfillment; : "In the time of King Messiah, after the wars of Gog and Magog, there shall be peace and tranquillity in all the world, and the sons of men shall have no need of weapons, but these promises were not fulfilled."
The prophecy is fulfilled, in that the Gospel is a Gospel of peace and makes peace. Christians, as far as they obey Christ, are at peace both in themselves and with one another. The promises of God are perfect on His part: He is faithful to them. But He so wills to be freely loved by His intelligent creatures whom He formed for His love, that He does not force our free-agency. We can fall short of His promises, if we will. To those only who will it, the Gospel brings peace, stilling the passions, quelling disputes, banishing contentions, removing errors, calming concupiscence, soothing and repressing anger, in individuals, nations, the Church; giving oneness of belief, harmony of soul, contentment with our own, love of others as ourselves; so that whatever is contrary to this has its origin in something which is not of Christ nor of His Gospel.
But - And
They shall sit every man, under his vine and under his fig-tree - Palestine was a home of the vine and the fig-tree. Vineyards were a common property, possessed by all but the very poor , or even by them Neh 5:4; Jer 39:10. The land was "a land of bread and vineyards" Kg2 18:32. The vine was the emblem of the people, in Psalmists and prophets (Psa 80:8 ff; Isa 3:14; Isa 5:1 ff; Isa 27:2; Jer 2:21; Jer 12:10; Eze 15:1-8; Eze 17:5-10; Eze 19:10; Hos 10:1). The bunch of grapes or the vine-leaf appear as characteristic emblems on Jewish coins , chiefly in the times of their revolts under Vespasian and Hadrian . The fig is also mentioned as part of the characteristic fruitfulness of Palestine Deu 8:8.
It too was an universal property Kg2 18:32. Both formed natural arbors; the fig had its name probably from its length, the vine from the arch made by its drooping boughs. Both formed, in those hot countries, a grateful shade. The vine, rising with its single stem, was spread over trellis-work or by props, so as to enclose a considerable space . Even in Italy, a single vine shaded a portico . In Palestine it grew by the walls of the house Psa 128:3.
Rabbis relate how their forefathers sat and studied under the fig-tree , as Nathanael was doubtless meditating or praying under one, when Jesus, being God, saw him Joh 1:48. It exhibits a picture of domestic peace, each family gathered in harmony and rest under the protection of God, each content with what they have, neither coveting another's, nor disturbed in their own. Wine is explained in Holy Scripture to be an emblem of gladness, and the fig of sweetness . Cyril: "For exceeding sweet is the word of the Saviour, and it knoweth how to gladden man's heart; sweet also and full of joy is the hope of the future, wherewith we are enriched in Christ.
Such had been Israel's lot in the peaceful days of Solomon Kg1 4:25, the peace of whose times had already been made the image of the Gospel Ps. 72; the coming of the Queen of the South from the uttermost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon Mat 12:42, had made her kingdom to be selected as an emblem of those who should fall down before Christ and serve Him Psa 60:12 :10-11. Lap.: "Such is that most quiet fearlessness which the law of Christ bringeth, as being the law of charity, peace, and concord."
And none shall make them afraid - o: "Neither man, nor devil; for the Lord hath given us power to "tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and said, nothing shall by any means hurt you" Luk 10:19, and bade us, "fear not them which kill the body" Mat 10:28. Witness the might which He gave to His Apostles and Martyrs.
For the mouth of the Lord of Host hath spoken it - The prophets often add this, when what they say, seems, for its greatness, past belief Yet it will be, because He hath spoken it, "the Lord" who changeth not, "the Lord of Hosts," to whose commands all creatures are subject, whose word is truth with whom to speak is to do.
For all people well walk, every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God - Hitherto unsteadfastness had been the very characteristic sin of Israel. It was , "constant only in its inconstancy," ever "falling away like their forefathers, starting aside like a broken bow" Psa 78:57. The pagan persevered in their worship, because it was evil or had evil in it, not checking but feeding their passions. Israel did not persevere in his, because it required him to deny himself things unlawful. "Hath a nation changed their gods which are yet no gods? But My people have changed their glow for that which doth not profit" Jer 2:11. Henceforth, the prophet professeth for his people, the true Israel, that he will be as steadfast in good, as the pagan in evil; so our Lord sets forth "the children of this world in their generation" Luk 16:8, as an example of wisdom to the children of light.
Cyril: "They who are eager to go up into the mountain of the Lord, and wish to learn thoroughly His ways, promise a ready obedience, and receive in themselves the glories of the life in Christ, and undertake with their whole strength to be earnest in all holiness. 'For let every one,' he saith, 'in every country and city go the way himself chooseth, and pass his life, as to him seemeth good; but our care is Christ, and His laws we will make our straight path; we will walk along with Him; and that not for this life only, present or past, but yet more for what is beyond' Ti2 2:11-12; Rom 8:17; Rev 3:4. It is a faithful saying. For they who now suffer with Him, shall walk with Him forever, and with Him be glorified, and with Him reign. But they make Christ their care, who prefer nothing to His love, who cease from the vain distractions of the world, and seek rather righteousness and what is pleasing unto Him, and to excell in virtue. Such an one was the divine Paul; for he writeth, "I am crucified with Christ; and now no longer I live, but Christ liveth in me" Gal 2:20; and again, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" Co1 2:2.
To "walk" is so uniformly in Holy Scripture used of a person's moral or religious "ways" . p. 378, and above on Mic 2:11, p. 35. So again to walk with God, Gen 5:22 or before God, Gen 17:1 or contrary to God, Lev 26:21.) (as we say), that the prophet here too is doubtless speaking of the opposite religious ways of the pagan and of the future people of God. The "name" was often, in Hebrew, expressive of the character; and, in regard to God Himself, that Name which He vouchsafed to give to Himself , expressed His Self-existence, and, as a result, His Unchangeableness and His Faithfulness. The names, by which it was foretold that Christ should be called, express both His Deity and attributes ; the human Name, which He bare and vouchsafes to bear yet, was significant of His office for us, Saviour Mat 1:21.
To praise "the Name of the Lord" then, is to praise Him in that character or relation which He has revealed to us. : "He 'walketh in the Name of the Lord,' who ordereth every act and motion worthily of the vocation wherewith he is called, and, "whether he eateth or drinketh, doth all to the glory of God. Co1 10:31" this promise hath its own reward; for it is "forever and ever." They who "walk in the Name of the Lord," shall "walk before Him in, the land of the living, forever and ever" Psa 116:9. Such walk on, with quickened steps, lingering not, "in the Name of the Lord our God," that is, doing all things in His Name, as His great Name requires, conformed to the holiness and all other qualities which His Name expresseth. "For ever and ever, literally forever and yet, or, more strictly still, for that which is hidden and yet," which is the utmost thought of eternity we can come to. Time indeed has no relation to eternity; for time, being God's creature, is infinite. Still, practically to us, our nearest conception of eternity, is existence, on and on and on, an endless, unchanging, ever-prolonged future, lost in distance and hidden from us, and then, and yet, an ever-to-come yet, which shalt never come to an end. Well then may we not faint, as tho' it were long to toil or to do without this or that, since the part of our way which lies amid toils and weariness is so short, and will soon be at an end; what lies beyond, in joy, is infinite in infinite joy, ever full and still ever a yet to come.
The prophet says, "we will walk;" , "uniting himself in longing, hope, faith, to the sons of the New Testament, that is, Christians, as his brethren, re-born by the grace of the same Christ;" , "ministers of the Old, heirs of the New Testament, because they loved through that same faith whereby we love; believing in the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection of Christ yet to be, as we believe in it, having been."
In that day - that is, in that day of Christ and of His Gospel, of grace and salvation, the last days of which he had been speaking. Hitherto he had prophesied the glory of Zion, chiefly through the coming-in of the Gentiles. Now he adds, how the Jews should, with them, be gathered by grace into the one fold, in that long last day of the Gospel, at the beginning, in the course of it, and completely at the end Rom 11:26.
Her that halteth - The prophet resumes the image of the scattered flock, under which he had before Mic 2:12-13 foretold their restoration. This was no hope of his own, but His word who cannot fail. The course of events, upon which he is entering, would be, at times, for their greatness and their difficulty, past human belief. So he adds straightway, at the outset, "saith the Lord." To "halt" is used of bodily lameness Gen 32:32, and that, of a flock, worn out by its wanderings Zep 3:19. It is used also of moral halting Psa 35:15; Psa 38:18, such as had been a chief sin of Israel, serving partly God, partly Baal ; God, with a service of fear, Baal with a service of that counterfeit of love, sensuality. So it was sick, both in body and soul, and driven out also, and afflicted.
And her that was cast off a strong nation - The prophecy, that there should be a remnant, was depressing. Yet what a remnant should it be! A remnant, which should multiply like the stars of heaven or the sand on the sea-shore. Israel had never been "a strong nation," as a kingdom of this world. At its best estate, under David, it had subdued the petty nations around it, who were confederated to destroy it. It had never competed with the powers of this world, East or West, Egypt or Nineveh, although God had at times marvelously saved it from being swallowed up by them. Now, the remnant of Judah, which itself was but a remnant of the undivided people, was to become "a strong nation." So Isaiah prophesied, "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation" Isa 60:22. Plainly not in temporal greatness, both because human strength was not, and could not be, its characteristic, and because the prophet had been speaking of spiritual restoration.
: "'Strong' are they, whom neither torture nor allurements can separate from the love of Christ." "Strong are they, who are strong against themselves." Strong were they who said,
"We ought to obey God rather than men Act 5:29, and, "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" Rom 8:35, Rom 8:37. God does not only restore in the Gospel; He multiplies exceedingly. Rup.: "I will so clothe her with the spirit of might, that, as she shall be fruitful in number, so shall she be glorious in victories, so that of her it shall be said, "who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?" Sol 6:10. For, not to name those, whose whole life is one warfare against invisible enemies and the evil desires of the flesh, who shall count the martyrs of Christ? We know that that "remnant" and "strong nation" owe wholly to grace all which they are, as they themselves in the Revelations give thanks; "Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth" Rev 5:9-10; that same Lord, of whom it is here said,
The Lord shall reign over them in Zion from henceforth even forever - The visible kingdom of God in Judah was often obscured, kings, princes, priests, and false prophets combining to encourage one another in rebellion against God. In the captivity it even underwent an almost total eclipse by the over-shadowing of earthly power, save when the divine light flashed forth for an instant in the deeds or words of power and wisdom, related by Daniel. "Henceforth," that is, from the time, when the law should go forth out of Zion, God should indeed reign, and that kingdom should have no end.
And thou, O tower of the flock - "'Tower of Ader,' which is interpreted 'tower of the flock,' about 1000 paces (a mile) from Bethlehem," says Jerome who lived there, "and foresignifying (in its very name) by a sort of prophecy the shepherds at the Birth of the Lord." There Jacob fed his sheep Gen 35:21, and there (since it was hard by Bethlehem) the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, saw and heard the Angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The Jews inferred from this place that the Messiah should be revealed there .
Stronghold - (Ophel ) of the daughter of Zion Ophel was a strong place in the South of Jerusalem, the last which the wall, enclosing Zion, reached, before, or as, it touched on the Eastern porch of the temple , with whose service it was connected.
We know that, after the captivity, the Nethinim, who did the laborious service of the temple, dwelt there Neh 3:26; Neh 11:21. It lay very near to the priests' district Neh 3:28. It was probably, a lower acclivity, "swelling out," (as its name seems to mean ,) from the mountain of the temple. In the last war, it was held together with "the temple, and the adjoining parts to no slight extent, and the valley of Kedron." It was burnt before the upper city was taken. It had been encircled by a wall of old; for Jotham "built greatly upon its wall" Ch2 27:3, Manasseh "encircled it" Ch2 33:14, (probably with an outer wall) "and raised it exceedingly," that is, apparently raised artificially the whole level.
Yet, as a symbol of all Jerusalem, Ophel is as remarkable, as the "tower of the flock" is as to Bethlehem. For Ophel, although fortified, is no where spoken of, as of any account . It is not even mentioned in the circuit of the walls, at their dedication, under Nehemiah Neh 12:31-40, probably as an outlying, spot. It was probably of moment chiefly, as giving, an advantage to an enemy who might occupy it.
Both then are images of lowliness. The lonely Shepherd tower, for Bethlehem, the birthplace of David; Ophel for Jerusalem, of which it was yet but an outlying part, and deriving its value probably as an outwork of the temple. Both symbols anticipate the fuller prophecy of the littleness, which shall become great in God. Before the mention of the greatness of the "dominion to come," is set forth the future poverty to which it should come. In lowliness Christ came, yet is indeed a Tower protecting and defending the sheep of His pasture, founded on earth in His Human Nature, reaching to Heaven in His divine; "a strong Tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" Pro 18:10.
Unto thee shall it come - (Literally, "unto thee shall it come , and there shall arrive etc.") He saith not at first what shall come, and so raises the soul to think of the greatness of that which should come. The soul is left to fill up what is more than thought can utter. "Unto thee," (literally, quite up to thee) No hindrances should withhold it from coming. Seemingly it was a great way off, and they in a very hopeless state. He suggests the difficulty even by his strength of assurance. One could not say, "it shall come quite up to thee," of that which in the way of nature would readily come to any one. But amid all hindrances God's Might makes its way, and brings His gifts and promises to their end. "And there shall arrive." He twice repeats the assurance, in equivalent words, for their fuller assurance , "to make the good tidings the gladder by repeating and enforcing them."
The "first or former, dominion." The word often stands, as our "former" , in contrast with the "later." It is not necessarily "the first," strictly; and so here, not the "dominion" of David and Solomon exclusively. Rather the prophet is placed in spirit in the later times when the kingdom should be suspended, and foretells that "the former dominion," that is, that of the line of David, should come to her, not in its temporal greatness, but the line itself. So the Angel said, "He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever" Luk 1:32-33.
The (A) kingdom to the daughter of Jerusalem - that is, a kingdom, which should not be of her, but which should come to her; not her's by right, but by His right, who should merit it for her, and, being King of kings, makes His own, "kings and priests unto God and His Father" Rev 1:6.
The Jews themselves seem to have taken these words into their own mouths, just before they rejected Him, when they hoped that He would be a king, such as they wished for. "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh in the Name of the Lord" Mar 11:10. And in a distorted form, they held it even afterward .
Now - The prophet places himself in the midst of their deepest sorrows, and out of them he promises comfort. "Why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no King in thee? is thy Counsellor perished?" . Is then all lost, because thou hast no visible king, none to counsel thee or consult for thee? . Very remarkably he speaks of their "King and Counsellor" as one, as if to say, "When all beside is gone, there is One who abides. Though thou be a captive, God will not forsake thee. When thou hadst no earthly king, "the Lord thy God was thy King" Sa1 12:12. He is the First, and He is the Last. When thou shalt have no other, He, thy King, ceaseth not to be." Montanus: "Thou shouldest not fear, so long as He, who counselleth for thee, liveth; but He liveth forever." Thy "Counsellor," He, who is called "Counsellor" Isa 9:6, who counselleth for thee, who counselleth thee, will, if thou obey His counsel, make birth-pangs to end in joy.
For pangs have taken thee, as a woman in travail - Resistless, remediless, doubling the whole frame, redoubled until the end, for which God sends them, is accomplished, and then ceasing in joy. The truest comfort, amid all sorrow, is in owning that the travail-pains must be, but that the reward shall be afterward. Montanus: "It is meet to look for deliverance from God's mercy, as certainly as for punishment from our guilt; and that the more, since He who foretold both, willingly saves, punishes unwillingly." So the prophets adds.
Be in pain, and labor to bring forth - (Literally, Writhe and burst forth,) as if to say, "thou must suffer, but thy suffering and thy joy shall be one. Thou canst not have the joy without the suffering. As surely as thou sufferest, thou shalt have joy. In all sorrow, lose not faith and hope, and "thou shalt be sorrowful, but thy sorrow shall be turned into joy" Joh 16:20. Cyril: "Good daughter, be very patient in the pangs, bear up against your sorrows," so shall the birth be nigh. Yet for the time she must "go forth out of the city" into captivity. "And thou shalt dwell in the field," houseless, under tents, as captives were accustomed to be kept, until all were gathered together to be led away; a sore exchange for her former luxury, and in requital of their oppression Amo 6:1-14; Mic 2:8-9.
And thou shalt go even to Babylon - Not Babylon, but Assyria was the scourge of God in Micah's time. Babylon was scarcely known, a far country Kg2 20:14. Yet Micah is taught of God to declare that thither shall the two tribes be carried captive, although the ten were carried captive by Assyria. "There (see the note at Hos 2:15) shalt thou be delivered, there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." God's judgments, or purifying trials, or visitation of His saints, hold their way, until their end be reached. They who suffer them cannot turn them aside; they who inflict them cannot add to them or detain them. The prison house is the place of deliverance to Joseph and Peter; the Red Sea to Israel; the judges were raised up, when Israel was mightily oppressed; Jabesh-Gilead was delivered when the seventh day was come Sa1 11:3, Sa1 11:10-11; the walls of Jerusalem were the end of Sennacherib; Judah should have long been in the very hand and grasp of Babylon, yet must its clenched hand be opened.
Now also - (And now.) The prophet had already spoken of the future before them, with this word Now. Then, he distinctly prophesied the captivity to Babylon. Twice more he begins anew; as Holy Scripture, so often, in a mystery, whether speaking of evil or of good, of deliverance or of punishment, uses a threefold form. In these two, no mention is made of the enemy, and so there is some uncertainty. But the course must apparently be either backward or forward. They must either be two nearer futures before the Captivity, or two more distant after it. This second gathering might, in itself, either be that of the Assyrian hosts under Sennacherib out of all the nations subject to him; or that of the many petty nations in the time of the Maccabees, who took advantage of the Syrians' oppression, to combine to eradicate the Jews (1 Macc. 5:1, 2). If understood of Sennacherib, the prophet, having foretold the entire captivity of the whole people to Babylon, would have prophesied the sudden destruction of a nearer enemy, whose miraculous and instantaneous overthrow should be the earnest of the destruction of Babylon and of their deliverance from it. This would suit well with the description, "He shall gather them as sheaves to the floor," and would correspond well with the descriptions in Isaiah. On the other hand, whereas this description would suit any other event, in which man gathered his strength against God and was overthrown, the following words, "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion," etc., fit better with the victories of the Maccabees, in which Israel was active, than with the overthrow of Sennacherib, in which they were wholly passive, and God did all for them, as Isaiah and Nahum foretell the same overthrow Isa 10:24-34; Isa 14:24, Isa 14:5; Isa 17:12-14; Isa 29:7-8; Nah 1:10-13. Then also, if the course of the description was backward:
1) the captivity in Babylon
2) the destruction of Sennacherib
There is no earlier event to correspond with "the smiting of the judge of Israel on the cheek" (Mic 5:1-4 in Hebrew). The malice also of the nations gathered against Zion suits better with the abiding character of the petty nations, and of their hereditary envy against Israel and its high claims. To Nineveh and Babylon, Israel was but one little corner of ground, which rounded their territory and connected them with Egypt. They disdained them, even while they sought to subdue them. Micah describes the exultation of petty gratified rivalry.
That say, let her be defiled - The bad have a keen eye for the haltings and inconsistencies and falls of God's people, for which they are ever on the watch. Like Satan, they are first tempters, then the accusers; first desecrators, then sanctimonious justiciaries. God, in His judgment, leaves what has been inwardly defiled to be outwardly profaned. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye" Co1 3:17. "The faithful city had become a harlot" Isa 1:21. "The land had become polluted by its inhabitants" Jer 3:9; Psa 106:38; Isa 24:5. Now it was to be polluted by the enemy. Its seducers ask for the judgment of God. "It has become like us in its deeds; let it no more be distinguished from us by the name of the people of God."
And let our eye look upon Zion - With pleasure upon its desolation, and feed itself with its misery. : "Where the eye, there love; where the hand, there pain." "They opened their mouth wide against me: they said, Aha, Aha, our eye hath seen" Psa 35:21. The world hates the Church; Edom, Israel; it cannot be satisfied with beholding its chastisements Mic 7:10; Oba 1:12. The sufferings of the Martyrs were the choice spectacle of the pagan.
But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel - The pagan did, for their own ends, what God willed for His. The first step was the same; God willed that His people should be punished; they willed to punish them. But all which lay beyond, they saw not; that God willed (on their repentance) to pardon His own people, but to punish themselves for their pride Isa 10:7, Isa 10:12 and cruelty Zac 1:15, Zac 1:19. : "Almighty God corrects the elect through the reprobate, as with a rod; after which He condemns the reprobate eternally, as when the son has been disciplined, the rod is cast into the fire."
For He shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor - The multitude of the sheaves hinders not the threshing; the multitude of God's enemies hinders not their destruction. They think that they strengthen themselves, as they gather together; God sees them but as ripened and fitted for destruction, gathered into one bundle together, to perish together. God gathers them, not by constraint or force, but by giving free scope to their own wayward wills, and overruling these to His ends.
Arise - (It may be,) from the dust in which they were lying, "I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass." Threshing in the East is partly with oxen, partly with wheels of iron, or with planks set with sharp flints on an open place made hard to this end. The prophet joins another image, with this and represents Judah as being by God endued with strength, first as with a "horn of iron" Kg1 22:11 to cast the enemy to the ground, and then with "hoofs of brass," wherewith to trample them to dust, as the stubble and chaff. "And I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord," that is, to Myself; the Lord gathered them into the floor by His Providence; the Lord gave His people strength to subdue them; and now, in His own Person, He says, I will complete My own work.
The very image of the "threshing" implies that this is no mere destruction. While the stubble is "beaten" or bruised to small pieces, and the chaff is far more than the wheat, and is carried out of the floor, there yet remains the seed-corn. So in the great judgments of God, while most is refuse, there yet remains over, what is severed from the lost heap and wholly "consecrated" to Him. Whatever things were the object of the חרם chêrem Lev 27:28 or "thing devoted to the Lord," could not be redeemed, but must remain wholly the Lord's. If it had life, it was to be put to death Lev. 29. And so the use of the word here may the rather shew, how those converted to God, and who became gain, hallowed to Him, were to pass through death to life, to die to themselves that they might live to Him: what was evil was to be slain in them, that they themselves might live.
The Israelites and God's dealings with them are "ensamples of us upon whom the ends of the world are come" Co1 10:11. And so the whole section fits wonderfully with the condition of the single soul. "She who halteth" (Rib.) "the soul, who would serve God, yet not so as wholly to give up the service of the world, which it had in Baptism renounced, who, after it had gone astray like a lost sheep, and been scattered amid the manifoldness of earthly things, was gathered again into the fold, to love One only, long for One only, give itself to One," its Good Shepherd, and over it the Lord reigneth forever, if, taught by experience the deceitfulness of Satan's promises, and stung by the sense of its own thanklessness and vileness, and conscious of the peril of self confidence, it abideth more closely than others with God. He shall gather her that is driven out, that is, , "He shall restore her, from whom He had, for the time, withdrawn His grace," and her that was afflicted, trouble being God's most effectual instrument, in recalling the soul to Himself. "For the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down" Psa 146:8.
And will make her that halteth, a remnant, placing her among the elect and holy, and her that was cast off strong; for Christ giveth oft to such souls great richness of divine graces, so that "where sin abounded, grace" should "much more abound" Rom 5:20. Rib.: "To it, when enlightened and purified by affliction and by repentance, it is promised, that its Lord, the Great King, shall come to it, and again reign in it, which is the great bliss of souls in grace. For then doth the soul really reign, when it submits wholly to Christ, whom to serve is to reign, and so, under Him, receives power to command its wrong desires, and rule itself;" that great and wonderful power which the Evangelist expresses in words so brief, "To them gave He power to become the sons of God" Joh 1:12. Thus He maketh it strong, so that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, can separate it from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Rom 8:38-39.
Then, "he describes the condition of the soul fluctuating between good and evil, called one way by God through inward inspirations, and another way by the enticements and habits of sin. And, wishing to follow God, yet not to be without its sinful pleasures, and knowing this to be impossible, it is in anguish and hesitates. Her the prophet justly rebukes, 'why thus cry aloud, as though thou must be led captive by the Devil, not knowing or unable to extricate thyself? Hast thou no King, aided by whose power, thou mayest fight against all enticements, habit, the flesh?' Paul felt this and cried aloud, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom 7:23-24. You see his grief. But he despairs not. He knows that he has a King. I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Or why grievest thou, as if thou hadst no "counsellor," by whose counsels to free thee from these snares? "Thy Counsellor" indeed "perished" on the Cross, but for thy sake, that thou mayest live.
He died, to destroy him who hath the power of death. But He rose the third day and is still with thee; at the Right Hand of the Father He still reigns Immortal forever. See how many counsels He has left thee in the Gospel, how many admonitions, whereby thou mayest lead a happy and tranquil life. Now "pain seizes thee like a woman in travail." For such a soul travails, having conceived inspirations from God, which it wishes to obey, but that the flesh, overcome by concupiscence, resists, and so it never brings forth, nor experiences that joy, whereof the Lord speaketh, "When she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world" Joh 16:21. Wherefore he adds; be in pain, for thou art indeed in travail; thou wilt not cease to be in pain, until thou bring forth. Thou wilt go forth, etc. "God, by a provision of His great mercy, allows lukewarm souls, who will be at no pains to gain grace, to fall into foulest sins, in order that, owning at last their misery, they may cease to be lukewarm, and with great ardor of soul may embrace virtue. For, warned by the result, they understand that they themselves emboldened the tempter, (for he chiefly attacks the lukewarm and remiss,) and they become ardent in the conflict and in well-doing."
Wherefore he says, thou shalt go forth out of the city, that City of God, whereof He is the Builder and Maker Heb 11:10, which is gladdened by the river of His spirit; "and it dwells in the open field, unprotected, ready to be a prey, in the broad way of its own concupiscences, out of the narrow road which leadeth to life, and goeth even to Babylon, the city of 'confusion,' in tumult and din and unrest, and the distractions of this life." Yet even there shall it be delivered, like the poor Prodigal, who came to himself in a far country, when worn out by its hard service. Even there it must not despair, but remember, with him, its Father's house, its former home, the Heavenly Jerusalem. Its pains within or without, whereby it is brought back, are travail-pains. Though all is dark, it must not say, I have no Counsellor. For its Redeemer's Name is "Counsellor" Isa 9:6, "one Counsellor of a thousand" (Ecclesiasticus 6:6). : "Thine Intercessor never dies."
Out of the very depth of misery will the Divine Mercy draw thee. Though thou seem held by the strong hand of the enemy, and he seems to triumph over thee and to jeer thee, "There, there so would we have it, we have devoured him" Psa 35:25, and hosts of devils seek thy utter destruction, and thou seem to be "delivered over" Co1 5:5 to them to the destruction of the flesh; yet is it only that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord. Even Satan, when he is tormenting souls, knows not the thoughts of the Lord, nor understands His counsels, how, by the very pain which he inflicts, God is bidding: them, Rise and (Rib.) "look up to heaven and long for heavenly things and trample on all which they had hitherto foully served, honor or vain glory or covetousness or lust;" how He will exalt their horn in the Lord, make it strong as iron that they should do all things through Christ in strengthening them, and conquer all through the might of Christ; how He should bruise Satan under their feet shortly, and they consecrate wholly to God their whole strength, every power of soul and body which hitherto had been the adversary's.