Micah 2:7
Adopting as our translation, "O thou, called the house of Jacob, is the patience of Jehovah short? Are these his doings? Do not his words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" we learn two truths respecting God.

I. JUDGMENT IS GOD'S "STRANGE WORK."

1. The people are reminded of this by their very name. It is a great honour but a grave responsibility to have a good name and ancestry (John 8:39; Acts 3:25). What sacred associations clustered around the name, "house of Jacob"! The personal history of their ancestor Jacob gave great significance to the name, "God of Jacob" (Psalm 46:11). The history of Jacob shows that he had to do with a God who is forbearing to sinners; who enters into covenant with men, and renews that covenant even with the unworthy children of godly parents; who is the Hearer of prayer, and condescends to represent himself as being overcome by it; who bestows eternal life on those who die in faith (Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:31, 32). Similar lessons might be learned from God's treatment of "the house of Jacob" which name they gloried in. They could look back to a long catalogue of mercies (Psalm 78., 105., 106.). Yet the very fact that they bore this name made more glaring the contrast between it and their real character (vers. 5, 6; Hosea 12:2-7; John 8:33-40; Romans 2:17-29). Apply to the name we English bear as a Christian nation.

2. An appeal is made to their judgments as to the character of God. "Is the patience of Jehovah short?" Let God testify to them (Exodus 34:6, 7), and Moses respond (Numbers 14:17-20), and David take up the strain (Psalm 103:8-10), and the long lives of the ungodly, and late repentances confirm the Divine words, and their own consciences confess that Jehovah is a long suffering God.

3. They are reminded that God is not responsible for sin, and has no pleasure in punishment. "Are these his doings?" We take it as a moral axiom that God is not responsible for sin, unless the sun can be held responsible for the shadows caused by opaque objects (James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). At the best, sin is the corruption of what God made good; e.g. selfishness is depraved self-love; envy is fallen emulation; and so with other sins. In regard to punishment we know that "he doth not afflict willingly." He presides over his own laws and executes his threats; but it is sin, not God, who is the great destroyer. "Evil shall slay the wicked" (Psalm 34:21).

II. MERCY IS GOD'S DELIGHT. "Do not my words do good," etc.? The special reference seems to be to God's words through his prophets, so that it was a glaring sin as well as folly to try to silence God's prophets (ver. 6), whose words were so wholesome (Jeremiah 15:16), because they revealed God's Name, and therefore the path of peace and safety (Psalm 9:10). The prophets would have grievously misrepresented God's Name if they had spoken comfort to the wicked in their wickedness Isaiah 3:10, 11). Contrast Zedekiah with Micaiah and Elijah in their conduct towards Ahab; and cf. Ezekiel 13. with Psalm 18:25, 26; Psalm 34:15, 16. To us God's words do good still more abundantly. The psalmist's words, "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy Name," are true of the revelation of God in "the word of the truth of the gospel." Yet even the gospel, though offering mercy to the vilest, can do good only to those who deal truly with it and thus walk uprightly. The perversion of the greatest blessing may be the most fatal curse. The word of life will be the word of judgment (John 12:48); ministers may become a "savour of death," and Christ a stone that shall grind to powder. "When the gospel becomes deadly to a man, it is a terrible thing; to die of a gospel plague is a terrible way of dying" (John Howe). The revelation of God's delight in mercy by Christ's sacrifice for sinners makes it possible for the vilest to walk uprightly. But salvation is from sin itself. Character is essential to heaven, or even God could not make it heaven to us. - E.S.P.







O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?
1. Amongst the numerous instances in which Christians conduct themselves as if they imagined that the Spirit of the Lord is straitened, notice the following.(1) Their conduct is of this description, when they expect little or no benefit from the Word of God and the ordinances of His worship.(2) When they shrink from the discharge of necessary duty.(3) When they are unduly afraid of their enemies.(4) When they sink under the pressure of adversity.(5) When they limit the operations of the Spirit to particular periods of time, or to any particular denomination of professed Christians.

2. The unreasonableness of such conduct. It is at once sinful and selfish, unreasonable and absurd. Consider —(1) That the Spirit of Jehovah is a Spirit of unbounded intelligence and power. Dependent and limited creatures may soon become straitened.(2) He is a Spirit of infinite goodness and love.(3) He is a Spirit sent forth by the Father and the Son.(4) The Scriptures contain rich promises of the continued agency of the Holy Spirit.(5) The gracious and mighty works which have already been effected by the Spirit of Jehovah. Let us all be impressed with a sense of the necessity and importance of the Spirit's agency. It deeply concerns us to inquire whether or not it is our privilege to have the Spirit dwelling and operating in us.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

1. The work of the Lord, the Spirit, is wide, extended, and extensive. He is emphatically the "Comforter"; this is His principal work. He comforts the soul, made conscious how little there is in himself to nourish and strengthen; stripped, in a sense, of his self-wisdom, self-power, self-importance, and self-complacency. He testifies of Jesus as having "all fulness" in Him. He comforts the poor, tried, and harassed soul, in the midst of its trial, sorrow, and affliction, by unfolding the man of sympathy, the sympathy of the God-man Mediator. He comforts the soul by revealing the character of God; in His gracious character; in His sin-forgiving character; in His tenderness, compassion, gentleness, and holiness. He comforts His saints as they pass through the changes of a changing world, by revealing the covenant, "ordered in all things and sure." He unfolds the gracious promises of the God of grace. He is called "the Comforter," because it belongs to Him especially to comfort the saints of the Most High. But He is a Rebuker as well as a Comforter. Here it is to be feared that He is not glorified as He ought to be. He is a "Spirit of judgment" in our souls. There is no court that a natural man so dislikes as the court of an enlightened conscience. It is a solemn place. Not only in the first awakening of the soul, but in all after revealings of the Lord Jesus Christ to our hearts, there is still something of a rebuking Spirit. We have to learn out our truths in the school of God, who will be a light to guide in the way.

2. God's Word yields to the spiritual pilgrim food and nourishment, as well as light.

3. As the pilgrim's way lies through an enemy's country he is liable to various assaults, and the Word of God will furnish him with armour of defence. It is his shield and buckler, to ward off and repel the fiery darts of the wicked one.

4. When the Christian begins to be weary and faint in his mind, God's Word becomes his stay and support.

5. It is a comfort to travellers to have a prospect, though a distant and imperfect one, of the place whither they are going. The Divine Word is both a map of the heavenly country and a perspective glass through which we may view it. It is the prospect of that better country which cheers the Christian by the way, and quickens his steps through the wilderness.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Essex Remembrancer.
The prophet is reproving the people for their opposition to the servants of God, and their attachment to false prophets. Their rulers would silence the prophets of the Lord, because they wished to hear no more of their alarming predictions, but to be told only smooth and flattering things. Micah is therefore commissioned to declare that they should be deprived of this privilege.

I. THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR SALVATION. The recovery of fallen men to the love and likeness of God is usually expressed by the word "salvation." Salvation is ascribed in Scripture to the love of God the Father, in whose infinite benevolence it originated. It was, however, necessary that an adequate atonement should be made for human transgressions. This work, assigned to Christ in the economy of redemption, He voluntarily undertook, and He alone could execute it. All the blessings of salvation are ascribed to Him. But the death of Christ would have been fruitless without the work of the Holy Ghost. Without this there could be no conviction of our need of salvation, no discernment of the way in which alone it can be obtained, no desire to possess it, no faith, no hope, no love, nothing of that purity of heart, destitute of which no man can see the Lord. The Spirit proceedeth from the Father. He gave His Son that He might send His pure and Holy Spirit into our depraved hearts to form us for communion with, and the everlasting enjoyment of Himself. We are equally indebted for the Spirit to the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

II. THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE PLENITUDE OF HIS INFLUENCE. It is perfectly consistent with the practical design of Scripture to apply a truth spoken on a particular occasion to the general purposes of the Christian life. Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? No; we are to set no bounds to His power; we are not to circumscribe the measure of His influence; our expectations and our endeavours should correspond to the fulness of His grace. We may infer that the influences of the Holy Spirit are not straitened from the extent and merit of the Saviour's sufferings, and the greatness and design of His exaltation; from the abundant measure in which the gifts of the Spirit were communicated on the day of Pentecost; from the predictions of Scripture concerning the future prosperity of the Christian Church, and from the eminence in piety and usefulness to which many have attained. The truth we press on attention is, that every one may, through faith in the Saviour, and in answer to prayer, certainly obtain all the assistance from the Holy Spirit which he needs. This is evident from a multitude of promises. The subject calls for an admonitory application.

1. It condemns an undue dependence on instruments.

2. It forbids an exclusive attachment to particular subjects.

3. It censures those who despair of the conversion of others.

4. It remonstrates with such as are ready to abandon their efforts to do good from a feeling of their own insufficiency.

5. It should urge us to unite in all scriptural plans of usefulness, instead of confining ourselves to particular methods.

6. It frowns on a bigoted party spirit.

7. Beware of resisting and grieving the Spirit.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

Regard the Holy Spirit as that most glorious and blessed agency by which our depraved nature is purified, our bondage of evil turned into freedom, our spiritual darkness enlightened, our penitent sorrows exchanged for feelings of joyousness, and our rugged path on life's upward journey made smooth and plain. In the time of Micah the inspiration of prophecy was regarded by the people of the Jews as the result of this agency; but they were not always pleased with it. The prophets who were faithful were men who did not seek to please the public ear by prophesying what was most palatable to its pride and luxury, but what was calculated to humble and alarm. And if this offended some, was their offence to be the guide and rule of the prophet's teaching? Was the Spirit of God to be straitened or limited in His operations because His inspired messages were not acceptable? Hence the question of the text.

I. THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD ACTS WITH UNLIMITED SOVEREIGNTY. He is not bound by human laws and human opinions, neither is He fettered in His movements by any dogmatic assumption or priestly power. What is to hinder Him from doing His Will? An earnest seeking for His aid, an humble trust in His love, a devout prayer for His deliverance, and a persevering hold upon Christ as our Sacrifice and Mediator may soon bring to the soul that bright light of life which speaks of His indwelling presence and resurrection power.

II. THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD ACTS WITH AN UNCHANGEABLENESS OF LOVE. And who can give any bounds to this love, not only in its objects but in its intensity? It never changes. Time can never alter it, and nothing in the great universe about us can either divert it from its course or weaken its power.

III. THOUGH THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS NOT STRAITENED, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT IT MAY APPEAR SO. But this arises from our own disobedience. We may have stifled His convictions. We may have deserted His counsels. We may have rejected His offers, His promises, and His invitations.

IV. SOME WISH THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD TO BE STRAITENED TO THEIR OWN VIEW OF THINGS. Some would straiten the Lord in the execution of His judgments. To the fainting, weak, and doubting spirit of the Christian there is something very exhilarating in the thought that the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened in His power and love and wisdom. Troubled as He oftentimes is from a deceitful heart and powerful temptations, how great a privilege to feel His nearness and to realise His inspiration in the prayer that goes up like incense to the throne of heaven. In the infinitude of the Spirit's power there is liberty — a vast ocean of life, that seems to spread out more and more before the eager and aspiring soul. But, on the contrary, this very truth of the Holy Spirit's illumitability will be a cause of condemnation to those who continue to reject Him.

(W. D. Horwood.)

Here God is expostulating with His Church, when in a low and languishing state, as to the cause of this. He is vindicating Himself from all share of blame in the matter, — He is showing them where the blame lies, even with His professing people themselves, in their want of faith and prayer. It is their unbelief that mars all. This straitens, shuts up, in prisons their spirits, so that their desires do not flow forth with any enlargement after Divine communications. It is not the Spirit of the Lord that is straitened. There is a straitening, but it is all on their part.

I. THE QUESTION IN THE TEXT IMPLIES THAT THE SPIRIT IS NOT STRAITENED IN THE SENSE WHICH OUR UNBELIEF WOULD SUGGEST.

1. The Spirit is not straitened in respect of His own inherent sufficiency. All grace, wisdom, might, and faithfulness are in Him. The creature is limited in duration; He is eternal. The creature is limited in respect of knowledge. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." The creature is limited in respect of power; not so the Spirit. The creature is limited in respect of moral excellence; the Spirit is distinctively and supereminently the Spirit of holiness.

2. In respect of the Saviour's purchase of Him for the Church. As the Head of His Church, Christ is its source of spiritual influence. In Him, for the use of His Church, the Spirit dwells in immeasurable degree. Mark the encouragement afforded us by the death of Christ to expect free and full communications of the Holy Spirit.

3. In respect of the offer of Him in the Gospel.

(1)He is offered universally.

(2)Freely.

(3)Largely.

II. THE QUESTION IMPLIES THAT HE IS OFTEN STRAITENED OR DIMINISHED IN RESPECT OF HIS ACTUAL COMMUNICATIONS TO THE CHURCH. It is a fact that the presence and power of the Spirit are not enjoyed by the Church at some periods as much as at others. Point out some of the characteristics of a Church from which the Spirit has withdrawn much of His presence and power.

1. In such a Church the truth will not generally be preached with evangelical purity, faithfulness, and power.

2. There will be a general departure from the simple and scriptural principles of government and discipline on which the Church is founded.

3. There will be a sad lack of zeal in propagating religion and extending the means of grace. The missionary spirit will be all but extinct.

4. There will be few conversions.

5. Even the people of God themselves will not be possessed of so high a tone of spirituality as they ought to be. In short, there will be little personal piety and family prayer; but, on the contrary, much worldliness, much unGodliness, much hostility to anything like zealous Christianity. In the same proportion as the Spirit departs will spirituality decay and carnality increase. What should we learn from this but our entire dependence upon this blessed agent?

III. THE QUESTION IS INTENDED TO CONVEY A REBUKE TO THE CHURCH FOR ITS NOT HAVING SUFFICIENTLY VALUED, AND THEREFORE ASKED AND RECEIVED, THE HOLY SPIRIT. If the Spirit is restrained in His actual communications, this must be either because He is unwilling to bestow His influences upon us, or because we are unwilling to accept of them. It cannot be the first; it must be the last. Apply —

1. To the unconverted; there are some who are entirely destitute of any work of the Spirit of God upon their hearts. Dare they say that they have long been willing to receive Him, but have found it impossible? Their consciences would not suffer them to say so.

2. To those who have in some measure received the Spirit. They often complain of the low state of religion in their own hearts, and in the world around them. Hard thoughts of God suggest themselves to them, as if He had become careless of the interests of His Church. But they will find reason to exonerate God of all blame, and to place it to their own account. Have they cherished, as they ought to have done, the visits of this Divine Person to their own souls? Is it not true that they have, in a great measure, ceased to realise their dependence on Him? Thus religion decaying in their own hearts, they become less concerned about the progress of religion in the hearts of others.

IV. THE QUESTION IS INTENDED TO CONVEY AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO US TO ASK HIM — TO ASK HIM CONFIDENTLY AND LARGELY. The encouragement is twofold, drawn —

1. From the form of the question itself. It is evidently designed to teach us that the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened, not limited nor confined in the sense our unbelief suggests. It is as if it were said — Set no bounds to your desires; ask more and more; ask again and again.

2. Notice to whom the question is addressed. "O thou that art named the house of Israel." It is addressed to the professing Church and people of God, and it is designed to put them in mind of the relation God bears to them as their God, and the warrant thereby afforded them to ask and expect the Holy Spirit. There must be a want, and what can that want be but the want of sufficiently earnest and believing prayer? Immediately, then, let this want be supplied.

(A. L. R. Foote.)

? —

I. THE PROMISE OF PENTECOST. What did it declare and hold forth for the faith of the Church?

1. The promise of a Divine Spirit by symbols which express some, at all events, of the characteristics and wonderfulness of His work. The "rushing of a mighty wind" spoke of a power which varies in its manifestations from the gentlest breath that scarce moves the leaves on the summer trees to the wildest blast that casts down all which stands in its way. The natural symbolism of the wind, to popular apprehension, the least material of all material forces, and of which the connection with the immaterial part of a man's personality has been expressed in all languages, points to a Divine, immaterial, mighty, life-giving power which is free to blow where it listeth, and of which men can mark the effects, though they are all ignorant of the force itself. The twin symbol of the fiery tongues which parted and sat upon each of them speaks in like manner of the Divine influence, not as destructive, but full of quick, rejoicing energy and life, the power to transform and to purify. Whithersoever the fire comes, it changes all things into its own substance. Wherever the fiery spirit comes there is energy, swift life, rejoicing activity, transforming and transmuting power which changes the recipient of the flame into flame itself. In the fact of Pentecost there is the promise of a Divine Spirit which is to influence all the moral side of humanity. This is the distinction between the Christian doctrine of inspiration and all others which have, in heathen lands, partially reached similar conceptions — that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has laid emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, and has declared that holiness of heart is the touchstone and test of all claims of Divine inspiration. Gifts are much, graces are more. An inspiration which makes wise is to be coveted, an inspiration which makes holy is transcendently better. There we find the safe guard against all the fanaticisms which have at times invaded the Christian Church. The Spirit that came at Pentecost is not merely a spirit of rushing might, and of swift flaming energy; it is a Spirit of holiness. Pentecost also carried in it the promise and prophecy of a Spirit granted to all the Church. "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Further, the promise of the early history was that of a Spirit which should fill the whole nature of the men to whom He was granted. Each man, according to his character, stature, circumstances, and all the varying conditions which determine his power of receptivity, will receive a varying measure of that gift. Yet it is meant that all shall be full.

II. THE APPARENT FAILURE OF THE PROMISE. Will anyone say that the religious condition of any body of believers at this moment corresponds to Pentecost? Do any existing Churches present the final perfect form of Christianity as embodied in a society? Estimate by three tests.

1. Does the ordinary tenour of our own religious life look as if we had that Divine Spirit in us which transforms everything into its own beauty, and makes men, through all the regions of their nature, holy and pure? Does the standard of devotion and consecration in any Church witness of the presence of a Divine Spirit?

2. Do the relations of modern Christians and their churches to one another attest the presence of a unifying Spirit?

3. Look at the comparative impotence of the Church in its conflict with the growing worldliness of the world.

III. THE SOLUTION OF THE CONTRADICTION. It is sometimes urged that the Spirit of the Lord is straitened. Some say, Christianity is effete. Others say, God in His sovereignty is pleased to withhold His Spirit for reasons which we cannot trace. But there is always the same flow from God. There are ebbs and flows in the spiritual power of the Church. It is our own fault, and the result of evil in ourselves that may be remedied, that we have so little of this Divine gift.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

? — In view of the large effusion of religious knowledge in our days, we inquire, Why does not the fear of God more abound? Whence is it that, even where true piety really exists, it is so little deep, spiritual, and full of love, warmth, and holy unction? Shall we reply that the blessing must be from above, and that God alone can remodel the human heart? This indeed is true; but then occurs the question, "Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" If He be not straitened, whence comes it to pass that His gracious influences are not more fully manifested? Is the fault in ourselves or in God? The influences of the Holy Spirit are His miraculous and His ordinary manifestations. Is He straitened in either of these?

I. Is HE STRAITENED IN HIS MIRACULOUS INFLUENCES? Miracles, we say, are not now to be expected. They have done their work. But God is not therefore straitened. He could, if He saw fit, revive His miraculous influences. And even now we have remarkable effusions of grace, as in revival times. He could, if He so willed, bring back even a second day of Pentecost, with all its miraculous outpourings.

II. IS HE STRAITENED IN THOSE ORDINARY PROMISED INFLUENCES UNDER WHICH WE OURSELVES LIVE? Take the following influences — as a Teacher, as a Sanctifier, as a Comforter. Is the Holy Spirit less an Enlightener, a Sanctifier, and a Guide now than He was in the days of Abraham, or David, or St. Paul? Is He less powerful? Is He less willing? Is He less gracious in His promises? Whence, then, comes it to pass that, after so many centuries of nominal Christianity, more spiritual good has not been effected? In particular, what are the causes which impede in our own age, our own country, our own families and congregations, and above all, in our own hearts, the operations of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of the Lord may be straitened, on account of the finite capacity of the recipient. If the Holy Ghost consecrates our hearts for His temple, He chooses a shrine in which He can exhibit, so to speak, but a small portion of His glory; it will be enlarged in heaven, but even there it will be finite. Take the love of St. John, the fervour of David, the heavenly mindedness of St. Paul; these fruits of the Spirit in those blessed men were eminently great; but they were bounded by the mortal mould, and for them to be enlarged to the elevation of a Gabriel death must intervene. But the littleness of the human heart is not the only cause why the Divine manifestations appear straitened. Its corruption and sinfulness are far more powerful causes. Think of the innate workings of human depravity; the stubbornness of the soil which is to be broken up and cultivated; the natural enmity of the human heart to God, and all that is like God; the prejudices which exist against the Gospel of Christ; the evil devices of Satan; the "infection of nature" which remains "even in them that are regenerate." In addition to the deadening effects of sin generally, every age and country has its own special temptations, which in a peculiar manner seem to restrain the effusion of the Divine influences at that particular place and season.

1. Being satisfied with a low standard of spiritual attainment. Look at apostles and prophets; look at saints and professors and martyrs. Are we like them?

2. Another cause of check to the Spirit's work in our day is excitement, Not religious excitement so much as the rush and hurry and worry of modern business and social life. The Spirit needs quiet times and moods in which to carry on His hallowing work.

(Samuel Charles Wilks, M. A.)

(marg., "shortened"): — The meaning is, not limited, bound, restrained, but free to work and bless at all times, and in unlimited measure. We pray and act as if God were subject to metes and bounds, — confined to times and seasons — unable or unwilling to do for His cause and people on a scale commensurate with His own infinite grace and power and purpose.

I. GOD THE SPIRIT IS NOT STRAITENED IN HIMSELF. This were impossible, as His nature and all His attributes are infinite; His love, mercy, grace, power are unbounded.

II. HE HAS NOT TIED HIS OWN HANDS, by His decrees, or in any other way, so that He cannot work to save even to the uttermost all that will come to Him. His arm is never shortened that it cannot save. If the Church is in a feeble state, the fault lies at her own door.

III. GOD IS NOT STRAITENED BY REASON OF ANY LACK OF PROVISION IN THE GOSPEL ECONOMY, or efficacy in the atoning sacrifice, or fulness of the Spirit's power.

IV. NEITHER IS THE SPIRIT STRAITENED BY REASON OF THE UNBELIEF AND OBSTINACY OF SINNERS. OR THE ABOUNDING INFIDELITY AND WICKEDNESS OF THE TIMES. The power that could change Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle; that could plant and maintain flourishing Christian Churches in such corrupt heathen cities as Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome; that could resurrect the Church of the Reformation from the grave of the dark ages and the corruptions of Rome; that is achieving such glorious conquests today, not simply in heathen lands, is equal to any emergency, any work, that prayer and Christian endeavour can compass. If God is ever straitened, it is in His people. Their unbelief, supineness, inaction, serve to restrain the Spirit's power, and block the wheels of salvation. What a tremendous responsibility! Who is willing to share it?

(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)

The Lord's people were now so far degenerated as to continue and oppose God's messengers, as if they might limit His Spirit to speak only what pleased them; or as if His Spirit were straitened to do them good. Doctrine —

1. It is a deplorable case, and sadly to be lamented, when men stand in opposition to the Word of God, and the carriers thereof. So much doth this expostulation and these pressing interrogatories imply.

2. Men may both think and do many things with great boldness, which yet, if they would seriously think upon, they would be forced to condemn, and find a witness against in their own bosoms. For these questions put to their consciences imply, that God had a witness for Him there, and they durst not say or do as they did if their consciences were put to it, as in His sight.

3. Many have and study to keep up a name which they are ill worthy of, and no way answerable to it.

4. God can discern betwixt shows and substance, and will see a fault in such as glory in fair titles; for He calls them as they are. "Thou art named the house of Jacob, and hast but a name."

5. It is an evidence that a visible church is degenerated, whatever show they have, when they turn opposers of the Word of the Lord in the mouth of His servants.

6. Such as oppose and fight against the Word of God and His messengers do in effect fight against the Spirit of the Lord, whose Word it is. These opposers are challenged as "straitening the Spirit of the Lord."

7. It is a high presumption and injury clone to the Spirit, to think to imprison and deny Him liberty in the mouth of His servants, to speak anything but what men please. It is not seemly that men should limit God in giving commission to His servants.

8. The Lord hath a storehouse of Spirit "to bring forth comforts, and of power to produce mercies, if His people were fit for them.

9. When the Lord sends forth sad threatenings in the mouths of His servants, it becomes a people seriously to examine their ways.

(George Hutcheson.)

Do not My words do good to him that walketh uprightly
Weary of correction and reproof, the house of Jacob refused to receive instruction, and said to the prophets, "Prophesy ye not." The Lord appeals to them that the messages sent by His servants were intended for their good, that even the threatenings were designed to correct and to reclaim, that He was ready to pour out of His Spirit upon them, but for their impenitence and unbelief and rejection of His testimony; and that His words were acceptable and profitable to the upright, how much soever they might be despised by the apostate house of Jacob.

I. THE CHARACTERS TO WHOM THE WORD OF GOD IS PROFITABLE ARE THE "UPRIGHT."

1. The truly upright are those whose hearts are right in the sight of God; Israelites in whom is no guile. They are no dissemblers in religion; truth is stamped upon their words and actions. Their faith is unfeigned, and their love without dissimulation. An upright man is what he appears to be.

2. The upright are such as walk by a right rule, the Word of God, making this the guide and standard of their actions. He who is continually gadding about to change his way cannot be in the right way. Uniformity of conduct is essential to uprightness.

3. The upright are represented as "walking," or making progress in the way to heaven. True religion means not only persevering, but making some proficiency in the good ways of God. Hence we learn that —

(1)True religion is practical.

(2)It is personal.

(3)It is free and voluntary.

(4)It is imperfect at present, though tending to perfection, and there is room for continual improvement.

II. THE ADVANTAGES WHICH THE TRULY UPRIGHT DERIVE FROM THE WORD OF GOD. To him that walketh uprightly, the word of real experience, and we are taught them oft in the school of painful experience; it is in this way He applies them. All His rebukings are for our sanctification.

II. THE CAUSE FOR CAUTION ON OUR PART, THAT WE TURN NOT AWAY FROM A WHOLE CONSIDERATION OF THIS WIDE, EXTENDED, AND EXTENSIVE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. Do not imagine that a man can really "straiten the Spirit of God." I might as well imagine that a molehill could change the course of the planets. Our blessed Spirit is Jehovah, omnipotent. Some attempt to straiten the Spirit of God by confining their ideas of His operation on the soul to that which is pleasant on1y, to that which is refreshing, to that which is comforting, to that which is elevating. They see not that there is as much the work of the Spirit in that which humbles, in that which reproves, in that which cuts down, in that which dries up, in that which lays low, and keeps the soul as in a low place.

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The greatest blessings when perverted become the greatest curses. An unimproved or an abused privilege becomes a positive evil. It were easy to adduce a host of illustrations to confirm the justice of these observations. There is hardly a temporal blessing to be named, in respect of which it may not be shown that its abuse becomes a curse to the possessor. Take the endowment of intellect or of reason. Or the case of one to whom providence has allotted a more than common abundance of this world's wealth. Spiritual mercies may be equally abused with temporal, and the result which ensues from their misuse is to the full as disastrous. The prophet, speaking in the name of God, demands, "Do not My words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" But the form of interrogation clearly implies, that to such as walk not in uprightness, the words of the Almighty will rather do injury. It was in reply to the solicitations of those who entreated of the prophet not to prophesy that he delivered the emphatic appeal which we have in the verse containing our text. We are, however, concerned with the broad principle which it seems to imply. There is pointed out the condition of all profitable hearing of God's words. It is — upright walking. The precept must be embodied in practice, or it will not only be useless, it will be positively injurious.

I. WHAT REASONS THERE ARE FOR EXPECTING THAT THE HEARING OF GOD'S WORDS WILL INJURE, RATHER THAN BENEFIT, THE INDIVIDUAL WHO WALKS NOT UPRIGHTLY. Some qualification is necessary at the outset to obviate an erroneous conclusion which might be drawn. It might be said, "What, then, becomes of the utility of the proclamation to the disobedient? And what remains of the office of the Word to convince and to convert the soul?" The apparent contradiction is easily explained. The prophet is clearly speaking of such persons as, under the hearing of God's words, refused to repent and be obedient. The message he had to deliver was calculated to reclaim and convert them, but they refused submission to the authority of Him in whose name the messenger spake, and it was in this case that the tidings injured, in place of benefiting. The guilt and the responsibility were all their own; the fault was not in the Word. The prophet was not to desist from proclaiming that Word, simply because, when its statements were rejected, moral injury would result. And we are not to be deterred from communicating God's words to the disobedient, simply because there is a possibility that they will continue to be disobedient, and in that case be injured and not advantaged by the message, Now take the case of one to whom God's words are sent, but they have never yet led him to a walk of uprightness. God's words have been practically a dead letter. This is the ease in which we are prepared to contend that the words of God are turning to that man's injury; the blessing is being converted into a curse. We assume that every man's real and highest enjoyment, his greatest moral advantage, depends upon his conformity to the precepts of God's Word. Each instance in which God's words are heard, and no result towards holiness produced, diminishes the probability of ultimate obedience. He is becoming more hard and inflexible, and less likely ever to become the subject of genuine repentance. It is a law of man's moral constitution, that feelings once aroused, which are not carried out into practice, gradually become feebler and less capable of being wakened afresh. There is no case in which there is greater cause for apprehension than that of an individual who has long been accustomed to the ministrations of the Gospel, without being converted beneath them;

II. THE POSITIVE GOOD WHICH RESULTS TO THE UPRIGHT FROM HEARING GOD'S WORDS.

1. Look at the knowledge which revelation imparts.

2. The words of God accomplish a most important purpose with reference to the believer's sanctification, or his actual preparation for heaven. The promise cannot advantage any but the Consistent disciple. No man has a right to appropriate a single promise of God's Word, who is not resolved upon striving after obedience. It is the "upright" walker to whom alone the promise in reality belongs. May we carry away with us the recollection of this great truth, — that in order to profit by God's words, whether as communicated to us on the page of inspiration, or by the ministrations of the Gospel, there must be an endeavour on our parts to walk uprightly, or to walk in agreement with what God's Word prescribes.

(Robert Bickersteth, B. A.)

There are some difficulties to be found in the Bible, no doubt. There are a good many things that you do not understand in nature, but you do not dismiss them. Whatever may be said against this planet, it is our best standing ground at present. And so long as the Bible vindicates itself in its practical, moral, and spiritual effects, that is enough for us. Look today at the nations that do not read the Bible — Turkey, China, India, — they belong to the ruined civilisations. Scientists have used the spectroscope lately, and they have found a good deal in the sun that they did not expect. They have found a good many terrestrial elements there. But, so long as the sun keeps on ripening harvests and painting summers, and filling the planet with loveliness and music, we shall respect the sun. And whatever may be the technical defects, or alleged defects of Scripture, so long shall we stand by it whilst it. lifts up fallen men into righteousness, and makes the great wilderness of the nations to blossom as the rose.

These are the indignant questions proposed by the inspired man of God when he contemplated the corruption and depravity which had spread themselves throughout the whole Church and nation of the Jews.

I. EXPLAIN WHAT I MEAN BY THE SOCIAL EVILS OF CHRISTENDOM. Some would tell us that religion is a Social evil; marriage, private property, and equitable laws, social evils. We can all see that ignorance and credulity, superstition and imposture, tyranny and oppression, war and persecution are among the social evils which all good men ought to deplore.

1. Ignorance and credulity. That the inhabitants of those nations who possess a Book that contains a revelation from God of all the great principles of faith and duty, should be in a state of ignorance, seems most extraordinary. Up to comparatively a very recent date, throughout the whole of Christendom the common people were in a state of deplorable ignorance. We count ignorance to be a fearful social evil. Credulity is always the result of ignorance; and thus originates that moat baneful maxim, that "ignorance is the mother of devotion."

2. We account superstition and imposture to be great social evils, as they have existed in Christendom. Christianity, as established by the apostles, was a religion of extraordinary simplicity. It had no temples, no altars, no sacrifices, no priests, no pageants, no festivities, no holidays. It was a simple religion, plain and unadorned, addressing itself to the judgment and to the affections of men. To meet the prejudices of the vulgar, and to gratify the corrupt taste of the multitude, pompous ceremonies were introduced, which easily reconciled the pagans to a worship that appeared so like their own. It is a matter beyond all controversy that the old demigods of paganism were worshipped under new names by these very questionable Christians, — worshipped at the same wells, on the same mountain sides, in the same groves, and with the same rites, — and that nothing was changed but the name. Surely these things do not result from God's Holy Word!

3. Tyranny and oppression, as they have existed in Christendom, are social evils which must be deplored. They are as old as the apostasy of man from God. When man would not submit to God, he soon sought to usurp authority over his brethren. In private and in public life it will be found that those who are least disposed to submit are most disposed to usurp. Those persons who are least patient of restraints themselves, are most willing to put restraints on others. We refer, however, not so much to oppression and tyranny in civil affairs, as to that spiritual usurpation which arose in the Church, when the humble presbyters became priests, patriarchs, and popes. We lament over all proofs of spiritual tyranny and oppression.

4. Wars and persecutions are amongst the social evils that have afflicted Christendom. Some of these have been political contests — wars undertaken upon questions of international polity. But religious wars now demand our attention. The history of Christian nations is like Ezekiel's roll, "written within and without with lamentations and mourning and woe."

II. THESE SOCIAL EVILS ARE NOT SANCTIONED BY THE BIBLE, BUT CORRECTED BY IT. It must he conceded, however, that there are some facts connected with the history of the Jews in the Old Testament which appear at first sight to sanction at least some of these acts of violence and bloodshed. Some are explained by God's right to visit and punish guilty nations, as well as guilty individuals. These are reserved and excepted cases, and those who now dare to plead for the extirpation and oppression of their enemies, or for acts of violence and persecution from the facts of the Old Testament, are altogether beside the mark, unless they can show that they possess the power of working miracles to sustain the assumption.

1. We account the Bible to be the enemy of ignorance and credulity. That which is a revelation necessarily supposes the dissipation of ignorance. The very communication of a Book that must be read, studied, and illustrated by various other critical, scientific, and historical inquiries, compels intelligence, and shows that the Word of God is the friend of knowledge, the fountain of wisdom.

2. The Bible is the enemy of superstition and imposture. There were many ceremonies in the Jewish Church, but these were "a shadow of good things to come," and were only to continue until the substance should appear. When Christianity was revealed, Judaism passed away. Primitive Christianity and the Word. of God are not answerable for the accumulated ceremonies and superstitions of the modern Christian Church.

3. The Bible is the enemy of tyranny and oppression. The Word of God professes to be the Word of the Most Upright; just and right is He! Rectitude characterises the mind and government of God. That Word would be inconsistent with its Author if it were found to sanction tyranny and oppression in any form.

4. The Bible is the enemy of war and persecution. Our Lord inculcated in His disciples a spirit of forbearance, a disposition not to resist evil, not to take offence. Then if we desire important changes in human society, it is that there may be more equal happiness. Let us then become Bible Christians. If we really take the Book as our guide, we shall not be ignorant or superstitious or tyrannical. We shall avoid the mischiefs by which the Christian name is dishonoured, and we shall exhibit to those around us the blessed influence of the religion of Jesus on the character and lives of men.

(John Blackburn.)

Micah says, You are trying to do the right thing in a wrong way: you are wasting the bread of the kingdom of heaven: you have mistaken the right beginning and the right continuance of all this ministry of revelation. My sun will never do good to a dead creed; every beam of that sun is a sword striking at that poor outcast dead thing. "Do not My words do good?" To whom? To the man who wants them, longs for them, represents their purpose, walks uprightly. Literally, Do not My words do good to him that is upright? You must not only have right food, you must have the right appetite and the right digestion. God's revelation is lost upon the man who cares nothing for it. It is within the power of the eyelid to shut out the midday. The Bible has nothing to say to the froward soul. The revelation of God never talks to the critic. Intellect, unless a servant, has no business with things spiritual, supernatural, ineffable. Let every man then test himself by this one standard. The Word of the Lord is meant to be good to the upright. Not necessarily to the personally perfect. There are no such people, except in their own estimation, and therefore there are none perfect at all. What is it to be upright then? To be sincere: to mean to be right. There is a middle line in every man's thought and life and purpose. Do not judge him by the higher line, or by the lower level; you will find the average thought, and tendency, and pressure — judge by that. When a man says, 1 want to be right, though I am failing seven times a day, — he is right...To walk uprightly is not to walk pedantically, ostentatiously, and perfectly in the estimation of the world; but to walk uprightly is to have the stress of the soul in the right direction.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Homilist.
"Thou called house of Jacob, is the patience of Jehovah short then? or is this His doing? Are not My words good to him that walketh uprightly?" Such is a modern translation. We prefer the translation of Henderson, as follows: "What language, O house of Jacob! Is the Spirit of Jehovah shortened? Are these His operations? Do not My words benefit him that walketh uprightly?" These words seem to be a reply to an objection raised against the prophets in the preceding verse. The objector did not approve of predictions so terribly severe. "It is not strange," says Matthew Henry, "if people that are vicious and debauched covet to have ministers that are altogether such as themselves, for they are willing to believe that God is so too."

I. That the SPIRIT of Divine truth CANNOT BE RESTRAINED. "Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" There is no limit to truth; it is an ocean that has no shore, a field whose everspringing seeds are innumerable. "The Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word."

II. That the PRACTICE of Divine truth CANNOT BUT DO GOOD. "Do not My words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" Though you have never heard the particular truth before, though it may be too severe to please you, though it may clash with all your prejudices and wishes, if you practise it, it will do you good.

1. It is to be practised. It is not merely for speculation, systematising, controversy, and debate, it is for inspiring the activities and ruling the life. It is a code rather than a creed. It must be incarnated, made flesh, and dwell in the land.

2. When practised it is a blessing. "Do not My words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" Yes, they do good. When they are translated, not into languages and creeds, but into living deeds. A man gets good only as he builds up a noble character.

(Homilist.)

The leading circumstances which gave rise to these words was the degeneracy of God's ancient people, the Jews. This degeneracy was very prevalent in the days of Micah, both in the kingdom of Israel and that of Judah. Let it be remembered that the covenant engagements into which the Divine Being enters with man by no means preclude His hatred and condemnation of sin; neither do our covenant engagements with Him exempt us from the liability of falling into sin. Nothing that was said to them by God and His servants met their approbation. Everything was wrong, and, in their vitiated judgment, unlike what it had been. And, to make good their own case, they were presumptuous enough to charge the cause of all their woes upon God; but He nobly vindicated Himself, and tacitly condemned them in these words, "Do not My words," etc. The drift of the text, or the doctrine contained therein, is this, — that however painful and offensive God's Word may be to those who live in the love of sin, it is highly beneficial to those who walk uprightly; and that if it does not please and profit the soul, it is not owing to any defect in the Word, but to some defect in us.

I. TO THE CHARACTER OF AN UPRIGHT MAN. The husbandman, in winnowing his grain for the market, divides one heap into two. The one he calls corn, the other chaff. And thus does the Bible deal with the human family: it divides the whole into two classes — and into two only, as to kind. The one it calls good, the other bad. But the husbandman, by putting his corn through another process or two, divides it into three or more portions, according to its quality. The best he calls saleable; the next best, hinderends; and the rest, hen corn. After the same way does the Bible divide the righteous into classes; and in the same way will they be disposed of at the last day. Nearly all the good men we read of in the Bible and elsewhere excelled in one or two branches of piety; but few excelled in all. Christ, however, did this. An upright man is one who strives to know as much of the will of God as he can, in order that he may live according to it. His main object is to live well and die happy.

1. He is a religious man. Not a mere professor of religion, not one whose opinions have undergone a change for the better, nor one whose morality is of a high and refined order; but a man whose heart and mind, principles and practices have been changed by Divine grace.

2. He is a considerate man — Sensible of the many evils with which he is surrounded, and the proneness of human nature to fall into them, he ponders well the path of his feet. He plans with his head what he executes with his hands. He thinks before he acts. "Thou God seest me" is indelibly engraven on his memory. That he may be found a wise and safe man at last he, at present, considers his ways in his heart (Haggai 1:15).

3. He is a conscientious man. Conscience is prompt in commanding, and he is as prompt in obeying. It speaks, and the upright, God-fearing man responds, "How, then, can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

4. He is a consistent man. He is actuated by principle rather than passion.

II. WE PURPOSE TO SHOW WHETHER SUCH A MAN IS BENEFITED BY THE WORD OF GOD. By the Word of God we understand the Bible. It contains the revelation of His will to and concerning man. And every man who can have the Bible is expected to understand and practise it so far as is essential to his salvation. To an upright man the Word of God proves —

1. An instructive Word. The Bible is professionally a book of instructions. Its instructions relate to the highest subjects — to soul matters and matters of eternity. And, apart from its teachings, we cannot gain the same instructions elsewhere. The upright man is quite alive to this; hence he prizes the Bible, and evinces a peculiar aptness for its teachings. By a prayerful perusal of its sacred pages he becomes possessed of much spiritual and Divine knowledge. And Bible light is the best of light. The knowledge that comes from God is the purest of knowledge. It makes us acquainted with God and His will — with man and his ways — with sin and its consequences — with redemption and its effects. These things are spiritual in their nature, and by the upright man are spiritually discerned.

2. It is a corrective Word. Not only are all men liable to err, but all men have erred; for, "to err is human." Hence all men need correction. But all are not willing to be corrected; Some, however, are, and among these may be ranked the upright. The corrective lessons of the Bible are received by him in the same spirit and with the same thankfulness, as what a traveller who has missed his way evinces when put right. It is in this light especially that God's "words do good to him that walketh uprightly."

3. It is a pacific Word. The midday sun does not bring its rays more gently to bear upon the virgin flower than are the soothing truths of God's Word brought to hear upon the good man's troubled spirit. The gentle rain is not more acceptable to the vegetation of spring than are God's promises to the tried Christian. The healing balm is not more alleviating to the wounded traveller than is God's Word to the expiring pilgrim.In conclusion, observe three things —

1. The Word of God is full of truth and goodness. Its sole object being to make men wise and happy.

2. That it may "not return unto God void, but accomplish that which He pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto He sends it," we must be upright.

3. All may become upright, and thereby enjoy all the blessings of the Bible.

(J. Fawcit.)

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