Here is, I. The injustice of man contriving the evil of sin, Mic. 2:1, 2. God was coming forth against this people to destroy them, and here he shows what was the ground of his controversy with them; it is that which is often mentioned as a sin that hastens the ruin of nations and families as much as any, the sin of oppression. Let us see the steps of it. 1. They eagerly desire that which is not their own—that is the root of bitterness, the root of all evil, Mic. 2:2. They covet fields and houses, as Ahab did Naboth’s vineyard. “Oh that such a one’s field and house were mine! It lies convenient for me, and I would manage it better than he does; it is fitter for me than for him.” 2. They set their wits on work to invent ways of accomplishing their desire (Mic. 2:4); they devise iniquity with a great deal of cursed art and policy; they plot how to do it effectually, and yet so as not to expose themselves, or bring themselves into danger, or under reproach, by it. This is called working evil! they are working it in their heads, in their families, and are as intent upon it, and with as much pleasure, as if they were doing it, and are as confident of their success (so wisely do they think they have laid the scheme) as if it were assuredly done. Note, It is bad to do mischief upon a sudden thought, but much worse to devise it, to do it with design and deliberation; when the craft and subtlety of the old serpent appear with his poison and venom, it is wickedness in perfection. They devised it upon their beds, when they should have been asleep; care to compass a mischievous design held their eyes waking. Upon their beds, where they should have been remembering God, and meditating upon him, where they should have been communing with their own hearts and examining them, they were devising iniquity. It is of great consequence to improve and employ the hours of our retirement and solitude in a proper manner. 3. They employ their power in executing what they have designed and contrived; they practise the iniquity they have devised, because it is in the power of their hand; they find that they can compass it by the help of their wealth, and the authority and interest they have, and that none dare control them, or call them to an account for it; and this, they think, will justify them and bear them out in it. Note, It is the mistake of many to think that as they can do they may do; whereas no power is given for destruction, but all for edification. 4. They are industrious and very expeditious in accomplishing the iniquity they have devised; when they have settled the matter in their thoughts, in their beds, they lose no time, but as soon as the morning is light they practice it; they are up early in the prosecution of their designs, and what ill their hand finds to do they do it with all their might, which shames our slothfulness and dilatoriness in doing good, and should shame us out of them. In the service of God, and our generation, let it never be said that we left that to be done to-morrow which we could do to-day. 5. They stick at nothing to compass their designs; what they covet they take away, if they can, and, (1.) They care not what wrong they do, though it be ever so gross and open; they take away men’s fields by violence, not only by fraud, and underhand practices and colour of law, but by force and with a high hand. (2.) They care not to whom they do wrong nor how far the iniquity extends which they devise: They oppress a man and his house; they rob and ruin those that have numerous families to maintain, and are not concerned though they send them and their wives and children a begging. They oppress a man and his heritage; they take away from men that which they have an unquestionable title to, having received it from their ancestors, and which they have but in trust, to transmit it to their posterity; but those oppressors care not how many they impoverish, so they may but enrich themselves. Note, If covetousness reigns in the heart, commonly all compassion is banished from it; and if any man love this world, as the love of the Father, so the love of his neighbour is not in him.
II. The justice of God contriving the evil of punishment for this sin (Mic. 2:3): Therefore thus saith the Lord, the righteous God, that judges between man and man, and is an avenger on those that do wrong, Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, that is, against the whole kingdom, the house of Israel, and particularly those families in it that were cruel and oppressive. They unjustly devise evil against their brethren, and God will justly devise evil against them. Infinite Wisdom will so contrive the punishment of their sin that it shall be very sure, and such as cannot be avoided, very severe, and such as they cannot bear, very signal and remarkable, and such as shall be universally observed to answer to the sin. The more there appears of a wicked wit in the sin the more there shall appear of a holy wisdom and fitness in the punishment; for the Lord will be known by the judgments he executes; he will be owned by them. 1. He finds them very secure, and confident that they shall in some way or other escape the judgment, or, though they fall under it, shall soon throw it off and get clear of it, and therefore he tells them, It is an evil from which they shall not remove their neck. They were children of Belial, that would not endure the easy yoke of God’s righteous commands, but broke those bonds asunder, and cast away those cords from them; and therefore God will lay upon them the heavy yoke of his righteous judgments, and they shall not be able to withdraw their necks from that; those that will not be overruled shall be overcome. 2. He finds them very proud and stately, and therefore he tells them that they shall not go haughtily, with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go (Isa. 3:16); for this time is evil, and the events of it are very humbling and mortifying, and such as will bring down the stoutest spirit. 3. He finds them very merry and jovial, and therefore tells them their note shall be changed, their laughter shall be turned into mourning and their joy into heaviness (Mic. 2:4): In that day, when God comes to punish you for your oppression, shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, with a lamentation of lamentations (so the word is), a most lamentable lamentation, as a song of songs is a most pleasing song. Their enemies shall insult over them, and make a jest of their griefs, for they shall take up a parable against them. Their friends shall mourn over them, and lay to heart their calamities, and this shall be the general cry, “We are utterly spoiled; we are all undone.” Note, Those that were most haughty and secure in their prosperity are commonly most dejected and most ready to despair in their adversity. 4. He finds them very rich in houses and lands, which they have gained by oppression, and therefore tells them that they shall be stripped of all. (1.) They shall, in their despair, give it all up; they shall say, We are utterly spoiled; he has changed the portion of my people, so that it is now no longer theirs, but it is in the possession and occupation of their enemies: How has he removed it from me! How suddenly, how powerfully! What is unjustly got by us will not long continue with us; the righteous God will remove it. Turning away from us in wrath, he has divided our fields, and given them into the hands of strangers. Woe to those from whom God turns away. The margin reads it, “Instead of restoring, he has divided our fields; instead of putting us again in the possession of our estates, he has confirmed those in the possession of them that have taken them from us.” Note, It is just with God that those who have dealt fraudulently and violently with others should themselves be dealt fraudulently and violently with. (2.) God shall ratify what they say in their despair (Mic. 2:5); so it shall be: Thou shalt have none to cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord, none to divide inheritances, because there shall be no inheritances to divide, no courts to try titles to lands, or determine controversies about them, or cast lots upon them, as in Joshua’s time, for all shall be in the enemies’ hand. This land, which should be taken from them, they had not only an unquestionable title to, but a very comfortable enjoyment of, for it was in the congregation of the Lord, or rather the congregation of the Lord was in it; it was God’s land; it was a holy land, and therefore it was the more grievous to them to be turned out of it. Note, Those are to be considered the sorest calamities which cut us off from the congregation of the Lord, or cut us short in the enjoyment of the privileges of it.