God, having shown them how necessary it was that they should do justly, here shows them how plain it was that they had done unjustly; and since they submitted not to his controversy, nor went the right way to have it taken up, here he proceeds in it. Observe,
I. How the action is entered against them, Mic. 6:9. God speaks to the city, to Jerusalem, to Samaria. His voice cries to it by his servants the prophets who were to cry aloud and not spare. Note, The voice of the prophets is the Lord’s voice, and that cries to the city, cries to the country. Doth not wisdom cry? Prov. 8:1. When the sin of a city cries to God his voice cries against the city; and, when the judgments of God are coming upon a city, his voice first cries unto it. He warns before he wounds, because he is not willing that any should perish. Now observe, 1. How the voice of God is discerned by some: The man of wisdom will see thy name. When the voice of God cries to us we may by it see his name, may discern and perceive that by which he makes himself known. Yet many see it not, are not aware of it, because they do not regard it. God speaks once, yea, twice, and they perceive it not (Job 33:14); but those that are men of wisdom will see it, and perceive it, and make a good use of it. Note, It is a point of true wisdom to discover the name of God in the voice of God, and to learn what he is from what he says. Wisdom shall see thy name, for the knowledge of the holy is understanding. 2. What this voice of God says to all: “Hear you the rod, and who hath appointed it. Hear the rod when it is coming; hear it at a distance, before you see it and feel it; and be awakened to go forth to meet the Lord in the way of his judgments. Hear the rod when it has come, and is actually upon you, and you are sensible of the smart of it; hear what it says to you, what convictions, what counsels, what cautions, it speaks to you.” Note, Every rod has a voice, and it is the voice of God that is to be heard in the rod of God, and it is well for those that understand the language of it, which if we would do we must have an eye to him that appointed it. Note, Every rod is appointed, of what kind it shall be, where it shall light, and how long it shall lie. God in every affliction performs the thing that is appointed for us (Job 23:14), and to him therefore we must have an eye, to him we must have an ear; we must hear what he says to us by the affliction. Hear it, and know it for thy good, Job 5:27. The work of ministers is to explain the providences of God and to quicken and direct men to learn the lessons that are taught by them.
II. What is the ground of the action, and what are the things that are laid to their charge.
1. They are charged with injustice, a sin against the second table. Are there yet to be found among them the marks and means of fraudulent dealing? What! after all the methods that God has taken to teach them to do justly, will they yet deal unjustly? It seems, they will, Mic. 6:10. And shall I count them pure? 6:11. No; this is a sin which will by no means consist with a profession of purity. Those that are dishonest in their dealings have not the spots of God’s children, and shall never be reckoned pure, whatever shows of devotion they may make. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. When a man is suspected of theft, or fraud, the justice of peace will send a warrant to search his house. God here does, as it were, search the houses of those citizens, and there he finds, (1.) Treasures of wickedness, abundance of wealth, but it is ill-got, and not likely to prosper; for treasures of wickedness profit nothing. (2.) A scant measure, by which they sold to the poor, and so exacted upon them and cheated them. (3.) They had wicked balances and a bag of false weights, by which, under a pretence of weighing what they sold, and giving the buyer what was right, they did him the greatest wrong, Mic. 6:11. (4.) Those that had wealth and power in their hands abused it to oppression and extortion; The rich men thereof are full of violence; for those that have much would have more, and are in a capacity of making it more by the power which their abundance of wealth gives them. They are full of violence, that is, they have their houses full of that which is got by violence. (5.) Those that had not the advantage of doing wrong by their wealth yet found means of defrauding those they dealt with: The inhabitants thereof have spoken lies; if they are not able to use force and violence, they use fraud and deceit; the inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth; they do not stick at a deliberate lie, to make a good bargain. Some understand it of their speaking falsely concerning God, saying, The Lord seeth not; he hath forsaken the earth, Ezek. 8:12.
2. They are charged with idolatry (Mic. 6:6): The statutes of Omri are kept, and all the work of the house of Ahab. Both these kings were wicked, and did evil in the sight of the Lord; but the wickedness which they established by a law, concerning which they made statutes, and which was the peculiar work of that house, was idolatry. Omri walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin of provoking God to anger with their vanities, 1 Kgs. 16:26, 31. Ahab introduced the worship of Baal. These reigns were some ages before the time when this prophet lived, and yet the wickedness which they established by their laws and examples remained to this day; those statutes were still kept, and that work was still done; and the princes and people still walked in their counsels, took the same measures, and governed themselves and the people by the same politics. Observe, (1.) The same wickedness continued from one generation to another. Sin is a root of bitterness, soon planted, but not so soon plucked up again. The iniquity of former ages is often transmitted to, and entailed upon, the succeeding ones. Those that make corrupt laws, and bring in corrupt usages, are doing that which perhaps may prove the ruin of the child unborn. (2.) It was not the less evil in itself, provoking to God, and dangerous to the sinners, for its having been established and confirmed by the laws of princes, the examples of great men, and a long prescription. Though the worship of idols is enacted by the statutes of Omri, recommended by the practice of the house of Ahab, and pleads that it has been the usage of many generations, yet it is still displeasing to God and destructive to Israel; for no laws nor customs are of force against the divine command.
III. What is the judgment given upon this. Being found guilty of these crimes, the sentence is that that which God had given them warning of (Mic. 6:9) shall be brought upon them (Mic. 6:13): Therefore also will I make thee sick, in smiting thee. As they had smitten the poor with the rod of their oppressions, so would God in like manner smite them, so as to make them sick, sick of the gains they had unjustly gotten, so that though they had swallowed down riches they should vomit them up again, Job 20:15. Their doom is,
1. That what they have they shall not have any comfortable enjoyment of; it shall do them no good. They grasped at more than enough, but, when they have it, it shall not be enough to make them easy and happy. What is got by fraud and oppression cannot be kept or enjoyed with any satisfaction. (1.) Their food shall not nourish them: Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied, either because the food shall not digest, for want of God’s blessing going along with it, or because the appetite shall by disease be made insatiable and still craving, the just punishment of those that were greedy of gain and enlarged their desires as hell. Men may be surfeited with the good things of this world and yet not satisfied, Eccl. 5:10; Isa. 55:2. (2.) Their country shall not harbour and protect them: “Thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee, that is, thou shalt be broken and ruined by the intestine troubles, mischiefs at home enough to cast thee down, though thou shouldst not be invaded by a foreign force.” God can cast a nation down by that which is in the midst of them, can consume them by a fire in their own bowels. (3.) They shall not be able to preserve what they have from a foreign force, nor to recover what they have lost: “Thou shalt take hold of what is about to be taken from thee, but thou shalt not hold it fast, shalt catch at it, but shalt not deliver it, shalt not retrieve it.” It is meant of their wives and children, that were very dear to them, which they took hold of, as resolved not to part with them, but there is no remedy, they must go into captivity. Note, What we hold closest we commonly lose soonest, and that proves least safe which is most dear. (4.) What they save for a time shall be reserved for a future and sorer stroke: That which thou deliverest out of the hand of one enemy will I give up to the sword of another enemy; for God has many arrows in his quiver; if one miss the sinner, the next shall not. (5.) What they have laboured for they shall not enjoy (Mic. 6:15): “Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; it shall be blasted and withered, and there shall be nothing to reap, or an enemy shall come and reap it for himself, or thou shalt be carried into captivity, and leave it to be reaped by thou knowest not whom. Thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with oil, having no heart to make use of ornaments and refreshments when all is going to ruin. Thou shalt tread out the sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine, for many things may fall between the cup and the lip.” Note, It is very grievous to be disappointed of our expectations, and not to have the pleasure of that which we have taken pains for; and this will be the just punishment of those that frustrate God’s expectations from them, and answer not the cost he has been at upon them. See this threatened in the law, Lev. 26:16; Deut. 28:30, 38; and compare Isa. 62:8, 9.
2. That all they have shall at length be taken from them (Mic. 6:13): Thou shalt be made desolate because of thy sins; and Mic. 6:16; a desolation and a hissing. Sin makes a nation desolate; and when a people that have been famous and flourishing are made desolate it is the astonishment of some and the triumph of others; some lament it, and others hiss at it. Thus you shall bear the reproach of my people. Their being the people of God, in name and profession while they kept close to their duty and kept themselves in his love, was an honour to them, and all their neighbours thought it so; but now that they have corrupted and ruined themselves, now that their sins and God’s judgments have made their land desolate, their having been once the people of God does but turn so much the more to their reproach; their enemies will say, These are the people of the Lord, Ezek. 36:20. Note, If professors of religion ruin themselves, their ruin will be the most reproachful of any; and they in a special manner will rise at the last day to everlasting shame and contempt.