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In that day, says the Lord,

I will cut off your horses from among you

and will destroy your chariots;

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There is introduced here a most necessary admonition, in order that the faithful may know, how they are to be preserved by the hand and favor of God, even when they shall be stripped of all their helps, yea, even when God shall take away all those impediments, which would otherwise close up the way against his favor. The sum of the whole then is, — that the Church shall not otherwise be saved by God’s kindness than by being deprived of all her strength and defenses, and also by having her obstacles removed by God, even those which in a manner prevented his hand from being put forth to save his people. For the Prophet mentions here cities, then fortified places, he mentions horses and chariots. These, we know, are not in themselves to be condemned: but he means, that as the people foolishly placed confidence in earthly things, the salvation of God could not otherwise come to them than by stripping them of all vain and false confidence. This is one thing. Then, on the other hand, he mentions groves, he mentions carved images and statues, he mentions augurs and diviners: these were corruptions, which closed the door against the favor of God; for a people, given to idolatry, could not call upon God nor hope in him as the author of salvation. We now then perceive the Prophet’s design. It now remains for me to run over the words.

He says first, It shall be in that day, saith Jehovah, that I will cut off thine horses 154154     As a curious instance of ingenuity and extravagance in allegorizing, practiced by some of the Fathers, Jerome’s interpretation of this verse may be mentioned: the horses were lascivious lusts; the chariots, sins joined together in which the wicked, as it were, ride and triumph; the cities, such as that built by Cain, not like the heavenly Jerusalem; and the strongholds, were riches and the pomps of the world, the eloquence of orators and the tenterhooks of dialecticians! — Ed. Here the Prophet enumerates those things which could not in themselves be ascribed to any thing wrong: for as God has created horses for the use of men, so also he allows them to be for our service. Why then does the Prophet say, that the Church could not be delivered, except horses were taken away? It was owing to an accidental fault; for when men abound in forces, they instantly fix their hope on them. As then such an abuse of God’s gifts had prevailed among the people of Israel, it was necessary that horses should be taken away. God indeed could have humbled their minds or withdrawn their confidence from their horses and chariots: but it hence appears how deep are the roots of presumption in the hearts of men, that they cannot be otherwise torn up, than by having the things themselves cut off. To have horses and to have chariots is the bounty of God: for how can we have chariots and horses and other things, except through God’s kindness? And yet God cannot find a way by which he can do us good, except by taking away his former gifts. Here then Micah touches the hearts of the people much more sharply than before, when he says, that salvation cannot proceed from the Lord, except their horses were destroyed; as though he said, — “Ye see how great is your wickedness; God has hitherto dealt bountifully with you, since he has enriched you, and has also given you horses. Now as he sees that you abuse these gifts, he complains that all ways of access to you are closed up, as ye do not receive his kindness. Inasmuch as your horses and your chariots engross your attention, ye in a manner drive God far away from you. That he may therefore come to you, he will open a way for himself by removing all the obstacles and hindrances.”

We hence learn, that though all God’s benefits ought to raise us up to heaven, serving as kinds of vehicles, they are yet turned, through our wickedness, to another purpose, and are made intervening obstacles between us and God. Hereby then is our ingratitude proved; and hence it comes, that God, when he intends to make his salvation known to us is in a manner constrained to take away and remove from us his benefits. We now then understand what the Prophet had in view when he mentioned horses and chariots. For he does not threaten here, as some think, that the people would be merely deprived of all God’s gifts that they might see in their destitution and want only signs of a curse; by no means, but it is rather a promise, that is, that God will turn aside all impediments by which he was for a time prevented from bringing help to his people. This doctrine ought at the same time to avail for bringing no ordinary comfort. It is hard and bitter to the flesh to be brought down. Hence the people of Israel were little able at first to bear their lot with submission, when they saw themselves stripped of God’s benefits: but the Prophet sets before them a compensations which was capable of soothing all their grief, — “This,” he says, “shall be for your chief good — that God will deprive you of horses and chariots; for the way which your horses and chariots now occupy shall be cleared. While ye are replenished with abundant forces, ye drive away God far from you, and there is no way open for him. He will therefore prepare a way for himself; and this will be the case when your land shall be made naked, when nothing will intervene to prevent him from coming to you.”