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5. A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. 2But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. 3Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
4And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. 5And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. 6And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. 7And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.
8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. 9Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. 10And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: 11And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: 12And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: 13Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. 14And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. 15And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
The Increase of the Church; Encouraging Predictions. (b. c. 720.)
7 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. 8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. 9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. 10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: 11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: 12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: 13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. 14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. 15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
Glorious things are here spoken of the remnant of Jacob, that remnant which was raised of her that halted (ch. iv. 7), and it seems to be that remnant which the Lord our God shall call (Joel ii. 32), on whom the Spirit shall be poured out, the remnant that shall be saved, Rom. ix. 27. Note, God's people are but a remnant, a small number in comparison with the many that are left to perish, a little flock; but they are the remnant of Jacob, a people in covenant with God, and in his favour. Now concerning this remnant it is here promised,
I. That they shall be as a dew in the midst of the nations, v. 7. God's church is dispersed all the world over; it is in the midst of many people, as gold in the ore, wheat in the heap. Israel according to the flesh dwelt alone, and was not numbered among the nations; but the spiritual Israel lies scattered in the midst of many people, as the salt of the earth, or as seed sown in the ground, here a grain and there a grain, Hos. ii. 23. Now this remnant shall be as dew from the Lord. 1. They shall be of a heavenly extraction; as dew from the Lord, who is the Father of the rain, and has begotten the drops of the dew, Job xxxviii. 28. They are born from above, and are not of the earth, savouring the things of the earth. 2. They shall be numerous as the drops of dew in a summer's morning. Ps. cx. 3, Thou hast the dew of thy youth. 3. They shall be pure and clear, not muddy and corrupt, but crystal drops, as the water of life. 4. They shall be produced silently and without noise, as the dew that distils insensibly, we know not how; such is the way of the Spirit. 5. They shall live in a continual dependence upon God, and be still deriving from him, as the dew, which tarries not for man, not waits for the sons of men; they shall not rely upon human aids and powers, but on divine grace, for they are, and own that they are, no more than what the free grace of God makes them every day. 6. They shall be great blessings to those among whom they live, as the dew and the showers are to the grass, to make it grow without the help of man, or the sons of men. Their doctrine, example, and prayers, shall make them as dew, to soften and moisten others, and make them fruitful. Their speech shall distil as the dew (Deut. xxxii. 2), and all about them shall wait for them as for the rain, Job xxix. 23. The people among whom they live shall be as the grass, which flourishes only by the blessing of God, and not by the art and care of man; they shall be beneficial to those about them by drawing down God's blessings on them, as Jacob on Laban's house, and by cooling and mitigating God's wrath, which otherwise would burn them up, as the dew preserves the grass from being scorched by the sun; so Dr. Pocock; they shall be mild and gentle in their behaviour, like their Master, who comes down like rain upon the new-mown grass, Ps. lxxii. 6.
II. That they shall be as a lion among the beasts of the forest, that treads down and tears in pieces, v. 8. As they shall be silent, and gentle, and communicative of all good, to those that receive the truth in the love of it, so they shall be bold as a lion in witnessing against the corruptions of the times and places they live in, and strong as a lion, in the strength of God, to resist and overcome their spiritual enemies. The weapons of their warfare are mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. They shall have courage which all their adversaries shall not be able to resist (Luke xxi. 15), as when the lion tears none can deliver. When infidelity is silenced, and all iniquity made to stop her mouth, when sinners are convinced and converted by the power of the gospel, in the doctrine of its ministers and the conversation of its professors, then the remnant of Jacob is like a lion. This is explained, v. 9, Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thy adversaries; the church shall have the upper hand at last of all that oppose her. Her enemies shall be cut off; they shall cease to be enemies; their enmity shall be cut off. Christ's arrows of conviction shall be sharp in their hearts, so that they shall fall under him; they shall yield themselves subjects to him (Ps. xlv. 5) and be happily conquered and subdued, Ps. cx. 2.
III. That they shall be brought off from all carnal confidences, which they have relied on, that by the providence of God they shall enjoy such a security that they shall not need them, and by the grace of God they shall be brought to see the folly of them and come off from them. It was the sin of Israel that they furnished themselves extravagantly with horses and chariots, and were soothsayers and idolaters; see Isa. ii. 6-8. But here it is promised that they shall not regard them any more. The tranquillity of the kingdom of Christ is intended in that promise, which explains this, Zech. ix. 10, I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. Note, It is a great mercy to be deprived of those things in which we have reposed a confidence in competition with God, which we have made our arm, and after which we have gone a whoring from God. Let us observe the particulars:— 1. They had trusted in chariots and horses, and multiplied them (Ps. xx. 7); but now God will cut off their horses, and destroy their chariots (v. 10), as David houghed the chariot-horses, 2 Sam. viii. 4. They shall not have them, lest they should be tempted to trust in them. 2. They depended upon their strongholds, and fortified cities, for their security; but God will take care that they be demolished (v. 11): I will cut off the cities of thy land; I will throw down thy strongholds. They shall have them for habitations, but not for garrisons, for God will be their only place of defence, their high tower, and their deliverer. 3. Many of them depended much upon the conduct and advice of their conjurors, diviners, and fortune-tellers; and those God will cut off, not only as weak things, and insufficient to relieve them, but as wicked things, and sufficient to ruin them (v. 12): "I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy hand, that thou shalt no more take hold of them, and stay thyself upon them, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers, for thou shalt be convinced that all their pretensions are a cheat." The justice of the nation shall cut them off according to law, Lev. xx. 27. The preaching of the gospel brought men off from using curious arts, Acts xix. 19. 4. Many of them had said to the work of their hands, You are our gods; but now idolatry shall be abolished and abandoned (v. 13): "Thy graven images will I cut off, and thy standing images, both those that were movable and those that were fixed; they shall be destroyed by the power of the law of Moses and deserted by the power of the gospel of Christ, so that thou shalt no more worship the work of thy hands, but be ashamed that ever thou hast been so deluded. Among other monuments of idolatry, I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee," v. 14. These were planted and preserved in honour of their idols, and used in the worship of them; these they were ordered to burn (Deut. xii. 2, 3), and, if they do not, God will, so that they shall not have them to trust to. And so will I destroy their cities, meaning the cities that were dedicated to the idols, to some dunghill-deity or other, which they confided in for their protection.
IV. That those who stand it out against the gospel of Christ, and continue in league with their idolatries and witchcrafts, shall fall under the wrath of God, and be consumed by it (v. 15): I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen (that is, upon heathenism), such as they have not heard; idolatries shall be done away, and idolaters put to shame. I will execute vengeance upon the heathen who have not heard (so some read it), or who would not hear and receive the doctrine of Christ. God will give his Son either the hearts or the necks of his enemies, and make them either his friends or his footstool.