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lips ; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. And I
heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who
will go for us ? Then I said, Here am I ; send me."

Then the Lord gives him his solemn com-
mission as a prophet to the people, and his life
work begins.

Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham,
Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His call came to him before
the captivity of the northern kingdom, but his
words do not often refer to the Israelites, only
to Judah and Jerusalem. When he speaks of
" Israel," or the " house of Jacob," he is generally
referring to all God's people as a whole.

Some of the lessons which Isaiah enforces had
already been taught by Amos and Hosea. But
every prophet has his own special message, and
his way of delivering it is also God's gift. Isaiah
saw very deeply into the meaning of all the events



Isaiah the Statesman 49

that were passing around him, and some great
truths stand out most clearly in his prophecies.

One of these truths is the greatness and
majesty of God. Isaiah realized His overruling
sovereignty, to which all nations must be subject.
He saw, as Amos and Hosea had seen, the sin-
fulness of the people, and he felt that it was
stupidity and ignorance which prevented them
from recognizing that they could not stand against
God. He impressed upon them the duty of
humility (ii. 10, n)

" Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust,
For fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty.
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,
And the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down,
And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."

The same sins appear in the book of Isaiah
that we read of in the two former books. Like
Amos, he knows that judgment must fall unless
the people will turn and let the stream of
righteousness flow down. Like Hosea, he knows
that God is waiting to forgive if only they will be
willing and obedient (i. 18)



50 The Work of the Prophets

" Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord,

Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ;
Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Isaiah constantly calls upon the people to have
faith in God, to trust in Him, and all will be
well (xxx. 15)

" In returning and rest shal I ye be saved :
In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."

And now we may ask, what was Isaiah's belief
as to the future of the people to whom God was
sending all these messages ? Would they attend
to the prophet's words, or would those words fall
on deaf ears, as the prophecies of Amos and Hosea
had done ?

From the time of his first call he had a certain
hope that not all the people were doomed to
punishment. Some there were, a faithful remnant,
who would listen to God's words, and would be
saved by their " quietness and confidence " in Him.
And when you read the book of Isaiah for your-
selves, you will see how this thought comes back
again and again, and the beautiful pictures which
he draws of a redeemed and purified remnant help



Isaiah the Statesman 51

to keep hope alive in our hearts too. The words
of the Hebrew prophets would make us too sad
if it were not that sometimes we seem to see the
curtain drawn away which hides the future, and
goodness and peace and love reign there, instead
of selfishness and greed and pride and cruelty.

The history of Judah during Isaiah's lifetime
may be read in the second book of Kings. But
we will recall one incident which shews us in what
way Isaiah tried to guide the kings, and to make
them understand what was God's will for them.
It was during the reign of Ahaz, the grandson of
Uzziah, that Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin,
the king of Syria, joined together and went up to
Jerusalem to war against it. This alarmed Ahaz,
and in the graphic words of the Bible we read :
" His heart was moved, and the heart of his
people, as the trees of the forest are moved
with the wind " (Is. vii. 2). Then God sent Isaiah,
and his son Shear-jashub with him, to go and
meet Ahaz, and say

" Take heed, and be quiet ;
Fear not, neither let thy heart faint , . ,



52 The Work of the Prophets

It shall not stand,

Neither shall it come to pass . . .

If ye will not believe,

Surely ye shall not be established."

Ahaz was in God's hands ; these other kings
were to have no power to injure him and his
people, if he would only trust in God.

But Ahaz was weak and wicked, and would
not attend to God's voice. Isaiah told him most
plainly that the kings of Israel and Syria were
not to be feared, that they were to be themselves
destroyed. Ahaz persisted in sending for aid to
the Assyrians, that strong nation beyond the desert
to the east, who had already made incursions against
Syria and Palestine. The Assyrians came at once,
and slew Rezin and Pekah, and conquered their
countries ; Ahaz was delivered, but he had to pay
tribute to the conquering power, and was no longer
an independent ruler, owning allegiance only to
the King of kings. Isaiah had urged upon Ahaz
to confide wholly in God, and not to look for
outside help in his difficulty. But when Ahaz
disregarded his advice, Isaiah realized that the



Isaiah the Statesman 53

Assyrians too were under the rule of Jehovah,
the one God. From this time onwards, he
steadily impressed upon the king and his
successor to be faithful to the covenant with
Assyria, and not to try to throw off their yoke.

Ahaz was succeeded by his son Hezekiah, in
715 B.C., seven years after the fall of Samaria, and
the captivity of the northern people. Hezekiah
was anxious at one time to call in the aid of Egypt
to help him against the Assyrians. But Isaiah
prevented his doing this in a very strange way.
The dignified prophet appeared in the midst of
the people in the unexpected garb of a prisoner of
war. He had cast off his prophet's mantle, and
wore only his inner garment. He declared that
God's message to Hezekiah and his people was
that the Egyptians would be led away prisoners
by the Assyrians (xx. 1-6). This was a parable in
action, and was meant to teach the people that it
was vain to trust to the help of the Egyptians
against the conquering people whom God had
allowed to gain supremacy over His own nation.
But though Isaiah saw clearly that the Assyrians



54 The Work of the Prophets

were acting by God's permission, he also knew
that they were not to be allowed to destroy the
southern kingdom as yet. In God's own time
that would come, but not till religion had been
more firmly established in the land.

After some time Hezekiah did revolt against
Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, and Jerusalem
was in great danger. A besieging army was
actually outside the walls of the city. Then
Isaiah raised his voice with a strengthening mes-
sage from the Lord God of Israel. The As-
syrians had done great things, but it had all
been by God's guiding power, to fulfil His
purpose (xxxvii. 26)

" Hast thou not heard long ago,
How I have done it ;

And of ancient times, that I have formed it ?
Now have I brought it to pass. . . . ''

But now the proud nation was to learn that
they could not prevail against God (xxxvii. 29)

" I will put My hook in thy nose,
And My bridle in thy lips,
And I will turn thee back
By the way by which thou earnest."



Isaiah the Statesman 55

And so it was. By the direct hand of God,
the besieging army was struck down, probably by
a pestilence, and forced to relinquish the siege.
Jerusalem was delivered ; and Hezekiah and his
people knew that it was God's doing. This bit
of history can be read in the second book of
Kings, as well as in the book of Isaiah. It is
introduced here to teach us that wars and political
events are all under the controlling power of God.
Nation may rise against nation, may make treaties
and break them, but only so far as God allows.
This is one of Isaiah's most urgent lessons, and in
all the important events of the national life, he
never ceased to remind king and people of this
truth.

You should read for yourselves the story of
Hezekiah's illness and Isaiah's mission to him then
(xxxviii.),and also of the king of Babylon's embassy,
and of Isaiah's solemn prophecy which followed
that embassy (xxxix.). For the rest of this chapter
we must turn to some other of the prophecies,
which are among the most beautiful in the book.

Do you remember the words of Zacharias,



56 The Work of the Prophets

the father of John the Baptist, which we read
in the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, and
which we sing in our Morning Service, under the
name of Benedictus ? Zacharias is there speaking
of the Lord God as having visited and redeemed
His people

" And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of

His servant David ;

As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been
since the world began."

Zacharias refers to the birth of our Saviour
Christ, which, as you know, followed the birth of
John the Baptist by a few months. And what
does he mean by saying

" As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets " ?

We are often told in the New Testament that
the birth of Jesus, and the salvation of the world,
had been foretold by the writers in the Old Testa-
ment. But Amos and Hosea do not in their books
say anything expressly about the coming of the
Messiah. When we come to Isaiah it is different,
and in some of his writings we find predictions of



Isaiah the Statesman 57

a Son of David, of a King ruling in righteousness,
which have been only fulfilled by the coming of
the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom

^ O

upon earth. This is why the Church has appointed
lessons from this book to be read on Christmas
Day. Let us look more closely at these passages,
to learn both what Isaiah meant when he first
spoke the words, and how far they apply to our
Saviour Christ.

In the seventh chapter we read, on the occasion
when Isaiah went out to meet Ahaz, that he told
the king that the Lord would give him a sign to
shew that he need not fear the power of Syria and
of Israel. The sign would be that within a short
time a child should be born who should be called
Immanuel, a name meaning " God is with us."
In the picture at the beginning of this book you
will see that the prophet is pointing upwards. In
the original picture, from which this is taken,
Isaiah is pointing to a vision of the Virgin and
Infant Christ in the stable at Bethlehem. This
prophecy was evidently meant to encourage Ahaz
to trust in God, and to remind him of His abiding



58 The Work of the Prophets

presence with His people. And in the next
chapter, when Isaiah is speaking of the king of
Assyria's coming into the land of Judah like a
flood, he again uses this name

" And the stretching out of his wings
Shall fill the breadth of Thy land,
O Immanuel."

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, more than
seven hundred years later, the evangelist St.
Matthew remembered this prophecy of Isaiah's, and
saw that it was now literally fulfilled. It was being
fulfilled all down the ages, as those who were
faithful to God found by experience. He was ever
Immanuel, God with them, delivering them from
dangers, and letting them feel His Presence through
all their trials and sufferings. But it could not be
entirely fulfilled until the Incarnation, when the
Son of God took our nature upon Him, and taught
us the blessed truth that He dwells in us, and
we in Him.

The next passage is part of the ninth chapter,
which is also read in Church on Christmas Day.



Isaiah the Statesman 59

This is one of those prophecies where, as was said
before, the veil seems drawn away from the future,
for the encouragement of sad hearts. The prophet
cries out

" The people that walked in darkness
Have seen a great light :

They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them hath the light shined. ..."

Why?

" For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given :

And the government shall be upon His shoulder,
And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

In the picture you will see how all the faces
are turned in one direction. These represent
those who, dwelling in darkness, are looking to
the East, and see a great light.

When Isaiah had this vision of the Righteous
King, who should be wise in counsel, mighty in
power, a Father to His people, and securing peace
to His kingdom, he was looking for an earthly ruler
of the family of David. This is one of the earliest
of the prophecies which speaks clearly of a Messiah



60 The Work of the Prophets

to come, an Anointed One, as the name means,
who should rule over Judah as God's representa-
tive, and according to His will. He must be of
the family of David, and righteousness and peace
must reign in the kingdom. The hope of this
Messiah to come sustained the hearts of the Jews
after their kingdom was destroyed, and was still
strong when our Lord was born, as a Son of
David. When He began to speak and teach
about the kingdom of God, His followers learned
that the Messiah had come. He would not
establish an earthly kingdom, as they fondly
hoped, but a heavenly kingdom, over the hearts
and wills of men. Here God would be their
King and their Father, and the laws of that
kingdom would all be righteous, and the citizens
of it would have peace with one another, and in
their own souls. And we all are bound to live as
faithful citizens of that heavenly kingdom, and
also to do our part in bringing the time nearer
when " the kingdoms of this world shall become
the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"
(Rev. xi. 15).



Isaiah the Statesman 61

One more utterance of the Lord God, speaking
by the mouth of His holy prophet Isaiah, must
be quoted here from the eleventh chapter

" And there shall come forth a Shoot out of the stock of Jesse,
And a Branch out of his roots shall bear fruit :
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and

might,

The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord ;
And His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord :
And He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes,
Neither reprove after the hearing of His ears :
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor,
And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth ;
And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins,
And faithfulness the girdle of His reins.
And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid j
And the calf and the young lion and the falling together ;
And a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed ;
Their young ones shall lie down together :
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,
And the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy
In all My holy mountain :



62 The Work of the Prophets

For, the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,

As the waters cover the sea.

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,

Which shall stand for an ensign of the people ;

Unto Him shall the nations seek ;

And His resting place shall be glorious."

This is one of those passages in the Bible which
we shall do well to read over and over again, until
we have made it real to ourselves. It is a great
contrast to the actual state of things which Isaiah
saw around him in Judah and Jerusalem. He
looks forward into the future, and sees at the
head of the kingdom a ruler upon whom rest all
those gifts of the Spirit for which we pray in our
Confirmation Service. " His delight is in the
fear of the Lord ; " this inspires all his work.
He is just in judgment, he cares for the poor and
the meek. He is faithful to all his responsibilities.
And under his firm and loving rule there is peace
and harmony throughout the kingdom. Even
the wild animals are tame and gentle, there is no
strife between God's creatures. The little children
are safe at play with asps and adders, which we



Isaiah the Statesman 63

know to be so dangerous. There is no hurting
or destruction in all the land. And how has all
this come about ? It is because " the earth is full
of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover
the sea."

Has it ever been realized, this lovely vision
which God revealed to Isaiah ? Not yet. But it
is what we must all pray and work for, for we
know that under Christ's rule all things are
possible. " The best is yet to be," says the poet
Browning, and we are looking forward to better
and better things as the years go on, and the earth
gets more full of the knowledge of the Lord.



CHAPTER V

MICAH THE COURAGEOUS

WHEN we turn from the prophet Isaiah, the
statesman, the dweller in cities, the adviser of
kings, to the prophet Micah, we find a contrast
and yet a resemblance between the two. Micah
lived and prophesied just at the same time as
Isaiah. But his life and surroundings seem to have
been quite different. He was a countryman like
Amos, and he rebuked many of the sins which
the herdsman-prophet had denounced. We spoke
fully of the teaching of Amos, because he was our
first writing prophet, and what was said of him, is
equally true of many of his successors. Isaiah
had seen and denounced the luxury and self-
indulgence, the cruelty and injustice of the people.
Micah feels these things most keenly, partly,

64



Micah the Courageous 65

perhaps, because he was a countryman himself, and
may have seen his friends suffering at the hands
of their richer neighbours. His book is full of
words like these (ii. I, 2)

" Woe to them that devise iniquity,
And work evil upon their beds ! . . .
And they covet fields and take them by violence ;
And houses, and take them away ;
So they oppress a man and his house,
Even a man and his heritage."

Injustice, practised by those who have more
wealth and power against the poorer and weaker,
is a sin God will not suffer, and He is continually
sending His prophets to warn the people against it.

There is no history introduced into the book
of Micah, as there is in Isaiah, but we come across
a very interesting reference to this prophet in the
book of Jeremiah, who lived a hundred years later.

In Jeremiah we read that on one occasion,
when he had spoken out very plainly about the
judgment that must fall upon Jerusalem unless
the people would repent, the prophet's life was in
danger from " the priests and the prophets and all

F



66 The Work of the Prophets

the people " (Jer. xxvi.). But he was saved by
certain of the elders of the land, who rose up and
reminded the people of Micah the Morasthite.
They remembered that Micah had prophesied in
the same way as Jeremiah, foretelling that Zion and
Jerusalem would be destroyed for the sins of the
people. This had been in the days of Hezekiah,
King of Judah. But Hezekiah had not put Micah
to death for his bold words. On the contrary, he
gave heed to them, and repented and made a re-
ligious reformation in his land, and destroyed some
of the idolatrous images which the people were
tempted to worship. It is interesting to know that
this reformation was in consequence of Micah's
preaching, and it shews us that not all the kings
turned a deaf ear to the message of the prophets.

It seems as if Micah must have come up from
his country home to Jerusalem at least on this
occasion. We nowhere read that Isaiah and he
met there, or elsewhere. But we are quite sure,
from their books, that they were in sympathy with
one another, and were equally grieved by many
things which they saw going on in the land.



Micah the Courageous 67

Micah, however, speaks more strongly and certainly
about the destruction which must come upon Jeru-
salem. Isaiah felt sure the city would be delivered.
And so it was, at the last moment, from the
Assyrian attack. But Micah was right, too, for
in little more than a century the people of Judah
were carried away captive by the Chaldaeans.

There are two passages in the book of Micah
which we ought to examine more closely. One
is a beautiful vision in the fourth chapter, part of
which we also find almost word for word in the
book of Isaiah. We do not know whether the
vision was granted to Micah or to Isaiah, or if
they both copied it from some older prophet.
But this makes no difference. God revealed it to
His prophets, and it is a beautiful picture, which
helped to make them strong and hopeful when
things looked dark and threatening around them.

" In the latter days it shall come to pass,
That the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the

top of the mountains,
And it shall be exalted above the hills j and peoples shall flow

unto it.
And many nations shall go and say,



68 The Work of the Prophets

Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

And to the house of the God of Jacob j

And He will teach us of His ways,

And we will walk in His paths :

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

And the word of the Lord from ^Jerusalem.

And He shall judge beween many peoples,

And shall reprove strong nations afar off ;

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks :

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war any more.

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig

tree;
And none shall make them afraid : for the mouth of the Lord of

hosts hath spoken it. 1 '

It brings strength and consolation to read
such a description of the peace and glad content
which lie in the future for that faithful remnant
who go on serving and trusting the Lord through
all difficulties and temptations. And it gives us
a vision of a time when many nations will say,
" Come ye, let us go up to the house of God," to
learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. Of
course the Hebrew prophets thought that all the
heathen nations must come to Jerusalem to learn
faith in God. We know now that the knowledge



Micah the Courageous 69

of the truth is not confined to one place or nation.
But the meaning of the vision is the same. And
it ought to make us long for the time when the
weapons of war shall be turned into the imple-
ments of peaceful labour in the fields, in order
to support men's lives, rather than to destroy
them.

Micah tells us of himself that he " truly is full
of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judg-
ment, and of might " (iii. 8). He is fully conscious
that the words which he utters are not his own, but
God's. There is one great scene in his book, in
which the Lord calls upon the people to hear
what He has done for them, and to answer for
themselves (vi. 1-8). It is like a solemn court of
law, and the witnesses are " the mountains and the
strong foundations of the earth." "The Lord
hath a controversy with His people, and He will
plead with Israel." He speaks first

" O My people, what have I done unto thee ?
Wherein have I wearied thee ? testify against Me.
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,
And redeemed thee out of the house of bondage 5
And I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.'"



70 The Work of the Prophets

He reminds them of all His righteous acts
towards them.

Then, with the great mountains standing as
witnesses, the people give their answer. They
do not defend themselves. Micah puts these
words into their mouth

" Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before

the high God ?

Shall I come before Him with offerings, with calves of a year old ?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten

thousands of rivers of oil ?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my

body for the sin of my soul ? "

We seem to wait in anxiety for the Lord's
rejoinder to this question of the people. Is this,
after all, what God wants from them, sacrifices
and offerings in greater numbers than before,
even to the sacrifice of their own children ? But
you already know enough of the teaching of the
prophets to be sure that God asks something
very different from this. Like a strain of solemn
music, the words come back to the listening
people



Micah the Courageous 71

" He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good ;
And what doth the Lord require of" thee, but to do justly, and to
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ? "

Let us learn these words by heart, and always
associate them with the thought of the prophet
Micah. Amos had taught already that God
would have His people true and just in all their


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