And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the middle of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers on the grass…
The simple natural science of the Hebrews saw a mystery in the production of the dew on a clear night, and the poetic imagination found in it a fit symbol for all silent and gentle influences from Heaven that refreshed and quickened parched and dusty souls. Where the dew fell the scorched vegetation lifted its drooping head. That is what Israel is to be in the world, says Micah. He saw very deep into God's mind, and into the function of the nation. It may be a question as to whether the text refers more especially to the place and office of Israel when planted in its own land, or when dispersed among the nations. For, as you see, he speaks of "the remnant of Jacob" as if he was thinking of the survivors of some great calamity which had swept away the greater portion of the nation. Both things are true.
I. THE FUNCTION OF EACH CHRISTIAN IN HIS PLACE. "The remnant of Jacob shall be as a dew from the Lord in the midst of many nations." What made Israel "as a dew"? One thing only: its religion, its knowledge of God, and its consequent purer morality. It could teach Greece no philosophy, no art, no refinement, no sensitiveness to the beautiful. It could teach Rome no lessons of policy or government. It could bring no wisdom to Egypt, no power or wealth to Assyria. The same thing is true about Christian people. We cannot teach the world science, we cannot teach it philosophy or art, but we can teach it God. Now, the possibility brings with it the obligation. The personal experience of Jesus Christ in our hearts, as the dew that brings to us life and fertility, carries with it a commission as distinct and imperative as if it had been pealed into each single ear by a voice from heaven. Remember, too, that, strange as it may seem, the only way by which that knowledge of God which was bestowed upon Israel could become the possession of the world was by its, first of all, being made the possession of a few. Art, literature, science, political wisdom, they are all entrusted to a few who are made their apostles; and the purpose is their universal diffusion from these human centres. So to us the message comes: "The Lord hath need of thee." Now, that diffusion from individual centres of the life that is in Jesus Christ is the chiefest reason — or, at all events, is one chief reason — for the strange and inextricable intertwining in modern society of saint and sinner, of Christian and non-Christian. The seed is sown among the thorns; the wheat springs up amongst the tares. The renmant of Jacob is in the midst of many peoples; and you and I are all encompassed by those who need our Christ, and who do not know Him or love Him; and one great reason for the close inter twining is that, scattered we may diffuse, and that at all points the world may be in contact with those who ought to be working to preserve it from putrefaction and decay. Now, there are two ways by which this function may be discharged. The one is by direct efforts to impart to others the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ which we have, and which we profess to be the very root of our lives. We can do all that if we will, and we are here to do it. Every one of us has somebody or other close to us, bound to us, perhaps, by the tie of kindred and love, who will listen to us more than they will to anybody else. Christian men and women, have you utilised these channels which God Himself, by the arrangements of society, has dug for you, that through them you may pour upon some thirsty ground the water of life? But there is another way by which "the remnant of Jacob" is to be "a dew from the Lord," and that is by trying to bring to bear Christian thoughts and Christian principles upon all the relations of life in which we stand, and all the societies, be they greater or smaller — the family, the city, or the nation — of which we form parts. Have you ever lifted a finger to abate drunkenness? Have you ever done anything to help to make it possible that the masses of our town communities should live in places better than the pigstyes in which many of them have to wallow? Time was when a bastard piety shrank back from intermeddling with these affairs and gathered up its skirts about it in an ecstasy of unwholesome unworldliness. There is not much danger of that now, when Christian men are in the full swim of the currents of civic, professional, literary, national life.
II. THE FUNCTION OF ENGLISH CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD. I have suggested in an earlier part of this sermon that possibly the application of this text originally was to the scattered remnant. Be that as it may, wherever you go you find the Jew and the Englishman. I need not dwell upon the ubiquity of our race. But I do wish to remind you that that ubiquity has its obligation. We hear a great deal today about Imperialism, about "the Greater Britain," about "the expansion of England." And on one side all that new atmosphere of feeling is good, for it speaks of a vivid consciousness which is all to the good in the pulsations of the national life. But there is another side to it that is not so good. What is the expansion sought for? Trade? Yes! necessarily; and no man who lives in Lancashire will speak lightly of that necessity. My text tells us why expansion should be sought, and what are the obligations it brings with it. "The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people aa a dew from the Lord." "He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant"; and the dominion founded on unselfish surrender for others is the only dominion that will last. That is the spirit in which alone England will keep its empire over the world. I need not remind you that the gift which we have to carry to the heathen nations, the subject peoples who are under the aegis of our laws, is not merely our literature, our science, our Western civilisation, still less the products of our commerce, for all of which some of them are asking; but it is the gift that they do not ask for.
III. THE FAILURE TO FULFIL THE FUNCTION. Israel failed. Pharisaism was the end of it. And so destruction came, and the fire on the hearth was scattered and died out, and the vineyard was taken from them and "given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." "A dew from the Lord!" Say rather a malaria from the devil! "By you," said the prophet, "is the name of God blasphemed among the Gentiles." And by Englishmen the missionary's efforts are, in a hundred cases, neutralised, or hampered if not neutralised. We have failed because, as Christian people, we have not been adequately in earnest. No man can say with truth that the churches of England are awake to the imperative obligation of this missionary enterprise. Israel's religion was not diffusive, therefore it corrupted; Israel's religion did not reach out a hand to the nations, therefore its heart was paralysed and stricken. They who bring the Gospel to others increase their own hold upon it. There is a joy of activity, there is a firmer faith, as new evidences of its power are presented before them. There is the blessing that comes down upon all faithful discharge of duty. If our fleece is wet and we leave the ground dry, our fleece will soon be dry, though the ground may be bedewed.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.