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A vision concerning the capital cities of God’s people.
God’s anger at his people for their idolatry.
Although false prophets have told deceptive lies about God, he will lead his people back like a Shepherd.
The false leaders and prophets hate good and love evil, but God will give power to his true prophet so he may speak out about their sins.
One day God’s temple will be raised above all the nations, and the various peoples will come to learn peace from him.
Before then, God will send a ruler from of old to deliver his people and care for them.
Micah [5:10-15] 6:1-7:7
For now, God’s people have rejected him and his ways, so they will go through a time of suffering.
In the end, God will pardon his people’s sins and vindicate them before the nations, which will result in his glorification.
A National Call to Hear from God
A Wound Incurable
There has never been a nation in the history of the world that has been perfect. They all have their weaknesses and faults, and even the strongest nations or empires have eventually fallen apart.
This was true even for God’s own people in the ancient world. In fact, most of the ministry of the writing prophets was to call the people, both the northern and southern kingdoms, back to God and to warn them of the possibility of exile. This was what Micah did in his writings. In 1:5, we see this was because of their political sin (cf. also 1:1, identifying the political capitals) and also their religious sin. Verses 6-7 indicate exactly what will (and eventually did) happen to the northern kingdom, and the reason, according to verse 9, was because “her wound is incurable.” It’s frightening to think, but a nation—even God’s own nation—can get to a point where there is nothing left from God but judgment. Micah says in verses 9-16 that judgment is also mounting for the southern kingdom as well.
When we get into chapter 2, we begin to see specific things the people are chastised for—things like greed, abuse of power, and exploitation of the poor and needy (2:1-2). As these sins are exposed, we can’t help, as modern readers, but to use this lens to examine our own society. Do we have greed, abuse of power, and exploitation of the poor and needy? If so, how long before our society becomes incurable?
While it isn’t totally fair to judge our nation in the same way as God’s nation, what about the New Testament people of God (the church) compared to the Old Testament people of God (Israel)? Does the church have idolatry, misuse of power, and discrimination in it? What about us as individuals who are trying to walk with the Lord? Does our own sin get in the way of us being faithful and useful?
Week by week, as we hear the gospel call in worship, we have opportunity to confess, repent, and be cleansed, so that we can bear witness to Christ’s reign and God’s ways, whether in our own nation or the watching world. May we, like Micah, be faithful to do so.
“Things Haven't Changed”
A wise man once said that "there is nothing new under the sun". This man was Solomon and he understood that humanity behaves in very similar ways regardless of time, culture, or circumstance. This was, and is, especially true in regards to human sin and rebellion. After Solomon died the kingdom was split in two because of this sin. Not surprisingly, 300 years after this split there came a prophet named Micah, who spoke the word of the Lord against the people, because their wickedness continued to grow! Yet, Micah also spoke of future restoration.
Micah's ministry spanned almost 50 years, and covered a wide range of economic and political change and diversity. In the early part of his ministry there was relative peace and prosperity throughout the land, but by 722 BCE, the Assyrian army came and attacked Israel in the north, destroying their capital and taking many of the people into captivity. This happened because of the unrepentant behavior of the people. God wanted them to love him alone, obey his commands, and take care of the poor and needy. Instead, they took advantage of the weak and fell into idolatry. The southern kingdom of Judah remained, but their day was coming as well.
Therefore, Micah's preaching was also against the wickedness of the south, which had spread into the capital of Jerusalem, and even into the small towns. Thus, the Assyrians came again in 701 and almost captured Jerusalem. Yet, by God's great mercy, in conjunction with Micah's exhortation to King Hezekiah and his humble response, Jerusalem was spared for another 115 years. In the meantime, the people still had a chance to listen to Micah’s call to righteousness, justice, and mercy. Unfortunately, many choose to continue in their sinful treatment of others and listen to the voices of the false prophets.
There is a famous quote that says that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." This quote brings to light a few facts. One, there is evil in this world. Two, human beings can act very evil. Three, despite this, there are also people who fight against this evil with good. As Christians, we understand that we are all sinners, and that we were born into a broken, fallen world, filled with all kinds of wickedness. Humanity has rejected God and his good law, and instead used whatever power and angle they have to get what they want, despite how much it hurts others.
It is even more frightening when this is done by those in positions of authority. Wicked leaders use their power and influence in evil ways to crush the vulnerable, helpless, and needy. Unfortunately this is nothing new and has been the case since the beginning of time. Yet, we know that God is holy, pure, just, loving, sovereign, and good, and we can choose to follow him and do what is right. So, who will we listen to and obey? This same question was posed to the people and leadership of Micah's day.
In Micah 3, the royal, political, and religious leaders of the southern kingdom (Judah) are specifically targeted by Micah. He uses vivid imagery to accuse them of devouring God's people, declaring war against those who proclaim peace, despising justice, shedding blood, accepting bribes, and having greedy hearts (3:2-3, 5, 9-11). They were instead supposed to do good, hate evil, and embrace justice (3:1, 8-9). Therefore, since these leaders turned a blind eye to God, the poor, and the needy, and used their authority to oppress and abuse, God will hide his face from them, and bring disaster and destruction upon the great capital city of Jerusalem (3:4, 12).
This was a tough message to hear 2,700 years ago when this was taking place, and it is still a hard message to hear today. Will we accept God and the heart he has for his creation, or do we reject God and continue the cycle of oppression? How about our leaders? Do they love God, love others, and rule with humility and justice? God’s word is just as applicable today as it was back then, and if we choose wickedness in our interactions with those God has given us authority over, judgment will come. Therefore let us pray that we, and our leaders, will do what is right and good in God’s sight.
The End of the Defense Budget
The prophetic writings, by and large, follow a predictable pattern—they offer oracles of doom followed by oracles of salvation. We have seen this pattern already in the prophecy of Micah—1:2-2:11 pronounce judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem, while 2:12-13 offer the hope of God as their Shepherd. Therefore, since 3:1-12 condemn the wicked leaders and false prophets of God’s people, it should be no surprise that the beginning of chapter 4 is going to present a vision of hope.
One of the incredible things about Micah 4:1-5 is that it is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:2-5. This reminds us that Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries of one another, seeing the same social problems, the same international threats, and receiving the same vision of hope. For Micah’s context, he had just communicated at the end of his third chapter, “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets” (3:12). But, that same Jerusalem he saw as eventually being destroyed, would ultimately be renewed and rebuilt. In fact, it would become so significant in the future that many nations would come there, seeking to learn from a God who was not their own (4:2). These people would allow “the word of the YHWH” to settle disputes for them, transforming nations and bringing about a peace unheard of since the creation of the universe (4:2-3). Even weapons of war would lose their purpose, getting transformed into instruments to care for the land.
Remember, this vision was given by God during the threat of Assyrian invasion. And yet the people were called by God to expect a time when nations would live in harmony with each other because of the torah of the God of Israel. Can we imagine a day when there is no longer a need for a national defense budget? God asks his people to not only believe in it, but to actually begin walking toward it. “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.” (4:5)
The Blessings of a King & Shepherd
Micah, like Isaiah, offers an incredible vision of a renewed Jerusalem that will one day be a light to the nations. In that day, the prophets foresaw many nations coming to learn from YHWH, the God of the Israelites, to allow him to settle disputes for them so that they might go out and walk in his ways (4:2-3). This would usher in an age of peace, where the nations would dispose of their war weapons and focus instead on cultivating the earth (4:3-4). But, in order for that day to come, the people of Judah would have to go through an exile (4:6-8).
The reality of an impending exile was a harsh one. It would mean suffering (4:10), ridicule (4:11), being besieged by a foreign army (5:1), and the death of their king (4:9, 5:1). But in the end, God assured them that they would have a new king like David, one born in Bethlehem (5:2) who would shepherd the people in peace (5:4).
Thanks to the Gospel according to Matthew, we know who that Shepherd-King eventually was. Long after the return from exile, in the days of King Herod, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and worshipped by Magi from the East. This Jesus grew up to be Israel’s Savior, and not just theirs, but also the Savior of all nations.
So, in this year of our Lord 2018, we still have an opportunity to come under his reign. If we want to be blessed by a King with all power and authority, and to receive the care of a Shepherd who leads his flock in the way of peace, then we submit ourselves to Jesus. By him and for him and through him are all things, now and forevermore. Amen.
What Does the Lord Require of You?
As Micah’s prophecy comes to a close, a superstructure becomes more evident based around the imperative “to hear/listen.” This literary marker is used at the beginning of the book to address all the nations (1:2), in the middle of the book to single out the leadership of God’s people (3:1), and at the end of the book to clarify for God’s people how they should live (6:1).
What is amazing about this third and final section is how it acknowledges the upcoming judgment from the Lord (6:2, 13-16). God begins by invoking the mountains and the hills to bear witness to Israel’s covenant (6:1-2, see also Deut 4:23-31). From there, he reminds his people how he delivered them from slavery and remained faithful to them in their journey to the land he had promised on oath to Abraham and his descendants (6:4-5). Then, on a personal note, Micah interjects his own misery at living in a corrupt land (7:1-6). But, despite its brokenness, Micah says that he is able to watch and wait for God, trusting that God hears him (7:7).
How can Micah have that kind of hope? Is it because he has offered so many sacrifices for his sins (6:6-7)? No. Micah explains, quite clearly, that God has already shown his people what is necessary for them, even in days full of darkness and fear and death. He says they are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God (6:8).
For as trite as that might sound, it seems to still be relevant to our society today. As God’s people, even though we lament about corruption, deceit, and wickedness all around us, we know the only solution comes from God through Christ. Therefore, the more humbly we walk with him, the more mercy we show and justice we pursue, the more we are able to say, as Micah did, “I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior” (7:7).
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