Micah did his work about the middle of the 8th century B.C., just before the fall of the Northern Kingdom. His book describes the people of God in a most unflattering manner. They “lay awake at night plotting treachery against their neighbors.” They use their power to oppress people – just because they can. They “hate good and love evil.” They will do anything to make a dollar. Their lack of concern for others is vividly portrayed in these words addressed to the political leaders: “[Y]ou tear the skin from my people . . . break their bones in pieces . . . [and] chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot.” Religious leaders led Israel astray, preaching an “I’m ok, you’re ok gospel,” and they did it because that was precisely what the people wanted to hear. In God’s mind, His Church had been ruined “beyond all remedy.”
The result? “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”
It didn’t happen immediately of course. Jeremiah was still talking about the coming calamity two hundred years after Micah. But the end did come.
What did God want from His people? Simply this: “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). If she would but do that, God would pardon and forgive them, hurling their sins into “the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
Micah stands as a lasting rebuke to the People of God in every age who, remembering who they are, forget what they are about; people who, because of their relationship with God, believe they can get away with being inattentive to His will. Micah also has a message for the world: God is sovereign over the nations. They may deny His existence and repudiate His will, but God remains sovereign, and ultimately he promises to “take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me” (Micah 5:14-15).
Micah affirms that God delights to show mercy (7:18), but is unafraid to discipline the wayward.
Two things stand out to me about Micah 6.
First is an idea I’ve mentioned before: If you want to know what ticks God off, read the prophets. But that’s not all. The prophets’ catalogs of sins, and the frequency with which each occurs, provides insight to the magnetic strength of a variety of sins. The more they are mentioned, the more vulnerable mankind seems to be to them. Chapter six particularly mentions the businessman who misrepresents his product. You can include the CEO who finds ways to artificially inflate his company quarterly earnings, as well as the butcher whose scales are off and the painter whose paint is too thin. In Micah 6, this sin heads the list.
Second is the idea of “bottom line” religion. What does God want?
In the Bible you will find numerous “bottom line” statements. God Himself offers one in Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus expands on it ever so slightly in Matthew 22:37-40. Paul offers one in Romans 13:9. And yet, perhaps the best known one is here. “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Those who would seek to restore New Testament Christianity must make sure we restore this lifestyle. Without it, there awaits nothing but ruin.
Chapter seven of Micah must be counted among the most encouraging chapters of the Bible with regard to the nature of God.
The Lord is just. He is not going to continue to bless anyone who shows disdain for Him through abysmal behavior. Israel has certainly done that, and God has responded appropriately. He has filled the land with want – they eat but never have enough, they save but it disappears, they plant but the harvest never comes. Their condition merits and receives the derision and scorn of the nations (6:16).
And yet . . . Israel remains God’s people. They will repent, if only for a while. But God, because it is His nature, will forgive. He pardons sin, forgives transgression, and delights to show mercy. He cannot help it. He cannot but hurl their sins far from them – into the depths of the sea.
This is the God they serve. It is the God we serve.
Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t an excuse for taking advantage of God. The forgiveness and mercy did not come immediately. It really came to the descendants of the sinful. But it came. And it comes to us too. There are far too many Christians who believe God has not and will not forgive. They’ve been sinful too long, too often. But Micah says that’s not true. To anyone and everyone who turns to God in penitence, even if it is only until the “next time” comes along, God forgives. That’s the kind of God He is.
At this point, the real threat to God’s people is coming from Assyria and it is a threat to both the northern and southern kingdoms. The result of this threat will be the scattering of God’s people (5:8). But their scattering will have the effect of a trojan horse in the midst of her enemies. While the enemies believe they have conquered Israel through exile, the captivity only serves to scatter an empowered Israel among their captors. Led by the figure from Bethlehem in chapter 5, their captors will not have a chance and Israel’s foes will be destroyed.
Chapter five, of course, is well known in the New Testament because of Matthew’s reference to it regarding the birth of Jesus.
The scattering of the exiles will come to pass. There will be no deliverance (made plain in 1:9; 2:10,13). But later, with the unexpected birth of one from David’s line, victory will come. It will, however, result in the destruction of all the false religions Israel has held dear.
Israel, reading this, likely expected the deliverance to come in her 6-7th century B.C. lifetime. It would not. Yet, because it was a promise of God, they believed it certainly would come true and by Jesus’ day, the prophecy was seen to herald the coming of the Messiah (which Matthew confirms). Christian people should properly see that they are the heirs of this promise, but they should also see that their scattering among the nations of the world gives them grreat responsibility to tell those nations about the Lord, for a day of judgment is coming upon all mankind who do not obey Him.
If you want a good, concise picture of why God is so upset with His people, you have only to read the first three chapters of Micah. Evil abounds. Folks lay awake at night plotting how they can save themselves, or get ahead of their neighbors. Influenced by the sins of the northern kingdom, Israel, the plague of wickedness has infected Judah. God sees Israel’s evil as incurable and so her capital, Samaria, will become a heap of rubble. But the malignancy has spread to the extent that even Judah will not be able to save herself (see 2:10,13).
While the sinfulness is widespread, God lays its blame particularly at the feet of the leaders of the people: political leaders, the royal family, and particularly the prophets share the blame because they could have done something, but they chose not to do so.
It is not the function of leaders just to rule. Their main role is to lead and they must do so by example and enforce it with the power of their position. Not everyone can hold this significant place of leadership, but all of us are called to lead. In whatever position you find yourself, you should determine to be an example for others to follow. They may not follow you. But it is not your job to make them follow, only to provide a light through the darkness in a way that makes the lighted path desirable.
The people are not let “off the hook” because their leaders failed them. They are responsible themselves for knowing the right way and following it. They are not responsible for the deception of those who replace the truth for the message everyone wants to hear. They are responsible for knowing better, and for being deceived. No one is innocent before God. Everyone has responsibility to live in the way of holiness – or else.
Micah chapter 4 begins the same way Isaiah begins.
Who copied who?
It’s not necessary that anyone copy anybody. Remember: the prophets speak for God, not for themselves.
Micah continues the alternating judgement of God against His people: condemnation, then promise of glory. Then, back to condemnation.
It’s not that God cannot make up His mind what to do. He’s already done that. He just wants His people to understand that with their sure coming punishment, He is not done with them. Judah will not cease to exist. When He’s done with them, a small number, a remnant, will return, be blessed, and rebuild. They will not do so on their own, but by the foreknowledge, fore-ordination, and power of God.
Assyria, a nation known by Judah, will come and wreck havoc on her. And that will not be the end. Babylon will come too. To captivity she will go, but there will be a return.
Why does God keep dealing with the descendants of Jacob?
It would be this way with any people. Jacob is but a sampling of the world. God has bound up his reputation with that of His people. He intends them to be His light to the nations. They will either be an example of His righteous grace or punishing judgment. The choice has been their’s to make. The Church today should learn from the lessons here. We too are called to be a light to the world. What will the world see by our light?
Micah prophesies God’s ordained coming calamity for Judah.
It cannot be stopped.
It’s not one of those oracles that says: “I only you would do such and such, I would change my mind.”
God isn’t going to change His mind. Israel has become irredeemable, and her incurable (Micah 1:9) cancer has now spread to Judah. There is nothing Judah can do. She is defiled beyond all remedy (2:10).
What could possibly place a person beyond the reach of God’s grace?
Read Micah for the list of Judah’s sins. Mark them well. These are the things that place the people of God beyond redemption; the things that guarantee destruction. Read Micah and take warning. There are some lives that cannot be redeemed even by the sacrifice of Jesus. Don’t go there.