Learning From MICAH
Micah – which means “Who is like Jehovah?” – is more than a currently popular child’s name. A prophet by that name lived and prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah long ago in the days of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Since he and the better known prophet Isaiah confronted the same kings and the same people, it is not surprising to find some resemblances between their writings, although Isaiah’s prophecy is much longer. Hosea too was a contemporary, but his messages were directed to Israel, the northern kingdom.
Micah, A Prophet
Both Micah and Isaiah predicted and lived to see Israel fall to the Assyrian conquerors, and Judah struggle in deep difficulty with this cruel pagan power. While the Assyrians form a vital part of Micah’s prophecy, he saw beyond this: Jehovah had a controversy with His people and would deal with them in judgment. This is evident from his very first pronouncement in Micah 1:2-7.
The next verses show plainly that while the people and their rulers went on in their sinful ways, heedless of what God was saying to them, Micah was in deep distress at their plight. God’s prophets were not professional prognosticators, but holy men of God who felt keenly what would befall their people.
The apostle Peter tells us the prophets “inquired and searched carefully … what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-12 NKJV). While they did not understand fully what they were prophesying, they wanted to. In fact, even angels desire to look into these things. How deeply are we affected by what we understand of God’s Word?
When Micah Prophesied
Micah began prophesying at a time when Judah was prospering outwardly. King Jotham had succeeded his father Uzziah, after Uzziah (who had a long, successful reign) had defied Azariah the high priest, along with 80 other priests, and entered the temple to burn incense. God immediately intervened in judgment, striking Uzziah with leprosy on the forehead, thus ending his reign. We are then told that “Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God” (2 Chr. 27:6).
Sadly enough, a good king did not always mean a good people. The next king, Ahaz, was one of the worst kings Judah ever had. Micah’s prophecy shows us that it was not only the king who was bad. Micah had to castigate “those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds … covet fields and take them by violence … oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance” (2:1-2). Foremost among these were the rulers and the well-to-do, as we also see at the beginning of Micah 3.
Nor were the prophets any better. A prophet should have been God’s mouthpiece, speaking for Him and drawing people to Him. But these prophets (not Micah and Isaiah) were leading God’s people astray, and were after what they could get for themselves. About them God said: “Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money … yet they lean on the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORDamong us? No harm can come upon us’” (3:5,11).
God cannot sanction such self-seeking wickedness on the part of leaders and spiritual guides among His people today either, but in His righteousness must inevitably bring in judgment. In Micah’s day judgment was just around the corner. Are things different today? If anything, our state of affairs is worse. God hasn’t changed. He will not compromise His character.
Micah Quoted Today
When we read the writings of Micah and other prophets of old, we find that while the details of their messages were for their people in that day, many of the principles they enunciated are relevant to our situation today. Here are a number of sayings from this short book that are still quoted for our encouragement today:
- “Do not My words do good to him who walks uprightly?” (2:7).
- “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 anymore” (4:3).
- “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8).
- “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?” (7:18).
- “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (7:19).
Micah Prophesied The Messiah
God’s answer to the wickedness of His people is not only judgment. Judgment is His “unusual” work (Isa. 28:21), certainly not the work He delights in. Rather, again and again He presents the Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, as the real answer to the problems of His people, and indeed the ultimate answer to the problems of all mankind. Consistent with the messages of all the prophets, Micah speaks both of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. 1:11).
God used Micah to indicate where our Lord would be born. When the wise men inquired where was the King of the Jews whose star they had seen in the East, the chief priests and scribes found the answer, Bethlehem Ephrathah, in Micah (Mic. 5:2; Mt. 2:5-6). Sad to say, they apparently did not tell Herod or the wise men all that God said about Him in this passage, for the portion from which they quoted went on to say, “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” They conveniently omitted this from their reply. Men today still try desperately to ignore, explain away or deny the eternal sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, but this does not change the fact of who He is.
Micah Prophesied The End Times
Micah 5 goes right from the life of the Messiah to the events of the end times. He, the Judge of Israel, would be smitten with a rod on the cheek. We know this happened when He was unjustly placed on trial just before He was crucified. But the time will come when “He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God … He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace” (5:4-5). How God delights to speak of the many aspects of the dignity of His Son!
The Assyrian enemy was threatening God’s people in Micah’s day. This enemy typifies the King of the North who will devastate the land of Israel in that soon-coming day we term the Tribulation. Micah points to the encouraging fact that “He shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he comes into our land and when he treads within our borders” (5:6). He declares that God pardons iniquity and does not retain His anger forever because He delights in showing mercy (7:18).
Similarly to Isaiah, Micah looks to the coming millennial kingdom. What a comfort his prophecy must have been to his people as they were being overrun by the Assyrian armies in King Hezekiah’s day. We often find the expression “in the latter days” in the writings of the prophets (Ezek. 38:8,16; Dan. 10:14; Hos. 3:5). Micah repeatedly refers to what God had done for His people in the past, pointing to a future that would be even more glorious.
And the good that God will do for His people will not be confined to them. He will deal with the nations as well. Ultimately they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Jerusalem, “the mountain of the Lord’s house, shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills” (4:1). Many nations will want to go there to be taught His ways and to walk in His paths.
While the past has often been dismal and the present is quite disorderly, Micah points to a glorious future of hope that is coming both for Israel and for the world. May the Lord hasten that day!
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org