-MICAH: A Big Message In A Little Book
Sometimes God uses one man to do His work at a particular time, such as Noah or Samuel. But in the case of Micah and Isaiah, He used two prophets to speak to the same generation of people. Although Isaiah generally receives more attention from Bible students because of the length and scope of his prophecies, Micah was equally God’s man for the task at hand. Micah pronounced judgment on national and personal sins. Although he spoke to both Israel and Judah, the divided northern and southern kingdoms, three kings of Judah are given as the point of reference for Micah’s ministry (Mic. 1:1; Isa. 1:1). The low spiritual climate of those days makes clear why his message was so needed. Although the first king, Jotham, generally pleased the Lord, he never put a stop to the practice of offering sacrifices on the high places of the land (2 Ki. 15:34-35). Then Ahaz, his son, expanded those sacrifices, not only offering at the high places himself but also burning incense anywhere he wanted, even “under every green tree” (2 Ki. 16:4 NKJV). He even attempted to meld the idolatry of Damascus, capital of Syria, with the temple worship prescribed by the Lord. Not until Hezekiah became king was godly righteousness returned to the throne and the land (2 Ki. 18:1-4), after wickedness had increasingly flourished in Judah for about three decades. The kings of Israel were no better as they continued the idolatrous ways which had been present from the beginning of that kingdom.
Micah’s First Message: Wickedness
There are three main messages in Micah’s prophecy. His first message, in chapters 1 and 2, emphasizes the wickedness of the people. All the earth is invited to hear the pronouncement of God’s judgment. The Lord’s anger is so great that He will bring complete ruin (1:1-7). Micah mourns deeply about this (1:7-14).1 But specific sins are mentioned to explain God’s wrath. The people had spent all their time devising ways to do evil, especially through violence and oppression (2:1-5). They rejected God’s prophets, since they only wanted to hear about prosperity and self-indulgence (2:6-11). Yet God concludes this message with words of promise (2:12-13). God will gather His people, and the Lord Himself will lead them.
Micah’s Second Message: Deliverance
Micah’s second message opens with another call to hear. The leaders of the people are first condemned because they used the people to enrich themselves, as if stewing them in a pot for a meal. God says He will not hear their prayers (3:1-4). Then the unfaithful prophets are condemned for their selfish ways (3:5-7). They promised peace to those who gave them a reward, but they detested anyone who refused to put something into their mouths. The Lord says He will no longer speak through them. Micah, on the other hand, is certain of his call from the Lord and his empowerment by God’s Spirit to expose these sins (3:8-12).
This message continues into the following two chapters, which might be considered the high point of the entire book. Despite the coming judgment and captivity (4:10), deliverance and victory are promised. But the victory of Micah’s prophecy now presents the kingdom of the Messiah, the great Ruler of Israel. The text of 4:1-3 (and Isa. 2:2-4) pictures an international convergence upon the temple in Jerusalem. Every one of the Lord’s people will sit restfully under vines and fig trees 2 as the nation triumphs in His name. This prophecy is still to be fulfilled, and what glory there will be for the Lord when His earthly people are allowed a preeminent place among the nations (4:4-13).
Chapter 5 continues this messianic theme. Although the nations will be gathered against Israel, even striking their ruler on the cheek, a prophetic allusion to the Lord’s trial in Pilate’s hall (Mk. 15:19), yet the great Ruler to come will be divine, of everlasting days; and His peaceful reign will extend to the ends of the earth (5:1-5). Using this passage – the only portion of Micah directly quoted in the New Testament – Jewish scholars correctly informed the Roman ruler Herod that the King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:4-6). They did not realize that the Lord Jesus would first appear in humility.
However, His coming reign will allow the remnant of Jacob to overcome the Assyrian army in that day. “Seven shepherds and eight princely men” will be ready, suggesting that there will be a full response from those standing with the Lord. A similar phrase is used to suggest completeness in Ecclesiates 11:2. Many nations who have worshiped idols will be judged as well (5:5-15).
Micah’s Third Message: Response
The last two chapters form the third portion of Micah’s prophecy. These take on a more personal tone as the Lord implores Israel to walk with Him. He brought them out of Egypt in the time of Moses, and He protected them from the attempted cursing of Balaam. Should not the people respond to Him from their hearts (6:1-8)? Because they have not done so, He continues to warn them. These warnings expose moral and spiritual failures of the everyday variety. Their business dealings are unjust, and the Lord promises they will be dissatisfied with their results (6:9-15). Reference is made to Omri and Ahab (6:16), two kings who had ruled in Israel years earlier. This father and son had the distinction of being the most wicked kings ever: Omri surpassed all who were before him in wickedness, and then his son Ahab exceeded him (1 Ki. 16:25,30). Although generations had passed since then, God observed the same principles of evil still at work among His people.
Micah cries out in anguish over the completely unfruitful state of his nation. Princes and judges, who ought to be the best of men, are behaving as attractively as thorn bushes, and even the closest relationships cannot be trusted (7:1-6). However, Micah finds hope in God and declares his confidence in the presence of enemies (7:7-13).
The final passage includes God’s own words of promise. As He delivered the people from Egypt, He will again work on their behalf, for He is full of mercy and compassion (7:14-20). Micah’s name means, “Who is like God?” and he echoes that meaning with the rhetorical question: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity?” This is a wonderful closing strain of praise and thanksgiving to a God who judges but also restores.
While all the Old Testament prophets focus on God’s earthly people, there are always lessons for Christians to learn. Here are four applications to consider.
1. Respect God’s Message
There were other faithful prophets in Micah’s time, but the people mocked their message. “‘Do not prattle,’ you say to those who prophesy. So they shall not prophesy to you; they shall not return insult for insult” (2:6). To them, the word of the Lord was only useless chattering. Despite this incredible misinterpretation, the prophets would actually do what was requested and stop prophesying. God’s message had been insulted, but they would accept the insult and not return harsh words themselves.
This is a clear warning. If we are living sinfully, we will find the words of the Lord unpleasant. Although we need precisely the correction they would bring, they seem to us to contain only so much prattle and emptiness. Yet the person we think should stop talking might be God’s messenger to us – and unfortunately, if we tell God’s messenger to stop talking, God may allow it! Then our sin-tainted minds will be thankful; but the destruction we are heading toward simply looms closer without our realizing it.
2. Heed God’s Evaluation
It is perhaps the most callous heart that claims the name of God while giving no thought to honoring that name. Jerusalem’s leaders, judges and prophets were overcome with greed and the love of money. “Yet they lean on the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us’” (3:11). This was so distasteful to God that He directly linked His judgment of Zion with their behavior.
There is certainly a lesson here for believers of every age. We should never be so complacent in our walk with the Lord that we act as if we have immunity from evaluation. No one has some sort of status before God that implies an excuse for sin or that assumes that we will never be troubled – especially if our trouble is a judgment for bad behavior! The Lord is never “among us” just because we are connected to a certain tradition, heritage, or group.
3. Please The Lord
The Lord is never happy with rituals and routines, which by themselves provide no reality in our hearts (6:7-8). Even the most remarkable sacrifices, such as thousands of rams or rivers of oil, are not impressive to Him. Through Micah, God says in effect, “Why would these things please Me when I have already shown you what is good?” God’s pleasure comes when He looks at our hearts. Is there an appreciation of justice? This means we want to do what is right and want others to be treated properly, too. Do we love mercy, or are we happiest when people are punished as we think they deserve? Do we walk humbly before God? Humility is such a remarkable attitude that even Ahab, Israel’s most wicked king, was credited with reverence before God when he humbled himself (1 Ki. 21:29).
4. Have Confidence In God
When a friend or spouse cannot be trusted, things have become bleak indeed. Still there is an answer: “Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (7:6-7). This is not an imaginary solution; we can truly experience God’s friendship when there are no reliable relationships anywhere else. Micah must have felt very alone as he declared God’s message. However, he emphatically indicates his determination to remain unmoved. As in Micah’s case, our enemies may delight to see our demise, but they will be confounded because of God’s help (7:8-10).
There is a special application of this passage to those who feel trapped by their secret sins. In the darkness of guilt, look for light from the Lord! If we have sinned, we must endure His hand of discipline. But the Lord Himself “pleads my case.” He will not stop working to produce His righteous character in our lives. We should never let the accusations of the devil hinder the work of God in our lives to bring us back to Himself.
About 100 years after Micah’s lifetime, we find him mentioned once more. In Jeremiah’s day, the elders recall that King Hezekiah himself heard Micah’s words of warning (Jer. 26:18-19). Not only is it encouraging to know that Hezekiah listened to God’s message through Micah, but it’s also instructive to see that Micah’s faithfulness was used as a model to encourage further faithfulness. No doubt Micah never envisioned that his few prophetic words would resound in the ears of future generations, but that’s how God used him. And He wants to use us as well.
1. Some Bible translations capitalize the phrase in verse 9 as “My people,” implying a reference to God, but in other translations it seems just as likely that those words were spoken by Micah himself.
2. This expression implies complete rest, safety, and contentment. It also appears in Zechariah 3:10, again in connection with the Lord’s kingdom. The reign of Solomon appears to foreshadow this condition in 1 Kings 4:25. Interestingly, King Hezekiah heard his Assyrian enemy offer a counterfeit version of this peaceful state when Jerusalem was under siege (2 Ki. 18:31).
By Stephen Campbell
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org
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