Chapters 3-5 in the Book of Micah deal with the evil leaders who were destroying God’s people. Micah contrasts them with a glorious vision of God’s kingdom and the reign of a righteous king. After suffering judgement and exile, a purified people of Israel would return home and experience God’s blessings. Micah was pretty relentless when it came to the leaders of God’s people. They were responsible for the well being of their people and they had done a poor job of leading them to the Lord, but a spectacular job of leading them astray. First Micah prophesied against the leaders and then the false prophets. The things Micah described in the first four verses details the terrors of people under siege. He goes to the issue of justice, one of his main themes. Asking “is it not for you to know justice” is the idea that one might not expect justice from pagan leaders in a far away place. But the rulers of God’s people were expected to emphasize justice. It is one of the key concepts of the law. (Deuteronomy 10:18, 32:4, 33:21). Perverting justice was strongly prohibited by God. (Deuteronomy 16:189, 24,17). Yet this was precisely what the leaders of Judah were doing. They had used their authority to destroy justice rather than to establish it among the people. The leaders were supposed to know true judgement and justice but they were morally responsible for Israel’s guilt. The leaders, like wild animals, would destroy their own people. And then, even after oppressing the Lord’s people, the leaders would have the audacity to beg for help from the Lord. However, the Lord promised He would not hear them.
The false prophets were among the spiritual leaders of Israel, so they fell under Micah’s accusations. Prophets were supposed to call Israel to the true way, not send them astray. But these prophets used their gifts to benefit themselves. These prophets proclaimed peace, causing the people to be unprepared for trouble. Eventually they would known only darkness and they would have nothing to say because there would be no answer from God. Micah announced God’s judgement on the false prophets. Without God’s special communications, these seers and fortune tellers were like pagan court prophets of such nations as Babylon or Assyria. They were expected to toe the party line but they had no real revelation from the Lord. There was a huge contrast between the true prophet and the ones who were false. Truth, justice, and power come from God’s Spirit, who gave Micah the moral and ethical strength to declare his true message about the sin and rebellion of His people. Micah was divinely inspired, unlike the false prophets who shared whatever came to their minds.
The leaders of Israel were building Jerusalem on a foundation of murder and corruption. Because of this, the city would be dismantled. Its would be reduced to wilderness ruins. The list of the leaders offenses is serious. The rulers make decisions based on who gave them the biggest bribe. The priests were interested in teaching God’s law only if people were willing to pay them. And the same was true for the prophets. They would prophesy if they were paid to do so. All of the leaders worked only when there was something to be gained from it. Needless to say, if justice had to be paid for, it would not be justice. And they were convinced no harm would come their way because the Lord dwelt in Jerusalem in His holy temple. Somehow they had convinced themselves and many others that as long God was in His temple they were safe, even from divine judgement. The false prophets were wrongly claiming God’s presence in their midst. While the false prophets and wicked rulers believed they were untouchable and that Mount Zion was inviolable, the prophet Micah was announcing that Zion would be plowed like a field. This indicated complete devastation of the city. Where the Lord once lived would become a thicket. Just as a field needs to be cleared to prepare it for cultivation, Jerusalem had to be reduced to ruins in judgement.
It is always amazing how the prophets move from gloom and doom to hope, from utter despair to new beginnings. Beginning in chapter 4 Micah expresses the future exaltation of Mount Zion in Jerusalem. God’s plan to bless all the nations through the descendants of Abraham will be realized when people from all over come flocking into the Lord’s house to worship. While they are there they will learn to: follow God’s law and teachings, the law and teachings will flow out of His house to the nations, peace and well being will grow among the nations as they turn to peace and abandon war, and the people will live without fear. They will have security, prosperity, and blessing. The idols will fail the people but the Lord will accomplish all He has promised. God has promised to act in history to establish His kingdom. The mountain of the Lord’s house points to several places. There was Mount Zion where the temple was. Also Mount Sinai, the mountain of God where He appeared to the people as they wandered in the wilderness. The mountain of the Lord has significance because that is where He makes His presence and identity known. Originally the temple site was located on one of several hills in Jerusalem but in the later days the temple site will be elevated above the hills. Think heavenly temple here. People from all over the world will come to this temple to worship and the wisdom of God’s laws and the knowledge of His ways will give the nations life.
The actions Micah describes in verse 3 are actions of the true Savior King who will rule with a rod of iron. All weapons of destruction will be recycled into tools of production and there will finally be an end to conflict. The shalom of the Lord (well being, peace) will cover the earth. From the earliest records, ancient history is an account of war, one nation and people against another. Warfare and violence reached a frenzied peak with the Assyrians and Babylonians. Everyone will be free of enemies like in Solomon’s time. As we have read, the prophets have described God as the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. This military title expresses His control of the universe and His unlimited power. The warrior kings of the ancient Near East were no match for the Lord. Micah described this peace by way of vines and fig trees. To sit under one’s own vine and fig tree was a proverbial picture of peace and contentment. Others might still follow idols but the Lord’s people will now follow Him forever.
Israel will return from exile. It was common in that time for the destroyed remains of a city to be lost or simply assimilated. However, when Israel’s remnant was rescued, it would be the foundation of the Lord’s new people. Those whom God had driven from the land would be the people of His new kingdom. Jerusalem would be the citadel, the watchtower for the defense of its people. Some translations here call this the tower of the flock. This is a description of Jerusalem in the ideal sense, a tower as a vantage point for protecting a flock of sheep. And Jerusalem is the stronghold or defense point for the people of God. The kingship would be restored and the leadership would be just and righteous. Micah addresses the city of Zion as though it was a woman in labor. The troubles of the present moment would lead finally to the birth of a deliverer. Israel’s king and wise people were supposed to provide leadership and embody the Lord’s instructions and covenant in their lives. But going into exile they would be without godly leadership. Babylon was nearly 1,000 miles from Jerusalem. It could not be reached by cutting across the barren eastern desert.
Again Micah changes directions. The Lord will rescue His people from Babylon, from sure and certain death. This deliverance would be even greater than when He brought the people out of Egypt. They had been formed in the womb of suffering and awaited a promising rebirth. For Micah, Babylon represented the concept of exile. In Micah’s time there was not even a whisper of a Babylonian empire replacing Assyria, but Micah was speaking for God who knows the future. Micah warns that many nations will gather against Judah and Jerusalem . This is tied to the Babylonian assault against Jerusalem in 588-586 B.C. but it also points way into the future when the idealized and restored Jerusalem will be attacked. (Revelation 20:7-9). He also reminded the people that God reveals His plans to His servants but the nations are not privy to this information. They do not see the behind the scenes activity on His people’s behalf. All of the hopes and plans of the people around Israel were in vain because the Lord’s plans for His unique people will prevail and He will rule the nations. The nations would be gathered by the Lord like sheaves on the threshing floor. Just as the grain was beaten and trampled to separate it from the chaff so too the nations will be crushed. This is Micah’s way of speaking of the final victory over Israel’s foes. The horns and hooves of bulls and horses represent strength, just like iron and bronze. God will strengthen His people to defeat their enemies. Many nations had accumulated wealth by unjust means like war, plunder, oppressive tributes, forced labor and conscription. But the fact of the matter is, the Lord owns all of it anyway and now it will be returned to Him. The Hebrew term for ‘you will present’ refers to military spoils of war that were dedicated, or set aside, as holy to the Lord.
Chapter 5 brings even more good news. This section calls for Israel to prepare for the vicious onslaught of Assyria. This siege of terror, death and destruction will not annihilate Israel because God will bring forth a ruler to lead His people back from exile. God’s preservation and purification of the remnant will complete their restoration as God’s victorious people. Israel’s leader was defeated by the Assyrians and striking a person with a rod expressed contempt. One day the enemies of the Savior would strike Him on the cheek. Ephrathah was the ancient name for Bethlehem. This was king David’s birthplace. In the future a more significant ruler than David would come from there. The future king’s activities would stretch from the distant past into a future time suggesting a divine human being. Bethlehem means house of bread. This prophecy of Micah’s plays an important role in the visit of the Wise Men who visit the Christ Child. Governments would be overturned to make it necessary for Mary, while still pregnant, to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The birth of this Savior King would be unlike the birth of any other , because He was Pre existent. He is from everlasting. The future of Israel is pictured here in terms of the birth, life, and ministry of the Savior King. The two advents of the Savior are seen as one event by Micah. Verse 2 speaks of the Savior at His first coming and verses 3–56 speak of the time of the rule of Jesus in the Second coming. She who is in labor probably refers to Zion with the metaphor referring to the deliverance in the end time of those who will be able to delight in the coming of God’s kingdom. And there is always a remnant of faithful people.
Following the exile, Prince Zerubbabel, a descendant of king David was among the returned exiles and he became the focus of Israel’s hopes. But a greater ruler than Zerubbabel was needed. The leader from Bethlehem would be a source of peace. In fact Isaiah called Him the Prince of Peace. This could only be Jesus. The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. At that time king Sennacherib shut king Hezekiah up like a bird in a cage. In 701 Sennacherib devastated over 46 cities in Judah. The hoped for deliverer king did not appear in those days. Here the Assyrians represent all of Israel’s enemies. The seven rulers and eight princes is a literary expression that indicates that an abundance of leaders will be supplied as needed to lead Israel. The principal threat to Israel at the time was Assyria. Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-11) laid the foundations of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonian civilizations. Here it is mainly a reference to Assyria.
Now Micah turns to the purification of the remnant. God’s purpose was not to create another nation like all the other nations. Instead He wanted to have His people walk in His ways and be holy like He is holy. In the midst of many means the spread of the Jewish people throughout the earth. They would be like the dew and showers, both considered blessings from God. This would mean they would bring blessings from God on their neighbors, and nothing can prevent God from sending them. God’s people will have a unique place among the nations of the world. They will be the head and not the tail. They will be as invincible as a lion, a powerful force that would eventually triumph. The Lord would judge their foes if they continue to rebel against Him. The Lord’s desire however is to ultimately bless the nations, not curse or destroy them. It was God’s intention to destroy the evils in Israel’s society. His actions for and against His people purify them. The Lord removed several abominable things imported from the pagan cultures of Mesopotamia and Canaan…things like witchcraft, fortune tellers, idols, sacred pillars, shrines, and Asherah poles. Stones set up as places of worship or objects of worship would come tumbling down. All of these things had been strongly condemned in God’s law. Purifying the remnant meant no worship other than that of the one true God.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W