In chapter 6 we see that the Lord has presented, argued, and decided His case against Israel. This chapter is formally presented as a court case. Using this scenario of the courtroom the Lord challenged His people to state their case against Him, because He also had a case against them, verses 1-5. They had not fulfilled His requirements, verses 6-8, so they were guilty, verses 9-12. The guilty verdict is followed by Israel’s sentencing, verses 13-16. All of creation is called as a witness. In other ancient Near Eastern treaties, the gods of the respective countries were called as witnesses. The Lord asked if He had done something that caused His people to turn away from Him. But, their contempt for God rose from their own ingratitude. God summarized His great mercies to His people, including deliverance from Egypt and the evils of Barak and Balaam. God had preserved Israel and blessed them throughout their wilderness journey and He had warned them to always remember what He had done for them from Sinai onward. He also reminded them of what He had done for them as they entered the Promised Land. All of this bears witness to God’s faithfulness. Israel’s case was hopeless but they queried the Lord as to how they could placate or please Him. The offered items are listed in a crescendo of significance from calves to rams, from olive oil to their first born children. None of this was sufficient or acceptable to God, who judges the heart. To come before, means to make an approach in true worship and many of the things offered were among the divinely prescribed sacrifices of true Biblical worship. They are even willing to go beyond what the Lord has asked but offering up the first born goes against anything the Lord would have ever asked for. Being pleased means the Lord Is pleased with those who do as He commands. Just bringing offerings and sacrifices for the sake of doing something meant nothing to the Lord.
Verse 8 is very familiar and it speaks to the underlying attitudes that must accompany all true worship. God seeks certain characteristics of true worship from His people. We are all called to “do, love, and walk”. He has told us what is good, meaning what is right in God’s eyes. God is the source of all goodness. These three phrases summarize biblical piety in true worship, and the majority of the people in Israel had violated all three standards repeatedly. The rulers did not know justice. They had no interest in mercy, and demonstrated no humility. God’s order in the world requires treatment of others in fair, non manipulative, non oppressive ways. Mercy is understood to be the passionate, undeserved loyalty that defined the holy character of God. Those who know God will act the same way towards others. Humility must characterize God’s people. They must not live in a spirit of arrogance or special privilege. God’s people are called to be humble and to reverently fear God. And, God wants badly for us to be in an ongoing intimate relationship with Him that transforms the way we relate to other people. We must remember that it is the Lord who ultimately gives us strength, courage, and the ability to exercise the virtues of godly living.
In verses 9-16 the people in Jerusalem were invited to learn from Samaria. If you oppress others in order to have an abundance for yourself you will never have enough no matter how much you might accumulate. Eventually you will lose that. It is fitting for such people to become an object of scorn, not to receive honor and adulation. Those who are wise fear the Lord and He calls to them to come and learn wisdom. The armies of destruction would come. Assyria would carry out the Lord’s plan to destroy Samaria, while Babylon would be the instrument of destruction for Jerusalem. We see that the Lord had very specific accusations against His people. They had become a community of deceit that was ripe for rejection and destruction. They had falsely gained wealth. They practiced unethical business practices, many of which involved their cheating in the buying and selling of goods. They were not above threatening people with violence if people failed to do what they wanted. These behaviors characterized God’s people. And, they could not change because this way of life, lying, was so ingrained it was all they knew. Israel was totally corrupt. As a result God would wound his own people. This introduces all the curses God would bring down upon His disobedient and rebellious people in Israel. It wouldn’t matter what God’s people did, there would never be enough. No matter how much they planted, they would still be hungry. Whatever they might have saved up will eventually go to their enemies. They will do all the work and someone else will be the beneficiary of their work. They continued to follow the evil practices of King Omri and King Ahab, the most rebellious and evil kings Israel had. Elijah condemned them to annihilation. There wasn’t one king in the northern kingdom of Israel who followed the laws of Moses. Omri’s dynasty was destroyed in 841 B.C. And the people of Israel who followed in their evil example would be similarity destroyed.
Chapter 7 brings to light hopeless deception and corruption. But God’s mercy would triumph and Israel would be restored. God’s mercy, compassion, and unfailing love would prevail. Micah mourned his people’s condition and looked to the Lord for help. After the second harvest of figs and fruit in August and September, no further yield was produced for several months. Nothing could be found to satisfy Micah’s hunger for righteousness. For Micah the harvest was over. There was nothing around him but undesirable fruit. The faithful man had perished, the norms of society had broken down, and everyone was out to destroy someone else. The people of Israel were without law, justice, or righteousness. Everyone took advantage of others for self aggrandizement and they had created a society in which all forms of oppression were the norm. There was not one honest person left. This is a frequent complaint in the prophetic writings. In the ancient Near East people hunted and fished by setting traps and using nets. Now they weren’t using them on fish and game animals. They were using them on each other. They used both hands to do evil. In other words, they had perfected doing evil. They were pursuing evil with gusto. Rulers and leaders were bound by law, forbidden actually, to twist justice. Yet they accepted bribes which made Israel’s judicial system completely corrupt. But, the day was coming. The watchmen refers to a time when people needed to be alert for the approach of an enemy army. Given this context, judgement was imminent. In some cases the prophets were called watchmen, assigned to warn people of approaching danger, calling them to repent to avoid impending disaster.
Now, the people would soon be conquered by Assyria, and the people of Judah would face destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. Soon all the people of the earth would face God in judgment. Micah encouraged the people to not trust anyone because bitterness, corruption, and treachery had poisoned the community of the Lord’s people. Their enemies were most likely in their own households. In the midst of all this, Micah prays with a psalm of hope and confidence in the Lord. The prophet confidently trusts in God to be his light. Even in deep difficulty Micah would trust, knowing that because of the Lord’s provision his enemies would not be able to overcome him. God’s Spirit gave him the power and confidence to perform his prophetic task. While some see Micah as the speaker here, there are others who believe Israel is the voice speaking in verses 8-9. “I have sinned” is the confession of the people in saving faith. The prophet and other godly people recognize their own failure and yet they trust in the Lord for redemption. The Lord’s righteousness brings salvation and rescue for His people. The enemy will see and offer up a taunt, asking where is the Lord your God? This taunt rebuked God and those who trusted Him. God had promised always to be with His people and their leaders. God was dishonored by these taunts, and He would act to clear His name. The people of Israel knew they would suffer indignities at the hands of their enemies in the period of divine judgement. But, God’s judgement was designed to bring about His people’s repentance.
Micah turns hopeful in verse 11. The NIV begins “The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.” That day includes 538 B.C. when Israel began to return from exile in Babylon. It is also a pointing toward the final restoration of God’s people. As the nations flow to a renewed Israel, God’s purposes through Abraham will be fulfilled. But before their restoration, Israel must be disciplined. The land will be empty and desolate because the people have left the land and gone into exile. The people’s wickedness brought on God’s judgements. Ultimately, the Lord promised to completely renew Israel, His special possession. Judgement would not mean the destruction of hope, but a cleansing so that true hope could prevail. The restoration would be God’s work alone as he restored the remnant of His special people and removed their guilt by His love, compassion, and faithfulness.
Micah prayed that God the Shepherd would care for His flock. He also prayed that the greatest wonders of the relationship between God and His people at the time of the exodus would be realized now. With a shepherd’s staff, an ancient Near Eastern Shepherd would protect his sheep from wild beasts. Micah prayed that God would protect His people from hostile Gentile nations. Bashan and Gilead, east of the Jordan River were part of the Lord’s earliest gifts to the Israelite tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. Assyria annexed these territories and took these tribes away in the 700’s B.C. Israel’s ownership would be expanded and restored. Israel’s enslavement to sin and to other nations, called for mighty miracles to happen. The response of the wicked nations to the renewed mercies of God on His people would be terror. The nations would be humiliated because they had taunted Israel in the day of its trouble. The promise that all nations would be blessed by the descendants of Abraham would be fulfilled in this restoration of God’s special people. These nations were like snakes. The nation had struck at the heel of Israel. The prophets regularly depicted foreign nations as poisonous, deceitful serpents. Now these nations would be humbled. Crawling and eating dust were both metaphors for defeat and humiliation.
The last verses, 18-20, provide a brief summary for Old Testament theology. God is unique. There is no one and nothing else like Him. Because of His unfailing love He does not destroy His people whom He judges. Instead He restores them. His faithfulness means that He can be trusted to do good regardless of the cost to Himself. God’s character is unequaled among the gods of the nations. His actions and words spring from His character. God pardons, shows compassion, triumphs over people’s sins, and seals those sins away. The Lord’s unfailing love moved Him to choose Israel from the beginning, consistent with His covenant faithfulness to Israel’s ancestors. By His unfailing love, God continues to offer hope to those who trust in Him. Verse 20 speaks of the patriarchs. God made covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Lord had sworn to fulfill His promises to the patriarchs. God would not and could not leave His promise unfulfilled.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W