Category Archives: Micah

Micah 7 – God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises: Our Only Hope

I love the Bible! It’s so real. Skeptics love to say it’s just a bunch of made up myths and fairy stories, but it reads like neither. Take the first four words of this chapter:

What misery is mine!

He looks out over that land of Israel and sees utter Godlessness everywhere. It’s gotten so bad that people can’t even trust their own families:

For a son dishonors his father,
    a daughter rises up against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.

It must have been very lonely to be Yahweh’s true prophet in ancient Israel. Talk about going against the grain. Not only would they have lived very different lives than their neighbors, they were commanded by God himself to condemn them! To be the constant bearers of bad news! News that nobody wants to hear, ever. What is Micah’s response to all he sees:

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

He puts all his hope in the character and power of God. It doesn’t matter what’s happening. It doesn’t matter what things look like. God will be vindicated, as will his people. The temptation is ever present for us to judge God by circumstances and not by his promises, and it has always been so. When I talk about the Bible being real, that’s definitely part of it. God is constantly putting his servants in a position where they have to make that choice, and he doesn’t make it easy. If humans made it up, it would be so much easier.

The chapter continues with Micah declaring that Israel will eventually triumph over her enemies. He speaks as if he is Israel, and we see what “God my Savior” points forward to:

Because I have sinned against him,
    I will bear the Lord’s wrath,
until he pleads my case
    and upholds my cause.
He will bring me out into the light;
    I will see his righteousness.

Israel has sinned, and will bear the Lord’s wrath, but how can he plead Israel’s case and cause when he must judge and punish her sin? Again, since the Old Testament is all about Christ, we know “the light” refers to Christ, as John tells us in the beginning of his gospel:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

And the righteousness that will vindicate his people will not come from them, but will be an alien righteousness, God’s very own righteousness in Christ. Although Micah or his readers could never have guessed what this means, it was the only solution to the problem of sinful human beings and a holy God. We could never have that relationship based on the law because we could never be perfect, and that from conception! The chapter ends with another declaration of the primary issue of human existence, our sin:

18 Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
    You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
    as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago.

Our hope always and only comes down to God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises to his people. Micah and his readers/hearers couldn’t know what this means, but some how, some way, he will deal with humanity’s sin problem. Life, and we all know it regardless of what we believe, is fundamentally moral, and something must be done with sin, with the wrongness of things. Sin will be wiped out, Micah knows, one way or the other, and as we now know in Christ.

And one last observation. How can God be faithful to Jacob, and show his love to Abraham? They’re dead, aren’t they? No! Physically yes, but as Jesus says in regard to God telling Moses he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The souls of his chosen live on until one day they are clothed with an imperishable body, as Paul promises in I Corinthians 15.




Micah 6 – Only In Christ Can We Handle The Burden of the Law

Now for something new . . . . In this chapter the Lord recites his case against Israel, more delineation of their sin, and the judgment to come. You’d think they (we) got the message already. I guess not. The first words of the Lord to his people are to challenge them to make their case “before the mountains,” and “let the hills hear what you have to say.” And then the Lord will make his case to these same mountains, and “the everlasting foundations of the earth.” It’s almost as if the Lord is using the entire creation as his court of law to make “a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.” They can lie to themselves and think everything’s fine, but all of creation has witnessed their rebellion even from the beginning.

So the Lord recounts some of that history, even as he’s done all throughout the prophets. How can Israel deny this (how can we)? Then in verses 6 and 7 he says that the people come before him (“the exalted God”) with religious ceremonies (burnt offerings), as if those alone might placate him. And in verse 7 we read the heart of the matter, what this and the entire history of redemption is all about:

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Some among Israel even thought sacrificing their children (to Baal) would appease God. The point is our sin and transgressions before God. What is to be done about those and the guilt associated with them? Then we come to a very famous verse people use to exhort us to good works:

He has shown 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.

The problem is that they use this verse out of context, taking the imperative without informing it by the indicative. When I read this I think of Jesus saying right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This comes right after he exhorts the people to love their enemies. Really, in order to be perfect I have to love those who hate and persecute me? Yes, and he could later add, just as I loved you when you were my enemies. Remember, Jesus said over and over in the Sermon, “You’ve heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” The law and its requirements are not just outward conformity, but inward dispositions! We are all before the law and being of a holy god murderer and adulterers!

So what exactly is the point? If the Old Testament is all about Jesus, as I keep repeating in these posts, then the point is that we can’t do it! We can’t do what the Lord requires because what the Lord requires, as Jesus said, is perfection! And because we can’t do it, the Lord himself will give us by faith in Christ what he himself requires! As Paul declares in Romans 3:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Unfortunately, most Christians read Micah 6:8 and instantly feel guilty. They know they’re not very good at acting justly and loving mercy and walking humbly with their God. Everything in their nature is inclined to exactly the opposite. Then well-meaning pastors and teachers instead of exploring how this verse drives us to Christ and the gospel, just exhort more strongly, and menacingly. They pile the guilt on because they don’t understand what the Lord really requires. Moralism, doing good, has become the sine qua none of much of Christianity, instead of sinners justified by grace before a holy God. That is, the gospel! The good news. The good news isn’t, okay, you’ve been saved, your sins are forgiven, now you better shape up! Yet that’s what most Christians get every Sunday: law. Not gospel.

What transformed my Christian experience was what appeared as a fairly innocuous statement by Kim Riddlebarger on a White Horse Inn some years back. You’d think that some thirty plus years of being a Christian, and a seminary graduate at that, this would have been old news, but it wasn’t. He said, “The wrath of God has been fully satisfied in Christ.” That’s it. If this was true, then why was I always suffering from a low grade sense of guilt? Because I didn’t really believe it! I was still living as if God was my judge, jury, and executioner! As if I could obey the law in some sense to curry favor with a perfectly holy God, and I couldn’t! None of us can, ever, as long as we live in this body, in this world. Which is why we come before him every day in Christ’s righteousness, not our own. No matter what we’ve done or haven’t done because it doesn’t matter!

So I’m an antinomian now? Because of God’s unmerited favor, just do whatever you want because it doesn’t matter? Paul blew this argument out of the water in Romans 6, so it’s a red herring. But what Christians tend to do is confuse sanctification for justification. They’re trying to be justified by being more sanctified, which has it exactly backward. Sanctification is as much a sovereign, supernatural work of Almighty God as is justification. Which is why the Apostle John can say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And as Luther said, the Christian life is one of daily repentance. And the author to the Hebrews, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses “our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

Only when we understand and fully accept these truths can we even have a chance of acting justly, of loving mercy, and walking humbly before our God. Amen!

Micah 5 – A Ruler Who Hails from Bethlehem Shall be our Peace

What an amazing chapter this is. It starts with an exhortation for the city to get ready for a siege, and predicts that Israel’s ruler will be struck on the cheek with a rod. The commentaries say this could have a two-fold meaning, one pointing to the last ruler of Judah, King Zedekiah, who was taken away to Babylon. It could also point forward to Christ, who was struck many times as he prepared to take the punishment for our sins, unlike Zedekiah who paid for his own. For both it was a means of humiliating the man. Jesus did that for us, willingly.

Then we read some of the most amazing words of prophecy in the whole of the Old Testament:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.

Remember that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, and that they had to travel to Bethlehem for a census that Cesar had decreed. Joseph “because he was of the house and lineage of David” had to go to Bethlehem to register. The town of Bethlehem makes many appearances in the Old Testament, going back to Genesis, but we read of David’s forebearers specifically in the book of Ruth. So any reader of this text back when it was written would have known this was a reference to the Messianic rule to come, which would come from the line of David. This ruler was ultimately Israel’s hope, and we see the nature of this hope in these few verses.

Whatever “from of old, from ancient days” means (the word used also implies eternity or forever), this is not your average ordinary person. Verse 3 refers to Israel being abandoned (judged for her sin) for a time like a woman in childbirth, then this ruler will come, and who could these words refer to but Jesus:

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of theLord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

This verse (they and their) refers to us! To God’s people whose peace was purchased by Jesus on the cross when he took the punishment for our sin, when he endured God’s wrath so he could take the penalty (death) in our place. I don’t know how your read “he shall be their peace” other than ontologically. That is, this ruler’s being is itself our peace. Maybe you can construct other meanings (he leads Israel to great military victories so in that sense he is their peace), but the New Testament doesn’t leave us any other choice. When I read these words the first verse I thought of was I Corinthians 1:30:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus is our holiness. Jesus is our redemption. Just as he is our peace. Remember Isaiah’s words:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

And Paul’s:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Then it’s right back to the harsh realities of the judgment to come: “When the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses. . .” Micah speaks of “the remnant” among the nations, which is a result of God’s judgment. Yet there is declaration of victory for Jacob.

Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies,
    and all your foes will be destroyed.

Then we read a prophecy about those nations who were Israel’s enemies, and that they and their (idolatrous) way of life will be destroyed in God’s anger and wrath. The Lord may judge his own people for their sin, but he will never ultimately leave his people in the hands of their enemies. Here it is “the nations that have not obeyed me,” but ultimately it is the Devil, sin, and death. They are the real enemies, and this ruler who hails from Bethlehem will see to it that they are ultimately defeated too!


Micah 4 – The Universal Nature of God’s Salvation Could Only be Accomplished in Christ

Chapter 4 starts with the words, “In the last days . . . ”

Then we read an Old Testament version of the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. The salvation is universal in scope (many nations, many peoples, nations far and wide, all the nations), which hearkens back to the Lord’s promises to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. The stark fact that every faithful, believing Jew has to face, although most won’t, is that Judaism as such could never be so universally appealing. And historically, Judaism has never been evangelical in the least. Jewish converts are few and far between, and Jews see themselves more as an ethnic entity than a religious movement. Jesus changed all that, or this prophecy of Micah’s could never have come true. In the end, Judaism was a dead end.

Yet I say above an “Old Testament version” because the focus of the nation is where the ancient Israelites thought it should be, where God’s presence dwelled:

Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Jesus fulfilled all of this! He was the one who was lifted up, and to whom up we go. Jesus called himself the temple (“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”). He taught us his ways for three years. The curse of the law was put to death on the cross in Zion that we might walk in it without trying to win God’s favor by it, and Jesus was declared as the Logos from Jerusalem. Ultimately, the God of Jacob, Jesus himself, will transform the earth (“swords into plowshares”). This is the ultimate eschatological vision of God’s plan of redemption. The chaos and mess and pain and suffering and nightmare that this world can be will be utterly turned upside down. Praise God!

The rest of the chapter (verse 6 on) is another, “In that day,” a vision of things to come having to do with “a remnant.” God’s judgment will come, but he promises that:

The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
    from that day and forever.

This promise is clearly eschatological, for the end of times, but these words and those that follow had profound meaning for the people who read them at the time as well. Imagine reading this as ancient Israelite would. They were terrified of being cast out of their land (“You will go to Babylon), but the Lord’s promise of rescue was something to hold on to: “There the Lord will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.” It may look bad now (and who doesn’t know this experience in life), “[N]ow many nations are gathered against you.,” yet they (and we) stand on the promises of God (v. 4, “for the Lord Almighty has spoken.”). And here we read these comforting words:

12 But they do not know
    the thoughts of the Lord;
they do not understand his plan,
    that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor.

Human hubris always thinks its plans are sovereign and eternal, even though it is blatantly obvious they are neither. But I’m convinced that people live as if “the moment” they inhabit will last forever. Eventually time and mortality win, and God’s providential plans with them. Look what the Lord did to the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. I don’t doubt the Jews of Jesus time imagined the same would happen to the Romans. That’s why Jesus confused the crap out of them! They read Micah, look at the ministry of this Jesus of Nazareth and think, “The Lord’s Messiah has finally come to take down Israel’s oppressors.” That expectation was sorely crushed for them on a Roman cross, but ultimately fulfilled in the man’s death who would become the world’s Savior.

Micah 3 – The Message of Israel’s Failure: The Gospel!

Chapter 3 starts as a rebuke to “you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel.” So much of the prophets ire, and thus the Lord’s, is directed to the leaders of God’s people, those who ostensibly should know better. Instead of embracing justice, they “hate good and love evil.” Sometimes I wonder if the Lord uses hyperbole in describing these things, but the metaphor he uses right after this tells me likely not. Of these leaders he says,

who tear the skin from my people
    and the flesh from their bones;
who eat my people’s flesh,
    strip off their skin
    and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
    like flesh for the pot?”

They have destroyed God’s people in the most disgusting way imaginable, making their acts akin to cannibalism! It doesn’t get much worse than that! The Lord doesn’t do hyperbole; he does truth.

Next up for the Lord’s judgment are the false prophets who lead his people astray. If someone fills their bellies, they’ll proclaim lies, which is whatever the people want to hear. In this case it’s “peace,” when God’s true prophets are proclaiming judgement and destruction. But the false prophets will be exposed and shamed because their words are empty; God will be silent.

Then Micah roars! He, the true prophet of God, proclaims his bona fides:

But as for me, I am filled with power,
    with the Spirit of the Lord,
    and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression,
    to Israel his sin.

A constant theme for me as I read the OT is, why is this here? Why did the Lord put this specific stuff in his revelation to us about his plan of redemption?

Many Christians, dare I say most because they are steeped in a moralistic version of the faith, would say the reason is for us to not sin. So a la ancient Israel, if you sin there will be destruction, if you don’t blessing. But what does this do? It makes God’s revelation all about them! It isn’t about us, but about Christ! Jesus told us in Luke 24 after his resurrection that he was what the OT was about, all of it.

So for me, instead of seeing all the wailing and moaning about Israel’s sin as exhortation for me not to sin (and I’m all for not sinning, although I’m not very good at it), I see it as a prelude to the proclamation of the gospel. The only thing we bring to God in the relationship is sin. In fact we’re dead in it, and by nature objects of God’s wrath. We cannot not sin, and as we see in ancient Israel, sin must be judged. As Micah says here, destruction as judgment will most definitely come. But what is Israel’s response, it’s leaders especially? Repentance? Like Ninevah did as Jonah feared? Not even close:

Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
    “Is not the Lord among us?
    No disaster will come upon us.”

This is exactly how sinners respond who are deaf, dumb, blind, and dead in their sin. God is love, so what do I have to worry about, is one thought I’m sure lost people indulge in. But we all are sinners who sin, from the time our mother’s conceived us, as David says, and the penalty for sin must be paid. We are Israel! And instead of depending on God’s favor because we are so cuddly and lovable, we must understand that we are condemned sinners. We must repent! Daily! And Israel’s failure, the failure of it’s prophets, priests, and kings (as we read about yet again in this chapter) leads us to look to Christ, our Savior, who paid it all. The price, because God’s holy nature demands it, had to be paid as Israel learned, and Jesus paid it for us. That’s why we read what we read about in the Old Testament.

Micah 1 & 2 – God Himself Leads Captives to Victory

Micah lived in the 700s BC during the time of Isaiah and Jonah and before the fall of the northern Kingdom to the Assyrians. His prophetic message is similar to all the others: judgment is coming. Chapter 1 specifically addresses the coming destruction of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. But Judah and it’s capital Jerusalem will not get off either, even though we know it’s another 150 years or so before that happens.

Chapter 2 begins with a recitation of Israel’s sins, that are familiar from what we’ve read in all the previous prophetic utterances. The middle part of the chapter calls out false prophets who reject Micah’s (and other prophets of God) message of destruction. The false prophets tell the true:

    “Do not prophesy about these things;
    disgrace will not overtake us.”
You descendants of Jacob, should it be said,
    “Is the Spirit of the Lord angry?
    Does he do such things?”

It’s amazing how nothing much changes. People in our day refuse to believe God gets angry. Such emotion (and assessment of our deeds and its attendant judgment according to his justice) is not worthy of God, they think. In fact like the false prophets they convince themselves that judgment will never come, that God’s wrath is a figment of some fevered religious fanatic’s mind. It isn’t, as Israel was soon to find out; and one day, judgment day, all humanity will too.

A classic verse that nails human nature is found in this second chapter. Presumably these are the words of Micah:

11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says,
    ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’
    that would be just the prophet for this people!

People want to hear what they want to hear, but regardless of how lies and deception are lapped up, judgment must come. Yet amid all this negativity the chapter ends with the promise of God’s salvation, typical of the theme in all the prophets. It’s always recitation of sin, declaration of God’s judgment, then promise of salvation. And this specific promise is Messianic. He promises to gather a remnant of the people of Israel together like sheep in a pasture, then this:

13 The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
    they will break through the gate and go out.
Their King will pass through before them,
    the Lord at their head.”

Interesting words, “breaks open the way.” That’s exactly what Jesus did when he uttered the words, “It is finished” on the cross. The veil of the temple that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was torn asunder, from top to bottom. That veil separated God’s presence from his people. As Jonah did when he was in distress, he looked to that temple, to where the holy, Creator God of Israel dwelt. Now his dwelling will be in the midst of and among his people. And we could possibly read breaking through the gate and going out and breaking through as applying to the slavery of sin that binds us to spiritual death. After all, that’s the thing the whole history of redemption points us to.

Further, their King passing through can bee seen as a picture of passing through the waters in their escape from Egypt, and instead of Moses at their head, it is the Lord himself who leads them! And we know from the NT that the whole of Israel’s captivity in Egypt was a 400 year long metaphor for our captivity to sin. Again and again we are told and taught seven ways from Sunday that salvation is of the Lord. And still people think it’s all about them, and their feelings, and their performance, and their will, and their choices. All important things, but all things subject to the saving power of our Almighty Sovereign covenant God and Savior. Amen!