Micah 6:1 - 7:20  God Takes Israel to Court  April 30, 2018

 

 

Micah ministered during the reign of three kings in Judah, the Southern Kingdom, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  The dates of their reigns are well established to be a period of 55 years from 742 BC to 687 BC.  King Uzziah preceded these kings and died of leprosy in 740 BC (2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  Isaiah received his commission as prophet to the southern kingdom the year Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1-9).  Therefore Micah and Isaiah were prophets to the Israelites at the same time.  Isaiah wrote a longer book , but their messages were the same.  They both were contemporary with Amos and Hosea as well.

 

His ministry was to all Israel, both Southern and Northern Kingdoms.  Samaria was the capital city of Israel and Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah.  His words were directed primarily to Judah.  Israel was no more after 721 BC.  She did not heed her prophets from God.  

 

But Micah’s words are directed to all peoples in every age because they tell the consequences of the judgment of God for those who fail to keep his word.  Micah also affirms God’s message of hope for all peoples who hear the word and believe.

 

We do not know just how he was called, but we read that the word of the Lord (Verbum Domini) came to him in this time period.  The call of Isaiah was very dramatic, (Isaiah 6:1-13).  Was Micah called in a similar manner?  We read that the Word of the Lord ‘came’ to Micah.  This is not a passive word, but active.  It could read ‘came in power’.  It was a word that he ‘saw’.  Micah was a man who had the gift of seeing.  He could see hidden things the common man could not see. 

 

Micah’s ministry overlapped the ministries of Amos and Hosea.  He prophesied serious consequences to the northern Kingdom unless they changed their ways significantly.  His message was fully consistent with the teachings of Amos and Hosea.  The kingdom had grown rich and fat.  The rulers and the upper class did not need God because they were able to take very good care of themselves.  They became greedy and covetous, and exploited the poor, taking from them the little they had.  They were able to meet their religious obligations by worshipping the golden calves and the Baals.  They found sexual freedom in the practices of the pagan gods, probably very similar to our country today.  Yahweh’s rules did not apply in the Northern Kingdom, except for a faithful few.  The people were spiritually unable to return to the Lord under the ministries of Amos, Hosea and Micah.   The entire Northern Kingdom fell before the invasion of the Assyrians in 722-721 BC.  The 10 tribes were so scattered that we call them the lost tribes today. 

 

Micah’s ministry to the Southern Kingdom overlapped with Isaiah.  The conditions in Judah were not much better than in Israel.  But fortunately Jerusalem was spared the Assyrian invasion because she had a good and faithful king, Hezekiah, on the throne.

 

We finished our study last week with a word of hope and redemption.  The day will come when God draws his profligate children back to him.  God says, I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel…Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.  This day will be when the Messiah comes to establish his eternal kingdom on earth.

 

This week God takes Israel to court.  Israel is the defendant.  God is the plaintiff and is his own attorney.  The mountains and the hills are the jury.  A formal case is laid out before the court.  Verdict will follow and just punishment will be carried out.

 

6:1-2  Hear what the LORD says:

Arise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.

Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD,

and you enduring foundations of the earth,

for the LORD has an indictment against his people,

and he will contend with Israel.

 

This is a covenant lawsuit.  The rulebook is the Torah.  The true meaning of the Torah is noted in Amos 5:24, But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, and Hosea 6:6,  For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  

 

God wants justice and righteousness, love and true knowledge of himself to characterize his people.

 

The hills and the mountains are called as witnesses because they have been around for a long time and have seen God’s works and Israel’s failures from the beginning of time.

 

6:3-5 “O my people, what have I done to you?

How have I wearied you? Answer me!

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt

and redeemed you from the house of slavery,

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.

 

O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,

and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”

 

This is one of the great passages in the Old Testament.  The plaintiff knows the defendant intimately and does not want justice to prevail.  That would mean the end of both kingdoms.  He reaches out to the defendant with love and gracious words.  He recounts their move from Egypt to the Promised Land, and his mighty acts on their behalf.  He also recounts their shortcomings on both sides of the Jordan River.

 

But even grace can get weary.   Isaiah asks Ahaz in 7:13, “Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?”  Later God speaks:

 

Isaiah 43:22-24 22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;

but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,

or honored me with your sacrifices.

I have not burdened you with offerings,

or wearied you with frankincense.

You have not bought me sweet cane with money,

or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.

But you have burdened me with your sins;

you have wearied me with your iniquities.

 

Malachi 2:17  You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?”  By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.”  Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 

 

What Does the Lord Require?

 

6:6-7 “With what shall I come before the LORD,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

 

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

 

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

 

6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

 

This section represents one of the two basic ideas about religion.  How can man approach God?  One answer is with sacrifices and good works.  The other answer is that God has little interest in some external gifts or sacrifices, but he desires a humble believer who loves to serve God and practice justice toward his fellowman.

 

Isaiah 1:11-20  11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the LORD;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of well-fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

 

 

When you come to appear before me,

who has required of you

this trampling of my courts?

 

Bring no more vain offerings;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

 

Your new moons and your appointed feasts

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

 

When you spread out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

 

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow's cause.

 

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

 

If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

It seems to me that believing in Jesus is insufficient for salvation.  Nowhere in the Old Testament is belief the sole criterion for salvation?  In these passages and throughout the Torah all belief must be accompanied by good works.  Good works affirms the validity of the belief.  Here we see that good works and sacrifices are rejected because they are not accompanied by faith - that is love of God and a righteous walk. 

 

Romans 6:6-10 He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.  For God shows no partiality.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10   For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

James 2:14, 18-24 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

 

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe—and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

 

 

Norman Snaith:  To say that God requires ultimately nothing that man can bring does not mean that men ought not to worship Him.  Worship is necessary for man, because it is the outward expression of true humility before God, of that humble trust which is essential.  It is when worship ceases to be this that it is a hindrance and not a help.  So long as it is the outcome of true and humble conscious devotion to God, it can and does strengthen those bonds which bind God and man together through Christ.  Worship is also necessary because a man should be full of praise and thankfulness to God; but as soon as the aim of hymns and songs and music generally becomes aesthetic, it is the time to beware.”

 

 

Destruction of the Wicked

 

6:9-16 The voice of the LORD cries to the city—

and it is sound wisdom to fear your name:

“Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!

 

Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?

 

Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales

and with a bag of deceitful weights?

 

Your rich men are full of violence;

your inhabitants speak lies,

and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.

 

Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow,

making you desolate because of your sins.

You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not preserve,

and what you preserve I will give to the sword.

 

You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.

 

For you have kept the statutes of Omri,

and all the works of the house of Ahab;

and you have walked in their counsels,

that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”

 

Israel is in the dock.  The jury agrees with the prosecuting attorney.  Now the judge declares judgment on the defendant.  Instead of justice, loyalty and humble fellowship with God, the land is full of wickedness.    Omni assassinated Zimri and seized the throne of Israel (1 Kings 16).  He continued to lead the nation in evil.  His son Ahab, with Jezebel his wife, are notorious to this day for the evil in their reign.  Now the nation will reap the consequences.

 

A Lament over a Decadent Society

 

7:1-6 Woe is me! For I have become

as when the summer fruit has been gathered,

as when the grapes have been gleaned:

there is no cluster to eat,

no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.

 

The godly has perished from the earth,

and there is no one upright among mankind;

they all lie in wait for blood,

and each hunts the other with a net.

 

Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;

the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,

and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;

thus they weave it together.

The best of them is like a brier,

the most upright of them a thorn hedge.

The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;

now their confusion is at hand.

 

Put no trust in a neighbor;

have no confidence in a friend;

guard the doors of your mouth

from her who lies in your arms;

for the son treats the father with contempt,

the daughter rises up against her mother,

the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

 

 

Micah laments over his people.  He knows what lies ahead and the people have no clue.  They cannot comprehend his messages.  This is like our nation today.  The teaching of the Bible is foolishness, but just incase someone should respond to it, it is taken out of the public square and out of the schools.  With the Bible out of sight, one can do what ever one pleases, and what one pleases tends toward evil and not good.  Huxley embraced Darwin’s evolutionary theory because it freed him from his responsibility to God.

 

 

7:7-10 But as for me, I will look to the LORD;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.

 

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the LORD will be a light to me.

 

I will bear the indignation of the LORD

because I have sinned against him,

until he pleads my cause

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall look upon his vindication.

Then my enemy will see,

and shame will cover her who said to me,

“Where is the LORD your God?”

My eyes will look upon her;

now she will be trampled down

like the mire of the streets.

 

Micah affirms his faith in Yahweh.  Joshua made a similar confession when the Israelites were established in the Promised Land.  

 

 Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

 

This section also reads like a psalm of trust and faith in Yahweh.  He is their faithful God, who forgives their sins and vindicates his faithful followers.  There is no shame in being a true believer.  The shame will be on the side of the unbelievers. 

 

Wait for the God of Salvation

 

7:11-13 A day for the building of your walls!

In that day the boundary shall be far extended.

In that day they will come to you,

from Assyria and the cities of Egypt,

and from Egypt to the River,

from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

But the earth will be desolate

because of its inhabitants,

for the fruit of their deeds.

 

Judgment is coming on the nation, but there will be a day when Jerusalem is restored and will have to be greatly enlarged to contain all the returning people of God.

 

 

7:14-17 Shepherd your people with your staff,

the flock of your inheritance,

who dwell alone in a forest

in the midst of a garden land;

let them graze in Bashan and Gilead

as in the days of old.

As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,

I will show them marvelous things.

The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;

they shall lay their hands on their mouths;

their ears shall be deaf;

they shall lick the dust like a serpent,

like the crawling things of the earth;

they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;

they shall turn in dread to the LORD our God,

and they shall be in fear of you.

 

Now Micah prays to God to shepherd his people and bring them back to the Promised Land.  Let the world see your deliverance once again, as they saw when you rescued Israel from Egypt.

 

God's Steadfast Love and Compassion

 

7:18-20 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

 

You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

 

The Book of Micah ends with this hymn praising Yahweh for his forgiveness and devotion and faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham so long ago.  This is also a play on Micah’s name which means “who is like Yahweh”.  God will forgive the sins of his people because of his great love for them, and the sins will be cast into the depths of the sea.  John’s Gospel claims that “the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Thus Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Jacob.