April 9, 2018
Today we begin the study of the book of the prophet Micah. In the first verse of his prophesy we learn four facts about him.
1. He states his name is Micah, which means, ‘who is like Yahweh?’ It is a short version of Micayah found in Jeremiah 26:18 and 1 Kings 22:13.
2. He comes from the town of Moresheth. Moresheth is located on the road descending to the southwest from Jerusalem to the main north-south commercial route along the Mediterranean coast in Gaza. It was along this route that Phillip met the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8.
Acts 8:26-28 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Today it is the village Tel el Judeideh, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, on the road to Lachish.
3. He 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 to minister 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. He was contemporary with Amos and Hosea as well.
4. 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 ‘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. It is said Moses saw the burning bush while others just sat around eating berries. God reveals himself to those with eyes to see.
1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Verbum Domini - the word of YHWH
You can read how God revealed himself to Jeremiah (ch. 1) and Ezekiel
(ch. 1-2) in their books. Can you think of others in the Bible who had life changing encounters with God?
The Coming Destruction
1:2-3 Hear, you peoples, all of you;
pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,
and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
We read that Micah ‘saw’ matters concerning Jerusalem and Samaria. Now he asks the people to ‘hear’ what he has to say. There are those who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not.
God told Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9-10:
“Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Micah begins his ministry with the words of God, the God of all Israel who resides in the Jerusalem temple. The true dwelling place of God is in heaven, of course, but he has established a residence in the tabernacle and later in the Holy of Holies in the temple. We read in Ezekiel 10 how God departs the temple about 150 years after this time just before Jerusalem falls to the Babylonian invasion.
1:4-5 And the mountains will melt under him,
and the valleys will split open,
like wax before the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
When God comes down to tread upon the high places of the earth the consequences are dramatic. We have just studied the fall of the northern kingdom by the Assyrian invasion. We remember too the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Judgment is coming on Judah as well, although not yet the total destruction of the Babylonian invasion. Ahaz was a king of Judah that did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the king of Israel.
We understand that Samaria was set up as a pagan city by Jeroboam I, but what are the high places of Judah? As we read (2 Chronicles 28 1-27) we find that King Ahaz sacrificed his own children to Molech, set up pagan altars throughout the land, and sealed the doors to the Temple in Jerusalem.
1:6-7 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,
a place for planting vineyards,
and I will pour down her stones into the valley
and uncover her foundations.
All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.
The destruction of the Northern Kingdom is imminent. Therefore this prophesy will soon come to pass. Then the people will be assured that Micah is a true prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22).
Temple prostitution apparently was a profitable enterprise.
The pagan temples prospered for a while, but their prosperity was fleeting. It is interesting that the prostitutes in California are in court demanding legal recognition and an end to laws against prostitution.
1:8-9 For this I will lament and wail;
I will go stripped and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable,
and it has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
Micah takes his commission seriously. He sees that God is going to judge his people and that the people are not responding to his message. He weeps for them. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet (Jeremiah 8:18-9:3). Here we see Micah weeping and wailing. We know that Jesus wept. We can find this among all the true prophets of God in the Bible and even to God’s messengers in this day. think of the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Are we capable of weeping for our society today? Do we take these ancient words sufficiently seriously?
1:10-16 Tell it not in Gath;
weep not at all;
roll yourselves in the dust.
Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come out;
the lamentation of Beth-ezel
shall take away from you its standing place.
For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
because disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
Harness the steeds to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to the daughter of Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
Therefore you shall give parting gifts
the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing
to the kings of Israel.
I will again bring a conqueror to you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.
Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair,
for the children of your delight;
make yourselves as bald as the eagle,
for they shall go from you into exile.
This is a lament over the fate of Judah. It is a series of puns on the names of twelves cities. An invader will be coming, and it will be the Assyrians. They are the ones who carried off the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC. They returned in 701 BC to conquered 46 walled cities in Judah. These cities were on the path of the Assyrian invasion from Gaza to Jerusalem, as they were returning from conquering Egypt. Jerusalem was spared through God’s direct intervention when 185 thousand soldiers of the invading army were killed overnight (2 Kings 19:35-37; 2 Chronicles 32:20-23).
Woe to the Oppressors
2:1-5 Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
behold, against this family I am devising disaster,
from which you cannot remove your necks,
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be a time of disaster.
In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you
and moan bitterly,
and say, “We are utterly ruined;
he changes the portion of my people;
how he removes it from me!
To an apostate he allots our fields.”
Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot
in the assembly of the LORD.
Here we see a reversal of fortune for the evil doers. As the country grew very wealthy through trade and because wars had ceased for a season, the rich grew exceedingly greedy. They had sufficient economic, political and judicial power that they could prey on the poor and take from them the little they had. Land was the primary source of wealth for all the people, so taking their land would totally impoverish them. Also, the Torah sought to preserve the land of all the people with the laws of the Sabbath year and of the Year of Jubilee. We discussed this at our last meeting. Now the wealthy will experience what they had imposed on the poor. This will be God’s doing, and he will be using the Assyrians as his tool. They and their wealth will come to nothing.
Psalm 37:10-13 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
The land was originally distributed to the Israelites by lot.
Joshua 18:9-10 Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.
Micah sees a day when the land will return to the rightful owners.
Review the story of Ahab’s coveting the vineyard of Naboth in 1 Kings 21, for a picture of how the powerful could treat the vulnerable.
2:6-11 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
Has the LORD grown impatient?
Are these his deeds?
Do not my words do good
to him who walks uprightly?
But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;
you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly
with no thought of war.
The women of my people you drive out
from their delightful houses;
from their young children you take away
my splendor forever.
Arise and go,
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.
If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,
saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”
he would be the preacher for this people!
The people tell Micah to quit his preaching. They did the same to Amos as you recall. Remember Amos and Micah were contemporaries. The people considered themselves special because they were children of Abraham. God would not allow harm to come to them. But God blesses those who will walk uprightly. But the people are now trusting their riches rather than God. Their wealth will fail them and they will find no rest because uncleanness destroys with a grievous destruction. Micah mockingly tells them that they would be happy with a prophet who will tell them lies and revel in strong drink.
Amos 7:12-16 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.
They ignored Jeremiah in his day. They called him a wind-bag.
Jeremiah 5:12-13 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly treacherous to me,
declares the LORD.
They have spoken falsely of the LORD
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.
The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!’”
2:12-13 I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel;
I will set them together
like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in its pasture,
a noisy multitude of men.
He who opens the breach goes up before them;
they break through and pass the gate,
going out by it.
Their king passes on before them,
the LORD at their head.
As harsh as the judgment will be, God again shows his true heart. He promises a time of restoration to come. The people will be restored to their God and to their land. We know that this will come through Jesus who preaches of a new kingdom in which he is the head.