Minor Prophets XI
Micah’s name means “Who is like Yahweh?” And this seems to be the main thrust of Micah’s call to repentance. It is not the threat of punishment that primarily drives him, though that is mentioned. The primary thought driving Micah is the astounding mercy of Yahweh.
The Text: Chapter 3 ends on a low note promising that Zion will be plowed like a field for their sins of covetousness. (3:12). So it’s striking when the very next breath is a promise that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains (4:1ff). Out of Zion will go forth the law, and peace and justice shall reign (4:2-4). Then God will assemble the outcasts and lame and afflicted and give them the dominion of the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem (4:6-8). This will be a difficult process like a woman in labor and many will doubt that she will rise at all (4:9-5:1). Though His beginning will be small and unlikely, God will raise up a Shepherd King who will feed His sheep (5:2-5). Then, when Assyrians come, the remnant of Jacob will be like young lions against their adversaries (5:5-9). Somehow through this process, God will destroy all the strength and sorceries of the nations (5:10-15). With this thought Yahweh wants to know what He has done to cause Israel to turn against Him (6:1-3). He reminds Israel that He brought her up from Egypt and specifically points to Balaam, the prophet for hire – that Israel may know the righteousness of the Lord (6:4-5, cf. Num. 22-24). God insists that He is not fundamentally after liturgical lavishness, what He requires is justice and mercy and humility (6:6-8). If Israel heeds the rod of God’s discipline (6:9, cf. 5:1), they will learn wisdom and know that God’s affliction is just (6:10-16). At this point, Micah cries out for the sin of his people and warns them to put no hope in friends or family, but to look to the Lord for salvation (7:1-7). His cry is not hopeless, as he still raises one hand in defiance to those enemies who might rejoice in his fall – but he believes that God’s justice is big enough to include his punishment and salvation (7:8-9). Ultimately Israel’s enemies will be trampled down, the walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and God will shepherd His people as He did when He brought them out of Egypt and the nations shall be ashamed and ask ‘Who is a God like You?’ (7:10-18). But the great wonder will not be the destruction of their enemies or the rebuilding of the city. It will be the forgiveness of their sins (7:18-20).
In other words, wound through Micah’s pleas and cries is a foundational hope that despite the sins of Israel and Judah, God will break up the fallow ground and replant, He will bring the violent labor to birth, He will bring forth a righteous King, He will turn the cursing to blessing, His disciplining rod will teach true wisdom, and in the end, all their sins will be drowned in the sea.
Do you have this hope? This is not the hope of natural optimism. This is not a sunny disposition or simplistic idealism. In the face of abortion, in the face of ISIS murders, in the face of police brutality, racial injustice, political scheming, corporate greed, and systems of power and manipulation that crush the weak and the poor and the needy — do you have this hope? In the face of your own sin, your own failures, your own complicity in the evil of this world, in the face of the turmoil at your work, in your family, with your parents, with your children, in your sickness, in your pain – do you have this hope? Micah says: The faithful man has perished from the earth… (7:2-5) But what does Micah conclude? He says Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness (7:8-9).
Where does this kind of hope come from? It comes from a fundamental confidence in the kind of God we serve. What kind of God do we serve? He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His flock. He is the Good Shepherd who always comes for His people. He came for them in Egypt, doing wonders, and just as Micah promised, He came for them again out of Bethlehem. He’s come for us in Jesus. And the real wonder is that He comes for us again and again despite our sins, despite our rebellion, despite our folly and hypocrisy. He comes pardoning iniquity. He comes passing over transgression. He does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy. The unshakeable hope of Micah is grounded in the unshakeable mercy of God. Even as Micah and Israel sink beneath the waves of sin and destruction, Micah lifts his fist, pointing to the Lord, absolutely certain of salvation because of the kind of God he serves. What kind of God do we serve? The kind of God who delights in mercy. He does not hesitate to show mercy. He is not reluctant to show mercy. He is eager to forgive, eager to forget, eager to receive, eager to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. This is who God has promised to be. This is His covenant with us.
We said last week that the center of Micah’s charge against Israel and Judah is their covetousness, their envy. This is what drives all violence, all rivalry, all conflict (Js. 4:1, Gal. 5:15). It’s our lust, our desires, our appetites, our envy of the pleasures we think others have. This is how all advertising works, right? But Micah says, don’t you see how this causes conflict and hatred? You’re trying to fill an infinite void with a finite pleasure. They don’t have what you you’re looking for. But God does. You’re looking for love. You’re looking for acceptance. You’re looking for forgiveness. And Micah says that He is and does all those things. He comes in a new Exodus, triumphing over our sins and drowning them in the sea so that not one remains. He can handle it all. He can handle every failure, every sin, every enemy, every pharaoh. And in Jesus, He has already done it.
The problem is not with God. It’s not that He can’t handle your sin. It’s not that He can’t handle our conflict. It’s that we frequently refuse to actually let Him. But He raises up mountains, He brings to birth, He turns curses into blessing, He is born in Bethlehem, He casts our sins in the sea. Micah’s name means Who is like Yahweh? And there is only one answer: nobody. Therefore, you are called to hope (Rom. 15:13).