Micah – Week Two
We started studying the minor prophets in early September.
Amos said to God’s people in the Northern Kingdom, “Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought out of the land of Egypt
2 You only have I loved so deeply
of all the families of the earth.
Therefore, I will punish you
for all your wrongdoing. (Amos 3:1 CEB )
After some time, the priest, Amaziah approaches Amos and says, “Amos, take your visions and get out! Go back to Judah and earn your living there as a prophet. 13 Don’t do any more preaching at Bethel. The king worships here at our national temple.” (Amos 7:12 CEV)
God’s people didn’t want to hear God’s words of rebuke.
Jonah was forced to go to Nineveh where the population was comprised of God’s enemies. Jonah spoke less than ten words “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant.” (Jonah 3:4b CEB)
Interestingly, God’s enemies not only heard God’s words of rebuke, but they responded and God’s spokesperson (Jonah) was angry that they responded.
Hosea lived a life illustrating God’s mercy and unconditional love. “Israel, you fell and sinned against God. So come back to the Lord your God. 2 Think about what you will say, and come back to the Lord. Say to him,
“Take away our sin,
and accept these words as our sacrifice.
We offer you the praise from our lips. “(Hosea 14:1 ERV)
God’s people were told how to return to God, but they didn’t do it.
Micah, in last week’s discussion, spoke to the leaders and the false prophets of those days. “But you hate good and love evil.” (Micah 3:2 ERV) But the arrogant leaders responded to the threats that Amos was given to deliver and said, “The Lord lives here with us, so nothing bad will happen to us.” (Micah 3:11 ERV)
God’s own people didn’t see a need to return to God because they didn’t realize how far away from Him they had gotten.
Through these prophets and others, the Israelites had been told of God’s anger and frustration with them as the accusations of their disloyalty continued to mount. They had gone too far for too long and escape from any consequence was not possible. Warren W. Wiersbe said, “The situation for the two little Israelite kingdoms was hopeless when Micah delivered his messages. Assyria was about to pounce on Israel and put an end to that nation.” “The city of Jerusalem would be in pain, like a woman giving birth, because the enemy would be capturing the people and taking them to Babylon.”[i]
The sad thing is that the Israelites chose to be ignorant of God’s impending judgment on them. They assumed because they were His chosen, that they had diplomatic immunity. They literally claimed that nothing bad would happen to them. They thought they were living their best life and didn’t recognize God who had given them what they had. Little did they know. There is a Vietnamese proverb that reads, “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”
Even though their sins had been listed out for them for their memories to be refreshed and the consequences of their behaviors revealed, they continued to live in a state of denial. They forgot to be thankful to God and to worship Him with gratitude. “Surely God will never allow any bad to happen to us.” But it did. Just a few years after Micah makes this announcement, the Assyrians rush in and take over the Northern Kingdom. Micah speaks to them of this impending tragedy that will take place in their lifetime, but they don’t listen.
Jeremiah 50:6 NLT ““My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains. They have lost their way and can’t remember how to get back to the sheepfold.”
A true shepherd will do their best to ensure that their sheep stay with them in the fold. A good shepherd will lead their sheep to grassy fields where they can eat and rest. And a loving shepherd will discipline his sheep when necessary.
“The most common method of discipline used by shepherds is called “flocking”. This is when the shepherd will use their body to herd the sheep in the direction they want them to go. This can be done by moving the shepherd’s body in a certain way, or by using a stick or other object to guide the sheep.
Another method of discipline that is sometimes used is called “corralling”. This is when the shepherd will use a fence or other barrier to herd the sheep into a smaller area. This is often used when the shepherd needs to catch a specific sheep, or when the flock needs to be contained for some reason.
Lastly, shepherds may also use dogs to help discipline the flock. Dogs are able to herd sheep in a similar way to the shepherd, and can be very effective in keeping the flock in line.
When it comes to disciplining sheep, it is important for the shepherd to be consistent.
If the sheep know that they can get away with certain behaviours, they will continue to do them. Therefore, it is important to nip any unwanted behaviours in the bud and to consistently enforce the rules that you have set for your flock.”[ii]
God had tried the flocking method. He directed the Israelites to the Promised Land and gave them laws to live by. He had corralled them all together and kept them contained to reinforce their covenant with Him and with each other. When that wasn’t enough, He used the bark and the bite of their enemies to drive them back to Him. And still, the Israelites wouldn’t behave. It came time for the Israelites to suffer for their sinfulness because, just like sheep, we all know that if we can get away with certain behaviors, we will continue to do them. God knew that and He knew when enough was enough.
God had every right to be angry. He was completely justified in allowing His people to suffer because of their sinfulness. He had warned them enough. So any repercussion that came their way should have been of no surprise to them. They deserved everything that was coming to them and even more so.
But then something happens during Micah’s message.
The first word of Micah 4:1 in KJV indicates an unexpected transition, a surprising shift. “But” (Micah 4:1 KJV) That one word clues us in that the tone of the message takes a quick turn.
Micah 4:1 KJV “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Cambridge’s commentary states, “But] The Auth. Vers. has done its best to soften the abruptness of the transition from Micah 3:12 to Micah 4:1. It understands the meaning to be something like this:—In spite of this awful prospect of judgment, God has a bright future in store both for Jerusalem and for Israel.”[iii]
This scripture segment seems to speak of the Millennial Kingdom, which is the thousand-year period in which Jesus will rule over the Earth. So, in Micah’s message, he’s not only speaking about the future of the Israelites, but he’s also speaking about our future. Micah assures us that despite the widespread disobedience and unfaithfulness to God, there will be a day when God’s Temple is the highest, and people from many nations will be drawn to His Temple. God promises to teach us and He says that we will obey. Even though God’s people have messed up and messed up big, God still has a future planned for them.
While Micah is delivering this message to the Southern Kingdom, Isaiah is delivering prophecy to the Northern Kingdom and these are the words God gave to him to deliver.
Isaiah 2:1 ICB “Isaiah son of Amoz saw this message about Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In the last days
the mountain on which the Lord’s Temple stands
will become the most important of all mountains.
It will be raised above the hills.
And people from all nations will come streaming to it.
3 Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.
Let us go to the Temple of the God of Jacob.
Then God will teach us his ways.
And we will obey his teachings.”
The Lord’s teachings will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord’s message will go out from Jerusalem.”
The messages that God gave to two different men are almost carbon copies. If you were to look back at the first chapter of Isaiah, his message to the Israelites he was sent to prophesize to wasn’t much different than the message given to Micah. God says that His children have turned against Him and that they don’t really know God. He warns that terrible times are coming because they are full of evil. They’ve left the Lord and hate Him.
Do you feel as if these lessons on the minor prophets are a little bit like a broken record? I do. It seems that the root of the message each week is the same thing. Entire nations are rebellious; they’ve rejected God; they’ve abandoned His teachings. We get it! The people need to repent from sinful ways and return to the Lord. Judgment is coming! You’ve done too much wrong to escape punishment. However, the Israelites were a lot like us. They didn’t see that they were really doing anything that wrong.
But in the midst of their admonishments, both Micah and Isaiah are given words of hope, and encouragement to deliver to the Israelites as well as to us. In addition to the flocking of people from all nations to God’s Temple, Micah delivers these promises from God.
Micah 4:4 GNT “Everyone will live in peace
among their own vineyards and fig trees,
and no one will make them afraid.
The Lord Almighty has promised this.”
Micah 4:6 GNT “The time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will gather together the people I punished, those who have suffered in exile. 7 They are crippled and far from home, but I will make a new beginning with those who are left, and they will become a great nation.”
Here’s where I think our application comes in. Life isn’t all that we want it to be always. We will often find ourselves stirring a cauldron of emotions because of our circumstances. Truthfully, sometimes our circumstances are because of our own doing. Like the Israelites, we’ve made poor choices, we’ve made bad decisions, and we have been the sheep that have gone astray. Other times, our circumstances are because of the choices of others. We’re like the shipmates of Jonah who find ourselves thrashing about in a stormy sea, not because of our choices, but because of someone else.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 GNT “16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”
We have such an advantage over the Israelites! We have the benefit of having their history as a guidebook for our own lives. As Micah spoke to them, I imagine that they were much like us reading the Book of Revelation and attempting to understand it all. Micah, in chapter 4, tells them of what God plans to do with them.
Micah 4:11 ERV “Many nations have come to fight against you.
They say, “Look, there is Zion!
Let’s attack her!”
12 They have their plans,
but they don’t know what the Lord is planning.
He brought them here for a special purpose.
They will be crushed like grain on a threshing floor.
13 “People of Jerusalem, get up and crush them!
I will make you very strong.
It will be as if you have horns of iron and hooves of bronze.
You will beat many people into small pieces.
You will give their wealth to the Lord.
You will give their treasure to the Lord of all the earth.”
And then in chapter 5 of Micah, he tells them about Jesus.
Micah 5:2 ERV “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are the smallest town in Judah.
Your family is almost too small to count,
but the “Ruler of Israel” will come from you to rule for me.
His beginnings are from ancient times,
from long, long ago.”
Did you notice the first word of that passage? But! Micah transitions from building up their confidence with promises of strength, victory, and prosperity to a promise of a Savior they didn’t know they needed.
Micah was preaching to the common folk. These were those who worked hard for what they had. These people were oppressed. They knew hardship. The struggles of life were not unknown to them. But Micah had good news for them. Despite their sinfulness, despite their disloyalty, unfaithfulness, their current circumstances, and distresses, there was hope. There was something to be thankful for.
All of us have own our life stories. We have experienced the highs on the mountaintops, but we have also found ourselves in the valleys of life far longer than we expected. We have all experienced disappointments, frustrations, heartaches, devastations, challenges, and tragedies. But we have also all experienced blessings, resolutions, God-winks, provisions, mercies, and salvation. And not one bit of it is wasted.
1 Peter 1:5 HCSB “You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
I’ve got a confession to make. I threw myself a little pity party this week. Just a few things took place – all minor – but I let those few things get the best of me. It was no time before I had that “oh woe is me” thing going. And truthfully, looking back on it now, it’s quite pathetic to think about. The few minor, insignificant things that got me down were just that – minor and insignificant.
A few hours into my pity party for one, the Lord had my path intersect with several people who had every reason to be sad, angry, scared, and frustrated. Their circumstances were difficult, gut-wrenching, and nothing that I would ever want to encounter. But all of them had a genuine sense of thankfulness. They all had found an anchor of gratitude that was keeping them from being violently tossed about in their current situation. They had all considered their circumstances, and the possible outcomes, but they found peace in a promise that has existed for thousands of years. “But God.”
And then I remembered…
Sarah was 90 years old and thought her chances of having her own child were impossible. But God gave her Issac.
Joseph was thrown away by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and sent to prison. But God delivered him and provided reconciliation with his family.
David faced an undefeated giant equipped with just five stones and a slingshot. But God empowered David to take that giant down with just one stone.
Rahab was a prostitute. She was living in a city destined for destruction. But God intervened and Joshua spared not only Rahab but all of those within her household.
Gideon was told to go to battle with the Midianites and had amassed 32,000 soldiers which sounds impressive, but it was more than four times less than their enemies. But God reduced Gideon’s army down to a mere 300 soldiers and still gave him victory.
There are countless “But God” stories right here among us that prove God’s mercy, God’s faithfulness, God’s provision, and God’s unconditional love.
Life gets overwhelming at times and we will feel burdened. But God promises us rest. (Matthew 11:28)
We will experience heartache that nearly breaks us. But God promises to mend the brokenhearted. (Psalm 147:3)
There will be periods in which we are swallowed up in frustration and discontent. But God promises to satisfy and fill us with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
Some of us may experience times in which we just aren’t sure God can forgive us for what we’ve done in the past. But God promises that our sins will be as far away from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
We can all feel insignificant and overlooked as if we have no purpose and aren’t of any worth. But God promises that we are worthy dying for. (John 3:16)
Next week is Thanksgiving, a time for us to pause and express our gratitude for what we have, and also for what we don’t have. Whatever your circumstances may be at this moment, there is always something to be thankful for. If you are experiencing a trial, a period of struggle, there is hope. If you have been stuck in the valley for a long time and there is no mountaintop in sight, there is hope. If you simply can’t say that you are full of joy, there is hope. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, listen for God to say, “But…” and I can just about guarantee that you’ll see something to be thankful for.
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward
[i] The Wiersbe Study Bible