Micah has been likened to a horse, thinking of the warhorses of Assyria pounding towards Judah. However, I see Micah more associated with the cow, because this prophet talked about banging swords into plows.
Horses and mules were pretty scarce in Judah, but there were plenty of bulls and cows, so the farmer usually had his plow pulled by oxen.
In these first three chapters Micah delivered a strong rebuke
Chapter 1: Disaster is Coming
How long have you been praying about something and it seems like nothing is happening? There is no change, and it seems like God is looking the other way. Have you gotten discouraged? Just want to give up? How long, O Lord….?
Micah began with an avalanche of disaster, God’s wrath had been roused, the Lord was coming down from heaven, from God’s holy temple, in majestic power, everything to melt like wax in a fire at God’s approach.
What a terrifying way to begin!
The sovereign Lord of the universe was coming to pour out the wrath of God’s judgment. The incurable wound infecting Israel and Samaria had now reached the gates of even God’s own holy city, Jerusalem – Micah meant both Israel’s sin and the Assyrian invasion.
Then we read about all these little towns that were going to endure God’s judgement, little towns just like Micah’s hometown. There is a play on each of these city names, describing a part of the disaster that would come down on all Israel and Judah:
1:10 Ophrah sounds like the Hebrew word for “dust.” Rolling in the dust was a traditional rite of mourning.
1:11 Shaphir sounds like the word for “beautiful.” Now, like a slave, she would be naked and ashamed.
1:11 Zaanan sounds like Hebrew for “go out.” Now they would be locked in their city, under siege.
1:11 Beth Ezel means “nearby city,” as in a nearby ally, only Beth Ezel would be in mourning, no help to anyone.
1:12 Maroth means “bitterness.”
1:13 Lachish was well known for its chariot races. Only this time they would be racing in an attempt to escape.
1:14 Moresheth, Micah’s home town, sounds like “betrothed” in Hebrew. Now she would be given to a cruel husband, the invader.
1:14 Aczib sounds like Hebrew for “deceitful” and “disappointing,” for there would be treachery even among brothers.
1:15 Mareshah is a derivative of “possessor” or “heir,” but now this city would be possessed by someone else.
1:15 David had found refuge in Adullum when he fled Saul. Now the aristocracy of Israel would flee for refuge to this humble city.
Micah knew these people, he was one of them, and he was grieving that the oppressed, the poor, the ordinary people, the remnant, were going to suffer because of the sins of their rulers.
Part of Micah’s success as God’s witness was that he genuinely identified with and loved the people he was speaking to, and he genuinely grieved for what was coming to them. Thinking about Micah’s steadfast love for the people he had been teaching and pastoring all the long years of King Ahaz desperately wicked reign made me thinking about the quality of my own love.
How strong is the staying power of our love for the people God has put into our care, especially when it seems they are not listening at all?
Chapter 2, God’s Indictments
- 2:1 Plotting evil. Lying awake at night devising schemes, and in the morning, following through, because they could.
- 2:2: Coveting. Then finding a way to take what they wanted, to the point of seizing people’s homes, and stealing their inheritances.
God would now turn the tables, for when God’s judgement came, these very things would happen to those people. They would be “utterly ruined,” their lands parceled out among their captors, and their inheritances taken from them.
- 2:6: Slipping away from God. Every relationship has ups and downs, but in this indictment God grieved over the people not caring anymore, wanting false prophets while knowing full well they were false. The people in Micah’s day could buy any message they wanted, with the tagline, “God says so,” even when God would never have endorsed any of it.
- 2:8- 9: Unchecked rapacious greed. The sense of entitlement was endemic at every level in society, people were taking whatever they wanted, leaving many destitute. Women and their young children were driven from their homes, and left vulnerable, without recourse.
God was using the only language the people would listen to or even hear, the language of suffering and disaster.
When we look back through the list of God’s indictments, a pattern emerges. Each of these evils began in the mind. Yet, instead of dealing with these seed thoughts, the people nurtured their sense of entitlement, they indulged their cravings, they gave license to their base appetites, and they nursed their anger and bitterness into full-grown schemes.
The Apostle Paul spoke to this tendency when he wrote to the church in Philippi,
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)
God concluded with these words through Micah, saying,
Arise and go;Micah 2:10 (NRSV)
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.
Israel, the chosen people of God, beloved of God, having the law, covenants, and promises of God, had so filthied their culture, God said Arise and go. There is nothing lovely left here, it is all unclean, the kind of impurity that destroys. They had made themselves enemies to God through how they treated each other.
It is simply not possible to have one kind of relationship with God, and another kind with people. Either love, goodness, and grace are the foundation . . . or some other thing.
Yet Micah ended this chapter with hope. One day, God would send a deliverer, someone who would gather together what was left of God’s people and lead them through the gate of their prison into freedom.
Chapter 3, Corruption in High Places
Micah exposed the corruption of every branch of government.
- 3:1-3, The judges were perverting the courts and gouging people. One day they would cry out to God for mercy and God would give them the same mercy they had shown in their courts: silence.
- 3:5-7, The prophets knew God and knew God’s word. But instead of telling the truth, they prophesied lies and led people astray—they did it for the money. God would now institute a time of silence which ended up being the 400 years between the last prophet, Malachi and John the Baptist.
- 3:9, The political leaders distorted everything that was right. One day they would seek order but there would only be chaos.
Micah alone remained as the prophet who spoke the truth of the Lord.
But as for me, I am filled with power,Micah 3:8
with the spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
Micah was filled with the Holy Spirit.
What part of this day would you or I be willing to live without being empowered by God’s Spirit?
Notice what else Micah said he was filled with: justice and might. It is remindful of Jesus’ teaching, centuries later, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Micah had that hunger and thirst, and indeed he became filled with God’s mighty power, God’s character and values of justice and mercy, and the very essence of God by God’s Holy Spirit.
May you and I have the same hunger and thirst, and the same filling as we face a world in pain.
The Prophet Micah } The Jewish Museum, James Tissot / Public Domain