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.
Chapters 4-5 offer near-term and far future prophecies, some of which are still to be fulfilled
How to Read Prophecy
There are two main ways to understand prophetic texts in the Bible.
- The first way is to accept the words to mean literally what they say. For example, God delineated to Abraham the physical borders of the land his descendants would live in, and sure enough, Israel reached those borders exactly, during the reigns of David and Solomon.
Because God further promises that Israel will one day live within those very borders, never to be moved again, one way to read this prophecy is to believe it in a concrete and literal way, just as the first prophecy/promise had been fulfilled
- The second way is to spiritualize God’s promises, for example recognizing the promised land as heaven, and God’s people as including all those who believe in God, those of Jewish faith and lineage, and also those of other nationalities, culture groups, and ethnic backgrounds who have yet put their faith in God through Christ.
From my own vantage, it seems best to accept prophecy at face value for what it says, as true in a concrete, physical, real way–all the while understanding that its fulfillment may come in some very unexpected and surprising ways.
That said, there are times when a literary device is obviously being used, such as poetry or parable. In those cases, it makes sense to me to understand that text with more of a spiritualized sense.
From Razed to Raised
With that in mind, let us take another look at the following passage (it came at the end of last week’s passage).
Therefore because of youMicah 3:12 (NRSV)
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
But then, we get into chapter 4 and the prophet seems to be portraying a future time.
In days to comeMicah 4:1 (NRSV)
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
The waywardness of the people, their sins, their wrongdoing before the Lord, and their dismissal of God, turned God’s mountain into a rubble pile.
But now the Lord is going to demonstrate God’s power by raising up God’s mountain and making it the center of justice and righteousness.
In this vision of the future there will be
- Freedom from ignorance. (4:2)
- Many nations will go to Jerusalem to receive God’s law and live by it. In a way, the word of the Lord is already going out from Jerusalem even today, because God’s word was first given to the Hebrew people. (4:2)
- Freedom from war. It is significant that world peace follows living by God’s law. True peace is the knowledge of and obedience to the Gospel. When you and I receive God’s word into our lives, we are changed, you and I desire peace and pursue it. (4:2-3)
- Freedom from poverty, everyone will be well provided for. (4:4)
- Freedom from fear. Can you even imagine what that will be like, not to be afraid of losing a job, or losing a baby, not afraid of getting hurt or hit with a disaster? Not ever worried or afraid? (4:4)
Micah 4:6-7 God will gather together all the exiles and govern them from Mount Zion. Israel will have its former dominion.
Micah prophesied physical promises that have yet to be fulfilled.
Micah prophesied about Judah’s near-future exile . . .
Now why do you cry aloud?
Is there no king in you?
for now you shall go forth from the cityMicah 4:9, 10 (NRSV)
and camp in the open country;
you shall go to Babylon.
and of God’s rescue
There you shall be rescued,Micah 4:10 (NRSV)
there the Lord will redeem you
from the hands of your enemies.
. . . and then of God’s ultimate and complete redemption of God’s people.
Micah 4:11-13 Micah predicted Israel would engage in world-wide war and would win, taking all the nations’ wealth to God for the Lord’s use.
Armageddon: Many have read this prophecy as the last great battle of earth, when all nations gather around Jerusalem to annihilate God’s people. The war ends with a great judgement which ushers in what some scholars call the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 20 is where this idea of the Millennium comes from. Some people who study Revelation believe Satan was bound when Jesus was crucified. Others think he was bound some time in the Middle Ages. Still others feel it makes more sense to expect the binding of Satan has not yet happened. There are those who do not see this as a literal thousand year reign at all.
But the important thing is that during this time, described here in Micah, whether a symbolic prophecy to be fulfilled spiritually, or a literal prophecy to be fulfilled physically, will not happen until Jesus returns.
There are Spirit-filled Christians from what seems a countless variety of backgrounds and faith traditions, and we all have such a variety of ways of understanding what will happen in the future. There is much disagreement!
However, there are a few points on which we are unified. The Lord is returning, in what is called Christ’s Second Coming, and at that time there will be a final judgement of some kind. Those who have put their faith in Jesus know we will be with him.
There are a few more points which seem fairly solid, when piecing together what Jesus said and taught, and what the Apostles later elaborated on.
Jesus’ second advent will be
1. Sure, Jesus gave his word to his inner circle that he was going to prepare a place for them, and would return to bring believers to be with him.
2. Physical, Jesus is returning in exactly the same way he left: in his physical, human body, somehow coming in the air on clouds. Jesus is already with you and me spiritually. When he returns he will plant his feet on solid earth.
3. Sudden, People are going to act just like they did in the days of Noah, going about their business like it was any other day, until all of a sudden, like a flood, Jesus will be powerfully, immediately present.
4. Visible, Evidently, everyone around the globe is going to see Jesus coming in the clouds, with great (kingly) power and glory (majesty and splendor).
5. Unexpected, Jesus warned that he would come at an hour and even a minute that no one ever expected.
6. Final Judgement, The Apostle Peter described an event in which the heavens will vanish with a thunderous crash, and the material elements of the universe will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up, exposing all to the scrutiny of God’s holy Judgment.
The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming back
This is a truth all believers believe together.
[Revelation: Adoration of the Lamb | Jan van Eyck / Public domain]