An Overview of Micah: Early Warrior for Social Justice

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16)

Human Author: Micah, a Prophet in Jerusalem  

Date of Ministry: c. 742 BC to 686 BC

Time Period: King Jotham, 750 BC – 732 BC, 11th King of Judah; King Ahaz, c. 732 BC – 716, BC 12th King of Judah; King Hezekiah, 716 BC – 687 BC,             13th King of Judah

Book Length: Seven Chapters; 105 verses  

Message: To proclaim warning and judgement to both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel    

Contemporary: Isaiah

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The Judgment of the Nations Explained: Micah 1 – 5

Micah lived in Moresheth Gath, a small town in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Micah 1:14). Familiar with life in the country, Micah would use well known agricultural images. “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the first ripe fruit” (Micah 7:1).

The lament of Micah touches the heart, for there was spiritual decline in Hebrew history. It is always tragic, for a soul sensitive to God, to realize how insensitive, unjust, and godless individuals can be when their hearts are given to selfish secular humanism. Part of the reason for the cruelty of the society in which Micah lived was the tension between the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Following the death of king Solomon, the nation had been divided by civil war. Ten tribes formed the Northern Kingdom, and two tribes formed the Southern Kingdom. This led to several places of worship.

In the Southern Kingdom, worship remained rooted in the Holy City of Jerusalem in the Temple. In the Norther Kingdom, Samaria became the capital, and two places of worship were established, Dan and Bethel.

Grace Precedes Judgment

To combat social injustice and idolatry, the Lord called Micah to the ministry as a prophet. Micah was to tell the Northern Kingdom that Assyria would soon come and destroy the nation. From a human perspective, the Assyrian Invasion would simple be for territory and treasures. However, for Israel, the invasion would be a form of Divine discipline. For the Southern Kingdom, the invasion would serve as a reminder to repent. Apart from gospel repentance, the Lord would use the Babylonians to discipline Judah.

A Holy Boldness

Because it is not easy to be a prophet of God, and incur the hatred and hostility of others, a holy boldness and strength is needed. There has to be a divine undergirding of the heart of such a man. Micah was confident the Spirit of the Lord was upon him saying, “truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8). The Southern Kingdom of Judah would be called to repentance, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel would be warned of the imminent judgment to come.

If the message of a prophet is alarming, it is meant to be, for sin is a serious matter, and the conscious must be pricked.

“What is sin?
It is the glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin.”

John Piper

People must be confronted about embracing “wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle” (Frederick Lewis Donaldson).

Micah confronted the people of his generation with their sin so that they might repent, and receive the grace and mercy of God on the other side of His judgment.

Chapters 1–2 Fire on the Mountain

In the opening verses of his prophesy, Micah presents the Lord God as coming forth to speak to the people as He did at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19 – 20). There was fire on the mountain. The Lord was angry with His people for their rebellion, year after year, century after century. The people had broken their Covenant with God. The Lord had a controversy with the nation in general, but individual cities in particular. Those who transgressed the Law of the Lord were named.

Geographical Places of Divine Displeasure: Micah 1:1-15

Samaria * Jerusalem * Saphir * Zaanan * Beth-ezel Maroth * Lachish * Achzib * Mareshah * Adullam

The reason God has a controversy with Israel is because of their leaders, who have become wealthy through theft and greed. The graft has been going on for many years, reflected in the stealing of the vineyard of Naboth by King Ahab (874 – 853 BC), at the instigation of the wicked queen Jezebel (Micah 2:1-2; 1 Kings 21).

The prophets of Israel are also corrupt. They are content to offer defective sacrifices to the Lord in order to preserve the best animals for themselves. They are also willing to bless anyone who will pay them to speak of God’s favor. Micah has a simple command from the Lord for these greedy prophets: stop it!  “Prophesy not” (Micah 2:2).

It is instructive to note that whenever Micah delivers a stern message, it is immediately tempered with kindness and hope. For example, the words of Micah 1 – 2 close with the image of God as a Shepherd, who regathers a remnant of His sheep to guard and guide them.

Chapters 3–4a: A Rebuke of Social Injustice

Together, the princes of Israel, and the priests of Israel unite to pervert justice, in favor of the wealthy, by accepting bribery, while exploiting the poor. The land of the poor is taken from them. They are left without security, or hope for a better future. The taking of land from the poor was a violation of the Law of Moses which forbid the unauthorized sale of family land.  “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev. 25:23). Because Israel violated the principles and provision of God, He would cause a foreign nation to destroy the nation.

As Micah has done before with his message, so he does again. The harshness of God is tempered with hope for the future. After the Assyrians, and after the Babylonians, the day will come when there will be a regathering of the people with whom He has made a covenant. They, along with souls from many other nations, will worship in a New Jerusalem.

Chapters 4b–5: The Messiah as the Coming Ruler of Israel

To rule over New Jerusalem and the nations, the Lord God will send the Ruler who will come from Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2). He shall stand and deliver judgment and justice and shall “be great unto the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4-15).

Chapters 6–7: The Lord’s Controversy with His People

Because the message of the prophet is often circular, Micah returns to the unjust practices of the people of Israel, leading to God’s great controversy with them. God has told the people what is required of them, but the people just will not listen and obey. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Because the people will not do this, they must go under the Divine rod.

The Final Word

The Book of Micah ends with another message of hope (Micah 7:8-20). The narrative presents a penitent sinner, fallen, sitting in darkness, confessing sin, and resigned to his fate. “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” The shame and guilt is real, and the man knows it. However, the heart of the Penitent takes hope and cries out, “POST TENEBRAS LUX! “OUT OF DARKNESS, LIGHT!” The Spirit has illuminated his heart. “The Lord will bring him forth to the light, “And I shall behold His righteousness” (Micah 7:9).

A question arises. “Why would the Lord allow the Penitent to behold His righteousness?” Among the many reason that could be given, the Penitent appeals to the essence of God. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18). Another reason God will show mercy to the Penitent is because He is a Covenant keeping God. “You will perform Your word to Abraham, and Jacob” (Micah 7:20 cf. Genesis 12, 15, 17).

From a divine perspective, God will keep His Word; God will honor His Covenants. From a human perspective, Israel must also keep Covenant with God, they must obey the Lord, and honor Him, if they want to be a blessing to all the nations on earth.

It is this tension between Covenant blessings, Divine discipline, and Eternal hope that drives His-story.

Ultimately, let the Church believe, with the ancient prophet this truth about the Lord God: “He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

Herein is the Word of the Lord. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear the message of the prophet Micah.

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