It is almost time for Micah’s annual mention. For a seven-chapter book, Micah probably does not get as much attention as his book deserves. He was a contemporary of Isaiah and his writings overlap nicely with his more renowned prophetic colleague.
Micah’s seven chapters begin with a bang, end with a symphony of God’s goodness, and progress through three cycles of justice and hope. He spoke of justice because his society, and its leadership, were dangerously unjust. He spoke of hope because that is how God’s heart of kindness manifests itself to sinning humans. And throughout this little prophetic book, with a powerful prophetic punch, Micah keeps pointing to God’s good Shepherd-King.
The first cycle of justice and hope takes the reader through chapters 1 and 2. Micah begins with a powerful theophany to launch the book – a description of God stepping into the world and everything melting before him. The overwhelming impression is that we must take God seriously. This thought continues as Micah lays out how this awesome God judges sin. He judges the sin of not taking Him seriously, not taking His people seriously, and not taking His truth seriously. And after two chapters of divine justice, we are uplifted by two verses of divine hope. God will gather his people with the heart of a shepherd, and he will lead his people with the strength of a king (2:12-13).
The reference to God as the leader moves Micah into his second cycle of justice and hope in chapters 3-5. Again, he begins by condemning the injustices of his society, focusing now on the leadership who abuse their position, proclamation, and privilege. Micah was surrounded by corrupt speakers who spoke according to their paycheck. Micah, in contrast, was filled with the power of the Spirit of God to speak against the sins of his society (see Micah 3:8). Almost three millennia separate Micah’s culture from ours, but the similarities only demonstrate the consistency of human fallenness. We cannot expect human leaders to be all we need, and we should not be surprised when human leaders are profoundly corrupted. What we need is God’s good leadership.
This thought is developed in the hope section, now not just two verses, but rather two chapters long! Micah paints a glorious picture of a future golden age. Opinions differ as to when that age fits into the timeline of history and eternity. Still, it reveals God’s desire as He leads: He plans to unite peoples, to transform them by His teaching, to reconcile them to end their fighting and to love the weak and broken. While the immediate future looked bleak, with a prophecy of exile in Babylon to assure them of God’s longer-term trustworthiness, Micah then comes to chapter 5.
If what we need is God’s good leadership, then who will be God’s good leader? God promised His eternal ruler to the little town of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 is quoted every Christmas as King Herod tries to work out where a new king would be born. But we should keep going beyond that one verse. A couple of verses later, we get some description of this coming King. He would be a strong shepherd, strengthened by God. He would bring global security (something never achieved in our world even up to today). And He would be their peace. Back in Micah 3:5, we read about false teachers offering a message of peace only if they are paid for it, but this coming Shepherd-King will bring genuine peace to the world!
Micah’s third and final cycle of justice and hope stretches through chapters 6 and 7. Again he returns to the corruption of the city and its leadership. God had only required that they do justice (in their dealings with one another), reflecting the loyal kindness of God’s heart, and do so in humble dependence upon God. (Micah 6:8 is the other verse that gets a mention now and then!) But the leaders, and the people, lived out a non-Micah 6:8 kind of lifestyle that was worthy of God’s discipline. The whole of that society seemed rotten to the core, but Micah, in contrast, looked to the Lord and waited for his saving God to hear him (see Micah 7:7).
Micah’s first cycle urges us to take God seriously. The second cycle encourages us to see our need for God’s good leadership. This final cycle underlines that our hope is in a God who is faithful to His promises. As justice yields the stage to hope, Micah calls for God to “Shepherd your people . . . as in the days of old.” He looks back to how God shepherded his people out of Egypt and in the wilderness (see Micah 7:14-17).
Micah began with a bang as the awesome God stepped in and mountains melted like wax. But now, he ends with a symphony celebrating God’s goodness. We live in cultures that are often as unjust as in Micah’s day. We live with national leadership that is often as corrupt as those that Micah renounced. We also live in a sinful world that deserves divine justice, so we need to look up for the divine hope – hope promised long ago, hope that broke in that first Christmas in the person of Jesus, and hope that can see us through whatever still lies ahead. So, as 2021 draws to a close, let’s allow Micah’s climactic symphony of God’s goodness to resonate in our hearts and lives:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.
Pleased To Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation is a great read in the build-up to Christmas. 24 short chapters make for a healthy heart preparation during the days of Advent. To get your copy in Europe click here, or in the USA click here.