We are in the book of Micah as we want to listen to the voice of the prophets as we prepare to move through the events of 2 Kings. Micah is prophesying during that time, telling them why God is angry with them, what the people are supposed to do, and what God is going to do. The message of Micah is very relevant for us as we see that the culture and sins of Israel and Judah during Micah’s day are the same sins and same cultural thinking in our day. Further, Micah’s hope was to point forward to Jesus. So as we look at the book of Micah we are able to see the promises that are available to us in Jesus. One of the problems that Micah is dealing with as he preaches is the lack of justice in Israel and Judah. There is evil and lots of injustice. What is God going to do about it? This is a relevant question for us as we feel the same weight as we witness injustices in our world and experience injustices against ourselves. What is God going to do about injustice? What should we do about injustice? This is what chapters 3-5 of the book of Micah will explain.
No Justice Anywhere (3:1-12)
The first four verses of chapter 3 reveal a condemnation against the nations’ leaders, both of Israel and Judah. In verse 1 you see the charge that the leaders are supposed to know justice. But instead of being just, they hate good and love evil. They are pictured as violently destroying people with their lack of justice. The leaders are taking the influence and power that God has given them to use for the common good but used it against others for selfish gain. God has told us in places like Romans 13 that government institutions are put in place to wield justice. They are to protect the innocent and judge the guilty. But that is not happening in Israel and Judah. They are misusing their power to overpower those below them.
The prophets are condemned for leading the people astray in their teachings in verses 5-8. They will say good things to the people when they are properly paid. But if they are not paid then they will proclaim words of trouble and judgment. Verse 6 says that the sun is going to go down on them. This pictures the end of these false prophets who only speak based on their paychecks.
Then Micah returns to leaders of Israel and Judah in verses 9-12. The leaders abhor justice and pervert equity. They make crooked the things that are straight. Jerusalem is built on blood and wrongdoing. Yet, in the midst of all their injustice and wickedness, they believe that the Lord is with them and will not judge them (3:11). Therefore, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins. So the picture of chapter 3 is that there is injustice everywhere. The leaders and the prophets are condemned for misusing their influence and power to accomplish more injustice. So what is God going to do about the injustice that is going on? What is going to be God’s solution to the problem of injustice?
Prophetic Hope (4:1-5)
The first picture of what God is going to do about injustice is depicted in the first five verses of chapter 4. Micah says that in the days to come, the Lord will establish his kingdom and it will be higher than all the other nations and kingdoms of the earth. Notice the purpose of God establishing his mountain above all other mountains. Verse 1 says that peoples will stream into it. Verse 2 says that the reason people are going to flow to the kingdom of God is because they are going to want to be taught the ways of the Lord so that they can walk in his paths. The injustice of the world is to cause us to turn away from human wisdom and turn away from dependence on human governments. The injustice of the world is to cause us to move to the Lord and listen to what he has to say. People are going to wait to hear from God. They are going to want to hear God’s solutions and be taught his ways for living.
Further, notice that the Lord will judge between the peoples. This is a very important sequence in verses 3-4. The picture is not that the nations will exist in peace and then the Lord will rule in righteousness. There is nothing here where the peoples or the nations are trying to bring in justice or create peace in the world. That is not our role. This is a role that only God can accomplish. God will judge the peoples and impose his rule. Then the nations will no longer learn of war but exist in peace.
This is illustrated in verse 4 where everyone is sitting under their own vine and fig tree. This is a figure that comes from 1 Kings 4:24-25 where Solomon’s rule is established by the Lord, causing his people to enjoy blessings, prosperity, peace, and rest. This is the meaning of sitting under your own vine and fig tree: the enjoying of God’s blessings, prosperity, peace, and rest. The solution for all injustice and inequity is to come to the house of the Lord and be taught by God. We cannot bring justice and righteousness into the world, even as God’s people. Rather, what we do is point to Jesus. We point to the house of the Lord as seen in Jesus for small pockets of relief. God does not tell us to do everything we can to put the world back to right and then God will come to our aid. No, God wants us to confess our helplessness and how we have contributed to the sinfulness of world as we look for God’s righteous judgment and listen to God’s words and ways. This is what we see in verse 5. The world follows after their gods. But we will walk in the name of the Lord forever. We are acknowledging the futility of the world and its ways. So we look to God to bring justice to the world as we follow the ways of the Lord. With every injustice, we are going to point to the Lord as the answer, who will bring the justice we seek. Only God has the power to solve and make right all the wrongs that happen in the world.
Micah further says that in the days to come the Lord will assemble the lame and the outcasts to make from them a remnant and a strong nation. Think about how strange and amazing it is to say that the lame are going to made into a strong nation. But their restoration is going to come through suffering and pain. Verses 9-10 picture Judah going through labor pains. The idea is that there will be pain and suffering now. But the result will be hope. So they will go to Babylon in exile but will be rescued from there (4:9-10). The nations are rising up thinking that this will be the end of God’s people. But they do not know that this is all God’s plan for restoring his people (4:11-12). What looks like the end for God’s people is only the beginning for God’s people. God will make his people strong again (4:13) and judgment will come against those who arose against them.
Ruler To Come (5:2-6)
So how is God going to restore his people, gathering the lame, and making them a strong nation? Look at verse 2. The people are going to be smashed by the nations, but help is going to come from Bethlehem. The great rescuer is going to come from a small clan and an insignificant town. The Gospel of Matthew quotes this passage to show that this was referring to the birthplace for Jesus of the tribe of Judah. His origin is from ancient times points to his connection as the Son of David as David came from Bethlehem (cf. John 7:42). This may also point to the fact that he would be God himself in the flesh, though this was not what the people expected from this prophecy. He will stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord (5:4). His people will be secure because their shepherd king will be great to the ends of the earth (5:4). Jesus will be the peace for his people. Jesus will be the way that God will restore his people and make them a great nation.
There is a struggle with understanding verses 5-6 regarding the reference to Assyria. It is possible that this is speaking to the time when the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem, but God gave his people the victory in the days of Hezekiah (cf. 2 Kings 18-19). But this would be a total break from the context that is being given in this section. The context is about the future when the Messiah comes and gathers his people into a strong nation and gives them peace. I think it is better to see Assyria as a figure representing all the wicked powers that rise up against God’s people. We see the scriptures use Assyria as a symbol in this way (cf. Isaiah 11:16; Zechariah 10:10). Assyria is used this way in Micah 7:12 where God’s people are rescued from Assyria and Egypt. The point is that with the coming of our shepherd king, we are able to have hope for deliverance. The shepherd king will be the administrator of justice.
God’s Remnant (5:7-15)
The final picture of what God is going to do is in regards to his remnant as he restores his people. Look at everything the Lord is cutting off from the people in verses 10-15. God is going to cause you to trust him by ripping from our hands everything that we depend on. The armies are cut off in verse 10 so they cannot trust in military might. The cities are cut off in verse 11 so that they cannot trust in the defenses of living in a city. The sorcery is cut off in verse 12 and the idols are cut off in verses 13-14 so that they cannot trust in any activity that they can do of themselves. Whatever you are relying on, Jesus as our shepherd king has come to pry that out of your hands so that you will trust him to be your rescuer.
We see this happen in the life of Jesus as an example of this truth. Look at Luke 18:18-23.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:18–23 ESV)
What was Jesus doing? Jesus identified the idol in his life, which was wealth, and asked him to purge it from his life. This is what Micah prophesied the shepherd king would do when he came. Everything we hold on to as an idol he is going to cut out from us. Jesus is constantly identifying our heart problems so that we would repent by purging them from our hearts. The whole Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gives is doing this very act. Jesus is telling us who are the blessed people that belong to the kingdom.
So what is the big picture for us? God is the judge and he will bring true justice to the world. We live life looking for God’s deliverance as we live among the people, pointing to Jesus as the world’s hope for justice. We are being taught the ways of the Lord and telling others to be taught the ways of the Lord and walk in his paths if they want to see and experience true justice. God will do this through his shepherd king, Jesus, who is gathering the lame, broken, and outcast and healing them from their hurts. He will stand and feed his flock and give them the security in life that they need. He will be the peace that we need as we endure difficulty, suffering, and injustice. But we must allow him to purge our idols from our hearts if we are going to be his people who sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree.