We have been spending our time considering the life of Elijah in the second half of 1 Kings. But I want to take a break before moving into 2 Kings and examine the message of the prophet, Micah. Micah is a prophet who proclaims his message at the same time as the prophet Isaiah. Micah is preaching during the time frame of 2 Kings. Listening to what Micah says will give us a window into the spiritual condition of Israel and Judah when we return to our look at 2 Kings. But we want to look at Micah’s prophecy for more than this. There are three things Micah does in each of his proclamations. He will declare the reason why God is judging the people, what God expects the people to do, and what God is going to do for them. What does God want from us? What is God doing? What does God expect? What does God get angry about? These are the questions that are answered throughout Micah’s prophecy. The answers to these questions will teach us much about God and also encourage the life transformation that God desires in us.
The book can be divided into three sections. Each section begins with a call for the people to “Hear” (1:2; 3:1; 6:1). Everyone is called to listen to what God has to say about their condition, what he expects from them, and what he is going to do for them.
Destruction Proclaimed (1:1-7)
Micah begins by calling for all the peoples of the earth to listen to what God has to say and what God is about to do. The Lord is coming from his holy temple and he is going to judge (1:2-3). The picture of the Lord coming out of his temple is terrifying. He is leaving the heavenly throne, comes down, and walks on the earth. As he walks, the mountains melt under his feet and the valleys split apart. What a terrifying image! Why is God trampling the earth? Why is the earth melting under his feet? Verse 5 says it is all because of sins committed in both Israel and Judah. These not just a few sins that are being committed. Rather, verse 5 tells us that the capital cities of both the countries are the heart of the sinning. Samaria and Jerusalem are called the capital cities of sinning and the places for false worship and idolatry. So Samaria’s judgment is declared first. The capital city will become a heap of ruins and the idols smashed to pieces.
Wailing and Lamentation (1:8-16)
Micah the prophet now stands up in verse 8 and says that he is going to lament for Samaria’s condition. The wound and disease of idolatry is incurable in Samaria and it has spread to Jerusalem as well. The sin of idolatry is pictured like a cancer spreading through both of the countries. No one is immune from this plague. The rest of the chapter reveals word plays on the various cities listed. Here is a situation where things are truly lost in translation. Like in verse 14 the town of Moresheth-gath means the place of possession. So you will give parting gifts to the place of possession. In verse 10 Beth-le-aphrah means house of dust. So the inhabitants will roll in the dust. These are word plays on the name of the city or its location. It would be like saying that the city of Pittsburg will be the pits. Or a little more to what is happening in the text, it would be like saying that there will be no love in Philadelphia (city of brotherly love). So the prophet laments these two wicked nations and declares at the end of the chapter that into exile they will go (1:16).
The Sins (2:1-11)
In the second chapter, Micah continues his prophetic message by describing the sins of the people. They are sins of greed and oppression. They plan to do evil day and night (2:1). They covet rather than have contentment (2:2). Instead of helping those who need help, they oppress and defraud the helpless even further (2:2). You already have much. You already have what you need. But you spend your time trying to get even more. You spend your time trying to take even more from others who do not have as much as you. The wealth that they so desperately desired will be seized and taken away from them (2:3-5). But the response of the nation is shocking, but not surprising for what we have learned regarding the nation of Israel from the book of 1 Kings.
Look at verse 6. Micah is preaching God’s message and they tell him not to preach such things. You should not preach about our sins or coming judgment. Disgrace and shame is not going to overtake us. God would never become impatient with us! He would never do such things that you speak about! It is almost as if they are referring to Exodus 34:6 where God says that he is slow to anger. God would not be impatient with us! They continue to live as they want because they do not think God will ever do anything. Therefore, Micah should quit preaching because God does not do the things that Micah says he does. In verse 11 Micah declares that the only preacher that these people want is a lying windbag. You just want someone to tell you to keep drinking and living it up. Micah has been completely tuned out by the people. So the people will be sent to exile.
So these problems also sound like the problems of today. People taking from others to increase their own wealth. People hurting others so that they can have more. People not being content with what they have. People saying that they do not want to hear that what they are doing is wrong. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The writer of Ecclesiastes simply declared that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). It is important that we see God judges these sins. God is not okay with his people behaving like the world and doing what the world does. We cannot be greedy people. We cannot be concerned about increasing our wealth. We cannot overlook those who need help. We are doomed if we are people who want more and more and more. So we need to check our hearts. But what is God going to do about this situation? His people must be sent into exile for their sins. The places of false worship must be destroyed, which included the capital cities of these two nations. What is God going to do?
I hope that we continue to be in awe of our amazing God. What Micah says that the Lord will do about this situation, as stated in verses 12-13, is truly stunning. Listen to the imagery of Micah 2:12-13. The Lord is going to gather his people as a remnant. He will bring them together like sheep into the fold. The Lord will set them together like a flock in a pasture and it will not be a few people. This is going to be a noisy multitude. The one who breaks open the way is going to lead them. They are going to break through the barriers, pass through the gate, and go out. Their king will pass on before them, the Lord at their head as the leader. What an amazing picture! The Lord is going to gather his people and break through the walls that are holding them in, leading them as their king and set them together like sheep in a pasture. Listen to what Jesus said about himself.
1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. (John 10:1–6 ESV)
Notice how Jesus uses the same picture found in Micah 2 about himself. He is going to call his sheep and lead them out. His sheep are going to follow him. He is going to bring out all who belong to him and go before them as their shepherd. But they do not understand what Jesus is saying. You see that the people did not understand that they were in an enclosure and needed someone to break them free. The enclosure is implied by Micah’s prophecy declaring that one would come and break open the way. Notice Jesus is saying that he has come to lead out his people. The sheep are in an enclosure and he has come to lead them out. But they did not understand this.
This is the problem that Jesus runs into as he tries to explain what he has come to do. Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV). You see that Jesus’ word will cause you to know the truth and set you free if you will listen to it. But this again is where the people are stuck. Listen to their response.
They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33 ESV)
You notice that they did not understand that they were enslaved. They did not see that they were in the enclosure. They did not see that they needed someone to break them out. How can you tell us that we will become free? We are already free! Jesus has to show us that we are not free at all.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34–36 ESV)
Jesus says that he came to be the one who breaks down the walls so that you can be truly free. Micah is making a hopeful promise. Your sins have caused a problem so that you are enslaved. You are in exile and far from God. But the Lord himself will come and lead you out of that prison, breaking down the walls, and will gather you with his sheep to enjoy the pasture.
Therefore, Micah’s first message is very simple. God has left his heavenly throne with the purpose of breaking out. The Lord will break out against you because of your sins. Or the Lord will break out for you, giving you your freedom. The Lord has come down as king as seen in Jesus. We must be careful that we are not like those in Jesus’ day who do not understand that they are enslaved. They are unable to see that they are stuck in an enclosure. They think they can desire more and more wealth, declare the Lord to be patient and never do anything against us, and continue living how they want. The Lord breaks out against those who think this way and brings them into judgment. Or we can see that we are stuck in our sins, enclosed my our disastrous choices in life. We can admit our sins and call out to our Savior. The Lord will break out against the walls that are holding us in and bring them out into freedom and green pastures. Which breakout do you want the Lord to do for you?