- Main text: Micah [1:3-5]; 5:2-5a; 6:6-8
- Accompanying text: Matthew 9:13
The prophet Micah, who was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, who lived during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Unlike Isaiah, Micah grew up in a small farming town on the southern border of Judah in Moresheth (Mic 1:1). Moresheth is believed to be located between the Philistine city of Gath and Lachish, and it was likely to have been captured or destroyed when the Assyrian army invaded Judah during Hezekiah’s reign (Mic 1:14). While Israel and Judah were very prosperous at the beginning of this period, they had turned away from God and had become twisted by corruption and greed (Mic 2:2, 8-9).
Judgement upon Israel and Judah
Our text opens with Micah’s vision of God descending from his throne to destroy the ‘high places’ of the earth. The high places were sites of cultic worship, altars to Baal and other regional deities. The destruction described in 1:4 is viewed typically as an allusion to the destruction caused by the Assyrian army which captured and destroyed the Northern kingdom (Israel) and her capital (Samaria) as well as most of the Southern kingdom (Judah), though her capital (Jerusalem) remained unconquered. Micah’s assessment as to why this happened is bleak. Israel had refused to recognize the royal line of David and instead ruled from Samaria (1 Kings 12:19) and had embraced idolatry. Judah had also turned her back on God. Jerusalem, Judah capital and with the temple the focus point of worship of the Lord, had become the ‘high place’ of Judah – the centre of idolatry. Micah’s prophecy is a call to repentance, to turn away from their imminent destruction and to find refuge and hope in the one true God.
Hope for the future
Our text skips forward to 5:2. Here Micah sees hope amongst the despair. Despite seeing the kings of Israel and Judah as leading their nations away from God, he has a vision of the coming of a different kind of king. This king comes not from Jerusalem or Samaria, but from a small seemingly insignificant village (much like the one from which Micah came), a village too small to even make the 115 towns/villages that Joshua mentions as belonging to Judah (Josh 15:20-63). Micah’s comments here, would have brought to mind King David who was born in Bethlehem, and who was a shepherd, yet Micah’s vision is of someone greater than David.
Yet until this king comes, the present is a time of suffering when Israel and Judah have been abandoned to their sin (Rom 1:24-28). Through this coming new king Israel will be reunited, and he will lead them as a shepherd (John 10:11). Under his leadership Israel will return to the Lord and escape those who oppress her: in him there shall be a lasting peace (Eph 2:14).
Turning to God
Micah, in 6:6 now turns his attention to what repentance looks like. God does not desire to be appeased by material offerings and sacrifices. He is not seeking to be worshipped as the surrounding nations worshipped their idols. He takes no delight in a thousand burnt offerings such as the offerings Solomon had made at Gibbeon (1 Kings 3:4, Psalm 50:9-13). Human sacrifice, which was a relatively common cultic practice in the land of Canaan (Lev 18:21), and had even been practiced by king Ahaz in Micah’s lifetime (2 Kings 16:3), does not remove sin.
Instead what God desires is a right heart. Our standing with God does not depend on our material possessions; it is not open only to the rich and to those who could afford extravagant sacrifices that were beyond the means of most in Israel’s society. Instead God asks that we walk with him; that we seek justice over our own gain, and we choose kindness over the ways of the world (James 1:27). In God’s grace there is mercy and healing for our sins, thus allowing us to ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11).
Augustine comments on this verse: ‘You ask what you should offer: offer yourself. For what else does the Lord seek of you but you? Because of all earthly creatures he has made nothing better than you, he seeks yourself from yourself, because you have lost yourself’ . We are to be living sacrifices as we offer worship to our holy God by being channels of his compassion and love to the world.
How does this text testify to Jesus Christ?
‘Jesus himself is the long-anticipated Shepherd-King who has made peace with God. He has done it, however, not through the raw power of military deliverance but through “the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). He did not come to destroy but to be destroyed, laying down his life for his sheep (John 10:15). He now rules over his people in perfect justice and abundant mercy, empowering his people, by his Spirit, to walk humbly in his just and merciful ways (1 John 2:6) – the very life Israel in Micah’s day had abandoned’ . It is through Christ’s death and resurrection – the sacrifice not of our firstborn, but the sacrifice of God’s firstborn – that we have hope and forgiveness for our sins (Col 2:13).
- Psalm 40
- Hosea 6:4-6
- Romans 12:1-21
- Hebrews 10:5-10
- Thomas C. Oden (Editor), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: XIV The Twelve Prophets, 2003. Digital edition.
- The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.