I asked my mother where babies came from in second grade, and she told me more than I was ready to hear. I wish she’d said what Mrs. Potts told Chip, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” This is how wise mama’s put off giving answers to questions the asker’s not ready for.
There’s information in life we need, but sometimes we’re not ready for it. In the passage today, Micah recognizes that God’s people aren’t ready for what he tells them, so he writes it down for one day when they’re older. It’s a kindness of God, to look ahead to the day when they’ll want to return to him and give them what they’ll need to know, especially when they’re so far gone in the exact opposite direction in the present.
Micah’s got news to share, news that runs like sections of a newspaper, the whole gamut of “upbeat,” “thumbs down” “OMG,” “tip sheet,” and “glory be.” It was for the people of his day then, and for all people everyday since.
First, the upbeat:
Micah prophesied about the one who would come out of Bethlehem, the “one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times,” Mi 5:2. This is a reference to Jesus, the Messiah, who was born as a baby in Bethlehem, but who as God the Son had been alive “of old, from ancient times” before his birth on earth. With Christmas a little more than a week away, Micah’s prophecy is timely.
Writing 300 years before the shepherds heard the angel choir in heaven, and before the star rested above the stable, and before “the time when she who is in labor gives birth,” Micah had important things to say about the promised Messiah who would come, Mi 5:3 (and NIV Study Bible notes).
Micah foretold that…
–His origin was “from of old, from ancient times,” Mi 5:2. Jesus as God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, above time, eternal, Re 22:13.
–He’ll come from Bethlehem, Mi 5:2, the same insignificant town David came from.
–He’ll rule over Israel, Mi 5:2. While this is happening in the sense of all believers being the “spiritual Israel,” it’s not been literately fulfilled in terms of worldwide politics, but may when Jesus returns.
–“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God,” Mi 5:4. Jesus already does this through his word and prayer and through his body, the church, all over the earth.
–“…his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth,” and his people will live securely, Mi 5:4. This, too, is already happening through the church, little Christs all over the earth, testifying to King Jesus, protected by his Spirit.
–“…he will be their peace,” Mi 5:5. I love this one–not that he brings peace but that he is their peace. Jesus’ death paid our debt for sin and made peace between us and God. The curtain in the temple was torn, symbolizing our 24/7 access to the throne of God. Our peace was purchased by his blood.
–“He will deliver us from the Assyrian,” Mi 5:6. While the literal Assyrians who conquered Israel were eventually overthrown by the Babylonians and after them, the Persians, God used all of these nations to carry out his purpose, which was to teach them who God is. “The Assyrian” can also stand for the enemy as in Satan, or any enemy we encounter.
–“[His] hand will be lifted up in triumph over [his] enemies, and all [his] foes will be destroyed,” Mi 5:9. This prophecy won’t be fulfilled until the end of time when Jesus returns, the nations will mourn, and he will judge all men. God will deal with all enemies–his, yours, and mine, Re 1:7.
As Micah writes of the Messiah, he looks ahead to “the day of the Lord,” the day when Jesus returns and is exalted over all his enemies and every knee will bow. “In that day,” God says he will destroy all the idols and strongholds of “the nations that have not obeyed me,” everything that tempts them away from him, “you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands,” Mi 5:10-15.
In other words, a day is coming when everyone will acknowledge Jesus as Lord and when no one will be tempted to worship anything or anyone besides him.
Now the thumbs down…
The scene shifts abruptly in the next verse to a courtroom in their present day of what would have been about 700 BC. God tells his people to stand up and plead their case against him before the mountains and hills, and he will present his case against them, too. There’s a problem between them that God wants to address–their failure to keep his law, Mi 6:1-5.
God says in effect, “Good things are in store for a day that’s coming, but let’s talk about how you’re living from now until then. One day you’ll be delivered from all your enemies and the Messiah will bring peace and I’ll take away all your idols, but where you stand on that day depends on how you’re living this day. Let’s talk about how to live in the meantime,” Mi 6:1-2.
We’re living in the meantime, too. It’s the meantime between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and his return at “the last day,” the end of time as we know it. God’s words in Micah are instructive for us, too, as we walk this life until then.
How do we live well in the meantime?
In the courtroom, God’s charge is that his people are unfaithful to him. He reminds them of their history together. He says to look at it all, and to remember so “that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord,” Mi 6:5. Here’s the deal, God says: you won’t be prepared for the day that’s coming if you keep going the way you’re going. “Repent and return to me” has been the basic message of every prophet God’s sent, and now he’s saying it through Micah.
And now the OMG…
God’s people also have a charge to make. They say God’s too hard to please. He asks for too much–burnt offerings, calves a year old, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil, firstborn sons. There’s a progression in the value and number of offerings here, from grain to one-year-old calves, to thousands of rams, to enough oil to fill ten thousand rivers, to their sacrifice of their own *firstborn sons, Mi 6:6-7.
They’re saying in effect, what do you want, God, our very life blood? “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of may body for the sin of my soul?” Mi 6:7. Their charge is that God’s unreasonable; he asks too much. Not only is he too hard to please, the implication is that he can’t be pleased. It’s not their fault they’ve been unfaithful–it’s God’s.
They’ve got a lot of nerve. Taking God to task seems absurd–he’s God after all. But if this is their true feeling, then they’re not telling him anything he doesn’t already know. Best to get it spoken and heard; hiding it doesn’t make it go away. I love it that God doesn’t strike them off the face of the earth. And while he tells them they’re wrong, he still hears them.
And he wisely responds with a reminder of what he’s already said, a pithy 3-step for coming to him, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Mi 6:8.
God’s not asking for showy religiosity at the temple. That’s what they’ve turned his worship into. They’re the ones who’ve deduced what God wants from them, a kind of pious duty devoid of heart connection. They make sacrifices and offerings–like writing checks and donating coats at Christmas–doing things that can be easily done with hearts that are disconnected.
God says it’s not religious acts of service at the temple he wants. He wants hearts that overflow with real service, with justice and mercy for others, with humility before God. These are the things God requires.
Their kind of “service” allowed them to tithe at the temple and shortchange their fellow Israelites in the marketplace with “the short ephah…dishonest scales…a bag of false weights.” All these skimpy measures were “accursed” by God. In their day, no one trusted anyone–not neighbors, friends, lovers, or the members of their own families. The rich were violent and everyone lied, Mi 6:10-12; 7:5-6.
While the kingdom of Judah hadn’t been as wicked as the kingdom of Israel, they eventually followed in their traditions and did “all the practices of Ahab’s house” and would reap the same wrath. God said he’d already “begun to destroy” them. Intruders would come and Samaria and Jerusalem would fall, Mi 1:5-9; 6:13, 16. It’s just a matter of time–unless they repent.
And while neither nation took advantage of God’s offer to repent before judgment comes, Micah records what the journey back to God would look like when they’re ready. God won’t leave a door closed and locked for good unless we refuse to enter in.
And here’s the tip sheet–the news for “when you’re older”...
Micah tells how he turns to God in this season of judgment. There’s nowhere else to go for forgiveness from sin and guilt. These are helpful, hopeful words for any person in any day who wants to turn—or return—to God, Mi 7:7.
–“But as for me; I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” A person will “watch in hope” and “wait for God” when they’re ready to return. And they will watch and wait in hopeful expectancy, not despair, knowing that God hears my cry for help, Mi 7:7.
–“…my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise.” A person will find comfort, even in the face of an enemy’s gloating over his fall, that he will rise because God is “my Savior.” He’s not just some impersonal, positive force of goodwill and seasonal cheer. He’s “my God” who hears; he’s “my Savior,” Mi 7:7-8.
–“Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” A person will “see” at some point in their sin-filled darkness that he is not the light, and he doesn’t have any light of his own, but hallelujah, the Lord is my light! He shows me the path to walk in; he guides me, Mi 7:8.
–“Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath…” A person may have to bear God’s wrath for a time because of their sin. While forgiveness for sin is immediate, the consequences for sin aren’t necessarily wiped away immediately, Mi 7:9.
–“…he pleads my case and establishes my right…I will see his righteousness.” A person’s case of guilt before God is pleaded by God and decided on by God. He is the judge, the attorney, the jurors, and the one who serves the sentence in the sinner’s person’s. And God trades places and gives him his own perfect righteousness, Mi 7:9.
–“He will bring me out into the light.” Whereas before, the sinner sat in darkness, now he’s brought out into the light. He finds help in God’s words, the “lamp for my feet and the light for my path.” Things that didn’t make sense before, begin to make sense as the darkness lifts, Mi 7:8-9; Ps 119:105.
–“Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame.” The enemy who before had asked, “Where’s your God?” when the sinner fell, will witness his transformation and be ashamed. What’s more, the enemy will “be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets,” Mi 7:10.
It’s a satisfying day when a genuine enemy that gloats and verbally abuses you gets a mouthful of mud because of God’s work in your life. I’ve experienced it, along with the table that’s set before me “in the presence of my enemy,” Ps 23. At that point, I was tempted to gloat myself. But I realized that what I wanted more than payback was for my enemy to taste and see that the Lord is good, too. It’s God’s doing, to be able to offer a sweet sip rather than a swift kick.
Knowing God isn’t about becoming a goody-goody who doesn’t need him. Knowing God is about becoming full of his goodness, “his righteousness,” because of an ongoing need of him. It’s taking our utter emptiness–our longing for more in our lives and loves–to him for filling. It’s drinking his “living water,” being filled with his Holy Spirit, over and over and over again.
And finally, the glory be…
Micah praises God at the end of his book for being the one who forgives his people, who delights to show mercy, who will throw our sins–not ourselves–into the the depths of the sea, Mi 7:18-19.
He’s the God who keeps his part of the covenant, his promise to be our God. And it’s he who enables us to keep our part by sending the one from Bethlehem, Mi 7:20.
“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be true to Jacob,
and show mercy to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago,” Mi 7:18-20.
God’s promise to forgive and love and to be God for us is as dependable as the mountains that endure and the sun that rises tomorrow. It’s as long-suffering as he is, the one who’s always done his part even when Jacob and Abraham didn’t. It’s as sure as the one from Bethlehem who bled and died and lives to make “all things new,” Re 21:5.
I don’t know why God begins and ends his message in Micah with such good news for people who continually give him good reason to give up on them. I don’t know why God leaves so many clear clues about how to have a relationship with him or why he had Micah write them down while his people were flat uninterested and idolatrous.
But I’m guessing it’s for love.
(*God had chosen the tribe of Levi to serve him in the temple in place of taking each family’s firstborn son to do the same).
I like reading through Revelation at Christmas time. It reminds me of the king this babe was and is and will one day be before the watching world. A baby at Christmas is a wonderful bundle of a gift, but a Savior with a sword in his mouth is thrilling, whose voice is like thundering waterfalls, whose eyes flash like lightning. I like having both in mind this time of year.
One visual tugs on tender strings, the other tugs transfixed ones. It’s fitting to keep both in view as we celebrate the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of the salvation he was born to die to bring.
There’s so much in this book I don’t understand. But the parts I think I can wrap my mind around are the descriptions of this “one” from Bethlehem that Micah wrote about.
When I think about what the book of Revelation means, I realize that the best parts for me are these, which make sense when I remember that from the first verse, John has said this is “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” It’s his book, given to reveal him, to show us what’s coming, to let us know: he’s got this, Re 1:1.
So here’s what I’ve gathered about what he looks and sounds like:
His voice is loud like a trumpet and the sound of rushing waters, 1:10, 15; 4:1.
His appearance is described in three places:
–In chapter 1, he looks “like a son of man.” He was dressed in a robe reaching to his feet and had a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, “as white as snow,” and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet glowed like bronze in a furnace and his face shown like the sun “in all its brilliance.” A sharp, double edged sword came out of his mouth, Re 1:10, 13-16;
–In chapter 5, he looks like a lamb, “looking as if it had been slain.” He had seven horns and seven eyes, “which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth,” Re 5:6.
–In chapter 19 (I skipped ahead), he rides a white horse. His eyes are like blazing fire here, too, and he has many crowns on his head. “He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.” He’s dressed in a robe here again as well, but this one’s dipped in blood. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written, ” KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Re 19:12-16.
So far, I’m surprised he’s a white guy with white hair. This is more how I imagine God the Father to look. A “white head” could mean something other than skin, of course. And he’s got some kind of tattoos and rides a white horse. I love learning that the white horse and the knight who rides in to rescue of every little girl’s dream is all true. I’m imagining his robe having his name written across the back of it, like Muhammad Ali.
I think it’s safe to say that Jesus is a B. A.
I’m overwhelmed with Micah and Revelation today:
God does it all for us.
And Jesus is glorious.
Why did God let him die for us?
These words in Psalms get at the wonder of who God is that I felt in Micah. Why he “vindicates” and “has compassion,” I don’t think I’ll ever understand, I only know that he does it again and again:
“Your name, O Lord endures forever,
your renown, O Lord, through all generations.
For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,”
My take away today is
The God who made us,
bends over backwards
to connect with us,
woos and pursues us,
teaches to reach us,
runs to rescue us,
writes and speaks to us,
leaves clues for us,
hears and helps us,
finds and forgives us,
dies to save us,
lives to give us
love beyond us
and within us
to win the world
we live in
He simply socks-it-to-ya.
This is my awe-filled