By Sam E. Stone
During this month we will focus attention on another of the “minor prophets”—Micah. He lived during the time of the divided kingdom. Some of the tribes of Israel had broken away from the northern kingdom, with its capital in Samaria. The southern kingdom continued to be headquartered in Jerusalem.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. While Isaiah preached to the royal court in the capital city of Jerusalem, Micah prophesied out in the Judean countryside. Their messages were basically the same, however. Both insisted on personal, heartfelt obedience to God.
The prophet Micah is mentioned by name in only two places in Scripture—Micah 1:1 and Jeremiah 26:18. The Assyrians had become a powerful threat to both Israel and Judah in Micah’s time. They were going to be the instruments God used to bring judgment against the northern kingdom eventually. Micah indicted the people on account of their rebellion against the Lord (Micah 1:5-9). His book begins with a summary of what had already taken place.
Prophecies of the Future
Micah 2:4, 5
The people had become defiant of God. They had no fear of his judgment. James E. Smith wrote, “When criminals execute their crimes in the light of day, they fear neither God nor man . . . . Their philosophy was that might makes right. Under the cover of unjust laws and corrupt courts they were able to carry out their designs for self-enrichment.”
Micah’s message alternated between oracles of doom and oracles of hope. The taunting of mockers ridiculed the people at the time of judgment. Their selfishness had led them to reassign the boundaries of the land in a way that was advantageous to them. Now they would have to face God’s judgment and answer for their sin.
Problems in the Present
The false prophets urged Micah not to prophesy. Like those in Jeremiah’s day, “they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). Harold Shank explained well the spirit of this encounter: “They had difficulty understanding that God was bringing destruction, but found it impossible to accept God judging them based on the way they treated poor people on the other side of town . . . In effect, they called a business meeting to remind Micah that they had done the equivalent of going to church and living a good life. How could what they did in the business world prompt such judgment from God?”
Micah’s fellow prophet Isaiah summed up the Lord’s warning accurately when he wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
In detailing the sin of the Lord’s people, Micah specified cruel acts against the women of my people—perhaps widows (Micah 2:9). They were especially vulnerable to abuse. C. F. Keil added, “The expression ‘forever’ may be explained from the evident allusion to the Mosaic law in Exodus 22:25-27, according to which the coat taken from the poor as a pledge was to be returned before sunset, whereas ungodly creditors retained it forever.”
Because of their terrible sins, the people of Israel and Judah would be forced out of their homeland and taken into captivity. They were being evicted. The prophet repeated his announcement of punishment in the form of a summons to go out of the land into captivity: Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place. However, in God’s good time they would return (Micah 2:12, 13).
The people had been looking for messengers who would say what they wanted to hear. Micah identified such false prophets as liars and deceivers. The people didn’t want to hear the message of Micah and other true prophets. All they wanted were hirelings who would give their approval to all of the bad things that were being done.
James Smith explained, “The Jerusalem ministerial association kept preaching to Micah, ‘Do not preach!’. . . To those who are living ungodly lives, the word of Yahweh is like an annoying faucet drip. . . . The issue in this passage is not the hostility to Micah personally, but the rejection of the messengers of God generally.”
The people did not want a prophet of righteousness. They would get the sort of preacher they deserved. As A. Fraser put it, “Like people, like priest.” There will be no rest for the wicked!
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.