Micah 1:3-5; 5:2-5a; 6:6-8
(watch here: https://youtu.be/EFUS06B2sPs)
3 For lo, the Lord is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4 Then the mountains will melt under him
and the valleys will burst open,
like wax near the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.
If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers.
6 ‘With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Our Scripture for this morning has us continue with a study of the prophets of the Old Testament. Last week we were exposed to the prophet, Elisha, and his miraculous healing of the leprous commander, Naaman. This week we’re looking at the wisdom of the prophet, Micah. Next week, we’ll close out the series reflecting on the visions of the prophet, Isaiah, before heading into the Advent season. All three prophets served unique purposes in the communities they found themselves in. Elisha was tasked with bringing God’s powerful healing abilities to the afflicted. Micah spoke not only words of God’s wrath but also words of expectations. Isaiah will speak words of hope to a despairing King Hezekiah as we’ll hear next week. But this week, we dwell in these words from Micah.
In a couple ways, Micah is representative of all the great prophets of the Old Testament. He lived in yet another time when God’s beloved people had fallen away from their faith in God. Both the Israelites and Judaeans had developed false idols and lived amorally. They no longer feared or loved God and lived without his guidance and protection. Naturally this angered and displeased our God. All He ever wants is to be in loving relationship with his people but over and over again we pull away from him and become disobedient and wayward. The sin within us repeatedly separates us from God and He calls out prophets like Micah to convey his wrath: “For lo, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. Then the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will burst open, like wax near the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.” We push him away for only so long until He finally lashes out and exerts his mighty power to bring us back into humble obedience.
Reminds me of the funny one about a burglar who broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables. And when he picked up a jewelry box to place in his sack, a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying: “God is watching you.” He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze. When he heard nothing more after a bit, he shook his head, then clicked the light on and began searching for more valuables. After just a few seconds, clear as a bell, he heard: “God is watching you.” Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot.
“Did you say that?” He hissed at the parrot. “Yep,” the parrot confessed, then squawked, “I’m just trying to warn you.” The burglar relaxed. “Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?” “Moses,” replied the bird. “Moses?” The burglar laughed. “What kind of people would name a bird Moses?” Suddenly, he felt a giant shadow materializing behind him. “The kind of people who would name a Rottweiler God.”
God IS watching us! And we can only go so far displeasing God before He comes down on us like a snarling Rottweiler. God uses prophets like Micah to speak words of judgment and condemnation to his persistently disobedient people. Our God is a jealous God and because He wants nothing but our whole-hearted love, He is a wrathful God towards anything that pulls our love away from him. Poor Israel and Judah learned just how wrathful our God can be. Their capitals of Samaria and Jerusalem were besieged by the Assyrians and laid waste. Even so, our God is also a merciful and just God. As David proclaims in Psalm 86, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Right after Micah conveys God’s anger and wrath, he foretells the coming of a Savior who “shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” Our God condemns his people but He also saves his people.
Micah goes on to explain what is expected of us in return for such salvation. Should we go before God and bow down to him? Should we offer up sacrifices to God? Neither of these. In verse 6:8, Micah gives us great advice of what God wants in exchange for our salvation: “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This is the whole purpose for God showing his anger and judgment—to remind us “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” We, like the faithless people of Israel and Judah, can easily forget these 3 basic elements of righteous living. We get caught up in our own lives and forget how to be fair and loving towards others. Pride overcomes us and we forget how to be humble. And it takes God’s wrath and judgment to bring us back into right relationship with each other and with him. Reclaiming humility before God and each other is the whole reason behind God’s wrath.
Scripture offers great insight into the importance of humility. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul encourages us, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (4:1-3) Paul understood humility and kindness as essential for fruitful relationships to exist. Elsewhere in Scripture, James proclaims, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (4:10) God regards humility as something to be praised, as something to be honored. After all, God rewards humility as we hear from David in his 25th psalm: “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (vs. 9) When we are just and kind and humble, God gifts us with wisdom and understanding.
Our passage for today not only reveals God’s anger and wrath but also God’s mercy and grace. Our God somehow manages to stay balanced between these emotions. He IS a wrathful and angry God but only to a degree. He is also a merciful and gracious God, eager to love and stay in relationship with us. Micah’s prophecy reveals a complex God. Let us rejoice in such complexity and seek to obey God’s command to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” Is this not the way of Christ of whom we are called to be disciples?
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.