Micah starts his book as a general warning of judgement to Judah and Samaria; then he narrows his message of doom to the leaders of the people of Judah. And then we read of the hope in the eventual return of the Messiah. Let's see what Micah has for us next.
So, Chapter 5 ends with the Lord explaining that He was going to cut Israel off from it's sin, purify them, and execute vengeance on Israel's enemies. In Chapter 6, we seem to transition to the indictment of the Lord of Israel's current behavior.
God's Case Against His People
He tells them to plead their case (before the mountains); but He uses the term "indictment". Strong legal language. God is very faithful in His justice. It's never arbitrary or rash. He is patient, kind, and helpful in correcting us, until we've beyond correct and it's time for wrath. He is making a case for that transition to justice from mercy.
Only God can be the perfect balance of those two, justice and mercy.
It also seems to be worth noting that the "jury", or the ones hearing the indictment and the pleading, are mountains, hills, and the foundations of the earth. Able's blood cried out from the ground. The ground was cured by his blood. This all reminds me that Jesus Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer and He is coming back for the whole earth, not just humans.
MacArthur points out the the mountains and hills were present at Sinai and bear witness to the covenant made there.
In verse three He asks His people of Israel to explain what He has done to weary them. Then He demands an answer.
Egypt and Slavery
In verse 4 He reminds them that He brought them out of Egypt. Out of slavery. I think this is the most basic prayer of thanks any Jew or Christian can give. Our God is a God of salvation and each one of us has sinned and is in need of a Savior. We have all been brought out of Egypt and we've all be set free from slavery if we place our faith in the Messiah.
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam
And He gave them Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
When reflecting on ALL that He has done for them, it makes sense that Egypt and freedom from slavery make the list; but giving them Moses and then including Aaron and even Miriam is intriguing.
First, it tells us how much He values the people He puts in our lives. They may not be perfect, as Moses sinned and Aaron and Miriam committed serious sins, but the people should be considered gifts despite that.
Second, the same lesson should be applied to our leaders. Again, not perfect, and maybe even sinful; but allowed of ordained by God.
Third, I suspect those three are included as symbols.
- Moses led. He was the early placeholder for the Lord, who was supposed to be their Leader once they settled in the Promise Land (until they demanded an earthly king, like their neighbors.) But still, I think Moses is the symbol of leadership, government, laws, order. He, literally, gave them the laws written in stone. This is a gift from God. And it's in His indictment if we forget what a gift He has given us.
- Aaron was the Chief Priest. At first, I paused and thought this was also a symbol of the law. But that's the wrong way to think about the Chief Priest. His job wasn't about the law; it was about relationship and reconciliation with the Lord because we broke the law. That's very different. His gift was this mechanism to make ourselves right with Him, through faith and sacrifice. The Chief Priest was also the singular figure who could enter the presence of the Lord each year, on behalf of the people. Again, this role is about the intersection of where God meets man. Culminating in our true and forever Chief Priest who laid down His own life to reconcile God and man in relationship--our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I think this also includes the church, as the body of Christ given to us while we wait on the bridegroom. We can only imagine the indictment God will bring against us if we forget what a gift He has given us.
- Miriam is prophetess, according to Exodus 15:20. Notably, she was the worship leader, specifically after crossing the Nile. She was also used as a protector and agent of change when she not only watched over and saved her brother while he was a baby in the Nile; but then followed the situation and manipulated events to reunite Moses mom as his caregiver. She had a strong calling, and I don't think we see all of it; but she took it to heart and demanded more than she was given. With all that in mind, why did she make the list as such a valuable gift from God? To me, she's come to represent Community and Family. As family she cared for her brother and her mother. As community she led in worship and speaking for the Lord (Numbers 12:2). Forgetting about the amazing gifts of friends and family would definitely bring an indictment from the Lord.
So, combined, the symbols I have identified are leadership, law, relationship and reconciliation with God, church, family, and community. These are the basic institutions defined by God from the beginning. To forget about what God has done for us and what He has provided for us is absolutely heartbreaking. How do we do it? Why could we allow such astounding blessings slip our minds and blind our choices? It seems like it should be impossible; but it happens daily.
Balak and Balaam
Verse 5 is complex.
My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered him...Micah 6:5a
In Numbers Chapter 20-24, Balak, king of Moab saw the vast flow of Israelites passing through and he wanted to curse them because he was afraid. He went to great effort and expense to pay a man who was know for success in his blessing and cursing of others, Balaam. (What is that job called?) Balaam sought the Lord and the Lord told him to stand down and not curse these people. Balaam reports back to Balak that not matter how much Balak gave him, Balaam couldn't do anything contrary to the command of the Lord.
So in short, Balak was willing to go to great lengths to curse Israel and Balaam that was not going to happen under the protection of the Lord.
(The people of Israel brought curses on themselves shortly after, but that for another post. See Number 25 for the rest of this sad story.)
Shittam to Gilgal
The second half of verse 5 is also a historical reference:
And from Shittam to Gilgal, in order that you might know the righteous acts of the Lord.Micah 6:5b
According to Ryrie, Shittam is the last encampment east of the Jordan rover and Gilgal was the first encampment on the west bank.
So in this courtroom drama unfolding in Micah 6, what do these two references mean?
What had Balak so afraid when he saw the Israelites was that they had been given many victories on this journey to the Promised Land, most recently Arad, Sihon, and Og. God was reminding them that He gave them victory and safe passage, even when the people around them had very bad intentions for them. And then He safely and miraculously brought them across the Jordan into the Promise Land.
He is with us on our journey and He will get us to our destination.
If we fail to remember that, then it's easy to see why it ends in an indictment of the Lord.
Israel Responds to the Indictment
In verses 6-7, we hear the response of the people to the indictment so far...I'm sure it's not going to go well.
They ask the Lord what they can offer to make up for their sin. How can they bow to the Lord Most High. They come up with:
- burnt offerings
- yearling calves
- thousands of rams
- ten thousand rivers of oil
- fruit of my body
To my ear, these sound either sarcastic or disingenuous. Some of these things aren't theirs to promise.
Wiersbe points out that they keep increasing their "bid" in trying to "buy their forgiveness".
Verse 8 seems, to me, to be Micah's response to Israels dubious offer; but Ryrie has included it as part of Israel's response. (MacArthur calls Micah the lawyer for the plaintiff in this verse. Wiersbe agrees that it is the prophet speaking.) Either way, it's one of the most powerful verse in the Bible for me. You see it quoted often and on magnets, quilts, and other displays:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness (lovingkindness; mercy), and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8
I LOVE THAT. It's such a concise message. No rivers of oil, no yearling calves.
WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.
I'm no usually an all caps girl, but that warrants it.
He has done and does so much for each one of us. The very least we can do in response is that. Of course, we need the fruit of the Holy Spirit to produce that fruit; but the message is clear.
God's Case Against Israel Continues
Verse 9: "The voice of the Lord will call to the city--and it is sound wisdom to fear Thy name. Hear O tribe. Who has appointed its time?"
In verse 10 the author asks if there is a man in the wicked house, full of wicked treasures, with a short measure that is cursed. Verse 11 seems to expand on this by asking (I think we're in the voice of the Lord here): "Can I justify wicked scales and a bag of deceptive weights?"
This is a common indictment of the Lord from the prophets: those who have stealing from those who have a lot less by illegal business practices.
This them continues in verse 12 adding the rich men full of violence, residences of the city speaking lies, and deceptive tongues in mouths.
God's response to all of this sin is stated simply in verse 13-15
- So also I will make you sick, striking you down, desolating you because of your sins.
- eat, but not be satisfied
- you will try to save/preserve unsuccessfully
- what you do preserve I will give to the sword
- you will sow but not reap
- you will tread the oil but not receive the anointing
- tread the grapes but not drink the wine
If you've read much of my blog, you'll probably guess what I'm about to say next. While it is important to see these as the warning that they are, it's also important to see this as a list of what God does for us everyday. He couldn't take it from us unless He was the source of where it was coming from.
- our health is from Him
- our satisfaction (and appropriate food) is from Him
- our savings and possessions come from Him
- our protection is from Him
- our reaping is from Him
- our anointing is from Him
- the work of our hands coming to fruition is from Him
The final verse, 16, is also the final verse of God's indictment. But it's a doozy.
The statutes of Omri, and the works of the house of Ahab are observed; and in their devices you walk. Therefore, I will give you up for destruction and your inhabitants for your derision, and you will bear the reproach of My people.Micah 6:16
Just as Jeroboam's name (from the norther tribes of Israel) has become synonymous with idols and tainting the worship of God; Omri and Ahab (from the norther tribes of Israel) had become synonymous with sinful lifestyles. And because Judah has decided to follow the sinful ways of the north, God will give them up (and their inhabitants) up for destruction.
While this courtroom drama makes it easy to understand why God allowed Judah to be carried off to captivity; it's so important for us to understand that God is faithful and fair and He's willing to show His case publicly. We have to understand that we are serving the same God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow; so if these are the artifacts of what lead to Judah's destruction, we need to make what is important to God important to us.
It seems like today's key word is Gratitude. If we truly understand what God has created around us, for us, and what He does for us, individually and as a body, the only reasonable response is gratitude- which will show in our response, in our actions. Amen.
Wiersbe's Commentary, Be Concerned, points out that Israel (Judah) has a high and holy calling to take knowledge of the Name of the Lord to the rest of the world. As they became more and more corrupt and worldly, the worse they could do what was asked of them. He had to change their course, even if it meant only moving forward with a remnant.