In Micah 1, judgment is declared to be coming against Israel as a consequence of her persistent rebellion and unfaithfulness. Retaining only the external forms, they had moved away from the protection and the promises of the covenant. And the cancer had spread to the very gates of Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom, such that God would have to let the North go to preserve faith in the land.
In Micah 2, the prophet speaks words of warning to the people who weren’t listening to anyone who told them what they didn’t want to hear. They wanted positive affirmations, not the truth. The presence and preservation of a remnant who would remain faithful to the Lord and Stand in the Gap as His representatives was a source of hope in this dark time.
In Micah 3, the prophet speaks the truth courageously in an environment unreceptive to the truth. He contrasts himself with the corrupt and unjust and blind leaders and prophets who were motivated by money and riches. They talked peace when disaster was coming because it paid better rates. They looked after their supporters and exploited the rest. Religion was about business and power not worship and truth; and the infection had spread even to Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom such that it was heading in the same direction as the North.
Now, in Micah 4 we return to some words of hope in an increasingly hopeless situation. Just as Micah 2 ends with hope because their remains a remnant who are true to the Lord, so this chapter brings the hope of a Sovereign King who will bring peace and a future, as a contrast to the types of leaders that existed at the time.
The passage points to the future restoration of Jerusalem after a time in exile in Babylon (v 10), and in the next chapter of the coming Messiah; events that remained far into the future at the time
A BRIEF ASIDE
Some, like Richard Dawkins are blatant in their contempt for the God of the Bible. In his book “The God Delusion”, we find the following caricature of our God as a monster.
“Arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidial, pestilential, meglamaniacial, sadomasochistic, capricious, malevolent bully…”
But in Micah 4, we learn of a God who has compassion and mercy at the very foundations of His being. Our God is serious about sin, and He is willing to restrain it (particularly when it threatens the very existence of His people, and the coming of the Messiah in the fullness of time), but salvation is His purpose and a constant theme. The 'monster' that Dawkins describes would have no place for mercy or self-sacrifice.
Here are a few thoughts to combat this caricature of God before we get into the study.
1. If God does exist and this is an accurate description then He makes Hitler look good. But, Hitler would never have tolerated such comments. Since Dawkins is alive, God can’t be like that otherwise he’d be dead. Besides, if He is really like that why would you want to upset Him? There is no where to hide from God.
2. All Dawkins can prove is that he doesn’t like the God of the Bible as he describes him. This is a straw God created by Dawkins to justify his position.
3. If God doesn’t exist, then this description is still false and life remains the same. The differences is that people will use non-religious excuses to do evil, we wont have anyone to blame for our problems, and we wont have anyone but ourselves to ask ‘Why?’
NOW, BACK TO MICAH 4
A: OUR SOVEREIGN GOD IS A LEADER WHO CAN BE TRUSTED BECAUSE MERCY (COMPASSION) IS WHAT MOTIVATES HIM.
Micah 4: 5-7 tells us of the hope that is certain for those who walk in the name of the Lord our God forever, whether they are lame or outcast or afflicted. This life has many troubles and even God’s people are not exempt. But we have a future as part of His kingdom. The Lord is in the process of regaining His former dominion in the hearts of men and women. Sometimes the future reveals only trouble and devastation but, in the end only peace and purpose (v 3-4). As the Northern Kingdom moves rapidly to a time of Judgment, and the Southern Kingdom comes close to being dragged down with it, God has to let the North go to preserve the South and to keep His promise to David. In such perilous times, it is hard to find hope, but if people will keep faith and persevere in times of darkness, they will come to see that the Lord is faithful and He will achieve His purposes.
The Lord does not think or operate as we might expect because the only experience we can draw on to make sense of life comes from a fallen world distorted by sin. Without Revelation from God Himself, we could never find Him let alone know what He was like. Our judgments about His motives – like that of Dawkins – come from an attempt to make sense out of life when it often makes no sense. It is much more difficult to trust God when we are on the receiving end. His Word reveals His ways and His motives but we need to trust it. He calls on us to reveal His mercy and compassion in a needy world – one He was willing to die for. Trusting Him with our lives is the first step.
B: OUR SOVEREIGN GOD IS IN CONTROL, BUT HE IS NOT A CONTROL FREAK.
Micah 4:11,12, a key passage in this book, tells us to look beyond our experiences to know that God is indeed a Sovereign King worthy of our worship and service. We cannot understand all His thoughts and purposes, but He has given us enough to show us that He can be trusted. Jesus trusted the father enough to go to the cross. God is concerned about the big picture and the long term, not just the fine detail and the present. We need to be able to stand firm in tough times, and trust Him, even when it seems like He has abandoned us. This is the challenge for the faithful, at a time when God has decided to allow the consequences of continual unfaithfulness and idolatry to bring down the Northern Kingdom. It was also a warning to the Southern Kingdom that God’s favor and protection can only be counted on when she lives within the boundaries of His will.
As far as the world, (and people like Dawkins) are concerned, our God is a failure or a tyrant or worse. Even at the time of Micah there was gloating going on amongst the nations when Israel was being unfaithful and in trouble. They would have been even louder after both North and South went into exile. But, they did not know what God’s people knew. They respected only power and strength – wars were often considered a fight between your God and mine – so they failed to see that Yahweh was different.
Yes, He was indeed powerful, but He wasn’t a despot. He invites people to follow Him by choice (covenant) not by force. As a result, our waywardness will have consequences. We were given dominion on the earth from the very beginning, and it has never been revoked; we must choose to submit to Him as King. Satan seeks to control us by fear and stealth, but the Lord tells us the truth and lets us experience the fruits of those decisions. He warns us of the consequences of sin and rebellion, and He promises us the blessings of obedience and faithfulness. God didn’t create pawns or automatums, He designed us to be free; the trouble is, we want to have more freedom and control than we were ever designed for. Micah warned the people that the path they were following would only lead to disaster, but he also gave hope to those who were willing to remain faithful even as everything around them was falling apart. Walking with the Lord is the safest place to be in a decidedly unsafe world.
C: OUR SOVEREIGN GOD CAN MAKE ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD IN THE LIVES OF ALL WHO WILL LIVE (return to their proper place) UNDER HIS DOMINION.
Micah talks of the downward spiral of the Southern Kingdom and its eventual demise – despite a reprieve under the kingship of Hezekiah who had enough sense to cry out to the Lord when the city was under siege. Micah warns that Jerusalem will eventually fall 100+ years later, and many would be exiled to Babylon, but only our God is able to bring good, and bring hope out of a total disaster. God will redeem His people and bring the Messiah (see Micah 5), who will right all the wrongs.
He says, “…you shall go even to Babylon. There you shall be delivered; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.” Micah 4:10
Because God has chosen not to override our will, He must work for us in the context of a fallen and sinful world. Even our sins and the sins of others become the raw material of His will – without being His will. He will use 40 years in the wilderness to bring about His purposes – thus retaining the integrity of our free-will – if the shorter route isn’t taken. Genesis 45 gives us the greatest insight concerning the motives and activities of God. Joseph could say that it was God who sent Him to Egypt – even though it was His brothers who had sold him – because he could see that the Lord was able to bring good for him and his whole family out of what was a despicable act.
This is the hope that only a Sovereign God can bring to people – hope, even in the midst of hopelessness. Micah speaks words of judgment to a people who have not taken their covenant with God seriously, but he also brings words of hope for those who remain faithful. The Lord is working out His purposes and He will bring them about, no matter what people think they are doing –for nothing is impossible with God.
1. How is ‘making a difference’ different from ‘being in control’?
2. Have you had to struggle with a choice between doing what God wants you to do and doing what a person told you to do.