Reading: Micah 1:1-7; Hebrews 12:18-25
The prophet Micah lived in the time just before the fall of Samaria in 722 before Christ. Micah came from Moresheth, southwest of Jerusalem. He worked and prophesied especially in Judah.
The time of Micah was a time of many prophets. Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, and Joel all prophesied in those days.
A bad time for the people of God. Amos, who started to prophesy before Micah, lived in the time that Jeroboam II was king of Israel. A time of great prosperity. Israel enjoyed a wealth and prosperity as they had not experienced in centuries. But they did not give thanks to God for these blessings. They went on their own ways, served their own gods, and if they served the LORD then they did it in their own ways.
Even though Micah mainly prophesied in Judah, the people of Judah did know about the situation in Israel. In 2 Kings 17 we read that they even followed Israel in their sin.
Micah also starts his prophesies about Israel, see 1:1.
God sent His prophet, who spoke about God’s righteous judgment that will come over such a people. God will descend to the earth, and come to His people and visit the iniquities of His people upon them. He will not leave their sins unpunished.
God is already descending from heaven. The mountains melt beneath Him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.
Micah describes the day of judgment, the day on which the whole creation will be affected by His coming. It is impressive.
Now God is coming as the Judge, to judge the transgression of Jacob, and the sins of the house of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?
Samaria, Jerusalem, the capitals of God’s people. There it is where all the transgressions and the sins come from. There it is where it all started. It is not just members of God’s people who are sinning, it is not incidentally, in certain parts of the country that sin is prevalent. No, it comes from the heart of the country, from its capital. From the palaces and the centre of the worship service. From the government. There where the economical, military and religious decisions are being made. Therefore, God will come and judge the whole nation. He will visit their iniquities upon them and will not leave them unpunished.
Micah had to announce the exile of the people of Israel and of Samaria. And we now know that this did happen, soon thereafter.
Micah also announced God’s punishment over Jerusalem. Although it did not happen right away and it took more than 130 years after the fall of Samaria that God came to punish Jerusalem and Judah with exile, nevertheless, Micah already announces it here too, as a warning for God’s people. There is still time to repent, but not much. God is already coming for His judgment.
Both Israel and Judah were still the people of God, even though divided. God continued to speak to both. He called them back.
Already in the time of Micah, God had to punish Israel, and send them into exile. Because God’s people did not listen or care about God’s commandments at all. In Micah 2:1 we read about the iniquities: those who devise wickedness, and work evil on their beds (read vs. 1 and 2).
Those who were rich and have the power, they got richer and richer. Over the backs of the poor and needy. For God that was and still is a huge evil. God mentioned especially that as the sin of His people, together with their worshiping of idols or disobedience in different ways if it comes to the worship service.
That are two important elements in His covenant. We live in love for God, and we live in love for our neighbor. The Old Testament shows us the shortcomings of Israel in both commands. We know from Lord’s Day 2, that we also fall short in that. We are inclined to hate God and our neighbor. We share in the sin of God’s people. The entire OT shows us the need of the coming of Christ, our only Saviour.
God said to the Israelites, when they entered into Canaan, that there should be no one among them who lived in poverty. It was the task and responsibility of the Israelites to see to it that all the members of God’s people shared abundantly in God’s blessings which He bestowed upon His people. And we see time and again where the people turn away from God, there they also don’t care for each other anymore. Individualism and working for own wealth and prosperity, even at the cost of the weaker members of society, that is always the result of a people deserting and breaking God’s covenant.
Among God’s people, all members should share in the blessings of a covenant life, that is a life with and for God, a life under God’s blessings. The first blessing being, that we can live with God in a relationship of love, through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. And now we will love God, with all our heart and soul and mind, and we will love our neighbor as ourselves. Undivided love. That is all one: John says in his first letter, 1 John 4:19: We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
The social situation in a society says a lot about the spiritual state of the members of that society. The larger the contrast between rich and poor, the larger also the individualism and the rejection of the knowledge of God and His Word.
God’s people must show how good it is as brothers and sisters of the same people to live together in communion. God called them to live with God, as His people. He gave them everything. He saved them out of slavery and certain death. He freed them, He gave them their own country, He cared for them, He provided them with much wealth and prosperity, abundant blessings, He protected them, He even gave Himself to them, to be their God, and they should be His people.
Being God’s people, that means that you live in a relationship with the holy God. God set Israel apart from the other peoples. God is a holy God. They should realize every day again, that it was important to be holy.
That is even more so in the New Testament. With the coming of Christ, much has changed. But He is still the Holy God.
We don’t have to keep all the laws and regulations in the Old Testament anymore, but that does not mean that we can be less holy. We now live in direct contact with God, whereas in the Old Testament, the Israelites still had the protection by those laws and regulations (see Hebrews 12:18-25).
Key Text: Hebrews 12:25 : ‘See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven.’
Meditation: It is for us even more important to be holy than for Israel in the Old Testament. However, Luther struggled with the question how to be holy. He discovered that it was not through good works. But only by faith in Christ. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17). God does not accept us as we are but makes us holy in Christ and through His Spirit. Consider how much you desire to be filled with the Spirit and live holy lives. What does it mean to be holy (consider the summary of the law)?