Reading: Micah 1:8-16; 2 Kings 18:1-16
The time during which Micah prophesied was a time full of injustice. The people were oppressed by the political elite. Those who devise iniquity (see 2:1). It were not only the poor who were oppressed, but the middle class in Israel and Judah was also degraded, oppressed and reduced to poverty. They all became de facto slaves of the political elite. Corruption was rampant, the rich became richer, they didn’t care about doing justice, only about getting what they wanted. In chapter 3:1 Micah accuses those leaders, to whom it was given to know justice, but who hate good and love evil.
It was because of this evil, in combination with worshiping other gods, that God came down to judge His people. In the first part of chapter 1, God’s coming is announced: His judgment over Israel and Samaria, see vs. 6. Now, in the second part of this chapter, Micah prophesies that it will not remain in Israel and Samaria. It has come to Judah as well, vs. 9.
Micah lived and worked in the time of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
In those days, the Assyrians were a growing political and military power and from time to time they marched against Israel and Judah. It was during one of those campaigns that Samaria was captured and the ten tribes were sent into exile. That was in the sixth year of king Hezekiah in Judah.
This same Assyria then also, eight years later, came and attacked Judah and Jerusalem. Entire Judah was conquered and only Jerusalem was left. And then God saved Jerusalem in a miraculous way.
We know Hezekiah as a good king, who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. However, Hezekiah went through a time in which he developed and grew towards how we know him from the Bible.
In his first years, he was probably not able to reform the political world in Judah. Maybe he wasn’t even willing yet. It may be that the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib brought him to the point that he learned to completely trust in the LORD. Before that, we read in 2 Kings 18, he still tried by political negotiations to appease the king of Assyria by sending him large sums of money, silver, and gold.
It is probably in the first half of Hezekiah’s reign that this prophecy of Micah must be placed. The first part of this chapter announces the fall of Samaria, which happened in the sixth year of Hezekiah. It was a warning for Judah, but probably, the rulers in Judah had already rejected God so much that they didn’t see this as a warning coming from the LORD, despite the events being prophesied by several of the prophets. It is like today, if you would say that the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wars, and other terrible events are a warning from the LORD, then many will look at you as if you are from a different century.
It is in these circumstances that Micah continues to prophesy. After he had prophesied for many years, Samaria did fall. After that, he continued to prophesy against Judah, but in the beginning also there without result. And then he had to prophesy that Judah will not escape judgment. If they don’t see the fall of Samaria as a warning, but continue in the same sin as Israel committed, then God will come down to judge them as well.
Micah mourns about the disobedience of God’s people. He describes in verse 8 how he wails and howls. He said: ‘I will go stripped and naked’. That is what the prophets in those days did more often. Isaiah went stripped and naked in Isaiah 20 as a symbol of going into exile. Micah shows the punishment that is coming over Judah as well. They have seen it, happening to their brothers and sisters in the northern kingdom, how they were taken into exile. And that is how they went: stripped and naked. Going into exile was a dramatic event. Robbed from all they possessed, even their own clothes. Transported like slaves, prisoners. Men, women, and children. Without mercy. Those who were too weak succumbed and died along the way.
Micah is showing in what he does that this will happen to Judah as well.
Micah is mourning, wailing like the jackals, and like the ostriches. Both animals are known for their piercing howling or cries. Micah mourns, because of what happened to Israel. Her wounds are incurable, he says. Israel did not repent. She was punished by the LORD but it didn’t help. Israel did not return to the LORD. And therefore, Israel met their end. Succumbed and died. Ceased to exist.
That is the cause of Micah’s mourning. But not only that. He also mourns because now the same is happening to Judah. It has come to Judah, he says. He is speaking here about that what caused the wound of Israel. That were the Assyrians, used by God. That has come to Judah now as well.
It hurts Micah to see the stubborn rejection of his prophecies by God’s people. He sees their suffering. He knows what it will lead to. He also knows that there is a possibility to escape that fate that came to Israel, the northern tribes. And he tells the people how to escape God’s wrath. Turn to God and live. He knows it and he tells them. But they don’t listen. They don’t turn to God. They don’t repent from their sins. Micah wants them to be saved, but they don’t want to be saved in the way Micah prophesies.
It is human nature to reject the truth. To suppress the truth, by their unrighteousness. We see it also now. Those who preach to this world the salvation only by faith in Jesus Christ, are ignored. From the beginning, mankind wanted to go on its own ways and thought it didn’t need God. It could determine its own way of salvation. Even God’s own people, when God called them and set them free from oppression when God sent His prophets, they still didn’t listen and went on their own ways.
The prophets show us the utter need for God to work something miraculous, to work a salvation that no human mind would ever come up with. The salvation, only by sending His own Son, to become a human being and at the same time being the Son of God, becoming our only Saviour.
Sin is so powerful that once we are in the power of sin, no prophecy, no light of nature, no reason, nothing will be able to set us free from the pernicious power of sin and Satan.
Only when we realise this, will we flee to Jesus Christ and let Him redeem us from the power of sin and set us free into the glorious freedom of God’s children.
Key Text: 1 Corinthians 10:11-12: ‘Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.’
Meditation: The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us that, besides our salvation and thankfulness, we should know our sin and misery, in order to live and die in the joy of our only comfort. The Bible teaches us our sin and misery and gives Israel in the OT as an example. Let us not be arrogant, but let us take heed lest we fall. Consider: How much do we resemble the people of God in the time of Micah?