Reading: Micah 2; Isaiah 3:13-4:6
This chapter speaks about God’s grace for His people, especially the verses 12-13. A remnant will be saved. This is comforting, but also threatening. Imagine that God would say to you, God’s people: only a remnant of you will be saved, only a small group.
The rich and the powerful, the political elite, oppressed the rest of the people. And the rest of the people, those who did not have the power, they were suffering, pushed into poverty by those who had the power and they could not defend themselves. God would bring disaster upon these evil people.
But Micah may also prophesy to those who are suffering, that God will not give up His people. He will comfort them. Instead of the rulers, whose task it was to protect the people but who forsook their task, now God Himself will pastor His flock. He will gather them, put them together like sheep of the fold. Like a flock in the midst of their pasture.
This prophecy came in a time that Judah was oppressed from all sides, by the Assyrians, who were coming closer and closer. It came to the gates of Jerusalem, we saw in chapter 1. It seemed as if the entire people would be conquered and defeated. But then Micah says: God will show His grace to the remnant. Jerusalem will not be taken.
This prophecy probably found its initial fulfillment in God’s miraculous salvation of Jerusalem under Hezekiah, when Sennacherib was punished by God and he had to withdraw from Jerusalem. But as with so many prophecies, also this prophecy does have a further reaching message, of warning and of comfort.
We see more often that prophets prophesy about a remnant. Isaiah mentions it several times, and also Jeremiah. And in the following chapters of Micah as well. The prophets are speaking about the faithfulness of the LORD in which He will allow a remnant to return from exile. When we read in Ezra 2:64 about the number of those who did return from exile, then indeed, it is a small remnant: 42,360. Compare that to the huge number of those who came out of Egypt. 600,000 men over 20 years old.
God remains faithful to His promises, which He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As certain as His name is Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM. They will be His people. He will be their God, as He promised to Abraham. God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. That promise still waits for its fulfillment. In the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jews were being counted by the Romans. Contrary to the promise to Abraham. But even from those who could be counted, only a remnant believed in Jesus Christ, the Saviour. God is faithful to His promise. It is not because of God’s weakness that only a remnant will be saved, but because of the wickedness of the people. That is what the Old Testament teaches us and what we should be aware of as God’s people in the New Testament.
God is purifying His people. Those who are evil and do not turn to God will be cut away from his people. Those who do remain faithful, those God will use and continue His church gathering work with them. That must make us humble, each and every one of us.
Micah prophesies in 2:1-5 against those who oppress the people. Those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! They dream about wealth and power. Even though they already are rich and powerful. But they want more, more. As soon as they wake up they make plans to make their dreams come true and satisfy their greed. At morning light they practice it. It was custom in Israel that the judges were sitting in the gates in the morning to render justice. Before the people went out to work, and also to symbolize that justice is like the morning light which dispels the darkness and the fear.
But now instead of rendering justice, those who have the power to do justice, use it to devise evil. They covet fields and take them by violence. Isaiah describes in chapter 5 how they join house to house, they add field to field, until there is no more room, and they are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. Notice the irony Isaiah is using here.
It is like the story of Ahab, Jezebel and how they falsely accused Naboth to get his vineyard. They devised iniquity to get their way. Apparently, they were the sole possessors of all the fields and houses in the country of Judah. It is not only the poor they neglect, but they actively oppress and steal from all those who do not join them in their iniquity. In vs. 9 Micah speaks about those who are cast out of their pleasant homes. It is even the middle class that is being oppressed here and brought to servitude. The only ones who possess houses and fields are the ruling elite. That also means that the coming of the Assyrians, who seized all the surrounding country of Jerusalem meant punishment especially for those who possessed all the land. That is what Micah means when he prophesies in vs. 3 that against this family God is devising disaster.
God is devising disaster against the entire people (family), but it will hit especially the oppressors. So far they had been able to stay free from adversity and disaster and they made the people suffer, but now God will make sure that they themselves will be hit with disaster, they can no longer remove their necks from this yoke. They will have to suffer. They devised wickedness, now God is devising disaster against them.
And then in the verses 6-11, Micah prophesied against those who tried to silence the prophets. Those who do warn and speak up against evil. The powerful do not want to hear them. They are being silenced through threats and ridicule. ‘Do not prattle’. Keep your religion to yourself. Don’t preach to us. They don’t want to hear the warning, they don’t want to hear about the coming punishment. They want to live in complacency and without having to worry about justice. Micah was spoiling their party and therefore he should be silenced.
Verse 7 in the NKJV is unclear. The ESV says here: Should this be said, O house o Jacob? Has the LORD grown impatient? Are these his deeds? Those people apparently accused Micha of not speaking the Word of God, because, according to them, God is Love, and He is merciful, as God says in Exodus 34:7. However, Micah reminds them that they forgot the second part of what God says in Exodus 34. God keeps mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but it also says there: by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children… God does good and is merciful, forgives the sins, and shows love to those who walk uprightly.
These people twisted God’s words and rejected every warning against their sin. “God is Love. God accepts you as you are.” They continue to treat their own people as an enemy, robbing them from their comfortable garments and their pleasant houses. These blessings which the people received, was God’s glory, which He gave to them, His own people. The oppressors have taken away God’s glory from these people and their children. Now Micah prophesies that they will not find rest. God will destroy all that they had gathered and built up by their wickedness.
And then in verse 11, Micah addresses the false prophets. Those prophets only prophesy about wine and drink, about wealth and luxury. Only what the oppressors wanted to hear. Well, that is what they deserve. Because they refuse to listen, they will not receive God’s salvation but will be punished and destroyed in exile.
In Isaiah 6 and Matthew 13 we read the warning, Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.
God will render justice. Justice for the oppressed, by administering justice to the oppressors. The remnant, those who are faithful may know that God is faithful to His promise and He will gather His people as a shepherd gathers the sheep.
Key Text: Micah 2: 12: I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob. I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
Meditation: We see around us our nation turning away from its Christian heritage. Many churches are empty, Christianity is decreasing in our country. Will the church still survive in Australia? We may know: if we are faithful, God will be faithful to us. God will never give up His people, but will gather the faithful. The remant will be saved. Consider: do we have confidence for the future of Christianity in our country, or are we ruled by fear?