Reading: Micah 7
At the beginning of chapter 7, it seems as if the situation for Micah is very depressing. That is because of all the godlessness in the land, the spiritual misery of God’s people. It is a huge spiritual disaster, a spiritual desert. There is no reason for joy. It is all misery.
Look at God’s people: how can you still recognize them as God’s people? There is no difference anymore. There are no godly fruits which they yield. It is as if when the summer fruit has been gathered. It is all gone. If you come to look for fruit, you will not find any. As after the harvest of the grapes. If you go to the vineyard to find some grapes to eat, you won’t find any. In the same way, you will not find any godly people among God’s people. The place where you would expect to find them. And with that, they have all perished from the entire earth. There is no one upright among mankind. It is as if God’s work is coming to an end. What is there still to expect? God’s people have come to nothing because of their disobedience. Now it is time for God’s punishment, to bring it all to an end.
But then we read at the end that Micah does close his prophecy on a very positive note: about God’s Steadfast Love and Compassion! How is that possible?
That is not because of what the people are or do. Not because there is any hope that the people will change, after hearing his prophecies. But because he knows that God will not give up His work and God Himself will work to change His people. In the end, Micah knows that all that the people do, will lead to nothing, the people will end up in misery, under God’s punishment. But it is GOD Who will renew His people and raise Israel as from the dead. God will do great things, and that is what Micah can prophesy and that is why he can end his prophecy with praise!
In Micah’s time, things went very well for Judah as a nation, economically. But Micah did not speak about that as a blessing. God gave His people many gifts and huge prosperity, but it was not received as a blessing from God. By their unrighteousness, they themselves turned God’s blessings into a curse for them. It became an idol that led them away from God.
That is what happened time and again in the history of God’s people. Already from the moment, they entered Canaan. In the time of the judges, we can see that every time when things went well, people went on their own ways and forgot God. And every time when God punished them and took away their prosperity, and gave them over to their enemies, then they turned back to God, because they realized that they needed Him.
That is not only for Israel, we can also see it in modern times. Especially in times of disasters or crisis or great wars, we see people going to church. But as soon as life is back in the routine of before the disaster, then people forget God again and go on their own ways. Abundant blessings are not always received as blessings from God and an economic blessing is not always necessarily a spiritual blessing.
In chapter 7 Micah describes the situation. There is no justice. It is terrible how they act. And then he says in verse 4: ‘The day of your watchman and your punishment comes.’ The people are stubborn and do not repent from their sins. These sins are being described in verses 3 and 4. God comes to visit His people with His punishment. That punishment starts with their confusion, as we read at the end of verse 4, their perplexity. Do not trust a friend. Put no confidence in a companion. Even guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom, in your arms, even your own spouse; that is terrible. You can’t trust anyone anymore. Not even the one who is closest to you. Utter selfishness and individualism. Each on his own, everyone for himself. The love of the most will grow cold, as our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24.
That is how it was in the days of Micah. The community of God’s people is falling apart. There is no unity anymore, it is not a people anymore, but a bunch of greedy persons, each fighting for his own riches and honour and position. The rich top of the country is extorting all the wealth and prosperity from the middle class so that even they who prospered became poorer and poorer and the gap between the upper class and the rest becomes bigger and bigger. Survival of the strongest. They didn’t care about God or His people.
Isn’t that what we see time and again, throughout the entire history: if people turn away from God, then the greed will lead to extravagant riches among some and poverty among others. The more we get to know about Micah and about the time in which he prophesied, the more we see similarities with our own time. Not only the economic problems, not only the injustice of those who have the power enriching themselves with huge bonuses but now also the falling apart of our society in selfishness and individualism.
With the decrease of Christianity, we see an exponential increase of selfishness.
That is what Micah noticed in his time and he saw in that God’s punishment, Who gave the people over to their own desires. God showed them what the result was of their own wisdom. A situation in which He withdraws His love and goodness, a world without God’s love. It is only a little bit, but this is already a foretaste of hell. It is for us unimaginable what hell must be like, but a little bit of it we can see in the life of those who live without God. Spiritually dead. Living in hate for each other, in love for themselves. Although they live in wealth and prosperity, there is no true love anymore.
In their sin, God’s people turn away from God and they break His covenant. The heathen people, who didn’t know God, God gives them over to their own desires. They were not part of the covenant, they go on their own ways and God let them go and do what they want. And then they will discover that what they always wanted is utter misery. But with God’s own covenant people it is different. God does not let them go. If they go on their own ways, then God punishes them. He is angry with them. Not because He wants revenge, but because He does not want His people to walk away from Him and perish. He punishes them because He wants them to come back and be saved. He punishes them because He loves them.
In verse 15 Micah speaks about the days when Israel came out of Egypt when God showed His marvelous things. In verse 17 Micah uses the name LORD, which is the name of the God of the covenant. Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM. God Who remembers the covenant that He made with their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Micah says that God will show faithfulness to Jacob, and steadfast love to Abraham, as He had sworn to their fathers from days of old.
That covenant, that was and is a covenant in which it all comes from God. When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, then it was not because of anything that made them worthy of it. At the end of Exodus 2, we read that God heard their groaning remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. God remembered His promises and He was and is faithful. That is why He rescued His people.
That is also why God rescued His people by sending His Son Jesus Christ. Not because of anything in the people, but because of their total inability to save themselves. As baptism signifies and the form for the baptism also summarizes. Our children, just like we, conceived and born in sin, subject to all sorts of misery, even eternal condemnation. Yet, they are saved, because they belong to Christ and are part of His body. Died with Him and raised with Him to a new life. By faith.
It is God’s glory and His greatness, in which He redeems His people from their misery. God showed His greatness and almighty power in the days when He led Israel out of Egypt. And now He will do it again. Now again He will remember His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob and He will redeem His people out of the misery. In the deepest misery of God’s people, it is time for God’s great deeds and His almighty power, to show His majesty and His glory. See verse 16 and 17: all the nations who persecute God’s people, they will be persecuted by God, and they will be ashamed and afraid. They will acknowledge: Who is a God like You, God, Yahweh.
At the end of his prophecies, Micah can speak about the greatness of God and His wonderful deeds for His people. It is because of this that Micah can end his prophecies in a jubilant tone.