I often think when reading the Old Testament prophets that it’s as if God could be speaking to us today. We don’t live in a whole nation claimed by God and governed by His laws (as physical Israel was) but believers today are spiritual Israel — the people who belong to God (Rom. 2:28-29; Eph. 2:12-13). When God talks to His wayward, complaining people in history, those words can also resonate with those of us who follow Him today but perhaps aren’t doing as good a job of that as we should be.
Micah’s book starts out with an alarm cry. “Listen, all you nations! Pay attention, all inhabitants of earth!” As a result of His people’s rebellion, the Lord is going to come with great destruction to crumble, split, and melt the earth (1:2-5). A spiritual infection has spread even into the “leadership of my people” (1:9), and that cannot go uncorrected. Wicked schemes run rampant in the land and it will result in disaster (2:1-3). Though people say, “The Lord’s patience can’t be exhausted— he would never do such things,” He will not put up with lying, stealing, defrauding, and persecuting the innocent forever (2:7-11).
Reading this, I can’t help but think of the world today. Outside the church, society is crumbling and the world’s going crazy. Injustice, lack of integrity, and disregard for God’s ways runs rampant. And, to our shame, it’s not much better in some churches. We have plenty of excuses for the way things are — often boiling down to something along the lines of it’s too hard to follow God today, He doesn’t really care what we do, or it’s enough if we’re good in our own way — but those excuses don’t stand up well in the face of God’s questions. God offers hope as well as judgement, though, and I think we can learn much from that message today.
God Will Judge
We know from scripture God will judge the world, but sometimes we forget He will also judge His own household. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Peter wrote, “it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17, all scriptures from New English Translation). That’s still happening today, and it was happening before Peter, too. There are things God’s people ought and ought not to do, and He will hold us accountable.
I said,Micah 3:1-2
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the nation of Israel!
You ought to know what is just,
yet you hate what is good
and love what is evil.
You flay my people’s skin
and rip the flesh from their bones.
James warns that teachers “will be judged more strictly” (3:1), and the same seems true for other leaders among God’s people as well. We’re each responsible for our own actions, but leaders are also responsible for the people who listen to them. When someone misleads the people of God, all those who are disobedient face judgement but the fault lies most with the leaders (Micah 3).
After hearing of such judgement and disaster, the people’s objection from 2:7 might seems a reasonable one to some of us. God is loving, patient, and merciful — He wouldn’t really do that! And then when it turns out He’s different than we expect or want Him to be, those objections might then turn to complaints that God isn’t fair or that His expectations are unreasonable (something we also hear today). God has an answer to that.
Listen to what the Lord says:
“Get up! Defend yourself before the mountains.Micah 6:1-5
Present your case before the hills.”
Hear the Lord’s accusation, you mountains,
you enduring foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
he has a dispute with Israel!
“My people, how have I wronged you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
In fact, I brought you up from the land of Egypt;
I delivered you from that place of slavery.
I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you.
My people, recall how King Balak of Moab planned to harm you,
how Balaam son of Beor responded to him.
Recall how you journeyed from Shittim to Gilgal,
so you might acknowledge that the Lord has treated you fairly.”
God’s not the one who broke the covenant. If anyone has cause to bring an accusation against someone else, it’s God against the people. And though the language would change if used today (e.g. we no longer personify mountains as witnesses to treaties, as they did in the ancient Near East [NET footnote to v. 1]), God could say much the same thing to many modern Christians. Hasn’t He given and done so much for us? Is what He asks in response so unreasonable?
He has told you, O man, what is good,Micah 6:8
and what the Lord really wants from you:
He wants you to carry out justice, to love faithfulness,
and to live obediently before your God.
There is Plenty of Hope
Following God really isn’t all that complicated. He tells us what He expects from us, Jesus lived an example of faithfulness, and then He died to cleanse us from the sins that we do commit. God is clear with His expectations, and He’s got a sort of “safety net” to save us if we slip; all we need to do is repent and move forward in renewed, faithful obedience. We’re the ones who complicate things, or perhaps more accurately the world makes following God seem confusing and difficult. But if we keep walking with Him, there are better days ahead.
And in future days the Lord’s Temple Mount will be the most important mountain of all;Micah 4:1-5
it will be more prominent than other hills.
People will stream to it.
Many nations will come, saying,
“Come on! Let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the temple of Jacob’s God,
so he can teach us his ways
and we can live by his laws.”
For instruction will proceed from Zion,
the Lord’s message from Jerusalem.
He will arbitrate between many peoples
and settle disputes between many distant nations.
They will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nations will not use weapons against other nations,
and they will no longer train for war.
Each will sit under his own grapevine
or under his own fig tree without any fear.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has decreed it.
Though all the nations follow their respective gods,
we will follow the Lord our God forever.
This promise is still for the future. We can look forward to the time when Christ will rule as David’s heir (Mic. 5:2-9) and the whole world will have peace. Until then, we ought to follow the prophet’s example here in saying no matter what the other peoples of the earth do, we will follow God. In Hebrew, it is more literally “walk in the name of our God,” which involves recognizing His “authority as binding over” your life (NET footnotes to v. 4-5). Living as a Christian can’t be a half-hearted commitment. God wants your whole heart, and in light of how much He loves us that doesn’t seem an unreasonable request.