God's Complaint Against Israel; Future Pardon (Micah 6-7) May 6
Chapters 6 and 7 appear to be directed primarily to Israel rather than Judah—although this could have included Judah. It is not clear when this prophecy was delivered. Based on the time span of Micah's ministry (see Micah 1:1), it is possible that it was actually given prior to Israel's first deportation or second deportation—and yet appended to the end of his book. However, it is also possible that it was given late in Hezekiah's reign. If the latter is true, the message would seem almost exclusively for the end time, since Israel would have already gone into captivity (yet with perhaps some application to ancient Judah, as mentioned). Of course, even if the prophecy was given before Israel's captivity, it would still clearly apply to the end time as well, based on the details in the latter half of chapter 7.
Chapter 6 "is in the familiar form of a lawsuit which God brings against Israel" (Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader's Companion, note on chap. 6). God calls the "mountains" and "hills" as witnesses (verses 1-2). While perhaps a literal reference to the land, which existed when the covenant with Israel was first made, it is just as likely that "mountains" and "hills" refers to great nations and smaller nations, as is often the case in biblical prophecy.
Actually, God makes the point that the Israelites act as if they have a case against Him. But He is clearly innocent of all charges. Just the opposite, God has repeatedly worked to save and help Israel. As an example, Balaam caused much grief to the Israelites by leading them into idolatry—but when used by Balak in an attempt to curse Israel, Balaam uttered many blessings and demonstrated God's love and protection for His people (verse 5; Numbers 22:2-24:25).
Micah 6:6-8 offers one of the clearest statements of a theme scattered throughout many other places in the Old Testament, as well as the New, which places the sacrificial system in its proper perspective (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:16-17; Hosea 6:6). God did not want sacrifices just for the sake of sacrifices. And He certainly did not want the abhorrent sacrifice of children at all—though many societies of that day thought this a legitimate sacrifice, including, at times, the Israelites.
God's real goal for mankind was and is to produce righteous character. God defines true goodness, which is what He says here that He really requires of us. It is, first of all, to "do justly"—that is, to live righteously (according to God's commandments, Psalm 119:172) and to judge and deal fairly. It also includes loving mercy—having a thankful heart for God's mercy and a compassionate heart that shows mercy to others, expressing itself in a willingness to help others in need. And finally, it means to walk humbly with God, trusting Him for guidance and direction. Christ called these things the "weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy and faith" (Matthew 23:23). Justice corresponds to living justly and judging with righteous judgment. And walking humbly with God is synonymous with walking by faith—humble and trusting, as a little child.
Micah 6:16 refers to the wickedness of Omri and especially his son Ahab, who were the first kings of Israel to bring Baal worship into prominence. Of Omri the Bible states, "Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him" (1 Kings 16:25). He founded the city of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24), which was virtually synonymous with idolatry. Israel is shown to be following Omri and Ahab's evil ways. Again, this could refer to ancient Israel. But it also applies to the nations of modern Israel, as widespread false Christianity is really a modified form of ancient Baal worship. The name Baal means "Lord." Many today worship a "Lord" they believe to be the true God—yet they are sadly deceived.
As Micah 7 opens, Micah is dismayed at the lack of righteous fruit in the society. In verse 3, he mentions a corrupt prince. This seems to be part of an end-time prophecy, and perhaps just means that all of Israel's leaders in the last days are corrupt. However, if this prophecy were given late in Hezekiah's reign, it could perhaps have applied to Hezekiah's son, Manasseh—who would eventually prove to be Judah's most wicked ruler. Manasseh was coregent with Hezekiah in Judah from around 697-686 B.C.—just over a decade.
Regarding verses 5-6, Christ actually explained the meaning. Jesus often quoted the prophets when preaching—the very ones He originally inspired. And such was the case when He stated that He came not to bring peace, but a sword—referring to the fact that those who chose His way would often be greatly opposed and even betrayed by close friends and family members. He quoted Micah 7:6 in this context (see Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 12:49-53).
Verses 7-9 of Micah 7 should be of great comfort to us. Micah appears to be describing his own predicament and hope—but the same kinds of situations affect every Christian. Moreover, his words express the hope of Israel as well. Often God will allow us to experience consequences because of our sins. But upon our repentance He does forgive us—and He will ultimately save us. "She who is my enemy" (verse 10) is probably a reference to the false Christianity that has prevailed since the second century and is to dominate the world in the end time—referred to in Revelation 17 as "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth." She—that is, this evil system—will ultimately be destroyed, God promises. Of course, a forerunner of this system existed in Micah's own day even in Israel and Judah—as Canaanite paganism, rooted in Babylon, was in many aspects nefariously blended with God's true form of worship.
In Micah 7:12, "From Assyria and the fortified cities, from the fortress to the River" could perhaps be translated "From Assyria and the cities of Egypt, from Egypt to the River [Euphrates]" (see NKJV margin). This would parallel other verses that show the Israelites of the end time returning from both Assyria and Egypt in a great second Exodus (e.g., Isaiah 11:11). The territory of the northern kingdom will again be inhabited by the Israelites (Micah 7:14).
The second Exodus will be accompanied by great miracles, as the original Exodus was (verse 15). All nations will see and fear (verses 16-17). But the greatest testimony of the events is the measureless mercy of God—who will pardon Israel's sins upon their repentance despite all the injustice and evil they have committed against Him (verses 18-20).
This evokes the remark of "Who is a God like You…?" in verse 18, similar to the words in Exodus 15:11, "Who is like You, O Eternal…?"—which were part of the song that the Israelites sang to God when He delivered them from Pharaoh at the Red Sea. The statement in Micah provides an interesting play on words because the name Micah means, "Who Is Like the Eternal?" Micah himself stood in awe of the incredible mercy of God.
Interestingly, the Jews have a traditional practice called Tashlich, meaning, "You will cast," taken from the Hebrew words of Micah 7:19. For most this is done on the Feast of Trumpets, although some do it on the Day of Atonement, which seems more fitting. It involves throwing lint and bread crumbs from one's pocket—or casting a stone—into a body of water. The concept is that in the same way, God will cast their sins away. Amazingly, it is in the ultimate fulfillment of the fall Holy Days that most of the Jewish people will at last find the redemption these customs portray.
But for all those whom God is calling in this age, redemption is available now. Consider the imagery of a stone sinking to the bottom of the ocean—never to be seen or heard from again. This is what God says is done with our sins. How grateful we should all be for His unbounded grace and mercy. What a truly wonderful God we serve.