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Introduction to Micah (Micah 1) March 18

During Jotham's days, God sent yet another prophet in addition to Hosea and Isaiah. Micah, who prophesied during the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, seems to have preached in Judah as well, but his message involves the northern kingdom more directly than Isaiah's work did (compare Micah 1:1). And unlike Isaiah, who apparently grew up with connections to royalty, Micah grew up far from the court life of Jerusalem—in the rural village of Moresheth Gath (verses 1, 14), also known as Maresha (verse 15), in the Judean lowlands near Philistia.

Nevertheless, many of his themes, actions and examples echo those of Isaiah. Compare, for example, Micah 1:8 with Isaiah 20:2-4—and Micah 1:9 with Isaiah 1:5-6. Micah also gives important details about the coming Messiah, as Isaiah did. And Micah 4:1-5 is nearly identical to Isaiah 2:1-4. Whether Micah borrowed this passage from Isaiah or vice versa, or both of them wrote it independently of the other, one thing is certain: God inspired both of them in any case.

Micah Announces Judgment (Micah 1)

Micah announces that judgment is swiftly bearing down on Samaria, the capital of Israel. Yet this is not addressed to Israel directly. Rather, the prophecy is to all the peoples of the earth (1:2). They are to observe the punishment that is coming on God's people. This is to serve as a warning that a holy God will not let sin go unpunished. Even believers today must heed this warning. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11:19-22: "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off [i.e., physical Israelites were rejected from being God's chosen people] that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief [and resultant disobedience, compare Hebrews 3:18-19] they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."

Of course, God always acts in love, even when He has to use a heavy hand. He enhances the natural negative consequences of sinful action to bring home the realization that people hurt themselves and others by their wrongdoing. His motive is to stir people to repent—that is, to change the way they live, in order that they might receive His full benefits. But let us not allow this realization to minimize the terrible punishment coming on the descendants of Israel—which will indeed be unimaginably severe, as this is what will be required to bring them to repentance. And this is to be an example to all nations.

Certainly, the people of Judah should have awakened to the impending danger, which was also a threat to them (Micah 1:9). As The Nelson Study Bible notes: "With skillfully written wordplays on the names of Judah's cities, Micah prophesied of the coming destruction of Judah (1:3-16). He turned around the meaning of a number of town names as a way of describing the world being turned upside down. Shapir, meaning 'Beautiful," would be shamed (1:11); and Jerusalem, a name suggesting 'Peace,' would be disrupted (1:12). Lachish, a name sounding like the Hebrew word for swift steeds, would flee on its horses. All the agitation was caused by God's judgment on Judah for worshiping other gods on the high places. In fact, idolatry was so rampant that Micah describes Jerusalem and Samaria, the capital cities of Judah and Israel, as high places themselves (1:5)" ("Geographical Puns in Micah," 1997, p. 1503).

We will read the rest of Micah in harmony with the Kings and Chronicles accounts of the reign of Jotham's grandson, King Hezekiah.

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