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What's Micah all about?

 These are some helpful resources for understanding the book of Micah.

Overview of the Book of Micah

When going through a prophetic book, it can be a little disorienting because their "sermons" were delivered to people in very different circumstances than us. The prophets were really good preachers so their messages were tailored to their audience. Have a bird's eye view can be helpful as we go through Micah.

What is a prophet and how to read prophecy

What is prophecy? What do prophets do? We often think they are predicting the future or are yelling at people all the time. The context for who prophets are and what they do is the relationship that God had with the people of Israel. God rescued Israel from Egypt and entered into a covenant relationship with them like a marriage. Exodus 19-20 is kind of like a wedding ceremony for God and Israel where they spoke their vows to one another. God declared himself to be their God and he asked them to declare themselves to be his people by committing to worship him alone and follow his ways.

The prophets represent God in this relationship by speaking on God’s behalf. Micah 1:1 says: "The word of the LORD that came to Micah." Micah is not speaking his own words but God's words. Second Peter 1:21 says: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit.”

What prophet's do on God's behalf is call God’s people back to God when they break their commitment to him. They do this by telling Israel what they’ve done wrong, warning them of the consequences, calling them to repentance, and speaking of future hope.

In Micah 3:8, Micah summarizes what God has called him to do:

8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8)

God has filled Micah with power, with his Spirit, and with justice and might so that Micah can declare to Jacob/Israel his transgression and sin. The goal is so that they might turn from their ways and turn back to God. God is gracious and will forgive them.

What is sin?

What is transgression?

What's the consequence of turning from God?

Micah brings up the issue of invading nations coming against Israel a lot in his messages and he brings up the nation going into exile. This is what God said would happen if they turned from him to other gods: they would forfeit the land he gave them and be taken out of it.

How does God want his people to be living?

In 6:8, Micah gives a famous summary of what God wants to see in his people:

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

These words are not made up what what we shouldn't do but instead tell us what is good. This is the good we should do and what's good for us. This is also what God requires of us when we are in relationship with him. That doesn't mean it's what he requires to earn relationship with him, but this is what relationship with God looks like.

  • Do justice: in this context, lifting up those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and taken advantage of and restoring to right what has been made wrong.
  • Love kindness: "kindness" translates the Hebrew word khesed which has no one-word equivalent in any language. The word has elements of loyalty, compassion, and generosity in it. You "show khesed" to someone when they are in a position of dire need and out of compassion and loyalty to them you generously meet their need with no regard for them paying you back.
  • Walk humbly with your Goddescribes a right vertical relationship with God where we live our life attentive to God’s will and ways.

Here is a video on "justice":

The Hope for God's Shepherd King

Micah tells us his job is to declare to Israel her transgression and sin. But over and over again, he comes back to the hope of God' shepherding his people. At the center of the book is the birth of a shepherd king in Bethlehem from the tribe of Judah, aka from the family of king David. We often read this passage at Christmas time:

1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5 And he shall be their peace.
When the Assyrian comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men;
6 they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,
and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian
when he comes into our land
and treads within our border. (Micah 5:1-6)

This hope is fulfilled in an ultimate way through Jesus who is the best Shepherd King. He is the Messiah we all wait for. This hope for a Messiah was a big theme in the prophets and throughout the Old Testament.

Who is a God like this?

There's a famous description of God found in Exodus 34:6-7 where God himself declares what he is like to Moses. He says:

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

These verses are quoted many times throughout the Old Testament as a core description of what God is like. They were "coffee mug" and wall art verses for the people of Israel to hold onto. God describes himself as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He also forgives every kind of wrong: iniquity, transgression, and sin. But he also punishes those who don't repent.

The name "Micah" is the shortened form of the name "Micaiah" which means, "Who is like the LORD". Micah ends his book asking almost this exact question and after doing so, he describes God using the attributes from Exodus 34:6-7.

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20, emphasis added)

Micah believes that what sets God apart are these attributes which lead him to forgive their sins and keep his promises.

Here's a short video on that key passage in Exodus 34:6-7.