When there is no confession and repentance, divine judgment is the inevitable outcome of sin. We must never take for granted God’s merciful delays. They are opportunities to consider the hope we have when we turn to the Lord.
Getting Ready for Change
It has been said that a lot of people want to change the world but have no desire to change themselves. I have heard the humorous statement that the only person who wants to be changed is a baby with a wet diaper.
Well, there are a lot of changes taking place during the ministry of a prophet named Micah, whose little book of prophecy we now come to. One writer says concerning Micah, “God had given him insight into all the changes taking place on the national and international scene.” And God is going to use Micah to call the people to follow the Lord.
Verse 1 introduces us to the prophet and his prophecy:
The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Verse 1 tells us that Micah came from Moresheth, a little village located southwest of Jerusalem. It also tells us he served during the reigns of three kings of Judah: Jotham, a godly king; Ahaz, a very wicked king; and Hezekiah, another godly king.
The people were on a merry-go-round of constant changes and power struggles, politically and religiously. But the worst part of it all was that the hearts of the people did not change. And they did not want to be changed. Micah’s mission was to call them to repentance, and repentance literally means a change of direction.
Micah’s prophetic ministry covered nearly thirty-five years—from 735 to 701 BC. That is about the same time Isaiah was prophesying in Jerusalem.
Micah’s little book can easily be divided into three sections—basically three sermons—and each section begins with the words, “Hear you.” In other words, he is saying, “Listen up!” So, don’t fall asleep while Micah’s preaching. You need to hear what he has to say.
The first sermon is covered in chapters 1 and 2. Like most of the prophets, Micah preaches a message of coming judgment for sin. He refers to the “sins of the house of Israel” (verse 5), and he warns that the Lord is going to “make Samaria a heap in the open country” (verse 6). This points to the coming fall of Samaria, and the nation of Israel, to the Assyrians, which will take place in 722 BC, about thirteen years after Micah’s ministry begins.
Micah grieves over the coming destruction of Samaria, but he also says that Jerusalem is about to suffer the same judgment. He writes, “It has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem” (verse 9).
It is easy to look on others who are suffering the consequences of sin and be rather smug about it and rather self-confident. I had three brothers growing up, and if one of them got into trouble and was taken upstairs for a spanking, well, I felt pretty good about myself. I was sorry for my brother, but that was his fault, not mine.
No doubt that was the attitude of the people in Judah when Israel fell. But Micah says Judah is about to be taken upstairs as well, because they are committing the same sins.
Now we know from biblical history that the Assyrians did not stop with their conquest of Israel. They pushed into Judah, conquering city after city. Here in verses 10 through 15, Micah lists a number of those cities, and it must have brought tears to his eyes to have to mention the destruction of Moresheth-gath, Micah’s own hometown. Eventually, the Assyrians reached Jerusalem and laid siege to it in 701 BC.
You might notice that Micah never mentions Jerusalem’s fall, and that is because the city will be miraculously delivered when Hezekiah prays to the Lord. Following that great prayer of confession and humility, God destroys the entire Assyrian army in one night (2 Kings 19).
That miraculous moment of mercy did not mean Judah could just go on their merry way ignoring God. They should have recommitted themselves to following the Lord. But they didn’t do that at all. And that is why, at a later date, Jerusalem will fall, and the nation of Judah will be conquered by the Babylonians.
Now we come to chapter 2, where Micah lays out the reasons for Judah’s coming judgment from God. Listen to his indictment:
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it,because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. (verses 1-
He describes people in power lying in their beds at night dreaming up new schemes to victimize the innocent. They devise strategies to take advantage of poor people and seize their lands and houses. We would call them today “robber barons,” people who control the courts and the councils and essentially rob their own kinsmen of their land.
Micah steps up and tells them the Lord has not missed any of their treachery. He has a message for them in verse 3:
I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.
The Lord is saying, “You might be planning your evil schemes, but I am planning your eternal judgment.” And there is no escape apart from repentance. God warns them in verse 6 not to listen to the false prophets who are preaching, “Disgrace will not overtake us.”
We can be sure these prophets promising the people they have nothing to fear have bigger crowds than Micah. That has not changed to this day. Somebody who dismisses God’s warnings and allows people to justify their selfish and sinful lifestyles is always going to have a bigger audience.
Micah says sarcastically that this kind of preacher is indeed “the preacher for this people” (verse 11). They are perfect for each other.
Following this verse, we come to something we see quite often in biblical prophecy—a sudden shift from judgment to hope. This hope is not for those listening to the messages of the false preachers, who avoid calling anything sinful; this hope is for those who come to repentance and faith.
The Lord delivers this invitation of hope in verse 12:
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men.
Notice the promise that the nation will once again be united as one flock under one Shepherd. This regathering and restoration of a repentant people following their Messiah, the Good Shepherd, is going to take place in a still-future day.
When Jesus the Messiah returns to earth to establish His thousand-year kingdom, all Israel will turn to Him in faith, and they will be regathered to their ancient homeland to experience the promised blessings of the covenant the Lord made with Abraham way back in Genesis chapter 12. That is still ahead, beloved, in the coming kingdom.
Verse 13 tells us what will happen then: “Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.” Their Lord, the Messiah, will lead them; He will go before them. This one who was crucified is now crowned as King.
So, don’t lose sight of that hope we have today. No matter how bad things get—no matter how bad you might make them—there is always the hope of forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Messiah. And while we live in the hope we have, let us keep offering to our world—our hopeless world—the same forgiveness and hope we have found in Christ.