Yes, that’s good enough for me!
Micah 7: You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.
“Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone…buried in the deepest sea, yes, that’s good enough for me.” You have to have been around the church awhile to recognize the words to the children’s chorus I sang back in the “good old days.” At the time, if I thought about such things at all, I got the message of the song: when God forgives my sins, they are “gone, gone, gone.” However, the mercy being described here isn’t childlike at all. Micah talks to adults who are committing adult-level sins. The result of those sins will be not a slap on the wrist, but national destruction with pain and death everywhere. It doesn’t have to be that way. Micah tells his people that mercy is a specialty of God and that the Lord much prefers granting mercy and forgetting sins to destroying those who live in rebellion against him. Micah assures his listeners that the Lord anxiously waits to forgive and forget; to show mercy and compassion on them. I sang the chorus as a child but as an adult I realize what an amazing offer it is. There’s hope for a new start with God in this passage: “praise God, my sins are gone!”
Take Away: Mercy is a specialty of the Lord.
Sitting on the front row
Micah 7: I’m sticking around to see what God will do.
Micah says things are going downhill fast. He’s learned that he can’t trust his neighbor and that “neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces.” Clearly his day is a treacherous, difficult one. In the face of such perilous times Micah might be tempted to run for the hills or at least withdraw from society. As anyone knows, Micah isn’t the only one who has faced difficult days. Through the centuries godly men and women have gone through unbelievable hardship. Often that hardship has been on a national or even worldwide scale. At other times the hardship is close to home: a family or even personal struggle that fills our days with exhausting darkness. In this passage, Micah is no “Pollyanna” who insists everything’s always “just fine.” However, he is a man of faith. As tempting as it might be to run and get away from all the wrong and uncertainty he sees, Micah declares he’s staying put. Why? It’s because he wants a front row seat to God’s redemption! Today, we believers aren’t blind to the problems of life. When things take a downturn we become anxious like everyone else. However, in it all there’s a thread of optimism. We believe God is still God and that he’s working in and through it all. The end result is salvation. We want a front row seat when that happens!
Take Away: The people of the Lord are an optimistic people – and, for good reason!
What God expects of us
Micah 6: He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do.
This passage is one of the gems of the Old Testament. Micah asks the rhetorical question: “How can I…show proper respect to the high God?” He wonders if bigger offerings will do it: lots of rams and barrels of oil. He wonders if following the practice of the pagans and offering his child as a sacrifice will satisfy the Lord. Having asked the question he then states the answer. God has already made his desires for the human race abundantly clear. Micah says, “It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.” Micah’s insight into God’s purposes for people is breathtaking. Some have called this the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament. I do well to take this dusty old statement of God’s purpose for humanity and use it as a guide to my life. How am I doing on the “fair and just, compassionate and love” standard set here? Do I have a handle on not taking myself too seriously while taking God very seriously? There’s nothing in the Bible any more “contemporary” than this statement.
Take Away: Am I living up to the standard of the Lord?
My favorite salvation story
Micah 6: Keep all God’s salvation stories fresh and present.
God has been good to them, delivering them from oppression and out of the hand of their enemies. Through the years, though, they’ve let those deliverance stories get dusty and worn. Micah wants them to keep those stories of salvation in the forefront of their thinking; to remember that God has never done them wrong, and, instead, has blessed them again and again. He wants them to clean the dust off and take a fresh look at those stories of deliverance. I need this. I’ve been a Christian a long time and, honestly, my story isn’t an especially thrilling one. Still, I need to be thrilled with it. What the Lord did for me and in me ought to be my favorite story of God’s grace. Micah says I need to revisit it often and keep it fresh in my mind and heart. If I forget where I came from I might never make it to where I’m going.
Take Away: What God did for me and in me ought to be my favorite story of his grace.
Back to the future
Micah 5: Bethlehem…from you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel.
It becomes quite clear to anyone who reads through the Old Testament prophets that speaking of future events is not their job one. Most often they focus on current events, calling people to a genuine walk with God and to living just lives as his people. However, once in a while, they’re given pretty specific insights into God’s plans. You might say that they get a glimpse of the future – not as though the future is out there to be seen if you just know how, but that the Lord shares some specific part of his intentions. As Micah describes God’s plan to remake his people he gets a glimpse of the coming shepherd-leader and realizes he will come from David’s home town of Bethlehem. In the years to come, that little revelation will grow large in the minds of God’s people. And well it should, this is something concrete, a test to be applied in identifying the Messiah. Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t dwell on this juicy bit of revelation and moves on to describe the ministry of the One sent from God. Clearly, there’s a lot to think about as I read things like this but today I’m simply reminded that God doesn’t do stuff by accident. In this passage, we find the Lord planning 700 years into the future where he intends to do something connected to an event just as distant in the past. That is, he plans for the Messiah to be born in the town where the greatest King of Israel’s history was born. The Lord not only has specific plans for the future but he also has the heart of a poet in those plans.
Take Away: The Lord doesn’t do things by accident.
Open, Under New Management
Micah 4: Nations will…quit learning how to kill one another.
Micah’s promise of world peace always sounds good and it’s especially attractive when strife and war are close at hand. Later on, when the Messiah comes his arrival is accompanied with heavenly cheers of “peace on earth.” Every reasonable person is drawn to the possibility of world peace. Some have declared the promise of Micah and then of the Gospel writer to be a sham. And why not: we’re no closer to world peace than we were when Micah first said these words. The thing is our world hasn’t cooperated with this promise. Micah describes this when he says, “Meanwhile, all the other people live however they wish.” The solution offered in the Bible is a spiritual one. As people and nations yield to the sovereignty of God, peace reigns. As people and nations reject God peace becomes more and more distant. God’s answer is to march onto the world scene and reorder it all. When that happens we’ll see the equivalent of an “Open, Under New Management” sign placed on the world, and peace will, at least, reign.
Take Away: We can’t expect to receive the promises of the Lord while we, at the same time, refuse to cooperate with him.
Getting stuff from God
Micah 2: I’ll preach sermons that will tell you how to get anything you want from God.
God’s man says that when the people of his nation send out a pastoral search committee that they’re looking for a specific kind of preacher. They aren’t interested in hearing sermons about repentance and judgment, but they’d love to hear sermons that tell them how to get God to do stuff for them. Such a preacher is sure to be hired on the spot. Obviously, this desire isn’t limited to Micah’s day. For many people manipulating God is what religion’s all about. Many years earlier the suffering Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15) Earlier, Job had gotten an enormous amount of stuff from God. Now, it’s all gone and all he has left is a broken life and a stubborn faith. So which approach to God describes me? Am I in it for what I can get? What if everything I hold dear is taken from me and it seems God’s no longer playing Santa Claus? On one hand, we have people who don’t want to hear what God has to say but are very interested in what they can get God to do. On the other hand, we have a man who’s so committed to God that even when most of his theology has crashed he insists on continuing to hope in the Lord. I pray I never have to travel Job’s road but I’m certain I don’t want to follow that of the people of Micah’s day.
Take Away: Do we serve the Lord for what we think we might get from him?
The measure of my religion
Micah 2: Don’t preach such stuff.
The prophet preaches a message of destruction. Judah, he says, will be “wounded with no healing in sight.” Of course, this kind of preaching isn’t welcome. Some preachers proclaim another “gospel.” They say “nothing bad will happen to us” because God is “on the side of good people.” Micah finds this laughable. These very people mistreat the poor, ignoring God’s command to show compassion on them. They might know how to have a rousing worship service but their day to day lives have nothing God-like in them. Passages like this might be from the depths of the Old Testament and addressed to people who lived 2700 years ago but they ought to get our attention. Think of it, God isn’t impressed with our church services. He doesn’t care much about whether I raise my hands and shut my eyes and sing praise to him…well, at least he doesn’t care unless I go out the door and treat people with a love and compassion that reflects his concern for them. I know that it’s possible for me to sell out to a “social religion” and forget that God wants to have a personal relationship with me. However, it’s just as possible for me to think my religion is all about “God and me” while forgetting it’s just as much about “me and thee.”
Take Away: How we relate to one another is just as important to the Lord as how we relate to him.
Puns that aren’t intended to be “punny”
Micah 1: God’s Message as it came to Micah of Moresheth.
Micah is a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea and his message is similar to theirs. Some suggest that he’s a student of Isaiah because of their similarities. However, Isaiah lives in Jerusalem and has some strong connections there. Micah (like Amos) lives away from Jerusalem in a farming community. His focus, as is that of Amos, is on how the poor are treated by so-called religious people who tend to divorce their religious activities from how they actually live their lives. Micah is a witty guy who likes to use puns to make his points. Sadly, these puns are lost outside the original language. As we read from The Message we find them restored, but they’re almost lost from the other direction. When Micah says “Glorytown has seen its last of glory” he’s using a play on words. He’s named a real town whose name sounds like “glory.” The best modern example of this I’ve seen is the suggestion that it would be like Micah to say “Wiscon-sin needs to give up its sin.” Anyway, the early portion this little book is full of such plays on words. Still, there’s nothing light hearted about his message. Both Israel and Judah are going through the actions of serving God but in reality they’re missing the boat. If things continue as they are judgment is coming. History tells us that Micah is right on target.
Take Away: Having a good commentary is handy sometimes and absolutely necessary at others.