The message of the prophet Micah contains dire warnings, but also hope of restoration for Israel and all nations. What lessons are there for us in Micah?
The name Micah is a shortened form of the Hebrew word “Mikayahu,” which means “who is like the Eternal?” There seems to be a reference to his name in Micah 7:18: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity?”
The book of Micah is the sixth book of the 12 Minor Prophets.
Time setting of Micah
Micah prophesied during the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Micah 1:1). Jotham and Hezekiah were good kings, but Ahaz was very wicked.
Halley’s Bible Handbook states: “Micah’s message was to both Israel and Judah, addressed primarily to their two respective capitals, Samaria and Jerusalem. Its three main ideas were: their Sins; their Destruction; and their Restoration. These ideas, in the book, are mixed up, with abrupt transitions between Present Desolation and Future Glory” (p. 366).
Micah delivered strong indictments against both Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:5-6). He witnessed idolatry, evil business practices, dishonesty, cheating, bribery and internal strife and corruption.
God was not going to allow these sinful practices to continue. Punishment with famine, war and ultimate national captivity would soon descend upon the people unless they responded to the prophet’s warning messages and repented of their wickedness. The rulers were mostly to blame, as they were responsible for leading the people into sin, despite possessing knowledge of God’s laws.
Religiously, economically and socially, Israel and Judah were in decline. Unfortunately, history shows that the stubbornness of these nations, and, in particular, their leaders, led to sorrow, bitterness and, in the end, national captivity.
Frequent transitions in Micah’s message
The prophet’s writings change from messages of doom and despair to deliverance and peace. His prophecies covered the full spectrum from a lawless nation deserving divine punishment to restoration as the chosen people of God. It is a message of utter despair, but also of joyful hope and a promise of an abundant life for all of mankind.
Notice this comment from The Universal Bible Dictionary, edited by A.R. Buckland and A.L. Williams: “Micah foretells in clear terms the invasion of Shalmaneser and Sennacherib (1:6-16) … the utter destruction of Jerusalem (3:12). Just as clearly he foretells the deliverance of Israel (2:12, 4:10, 5:8); the birthplace of the Messiah (5:2); the promulgation of His Gospel from Mount Zion, and its results; the exaltation of His Kingdom over all nations.”
Outline of the book of Micah
The following is a suggested outline of the book of Micah:
Chapter 1: Judgment announced against Israel.
Chapters 2-3: Micah announces God’s condemnation of the false prophets and the rich and powerful for their evil ways.
Chapters 4-5: Millennial reign of Christ; judgment upon the enemies of Israel.
Chapter 6: God’s controversy with Israel; impending sorrow and punishment for their sins.
Chapter 7: God’s forgiveness upon Israel’s confession of their sins.
Micah and Isaiah
There are a number of passages in the book of Micah that are similar to sections of Scripture in the book of Isaiah. For example, Micah 4:1-5 is very similar to Isaiah 2:1-4.
It is uncertain if one prophet borrowed from the other, or if they wrote independently. But we can be assured that all these verses were inspired by the same Creator God.
New Testament quotations from Micah
The prophecy of the birth of Christ as the Messiah and coming Ruler (Micah 5:2) is quoted in Matthew 2:6. This is interesting, as it shows that the people at the time of Christ understood and accepted that Micah 5:2 was a prophecy of the Messiah to come.
Prophetic warnings for Israel and Judah
Micah’s warning messages were unpopular because he foretold the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians. Furthermore, he predicted Judah’s demise as a nation and the devastation of Jerusalem.
The religious and civil leaders were especially singled out for their wicked ways. God was greatly displeased with the inhabitants of the land who were professing allegiance to Him through an outward show of religious devotion and service (Micah 6:6-7). This superficial form of worship was futile and devoid of a genuine love and concern for God.
Instead God pleads through His prophet: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
This scripture applies as much to present-day Christians as it did to people during Micah’s time.
Christ speaks out
Jesus Christ also spoke out against those who appeared to be religious but were hypocritical in the way they lived their lives. Notice the following statements by Christ when addressing the religious leaders and people of His day:
- “But do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3).
- “But all their works they do to be seen by men” (verse 5).
- “And for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation” (verse 14).
- “For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (verse 25).
- “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (verse 28, emphasis added throughout).
It is not necessarily those who use and profess the name of God who will enter the Kingdom of God, but those who do what He says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. … And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
There is a thought-provoking similarity between the words uttered by Micah and those spoken by Jesus Christ. It is incumbent on all of us to examine our own personal religious devotions and beliefs in the light of these scriptures. Clearly, the words spoken by the prophets of old, including Micah, were inspired by God’s Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Restoration theme in Micah
Despite the dire warnings and threats of punishments, war and captivity, Micah has a most encouraging and reassuring message of future hope, peace and an abundant life for all peoples and nations.
Notice a few examples of how these two themes are contrasted, especially the promise of future glory and greatness.
Alarm bells ring for Israel
The leaders “hate good and love evil,” while the prophets “make my people stray” (Micah 3:1-2, 5). Furthermore, the leaders “abhor justice and pervert all equity,” bringing about “bloodshed,” “iniquity” and corruption and bribery (3:9-11). Then the leaders have the audacity to say that because God is in their midst, no harm will come to them (verse 11)!
The prophet Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah, expressed similar sentiments when speaking about Israel: “Who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth or in righteousness” (Isaiah 48:1).
But they will not escape God’s punishment.
Micah 3:12 records: “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.”
Coming: a time of restoration
These scriptures should be seen in the light of Micah 1:3, picturing Christ’s return to “tread on the high places [a figure of speech referring to God’s judgment] of the earth.”
The book of Micah contains this very encouraging passage: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall came and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’
“For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples; … they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. … And no one shall make then afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:1-4).
Despite the modern ideas and false teachings that the Old Testament laws are no longer binding on people, it is the law that shall proceed as a tool of instruction from Jerusalem when Christ’s coming Kingdom and government is established. It is the law that shows us God’s ways, and how to “walk in His paths.” Keep in mind that the New Testament was not in existence when Micah wrote.
Micah 4:7 adds: “So the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on, even forever.” Christ will return to rule over all nations, and the resurrected saints will be with Him (Zechariah 14:4-5, 9).
The tragedy of religious self-deception
The people living during Micah’s time were deceived into thinking that their artificial religious spirituality and false sense of righteousness would save them from punishment and retribution. Despite their “transgression,” “sin” and “iniquity” (Micah 3:8), they were under the misguided impression that because they had God among them, they would escape the penalty of disobedience.
“Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us’” (Micah 3:11).
This is a most dangerous frame of mind to adopt!
Today citizens of some nations may reason that because they are in a “Christian nation,” they can avoid the consequences of their actions. But the Bible tells us that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, King James Version), and the result or wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is a law of God that all humans are subject to!
Claiming to be a “Christian nation” (saying, “Is not the LORD among us?”), but being unwilling to live according to the Word of God will most certainly lead to increased problems, distress and anguish on a national level.
Put first things first
A certain lawyer asked Christ a question in order to test Him: “‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28; see more on this in the article “The Great Commandment”).
It is clear that if we desire eternal life, we are required to put God first in our lives. This life is an opportunity to put our personal relationship with God first. May each of us see the urgency of the times we are living in and show our willingness to put first things first.
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.