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The Implications of Unbelief in the Book of Micah

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(By Mark Fontecchio)

A society steeped in sin and with all the religious trappings of men. This could be describing the United States of America. Or, it could be describing the Divided Kingdom of Israel in the Eighth Century B.C. before God’s judgment upon the people of the Northern Kingdom at the hand of the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The parallels between the two cultures are stunning. It leaves the honest reader wondering about the implications of this same unbelief in our world today.

The Divided Kingdom of Israel

The Prophet Micah received the revelation of God in, “the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Mic. 1:1).[1] This was an unsettling time to live among God’s covenant people. Israel and Judah stood guilty of, “idolatry, social injustice, and religious ritualism.”[2] Micah is descriptive in telling us of the specific sins of the people. Men were taking fields and homes by force (Mic. 2:2). The leaders of the nation stood condemned. Instead of leading the people to follow their God, they led them into a path of inequity (Mic. 3:9-12). Greed was a common motive (v. 11).

In the final two chapters of Micah the case that God had against His people was laid out:

Yahweh had a case (lawsuit, Heb. rib) to bring against His people. The Lord was summoning Israel to defend herself in a courtroom setting. He addressed the mountains, hills, and foundations of the earth as the jury in this case (cf. Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2). The Lord called this jury, which had observed Israel’s history from its beginning, to hear His indictment against the nation. If these jurors could speak, they would witness to the truthfulness of the Lord’s claims.[3]

This is a dramatic section of text. Despite their sin, the people had continued to worship God. Yet, it was not merely outward worship that God was looking for. The outward sacrifices (no matter how significant or large) could not satisfy the Lord when the people continued to live in disobedience. Micah told the people, “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?” (Mic. 6:8). God wanted them to be just in how they dealt with one another, and to walk in humble faith in a loving relationship with Him. It should be noted, it is the same thing He is looking for today from His people.

This is not how the people were living. In the marketplace, the people had deceitful scales (Mic. 6:11). The rich men were, “full of violence” and the people, “spoke lies” (v. 12). They followed, “the statutes of Omri” and the works of, “Ahab’s house” (v. 16). This is a piercing indictment:

Instead of following the Lord, the people observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab’s house (dynasty). Omri and Ahab were considered two of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom for in their rule great apostasy flourished, including Baal worship (1 Kings 16:21–22:40). In Ahab’s reign true prophets of the Lord were murdered (1 Kings 18:4).[4]

God’s judgment was certain (v. 16).

Chapter 7 of Micah further describes the desperate situation at the time. Men schemed against one another. Greed dominated the land (v. 3). Even families and friends were turning against one another (vv. 5-6). How could God be glorified through a people committed to sin?

Messianic Hope

Herein is where God would be glorified. Despite the coming judgment, God was not done with His people. One day, Israel would be restored. God would pardon the iniquities of His people with compassion (Mic. 7:18-19). Further, God will, “give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old” (v. 20). God would be faithful to the covenant promises made to Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3; 15:18-21).

Micah was trusting in God’s promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:2–3; 15:18–21), which were confirmed to Jacob (Gen. 28:13–14), that He will bless their descendants.

Israel’s peace and prosperity will be realized when the Messiah-King reigns. Christ will exercise justice over His and Israel’s opponents and He will extend grace to His own. This promise gave Micah confidence in his dark days and is also a source of comfort to believers today.[5]

Even though the Prophet Micah received revelation regarding the First Advent of Christ (Mic. 5:2), justice would not come for the nation until the Second Advent of Christ when the Messiah rules and reigns from Jerusalem. The remnant of His brethren (Israel) will return to the land (v. 3). In contrast to the leaders of Israel during Micah’s day, the Messiah will, “stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth” (v. 4). Only then will the people of Israel live in peace and harmony with the Savior. His rule will be over the whole world, ushering in worldwide peace. The poor will find justice on that day (Isa. 11:3-5).

Contemporary Applications

It is to be remembered that the Church is distinct from the nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul stated regarding this, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:1-2). While it is true that the Western culture has adopted many of the sins that the people of Israel committed, the Church is not Israel. However, our hope is in the same Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Since His Kingdom will reign over the entire world, believers in Christ today can know that the day is coming when perfect justice will rule the world (Ps. 72:7-11). In the meantime, Christians can recognize that one day all the nations of the world will be judged (Joel 3:1-2). As believers in Christ, we are to, “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him” (Col. 1:10), knowing that He has delivered us to eternal life with Him. We are to walk humbly by faith, just as the people of Israel were instructed to do so long ago (Mic. 6:8; 2 Cor. 5:7).

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible: The New King James Version. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

[2] J. Daniel Hays, Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 311.

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Mic. 6:1.

[4] John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1490.

[5] Ibid., 1492.

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