The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 14: Micah Mandate
What are we to be like? What should our character be?
The Context of Micah - Micah prophesies “in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” and it addresses both Samaria (north) and Jerusalem (south) (1:1). The time of Micah is before the capture of Samaria (722/721 B.C.) and the beginning of his ministry in the reign of Jotham (750–731 B.C.). Jeremiah references him in affecting reforms during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah (Jer. 26:18ff).
The Content of Micah - The book of Micah is a collection of oracles which contain stern judgments and beautiful Messianic promises of victory. Like other minor prophets we find the strong theme of judgment in vivid color: “The valleys will be split in two. The mountains will melt like wax in a fire” (1:4). Judgment will come for idolatries and injustice. “Samaria epitomizes their rebellion! Where are Judah’s pagan worship centers, you ask? They are right in Jerusalem! . . . All of her idols will be smashed . . . For she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, And to the earnings of a harlot they will return” (1:5-7). “You wrongly evict widows among my people from their cherished homes. You defraud their children of their prized inheritance” (2:9). Judgment comes against evil leaders: “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the nation of Israel! You ought to know what is just, yet you hate what is good, and love what is evil” (3:1-2). However, the Lord, promises to bring a remnant back to Jerusalem. “I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold” (2:12-13). After judging Jerusalem (3:1-12), the Lord will exalt Jerusalem high above the nations (4:1-5). He will reassemble an afflicted remnant, who will restore God’s dominion over the earth (4:6-8). This triumph comes through complete trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem. He will bring about the deliverance of his people. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (5:2). The book ends with an affirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and the memorable words, now a hymn: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love” (7:18).
The Call of Micah - In calling for repentance Micah records a memorable Mandate for righteousness: “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:7-8). The clarion call of Micah summarizes the law’s requirements: to act justly (see ch. 3). “We must do wrong to none, but do right to all, in their bodies, goods, and good name” (Henry). We must love mercy from the heart and serve the weak. We must walk humbly by seeing God for who He is (worthy) and ourselves for who we are (unworthy). Like other prophetic calls, it is mercy, not sacrifice that is required since obedience is better than sacrifice. The Messianic aspects of this book certainly find fulfillment in Jesus Christ who rules human hearts from heavenly Mt Zion (Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 12:22). However, those who trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem have even greater reason to “do justice” to others and to “love mercy” since we have received Calvary’s mercy. We must “walk humbly” since it is not by our works. Trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem transforms us into just, merciful and humble people.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more