Listen Up!

Posted: August 3, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Micah 1-2, “Listen Up!”

When it’s your last chance, there is no time to waste. That’s basically the message of the prophet Micah.  God had repeatedly warned Israel/Samaria about her sins, and they were finally at the point of their last chance.  The Assyrians were at their doorstep, about to conquer the entire northern Hebrew kingdom – there wasn’t a moment to lose!

Of course, the problem wasn’t only in the northern kingdom – the southern kingdom of Judah had its own share of sin, and would eventually receive its own share of judgment.  The Jews may have had a bit more time than the Samaritans, but the need for repentance was still urgent.  God graciously sent prophet after prophet to awaken the people to their need for repentance – the only question was whether or not they would listen & obey.

We need to understand that the righteous God will judge sin.  Be it among the pagans, or among His own people, God judges all sin.  His mercies are not to be despised – His warnings are not to be ignored.  When God speaks, we need to listen – and we need to listen well!

Micah 1

  • Introduction (1:1)

1 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.

  • Micah = possibly a shortened form of the name Micayah, “Who is like YAH?”  It is a fairly common name in the OT, though there is one undeniable mention of this prophet outside his book: when his words are quoted by Jeremiah prior to the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer 26:18).  This tells us a couple of things: (1) he was definitely seen by his people as a prophet, even if they ignored his message, and (2) his book (or at least parts of it) was already known & compiled by the time of Jeremiah.  God’s people recognized God’s voice speaking through God’s prophet, and they treated his book as the Scripture that it is.
    • FYI – that’s the basic story behind all of the books of the Bible, including the NT.  Despite popular mythology that imagines that the Biblical canon was established by the pre-Catholic Church, and forced upon the masses after the Nicene Council, the reality is that the books of the NT were already in use by Christians, who had long ago recognized the imprint of the Holy Spirit upon the words of the writers.  The official church council merely ratified what the Christian church had already received.
  • Where was “Moresheth”? About 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem.  This fits with the kings of Judah that are mentioned: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  This tells us that Micah was a southern prophet living in Judah, even though many of his prophecies concern the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria.  Micah will speak to both kingdoms (as vs. 1 shows), although the timeframe for Israel/Samaria is far more pressing.  Samaria fell to the Assyrian empire in the 9th year of King Hoshea (2 Kings 17:6), which was only 6 years after Hezekiah ascended to the throne in Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:1).  Thus, Micah was truly one of the last prophetic voices to speak to the north, being a contemporary with Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea.
    • A final opportunity (a last chance) was being extended to Israel.  And the lessons that Israel refused to learn were being offered to Judah as well.  Sadly, they would respond much the same way.  May we learn the lessons they did not!  When God speaks to our hearts about sin, we need to pay attention!  When the Lord convicts, listen!
  • God against Samaria/Israel (1:2-7)

2 Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple.

  • Right out of the gate, Micah calls the entire earth to attention, as the Lord GOD Himself is going to state His personal testimony against His own people.  Considering that the vast majority of Micah’s prophecies have to do with Israel & Judah, why is the rest of the planet supposed to listen?  Because if God has this to say about His people, how much more does He have to say against the Gentiles!  If God’s own people not exempt from judgment, no one is.
  • That said, as much as this is a call to all the nations, the two nations that would pay the most attention were Israel & Judah.  They needed to know what God Almighty was saying against them.  Their covenant God had charges with which to indict them, and they needed to know.
    • God still lays out charges against His people today.  Not from the standpoint of condemnation to judgment (that is something that has been placed upon Jesus at the cross), but from the standpoint of conviction.  We, as the people of God, have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and when we sin, He brings conviction to our hearts.  That twinge of guilt you experience when making a choice to sin?  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit calling to back to a place of obedience.  That’s God’s own testimony in your life.  And know this: it’s a good thing!  We need the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  We need His gentle, yet firm nudging like sheep need the staff of their shepherd.  That’s a sign that we belong to Him & that He loves us.  When a Christian sins & knows the conviction of the Spirit, that’s not a bad thing; it’s when no conviction comes…that’s bad!
    • What is the proper response to that conviction?  Repentance – obedience.

3 For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place; He will come down And tread on the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains will melt under Him, And the valleys will split Like wax before the fire, Like waters poured down a steep place.

  • Figurative description of God’s use of the Assyrians (and Babylonians) to conquer His people.  It will be like creation splitting wide open.  Creation melts away before its Creator, unable to maintain its structure in the presence of the infinitely glorious God.  From the perspective of Micah in regards to the northern kingdom, this is all symbolic & a bit extreme, but it certainly gets the point across.  The Assyrian conquest would not be easy, by any stretch of the imagination.  It would be brutal to experience.
  • What was figurative for Israel, will be literal for the world at the end of the age!  The NT also speaks of Creation melting away in the presence of its Creator:  2 Peter 3:10–12, "(10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (11) Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?"  We have reason to live rightly: we’re looking forward to seeing Jesus!  We need not fear that day; we will already be with the Lord.  Yet that will not be the case for untold multitudes of unbelievers. 

5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?

  • Both cities had been idolatrous.  Both were guilty of sin.  For as much as we think of the ancient Israelites as the people of God (which, officially, they were), their history is far more reflective of pagan idolatry than faithful Hebrew worship.  Their times of faithfulness were few & scattered through the centuries.  By & large, they walked in disobedience, worshipping the false gods of the Gentiles all around them. 
    • The fact that God waited so long to bring His judgment is itself a demonstration of His mercy!  He had every right to exterminate the nation before He ever gave them the Promised Land!
    • Our God is merciful!  I wonder how often we experience His mercies & we simply aren’t aware of it at the time?  Our sin is so subtle, and so frequent – it all underscores our utter need for Jesus.  Without His all-sufficient sacrifice, we would have no hope!
  • Samaria is first to be singled out. Vs. 6…

6 “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, Places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, And I will uncover her foundations. 7 All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, And all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; All her idols I will lay desolate, For she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, And they shall return to the pay of a harlot.”

  • The book of Hosea showed the prophet taking an adulterous wife to himself, as a picture of Israel’s adultery against God.  In his later writing, Ezekiel described both the northern and southern kingdoms as harlots. (Eze 23)  This is how God sees idolatry.
  • How would God deal with the idolatry of His people?  As the culture of its day dealt with harlots and prostitutes: utter humiliation.  The nation would be “uncovered,” her possessions would be publicly “burned.”  The once-proud nation would be brought to its knees, humiliated in the sight of the world.
  • Interestingly enough, since Israel wouldn’t rid itself of its idolatry, then God would remove their idols by force. All of those “carved images” would be turned into rubble, and made “desolate.”  The Assyrian army would enter the land, destroying everything in its wake – including all of the golden idolatrous images of Israel.
    • If we don’t deal with our sin, God will.  Far better to surrender it to Him, than to have those things exposed!
  • The right reaction to sin (1:8-9)

8 Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals And a mourning like the ostriches, 9 For her wounds are incurable. …

  • How does Micah respond to what was to come?  He howls in grief.  He humiliates himself on behalf of his people.  For him to “go stripped and naked” is not a sign of perversion; it’s one of utter mourning & grief.  He’s so broken over what is to come that he cannot contain himself.
    • This was one prophet living in the southern kingdom, but this is what everyone in the northern kingdom ought to have been doing all along!  They had lost sight of how sinful their sin actually was.  They didn’t grieve their sin; they dove into it, relishing it.
    • We might not need to be as extreme as Micah, but we ought to have the same attitude regarding sin.  It is indeed horrible, and ought to be mourned.  When we allow sin in our life, it ought to cut us to the quick, and send us to our knees.  When it doesn’t, that itself ought to be a red warning flag!
      • Yet never forget the good news: for the Christian, the price for your sin has been paid!  Yes, sin cuts us to the core…it should.  But confess it & be done with it.  We have the promise of cleansing & forgiveness; hold fast to the grace you have been given!
  • It’s not simply the punishment; it’s the sin itself that is so grievous.  The wrath of God is simply the right response to the sin of the people.  If there had been no sin, there would be no “wounds.” Yet, now there are, and they are “incurable.”  Worse yet, it was something that spread.

…For it has come to Judah; It has come to the gate of My people— To Jerusalem.

  • Sin is contagious.  What was in Israel came to Judah.  This was true in regards to both the sin and the consequence.  The idolatry in the north was practiced almost as frequently in the south, and the Assyrians that conquered Samaria eventually came to the gates of Jerusalem.  It was only by the grace of God that Sennacherib’s army did not conquer Jerusalem at the time, and that the Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 soldiers encamped outside. (Isa 37:36)
  • Sin grows, like yeast in bread.  1 Corinthians 5:6–7, "(6) Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (7) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."  Why is it so important to deal with sin?  Because eventually it spreads to others.  One person looks the other way, then another, then another…soon an entire congregation simply shrugs & says, “That’s just the way it is.”  That’s not the way it’s supposed to be!  We are supposed to be holy, as God is holy – set apart for His use & His worship.  Obviously none of us is perfect, and all of us fall in major ways on occasion.  But sin not to be tolerated; it’s to be repented.  Sin is something to flee, and thankfully we can flee to the cross! 
  • God against Jerusalem/Judah (1:10-16)
  • Throughout this section, Micah engages in almost constant word-play.  It doesn’t come across in the English, but the Hebrew has words that either sound the same, or mean almost the same thing, with every city being another example of how the people of the south were to be humbled.

10 Tell it not in Gath, Weep not at all; In Beth Aphrah Roll yourself in the dust. 11 Pass by in naked shame, you inhabitant of Shaphir; The inhabitant of Zaanan does not go out. Beth Ezel mourns; Its place to stand is taken away from you.

  • The exception to the rule is “Gath.”  Gath was not a Jewish city, but a Philistine one.  The people of Judah would certainly mourn & be humiliated, but the prayer of Micah was that word would not spread to their enemies.  If all of this had to come to pass, may it not be celebrated among the Philistines in Gath.  The Jews might need to weep everywhere else, but there, they (hopefully) wouldn’t weep at all.
  • Beth Aphrah = House of Dust.  Dust thrown on head in mourning & grief.
  • Shaphir = Beautiful.  The beautiful would be shamed.
  • Zaanan = Going out.  The people named for their coming & going in freedom would be restricted, unable to go anywhere.
  • Beth Ezel = ??  There are some different thoughts for this name.  Some scholars believe it is related to “taking away,” whereas others believe it refers to “beside/alongside.”  Thus, it is either the House of Taking Away, or the Beside-House.  Either way, the idea is that there is nowhere to stand in safety.  Their security has been taken away from them.

12 For the inhabitant of Maroth pined for good, But disaster came down from the LORD To the gate of Jerusalem. 13 O inhabitant of Lachish, Harness the chariot to the swift steeds (She was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion), For the transgressions of Israel were found in you.

  • Maroth =Bitterness.  The people were bitter as they “pined” away.  The word “pined” is interesting in that it refers to an anxious waiting – almost like the people were writhing in pain.  They longed so much for something good to come their way, but they waited in vain.  All that they would receive would be “disaster.
  • Don’t miss the fact that this disaster came from the Lord God!  It may have been the Assyrian army in their wickedness, but it was still sovereignly allowed (even intended and directed) by Almighty God.  God allowed the Assyrians to come in, wreak havoc, and then He pulled them out again by His mercy.  They came “to the gate of Jerusalem,” but they were not allowed to go inside.
  • The Assyrians were allowed to conquer the Jewish city of Lachish, a name which sounds very similar to “swift steeds.” (לָרֶ֖כֶשׁ )  The Bible speaks of the disaster that came to Lachish, while Sennacherib was on his way to Jerusalem.  2 Chronicles 32:9–10, "(9) After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he and all the forces with him laid siege against Lachish), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, (10) “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria: ‘In what do you trust, that you remain under siege in Jerusalem?"  So proud was Sennacherib of this conquest that the Assyrians had artwork carved of the battle & placed in palace in Nineveh (now housed at the British Museum).
  • Question: Why did God allow Lachish to be conquered & not Jerusalem?  It was a lesson.  It was directly because of the destruction at Lachish that Hezekiah sought the Lord in prayer in the way that he did.  The people of Judah had received a bitter taste of the Assyrian army, and they shuddered at the thought of more.
    • This is exactly the purpose of God’s hand of discipline in our lives.  Is it something He desires to bring?  No – God would much rather we willingly humble ourselves in repentance.  Is it something that we want to experience?  No!  Apart from the fact that it is a sign of God’s love for us (which is good!), no discipline is easy to endure.  But if that’s what it takes to bring us to repentance, then that’s what God is going to do.  He loves us too much to allow us to remain in sin, and He will do whatever is necessary to wake us out of our stupor and to seek His face.

14 Therefore you shall give presents to Moresheth Gath; The houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. 15 I will yet bring an heir to you, O inhabitant of Mareshah; The glory of Israel shall come to Adullam.

  • Moresheth Gath = possibly means “one who is betrothed.”  If so, than the discipline they experience will be the dowry that is given.
  • Achzib = lie.  The kings/leaders of Israel were deceived by the strongholds there. 
  • Mareshah = possession/inheritance.  God would bring “an heir,” or a possessor/captor to them.
  • Adullam.  This isn’t so much a word-play as it is a reference to Jewish history.  It was to the cave of Adullam that David fled when he hid from King Saul.  David was considered the “lamp of Israel,” (2 Sam 21:17), so it’s probably with a quite a bit of sarcasm that the current sinful leaders of Judah were called “the glory of Israel.”  They would be left without a city to hide and find safety, and like David long-before, they would flee to the caves to hide from the coming foreign armies.
  • This was quite the list of cities!  There would be no safe place for those in the south, when God allowed His judgment to come.  It would begin with the Assyrians, but it would be completed with the Babylonians.  From that, there would be no escape.  So what should they do?  How should they respond?  Vs. 16…

16 Make yourself bald and cut off your hair, Because of your precious children; Enlarge your baldness like an eagle, For they shall go from you into captivity.

  • They were to humble themselves and prepare for captivity.  What Micah did in his mourning is what all of Samaria ought to do as well.  The judgment proclaimed by the prophet was indeed coming, so they needed to get ready for it.
    • Sadly, there’s no indication that they did.  Although the timeframe is a bit different, Jonah showed the entire city if the Ninevites repenting at the single proclamation of God’s judgment against them.  The Israelites received many more proclamations through all kinds of prophets, and they did nothing.  On this, they could have learned a lesson from the pagans.
  • Don’t fight God’s discipline, nor think yourself too good to experience it.  None of us are exempt, and once God declares something, we can be sure that He will move on it.  Our only real option is to humble ourselves & submit unto His hand.  And as believers, when we do we find that even if God does not remove His discipline, He will always give us the grace & strength to endure it.

Micah 2

  • God against oppression (2:1-5)

1 Woe to those who devise iniquity, And work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, Because it is in the power of their hand. 2 They covet fields and take them by violence, Also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, A man and his inheritance.

  • Description of the plans and practices of the wicked.  “Those who devise iniquity” are those who scheme out their wickedness.  They thoughtfully plan out how evil they will be. Micah specifically lists sins of greed and oppression.  These were people who coveted what they did not have, and plotted evil in order to obtain it.  Verse 2 is so specific, it’s hard to imagine that Ahab’s & Jezebel’s plotting against Naboth isn’t in mind. (1 Kings 21)  These were individuals who schemed evil against a man & his family – likewise, Micah (with the word of God) calls out any & all individuals who might follow in those footsteps.
    • Beware greed!  There is a reason that covetousness is included in the 10 Commandments – when covetousness begins, it leads to a host of other sins.  We want what we cannot have, and that starts our minds down a path of debauchery.

3 Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, against this family I am devising disaster, From which you cannot remove your necks; Nor shall you walk haughtily, For this is an evil time.

  • Notice the parallel wording in verse 3 in comparison with verse 1.  God devises disaster against those who devise iniquity.  God schemes against the schemer.
  • Question: Will the schemers be able to avoid God’s judgment?  No.  This is something “from which you cannot remove your necks.”  They would not escape their sin – they would know the judgment of God.
    • God’s judgment can never be avoided.  BUT…God’s judgment can be atoned!  As Christians, we do not experience the judgment due our sin, but that judgment is still doled out – it’s not avoided by any stretch of the imagination.  God gave His judgment, but He put it on Jesus & not us.  The judgment of God was not avoided; it was fulfilled – it found atonement in the sacrifice of Christ.

4 In that day one shall take up a proverb against you, And lament with a bitter lamentation, saying: ‘We are utterly destroyed! He has changed the heritage of my people; How He has removed it from me! To a turncoat He has divided our fields.’ ” 5 Therefore you will have no one to determine boundaries by lot In the assembly of the LORD.

  • A song of mourning and a proverb will be taken up against God’s people.  Once God’s judgment is poured out, it will be recognized for what it is.  The people will see the extent of their ruin, how everything was taken away from them.
  • Sadly, the same thing will take place in the hearts of countless numbers of people in hell.

Thus far, all of this has been the warning of God, spoken through the prophet Micah.  How would these warnings be received?  They wouldn’t be.  Vs. 6…

  • God’s word despised (2:6-11)

6 “Do not prattle,” you say to those who prophesy. So they shall not prophesy to you; They shall not return insult for insult.

  • Literally, “do not drip.”  God’s warnings were seen as a constant annoyance – a dripping to be stopped up & avoided.  It wasn’t seen as a flowing river of blessing, but more like a leaky roof that required repair.
  • People didn’t want the message of Micah (or of Isaiah, Hosea, etc.).  They didn’t want to hear a proclamation of judgment or a description of suffering, despite it being the truth.  What they wanted was something good – they wanted their ears tickled.  Micah spoke of the people receiving humiliation & insult, and the people didn’t want to hear of reproaches and hardships that could not be avoided.  They wanted to hear of good times & blessings & comforts.
    • Not much has changed! This is prophesied as a sign of the latter days (2 Tim 4:3) – even beyond that, people have always wanted to hear good news rather than hard news.  Keep in mind that the Bible does give good news.  It gives marvelously good news!  But we have to hear the hard news of judgment before we can appreciate the good news of the gospel.  That requires that we listen to all of God’s word, and not just get our ears tickled.
  • There’s no question that messages of judgment are difficult to hear. But the truth must be proclaimed!  Woe to pastors who refuse to preach the truth!  Woe to so-called prophets who proclaim nothing but empty promises & ear-tickling to their audiences!  They will face their own judgment by the Lord, and no doubt many will hear the words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
    • Question: Why are these sorts of false prophets so abundant?  Apart from it being the end-times, and their existence being foretold in the Scripture – how is it that so many of these false teachers exist & have such prominent voices?  Answer: because people pay attention to them.  TV shows that have no viewing audience don’t last very long.  Authors who don’t sell any books don’t write many.  Granted, many people are truly deceived – but if true born-again Christians stopped giving time & attention & money to these false teachers, many of them would dry up almost overnight.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves, and that means we need to be true Bereans – being discerning with whom we listen, and what teaching we receive as truth.
  • The Lord continues speaking to Israel (probably both the north and the south)…

7 You who are named the house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good To him who walks uprightly?

  • Has the Holy Spirit been shortened?  Did He somehow become powerless?  Is His word no longer truthful & trustworthy? 
  • Perish the thought!  God’s word is good & accurate!

8 “Lately My people have risen up as an enemy— You pull off the robe with the garment From those who trust you, as they pass by, Like men returned from war. 9 The women of My people you cast out From their pleasant houses; From their children You have taken away My glory forever.

  • God’s own people were acting like pagans.
  • They committed gross injustice towards women & children – again, calling on the earlier charge of oppression.
  • Worse yet, they destroyed their legacy.  The children would not know the “glory” of God, because they would not know God.
  • For all of these reasons, God declares their judgment. Vs. 10…

10 “Arise and depart, For this is not your rest; Because it is defiled, it shall destroy, Yes, with utter destruction. 11 If a man should walk in a false spirit And speak a lie, saying, ‘I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,’ Even he would be the prattler of this people.

  • The people would depart the land.  It would no longer be a place of rest of them – they had defiled it.
  • God had given them the opportunity to hear the truth, but they didn’t want it.  Again, they wanted a lie.  They wanted someone who would drip promises of parties & wealth; not of sin & judgment.
  • That may have been what they wanted; it wasn’t what they would receive!
  • Judgment was coming in the present, but something better was coming in the future: restoration!  Vs. 12…
  • God’s promise of restoration (2:12-13)

12 “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.

  • Notice the “surely” – the Hebrew grammar shows a definite emphasis on God’s work of assembling & gathering.  IOW, there’s no question He is going to do these things.  This is the sure promise of God!
  • The near promise was for scattering (“Arise & depart”); the future promise was for gathering.  Like the Good Shepherd He is, the Lord would gather His sheep together like flock.

13 The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, Pass through the gate, And go out by it; Their king will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.”

  • Question: Is God presented as a shepherd, or as a king?  Both! The Good Shepherd opens the gate, but He can also be thought of as the Victorious Conqueror who “breaks open” the restraints on His people.  He will lead them as their King – just like He had always intended for them.
  • For as much as Micah will prophesy of judgment, he will also prophesy of the Millennial Kingdom, with King Jesus as the glorious reigning Messiah.  The first taste of it is given here.  He is King, and He is LORD.  He will lead His people, and all Israel will finally see Him for who He is!

There’s some marvelous symmetry in Chapters 1-2.  Micah begins with God marching out to battle against His people.  Chapter 2 ends with God leading His people as the Victorious King & Shepherd.  There was much judgment awaiting both the Jews & Samaritans – but there was also a promise of restoration, regathering, and grace.  The judgment they deserved; the grace they did not…but that’s what makes it grace!

We too have received the grace of the Lord!  We have drunk abundantly of His mercies, and we rejoice in the fact that Jesus is the atonement for our sins.  He fulfilled 100% of the judgment that we should have received.  Praise God!

Just be careful not to take it for granted.  Do not despise the word of the Lord, nor His conviction.  When the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart, listen.  Pay attention to the things He has to say to you, and respond in obedience.  God doesn’t want to bring His discipline, but He’ll do it if necessary.  Don’t make it necessary.


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