Summary: Continuing a series on the minor prophets.
Today I continue my teaching on the Minor Prophets with Micah. He is the last great prophet of the 8th century, the century which gave us Amos and Hosea and Isaiah. His father’s name is not recorded leaving some to think he was of low birth, from a peasant family. He was from a small village in the lowlands between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean called Moresheth. This village was a fertile piece of land, with vineyards and olive orchards, and had been under constant threat from the Philistines who were nearby. Micah understood the ramifications in the countryside of decisions made by the kings in the capital.
Micah was a prophet sent to his own people, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah. Judah had gone through the disastrous reign of Ahaz, who was a petty vassal to the Assyrians, who desecrated the Temple of God in Jerusalem, who had engaged in child sacrifice to appease his Assyrian masters. Micah was prophesying in the reign of Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, who was a good man, but still wondered about an alliance with the Assyrians or the Egyptians. Micah had witnessed the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722, and did not wish to see the same things in the south. So he left his little village for the city, to speak for his people, to speak for those close to the land.
The book of Micah contains many important passages. It is in Micah that the prophecy is made that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. It is in Micah that we find the famous statement, “What does the Lord require of you, to seek justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” But basically throughout Micah you get the same sense as in most of the prophets. Micah has a great concern about the moral lives of the people. And this becomes quite clear as you read through the book.
But Micah had a basically pessimistic spirit about him. That becomes most clear as we read the beginning of chapter seven. As in most prophets, and even in the apostle Paul, there is a list of the sins of the people. There is a great vision of darkness in the land, a great sense that the country is without any sense of where it is going morally. “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net” (Micah 7:1-2). Micah has grasped the human condition without God. God comes to look for those that please him, and finds none. It is reminiscent of the Greek philosopher Diogenes who walked the streets with a lantern looking for an honest man. Micah shows a great distrust for his fellow men and women, first of all on this very basic level.
But Micah does not remain simply at a basic description. He details the sins of his people. He details the selfishness that leads to oppression. He details the religious failures of prophets and priests. He details the violence that had become all too common in his world. Families in disarray, communities in trouble, institutions that were supposed to hold the nation together simply flying apart. Nothing was as it should be. Nothing was as God had meant it to be. Judges cannot be trusted. Neighbours should not be trusted. Do not confide in friends or even in your wife. Sons are against fathers, daughters against mothers. If there is no longer any respect for earthly authority, then how can there be respect for divine authority?
Such pessimism is a contrast to the way his society views itself. Reading throughout Micah you get the sense that the land of Judah sees itself on the right path. That the culture of the time sees itself moving forward in lines of great progress. So Micah had to face enemies, enemies who criticized him for his preaching. In Micah 2:6, we see a direct confrontation, “ ‘Do not preach,’ thus they preach, ‘one should not preach of such things.’ ” (Micah 2:6). Micah’s message went against the grain. Micah’s message was one that too difficult to hear.
Micah knows who the perfect preacher for his age was. “If someone were to go about uttering empty falsehoods, saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,’ such a one would be the preacher for this people.” (Micah 2:11). That is the kind of preaching people would flock to. Oh yes do not worry about the future. I promise you goodness and light, and wine, beer, strong drink, whatever you fancy in this world that will be yours.