Summary: God's judgments are always tempered with mercy.
As Micah continues his words of encouragement to the remnant of Israel, he uses the expression “In that day” (Micah 4:6) instead of, ‘In the last days’ (Micah 4:1). This is possibly nothing more than literary variation.
The short-term fulfilment of the promise in the following verses lay in the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In the long term the words can be taken to refer to the post-Pentecostal era of the Church right up to the final return of Christ. When we hear of “the lame” being gathered in to the kingdom of God, I can’t help thinking of the earthly ministry of Jesus Himself:
‘The blind receive their sight,
And the lame walk,
The lepers are cleansed,
And the deaf hear,
The dead are raised up,
And the poor have the gospel preached to them’
Against the backdrop of the devastation of Jerusalem which the prophet had envisaged in the earlier chapters, which would come about as a result of sin, “her that halteth” being made a “strong nation” (Micah 4:7) has echoes of Jacob’s experience when He wrestled with God at Penuel (Genesis 32:24-32).
Jacob refused to release the angel until he received a blessing, and whilst he went away from the experience ‘limping,’ his name was changed from Jacob (=usurper) to Israel (=he who strives with God).
Now the Israelites are brought back from their affliction and restored to the land. They are promised that the LORD will reign over them “for ever.”
Did something go wrong between the restoration and the “for ever”? Obviously not, for this is the word of God. God’s purposes will not fail.
When the children of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian exile, there was a prince in Judah whose name was Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel. This man was a descendant of King David, who had been promised an everlasting dominion, and he appears in both of the New Testament genealogies of Jesus (in Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
This leader of the exiles has some striking words spoken about him in the prophets, words which are Messianic in their application:
‘In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts’
‘Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it’
Micah 4:8-9 reassures the people of God of the restoration of the kingdom. Micah 4:10 shows their present sufferings in the light of a travailing, like a woman with child. Even though they will be exiled to Babylon, it is certain that, for the suffering people of God, beyond the pain there is glory.
We are told in the Old Testament:
‘For his anger endureth but a moment;
In his favour is life:
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy cometh in the morning’
This is echoed in the New Testament:
‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us’
‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’
This is not a case of ‘pie in the sky’ escapism. In Micah 4:11 the prophet jolts his readers back to the present crisis. The enemies are at the very gates, baying for the blood of Israel, totally oblivious to the fact that they are but the instruments of rebuke in the hands of the LORD - and that their own day of reckoning will come (Micah 4:12).
The tables will one day be turned upon all who set their face against God’s anointed ones. The righteous will be vindicated, and the LORD will have the substance of the whole earth rededicated to Him (Micah 4:13).