The Prophesy of Micah
Study by Bob Burridge ©2019
Study 9: Micah 6:1-5
Remembering the Mercies of God
Micah, chapter 6 takes us into the drama of a courtroom. Not just any court. Its the court of God! There is a case coming to trial.
The Lord of Creation brought
a covenant lawsuit against his people.
1. Hear what the LORD says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
2. Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.
The basis of the case is God’s Covenant with his people. By the laws of war a conqueror in ancient times could have those conquered killed as enemies. Sometimes he would make a treaty with them which the Hebrew language calls a “berit”. In English we call it a “covenant”. It was a very gracious thing to do. In it the king promised to be their protector and provider, and the people pledged to be faithful and obedient to the king.
Witnesses would be called to observe the covenant ratification ceremony. There, curses were called down on covenant breakers, and blessings were promised to covenant keepers. When someone was suspected of breaking the covenant, they were formally indicted in a lawsuit by the king.
The witnesses of the covenant would testify that the covenant was valid. They would confirm that the agreement was made between the parties, and that the King had not neglected his promises. It showed that the accused was still obligated to the law.
Then the accused would be brought into court and the charges read. The evidence would be presented and a judgment made. If the defendant was found guilty of breaking the covenant, the appropriate punishments would then be carried out.
The Lord had made such a covenant with his people. In revealing his plan for rescuing mankind, God used the covenant form so familiar at that time. Instead of wiping them out for their sin, he graciously pledged to be their God, and to make them his people. But as Micah had shown in the first chapters of his book, Israel and her leaders had not been faithful to the covenant. So the Lord invited Israel to plead her case. Her day in court had come.
The first part of the trial began:
jurisdiction had to be established.
The accused’s responsibility to honor the covenant had to be demonstrated. The mountains, hills, and foundations of earth were called as witnesses. God called creation itself as witnesses to the covenant. The reference is from Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,”
It’s interesting to note that when the prophets announced the curses of the covenant at various times and which would occur in the final day of judgment, they often make reference to judgments in the heavens and earth. The sun, moon, and stars, the mountains, and oceans are often involved as judgments are poured out when God’s people are found guilty.
The next part of the trial began:
the covenant is examined.
This binding document always remains in force between God and his people. Micah 6:3-5
3. “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!
4. For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
5. O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”
The Lord asks where he had violated the terms of his covenant? From their behavior you would think the covenant had been suspended. They acted as if they had no more obligation to keep God’s law. They seemed uninterested in God’s promises, tired of doing things his way. Had God as their king not kept his word to them? If God had been negligent in his promises then the covenant was no longer binding on the people. He asks, “what have I done to you? How have I wearied you?” As in any court, the evidence and claims of the accused must be clarified and presented without prejudice.
They were called to remember the saving acts of the LORD:
He reminded them of how he brought them out of Egypt. We all know the story of the Exodus. God’s Israel had become slaves under Egypt’s Pharaoh. For generations they prayed for deliverance, and realized they had no hope aside from God’s divine intervention. By calling Moses and Aaron, and miraculously softening Pharaoh’s heart, God fulfilled his earlier promise to restore them to the promised land.
Deuteronomy 5:15, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
Deuteronomy 7:18, “you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt,”
The feast of Passover was to remind Israel every year that God had acted graciously and mercifully toward His people.
He reminded them of how he had raised up help in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Moses was the great prophet who directly received God’s law. Aaron, as high priest, also represented the people before God. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, was also a Prophetess (Exodus 15:20).
God had been good not only in freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt, but also in providing leaders for them after their deliverance. Moses wrote, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
Remembering is an important spiritual exercise. The healthy believer will diligently recall the good and merciful works of God. We need to remember the goodness of God in providing other people to encourage us as friends, teachers, counselors, and leaders.
He reminded them of how he had delivered them from their enemies King Balak of Moab feared Israel approaching into the land (Numbers 22-24). He knew he wasn’t strong enough to hold them off so he sent for Balaam
to curse Israel for him. But Baalam was constrained by God three times to bless instead of curse. Deuteronomy 23:5 “But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.”
Right after that event, Israel is seen camped at Shittim. God proved that the blessing he brought through Baalam would stand. The Midianites were defeated and destroyed. Israel miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. Just as God had promised they were back in the promised land. When they came to Gilgal Israel renewed her covenant promises with God. So from Shittim to Gilgal, by these righteous acts, God had once again displayed his covenant faithfulness, even though Israel had been unfaithful.
Moses told the people to, “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
If you don’t know about the great things God has done, ask those who can teach you. Find out about what the Bible records that God has done. Learn how God has worked throughout church history. Recall how God has been good to you in your life.
Remember the acts of God’s mercy. Had God not kept his covenant promises? Had he not in mercy blessed them when they deserved to have been cursed? The covenant is still binding. Though the deserved judgments for disobedience still stand, the promise of the Savior removes the curse for those who sincerely rest in God’s promised deliverance.
Now the trial moves on to the indictment:
the Lord brought his charges.
Israel and her leaders had not been faithful to the covenant. They had gone after other gods. They had no respect for God’s moral laws. They trusted in help from pagan nations, and compromised God’s ways. They put their own feelings and desires first. The people were being charged with violence, lying and deceit. (Micah 6:9-14)
A guilty verdict is inevitable. The facts of the case were beyond dispute. The deserved sentence was spelled out. For now there will be a time of captivity. Ultimately eternal damnation is deserved!
One day we will stand accused in God’s courtroom.
How different it all seems when you are the one accused! Now it becomes personal. Humbled in the majestic presence of God the judge your name is called. You stand before the bar of divine justice bound in chains and still depressed from your holding cell. The covenant is unscrolled and you are identified as the conquered party.
The witnesses are called: As long as heaven and earth stand, they are a witness that you are obligated to God’s covenant laws. Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The testimony of all the heavens and earth stand against you.
You are reminded that you deserved nothing but execution. It was only the gracious mercy of the king that made the covenant. And now you are accused of ungratefully breaking the covenant. God’s faithfulness is reviewed. The contract is binding.
With loopholes eliminated and excuses removed the charges are read. The Bible makes our situation plain:
Romans 3:10, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;’ ”
Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
The verdict is announced: guilty. There can be no other pronouncement. The sentence is handed down: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As God said to Adam about the forbidden tree in Eden, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17).
Death did come. Not as the world sees death, as “the end”. But as God explains it, “separation”. Sin, even one sinful idea, separates man from God forever. So also in physical death the body and soul separate until judgment. The guilty party is condemned to an eternity as an alien from the blessing of God, and assigned a place in damnation forever. Eternal death, separation from blessing to cursing, forever! There is no possibility for appeal. There is no hope of parole.
But wait! The court guard doesn’t haul you away. There is more! An announcement is made. The sentence has been carried out! Your chains are removed. You are set free from prison! You are delivered from the wrath of God to enjoy his blessing instead! Now you are told you will live forever without the weight of guilt. You are changed inside too. That’s the other part of god’s covenant. He sent a Savior just as he promised. He took his people’s sentence of death upon himself.
This is the great act of God’s righteousness which we should remember. Sure, he delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery. Sure, he delivered Israel through the desert and from her enemies leading them into the land of Canaan. But greater still, he delivers his people by sending a Savior. He came to save apathetic, self-centered, lawbreakers. He took their place in receiving the covenant curse and penalty. And he sends his Holy Spirit to give life to dead hearts.
What an amazing work of love! Instead of facing the consequences of what we deserve, God in his covenant provided a Savior who took our place.
When you feel alone, discouraged, accused, guilty, unworthy: do what the Bible recommends, remember the righteous acts of your LORD. Become historians of his mercies and acts of love.
As David wrote in Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.”
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Index to the Studies in Micah