A Word of Warning

The Prophesy of Micah

by Bob Burridge ©2018
Study 1: Micah 1:1-9

A Word of Warning

After the death of King Solomon, God’s Covenant Nation divided into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah

The northern country of Israel immediately rejected God’s ways. They made images to help them visualize God. They made a new worship center to replace the one God set up in Jerusalem. The traditional ways of worship were replaced by rituals more agreeable to the things people were comfortable with in their pagan culture.

Judah in the South, while continuing the outward forms of the true religion, merged pagan ways with those of God.

If worship and morality were just matters of individuals doing what they think is best, little would be wrong with these things. However, since God actually said how he is to be honored and obeyed, these were serious offenses.

There came a time when King Jehoshaphat in the South and King Ahab in the North were faced by a great military threat from Syria. The two kings united to fight. But Jehoshaphat was uneasy about the battle. He said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7)

Ahab had 400 court prophets who always told him what he wanted to hear.
One of them, Zedekiah son of Khenaanah, made iron horns and said they would be able to “gore the Syrians until they are consumed.”

Jehoshaphat wanted to hear the straight word of God. Reluctantly Ahab told him about another prophet, one he hated. This man always said things he didn’t like. Jehoshaphat sent for this renegade prophet. He wanted to hear from Him.

They brought this man before the kings and he was commanded to speak. Sarcastically he told them to go into battle.
The king sensed the prophet’s sarcasm and demanded him to speak God’s truth.

The prophet said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. As the LORD said, ‘These have no master.'” He told Ahab that the other prophets were a deceiving spirit sent to entice him to go to battle and there to be killed.

The false prophet Zedekiah hit the man of God in the face. Ahab, enraged, sent the godly prophet to prison and sentenced him to a diet of bread and water.

Defiantly, the united tribes of Israel and Judah went to battle against Syria. Ahab, fearing the words of the prophet disguised himself. The battle went badly. The Syrians made an effort to kill arrogant Ahab, but couldn’t find him. They saw a royal chariot, and pursued it, ready to kill its rider. In a dramatic moment they recognized that it was Jehoshaphat. They withdrew and spared his life.

What of wicked Ahab? He was killed by a stray arrow. Just as God had said through His prophet. Ahab died while God’s prophet was held in prison.

That prophet’s last words lingered in the memory of all who heard him. He spoke the warnings of God and said, “Hear all you people.” That prophet was Micaiah, son of Imlah.

More than 100 years later, another prophet came to warn Israel and Judah. He had the same name, but was better known as Micah (מיכה), the shortened form of the longer name, Micahaih (מיכיה). This is similar to our shortening of “David” to “Dave”, “Susan” to “Sue”, or “Thomas” to “Tom”.

Miciah is itself shortened from Mi-cai-a-hu (מיכיהוּ), meaning, “who is as Jehovah?” This in its various forms was a common name then. Jeremiah calls Micah by his full name “Micaiah” in Jeremiah 26:18. Ten Old Testament men are called Micah or Micaiah.

This prophet began his words of warning quoting from the prophet of 100 years before, a prophet who was also called Micaiah (Micah). He started his message in Micah 1:2, “Hear, you people, all of you …”

Things had gotten no better. The message had not changed much, only the details. God’s final judgment of his wicked nation was coming near again. Like his name’s sake, Micah dared to speak the truth!

Today, well over 2,700 years later, we read the words of that prophet. Micah speaks to God’s church, Spiritual Israel. He challenges us to listen, and he speaks the warnings of God.

The prophesy of Micah speaks to an age similar to the one in which we live. The word of God is hated by many. False advice is cheered, and God’s warnings are jeered. True worship is called “old fashioned”. Power-hungry world leaders commit the resources of the people to ungodly battles where powerful armies and arrogant leaders become the people’s hope, where every one of God’s moral laws is violated.

God warned them and warns us that there is only one hope; that we learn the true gospel of peace.

There have been many moments of reformation. Some occurred among the Jews of the Old Testament. Many seasons of reformation have come to the church of Christ. Today, reformation is being forgotten, redefined. Instead of RE-forming (re-shaping) our ways around God’s word, we have again entered a time of DE-formation. God’s ways are being deformed, set aside, hated. Dangerous ways are being followed instead.

Today, this remains a very relevant book of prophetic warning! How well do we know this word of Micah? How will we treat his warnings and advice? Will we say, “This is not the message we want to hear”? Will we silence the word by ignoring its message? OR — will we listen and learn?

The message is God’s. The duty to obey is OURS!

The book begins with these words:

1:1 “The word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.”

The prophet is Micah from Moresheth, a town in Judah. Many speculate about him. We don’t really know much. This book tells us all we need to know. He was a man of God specially gifted to deliver God’s message to an immoral land living blindly under the shadow of disaster.

Micah ministered in the time of the Southern kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The first of these, Jotham came to power in 740 BC. The last, Hezekiah ruled until 642 BC. It was a period going from 11 years before the captivity of the North, to about 20 years afterward.

Micah ministered during the same time as Isaiah. They dealt with similar problems, and taught similar lessons. As we will see, some portions are almost exactly the same.

God’s Covenant Nation had fallen into deep sin.

1:2, Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.

Micah didn’t deliver his own ideas, he spoke God’s message. His warnings and promises went beyond just Israel. They had significance for all the earth. He spoke beyond his borders, and to us beyond his time.

The Lord was bringing charges that his covenant had been broken. God’s action takes the form of a “Covenant Lawsuit”. When a sovereign king accused his subjects of not keeping their vows he called those who witnessed the sealing of the covenant. He listed the violations. He warned about the punishment that was due to the lawbreakers. The evidence was entered into the record and examined. Then the King rendered his judgment. If he found that the covenant had been violated, then he pronounced judgment, the threats laid out in the covenant.

Our modern legal system is based upon these Biblical procedures. Unfortunately our human systems contain a lot of corruption too. But fundamentally ours follows the same basic plan. Human attorneys examine witnesses and evidence in an attempt to determine two things: what crime was committed? and who committed the crime?

In the court of God, the requirements of the covenant are his own laws. Unlike the changeable and unclear laws of man, these reflect God’s own holy nature as gloriously revealed. Unlike a human prosecutor, he intimately and perfectly knows all the facts of the case. He has no judge to convince. He is the judge. The verdict shouldn’t surprise anyone. The accused are always found guilty or God would not have accused them.

The Prophet’s point: God doesn’t allow sin to go on forever.

1:3-5, For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. 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 is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?

The day comes for nations to fall because they have violated God’s ways. In this case Judah and Israel had repeatedly disobeyed the Covenant of God. The details are recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles. Their national guilt is represented by naming their capitol cities.

The prophet summarizes with a generalization. They are guilty of: rebellion, sin, and honoring the high places. The high places were where pagan deities were worshiped. The term is often used more generally for any place where pagan standards are honored.

People and nations my persist in sin for a long time
without judgment falling.

Why does God allow rebellion to go on and on?

It reveals his longsuffering mercy. Exodus 34:6 describes the Lord as “… merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” He doesn’t always judge you immediately. He allows time for you to repent, or for evil men to condemn themselves.

His patience should never become a cause for comfort in sin. People may violate one of his principles for a long time. We may not see any immediate judgment. But there always comes a time when we pay for what we have done. As one preacher said long ago, there will be “Pay Day Some Day.”

When you neglect God’s principles, or see others seeming to get away with sin yet are not harmed, don’t relax about sin. Instead step back and appreciate God’s amazing patience, something we fallen humans lack.

It exposes those who don’t really care about the ways of God. When the ungodly persist in sin they get bold about it. Their continual obstinance shows that they are not God’s true children.

Continual decline and persistent sin exposes the ungodly. It shows that their faith is superficial, that there has been no inward change, that they do not really belong to the Lord. Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”

God’s wrath will eventually be poured out on such people. Numbers 14:18, “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Those whose sin is not paid for by the Messiah will eventually face their guilt themselves.

This prepares God’s rebellious child to better appreciate His correction. The Lord chastizes his children to loving correct them. Hebrews 12:6-7 characterizes the wisdom of the Old Testament saying, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”

The goal is to bring rebellious children back. Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

God, as a loving father, will not let his true child get away with sin for long. A parent may wait a while to let a child see the trouble he is heading toward before he steps in and stops him or punishes him. He will not stand-by beyond a certain point.

Eventually a back-slidden believer will be brought to see the consequences of his sin. The Spirit brings the true child of God to repentance, and to comforting assurance that all who truly repent are forgiven.

The eventual consequences of persisting in sin are certain.

Sooner or later the individual will reveal his attitude toward God’s word and his relationship to the Holy Spirit. Either he repents and abandons his rebellion, or he faces the judgment he has deserved for so long. Samaria, the Northern nation of Israel, will be judged.

1:6-7, Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country, a place for planting vineyards, and I will pour down her stones into the valley and uncover her foundations. All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste, for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them, and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

Jerusalem, the Southern nation (Judah) will also be judged.

1:8-9, For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches. For her wound is incurable, and it has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.

The two capitol cities represent their corrupt nations. While the Prophet warned them all, he only expected real change from the true children of God. They must repent and abandon their foolish ways.

Samaria was destroyed and its people carried away in into captivity in 722 BC. The devastation of Judah, the Temple and the deportation of its people took place in 586 BC by the invasion of Sennacherib.

Don’t be lulled into a sense of comfort in your sin. Even if you convince yourself its just a “little offense” to God, even if others seem to be “getting away with it.” If you continue to excuse yourself or ignore your faults, you show that you are not a true child of God, but a hypocrite! If you repent while there is time and settle the issue with God, you show you are his.

Micah reminds us about God’s warning, but he also reminds us of his enduring promise of hope.

(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Index: The Prophesy of Micah

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