Thursday, 18 December 2014

(353) December 19: Micah 1-3 & Revelation 9

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what God is condemning.

To ponder:
Micah received his visions during the time in which the northern kingdom (represented by the city of Samaria) was exiled by Assyria, and the south (represented by Jerusalem) threatened by them, before being delivered (1v1, 2 Kgs 15v32-20v21).
            First God calls all peoples to hear him witness against these two kingdoms because of their sin. In specifying he is in his holy temple, he probably means heaven rather than the physical temple as Micah speaks of him descending from his dwelling-place to the mountains. His awesome majesty is expressed with description of the mountains and valleys melting like wax. It’s a fearful picture, perhaps implying these natural defences cannot hold back God. And we’re told he comes because he is coming to deal with Jacob’s transgression – what goes on in Samaria, and Judah’s high place – implying idolatry is taking place in Jerusalem (1v2-5). In the light of this God declares he will make Samaria rubble, destroying her idols and temple gifts which were funded by the wages of temple prostitutes. Indeed, these gifts will be used as wages of prostitutes - in Assyria (1v6-8).
            Micah then describes how he will weep because of this, and because this incurable wound (ie. destruction) has reached Judah and the gate of Jerusalem itself. No doubt this refers to the fact that Assyria would advance to the city before being turned back by the Lord. 1v10-16 uses puns (see NIV footnotes) on the names of towns close to where Micah lived to stress the shock, shame, mourning and pain of the coming exile (implied by parting gifts) of Israel (the north), and the threat to Jerusalem itself. All this is said to be from the LORD who himself advances as the “glory of Israel” (see 1 Sam 15v29). However, God desires that Israel’s destruction is not told of in the Philistine Gath (1v10, 2 Sam 1v20), so that this pagan nation would not delight in the disgrace of God’s people. In this section Micah implies that Judah’s idolatry (the daughter of Zion) began in the north (1v13), and that the kings of Israel will be deceived by the apparent strength of some cities (1v14). It concludes calling the people to shave their heads in mourning at the fact that their children will go into exile.
            Micah continues declaring woes against those who plan evil and carry it out as soon as they get up. They take property they covet, whether by theft or fraud. So God declares they will be unable to save themselves from the coming disaster, which will humble their pride as they are taunted over the fact that they are ruined and their fields given to traitors (2v1-4). Again, we see the biblical principle that in judgement God does to people as they have done to others. 2v5 states that when God reassigns the land in restoring the kingdom, these people will have no representative in his assembly to ensure they get a portion. By contrast, those who repent of sin have Christ himself ensure their inheritance.
           The prophets these people look to are those who tell Micah not to prophesy in this way, denying such disgrace will occur, and saying it shouldn’t be said that the Spirit of God is angry with Jacob. This rebukes those in the church today who deny God could ever be angry with people. To this, God responds that his words are good to the upright – no doubt because they encourage them that their faithfulness will be rewarded, and please them in calling sinners to repent. Yet, God describes the people as instead acting like an enemy army in stripping passers by, and driving women and children from the homes God had blessed them with. God tells these sinners to go as the land is no longer their resting place, but defiled (see Lev 18v25). He adds, that the fitting sort of prophet for such people is a liar who promises wine and beer (2v6-11).
            Here the tone changes. God promises to gather a remnant of survivors from Israel like sheep into a pen or pasture. This may refer to the people thronging together in Jerusalem under Assyrian siege. God promises to lead them out as their king, breaking through the enemy army. This was fulfilled during Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kgs 19v35-36), but looks to God in Christ defeating sin, death and the devil.
            It is unclear whether the previous chapters have the south or north predominantly in mind. But chapter 3 seems addressed to those in Jerusalem (3v10, 12). Micah speaks against the leaders, charging them with not knowing justice, hating good, loving evil, and oppressing the people in a manner akin to cooking and eating them as cannibals. It’s a vivid picture stressing the seriousness of those who are responsible for justice, using their power to oppress. God is clear that he will not answer these people when they cry to him for mercy in the time of destruction, as he will have hidden his face from them. As for his prophets who proclaim peace only when paid, and who fight against those who do not – they will cease to receive divine revelation (implying that they had previously received it, despite dishonouring God). They will therefore be disgraced as they have no answer from God to the questions people bring to them. Here Micah calls the people’s leaders to hear that, by contrast, he is filled with God’s Spirit, power, justice and might, to declare the peoples’ sin. He charges the rulers with building Jerusalem by oppressing others with bloodshed and wickedness, and the judges, priests and prophets in judging, teaching and fortune telling for personal gain. So the prophets declare there will be no disaster as God is among them. Because of them, Micah states Zion (the area around Jerusalem) will be like a field, the city rubble, and the temple a mound of thickets. This looks beyond the threat in Micah’s day to the destruction of the whole area by Babylon 135 years later. The point is all will be destroyed (3v1-12).

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for fighting for us against all that stand against us. Pray that integrity in church leaders, acting rightly for God rather than for personal gain.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Micah, click here.

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