Saturday, 20 December 2014

(355) December 21: Micah 6-7 & Revelation 12

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the different ways God’s love is expressed.

To ponder:
Micah calls the people to plead their case against the LORD’s accusation, in the hearing of the mountains as their witnesses. God asks the people how they think he has burdened them, when it was him who redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, who sent Moses and others to lead them, who ensured Balaam prophesied only blessing, and miraculously enabled them to cross the Jordon to Gilgal. God’s concern is that they know he acted righteously with them (6v1-5). Hosea then pictures a wealthy Israelite (judging from his gifts) asking what he should bring before the exalted (ie. greatest) God to atone for his sin. He wonders about quality sacrifices, numerous offerings, even his firstborn. But Micah replies that God has already shown what is good and required – to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with his God (1v6-8). We cannot atone for our own sin, but God is ready to forgive through Christ all who display love for him in this way. He desires these things far above any material gifts or outer worship.
            Micah now stands between God and Jerusalem. He states God is calling the city. What he is calling them to is unclear (see NIV footnote), but seems to that they take notice of him. Within this Micah affirms that to fear God’s name is wisdom, highlighting the sort of obedient response God is looking for. God asks if he should forget the people’s ill-gotten wealth which has been gained through dishonesty in business. And in asking whether they should be acquitted, he adds that the city’s rich men are violent and the people liars, so he has begun to destroy them. What they seek to store up, plant or prepare will therefore be lost when they are given over to the sword. Because they have continued in the statutes (ways) of Omri and Ahab, who acted with similar deception, they will be ruined and scorned (6v9-16). We are to turn from the sins of the past, not repeat them.
            Chapter 7 begins with Micah lamenting his misery. He is like one coming to look for fruit from the vine (Israel) at the beginning of the harvest only to find none. This language of beginning seems to presume fruit will be found in the future. But he declares that in his day the godly (ie. the fruit) have been swept away. Those who remain are therefore those who seek to harm or entrap their brothers, being skilled in evil. The ruler (king) and judges take bribes, dictating that they should receive what will fit their desires and conspiring together to this end. The best of these evil people harm like prickly hedges (brier), whereas the worst do so like thorn hedges. And so the day the watchmen (prophets) watch for has come – when they are to sound warning. It is a day when God visits in judgement, bringing confusion – as would happen when Assyria besieges the city. It’s a time when all will look out for themselves, so the people are warned not to trust those closest to them, as a man’s enemies will be from household. Yet, Micah can affirm. – he will wait hopefully for God as his Saviour (7v1-7). Jesus’ coming bring just such divisions, and we are called to wait patiently as Micah did (Matt 10v35-39).
            Jerusalem is now personified as telling her enemies not to gloat over her fall, because she will rise. Although she sits in the darkness of her despair, she will see light. But first she will have to bear God’s wrath at her sin, presumably in her oppression by Assyria and Babylon. This will end, when God he pleads her case, bringing her into light to witness his righteousness. Surely this is fulfilled not simply in the darkness of despair turning to the light of hope when Israel returned from exile, but when God pleads the case of his people in Christ, who bears their wrath so that they can be forgiven. In this they witness his righteous commitment to acting justly by ensuring sin is punished in Christ’s death. Micah notes that his enemy will see this and be ashamed for mockingly asking “where is your God?” Micah will then see the enemy’s downfall in being trampled underfoot. No doubt this first referred to God judging Assyria, but applies to people in general too (7v8-10).
            Here Micah declares that the days for building the walls of Jerusalem and extending Judah’s boundaries will come. And the extending of boundaries will occur because people will come from all over the known world, including from amongst Israel’s greatest enemies. The sense is that this will leave only those doing bad deeds in the world, causing it to become desolate (7v11-13).
            Micah continues calling God to shepherd his people as his flock (or inheritance) which lives on its own in the great pasture-land of Israel. So God is asked to ensue their security (with his staff), and let them feed on the best pastures (7v14). He responds by promising to show his people wonders as when brought out of Egypt, and states that nations will see this deliverance and be ashamed – presumably of mocking Israel as if she had no God, and of worshipping false gods themselves. What follows implies this will lead to repentance. The picture of the nations with their hands on their mouths and deaf may imply them being so in awe of God’s deliverance of his people that they cannot speak and are unaware of all else going on around them. We’re told God will deprive them of power, causing them to lick dust in humiliation like the snake in Eden, which occurred when the nations of Micah’s day were conquered by Babylon, and then Babylon by Medo-Persia. The suggestion is that this would lead them to turn in trembling and fear to God. No doubt this occurred as those from the nations saw God’s wonders in freeing his people from their exile. But it continues as people throughout the world witness Christians freed from their exile from Eden through Christ, and then turn from their idols to God (7v15-17).
            The book ends with Micah extolling God’s supremacy in forgiving the sins of the remnant from amongst his people, and being a God who doesn’t remain angry but delights to show mercy. And so Micah declares how God will again have compassion, getting rid of his people’s sin from his sight so that they no longer provoke his wrath and he can therefore be true to his promise to Abraham and Jacob (7v18-20). This reminds us that our share in Israel’s blessings is ultimately only because God first promised Abraham that through his descendents the world would be blessed. This is why the return from exile is so critical for us. It was his means of bringing Christ to birth, and widening his salvation to the world.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for being ready to forgive not just Israel but those from the nations too. Pray home chapter 6v8.

Thinking further:
Just ten days to go. You’re almost there!

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