Rich with information. That is probably the most accurate description for the book of Micah. From the very beginning of the book the prophet gives us plenty of information. He even tells us exactly when he prophesied, which was during the successive reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in the kingdom of Judah. Each chapter speaks of a new subject, and there are even messianic prophecies contained within this small book.
In chapters one through three, Micah essentially echoes the other prophets of Israel in the Old Testament. He speaks of a coming judgment due to the rebellion of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. He attacks the rich and the ruling class in both kingdoms because of their abuse of power. We have seen this theme before, most prominently in the book of Amos. God rules with love and compassion, and he expects his leaders to do the same.
In chapter four the tone completely switches as Micah begins to prophesy the coming kingdom of Israel in the latter days. He speaks of peace and prosperity, and mentions that Jerusalem is where the attention of the earth will be gathered. People will “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” There will be one kingdom with one king, and the earth will no longer be divided over petty politics and national boundaries. Sounds amazing, right?
It is with this introduction that Micah presents the Messiah for all to see. Chapter four deals with the Messiah’s kingdom, and chapter 5 verse 2 is one of the most well-known prophecies about the Messiah in the entire Old Testament. It says that the ruler of Israel will come forth from Bethlehem, the tiniest of cities in the nation of Israel. It’s amazing that God would use such a seemingly insignificant city to be the birthplace of the most important human being who has ever lived.
Unlike the rulers before him, the Messiah would “shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord.” But this would not just be any human leader. No, the Messiah’s “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” From this passage we see that the Messiah was not simply another man, but rather God himself manifested in the flesh. He came to accomplish what no mere human could accomplish.
And then with this announcement, the prophet suddenly switches topics again. God accuses his people of not doing the bare minimum of his requirements. He simply requires that anyone who belongs to him “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” He makes it plain that he has no interest in their sacrifices, because without pure hearts their sacrifices mean nothing. I sometimes wonder if he would say the same thing to us today. God doesn’t need our worship or money. What he wants more than anything else is for us to serve him with pure motives, not so we can get something from him but rather because he is worthy of everything we can give him.
Chapter seven begins with more accusations, but verse eight represents another shift. “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.” The prophet recognizes that despite the present turmoil and rebellion, God will honor and protect his people. Anyone who lives for God need not fear, because he will protect and preserve them. His book ends by saying that God will “tread our iniquities under foot,” and “cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” He is convinced that the Lord will honor the promises he made to the forefathers long ago.
So what lessons can we take from the book of Micah? There seem to be so many, but the most transformative lesson is to understand the purpose and plan of God, and live your life accordingly. Micah never denied the present suffering and rebellion of his generation, but he refused to believe it would stay that way. He understood that a day was coming in which a true ruler would lead his people, and that that ruler would institute a kingdom that will never pass away. He ends his book by remembering the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is important for us to remember that present circumstances don’t dictate our future. As the people of God we live and thrive on the promises of God. Despite what we see around us we know that God is in control, and that his kingdom will be established on earth as it is in heaven. We don’t fear like the world fears, for we understand what the world does not understand. We have a hope that cannot be quenched, and as the writer of Hebrews says, that hope is an anchor for our soul.