So this is the bit of Micah that we read and hear each Christmas. Matthew uses it in chapter 2, verse 6 of his gospel to confirm the place of birth and lineage of Jesus. But how do we make sense of it when we see it here in its original context? It certainly seems much less of a cozy Christmas thing!
What kind of saviour was Micah leading the people to expect? It seems to point to a political and military liberator. Yet, we see clues which point us to the Jesus we know: from Bethlehem, whose origins are “old”; the Good Shepherd who will feed his flock; bringing universal peace (verses 2-5).
Did they misunderstand? Can we just make it all fit Jesus anyway? Or did God develop a new way of doing things, which came to be fulfilled in Jesus?
Think about ways that we expect one thing, maybe through our prayers and desires and yet what we end up getting is quite different.
Can we still see God at work in these situations?
And look at the message about the “remnant”. Seems like God is predicting carnage but there will be survivors and this remnant, those who remain, will be able to begin again. There is hope.
Why not take this opportunity to pray and give thanks for times when God has given us hope and seen us through. Pray for situations where we and others around us need that hope right now.
Verse 1: It seems that Micah is talking about the last days, “end time”, what Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” phrases as being “when all is said and done”. Can we apply this to our world now? Many people believe we are heading into the “end times”. Regardless of whether you believe this or not, I would suggest we can still learn from it about what God wants for us and how He works.
This prophecy is about Jerusalem. How can we translate it to our lives now? Does Revelation 21 (the image of a new Jerusalem) help?
Verses 1-3: If you look at Isaiah 2:2-4, which I suggest you do, you will see it is identical to what Micah is saying in these verses.
Verse 4: Here is a great image of people living in peace, because God is in charge. Not only are weapons made into tools but God’s people can chill in the shade of their own vine. On the rare occasions I get down to do some serious work at our allotment, there are usually 1 or 2 small groups of men sitting and drinking and chatting in the shade. It always looks much more inviting than digging!
If you look at 1 Kings 4: 25 you will see that the positive notion of sitting under the vine/tree image would have been familiar for Micah’s audience.
It is a proverbial image meaning shalom: peace, stability, goodness, justice.
What would your ideal images be for representing everything being good because God is in charge? What gives you that feeling?
Verses 6-13: Micah tells us about the promise that God is able to do mighty things, transforming our broken world, lifting up the downtrodden, bringing peace and justice.
Do you really believe that God can do such things? How? What situations can you pray for this to be so?
Week 2 Sunday 25th February
Read chapter 3.
Micah really wants to get the attention of the people he is addressing. So, verse 1 begins with “Listen”, and verse 9 with “Hear this”. These sections we have here are directed at the leaders of Judah, but as we begin to reflect on this chapter, what is God trying to get your attention with?
The references to the leaders of Israel (ie the Northern kingdom) are probably ironic. Their kingdom has collapsed and Micah is suggesting that Judah (the Southern kingdom) will go that way also.
Micah, as you can see, is really very scathing about how the leaders of Judah are behaving.
He accuses them of cannibalism (verse 2-3). They might not have been actually eating their fellow human beings, but it gives a strong image of horrific, offensive ways of being.
The main thing is that Micah is pointing the finger at the ungodly behaviour of those who wield power.
He asks the rulers: “Should you not know justice?” (verse 1), in fact he accuses them of hating justice (verse 9), of being corrupt (verse 11) and more besides.
He says to those claiming to speak for God that they lead God’s people astray (verse 5); they tell the rich and comfortable and complacent that all is well (verse 5); but run down the poor (verse 5) and pander to those who pay the highest price (verse 11).
Well, weren’t they bad! That was then, this is now…and now….
Think about all the recent scandals in the world of entertainment and sport, in international aid charities, in education, in the church, in politics. And that’s just the ones to do with sexual power.
Our society, economy, political system, faith organisations, everything, is riddled with abuse of power.
What part do we play in this? Are we guilty of making the most of our power, no matter how small it might seem?
We all surely would say that we hate injustice and love justice. But when did we last do something to speak up for someone who has been wronged? When did we last add our voice to a campaign for justice?
And we might not think of ourselves as prophets or priests, but do we go along with and love to hear a nice Christian message that tells us it’s OK to make money at other’s expense, that we can’t go worrying too much about some poor underpaid, exploited worker in the fields of Kenya or Lincolnshire so long as we get the fruit and veg we want, when we want, at the price we want.
Micah had a strong message for those who have power in Jerusalem. He has a strong challenge for us who have power in Erdington.
He warned the people then that their precious Jerusalem would be flattened (verse 12). The king at that time (Hezekiah) took note of what Micah was saying. The people repented and Jerusalem was saved (see Jeremiah 26: 17-19). Will we heed his warnings?
Micah was a prophet, a messenger for God. He was from a town in the southern kingdom of Judah, which had Jerusalem as its capital. He also had things to say about Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel, but his main focus was on Jerusalem. Micah lived approx. 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Micah spoke out against the injustice and downright bad, self- interested approach of the rulers of Jerusalem. He told those in charge that if they did not change their ways the temple, the crucial place where the Jewish people worshipped God, would be destroyed.
Lots of what is written in this book of prophecy is quite heavy and hard, but throughout, I would maintain there is hope and there are things that we can learn from Micah: not least the soaring height of Micah 6:8.
Week 1 Sunday 18th February
Read chapters 1 & 2.
What a mess! And it is going to get even messier! God’s people are behaving so badly and not being faithful to how God wants them to live. So it is like God has summoned the whole world to hear what a thoroughly rotten place Samaria is (2-7) and then how Judah is going to suffer (8-16). The language is very strong and quite unpleasant and the list of towns in Judah is playing with words in ways that are now lost in translation.
The bottom line is that God is not happy with how his chosen people in Judah and Israel have been behaving and destruction at the hands of Assyria, the neighbouring super power is soon to come.
Micah shines a light on leaders in all areas of life. He is critical of those who abuse their power (1) and who oppress the poor and steal land.
These bad people will receive their “come-uppance” (3-5). Micah is not popular with those he speaks against! They try to silence him (6) and would
rather hear preaching that is safe and justifies their own lavish and luxurious lifestyles (11). But, Micah will continue and God’s justice rolls on (7-11). And in spite of all of this unholy mess God will gather good people and will lead them to better things.(12-13) There is hope!
Their time will come.
So, lots to take in. Can you identify with any of this?
Do you believe that our time will come, even when we are surrounded by the rubbish and ruin of everyday life?
Are the leaders and the powerful that Micah focuses on anything like those with power in 2018?
Where are we in what Micah describes?
What kind of messages do we want to hear in our world? In the news, in conversation, in the media in general and in church?
Is there anything else that grabs your attention?