It was time God showed up and called Judah’s actions to account.
Theft (2:2), syncretism (2:6-7), injustice among the spiritual leaders (3:5-6), violence, and oppression (6:12) had free reign in the southern kingdom of Israel (7:2). Their culture had forsaken God for foreign deities. Therefore, Judah became a terribly unjust society. To make matters worse, the people who were supposed to be the godliest—the religious elites—led the corruption. One man looking on was convinced that there were no godly people left (7:2).
So, God sent a man named Micah from the rural district into the city to tell God’s people to listen up. Three times in the book of Micah we encounter the call, “Hear!” (1:2; 3:1; 6:1).
What did God have to say? We find the crux of it in Micah 4:10: “You shall go to Babylon” (ESV). In other words, God’s people would be overtaken and exiled by a foreign nation. At the time Micah gives this message, Assyria hadn’t even attacked the Northern Kingdom yet (722 BC). Babylon would follow Assyria over a hundred years later, meaning this punishment for sin would be long-lived. God’s judgment against his people’s sin was on its way and it would come in waves.
Yet right after telling Judah they will go to Babylon, God says through Micah, “there you shall be rescued” (4:10).
Here we encounter a phenomenon all throughout the book of Micah that helps us interpret it. God sent Micah to declare God’s judgment to a wicked generation. But every time he begins a speech about judgment, it morphs into a glorious outpouring of promises that God will rescue his people. Dispersed throughout Micah we see visions of God himself. These glimpses of God fill the judgment visions with unexpected light, drowning them in eternal hope.
Though the nations overtake Judah and her land, God promises that he will personally gather Israel and lead them as their King into safe pasture again (2:4-5; 2:12-13). Micah says Jerusalem, God’s mountain, will lay so desolate it will resemble a woodland—overgrown and irredeemable—in years to come (3:12). But the very next words out of his mouth are a beautiful promise that the activity on God’s mountain will one day resemble the happy ending of a fairytale. Swords will be turned to plows, every nation will draw near to the mountain of the LORD in celebration and peace, and righteousness will be the talk of the town (4:2).
Though Micah brought an immediate message of judgment, it seems to be his secondary concern. His first concern seems to be the message of restoration and hope that keeps drowning his fearful predictions of woe.
Micah’s first concern seems to be the message of restoration and hope that keeps drowning his fearful predictions of woe.
When we read the final verses of the book of Micah, we realize that all the hope and restoration Micah prophesies about is rooted in confidence in the merciful character of God. Micah asks, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?” Then, we see his point: “He [God] does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18 ESV). Micah tells us that the God of the Bible delights in steadfast love. Showing faithful, undying love to the undeserving excites God’s heart more than dealing judgment. God’s own mercy is our hope, and it’s a hope that has been held out to us throughout the whole Bible.
At the close of Micah, we hear a faint echo that fills us with hope: “He will tread our iniquities underfoot” (Micah 7:19). In the first book of the Bible, God declared that the enemy of humanity would one day be defeated by an unnamed hero. Humanity would be rescued from sin. God spoke to Satan, our enemy saying, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV).
God swore to the fathers of Israel in the days of old that he would deliver them from the curse of sin, treading underfoot our enemy, and our own evil. All along God knew that keeping his promise meant he would come himself and be our hero, win our war, and bring us back into his unshielded presence with joy—because he delights in steadfast love.
Micah says, “you will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). What a beautiful promise! But Micah’s book leaves us wondering how our just God will accomplish this.
Despite all the messages of judgment, God could not wait to tell Judah about his coming rescue mission, and so he gave them and us these hazy visions of hope. If we flip to the New Testament, we meet the King who Micah keeps alluding to in crystal clarity.
Open Micah to meet the God who is like no other.