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Micah 1

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Who is like יהוהּ?

When יהוהּ speaks from His holy temple! (v.1, 2) What is יהוהּ like? What is your concept of what He is like? Who would you liken Him to? There is no one like Him. (Exodus 15:11 “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?). Who is like יהוהּ? That is what the name “Micah” means. He closes his writing by exclaiming (Mic 7:18 who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever; because He delights in unchanging love.). Micah - one of the Minor Prophets - it is prophecy, a message from יהוהּ! What makes a man prophesy? The Spirit of God - but יהוהּ gives a man His message for a reason [Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.]. יהוהּ was about to do something! The nation of Israel would soon be no more! If you knew that N.Z. was coming to an end would you not have an urgency to speak to the people of God and what He requires, try and turn them from imminent disaster? Micah's message concerned Samaria (capital of Israel) and Jerusalem (capital of Judah). יהוהּ showed Micah this message visually - he actually saw it taking place so he could describe it with vividness - the message was real to him! Micah was a prophet who portrayed יהוהּ to the people and He was far different to the concept that was around in his day. He portrayed a God of judgement, righteousness, justice, holiness yet compassionate and full of loving-kindness, restoring His people with whom He had made a covenant.

- Micah was from Judah, he began prophesying 17-18 years after Isaiah. Isaiah was prophesying in Judah and Hosea in Israel, but Micah’s message was addressed to both nations. Whereas Isaiah was a statesman; Micah was an evangelist and social reformer. Isaiah was a voice to kings; Micah, a herald for God to the common people. Isaiah addressed himself to political questions; Micah dealt almost entirely with personal religion and social morality. He was from the country but his ministry was principally to the cities

- It was the 8th century B.C., just before the fall of Israel to the Assyrians who also invaded Judah pressing right up to the walls of Jerusalem itself. Micah’s name is an index to his character – “Who is like יהוהּ?” To him God was everything. He had an exalted view of the holiness, righteousness and compassion of God. Primarily he denounced ethical sins – the rich were oppressing the poor, merchants cheated their customers, the religious and judicial leaders were corrupt, and the true prophets were silenced. Many people were so insensitive to the problem that they believed that God would still defend them (cf. church of Laodocia who said Rev 3:17I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and did not know that they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.) – Just like today! Micah’s message reminded the people of the consequences of national sin – he foretold the fall of both Samaria and Jerusalem and even the Babylonian exile.

v.1 - The message is not Micah’s - it is the WORD OF יהוה HIMSELF! Let us therefore take heed and receive it as such (cf. 1 Thess 2:13 when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.). The message from יהוה begins pronouncing judgment upon Samaria (v.2-7). Samaria fell to the Assyrians in (722 B.C.) during the period of Micah’s ministry - he saw his prophecy fulfilled before his very eyes – the Assyrians captured Israel and led them into exile. The city of Samaria was founded by Omri (1 Kings 16:24) about 857 B.C. So prosperous did this new city become that it soon gave its name to the entire northern kingdom, of which it was the capital. This splendid city would become a heap of rubble and her stones rolled down the hill of Shemer upon which it was built. This happened in 722 B.C. when Sargon of Assyria took the city. In his Khorsabad annals Sargon says: "At the beginning of my rule, in my first year of reign . . . Samerinai [the people of Samaria] . . . 27,290 . . . who lived therein, I carried away. ..." (cf. v.6,7) - When יהוה speaks from His holy temple His word does not fail! V.2 Micah's message concerned Samaria and Jerusalem but who is it addressed to? "Peoples", "the earth" - this is a message of judgement - Israel and Judah reaped the consequences for their sin BUT it is a lesson for us. יהוהּ is testifying against the whole earth!! Jesus is coming! Coming in judgement! Judgement is coming! He will tread down the high and lofty - the great, the proud, and the important - none can stand before Him! Even the mountains well melt before Him! The most lasting and secure things will be shaken - there will be no place of refuge to be found. Man calls for the mountains to hide him (Revelation 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”) but there will be no hiding! This prophecy concerns Israel and Judah but its message is for all of us! The small judgement that befell them pictures a greater judgement to come on all. We should heed the lesson of what Israel went through. The KING of the universe is testifying! We must listen! He goes on to describe the judgement against Israel - how is this a witness against the nations? - it seems more like He is testifying against Israel and Judah. God’s dealings with His people are His witness to the nations. We are to take note of יהוה’s dealings with His chosen people and learn from them. If יהוה is bringing judgment on His own people, to the people of God, how much more will He bring judgement on the heathen nations who have ignored Him! Judgment starts with God’s people (1 Peter 4:17) - the nations are to see, take heed - the lesson inherent in God’s judgement of Israel is repentance - if God judged them, He will not spare us, therefore let us turn to Him in repentance before judgement comes (cf. Luke 13:1-5; Rom 11:19-22).

יהוהּ is coming in judgement! Who can stand? (v.3, 4) v.3 - The reason we are to take heed is that יהוה is coming! God is coming from His place to earth! He is going to intervene in the affairs of man! He is not going to allow us to continue on in our own way. יהוה Himself is coming down! Let the nations tremble! Let the earth quake! (cf. Psalm 97 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice …. righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings lit up the world; the earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory. Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images). יהוה will trample on the high places - the high places are where idolatrous worship of fertility cults were carried out. יהוה is coming trampling the wickedness of man (cf. Revelation 19:15 from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.). He is coming in judgement! Indeed! Heed, Oh peoples! v.4 - יהוה Himself is coming down in judgement! How terrified the earth is at His coming. It reels, it trembles, it melts - not even the age old mountains can remain before the LORD; none can stand in His presence. The mountains melt like was when יהוה treads upon them (cf. v.3) - all the high, mighty and proud will be brought to nought (cf. Isaiah 40:4, 5). The valleys will be split at the coming of the LORD - the earth will be in turmoil, great earthquakes and terrifying geological turmoil. Things that we had assumed would always be, the permanent age old mountains, are no more. The solid and secure turns to liquid and runs rapidly from its place. All that we relied upon will prove vain hope (cf. Nahum 1:5-6 Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve; indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it. Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him. Isaiah 64:1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence). The very earth itself quakes at the presence of יהוה! Should not we?

The reason: the sin is idolatry. Prostitution in the church! (v. 5, 7) v.5 this terrifying appearing of יהוה is not without cause - there is a reason. Though the message is directed to the nations, the intervention of יהוה in earth shattering judgement is due to the rebellion, sin, apostasy of His own people. It is not just Israel - wayward Jacob but also Judah. Not just Samaria but also Jerusalem. Sin brings judgement. Rebellion against, and rejection of, God has its inevitable consequence. The sin and rebellion was not just the wayward people - it was initiated and had its centre in the capitals - the kings themselves had led their nations astray into idolatry. Samaria and Jerusalem epitomized the sin of the nation. Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, the place of His Holy Temple, was the centre of idolatry - the high place of Judah - the same high place that יהוה Himself would trample down (cf. v.3). They had sinned, rebelled against God and rejected Him - they would pay the price and suffer the consequences - יהוה Himself would smash Samaria to pieces with all her idols and make her into ruins! What foolishness to oppose יהוה most High! v.7יהוה in His judgement goes straight to the core of the problem: IDOLATRY! All her idols would be smashed. יהוה Himself will make her images a desolation. Idolatry is seen as adultery, unfaithfulness to the covenant with יהוה - indeed the idolatry involved actual prostitution in the practise of their fertility cults. Note the emphasis on fornication and prostitution ("harlot’s hire" -אֶתְנַן 3x in 1 verse, "prostitute" - זנה 2x). Israel’s embracing of idolatrous fertility cults is seen as the most abhorrent and immoral degradation. Israel thought she would profit by this embracing of Canaanite religion (harlot’s hire) but all she gained by it would be taken from her and returned. She chose to profit by giving herself to another - now she would be given to another - this would be her lot - exile amongst the idolatrous heathen who would rape her, leaving her with nothing. She had chosen her bed, now she must lie in it - reap the consequences of her choice. Prostitution! But is there prostitution in the church?! What is a prostitute? – One who exacts money for what should be done for love. Are they in the church? - Undoubtedly! The property and wealth of the established church: Church of England and Roman Catholics is vast. Christianity is big business today: Christian music, books, tele-evangelists, pastors of big churches, charging for seminars. The worker is worthy of his hire but getting wealthy out of what has been freely given! What has been gained from wrong motives will be spent – paid to others who will in turn exploit. What you do returns on your own head. If you get paid as a prostitute what you earn will be spent on a prostitute. יהוה is a God of retribution – what you have done comes back on you. יהוה will bring an end to false religion, idolatry, all worship that is not genuine, all ceremony and going through the motions. The sin was idolatry. Bible spend a lot of time addressing idolatry, it is a big issue in God’s sight – we don’t have stone images, is it irrelevant to us. What is the essence of idolatry? 1/ No heart – ceremony without reality, without heart, going through the motions, mere religion, superstition. There is a religion that is just in the mind, philosophy, holding to a set of doctrinal concepts, the heart is not affected – I was guilty of that idolatry – mind is god. 2/ Selfish – the motive is what you can get out of it (prostitution): be it money, healing, blessing, prestige, position, security, man-centred – God exists for my benefit. 3/ Human effort – idols are man made gods, what I do, what I make, my efforts. 4/ Impotent – idols have no power, no life. Where is the power? If the supernatural is not evident, it is not God. 5/ No cost – costs you nothing, or very little, $ in the collection plate “Christianity”, pay a nominal due to fulfil religious requirement but there is no real cost, all pleasant and nice with no sacrifice, a religion of convenience. There is little preaching of “take up your cross and follow Me.” We need to ask ourselves the question: “Why am I here? What is my motive?” because idolatry is present in the church.

The consequence – judgement carried out. Samaria (Israel) destroyed (v.6,7) v.6 - יהוה will act! Note "I will ...." - 3 times - "I will make it ruins"; "I will deliver up"; "I will lay bare". יהוה Himself is bringing this terrible calamity upon His own people. The fine, luxurious city of Samaria (of which they so proud); would be made into ruins by the Assyrians. It would be open land used for agriculture - no one would dwell there anymore. The stones that built this great city would be poured down into the valley below, laying the foundations bare. Samaria would be no more! - Because יהוה Himself had acted in judgement! (cf. Heb 10:29-31). First Israel would fall then Judah invaded (v.8, 9) v.8 – Not only will Samaria be destroyed, Judah will be invaded. Israel doesn’t weep but Micah does – he’s seen what is coming (v.1)! The wound is incurable. יהוה tried again and again to turn His people from the way they were going but they would not respond. Judgement is inevitable. It is terrifying! Overwhelming! The rest of the chapter pictures one city after another, falling. It describes them: rolling in dust, naked, covered in shame, without protection, writhing in pain, barricaded inside their homes, bitterness, disaster, deceived, conquered, mourning, exiled! Micah foresaw the judgement of Judah – he is not removed from his people, superior and condemning - he identifies with them and weeps for the distress they must suffer. It is so vivid and real that he takes up lamentation and weeping as if it had already happened. He didn’t delight in the fact that judgement was coming - it caused him great sorrow and deep distress. But the people were unmoved, they did not repent. His mourning was visible (he went naked) and audible (he howled like a jackal). This simile is evident but "mourn like the daughters of the ostrich" is less obvious - it is a female ostrich - perhaps the allusion is to the abandonment of ostrich young by their mother - Jackals and ostriches often appear associated together in the context of them being wilderness dwellers - this is an allusion to Samaria being made desolate, an empty wilderness. v.9 - Israel is suffering from a mortal wound - there is no hope for recovery. The judgement was against Israel (cf. v.5,6), but it reached even to Judah, the more godly and religious of the two nations. The instrument of judgement was Assyria which exiled Israel in 722 B.C. - but in 701 B.C. Assyria, under Sennacherib, penetrated as far as Jerusalem – right to the gates. The towns of Judah were taken and it reached up to, though did not take Jerusalem. Jerusalem was spared by the miraculous intervention of יהוה. The judgement was severe - Jerusalem only just escaped by the skin of her teeth – accurate prophecy – other towns fell but Jerusalem was miraculously delivered. This is how it will be (Matthew 24:22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.). Only the elect will be spared – Zion, the genuine people of God. The ensuing panic (v.10-16) the Assyrian invasion would reach right up to the very gates of Jerusalem (v.8-9). In 701 B.C. Sennacherib's army took all the walled cities of Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem itself. Micah, the poet, graphically pictures the terrors of this coming invasion by a series of plays on words (v.10-14). v.10 The invasion progressively sweeps through all the land - town after town is taken. The people are devastated. "Tell it not in Gath" (Gath sounds like tell) - either from shame or from fear of causing panic. The invading army is coming deep into the south, into Philistine territory - note pun on "roll one’s self" (הִתְפַּלָּשִׁי K = הִתְפַּלָּשְתִי) - same word as for "Philistine" The land is invaded, overrun and they do not even have the luxury of mourning their loss, for they must flee or be taken exile - no time to feel sorry for yourself. "Beth-le-aphrah" (לְעַפְרָה בְּבֵית) is the house of dust (עָפָר) - and they would be rolling in the dust - utterly humiliated and trodden into the ground in utter subjection to the invading forces. v.11 - Shaphir means "pleasant", "agreeable" - but its inhabitants will no longer be settled down in their pleasant place but will be forced to flee, to depart. They would go in shame and nakedness - hence Micah’s prophetic sign (cf. v.8). Zaanan means "going out" - but it will not "go out" i.e. escape. They will be besieged in their own town and not escape out of it and from the destroying invaders. Beth ezel means "house of removal” - so the "house of removal" will have its means of support removed. Town after town in Judah will topple - and will be left standing no longer. v.12 Maroth means "bitterness" - the inhabitants become bitter, pained in their longing for good which never comes. Note the repeated "inhabitants" - the calamity came upon those "dwelling"; "settled"; "secure" in their own place (cf. Amos 6:1 Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria,). The disaster is not mere calamity overwhelming them, circumstances, nor satanic attack – it is from יהוה! It is not from the Assyrians - it has come down from יהוה Himself! God is the cause - their evil is the reason. And it has gone through the whole land and stopped only at the last moment - it reached right to the very gates of Jerusalem, the Holy City itself – war to the city of peace. Reprieve came at the very last moment. v.13 Lachish – team of horses, had to harness its horses to the war chariots. It was 40 km. south-west of Jerusalem, it was a defensive city - Sennacherib laid siege to it in 701 B.C. and razed it to the ground. By capturing Lachish, Sennacherib prevented any Egyptian assistance reaching Jerusalem. Lachish was destroyed because of the sin in her - there was sin in Jerusalem too, but it had its source in Lachish - because Lachish caused others to sin, she was not spared. Rebellion was found in her - she epitomized the rebellion that had spread throughout all Israel. The sin of Israel committed, she copied, and from there it spread to the daughter of Zion herself. So the invading army would attack her - she would prepare her war chariots but they would not deliver her - for יהוה had ordained judgement. v.14 - Achzib means "deceiving brook", one without water - thus the kings of Israel will look for help from this town but get none - it will crumple and capitulate to the enemy. "Parting gifts" - notice of dismissal, would be given to Micah’s own home town (cf. v.1) and its inhabitants carried away. v.15 - On his town of Mareshah ("possession") will be brought one who takes possession. Mareshah will be taken by the invader. No wonder the prophet mourned - he foresaw the loss of his own home town to the cruel Assyrians. Adullam was the cave to which David fled for refuge - it would be used again - the glory of Israel would enter it - i.e. the prime of Israel, its finest young men, mighty warriors, honoured leaders would flee as David had done, to hide in caves from the invading forces. v.16 - To shave the head was a sign of deep grief and mourning. They were to mourn because their children, whom they delighted in, had been taken from them and sent into exile in Assyria. Their family was destroyed - they didn’t go into exile together - their children were taken from them, never to be seen again. Read Message. Deep distress would overtake them because יהוה’s hand of judgement was upon them for the sin they had committed. All they have will be lost. Judah copied the idolatry of Israel, the ways of the religious – false religion, and it has entered the true church, it is a warning to us. This happened to Israel and Judah – but the message is for all the earth! It may seem unreal and far removed from us but judgement is coming and it isn’t going to be fun! Micah actually saw it – I think that we need a vision of it too – for it to strike home and shake us out of our complacency. Jesus is coming! – to judge the world in righteousness and equity.

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