The Word of the Lord through Micah

Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple” (v. 2).

- Micah 1

Micah of Moresheth is the next prophet we will consider in our chronological look at the old covenant prophets. In Micah 1:1, we read that Micah prophesied during the period encompassing the reigns of Jotham through Hezekiah in Judah. This puts the earliest date for the beginning of his career at 742 BC, when Jotham began his reign, and the latest date for the end of his career at 686 BC, when Hezekiah died. Micah, therefore, was a contemporary of Isaiah, who prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah through Hezekiah in Judah (Isa. 1:1).

Unlike some of the other prophets who spoke mainly to either the northern kingdom (Israel) or the southern kingdom (Judah), Micah ministered to both kingdoms, as seen in the references to the capital cities of each dominion—Samaria (Israel) and Jerusalem (Judah). In fact, when Micah uses the term Israel, he typically uses it for the ideal united kingdom, expressing the hope in his time that the people of God would be reunited once more. During Micah’s career, both the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom were in sharp decline. Assyria was on the move against both north and south, occupying much of the north by 732 BC (2 Kings 15:29) and conquering Samaria in 722 BC (17:6), carrying the Israelites into exile. Judah was routinely emptying its treasury in an attempt to buy safety from Assyria (16:5–9; 18:13–16), and Jerusalem was nearly conquered by the pagan empire (18:13–19:37).

Micah famously denounces crooked leaders for oppressing the poor and middle class, and for perverting justice (2:1–4; 3:1–2; 6:9–16). This breach of ethics, like all others, was rooted in false worship, which Micah addresses in today’s passage. Micah 1:2–4 pictures the Lord coming forth to do battle, which was good news for His people when they faced their enemies (2 Chron. 32:8; Zech. 14). According to Micah, however, eighth-century- BC Israel and Judah were the enemies of God because of their high places and carved images (Mic. 1:5–7). The prophet is speaking of the idolatry of the people.

A key part of ancient Near Eastern idolatry was cultic prostitution, which raised significant revenue for the northern kingdom. This inspired God’s ironic judgment on the north. Assyria would make Samaria a wasteland, taking the money Israel derived from cultic prostitution and using it to pay Assyria’s own cultic prostitutes (vv. 6–7).

Coram Deo

Scripture is clear that all sin begins with false worship (Rom. 1:18–32). Therefore, recognizing the idols and false worship behind our other sins advances our sanctification. At root, all sin manifests a desire to get what we want apart from the God who is, leading us to create all manner of idols that promise but can never satisfy. Moreover, those who persist in impenitent idolatry will feel the Lord’s wrath. Let us reject all idols and pursue ultimate satisfaction in Christ alone.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 23:17–18
1 Kings 14:21–31
Ezekiel 16:1–58
2 Cor. 6:14–18

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