Warning & Hope: The Book of Micah

33-Micah

Introduction

Are messages of hope and warning still relevant to us today? If so, what does faithful living look like? These questions are addressed in the Old Testament through the various pre-exilic prophets. One such Prophet was Micah, who warned Israel and Samaria of its crimes and corruption just before the fall of Samaria sometime around 721 B.C. “His name is an abbreviation of Mîkāyāhû “who is like Yahweh?”[1] This meaning most likely symbolizes YHWH’s incomparability rather than Micah’s godliness.[2] It is through Micah’s warnings of doom and messages of hope that parallel the relevance of this book to the modern society of today.

Warning

The book of Micah conveys admonishments toward the people of Israel and Samaria for impending doom if they refused to obey YHWH’s Law of faithful living. “The major role of the pre-exilic prophets was to give a negative critique of conditions in the nation and to announce the judgment that must follow.”[3] He warns the people of that time to live according to the will of God and walk humbly with his loving kindness and doing justice to one another.

To properly understand the warnings of Micah it is important to understand the context of Micah and his surroundings. What little we know about this prophet is that he was most likely a farmer or landowner of the common people. He lived outside of Judah and represented those members of society currently undervalued by the Jerusalemites. “The intended readers of the book were, however, Jerusalemites.”[4] This is important to understand that Micah was speaking for YHWH on behalf of the downtrodden, whom he knew intimately. Esteban Voth writes:

As such, this man represented the voice of a sector battered by the government of Israel settled in the city of Jerusalem. It was the voice of farmers marginalized by the power that was concentrated in an urban center. It is essential, then, to understand the prophet Micah in his social context and reality. Micah lived in a time in history when the powerful who were in the urban centers systematically usurped the well-being of small farmers.[5]

His warnings echoed the plight of those people the powerful were neglecting.

During the reign of King Solomon, he had centralized the government in Jerusalem and rooted out the tribalism founded by Moses, this gave way to huge bureaucracies that favored the powerful and overlooked the poor and impoverished. Here is where Micah’s warnings had such sound theological doctrine. “That is, Micah wants people to note the profound reality of injustice legitimized and practiced by the powerful.”[6]

This corruption of the powerful was still relying on spirituality and pious behavior while ignoring the call to live justly with all of God’s people. They had forgotten what God requires of his covenantal relationship with his people: “acts of compassionate kindness and fidelity, directed to others, and a faithful and obedient walk of life, directed towards God.”[7] Once again God would punish those living in defiance of his covenant, as he had done before.

 Hope

Micah also gives courage to those who stay faithful to YHWH. “The double note of judgment and hope gives Micah its basic structure.”[8] This book is balanced with its messages of confidence to anyone that chooses to love kindness and love justice while walking humbly with their God.  The book gives messages of how God will prevail and how those who are faithful to his word will endure and stay within his grace. The book ends on hope, hope for those who are steadfast on the path laid for us by the law of God to love one another. This faith of fidelity is required for God’s relationship with us as we walk along that path. Brueggeman writes; “Thus the great triad of Micah reflects the path of life—required by God of Israel and of Adam—in terms of the other on the path with us who precludes our traveling alone in arrogance or in despair.”[9]

Modern Day Relativity

Much like the powerful Jerusalemites, this world is run by the powerful oligarchy that controls the government and the banks.  These oligarchs need to be checked and warned of their stronghold on the future of humanity. This is the bidding of today’s church, to hold people in power accountable for people who are trampled upon. It is the duty of the Church to not only serve the community but challenge those living outside of the faith, either by academic prose or in defense of it.

In addition, hope and warning are still relative today as it was thousands of years ago. However, I would argue that in today’s modern religiosity, hope seems to be all the Church is selling these days. Moral admonishment has been maligned as a four-letter word and cut from most mainstream sermons. Pastors preach the hope and shy from admonishment in fear that parishioners might be offended or leave. Good biblical doctrine seems to be replaced with spirituality and feels good theology. “We live in a society which defines spirituality in many different ways. Some define spirituality as inspiring worship, as the Judeans of Micah’s day did.”[10] The political correctness environment has saturated society with such poison that it bleeds into our pulpits. This is why the prosperity gospel and your best life now messages are popular. People hunger for hope but are stridently against criticism.

Warning without the hope is an empty message and lacks good biblical theology. We see this all throughout the Bible. Truth has a consequence and to live accordingly, faithful life is that of living set apart from the outside world and walking with the Lord.  God still requires fidelity and faith in him and his system of salvation. That system requires a life lived out in sacrifice; not ritual sacrifices dealt with in ancient times but sacrificial living. Faithful living is sacrificial living. It is living your life in service of others. Micah and other pre-exilic prophets espoused this same very principle.

Conclusion

The prophet Micah engages ours wants alongside the will of God. It pits the truth of our desires. It is at this crossroad that we meet our Lord in his divine judgment for our life. As believers, we have chosen a different path than the rest of humanity and it is for that choice that we are exhorted to forgo world dominance and conform to God’s definition of justice. “After and alongside the Jewish people that same ‘choosing God’ has, in Christian confession, placed a secondary promissory people in history that, at its best, also refuses every accommodation to the ways of the world.”[11] We choose the faithful life of being set apart from the powers that be who exploit the needy and serve the people of the world who seek out his glory.

Bibliography

Berlin, Adele, Marc Zvi. Brettler, Michael A. Fishbane, and Bernard M. Levinson. The Jewish Study Bible: Advance Reader’s Copy, Uncorrected Sample Pages. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Brueggemann, Walter. Old Testament Theology: an Introduction. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008.

Brueggemann, Walter. “Walk Humbly with Your God. Micah 6:8.” Journal for Preachers (2010): 14–19.

LaSor, William Sanford., David Allan. Hubbard, and Frederic William. Bush. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.

Mitchell, Eric A. “Micah – The Man and His Times.” Southwestern Journal of Theology (n.d.): 57–76.

Shipp, R. Mark. “True Religion and Undefiled: Spirituality in Micah and James.” Christian Studies Journal 20 (n.d.): 23–27.

Voth, Esteban. “What Does God Expect of Us? Micah 6–7.” Review & Expositor 108, no. 2 (2011): 299–306.

Footnotes:

[1] William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 270–271.

[2] Eric A. Mitchell, “Micah – The Man and His Times,” Southwestern Journal of Theology (n.d.): 57-76.

[3] William Sanford La Sor, Old Testament Survey, 272.

[4] Ehud Ben Zvi, “Micah: Introduction and Annotations (מיכה),” in The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1205.

[5] Esteban Voth, “What Does God Expect of Us? Micah 6–7,” Review & Expositor 108, no. 2 (2011): 299-306.

[6] Ibid.

[7] R. Mark Shipp, “True Religion and Undefiled: Spirituality in Micah and James,” Christian Studies Journal 20 (n.d.): 23-27.

[8] William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 272.

[9] Walter Brueggemann, “Walk Humbly with Your God. Micah 6:8,” Journal for Preachers (2010): 14-19.

[10]  R. Mark Shipp, “True Religion and Undefiled: Spirituality in Micah and James,” Christian Studies Journal 20 (n.d.): 23-27.

[11] Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Theology: an Introduction (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008), page not available.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s