Nahum 1 has the prophet delivering “An oracle concerning Nineveh”. Nineveh was an ancient, famous city. It was founded by the first world dictator, Nimrod. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was the city that heard the preaching of Jonah a hundred years before and repented. Nahum addresses a city that has slipped back into sin, and is again ripe for judgment. Jonah may have made Ninevah famous with his preaching there, but now they are famous for a different reason – their choice to forget all Jonah taught and return to their old sinful ways.
The prophecy of Nahum shows us that God not only deals with individuals as individuals, He also deals with nations as nations. Nations will be held to account by God. We all have personal accountability before God, but there is also a larger accountability we may face. “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty”. Sin carries a price, and Nahum makes it clear than Ninevah is going to face judgment for what they have done. God gives us a chance to repent and make things right, but when we don’t, we will pay the price.
When God is resisted long enough and rejected strongly enough, eventually His judgment comes. He is slow to anger, but when it does come His fury is poured out like fire. Understanding this should make every man quick to repent and understanding that they can go beyond God’s patience. “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger”? It’s a rhetorical question. None of us can withstand God’s judgment. We can’t work our way around His anger. We will pay for sin.
But as is always the case, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him”. God is a God of restoration. He wants us to come back to Him and deal with our sin. That means we confess and repent, and then believe in the grace He offers freely through the shed blood of Christ on the cross. The judgment of sin will be our worst nightmare. But we don’t have to stand before God and face that music. We can be set free from the penalty by receiving the gift of grace God provided through Christ. Ninevah wasn’t getting it this time, but we can experience God’s grace by simply believing!
Micah 7 has the prophet confessing the sin of God’s people and defining the state of things. “Woe is me”! He is talking about how dismal things are, and how God’s ways have been left behind. “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind”. Things are bad, and going to get worse. Sin carries a price and Micah knows what lies ahead. Yet even in the midst of a very bad situation, Micah knows that God is a God of restoration if His people just figure out what they should do.
He makes the path to restoration clear. “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me”. There was no where else to look as everyone else around him was corrupt and living a life of sin separated from God. So Micah points to the One who never leaves nor forsakes us, who is always there ready to welcome us back if we’ll only confess and repent of our sin. God is our only hope, and we need to not only call to Him, but run to Him. He alone will save us.
Of course, all around are those just waiting for us to fall. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me”. Micah speaks for those brought low by personal sin and the sin of the community. Sin takes us down. It carries a price and separates us from God. But Micah warns enemies to not rejoice over their condition because the Lord will be a light to me. You see me brought low now, but you should know that it isn’t for long. God will lift me up.
“I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication”. Speaking for the sinful people, Micah steps up and takes responsibility for their sin. He knows that they have sinned, and so he accepts God’s correction. Micah knows that God’s people will stay in their low place until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. They are totally abandoned unto God’s care. That’s our reality. We are sinners. We will be judged. If we have the shed blood of Christ to cover our sins, we’ll be saved. If not, we’ll face judgment for our sin. It’s an easy choice – Jesus or eternal separation. But we have to choose!
Micah 6 has the prophet putting God’s people on trial. Micah pictures a court of law, with Israel trying to defend themselves before the Lord. They are facing the testimony of unshakable witnesses (the mountains and the foundations of the earth), the court comes to order. They are standing before the judge who reminds them of the history of their relationship. “I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam”.
God reminds His people of the redemption He did for them when He saved them from slavery in Egypt. They quickly forgot His faithfulness, and the freedom He gave them to enter the Promised Land. He provided leaders to take them from a place of slavery to a place of freedom and plenty. But they quickly forgot and followed false gods and prophets. How can that happen? They see God lead them faithfully for 40 years and give them all they could ever want in the Promised Land, yet they turn their eyes to idols and other gods and fall into “the sin of my soul”.
God’s desire and expectations are pretty simple. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”? God has shown them clearly what is good and what is required, yet they ignore that and chase after other things. It’s three simple things:
- Do justly: Act in a just, fair way towards others. Treat them they way you want to be treated.
- Love mercy: Don’t just show mercy, but love to show it. Give others the same measure of mercy you want to receive from the Me.
- Walk humbly with your God: Remember who I am – your God. If you keep that in mind, you will walk humbly before Me.
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on how to walk humbly with God:
- Walk humbly when you are spiritually strong
- Walk humbly when you have much work to do
- Walk humbly in all your motives
- Walk humbly studying God’s word
- Walk humbly when under trials
- Walk humbly in your devotions
- Walk humbly between you and your brothers in Christ
- Walk humbly when dealing with sinners
It’s not difficult, it is a choice!
But God’s people don’t do those three simple things. They insist on doing things their own way. And as a result, Micah makes it clear what lies ahead. “Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins”. Sin always carries a price, and it costs more than we want to pay. Sin is always a choice. God will deal with it. We have to learn to walk with Him and do the three things Micah instructs!
Micah 5 has our prophet looking much further into the future with this chapter’s prophecies. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days”. Bethlehem is well known as the hometown of David who was Israel’s greatest king, but it never rose to become a great city. That is, until God chose it as the birthplace of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
This verse gets quoted by the chief priests when Herod was asking about the birth of the Messiah in Matthew 2. It became the place where God poured His grace out on us as He sent His only Son to earth to be born in a stable to become the Messiah and our Savior. Micah reminds us that while Christ was born as a baby in Bethlehem, His life did not begin there. He came forth from ‘old, from ancient days’. Jesus has always been, as part of the Trinity. His time on earth was God’s plan to save us from our sin and provide grace so we can spend eternity with Him.
God’s story of redemption continues as Micah talks about what is to come. “The rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God”. Micah’s prophecy is about the reality that God’s people would be captured and spread, but in that day, they will be restored gloriously and Christ will stand as their protector and shepherd. God will be glorified and made majestic as His prophecy is fulfilled through the coming Messiah.
But before that day, things will be difficult. “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord”. They will be scattered everywhere. They will have fallen prey to the evil of the world around them, and God will come and restore them to Himself, cutting off all the idolatries that Israel has indulged in. “I will cut off….your horses….the cities of your land….sorceries….carved images”. God is going to clean things up before he redeems His people. God expects obedience from all, and will punish those who do not obey. “And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey”. God has a plan. It is in motion. We need to line up with His Word and walk in obedience today!
Micah 4 has the prophet giving us a glimpse of the future, in the latter days. He talks of the ultimate establishment of Jerusalem, where God will rebuild and draw His people, restored and redeemed, back there. Isaiah has a similar word on this in Isaiah 2:1-3. It doesn’t matter what people have done through their bad choices and ultimate sinning, God has a plan to restore and bring all His people back. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths”.
The purpose of getting back to God’s presence is to learn how to live. God’s given us His Word to guide us until this day, but when it comes, we’ll be able to sit at His feet and hear His truth directly. Our object as a Christ follower should be to “walk in His path”. And the Bible is our roadmap to doing exactly that. God’s going to also take away the need for swords and spears – world peace will come as Christ becomes the new ruler on this planet. “He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”.
Can you envision this day – a day when God has taken control and put Christ on the throne and turned the world as we know it upside down. Guzik points out four freedoms that Micah proclaims are coming:
- Freedom from ignorance (He will teach us His ways)
- Freedom from war (Neither shall they learn war anymore)
- Freedom from want (everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree)
- Freedom from fear (no one shall make them afraid)
We will all be free, and safe, because the Messiah will be on the throne and over all. “We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever”. How cool is that picture?
But Micah shares the pain that has to happen before that day comes. “You shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies”. Before God can save His people, they have to be captured and taken away. He can’t redeem them until they are captured. And the world will be against God’s people (which we see every day) and will be set on their destruction. But God is faithful. He will do as He has purposed. Others will never understand His plan, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. “But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that He has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor”. God’s going to come again. He has a plan that He will execute to bring His own to Himself. Look forward to that day!
Micah 3 has the prophet wailing against the princes and prophets who were leading the people of Israel astray. Micah has been talking to all God’s people prior to this chapter, but now he puts the leaders right in his sights. Leaders have a special responsibility and accountability in God’s eyes. They are held to a different standard. And God wants them to understand what’s coming because of their leadership – bad as it was. “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray….it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination”.
Let’s face it – a prophet without any vision or any word from God is pretty much out of business. However these false prophets haven’t been listening or following God’s leading anyway. They have been pretenders for the most part, and Micah is calling them out. “The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them….for there is no answer from God”. God is going to reveal their false and lying ways to His people. They will be in complete confusion and fall into disrepute. No more playing prophet for these guys.
Micah knows he is different. “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin”. He knew that his power was not his own, but from the Spirit of the Lord. God was equipping him as a prophet – it wasn’t anything he was doing in his own strength. The same is true for us today. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we’re just treading water and peddling on our own without getting anywhere. God is our source of truth and strength.
Micah gets detailed about why the leaders of the day were off course: “Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money”. These leaders were corrupt and only concerned about using their power and position for their own good. God’s not going to let this slide. He holds leaders to a higher standard. Micah was effective in what he shared. He makes clear what is to come if some repentance and change didn’t happen. “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height”. The picture of the future was clear without some significant repentance and change of the leadership.
Micah 2 has the prophet continuing to call out those who are guilty of sin. “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand”. Micah is direct with those who are taking advantage of others because of their power and planning. This evil didn’t just happen – it was premeditated and intentional. And it was possible because of the power that these folks had. They were able to take things away because of their power and position. With that, God also expects accountability and obedience.
Sin is sin in every way. But there are different kinds of sin that we commit. Some sin is done with intention – a sin of commission, while others may be done because we fail to do something we are commanded or expected – a sin of omission. They are equal in God’s eyes when it comes to judgment as we are falling short of the mark. Another way to consider sin is that it may fall into one of four types (not different in it’s outcome, but helpful in us realizing just how broad sin really is – anytime we miss the mark of God’s expectation and commands we sin – and every sin carries a cost before God)
One way to look at types of sin is this:
- Sins of attitude – scripture calls out pride, envy, anger, malice and others
- Sins of action – things we do that violate God’s commands and laws
- Sins of neglect – failure to do things we know God has commanded us to do
- Sins of intent – things we commit in our head or heart but don’t follow through
Sin can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be executed to be a sin. In this case though, Micah makes it clear that these leaders are sinning and they won’t skate free. “You cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily for it will be a time of disaster”. God sees all we do. He will deal with the sin of our life through judgment some day. Micah warns them that their day is coming.
But as we find about God in every case, He is a God of restoration. “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold”. God is going to deal with sin. His nature demands that. But even though His people were guilty of all kinds of sin, and it was bad, God never gives up on them. The reality is that we cannot ‘out-sin’ God’s grace and love. No matter what we do, He is always ready to bring us to Himself and restore us. His love covers all things. We can be forgiven and set free from the penalty of sin. That’s why Jesus came to earth – to die for our sin and give us the opportunity of eternal life with God. We have to confess, repent and receive – but the offer is there for our taking!