The prophet Micah comes forward in the Church with no small eminence as a servant of the Lord because of several brilliant prophecies that he made concerning the Messiah. None of the prophets except Micah had the honor of telling Jehovah’s people the very memorable and honored spot where the Christ-Child would be born. Indeed, we are highly indebted to Micah for many blessed testimonies concerning the Lord Jesus; and these are like the spangled stars of the firmament – shining here and there in several parts of his prophecy. He was nearly a contemporary with the prophet Isaiah; for he lived and ministered during the reigns of Judah’s kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Around this time, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was still intact; but the Northern Kingdom of Israel was about to suffer the shock of the fall of their capital city, Samaria.
Micah was an inhabitant of the village of Moresheth, which lay near to Gath, close to the Philistine border. This region was a range of low hills which lay between the hill country of Judah and the Philistine coastal-plain. From his own hometown, situated about 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level, Micah would have enjoyed a great view across the undulating plain with its towns and fortresses. The valley-outlet near which Moresheth stands has always formed the southwestern gateway of Judea, with its outpost at Lachish – 12 miles across the plain. Roads converge upon this valley-outlet from all points of the compass. If you had visited this place at any point during the long history of ancient times, you would have found it either full of travelers or the center of a military campaign. King Asa of Judah defeated the Ethiopians here. The Maccabees and John Hyrcanus contested the village of Mareshah, two miles (3.2 km) away, with the Idumeans. Vespasian and Saladin both deemed the occupation of the valley necessary before they marched upon Jerusalem. Most of the early pilgrims from Jerusalem to Egypt passed through this place, and it was a center of crusading operations during the Third Crusade. And Moresheth was no different in the time of the prophet Micah. He would have seen, passing by his home, the frequent embassies which went down to Egypt from Hezekiah’s court; and surely he would have also seen the Egyptians coming through, in whom his foolish countrymen put their trust instead of in their God.
As Micah stood upon the border of his nation, which would soon bear the brunt of the invasion that its crimes were attracting, he lifted up his voice. These were days of great excitement. The words of Amos and Hosea were being fulfilled upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And would Judah be able to escape, whose injustice and impurity were as flagrant as her sister’s? It was vain to think so. The Lord’s controversy was not closed. And so Micah summons the whole earth to hear the old indictment and the still-unexhausted sentence. He reiterates that Israel and her capital city of Samaria were in the very process of falling before the Lord’s judgments because of their sins (verses 5-7); and he also mourns and laments for his own countrymen, for they were in danger of suffering the same fate (verses 8-9). He is overwhelmed with the thought of Jerusalem’s peril. He was full of wrath at the danger into which the politicians of Judah had dragged the whole country, and he profoundly mourns the peril of the capital city – “the gate of my people,” as he fondly calls her.
Nevertheless, Micah’s heart clings most closely to his own home; and so he prophetically anticipates invasion by gateway of the land, close to his own village. His elegy in verses 10-16 sweeps across the landscape so dear to him. We can picture him upon his housetop, pouring forth these words before the hills and the far-stretching heathen land. In the name of every village within sight, he reads a symbol of the curse that is coming upon his country, and of the sins that have earned that curse. It was a terrible fate indeed which faced these towns of Judah. And in the next chapter, Micah also declares the sins for which this doom would be sent upon them.
What may we learn from this chapter? Here we see how the earth is called upon, with all people who are therein, to hear the prophet who speaks the Word of the Lord. We see that even Jerusalem – the place of God’s holy house – will not protect those who profess to be believers but are not. Neither persons of high degree (like mountains) nor persons of low degree (like valleys) can secure themselves or their homeland from the judgments of Jehovah. If unrepented sin is found among God’s people, He will not spare them; indeed, their sins – above those of all other people – are most provoking to Him. The vices of leaders and rulers, in particular, shall be surely and sorely punished.
In the latter portion of this chapter, the prophet laments that the case of his countrymen is desperate; but he forbids it to be declared in the Philistine city of Gath, because doing so would be a cause of gratification to the enemies of God’s people. All the places mentioned in these verses would share in this mourning. The names of the villages themselves have meanings which pointed out the miseries coming upon them; and thereby, Micah endeavored to awaken his countrymen to a holy fear of Divine wrath. This was so that they might be driven to repent and seek the Lord – which we also ought to take care and do; for all refuges other than Jesus Christ will only prove to be disappointing refuges of lies to those who trust in them.
Thank You, Lord, for sending Your Holy Spirit to show us our misery and ruin outside of Jesus, so that thereby He may be endeared to our hearts! Amen.
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illustration by William A. Foster, 1891 | Wikimedia Commons