Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” 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. - Micah 3:9-12 (ESV)

Micah was a prophet in the 8th to 7th centuries before Christ during the time of the kings when Assyria took Samaria, and Jerusalem was threatened, as described in 2 Kings 15-18. Micah lived during a time of great tragedy and upheaval in Israel due to their sin and the mighty nation of Assyria.

The text says that the people of Israel will experience great punishment from God because of their sin, especially the governmental and religious leaders who do not serve the people but use and abuse them instead. However, Yahweh's character and promises haven't changed, so he will again exalt his people, and many nations will not prevail against them.

The Big Idea of Micah

I have taught the big idea of Micah as the following: Yahweh disciplines his people for righteousness’ sake. Micah addresses the concern of the people's sin and what God will do. Micah is at pains to make clear the sinful nature of the people's behavior, especially the governmental and religious leaders. But Micah also clarifies that Yahweh is good and will pardon transgression and that God's people will have peace. Readers today share the same responsibility before God for their sin as these people, and their guilt is also proportional to their responsibility. All sin is punished in one way or another. But Yahweh's promises are also fulfilled, and we can see more how he does so in the person and work of Christ.

An Outline of Micah

Chapter 1: Destruction Decreed

Micah’s opening chapter pictures Yahweh rousing himself and coming down to the earth from His holy temple. Yahweh is coming in judgment due to Israel’s sin, especially idolatry. Lamentation and mourning are appropriate as a result.

Chapters 2-3: Unjust Leadership

Micah continues to explain and describe the people’s sin and the causes of Yahweh’s judgment in chapters 2-3. Chapter two opens by describing how those in power in Israel make an evil plan at night and perform it the next day because they can. Even so, the people do not expect disgrace to overtake them. Yahweh reproves the people for not knowing justice in chapter three. Instead of loving good, they love evil. As a result, Yahweh will not answer them when they call. Yahweh then turns to the prophets who prophesy good or ill according to what serves them best. But Micah is different; he is a faithful prophet who declares Israel’s sin. Yahweh will raze Jerusalem for her evil.

Chapters 4-5: Hope for Israel

Chapters four and five focus on providing hope for Israel. Despite all that is happening, Yahweh will accomplish his promises, and the nations will come to Israel for instructions on following Yahweh. Yahweh will restore Israel even if, for now, many countries are arrayed against her due to her sin. One day, all those nations that rebelled against God will be defeated and destroyed, especially Assyria, which is the nation currently threatening Israel.

Chapter 6: Israel Indicted

In chapter six, Yahweh indicts Israel for her sin, making clear that Yahweh had done nothing against Israel to warrant her unfaithfulness to him. Yahweh’s requirements are, at the bottom, simple: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. But the people are idolatrous and wicked, and therefore Yahweh will bring disaster upon them and frustrate their desires. 

Chapter 7: Israel Vindicated

The seventh chapter of Micah begins with a lament about the lack of righteous and godly people in the world. No one can be trusted; even family members turn against one another. But Micah turns in defiance of his enemy and declares his hope that, even though he has sinned, Yahweh will ultimately save him. Those who questioned Yahweh’s power and support will be put to shame. One day, Israel will be restored beyond the current borders and will grow in power. Other nations will be in dread of Israel. Micah concludes with a burst of praise to Yahweh for his unique righteousness and mercy. Though Israel has sinned, Yahweh will trample even their sins and show his steadfast love to Israel as he promised to Abraham.

Benefits of Micah

The Book of Micah can stand as a warning to all who believe they can sin with impunity, that is, those who think they have the liberty to do what they want, how they want, because they want, with no further justification. Yahweh declares woe upon those who plan evil in bed and do it in the morning just because they can. It is easy to conclude that we will not be judged for our wickedness because it has not yet happened. There is a kind of blindness to what has happened to former generations. We were not there, so it never occurred to us. God seems either absent or indifferent in the ten, forty, or seventy years I have been alive. However, the fact that judgment is not occurring now does not mean it will not happen later. Yahweh sees our sin. He knows.

Micah’s focus on the ungodly and corrupt leadership of Israel is worth noting. Micah is a terror to all those leaders who use and abuse their leadership for their good and not for the sake of their people. Micah’s third chapter reminds all in leadership that they should hate evil and love good, and woe to them if they hate good and love evil. Leaders must know justice and not injustice. 

This leads to the final observation that Yahweh promises to cover his people’s iniquities and restore their fortunes. Micah begs the question of how Yahweh will do this. It is clearer moving forward that Jesus Christ is the lynchpin to the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. He is the ruler who comes from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6). He is the one through whom all Israel’s sins may be cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 5:19). He does this by taking our sins upon his shoulders on the cross and paying for them himself (1 Peter 2:24). Our sins are not merely overlooked; they are paid in full by God himself.

Micah reminds us of God’s sovereign power to judge and have mercy. God is God, and we are not. God sees our sin, and we must reckon with it. Will we continue in it and face God’s judgment, or will we turn to the ruler who has come and will come again to deal with all sin? Forgiveness and redemption may only be had through Christ. If we look elsewhere, we will find no one like him (Micah 7:18). 

On Micah and Living for God Through Christ