American Journal of Biblical Theology
What is our hope for the future? Without pursuing research, it is probably safe to state that if one were to ask random individuals on the street about their future security, virtually all would respond with statements concerning their personal economic state. Our world culture defines its future by the patterns of the present, often applying a very short memory. A world economy that was built on greed and overvaluation of many commodities recently crashed, finding like it always does, its true value. Many people who invested in highly inflated markets found their savings dramatically reduced or completely eliminated. Many of those who borrowed investment capital have had to deal with the prospects of bankruptcy, including a huge population who took on an overwhelming debt load in order to appropriate excessive possessions, such as a large house. Frustration sets in when we define the security of our future in terms of our preparation for our own physical and financial security.
Certainly, this scenario describes many of the people of this world who place their trust in the things of this world. In a perfect world, people would place their trust in God and the eternal future He offers. Yet, even people of faith can get caught up in their own physical and financial security to the point that they experience the same fears as those without faith, giving little regard to the promises that God has made to provide for the needs of the faithful.
The Old Testament book of Micah contains a prophecy that describes the consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s rejection of their dependence upon God and their acceptance of dependence upon the possessions and authorities of this world. Like those who place their security in the vagaries of the stock market today, the early Jews placed their security in the neighbors, allying with the neighbor who they hoped would be the victors in the international intrigue that so characterized this period in history. The consequence that the Jews suffered is not unlike that which people suffer today. By stepping out of God’s hand of protection their nations were overwhelmed and destroyed by their neighbors. When the status-quo changed, they still failed to rely on God and they lost everything they had.
However, after presenting the gloomy prophecy of the fall of Israel and Judah, Micah presents a prophecy of hope as he uncovers a future that will be experienced by all people.
THE REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL
Micah 4:1. But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
In order to understand the passage we need to know what Micah meant by “last days.” This oracle is quite similar to that brought by Isaiah, not surprising since they were contemporaries and lived in villages in close proximity. The similarity of their prophecies shows a full agreement upon the part of the two prophets, quite likely the product of communication between the two. In both oracles, the “last days” is eschatological, that is, it is making a future reference to the final days of the age that is also the primary focus of the Revelation of John. In this context, the prophets are referring to the days preceding and carrying through the final judgment that separates the faithful from the wicked in eternal heaven. The community of the faithful is the New Jerusalem
A popular alternate view of this oracle, also held by the ancient Jews is that Micah and Isaiah both refer to a time when the Messiah will come to the literal nation of Israel as a military leader who will both conquer Israel’s oppressors and become the king over all the nations. This is the Messiah that the Jews saw in Jesus in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to the passion. Consequently, this view rejects Jesus as the Messiah since He died on the Cross of Calvary. His failure to defeat Rome and ascend to the rule of all of the nations disqualifies Him from the Jewish view of the Messiah.
Where we stand in our faith is everything about understanding who Jesus is. Jesus is certainly the Messiah, and fulfills all of Isaiah and Micah’s prophecies when those prophecies are understood in the context of God’s Word rather than traditional Jewish political hopes. Micah repeats the mountain motif as he notes that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established on all the mountaintops. The house of the LORD includes the LORD and all of those who have placed their trust in Him. The mountaintops are a metaphor for all of the world’s authorities, political and spiritual. There is coming a time when the truth of God’s existence and authority will be known to all, and this knowledge will eradicate the authority that people have placed in their idols, icons, and governments. God’s kingdom will become known to all, and people (contextually the community of the faithful for all ages) will be brought into it, swept up by God’s purpose and grace much like being swept up in the current of a mighty river.
Within this context it is not difficult to understand that Micah is not referring to a worldly government or a worldly nation. We shall see in verse 7 that Micah is referring to a state that will last forever. Nothing in this world will last forever, as even the world will not continue to support life forever.
Micah 4:2. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
As Micah writes, the ancient Jews share the opinion that God’s plan of salvation is for them alone. The concept that God intends upon extending His offer of grace to the Gentiles would never enter the mind of the ancient Jew. In the days that precede the judgment all nations (implying all the Gentiles) will come to the LORD, learn of His ways, and live lives of faithfulness. The New Jerusalem consists of the community of believers that includes all of the faithful for all ages, both Jews and Gentiles. God’s Word will go forth from this community. We can understand that this prophecy aptly describes the state of the Christian church today. The church is not limited by any race, creed, or nationality. With the Word of God placed in the hearts of every believer, it is being shared throughout the world in every means of communications available. The Christian church of today is a complete fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy in verse 2.
Micah 4:3. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
It is evident that the world has not yet experienced global peace. In fact, the Revelation of John makes it clear that such global peace will not come until the end of the age. Violence throughout the world will only escalate until the Rapture takes place. In verse-1 Micah defined who the body of the elect will be, in verse-2 he described the nature of the church as it approaches the perousia (second coming of Christ), and in verse-3 he is introducing us to the events surrounding that event.
The pounding of implements of war into implements of agriculture is particularly meaningful when one considers ancient Jewish culture. The Philistines had a modicum of control over areas of Judah and Israel for centuries. Their military power was due in large part to their supply of iron and their skill in working it into weapons. The kings of Philistia continually worked to limit the Jew’s access to iron. For example, scripture states that the swords of Saul and those closest to him (including Jonathan) were the only ones in Israel.
When war broke out, the Jews were forced to beat their few iron farm implements into workable weapons. Micah is making a specific reference to this practice when he prophesies the opposite: the beating of weapons into agricultural implements.
Micah 4:4. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
The phrase, “sit every man under his vine…” is idiomatic in form. Those who worked in agriculture were located outside of the protective gates of the fortified cities, exposed to raiding parties from other nations and tribes. We might be reminded of Gideon, the “mighty warrior” who threshed his grain in the winepress so that he could not be seen by passersby. The farmer’s fear was real and appropriate. Micah describes the period of peace to come in a way that the general population can understand: a time is coming when no person will live in fear any longer. Recall that the context of this passage is still referring to the state of the New Jerusalem. This promise of peace is not offered to those who reject God and persecute His people.
Micah 4:5. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
The conditional nature of this period of peace is predicated upon the faithfulness of the individual. Today, as was the case in ancient Israel and Judah, the profound majority of people on earth reject God’s offer of forgiveness that comes only from faith in Him, Jesus Christ, who is YAHWEH in the flesh. These people “walk in the name” of their gods. To “walk in the name” refers to a dedicated lifestyle, which in this case refers to one that rejects God. The grammatical form of “for ever and ever” is attached to these pagan and secular unbelievers by the contrast of the faithful who will “walk in the name” of the LORD for eternity. This states that the influence of man-created gods is temporal and will end at the end of the age when all will learn of the Lordship of Christ, as “every knee will bow.”
Micah 4:6-7. In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; 7And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
Though Micah’s contemporary Jews are living in a time of relative, but tenuous, peace and prosperity, he has already clearly prophesied that they are facing a doom beyond any of their imagining. The faithful are certainly living in fear as they witness a godless and corrupt leadership that brings them only rejection and persecution. The people of the nations will be driven out by their neighbors: Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon. The dissolution of infrastructure and their captivity will bring all manner of affliction. Yet, God promises that, even through this experience, He will preserve His small remnant of the faithful, and that remnant will be gathered together again under the protection and rule of the LORD, the Messiah, Yahweh, Jesus Christ. Mount Zion is another name for Jerusalem, and the context of these verses is clearly referring to the New Jerusalem, the only Jerusalem that is eternal, just as the Messiah is eternal.
These are words of encouragement for a persecuted people. It is probable that Micah (and Isaiah’s) contemporaries gave little thought to these words. However, the writings of Micah and Isaiah had been distributed by the time of the dissolution of the nations, so his words would bring more encouragement to later generations. Furthermore, as the faithful remnant in today’s world finds itself immersed in a sinful culture that promises only to become more violent and more ungodly, words of encouragement are sorely needed. We need to know that the evil one who drives the beast, the depravity that characterizes worldly authorities, will be eventually deposed and a time of peace is coming, a time that will last for all eternity.
THE PRESERVATION OF THE REMNANT
Micah 4:8. And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
The “stronghold of the daughter of Zion” is a reference to the smaller fortified area of Jerusalem that was protected by King David. The ancient Jews remember the reign of David as one to which they would certainly like to return. As they observe their corrupt governments, both in Israel and Judah, the romanticism of the “glory days” under King David is only a written memory. The return to Zion, the restoration of a faithful Jerusalem, is a theme that continues through Jewish history, starting only one generation after David died.
God is promising, through Micah’s prophecy, that the reign of David, a righteous and godly reign, is coming. However, note the form of restoration that Micah states. The kingdom will not come out of Israel or Judah. Rather, the godly kingdom will be brought to Israel when the LORD returns.
Micah 4:9-10. Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. 10Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.
Micah turns his questions directly to the faithful remnant (indicated by the reference to Babylon in verse-10.) There is a faithful remnant who love the LORD and seek to be obedient to Him, and Him alone. We will see examples of this remnant in the lives of Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach, Abednego, and other Judeans who will be taken captivity by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon about 150 years after Micah’s prophecy. The faithful are watching the dissolution of their nation. They are aware that their kings and leaders are corrupt and godless, chasing after the powerless and worthless things of this world. Micah likens their pain to that of a woman going through childbirth, a painful process that has a determined and overwhelmingly positive end. The culmination of that pain will be experienced when they will be led out of the city and encamped in Babylon. This is an amazing prophecy, particularly when one realizes that Assyria was the power in the region while Micah and Isaiah lived. Babylon was not yet a player in the world stage. Micah would not live to see Babylon defeat the arrogant Assyrians whose power would be diminished by the LORD Himself when its king Sennacherib would threaten Jerusalem and experience the LORD’s deliverance.
Even in the travail of the exile in Babylon, Jerusalem would be delivered. The LORD would always honor His promise to preserve the remnant. These are encouraging words for a remnant who, at this point in history, have little or no hope.
Micah 4:11-12. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. 12But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.
The foolishness and arrogance of the pagan kings of the Middle East will one day be exposed by their own defeat at the hand of the LORD. When one considers the neighbors of Israel, one finds no true allies. Since these are pagan nations, they will never fully understand the Jewish world-view. The pagan kings assumed their gods were simply serving them against a similar god of the Jews. He who was victorious in battle enjoyed the victory thinking that it came as a victory of their gods over the gods of their enemies. Consequently, when a nation as powerful as Assyria would sweep through the land, consuming all of the peoples in its path, its king fully believed that his god had defeated all of the other gods in the land. The god of the Jews was simply one more deity to be easily conquered. The Jews were not a military community and, armed with their sharpened farm implements, posed little or no military threat to any of its adversaries.
Consequently, the pagan kings were characterized by profound ignorance of who the LORD truly is, and how their imaginary gods are powerless against the one true God of the universe. They do not and can not understand God’s purpose and intent for His people, nor of God’s purpose for them both as adversaries of Israel, and as one’s doomed by their own rebellion. Micah describes a time when the pagan kings of this world, the community of all those who have rejected God, will be gathered together in a final judgment that will expose their rebellion and their folly.
Micah 4:13. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth
Micah again refers to Israel’s sharpened farm implements, the weapons of war that served poorly in battle. As powerless as the nation is, God promises to protect the remnant from its enemies. Israel will have no need for the weapons of war when God Himself serves to vindicate them.
The state of the remnant today is the same as the state of the remnant of ancient Judah: each is promised protection from the LORD against His enemies. Just as Micah’s words served to encourage ancient Jews who could find no hope when their faithfulness seemed so futile when exercised in a pagan and godless world, his words communicate the same message today. God will honor the faithfulness of the few that form the remnant. There is coming a time when all of the remnant will be gathered, and all of the godless will be separated. In that time the faithful will find vindication at the hands of the LORD, a vindication that will bring an eternal peace, while those who have rejected the hand of the LORD will find only eternal separation from Him.
How do we respond to Micah’s prophecy? The question may be more aptly stated, “are you a member of the remnant, or a member of the reprobate?” Will you be gathered with the faithful at the final judgment and find an eternity in fellowship with other believers, safe in the arms of the LORD? Or, are you trading eternal salvation for the temporary attractions of this world? Do not let another moment pass with any doubts as to your inclusion among the numbered faithful. Give your heart and life to God now, and the promise that He made to the faithful will forever include you.