Micah 7:7-20.
 
Encouragement in Tough Times

American Journal of Biblical Theology
Copyright 2009, J.W. Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


How often do we stop to praise God for what He has done in our lives.  Often we focus our attention on everything that is wrong with life, both within our own spirit and without, and come away discouraged.  One only needs to watch the news media, bent on selling advertising through sensational reporting, to come away wondering if the world is falling apart.  If our news comes out of any city, it is filled with reports of murders and incidents of catastrophic loss.  We may be led to focus upon the problems that touch our own lives such as issues of ill health, broken or strained relationships, financial difficulties, or even the guilt that may be driven by the acknowledgment of personal sin.  It is quite easy to get into a "woe-is-me" mentality that can even ask with a sincere heart, "where is God when I need Him?"

This study looks at the last verses of the prophesy of Micah, a message from the LORD that comes at a time when the nations were experiencing great peril and loss.  The prophet, Micah, is a contemporary of Isaiah.  Where Isaiah focused much of his prophesy on the doomed northern nation of Israel, Micah placed more of his emphasis on the southern nation of Judah.  Micah was born in southern Judah near the Philistine capital of Gath.  Micah's prophesy is a balanced presentation of the graphic exposure of Judah's (and Israel's) sin and words of encouragement as he describes God's plan of redemption for those who have wandered so far from Him.  . 

Micah 7:7.

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

Salvation?  From what?  What are we waiting for?  The state of Israel and Judah at this time is rather desperate.  They have continually immersed themselves in secular culture to the point that they have left the worship of God, replacing a love for Him with a love for this world and a religion of rites and rules rather than faith.  Micah preached during Hezekiah's reign (Jer. 26:18 ff.)  Hezekiah followed the tumultuous reign of Ahaz.  Pekah the king of Israel and Rezin the king of Syria wanted Judah to join together in their stand against the overpowering and threatening nation of Assyria.  However, recognizing the power of Assyria, Ahaz created an alliance with Assyria.  Ahaz looted the treasury of the Jerusalem temple to be used as tribute to Tiglath-pileser III, the king of Assyria.  Israel had already adopted the pagan religious practices of Assyria, and would soon be annihilated by the Assyrian nation.  By leaving their faith in God, they removed themselves from God's promise of protection, and after turning to the nations for their security, they were swept up by them.

Ahaz also led Judah into pagan worship practices following the reign of several Kings who sought to return Judah to the worship of God, Uzziah and Jotham.  However, the lack of faithful leadership plunged Judah into the same apostasy that brought the destruction of Israel.  Hezekiah sought to return the nation to the Lord, but the people were simply not interested.  He was successful in cleansing the temple of pagan influence, and bringing the Jerusalem Jews out of overt paganism.  However, he was not successful in returning the nation itself to God.  Hezekiah witnessed the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem by Assyrian king Sennecherib, and God's deliverance from that impending disaster.  He was the last of the godly Judean kings, and his successors not only brought the nation to apostasy but persecuted the line of David in an attempt to destroy it.  Having turned so far from faith, with allegiances with warring nations instead of faith in God, Judah was swept up by Babylon.  However, God did protect the faithful remnant when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah captive prior to the utter destruction of their nation.

The faithful of Judah are certainly aware of the apostasy of their king, their religious leaders, and their nation.  They fear the power of Assyria to destroy their defenseless nation.  Micah's premise is simple:  those who have faith in God will wait upon Him for their deliverance, and if they maintain their trust in Him, He will be faithful to His promise to protect them.  God proved the faithfulness of this promise many times when the people would repent from their apostasy and turn back to Him. 

Micah 7:8.

Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.

Judah is about to fall.  The religious leaders think themselves impervious to disaster because of the presence of the LORD in the temple.  However, we see in Ezekiel's prophesy that the Glory of God departed the temple following the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and during the period of the exile of its people.  What is the response to the faithful during these times of disaster?  The Jews never stopped attempting to rebel against their overwhelming adversary, and that continued rebellion resulted in their utter destruction.  The faithful recognizes that God is the true authority and power.  God is light in the darkness of the powers of this sinful world.  As long as we make alliances with darkness, darkness will overrun us, as was the case for both Israel and Judah.  The faithful have the resource of the LORD in such times of depression.  He is the light, He is the power that will bring ultimate solution to the circumstances that would seem to overpower us. 

When one looks at the state of the Jewish remnant during the exile, we find that the Babylonian king kept them together rather than dispersing them as the Assyrians had done to Israel.  Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Persian kings had no animosity against what was now a Jewish enclave.  Nehemiah was a member of that enclave and rose to one of the more important positions under Persian king Cyrus.

In the depth of the worst moment in Jewish history, God was still true to His promise to protect those who placed their faith and trust in Him.  Cyrus would later assist Nehemiah in leading the Jewish community back to Jerusalem and provided assistance in the rebuilding of that city.  We may see this as a metaphor for the assurance of God's promise to all faithful today.  This world is just as ungodly and secular as that which the faithful of Judah found themselves.  God's promise to provide them protection as He returns them home should not fall on deaf ears.  God does not change, and His promise does not change.  God will still provide for the faithful, and He has promised to preserve their home and bring them to it.

When the Babylonians defeated Jerusalem they also fully believed that they had defeated Jerusalem's God.  Ancient eastern cultures thought they were embattling among territorial gods, as each subculture developed its own system of religion.  The "God is dead" philosophy did not end with the Babylonians, and its practice is alive and well today.  The secular world has no respect for God and those who are faithful to Him.  The faithful are sitting in that world of darkness, understanding that only the LORD is light, and His light is sufficient to attain His purposes in their lives.

Micah 7:9.

I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.

The precarious state of Judah and Israel was brought upon themselves by their own sin.  Those who reject God are blinded to this truth, ready to blame someone else for the state of their circumstances.  However, the faithful understand that sin does not pass without consequence.  We bear physical pain as a consequence of years of abuse of our body with drugs, alcohol, or any other myriad of excesses.  We bear emotional pain from the circumstances following the destruction of relationships with others.  Those sins that destroy the quality of our own lives stand between use and the LORD as we are viewed by Him as unrighteous sinners.  However, God is always true to His original promise.  Though we have sinned, God has promised to forgive the sins of those who place their faith and trust in Him, and in Him alone.  Though we experience the consequence of our sin, and we are responsible for those sins, God has promised that the faithful will not be condemned for them.  The faithful will stand before His judgment in a state of righteousness, a state that can be obtained no other way but through His grace.  We cannot plead our own case.  We cannot bribe the Judge.  We can only trust in His mercy and His promise to be true to what He has told us in His word. 

Using the metaphor of a trial, Micah is speaking to those who will witness the destruction of Judah and gloat over their demise.  Christians do become swept up by the consequences of worldly sins, committed both by themselves and others.  It is easy for the secular to gloat over the downtrodden Christian.  Just as the thief on the Cross shouted to the crucified Christ, the world shouts at the Christian who has fallen.  However, when the secular falls, he hits the ground.  When the Christian falls, he falls into the arms of the LORD.  The righteousness of the secular does not exist.  The righteousness of the Christian will be defended by God Himself.  Note that the faithful are accepting the responsibility for their sin, and trusting God's promised judgment.  They are not making excuses, but rather just trusting in God.

Every Christian finds him/herself in this state.  All people sin every day, whether they are secular or faithful.  However, a large part of faithfulness is faithfulness to God as LORD, as the supreme authority of life, and the authority over behavior.  Consequently, the faithful seek to be obedient, so the frequency and depth of the sinful activity in one's life should lessen as one's trust in God increases.  A faithful life will be less characterized by sin as one matures in the LORD, but that sin is still there, and sin separates one from God.  It is only by God's grace that He determined that sin would no longer stand as a barrier between Himself and those who place their faith and trust in Him.  This state of righteousness is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone could stand in pride for what they have done (Eph. 2:9).

Micah 7:10-13.

Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets. 11In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed. 12In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain. 13Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
 

Micah writes at a time in history prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, yet his prophesy refers to the restoration of the people of Judah to their land, an event that was more than 100 years in the future.  The secular Jews do not have any idea that they are in true peril, thinking that the presence of God in the temple will always provide deliverance.  Their trust is in the temple and their heritage, not in the LORD.   Jerusalem will fall, and those who watch will gloat over it, deriding their God.  However, God will deliver them.  The walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt (vs. 11).  Speaking of the return of the Jews following the exile, Micah reveals a curious condition of that return.  Not only will the New Jerusalem be populated by faithful Jews, but its family will include people from every corner of the world.  The faithful will come from those who were enemies of the Jews (Assyria and the fortified cities).  We can see how the New Jerusalem is simply the body of those who have placed their trust in God, and that body will find its members coming from every nation, not solely from Israel as the Jewish orthodoxy had (and still) assume.  The allusion to modern Christianity is clear.  It would be only after Jesus came to bring the clear gospel of God, and until He paid the penalty for sin, was the good news of God's grace clearly made evident to the whole world.   Non-Jews were able to become members of the Jewish community prior to the period of Jesus ministry through profession in God and a promise to follow Jewish religious law and practice.  However, these alien members would never be able to own land, or be considered part of the "True Israel", those in the lineage of Abraham.  Those who come to faith in God now are free to come from every land and circumstance, and each has an equal share in the kingdom.  There is no ranking at the foot of the Cross where Jesus died to give life to those who trust in Him.  Whether one was an enemy of the LORD, or an enemy of the faithful, when one turns to Him in faith, one finds complete forgiveness.  Those who were scoffing will see a changed life.  At the eternal judgment (Rev. 20) those who scoffed will find their "land" to be "desolate" as a fruit of their faithlessness, when they find that the LORD is LORD indeed, and they have chosen to rebel against the true LORD. 

Micah 7:14-17.

Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old. 15According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvelous things. 16The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf. 17They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.

The faithful are looking upon an ugly and dark world.  Their state is not unlike the state of the first-century Christian church during the time of the writing of the gospels and letters that became part of the church canon, the Bible.  At that time a generation or more had passed since the crucifixion of Jesus, and the story of faith had been handed down only through verbal teaching and example.  The church was becoming disillusioned by the prospect that this could all be a fable.  Was their faith worth it all?  The is the context from which John wrote down the words of his Revelation.  The basic message of the Revelation is similar to this prophesy of Isaiah:  the faithful will not be the ones to expose true righteousness to the wicked, it will be God, and Him alone.  A time is coming when all of the wicked (even those who crawl out of holes like worms) will find their wickedness exposed as the true light of the LORD illuminates the darkness of their heart.  This will be a time when the wicked will be astonished to fully know the extent of the error of their choices.  This will be a time when they will experience the fear of the realization that their rejection of the LORD has resulted in their rejection by Him.  They will not experience the hand of the LORD's protection, nor will they find themselves in the land of the promise, but will rather find themselves separated from Him and any influence of His spirit for eternity.

These words by Micah, and the similar Revelation by John, were written to encourage those who find themselves in the discouraging circumstances that come out of living in a perverse and wicked world.  God's plan is to save from that world all who place their faith and trust in Him.  That salvation may come in times of circumstance, or it may come at the final Judgment.  The truth is: salvation will come.  It is far easier to face difficulty when one knows that there is an ultimate and positive solution.  Micah's words may not mean much to the Judeans at this time, but they would come back as words of encouragement as they find themselves confined in Babylonian exile.  Still, the experience of exile is one that has been frequently repeated by Israel through cycles of profession, disobedience, repentance, and salvation.  Several cycles of this behavior are evident in the book of Judges.  This cycle is a simple property of the consequence of the sinfulness of the nature of man.  However, God has provided the opportunity for repentance and salvation to all who have sinned, and when we fall back into sin, that avenue of repentance is still there.  This is the grace of God, not any plan or purpose of man.  No matter how down in the mire of circumstance and sin we may find ourselves, God always has a hand extended that will lift us out if we only trust in Him.  We may not find ourselves lifted out immediately, as it is God's purpose that His work in us be completed (James 1).  But we can be encouraged to know that salvation is assured, this side of death or on the other.

Micah 7:18-20.

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. 19He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. 20Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.

There is nothing like the grace of God.  How can one reject this God who offers complete pardon for sin, the God who does not maintain anger towards us when we so deserve His wrath for our rebellion?  No matter how many times we shake our fist at God, His compassion never fails, and our repentance will always find His forgiveness, a forgiveness that is ultimate:  our sin simply has lost its power to separate us from God.  Micah describes this as though the sins are cast into the depths of the sea.  Note that ancients had no idea what was in the sea depths, and unlike modern scientific scrutiny that measures and studies those depths, the ancients saw them as a place that was absolutely unknowable.  If something is dropped into the depth of the sea, it drops out of all knowable existence.  It is simply gone.  In verse 20, Micah reveals that God's purpose will be completed, and His promises will be ultimately fulfilled, a promise to Abraham that faith is rewarded by God with salvation, and those who follow the example of Abraham's faith will form his true children.  Micah noted, again, that those children will be drawn from every corner of the earth.

God offers this salvation to all who place their faith and trust in Him.  Those who have placed their faith in Him will continue to experience the consequences of their own sin and the sin of others, just as the faithful remnant of Judean Jews were swept into exile as a consequence of the apostasy of their nation.  We life today in apostate nations.  There is no faithful nation on this planet.  Each is led by either secular humanism or aberrant theocracy.  Just as in the time of Micah, the faithful remnant is a minority that finds itself literally overwhelmed by the evil of this world.  However, the faithful can be encouraged to know that God's promise never changes, and He is always faithful to that promise to protect and preserve those who love Him.  Let us never forget that God loves, God forgives, and God restores.  Those who call themselves by His name, are called to do the same, and as each Christian expresses the love, forgiveness, and restoration of God in their own lives, they can serve to bring God's message of salvation to their area of the world.  It is through this process that God has chosen to save the world from their own sin.  Micah's words serve to encourage all Christians to persevere at these times when it would seem that darkness would overwhelm.  The LORD does hold the victory.