Hope: A Path to Fulfillment

Explore the Bible Series

May 24, 2009

 

Background Passage: Micah 4:1-6:16

Lesson Passage: Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4

 

Introduction:

 

This week’s lesson includes our study of Micah’s second oracle (Chapters Three through Five) and introduces the final message (Chapters Six and Seven).  The three oracles center on these themes.

 

Oracle One (Chapters One and Two) focused attention on Israel’s oppression of the poor and helpless.  The rich elites tyrannized the poor through repressive lending, unmeasured greed, and perversion of justice.  God promised that a severe judgment on the nation for its oppression of the poor, a judgment that would come in the form of exile in Babylon.

 

Oracle Two (Chapters Three through Five): After predicting God’s judgment on Judah and Israel, Micah foresaw a wonderful, messianic period when Christ would govern his people in security and peace.

 

Oracle Three (Chapters Six and Seven): These chapters reaffirm God’s determination to chasten his people; however, it also wonderfully restates the Lord’s undying love for Israel.  Despite his displeasure, he will not forget his covenant of mercy.   The book ends with a glorious rehearsal of steadfast compassion (See 7:18-200. 

 

Our present study affords us an opportunity to contemplate the work of the Lord Jesus.  More than seven hundred years before the incarnation, Micah predicted the birth of Jesus, in Bethlehem, and he anticipated the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom that would span the nations of the world and bring peace and security to all who will come to the Shepherd of Israel.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Future Return of a Remnant (4:1-5:15): This section foreshadows a period, following the Babylonian Captivity, when God promised to restore Judah.  In this case, judgment was not a final rejection; rather, the Captivity would serve a redemptive, purgative purpose.  In a sense, God intended this severe situation (the Captivity) as a corrective discipline for his wayward people.  The opening words of this text center the reader’s attention on a future date, a time when God would redeem Judah from the shame and oppression of exile.

A.    The re-establishment of Zion (4:1-5): Like a great mountain, Zion will, at the appointed time, emerge as a stronghold of God’s people, and a source of security and blessing to the nations of the world (vv. 1-2).  The prophet anticipates a time when all people will look to Zion as a place where they may learn of the Lord.  Justice, peace, and security will characterize this new kingdom, and the former idolatry, the paganism that permeated the ancient Middle East, will perish in favor of devotion to the true and living God (vv. 3-5).

B.     God’s special mercy toward Judah (4:6-13): While the earlier verses anticipate a time of universal mercy (exercised toward all the nations), the prophet, in the latter part of Chapter Four, outlined special, specific graces God planned to bestow on the Jews.

1.       “I will assemble the lame” (v. 6): The prophet compared Judah to a lame person, stricken by a terrible calamity that rendered the Lord’s people broken and helpless.  Despite her lameness, Judah would know the renewing mercy of God, and he would draw the scattered people together as a chosen remnant.

2.      “I will reign over them in Mount Zion” (vv. 7-8): Earthly kings had failed to protect and guide the Lord’s people, but Jehovah promised to succeed where others had not. 

3.      “I will make your horn iron and will make your hooves bronze” (vv. 9-13): Micah knew that Judah would experience a lengthy period of severe trial (v. 9-11), but, in the end, strength shall return to the Lord’s people.  The prophet compared the future Judah to a bull, with horns of iron and hooves of bronze.

C.     The promise of a new king (5:1-6): Micah contrasted the impending misfortune to a coronation of a future king, a monarch descended from the shepherd/king, David. Like King David, this coming monarch would come from the little city of Bethlehem, about five miles south of Jerusalem.  The reference to Assyria, in this context, probably symbolizes any power that would raise its hand against God’s people. 

1.      “whose origin is from old, from ancient days” (v. 2): This phrase indicates the timeless origin of this new ruler and establishes the messianic tone of this prophecy.

2.      “he shall stand and shepherd the flock in the strength of the Lord” (v. 4a): As David secured the flocks of Jesse, this new monarch will guard the sheep of his father’s pasture. 

3.      “he shall be great to the ends of the earth” (v. 4b): The Messiah’s reign will extend beyond the borders of Judah; instead, his kingdom will bring security and peace to all the world.

4.      “he will deliver us from the Assyrian” (vv. 5-6): Again, the reference to Assyria and Babylon (see reference to Nimrod in verse six) symbolizes any powerful force that might threaten the security of God’s people.  

D.    Messiah’s cleansing of Judah and the nations (vv. 7-15): As Messiah’s kingdom expands, God pledge that he would cleanse the nations of their various evils.

1.      “I will cut off your horses… and destroy your chariots” (v. 10): The bloody warfare that characterized the ancient world would yield to a reign of peace.

2.      “I will cut off your sorceries… and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes” (v. 12): These superstitions often accompanied the various idolatrous practices of the ancient Middle East.

3.      “I will cut off your carved images… and I will root out your Asherah images from among you.”  Micah employed strident language to depict God’s displeasure with idolatry. “Cut off” denotes a radical amputation, a painful but necessary procedure to remove a diseased limb that threatens the vitality of the nation.  “Root out” draws from agricultural life, the removal of unfruitful plants that draw vital nutrients from the crops.

 

II.                A Final Judgment Against Judah (6:1-16): Chapter Six introduces the final oracle of the Book of Micah.  The prophet, in this section, refocused his attention on the impending danger that threatened the Jews, the coming exile in Babylon.  This chapter employs the imagery of a court of law.  Jehovah himself will act as judge, and he calls on the mountains to serve as magistrates (a jury, in our legal system).

A.    A judicial indictment (vv. 1-5): Jehovah accused Judah of ingratitude.  He had saved Israel from Egyptian bondage, provided wise leadership (in Moses and Aaron), and protected Israel from the Canaanites; yet, she had repaid the Lord’s kindness with rebellion and disobedience. 

B.     The Lord’s requirements of his people (vv. 6-8): The mere repetition of formal acts of worship had offended Jehovah.  The sacrifices of animals could not atone for the persistent sins of the people; instead, God called for genuine repentance, a repentance measured by a sincere reordering of attitude and action.  “… and what does the Lord require of you?”

1.      “to do justice”: Justice is as justice does.  It is not enough to talk about justice; rather, a truly just people must protect the interests of the lowliest persons in the culture.

2.      “to love kindness”: God’s people must delight in compassion.  Kindness must emerge from the deepest recesses of the heart.  No detached, impersonal charity will do: only genuine investment of life will satisfy God’s demand.

3.      “to walk humbly with your God”: The prophet enjoins his readers to humility, a humility that issues in a genuine; progressive relationship with God.