Preaching from the Minor Prophets is a daunting task. With a limited text before them, the preacher needs to be able to identify the historical setting of the author and book, as well as its place in redemptive history. Added to these tasks is the difficulty of finding the balance of prophetic language against sin and injustice with that of restoration and hope. The book of Micah presents these challenges and more.
Micah was a contemporary of the Prophet Isaiah and saw the downfall of the once-proud nations of Israel and Judah. In the midst of the tumult, he foretold of Samaria’s fall (1:5–6), Jerusalem’s destruction (1:5–6), exile and return (4:6–8), and Bethlehem as the site of the Messiah’s birth (5:2).
Chapter 1 informs the reader that Micah was from Moresheth-gath—about 25 miles outside of Jerusalem. Whereas some prophets came from among the economic and political elite, Micah was a country-preacher. However, he was no simpleton, as he demonstrates a mastery of communication. He used metaphor and wordplay extensively. (NOTE: Micah’s use of wordplay can easily be lost when the book is read only via English translations. Those who find Hebrew difficult will find biblical paraphrases to be helpful in study.) Once seen, however, his rhetorical skill is impressive and should press those who preach through the book to give thought to their own communication.
Most commentaries divide the book into three cycles, each beginning with a call to “listen,” or “hear” (1:2, 3:1, and 6:1). However, many preachers will find discomfort in the notion of crafting 3 sermons consisting of 2 or 3 chapters each. It may be to both the benefit of the preacher and the congregation to break the book into 7 sermons, which enables the preacher to choose a more reasonable pericope while still communicating the overall message of the book.
The Substance and Spirit
If the Hebrew wordplay and structure do not present enough complexity, the substance of the book very well may. The voice of the text seamlessly moves from third-person (Micah reporting God’s activity) to first-person (God speaking) to first-person (Micah speaking). The books tells of God’s judgment and punishment of the injustices found in Samaria. It speaks of God’s wrath as the result of the oppression of the innocent by those in authority. It describes such injustice in jarring language:
Since she collected the wages of a prostitute, they will be used again for a prostitute. (1:7b)
You hate good and love evil. You tear off people’s skin and strip their flesh from their bones. You eat the flesh of my people after you strip their skin from them and break their bones. You chop them up like flesh for the cooking pot, like meat in a cauldron. (3:2–3)
Preacher, do not neuter the language or tone of the book of Micah. It should shock our sensitivities. It is intended to do that very thing! It should be repulsive and harsh. Such is the presence of injustice and oppression before a holy and righteous King!
But Micah is not merely a book of judgment. It is also a book of hope and restoration. Micah cries out against injustice and then provides glimpses of hope throughout. Through Micah, God reveals himself to be the Shepherd King who will re-gather a scattered flock (2:12–13). He is revealed to be the Great Redeemer, who will rescue his people from Babylon (4:10). He proclaims the coming of one whose “origin is from antiquity, from ancient times” who “will stand and shepherd . . . in the name of the Lord” (5:2,4). Micah concludes his book in awe of the character of God:
Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not hold on to his anger forever because he delights in faithful love. He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show loyalty to Jacob and faithful love to Abraham, as you swore to our fathers from days long ago. (7:18–20)
As you stand and proclaim God’s Word to your people, do so boldly. Show them God’s abhorrence of sin. Tell them that judgment is coming against all injustice and oppression. Connect the dots linking the atrocities of Micah’s day to our own. But after having done so, produce the hope of forgiveness, restoration, and pardon of the Messiah who has come and is coming again to make right every injustice.
Capturing the substance and spirit of the book of Micah will convict those desensitized to the injustices of the world and the sin present in their own lives. It will also comfort and breathe hope into the hearts of those who have felt the weight of this broken world on their shoulders. And for both of those reasons, we must not shrink back from the task of preaching the book of Micah.