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21 June. Micah
Micah, like the other prophets of his time, foresees both the imminent destruction of the Israelites’ cities and way of life, as punishment for the violence and corruption in them, and also the eventual restoration of the Jewish faith in their homeland in a new form, “doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God” (6:8, adapted). But here, instead of a series of images of disaster followed by those of return, the two are much more intermingled. The wrath and mercy of God are not shown on an either/or basis – the eternal Father is not angry with his children’s behaviour one day and loving towards them the next, as a human parent might be. At any one time he is both angry with our deliberate sins, and compassionate towards us. Jesus, of course, being (as we believe) both human and divine, showed both these attitudes.
In fact, several of the passages in this book are traditionally taken to be prophecies relating to Jesus. In particular the reference to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, as the home of a future ruler, “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (5:2). In other words, someone born in a particular place and time but also eternal.
Another frequently quoted passage, and a possible Messianic reference is found in 4:2-23 – “For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. Here the role of Jerusalem is seen as under God’s direct rule and the source of wisdom and peace for the whole world, which is what the Christian Church (the “new Jerusalem”) is supposed to be.
Less well known is this saying: “I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture; it will resound with people. The one who breaks out will go up before them; they will break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the Lord at their head” (2:12-13). This image of the king leading his people out like a shepherd echoes both Psalm 23, and also John 10:1-18 where Jesus speaks of himself is similar terms. It seems that Micah understood quite clearly the way in which God would come among us.