This has to be in my top three of favorite Scriptures in the entire Bible. Look at vs.8, that is my favorite Scripture in this chapter. Let me just write it again and then you can soak it in and see how it applies to you, how it applies to what you expect of people, and how it applies to what people expect and think of you.
HE HAS TOLD YOU, O MORTAL, WHAT IS GOOD; AND WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU BUT TO DO JUSTICE, AND TO LOVE KINDNESS, AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD?
Do you notice with what punctuation this verses ends? I know, the Hebrew doesn’t have the punctuation so it is something that we have added, but why do we have a question mark and not an exclamation point? The idea is that the author is saying: hasn’t God already told us what we are supposed to do? It is very similar to Jesus’ statement to his disciples that has been twisted and taken out of context: “You will have the poor with you always.” This last statement assumes that you know that we will have the poor with us always so the assumption is that you will always make them a priority not just when it is to your benefit because people are watching you or you can put it on your resume to pad it and make you look good. You should always be reaching out to the poor.
In the same way we should always know what God requires of us, always. We are called to do justice. We are called to love kindness. We are called to walk humbly with God. Not just walk humbly and think that is good enough. We are to walk humbly with God. That is good enough.
So, you should know this chapter and specifically verse 2. Go back to Matthew 2 the first verses when the wise men went to Herod and asked him about the newborn king and where that king just might be. The king’s own wise men went back and debated and they came up with this Scripture which states that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, yes, Bethlehem, which was considered a small inconsequential city. As a result this is where the wise men went and found Jesus. All because these verses foretold of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem.
It is very important to note that the new Messiah would not arise from Jerusalem, which would have been the most logical place. But actually, maybe not the most logical place because we know that David was also born in Bethlehem. You can look at I Samuel 17:12 where David is introduced that he is spoken of as one who was the son of an Ephrathite from Bethlehem. So Jesus, our Savior and the Messiah, was born in the same town where David, really the first king whose heart was after the Lord, was born. A great way to link the Old and the New Testaments in a way that reminds us that we are not just people of the New Testament, but of the entire Scripture.
We find the perfect image of what God’s future is going to look like and it is highlighted by peace. If you look at vs.3 this is the center of what God’s kingdom will look like for eternity. God will arbitrate between the nations and the goal of this arbitration is that swords will be beaten into plowshares. You will take instruments of war and shape and fashion them into farming tools which will allow the crops to grow and people to be fed. What a complete reversal of where we had been before. This is almost a direct quote to what we hear in Isaiah 2:4, go ahead and read that again. In fact, if you keep going to Isaiah 2:5 you will see that Micah does the same thing, goes from speaking about the installation of peace to the people walking in the light of the Lord, or at least in the name of the Lord. These verses are completely parallel to the verses in Isaiah, it is as if the scribe picked them up and dropped them down right here.
The prophet goes on and speaks about those with disabilities and says that he will gather the lame and make them the remnant, make them favored in the sight of the Lord. That would be hard at First Presbyterian because if you are in a wheelchair you can’t really use any of our bathrooms comfortable. You couldn’t preach from the pulpit or play the piano or drums. Your access would be limited to what is happening on the floor period. Your seats would be relegated either to directly in front (where no one wants to sits) or all the way in the back (where everyone wants to sit). We don’t do a great job of fulfilling this prophecy where we can actually welcome the lame, or that we actually take seriously our command to do that.
It is interesting these metaphors that Micah uses. He describes the judicial leaders as cannibals and the religious leaders as crowd pleasers who work on commission. This last one is especially damning as you make your way through the chapter and you see vs.11-12. There is a whole list of damning evidence that is rolled out. Rulers are corrupt, priests are on the dole, prophets are on a pay to play scheme and yet they feel like they are doing the will of the Lord.
This is quite a dire picture of what the nation has come to. The end result is that Zion will be plowed down and Jerusalem will be a heap of ruins. Can you imagine if that was the prophecy against one of our cities, against Strasburg, against any place within the US that does not follow the will of the Lord. But we do not live in a theocracy so we don’t actually believe that these things will happen if we do not follow the way of the Lord. There is a large part of me that is grateful that we do not believe these things, but there is another part that wishes that the presence of the Lord would be more visible and more able to draw a straight line between our actions and the consequences. But thanks be to God we live by grace alone.
Micah again depicts an image where there is complete disarray as the people of Israel are scattered and gathered into captivity. If you look at vs.3 you see that the Lord devised the plan so that His people, His chosen people, will not walk haughtily. The people of God will be taunted, they will be have their fields removed and parceled out to others.
But notice that Micah also has a time when things will correct themselves and the Lord will take His place at the head. From vs.12 to the end you have a wonderful image of things going right again, after a period of near abandonment from the Lord. But we really know that the abandonment is really performed by the people of Israel who turned their back on the Lord. I don’t know, I guess I just like this song.
It is good to lay the foundation for Micah and understand the context in which it was written because it does contain some of the more well known references that we have in the Old Testament. Micah is thought to be a prophet who spoke around the years 759-687 BC, at least that is the span of years that is spoken of in vs.1 when the kings are mentioned. If you wanted to read more about Micah and what was happening in the time period you can also turn to II Kings 16-19. Needless to say Micah, like Isaiah, lived in a very tumultuous time period.
In the first chapter we find Micah speaking out against Jerusalem and what has happened to the people who no longer worship the Lord as they were supposed to. As a result the Lord will have to leave his temple and tread upon the high places of the earth. The high places were the places where the idols would have been placed for the people to worship. All the temples to the gods that were manufactured would have been placed on high places.
All of the influences of the surrounding nations had affected Jerusalem to the point that the people had been swept up with the tide and gone along with the worshiping of foreign gods. This last verse has a sense of finality which is somewhat chilling. He calls the children of Israel pampered and ends with saying that they will be taken into captivity, far away from their parents, their bald parents. Ouch,that hurts.
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament only containing verses. In Hebrew the word Obadiah means “servant of Yah(weh)”, which is a very specific title often given to the prophets as those who spoke that which the Lord commanded. So, from this, we assume that Obadiah was a prophet. He probably lived around the time of the Babylonian exile and destruction of Jerusalem, and we can deduce that simply from the content of these verses. That would place him around 586 BC.
All of these verses are a castigation against Edom who is considered the brother of Judah. So, let’s speak geographically. Edom was a border nation on the east side of Israel and Judah was basically Israel. It isn’t that clear cut, but for the sake of this blog, let’s go with that. They have historical ties as nations. Edom was said to come from Esau and Israel was said to come from Jacob. As a result these were brother nations. Remember Esau and Jacob and their father Isaac? Look at Genesis 25 and it should bring it back to your mind.
You can see that from vs.10-11 where the Scripture says that you stood aside while your brother was being taken to school (my words). It states that as your brother was getting his lunch handed to him you did absolutely nothing (again, my words). I’ll never forget when I was a freshman in high school and my brother was a senior and we went to Wawa and someone wanted to pick a fight with me. Well, once my brother showed up that wasn’t going to happen. It is what you expect with brothers, they stand up for each other no matter what the odds are.
So the prophet speaks out strongly against Edom because they backed down. Now, historically we know that Edom was also ravaged and taken into captivity by the Babylonians. So there probably wasn’t anything they could have done. The prophet speaks of a time when Israel will bounce back and reclaim the land that was lost to them. Well, that was short. We move on to our last week in Micah.
From the beginning of the beginning people have been trying to discern when the end of time will be, because we all assume that there has to be an end of time. The Bible speaks of the end of time, and sometimes even adds some tidbits to spice up the curiosity factor by giving us details which has allowed some people to point to events that are happening in the world and track down the timeline to the end of time. That is not what it is meant to be.
We should all be satisfied hearing the words that Daniel heard as the last verse to this book of the Bible as the man in the Scripture said to him: “But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.” We should all go away knowing that we have with certainty the reward that is reserved for us at the end of days.
It is interesting that this is the only clear reference in the entire Old Testament to a resurrection, a final judgment, and an afterlife. There is a direct link to this Scripture and what we read in Revelation. Well, we did it, we finished Daniel. Obadiah is next, just a short little single chapter, and then we finish this challenge with Micah.
Daniel goes through a whole list of kings that ruled over the Israelites but they don’t perfectly match up with our historical accounts, but that isn’t the point. Each of these wars and campaigns refer very directly to a person in history who did this. The daughter is Berenice who was married to the grandson of Seleucus whose name was Antiochus II Theos of Syria. See why I said it doesn’t really matter. The point behind all of this is that Daniel was privy to it and explains it in a way that reflects that he is following the Lord even in the midst of these tumultuous times. Notice also, that Daniel supported one of the political factions. In vs.1 we read Daniel say about Darius the Mede: “I stood up to support and strengthen him.”
Did you know that Cleopatra is mentioned in this Scripture? She is, look at vs.17 where we read about a time of peace that was sought and a woman who was given in marriage. Well, that would be Cleopatra. Daniel then addresses the real disaster that takes place in all of this and that would be the downfall of the temple in Jerusalem. If you look starting at vs.29 through vs.39 you can see described during this time, about BC 168, the invaders set up an altar to Zeus in the temple. That destroyed the confidence of the people and some say that the people of Israel never recovered from that.
This chapter ends with desolation for those who conquered and desecrated the temple. It doesn’t always end that way.
Daniel receives another vision and this time instead of Gabriel being present there is this guy named Michael, who is described in Revelation as well. In Revelation 12:7 we see that Michael takes on the role of the leader of the angels fighting against the dragon, who would be the devil and all of his minions. Here in Daniel, Michael plays the role of one of the chief princes who had come to help the Lord in the proverbial final battle and to help Daniel for what is going to happen in the future days. At the end of this chapter we read about the Lord who is left by himself to battle against these nations except for Michael who is also there to help out.
Did you notice the tenderness with which the Lord approached Daniel? Look at vs.19- “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous.” That is a pep talk if I ever heard one. That sounds incredibly endearing and would give any of us a kick in our step and purpose in our lives. Over and over again Daniel is told to not fear. Here are the times that Daniel is told not to fear just in this chapter alone: vs.12, 19, …okay, only twice but they are two really comforting times!