Guilt is one of the easiest things to pick up but one of the hardest burdens to carry. In the last century, an author named Franz Kafka wrote a novel called The Trial. The book centers on a man named Josef, who is imprisoned by men from an unknown agency, and put on trial for an unknown crime. One of the guards tells him simply: “the law is attracted to guilt.” Kafka was saying that we’re all outlaws underneath. We all violate the law in some degree or another. And we all carry some secret burden of guilt and shame.
The same is true of Israel. The difference, of course, is that Israel was about to learn the true reason for her guilt: her violation of the laws of God.
THE CHARGES (6:1-5)
In the final chapters of Micah, God’s court case against Israel reaches a fevered pitch:
Hear what the LORD says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” (Micah 6:1-5)
God had been nothing but good to His people. They had returned His goodness with complaints and rebellion. Do you hear the emotion in God’s voice? He pleads with them—what have I done to you?…Answer me! But God’s relationship with His people had been one of love and generosity—the only problem was that it was tragically one-sided.
In verse 5 God reflects back on the incident from Numbers 22-24. Balak was the king who wanted to curse Israel, so he contacted a hired gun named Balaam to do his dirty work. But on his way, God spoke through Balaam’s donkey, opening Balaam’s eyes to the truth. What truth? That God could never be counted on to curse his people. He had treated them only with love and kindness—acts that had gone with neither gratitude nor returned affections.
MICAH’S RESPONSE (6:6-8)
Micah responds on the people’s behalf. In light of all God has done, what could the people possibly be expected to do in return?
6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6-7)
But God wasn’t interested in these outward expressions. Religion is cheap. Devotion can be fabricated. No, what the Lord truly wants is a lasting commitment to the covenant that He had with His people, a covenant summarized in verse 8:
8 He has told you, O man, 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? (Micah 6:8)
Israel had failed to do this. They couldn’t possibly hope to pay back the Lord’s goodness with some fast obedience. And so their guilt remained.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (6:9-16)
In the next section, God outlines Israel’s crime and her worthy punishment.
- Crime (6:9-12)
9 The voice of the LORD cries to the city– and it is sound wisdom to fear your name: “Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it! 10 Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? 11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights? 12 Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. (Micah 6:9-12)
As we saw yesterday, the problem that Israel faced was one of idolatry. They looked to surrounding nations for objects of comfort, joy, and security. And now they were reaping what they’d sown. The country was in ruins. How could this be fixed?
The same could be said for us. When we allow an idol to control our lives, we will soon find ourselves sitting in ruin. For instance, if lust is my god, then I may soon find myself a victim on my idolatrous addiction to pornography (or worse). If wealth is my god, then I may live a lonely, miserable life trying to climb the corporate ladder. If God is against me, then who can be for me?
- Punishment (6:13-16)
13 Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. 14 You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you; you shall put away, but not preserve, and what you preserve I will give to the sword. 15 You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil; you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine. 16 For you have kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels, that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing; so you shall bear the scorn of my people.” (Micah 6:13-16)
Omri and Ahab had been some of the worst kings the northern kingdom had ever known (1 Kings 16-22). They were an integral part of what had led the nation into ruin. But in truth, the whole nation was worthy of God’s fierce anger.
But Micah concludes with a note of hope.
7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:7-9)
Have you ever felt beaten down? Struggled with past guilt? Worried about your worthiness before God? Then Micah’s message is simple: Don’t waste your guilt. It can’t be hidden. It can’t be swept under the rug. It can’t be hidden beneath a life of religious obedience. It must instead be dealt with. It must instead de erased with the swift blow of God’s justice.
Micah concludes with confidence that God would execute judgment for him. And the beautiful thing is that this is exactly what God did through Jesus. On the cross, Jesus receives the blows of justice that we deserve so that we can receive the verdict of “not guilty.”
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins,” meaning that He received God’s anger so that we may receive God’s mercy. Micah’s name means “Who is like God?” And so it is only fitting that his closing words echo his namesake:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)
Who is like God, indeed?