This treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson is written by Sam E. Stone, former editor of CHRISTIAN STANDARD. It is published in the July 19 issue of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
By Sam E. Stone
This month our study has focused on the message of another of the minor prophets—Micah. As Allen A. MacRae pointed out, “Micah’s message alternates between oracles of doom and oracles of hope. The theme is judgment and deliverance by God. Micah also stresses that God hates idolatry, injustice, rebellion and empty ritualism, but he delights in pardoning the penitent. The prophet declares that Zion will have greater glory in the future than ever before.”
In this final section, James E. Smith suggested that Micah may have been acting as a spokesman for the believing remnant, those who were truly concerned about the direction of their country. In any case, the lamentation (Micah 7:1-6) serves as a confession of national sin and a justification for the forthcoming judgment.
Shepherd | Micah 7:14-17
The prophet calls on the Lord to shepherd his people. This familiar picture is seen throughout Scripture. Elsewhere in his short book, Micah repeated this theme (2:12, 13; 4:6-8; 5:4). In some of the most familiar words in the Old Testament, David proclaimed, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). Micah moved from the image of an angry God melting mountains (Micah 1:4) to the comfort of God shepherding his people. “Micah combined the two comforting images of shepherd and inheritance” (Thomas McComiskey).
Israel has a special place in God’s heart. The people are his “treasured possession” (Exodus 19:5). In light of all of their difficulties, the prophet called on God to let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago. These two areas were located east of the Jordan River. The land had a great reputation as a place of abundant crops.
The prophet then called upon the shepherd to demonstrate his presence just as he did when he brought his people out of Egyptian bondage. The pagan nations could not fail to be impressed as they saw God deliver Israel with his mighty hand (Exodus 15:13-16). The false prophets would be silenced by the Lord’s demonstration of power. They will be forced to lick dust like a snake, just as Satan in the Garden of Eden. Some suggest that these verses constitute a prayer that God will show his wonders again, as in the exodus, so that the nations may hear, be ashamed, and turn to the Lord in fear.
Savior | Micah 7:18-20
Micah summed up his message with a question, Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression? The words of Isaiah suggest the Lord’s reply: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).
C. F. Keil noted the greatness of God’s care here in contrast to the time that he released the people from Egyptian bondage. “Whereas in the former, Jehovah merely revealed himself in his incomparable exaltation above all gods, in the restoration of the nation which had been cast out among the heathen because of its sins, and its exaltation among the nations, he now reveals his incomparable nature in grace and compassion.”
God reached out to the remnant of his people, giving them what he had promised to the patriarchs (Genesis 22:16-18). With this lofty praise of the Lord, Micah concluded his book. Romans 11:25-32 shows the mercy of the Lord with his people in a similar way.
God does become angry with sin. But our wonderful hope is that he does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy. He has proved himself faithful and dependable in his dealings with Jacob and Abraham (as well as their descendants). The Lord is deserving of all praise from all his people.
As E. B. Pusey wrote, “Mercy and truth together are all the paths of the Lord; they met together in Christ . . . Christ himself is full of mercy as well as Truth; and woe were it to that soul to whom he were Truth without mercy. For to be saved we look not so much to the truth of the Judge as the mercy of the Redeemer.”
James E. Smith suggested that the closing words of Micah’s prophecy should be read as a prayer (“May you give . . .”). “The closing petition of the book asks that forgiveness be followed by the fullness of Heaven’s blessing.” Praise God for being both our Shepherd and our Savior!
*Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2009, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|July 20: Psalm 13|
|July 21: Ezekiel 34:1-6|
|July 22: Ezekiel 34:7-16|
|July 23: Ezekiel 34:23-31|
|July 24: Micah 7:1-6|
|July 25: Micah 7:7-11|
|July 26: Micah 7:14-20|