Unit: Minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
Theme: I’ve Been Unfaithful
Lesson text: Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; 7:8-19; Matthew 9:9-13; 1 John 1:1-2
Supplemental texts: Psalm 25:4-9; Zechariah 3:1-5; Ephesians 2:4-7
Aim: Love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
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By Mark Scott
People who have been unfaithful need mercy, and mercy truly is a redemptive word. Paul often began his Epistles with the sanctified wish of grace, mercy, and peace. Someone said, “We need grace when we feel worthless, we need mercy when we feel helpless, and we need peace when we feel restless.” Early in the history of the church, the believers said (or sang), “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on us.” Mercy is that empathy in God that causes him to express his loyal love for his people.
The eighth-century BC prophet Micah (like his counterparts Amos and Hosea) prophesied against the northern and southern kingdoms. Micah cried out against idolatry, immorality, leadership crises, and family deterioration. But his prophecy had some bright spots—like in 4:1-2, where Micah predicted a time would come when the mountain of God would be established as the highest mountain and the nations would stream to it; and like in 5:2, where it says out of a little town called Bethlehem a ruler would emerge to shepherd God’s people.
Micah urged his people to wait for the God of his salvation to act (7:7). Two things would result when God showed his mercy. First, Israel would be victorious over their enemies. Therefore, the enemies should not gloat (rejoice). Micah prophesied that God would raise his people up (v. 8a), would be their light (v. 8b) and bring them into the light (v. 9b), would plead their case and uphold their cause (v. 9a), and would cover the enemies with shame and trample them like mire in the streets (v. 10). This victory, he said, would allow God’s people to build their walls and extend their boundaries (v. 11). The enemies (Assyria and Egypt), he said, would actually flock to Israel (v. 12). Israel would feed in enemy territory—Bashan and Gilead (v. 14). God would defeat the enemies as he did in Egypt long ago (vv. 15-16), and they would turn in fear of Israel (v. 17).
The second result of God showing his mercy was that God would extend his forgiveness to his people. Micah’s name means “What is God like?” So, what is God like (v. 18a)? He pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant. He puts his anger on hold (v. 18b). God will delight to show mercy, express compassion, and put the people’s sins under his feet or in the ocean (v. 19).
Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8
If God’s people receive mercy, then they should embrace mercy in a visible way that others can see. The goal here is to capture the heart of God, which goes beyond mere obedience. Burnt offerings, baths of olive oil, and taking care of firstborn responsibilities were not all that God was looking for. No amount of hoop jumping would get God to like the people more.
The way to know if God’s mercy has been embraced is the famous Micah 6:8. What was on God’s desired checklist? Three things—acting justly (according to God’s standards), loving mercy (God’s loyal love), and walking humbly with God—serve as genuine proof that mercy has been embraced. The religious hoops are not bad; they are just inadequate.
The widely known Hosea 6:6 is added to the mercy embraced section. God would rather have mercy embraced and God acknowledged than to have all the sacrifices and burnt offerings in the world. Obedience is never enough when left alone.
Matthew 9:9-13; 1 John 1:1-2
The stark reality is that mercy showed up in person and in time and space. God’s mercy was on 24/7 display with the coming of Christ to the world. One place where the mercy of God “broke out” was Jesus calling Matthew to be a disciple. Matthew’s humility was evident by not describing his calling until the Gospel’s ninth chapter; the apostle’s boldness was displayed by his accepting Jesus’ call even though he was conscious of his reputation as a tax collector.
When Jesus called Matthew, the latter left his tax booth (remembering to take his pen!) and followed Jesus. Matthew wanted to spread the joy about his calling to all his friends, so he invited them to a party. When he was criticized by the religion police for celebrating the mercy of God, Jesus justified it by quoting Hosea 6:6. This Old Testament text occurs twice in Matthew (cf. Matthew 12:7).
The reality of mercy coming was underlined by John in his first Epistle. Jesus appeared, and people heard him, saw him, and touched him. He was no illusion. Mercy really came (cf. Titus 2:14).