The rest of Micah chapter one goes on to declare that the judgment of God will first come upon Israel and that Israel has no hope of turning back the decreed destruction. We will see later that God brings this destruction upon Israel so that Judah will repent. Even though the hope language of Micah later in his writings indicates that God still views them as one people, He also recognizes the distinction of sin and seems to view the possible repentance of Judah as important to the whole of the nation. To spare Judah is to spare Israel as a whole nation. In fact, the language of the prophets that speak hope, always indicates that the whole nation will be saved or delivered. We especially see that in Jeremiah who prophesies that there will be a second exodus and Israel will return to the land as one people. This is fulfilled in Ezra and Nehemiah. In captivity, the whole nation, both Israel and Judah, once again become the one people of God! God’s judgment becomes His redeeming mercy!
As a side note, in a very real sense, Israel and Judah represent 2 separate expressions of the one people of God. One nation is extremely liberal, in that they are determined to become like the other nations, and in many ways, they are represented later by the theology of the Sadducees. The other nation, Judah, could be best represented by the Pharisees who primarily justify themselves by not being like their sinful brothers. The one representation of the people of God was extremely liberal in their views and the other was extremely strict in their views. I suppose we can see that in some less defined ways, represented in modern Christianity.
I want to look at a couple of other verses in this chapter before we close. First, in verses 8 and 9, “For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches. For her wound is incurable, and it has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.” In verse 8 Micah changes from speaking for God to exclaiming his own despair over the word God has commanded him to speak. This description of how upset he is reflects very clearly the prophetic heart. When we read the prophets, we most often hear the despair and sense of pleading in their message. We especially see this with the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. These men are speaking the word of the Lord with the heart of God and it’s not just acting out how God feels. It seems evident that the prophetic individual qualified themselves by already having the heart of the Father. In fact, I believe that having the heart of the Father is the distinguishing and qualifying factor for why God chooses them. Finally, on this point, the concept of lamenting is a very powerful motif in scripture. Those prophets who are speaking the warning of the Lord should do so with a lament in their hearts. The Lament is directed both to God in sorrow and to the people who sin, in compassion. Lament in intercession is very similar to the concept of travail although there are some differences. Lament is mourning and grief, whereas travail is more associated with the pains of birthing. One is a response to the demise of hope and the other is to the strain of hope.
Going back to the prophet Jeremiah for a moment, not only did he prophesy with relentless obedience to God, already knowing from his inception as a prophet that the people will not listen, but he is also the one who wrote the book of Lamentations. His response to God fulfilling the word that he had spoken did not lead to an attitude of “I told you so”. His response was brokenness and sorrow. Lamenting is often related to a sorrowful song. In fact, many of the Psalms are laments or songs of sorrow written by David. The prophetic spirit takes no pleasure in the fulfillment of words of judgment.
And so, in the middle of his declaration of the word of the Lord, Micah begins to lament and wail in very loud and extreme cries. He also begins to tear his clothes, which is a sign of tormenting grief. He’s mourning for the death of a nation, even before the judgment has fallen. Why such an extreme emotional response when the word has not yet come to pass?
Because in verse 9 Micah declares that the sin of Israel is incurable and like cancer, it has spread to Judah and even to Jerusalem. “For her wound is incurable, and it has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.” There is no hope for Israel and the evil is spreading fast toward the remainder of the people of God. Perhaps you feel as if your walk with the Lord is so strong that it would be impossible to stumble. I Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands to take heed lest he falls.” The deception of the nations has even come to the gates of the house of God. The language in Micah indicates that the situation of Israel being destroyed as a nation might bring a change of heart to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It is an encouraging note that God still calls the people of Jerusalem, “my people”. By the way, when Israel does fall to Sennacherib, he continues his campaign and doesn’t stop until he reaches the walls of Jerusalem (see Isaiah 36; 37:33-37). It is at the very gates of Jerusalem that he is halted the first time because he unwisely challenges the God of Judah. He is turned back and the nation of Judah is spared for a season.
Verse 9 says that the situation in Israel is irreversible. It is final. Israel will be demolished, wiped out, and completely removed. When Israel falls, the distinction of the nation from Judah never occurs again. The people of God merged in their captivity. The language indicates that it will be so bad that even in Jerusalem it will have a terrifying impact. This almost sounds as if it is a warning or an example that Jerusalem will take to heart, and does! This is fulfilled when Sennacherib actually does come to the gates of Jerusalem before they fully repent (Isaiah 36; 37:33-37). In Micah 1:12 the Lord repeats that the invasion will reach the gates of Jerusalem. It is interesting to note in verse 12 that this disaster has come from the Lord.
I suppose we could take an arrogant attitude toward this even in Israel’s history and declare that the church is too good to ever have to experience any measure of rejection from the Lord. Perhaps we are so far advanced in our relationship with God that none of these events from the past should concern us. But there is a phrase spoken by the writer of Hebrews that we might want to consider Hebrews 2:1-4 “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” This caution does not sound like a ‘get out of jail free card’. I don’t think the writer of Hebrews was stating something that we don’t need to take seriously as if it could never happen to us. The reality is, that in my travels to many oppressed nations of the world where our brothers and sisters are persecuted and threatened, I have come to realize that in our day, the Western Church is far away from the present move of the Spirit in the earth. We are missing it and somehow the sense is that if we could just have some really good meetings and hear some really good “prophets” and maybe regain some of our political influence, then we would be the powerhouse church that the world could emulate. And my response to that attitude, which seems to lay just below the surface of so much of the Western Church’s culture, is “God forbid”. “Please Lord, don’t allow us to export any more of our Western values/corruptions to the rest of Your people. Our sin has almost reached the doors of the persecuted/Jerusalem church and I fear lest we influence them any further. Even our prayer movements are filled with arrogance and presumption as if we are needed to bring a move of God to the earth. Our prayer movements would be much more effective if they were movements of repentance and appeals that God does not pass us by in His already powerful moving on the earth. One huge issue in our idea of revival is the deep underlying addiction we have to experience exhilaration in His presence with no regard for kingdom purpose. The nations of the earth are experiencing more of a motivation to kingdom purpose and much less of a personal exhilarating experience in meetings. God is awakening hearts with His heart for the nations more than some thrilling chills up your spine focus on me gatherings. Men of God in the face of terrorist threats are asking for portable sound systems to go into villages occupied by terrorists, who will possibly kill them so that they can preach the gospel. They are begging us for prayer that they will have the courage to boldly gather in these villages. The terrorists know that they can find the Christians meeting together in one place on Sundays, so they invade the villages on Sunday and execute them, and still, the church grows and still the Christians live with such brilliant smiles and joy in their hearts. For many of the persecuted that I talk to, there seems to be a recurring theme of scripture. Philippians 1:27-29 “Nevertheless, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. That, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a clear sign of their destruction but of your salvation, and it is from God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him”. You might wonder, why don’t they just find another time to meet or meet more secretly? Certainly, God could tell them to become more subtle in their gathering, but for now and for them, there is an understanding that what they are experiencing, what they are enduring, is a witness, a testimony, a powerful message that the unsaved community needs to see. The courage of the martyr testifies to the truth of the gospel. Many who come to Christ in the face of such danger express those very words, ‘It must be true for men and women to so joyfully give their lives’. And here we are in America asking God to make our lives easier for His namesake as if that will be the salvation of America. Revelation 3:17 “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”