Micah 7:8-20

Readings for this week November 18 – 22
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Day 1 – A Capital Conversation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:8-10

A subtle shift in the manner of address in verse 8 signals that we have moved from the prophetic accusation against the people in 7:1-7, to a direct address of the nation’s enemy. In the Hebrew, all the nouns and verbs are in the mode of the feminine singular; the enemy nation is being represented as a female figure, as a way of showing the relationship between the two nations in a more dramatic fashion, in this case, as two women speaking with each other. (The quote in verse 10 is a quote from the enemy and is directed back at her, also in the same mode – thus, two women). Much of the language in the remainder of this chapter echoes the anti-Assyrian language of Isaiah 9-10, and so a fairly safe assumption would be that the two women are the personifications of the capital cities of Judah (Zion) and Assyria (Nineveh).

So what does “Lady Zion” say to “Lady Nineveh”? That Nineveh should not gloat over or taunt Zion for Nineveh’s time of destruction will come soon enough. Lady Zion accepts her punishment as just, as coming from God, and as no more than she deserves for her waywardness and sin. But she also claims that God will eventually vindicate her, and destroy Nineveh in part because of her taunting of Zion (“Where is your God?”). For Judah, for God’s people, there will be redemption and rescue, but only after a period of trial and oppression. Though Judah’s punishment is justified, the story does not end there. Even the reality of God’s judgement does not preclude or obscure the reality of God’s love.

Questions to Consider
How do judgement and love fit together? What is one without the other?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me see when stories are not yet over, when there is more still to come, a Godly twist in the tale that offers hope in the midst of pain. Help me be that hope in the lives of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Promise and Threat

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:11-13

We’ve heard from “Lady Zion”. We’ve heard her ringing affirmation that though Judah will be punished – and rightly so – and that she accepts her punishment, that God will also restore her and rescue his people, while trampling her enemies underfoot. But how well-placed is this confidence in God’s mercy? Well, we’re about to find out, because in verse 11 the speaker changes from “Lady Zion”, who now becomes the audience, to the prophet Micah, speaking God’s response to what has been said. However, even though what is said clearly speaks of reprieve and judgement, that a threat is also included makes these three verses rather difficult to work out. It all depends on how the reader fits them together, and how we want to read verse 12.

Read verses 11 and 12 only. Taken together, these two verses seem to be promising that Judah will have time to rebuild her walls (after exile?) before people flock to her (scattered Jews? The nations?). The verses seem hopeful and full of promise. Now read verses 12 and 13 only. Suddenly the picture is more threatening. The return of so many people to the land (foreign invaders?) ends with the land destroyed. Read verse 12 with 11 and it seems to promise a return of scattered exiles; read it with verse 13 and it seems that judgement is coming in the form of foreign invaders. These verses, depending on how we read them and when we read them (pre- or post-exile perhaps?) contain both a real promise and an imminent threat.

Questions to Consider
What do you think Micah expects to see happen to/for his people? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, when things seem uncertain and confusing, remind me of the certainty and surety of your presence and your love. No matter what I go through, you are greater than it all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Distant Consequences

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:14-15

We cannot necessarily see all the consequences that stem from the decisions we make, both individually and collectively. This is especially true when the possible consequences will not reveal themselves for many years to come, leading us to ignore them, or deliberately leave them to be dealt with by later generations. The arrival in Judah of the Assyrian military threat would have come as no surprise to those living in the eastern Mediterranean world at the time. Anyone paying attention to the contemporary political situation, and with knowledge of local history and current conditions, would have seen much Assyrian posturing and positioning for influence and power, and would have been able to guess what her future ambitions would be. But as the results of Assyrian aggression were still many decades away, so calls by the prophets to be wary and to prepare were ignored.

For Judah at the time, the crisis was concerning, but not daunting – no need to act right away, there was still plenty of time. Seen from the perspective of later generations (like those in exile following Judah’s destruction), the failure of the people to act and respond would appear as at best short-sighted, at worst selfish. God’s people are not immune from choices and their consequences. Many things in our world at the moment are crying out for attention, things that will have far reaching consequences. Are we listening to God’s guiding voice in order to focus on the things we, as his people, should be focusing on? Are we being responsible and stepping up and stepping into what he is calling us to?

Question to Consider
What do you feel God’s people are ignoring today?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive our inaction and apathy; stir us into motion so we can truly be your people, wherever you are, loving who you love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Fear of Yahweh, Hope in Yahweh

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:16-17

We move from Micah’s prayer of intercession to a pair of verses that seem to delight in the terror the nations will experience in the face of God. What causes the nations of the world to fear? Essentially it is in response to God coming to Judah’s aid, vindicating his people and restoring them to their former glory. There are echoes in this description of the original conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites and the responses of the nations to the conquest. In places like Deuteronomy 28:10 and 31:2-6, as well as Joshua 2:9 and 2:24, specific mention is made of the conquered people trembling or melting with fear. The actions described in Micah show the nations in the grip of a paralysing fear, unable to speak, full of shame, eating dust and fleeing their cities – all because of God.

God has power over the nations, and the nations will ultimately see this power manifested in the ways in which God comes to the aid of his people. As well as a reminder to the world of God’s power and sovereignty, it is also a reminder to Judah that their only hope is in God – there is no other source of rescue or salvation available to them. It is a further reminder of the need to cleave to God in all things, at all times, as his protection is their only hope, as their own past history – and God’s reminders of this history – attests. The only possible response to this God and his saving acts in history for his people, is love, obedience and gratitude, for all he has done, and for all he yet promises to do.

Questions to Consider
Why will God coming to the aid of his people provoke fear in others? What is the purpose of this? Have you ever seen this happen?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for all you have done for us and all that you promise to do. May we be worthy of your love and provision, and may others be attracted by your love for your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – One Final Promise, To Be Embodied One Day…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:18-20

The book of Micah contains much that God (through Micah) would have greatly preferred not to have to say to his people, and many things that the people of Judah would have preferred not to hear from God. Many of the accusations God levelled at Judah were, though accurate, incredibly harsh and graphic in their presentation; some would have been downright offensive and unbelievable. (Why would the God who caused the Temple to be built destroy it? Why would he lay waste to Zion? Impossible!). Micah is a very sobering book to read, a reminder of the impossibility of ignoring God without catastrophic consequences.

But that is not the final word. Throughout the book the prophet presents hopeful interludes of promises of deliverance, restoration and peace, signs that, even in the midst of their sin and rebellion, God still loves his people and will not abandon them, come what may. It is therefore fitting that the collection of Micah’s sayings and oracles ends with a celebration of God’s mercy, extolling the virtues of his grace and forgiveness. His anger does not burn forever, and he does not forever remember his people’s crimes. He is merciful, he is kind, and, just as he has always done and will continue to do, he will wipe away his people’s transgressions and remember their sin no more. Circumstances and consequences are not as powerful as God’s enduring love for us. Though destruction was still to come and its consequences were still being lived out, the final word is God’s final word: a word of mercy and love.

Question to Consider
How are verses 19-20 fulfilled by the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your promise of hope and mercy, and for embodying that hope and mercy in the person of your son. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)