Remember that the book of Micah can be loosely grouped as three sections that each follow the same three-part pattern—and that internal pattern is warning, judgment, and hope. The text this morning is the first part of the first group. This passage is therefore one of warning.
“Hear, all ye people; Hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: And let the Lord God be witness against you, The Lord from his holy temple . . .” (Micah 1:1-16).
Summary of the Text
Micah (of Moresheth) tells us that he ministered from the reigns of Jotham to Hezekiah (v 1), and that his message was for both kingdoms. It was most necessary for the people to listen to this warning because God was speaking, and doing so from His holy Temple (v. 2). God was going to come down and walk on the high places, and the mountains were going to melt underneath Him (vv. 3-4). He is going to do this because of the transgressions of both kingdoms, both of which were rotting from the head (v. 5). Samaria was going to be dismantled (v. 6), all her idols were going to be destroyed and her whorish wealth was going to come to nothing (v. 7). Micah was going to wail like desolate animals because the disease in the north has spread south (vv. 8-9). The KJV has dragons and owls here while other translations have jackals and ostriches, but in any case creatures of desolate places. It is one thing to be destroyed, and quite another to have your enemies laughing at you over it (v. 10). A series of cities are then named, with various plays of words made on their names—they are all going to participate in the destruction (vv. 11-12). The naming of Lachish here stands out in particular because it was a city in Judah, through which the corruptions of Israel to the north had begun to seep into Judah (v. 13). She was the start of trouble for the south. Micah as a messenger from God did not pass by his hometown, Moresheth (v. 14). And Adullam was a wilderness stronghold, and the glory of Israel was going to have to hide there (v. 15). Mourning and lamenting were all in order—like a molting eagle—because captivity is coming (v. 16). Thus far the warning.
Head and Body
Samaria was the capital of Israel to the north, and Jerusalem the capital of Judah to the south (v. 5). And the people out in the rural areas could not say anything like “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other Jeroboam.” What is the transgression of America? Is it not Washington? Many of the corruptions are more manifest in places like that, where the big decisions are made, but they are revelatory of the corruptions in the whole body. Who keeps electing those people? And in any cases, when the judgment falls, it falls on the entire body.
Corruptions Follow a Path
The great curse in this section, the reason for the warning of the judgment that is going to fall upon them, is because of idolatry. The Lord pronounces a warning over the high places that He is going to tread down (v. 2), and He says that Samaria is going to be shattered because of her carved images (v. 7). Her idols are going to be laid desolate (v. 7).
The northern kingdom had abandoned the true worship of God, and had done this wholesale. That apostasy had begun to seep into Judah, which had stayed faithful longer, but still the corruptions came. They came through Lachish, which was the beginning of sin for the daughter of Zion. The transgressions of Israel were found in her (v. 13).
So the northern kingdom was apostate, and the southern kingdom was compromised and syncretistic. Both of them received God’s warning of a coming captivity. Sargon II of Assyria finally conquered Samaria in 722 BC, which means that Micah lived through the fulfillment of this prophecy. And Babylon carried Judah off in various waves (there is some question of when the stopwatch on the 70 years started) somewhere in the neighborhood of 608-586 (Jehoiachin was deposed in 597 BC), which means that Micah ministered the better part of a century before that fulfillment.
Judah was not as bad as Israel, and their judgment came later, and was less severe, but it was plenty severe enough. The full-scale corruption of the north had been judged, and the syncretistic compromises of the south were also judged. God has no use for either.
Where Sin Has a Point of Entry
We live in a time when the world outside the church is like Samaria. They deny the God of Heaven, and want to be allowed to live as though there were no God in Heaven. They are given over to their idols. And so the question for us within the church is this—where is our Lachish? What have we tolerated “just a little bit of?” Which lymph node have we given permission to be cancerous?
Connection to Another Head
Judgment is not avoided through any urban/rural divide. Neither is it avoided through anything so simple as a red state/blue state thing. We are represented by leaders who are better than we deserve. That leadership does encompass all of us. Is there then no hope?
There is. We see a repeated pattern in Scripture that we can take encouragement from. It is what we see in the land of Goshen. God often sets His people apart within a larger culture under judgment, and He protects them in a that set-apart place. The world was flooded, but Noah and his family were saved in the ark (1 Pet. 3:20). The plagues rained down on Egypt, but the Israelites were spared in the region of Goshen (Ex. 8:22; 9:26). In the days of Elijah, there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal—and God knew that number (1 Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4). He knew their names. And angels put a mark on the people who were under God’s protection (Eze. 9:4; Rev. 7:1-8).
The only way to “opt out” of the world’s system—which includes all the judgments that are coming—is through the saving expedient of belonging to an entirely new world. That new world is the work of Christ. “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:5). That new world is taking shape here, in the midst of the shambolic ruins of the old world, but in the meantime you need to know that the angel of the Lord “has put his mark” on you. And that means it has to be all about Christ.
These are true words, which they must be. That is because they are the words of Christ. These are troubled times, and there is really only one refuge. Come to Christ.