We are now at the beginning of the last cycle of Micah’s prophecy. Remember that the pattern is one of warning, judgment, and consolation. We see in this section the testimony of Jehovah, in which He sets out the reasons for the judgment coming down upon Judah and Israel. And it is a fearsome judgment indeed.
“Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: For the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me . . .” (Micah 6:1–16).
Summary of the Text
The prophet has been speaking to a senseless people, and so now Jehovah has told him to go preach to the rocks instead (v. 1). Even the stones of the mountains will listen better than Judah and Israel did, and they will sit in the jury box, as the Lord lays out His case against His people (v. 2). And so God, speaking in a figure, as though He could fit inside a courtroom, asks the people to testify as to what wrong He has committed against them (v. 3). Jehovah here plays at defendant.
God redeemed them from the slavery of Egypt, and gave them Moses, Aaron and Miriam as leaders (v. 4). He then prevented Balaam from cursing them, as Balak had wanted him to (v. 5). Speaking for the people, he asks about what they might think to bring to God—burnt offerings, rams, rivers of oil? Perhaps their own firstborn (vv. 6-7)? No—it is much more straightforward than that. Do justice, love mercy, and walk in humility before God (v. 8).
Jehovah cries out to the city, and a wise man knows where the rod is coming from (v. 9). Do not the wicked have a great treasury, filled with the profits gained with a short measure and crooked scales (vv. 10-11)? Her rich men are full of violence, and the people have a mouthful of lies (v. 12). And so this is why God will strike them (v. 13). They will eat, but not be filled (v. 14). What they manage to salvage out of the wreckage will be taken from them later (v. 14). They will also experience true vanity in their agriculture—empty storehouses and barns (v. 15). And why? Because they decided to follow the doctrines of Omri and Ahab (Omri was Ahab’s father) they will be left desolate, and will be reproached with hissing (v. 16).
When Micah brings his testimony, the hypocrites who listen to him are pretending to engage. Jehovah says that rocks would listen better than they do, and yet they try to prove Him wrong by making a show through religious bustling. What shall we offer to God that will prove our devotion? Rivers of oil? Our own first born? No. God wants you, and not some sacrifice swapped in instead of you. That would be an extortion payment, not religious worship.
Hypocrites behave as though the God of Heaven were petty and simple, like some cranky toddler in a stroller, and that it is somehow possible to distract Him with baubles and trifles. Here, play with this, they seem to say. Here, have a cathedral. Here, take this shiny ritual.
No. God wants the heart. He has always wanted the heart. He has never settled for anything less than your heart. Rend your hearts, not your garments (Joel 2:13). Circumcise your hearts (Jer. 4:4). To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). Sacrifices and burnt offerings you did not require (Ps. 40:6). Go and find out what this means, Jesus said (Matt. 9:13). I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hos. 6:6). And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6).
Hypocrites love to paint their sins with the whitewash of religious scrupulosity. But two inches of white snow on a wet dunghill is a dunghill still, and you shouldn’t try to sled on it.
What particular sin is in view in this passage? There were numerous sins, no doubt, but what sins are in view here? The problem here was dishonesty in business. When the rod comes to give these hustlers their beat down, the wise man knows the reason for it (v. 9). Was it not their short measure (v. 10)? Wicked scales and deceitful weights (v. 11)? When they open their mouths, lies come fluttering out, like hundreds of moths (v. 12). That is why God is striking them, making them desolate (v. 13). Was it not their cutting of corners? What they were pleased to call realistic business?
He Hath Shown Thee
What does God actually want from us? There are three verbs—do, love, and walk (v. 8). Do justly. Love mercy. Walk with humility before your God.
When you make a judgment, it must be an honest assessment, not a partisan decision. It is not enough to do mercy, grudgingly dragged out of you. No, you must love mercy (hesed). It is this pairing, incidentally, that gives the lie to so many today who are trumpeting what they call “social justice.” What they want is not justice at all because biblical justice loves mercy, and those commies are merciless—without pity, without forgiveness, without tenderness, without compassion. In short, without Christ. They want justice in this world without a cross, and there is no justice in this world without a cross.
The third characteristic of this godly demeanor is that of walking humbly with God. God is the absolute ground of all goodness, all value, and so we must submit to Him. We must submit to His definition of justice. We must embrace His sacrificial commitment to mercy. We must submit to the God who is the ground of all objective truth, goodness, and beauty.
And this means Christ. Who displays the justice of God? Christ on the cross, wracked with pain because of His Father’s hatred of sin. Who displays the mercy of God? Christ on the cross, embracing our sin and folly so that He could carry it all down to the grave. Who displays the humility of God? Christ on the cross, who summons us to take up our cross and follow Him. And if we do follow Him in this way, we can be assured that we will do justly, love mercy, and walk with humility. But unlike the religious liars and thieves of ancient Judah and Israel, we will not try to bribe God to look the other way because we put on some sort of a religious show for Him.