The prophet Micah serves as the divinely-ordained prosecutor in God’s case against Judah, several decades prior to its fall to Babylon in 722 B.C. The people have rebelled against their covenant Lord, and after multiplied years and generations with no repentance, judgment is imminent. Interspersed with previous chapters of laying out God’s charges against the nation are promises of future glory and grace to be received upon Messiah’s return to set up His millennial kingdom. Chapter six featured the closing arguments and the verdict, while the first seven verses of this chapter describe the immediate results of the judgment (God’s curse of futility on all aspects of national, cultural, and personal life).
The present section of this chapter is heavy on hope, detailing the future reversal of Israel’s judgments under the rule of the coming King. The passage falls into two sections—Micah’s prayer for hope and God’s gracious response to him.
A. Jerusalem’s Hope (vv. 8-10)
As Micah both proclaimed his personal trust in the Lord and His plan as well as embodied the collective hopes of the godly remnant in verse 7, so he typifies that remnant in his prayer in verses 8 through 10. The “enemy” refers to those threats both human and spiritual which are arrayed against God, His program, and His people, regardless of dispensation. In the current narrative and stage in God’s plan, Micah speaks of the pagan nation used by God to judge them, as well as the demonic influences energizing them (such as they are). He tells these enemies not to rejoice, not to gloat, not to act as though they have somehow defeated the nation of Judah. Their power is in the hands of the One who created power itself, and He only allows them to exercise it according to His will. This power is used ultimately for Judah’s good, and to further the plan of God. It is not about Babylon’s military might, or prowess, and certainly not the strength of their demon gods. Instead, it is the perfect outworking of the will and plan of God. Right now, that plan hurts Israel. It chasten and breaks them and allows them to experience the full consequences of their sins (high handed as they were, with full knowledge of their responsibilities as covenant partners with God). But Micah’s point is that the severe chastening they experience, and in fact are under to this day, is not the end. Micah says that he and Jerusalem will rise; that in the deepest darkness God is a light for them still.
Micah further demonstrates the submissive heart of the godly remnant by saying he will “bear the indignation of [Yahweh]” (v. 9a). “Indignation” is not a happy word. It is translated “rage” in 2 Chronicles 28:9, and “fierce,” describing God’s anger during the Day of the Lord towards pagan nations who attack Israel (Isaiah 30:30). It is also used of the tumultuous and violent raging of the sea during Jonah’s attempts to escape from God (Jonah 1:15). It thus signifies God’s utter, complete wrath and anger towards the covenant people. There is no thought in the word of sparing, or relenting, or going easy on its objects. Any mercy must come from additional revelation of the heart of God. This word signifies only complete and total fury, when the apex of God’s patience has been reached.
This indicates Micah, and the godly disciples he represents, understood that the Babylonian captivity as nothing less than a divine act, of a sovereign and holy God moving to require of His nation what His holiness demanded. These people had “eyes to see” beyond the awful and demoralizing circumstances of their day unto the Word and hand of God working in and through it all. The note of hope is indeed present in Micah’s’ next words, for he says he will bear this indignation “until.” It has an ending point. There is coming relief and mercy. He says the wrath will end when God pleads his case, executes justice for him, and brings him out into the light unto the vison of His righteousness. It is not difficult, given the sufficiency of our now-completed Canon, to see clear eschatological overtones in these words. Just as the Lord Jesus is the Advocate of church saints in the present dispensation (1 John 2:1-2), so the coming Messiah, who will draw the repentant Jewish remnant to Himself (Zech. 12:8-13:1, 9), will intercede for them. Micah then sees himself in solidarity not merely with the godly of his day, but with his future brothers and sisters of many thousands of years later. The ethnic Jews who have survived the Tribulation will comprise a revived, restored, physical nation of Israel to whom God in Christ can personally fulfill the covenant promises. (That the time of chastening will not end until this future era necessarily implies that the Jews have been under the curse of God since the Assyrian invasion in 586 BC, which only increased upon their rejection of Messiah in AD 33. After this, God set the nation aside completely for the duration of this age and is currently working through a new, mystery institution, the largely Gentile church.) God in Christ will one day execute justice for the Jewish remnant and manifest His righteousness in judging their sins in the Pierced One and imputing His righteousness to them, in love.
Verse 10 indicates the role reversal the Babylonian enemies (and by extension, other enemies, including the revived Babylon at the end of the age) will experience. The one who mocked Israel and exalted her foreign demon gods will feel the wrath and fury of the One she has spurned. Though used by God to chasten His people, she used the opportunity to exalter herself and her might—and thus commit the deadly sin of pride. She will be trampled into the dirt by the one true God and Israel, formerly the tail, will be the head, just as God promised her (Deut. 28:13).
B. Jehovah’s Answer (vv. 11-17)
In this section, God the Father assures Micah of an affirmative response to his prayer, and in verse 14 turns His attention to God the Son, for the commencement of His program with Israel upon His return.
The multiple references to “day” in verses 11-12 refer to the eschatological Day, the Day of the Lord referred to numerous times in the prophets and in Paul’s writings. Some Bible teachers would limit the Day to merely the final portion of the Tribulation, when the wrath is especially severe; others (including me) think it is better to see the Day of the Lord as the entirety of the Tribulation period, as well as the final judgment at the end of the Millennium (e.g., 2 Peter 3:10-13).
The verses fall into a chiastic pattern:
A. Fulfillment of Future Promises (vv. 11-13)
B. Means to Fulfillment (vv. 14-15)
A.’ Fulfillment of Future Promises (vv. 16-17)
Verses 11-13, 16-17
The end of the Tribulation features the Lord Jesus Christ returning to set up His earthly kingdom and rescue Israel and the Gentile Tribulation saints. The past seven years He has worked invisibly in the world, executing judgment and purging His world of rebellion and sin (largely through the effective means of executing reprobate sinners, though also through redeeming His elect in droves). It is this “long day” that is how God builds Israel’s walls and extends her borders. Why? “Walls” refers to the low, agricultural or stone walls of a sheep pen or a vineyard, implying the borders around a fruitful, productive, or chosen place. The same word is used in Isaiah 5 of God’s defenses around Israel, and Zechariah 2:4-5 indicates that God will be the defense of the nation as well as there won’t be literal walls around Jerusalem because it will be joyously overflowing with people. The point is the Tribulation and Christ’s return will put Israel into the place of being once again under the protection of God (cf. Isaiah 54:13-17), restoring them to His favor. Verse 12 is a restatement of the promise in Isaiah 2:2-4 that Gentile nations will come to Israel to learn of the Lord, as Israel fulfills its covenant responsibility to be a light to the world. Verse 13 is likely a general reference to Tribulation judgments (note “fruit of their deeds”). Verses 16 and 17 continue the role reversal theme of verse 10, indicating the nations and others that attempt to dominate Israel will be dominated by her, ad more importantly, by her covenant God (cf. 4:11-13; Rev. 16:14-16, 19:11-21; Matt. 13:36-43, 25:31-46; Zech. 12:8-13:3, 14:1-5).
Here God the Father turns as it were to God the Son, allowing Micah a glimpse of the intra-Trinitarian communion, for his encouragement and ours. God the Father tells Jesus to return to earth, that He might “shepherd [His] people.” Jesus is to gather up His remnant Israel from all the places they’re not supposed to be—sheep do not belong in fruitful fields or woodlands, as nice as those are, but in a sheepfold, a pasture with their shepherd (cf. Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34; Micah 2:4, 4:6-7). Submissive to His Father’s word, Jesus does not step back into the world apart from His direction. “Miracles” in verse 15, when applied to men in the Old Testament, is often translated “impossibilities.” When applied to God it refers to a display of His sovereign and divine power, something which distinguishes Him as God alone (e.g., Job 42:3, Jer. 32:17, 27; Zech. 8:6). As He set them free from Egyptian bondage to be His people in the Exodus, so God will set Israel free from a far greater bondage—their sin, as He draws them under His rod to join the new covenant and finally obey their covenant God (Ezekiel 36:24-32, 37:21-28).
The study of Bible prophecy is one of the most refreshing and faith-strengthening things one can do. In it we see where the world and history are headed, gain confidence in the character of our God, and see His power, holiness, love, and grace displayed. Just as God is faithful to Israel, so He is faithful to us. Praise God for His tender mercies lavished on us in Christ!