If a man walking in the spirit of falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and corn; he shall even be the prophet of this people. Micah 2:11.
Many such men there were in Judah, men prophesying of corn and wine, of earthly prosperity and sensual enjoyment when they should have been predicting judgment and doom. So they were lying. Their prophesying, as they did, characterized them as men who walked after vanity and deceit, thus in the spirit of falsehood.
Yet in their prophesying they were apparently in line with at least parts of Micah’s discourse. He, too, painted the future gloriously bright. He said that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord should be established in the top of the mountains, and should be exalted above the hills, that people should flow into it, that many nations should come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He said further that the God of Jacob should judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; that they should beat their swords into plow-shares and their spears into pruning hooks; that nation should not lift up the sword against nation, but that they should sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and that none should make afraid, (chap. 4:1-4).
So spake Micah. Both he and the false prophets hold out hope. But the hope of the former is true. It will not put to shame. The hope of the latter is vain. It will put to shame indeed, as it is the hope of the world that lieth in darkness, of the wicked, of the apostate Israel. How steeped in sin these apostates are. “They devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds; when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hands.” No one can prevent their crimes, for their wealth and power enable them to do anything they please. They rob poor property owners of their holdings, that is, of the hereditary portion of the land assigned to each family at the time of the conquest and guarded by the “Jubilee Law” (chap. 1:1, 2). Widows, who are without defenders they drive from their possessions. They tear the mother from the children by selling them to different masters. Such is the treatment the nobles accord to the poor and the needy. They pounce upon their victims without provocation; as they pass by peaceably, attending to their own business, they fall upon them. Pull off the robe with the garment. (chap. 2:8, 9, 10) Such are the doings of the heads of the people, of the princes of Israel, of the magistrates (chap. 3:1). They hate the good. Wrongdoing has become their second nature. They have become utterly perverted. Their corruption expresses itself in cruelties that amaze. They flay the poor people alive, tear the flesh from their bones; they break their bones, chop them in pieces, boil them in the caldron, and devour them (3:3). These expressions are not to be taken literally as applying cannibalism; they are vivid pictures of heartless cruelty and oppression. They built up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. (chap. 3:10) The houses of the rich are full of the treasures of wickedness. The balances of the merchant class are wicked and its weights deceitful. The rich men are full of violence. The inhabitants of the land speak lies and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth (chap. 3:10, 11, 12). The statues of Omri are being kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab; and in their counsels do they walk (6:10). “The good man is perished out of the land (of Judah): and there is none upright among them; they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net” (7:2). Anxiously they are looking for opportunity to commit robbery and violence; and to accomplish their desire they are quite ready to shed blood. They quench the instincts of love and sympathy; they are scheming continuously to do harm to one another.
Such, mark you, were the conditions prevailing in the church of Micah’s day. The picture here hung up by the prophet is not that of the moral rottenness of some pagan commonwealth but of Judah. But despite their wickedness, these apostates insisted that corn and wine would continue to be their portion, that God would continue to prosper them and to cause them to dwell securely in His country. He had promised, “Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down and none shall make you afraid. . . . And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. (Lev. 26:4-7) This promise was there, written into their law by Moses. But this good would be theirs only “if ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them” (Lev. 26:3). This the apostates do not deny. They even say that they want it so and would have it no different. This is evident from statements occurring in Micah’s discourse. However, despite their sinfulness, they insist that they are walking in God’s statutes and keeping His commandments and that thus they have no sin. And what they have reference to is their coming before the Lord “with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old, in a word, to their keeping His law as to its letter. And this they do, these apostates. They appear devoutly religious. Their sacrifices are many. They appear before the Lord. They tread His courts. They observe the new moons and the Sabbaths. They call assemblies. They keep the solemn feasts. They spread forth their hands before God’s face, and make many prayers (Micah 6:6, 7; Isa. 1:11-15). But their religion has become a matter of form. They think that ceremonial observances will meet all the Lord’s requirements, and that, as long as the external acts of worship are scrupulously performed, they are entitled to God’s favor and protection. Such is their false notion. And despite their sinfulness, “yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? no evil will come upon us” (Micah 3:11).
“Is not the Lord among us?” They still have need of the Lord and also of a prophet to prophesy to them. But the man they desire is one who will fall in with them respecting their appraisal of self, one who is willingly ignorant of the sins of the nation and who refrains from upbraiding it on account of its sins, one who agrees that the people through their ceremonial observances are fulfilling the law and are therefore objects of God’s endearment, thus one who is ready to prophesy to them of wine and corn and assure them that no evil will come upon them. They have no difficulty in finding such a man. And finding, they say, “This man shall be our prophet.” And the man makes it a point to please them. But in pleasing them, he walks after wind and deceit and doth lie. But he is willing. For he devines for money, yet he poses as one who leans upon the Lord (3:11). But the apostates will have him.
But they cannot endure Micah. And there is reason. He is God’s prophet. He knows himself to be such. For he feels himself full of power by the Spirit of the Lord. Such is his testimony. “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (3:8). And he does declare. In opposition to the contention of the false trumpeters that the people have no sin, Micah exclaims, “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity” (3:9). He strikes at the misapprehension of the people that in their ceremonial observances they are meeting the requirements of true religion, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings. . . . Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (6:7, 8). Over against the prophecy of wine and corn, Micah places his prediction of utter desolation of Zion, “Therefore shall Zion for your sakes be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest” (3:12). The false prophets assure the sinners that the Lord is among them and that none evil can come upon them (3:2). But let them hear what the Lord saith, “Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily, for the time is evil. In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled. . . .he hath changed the portion of my people, how hath he removed it from me; turning away, he hath divided our fields” (23:4).
This doom, it is to be noticed, is presented by the prophet as already having taken place. It shall therefore come to pass. “For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate for my people, even to Jerusalem” (1:8).
But what about the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which the Lord has sworn unto them from the days of old? The Lord will perform them. He will pardon iniquity and pass by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage. He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will again turn. He will have compassion over His people. He will subdue their iniquities; and will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (7:18-20). He will surely assemble all of Jacob; He will surely gather the remnant of Israel. (2:12) Out of Bethlehem shall come forth to God one that is to be ruler in Israel: whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will the Lord give them up, until the time that she which travaileth, namely, the church, hath brought forth; then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. (5:3).
This is the hope that Micah holds out to the remnant. It is the hope not of the earthy (wine and corn) but of the heavenly, thus of a bliss the essence of which is the everlasting fellowship of a redeemed remnant with God in Zion, of a remnant that passes through fire and water to glory. How it is possible for the Lord to have compassion on this remnant, the prophet does not say. He does not understand. But that God forgives this remnant fills him with joyful amazement, “Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth iniquity.”
Such then was the content of the prophecy of Micah. It was a prophecy whose content was heavenly, and therefore both terrible and glorious. The apostates, the carnal Israel hated and despised this prophecy. They despised Micah. They bade him to cease prophesying. “Prophesy ye not,” they said. They did not believe Micah. They did not believe his prediction of doom. This can be explained. At the time that this prediction was uttered, Judah was enjoying a prosperity unequaled since the days of David and Solomon. To the apostates Micah’s prediction did not square with reality; that of the false prophets did. So they believed the latter. For they were unwilling to forsake their sins and turn to God. Yet Judah already was being threatened by the allied forces of Damascus and Israel. The real crisis came during the reign of Ahaz. The Assyrians advanced with great rapidity. But God punished the two nations and Judah was saved. This again must have proved to the apostates that the prophecy of Micah was false. It was not until about a hundred years later that Micah’s prophecy went into fulfillment. Then Judah was carried to Babylon.