Micah Chapter 6: God’s Controversy with His People

Dec 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Micah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Micah Chapter 6: God’s Controversy with His People

Micah 6:1 Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.

Micah 6:2 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.

The RSV reads, “Hear what the LORD says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.”

Probably Micah dramatized this prophecy, mimicking the actual speaking to the mountains and hills, so that the people would take notice. Imagine his addressing hills and mountains as if they were personalities! Through this method, the people would have caught the point.

“Mountains” symbolize the nations in general. In chapter 6, God was warning the nations and contrasting them with Israel. The “enduring foundations of the earth” were the powers that be of “the establishment”—the existing order.

In succeeding verses, God showed that He had some problems with the nation of Israel. He pleaded and reasoned with the people, and reminded them of His former spectacular leadership, especially in connection with their deliverance from Egypt under Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, who had a musical role to perform. He also reminded them of the incident with Balaam and Balak and of what happened from Shittim to Gilgal. After this manifest deliverance, the Israelites forgot what God had done for them and bemoaned their present circumstances. In Micah’s day, the people had problems, but they did not rely enough on the Lord.

“The LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.” God first emphasized that He had a controversy with Israel. In contrast, Jeremiah 25:31 tells that God has a controversy with all of the nations that will come up against Israel. Evidently, before the Lord really blesses Israel at the end of the age, His purpose is to reveal the shortcomings of that nation. That way the people will be truly humble when they get the blessings, and thus they will be appropriate instruments for blessing mankind as the leader nation. In the Lord’s “controversy” (or argument) with Israel, He will reason on what He did for them in the past and on what they are doing at present. Faith is the exercise of the mind with respect to God and His promises, and Israel, as well as the majority of the world, is lacking in faith.

Micah 6:3 O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.

Micah 6:4 For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Micah 6:5 O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.

God continued to talk through Micah. The RSV reads, “‘O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.’”

What did King Balak of Moab devise, and what did Balaam answer? Balak wanted Balaam, as a prophet of the Lord, to curse the children of Israel. The Bible does not say whether Balaam was merely a nominal prophet of the Lord or whether he had been a true prophet at one time, but based on the fact that later the Holy Spirit overruled and caused Balaam to utter a profound, true prophecy, it would seem that he did have the Lord’s favor at one time. When Balak persistently tried to get Balaam to curse the Israelites, the prophet replied that God did not want him to. Therefore, he knew it was not proper to curse the children of Israel. However, when Balaam procrastinated and said he would see what the Lord had to say, he left the door a little bit open to the temptation instead of just slamming it. The result was that even though Balaam repeatedly gave a negative reply, the king eventually persuaded him to go to the top of a mountain ostensibly to pronounce the curse, but God overruled so that Balaam blessed the children of Israel instead. Although Balaam failed to give the curse, he did succeed in giving bad advice. He told King Balak to promote intermarriage between the people of his nation and those of Israel. In other words, if Balak urged his people, particularly the women, to fraternize with and seduce the Israelite men to marry or have relations with them—an uncovenanted people—then in time, the morale of Israel would be undermined and heathen religions would be intermingled, for mixed marriages would result in a controversy over how to raise the children, religiously speaking.

On the one hand, God’s “savings acts,” or “righteousness,” overpowered Balaam so that the prophet blessed Israel instead of cursing the nation. On the other hand, Balaam did give bad advice, which the heathen nation successfully followed to undermine Israel. Therefore, this reminder of Balaam and Balak was a rebuke to Israel for succumbing to the worship of other gods. If the Israelites could appreciate the fact that although Balaam was their enemy in certain respects, he ended up blessing them, then they would be impressed with God’s mighty power to save. It is like Pharaoh—he did not want to let the Israelites go, but after the ten plagues, he said, “Go! and pray for me too while you are there so that I will get a blessing.” Even the hardhearted Pharaoh was overpowered by the Lord’s Spirit for a little while.

Certainly the great Jehovah knew He had done nothing wrong! What He was trying to bring out was that the fault lay with Israel. God was pleading with the people, coming down to a level comparable to a family relationship. He was saying, “If you have anything legitimate to say, you may testify against me, but you have nothing!”

The use of the word “wearied” in verse 3 indicates that the Israelites were tired of God’s leadership. They were also weary when Moses ascended Mount Sinai and was gone for 40 days. During his absence, they could not wait, so they built a golden calf.

Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Micah 6:7 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?

God answered these questions in later verses, showing that He wants obedience, not sacrifice. In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul used this same style of reasoning. He gave certain lessons and then anticipated what questions the hearer might have in his mind. For example, Paul asked, “Doesn’t having the Law profit the Jew anything?” Then he answered the question: “The Jew has much advantage every way” (Rom. 3:1,2 paraphrase).

Some incorrectly conclude from verses 6-8 that God was not interested in sacrifices and that, therefore, there should not have been any. However, God ordained the sacrifices Himself, so they had to be proper. The point is that the sacrifices taught lessons; they had a typical value. The main lesson was that without the shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sin; that is, death was connected with the forgiveness of sins. Indeed the sacrifices should have pointed the nation of Israel to Messiah.

God was not saying that the Jews should have abandoned the Law and the sacrifices, for that would have been still worse—that would have been outright disobedience. The problem was that the sacrifices were often the sicker, weaker animals or even dead ones. Or if a prime animal was given, it was offered grudgingly and not from the heart. Still others thought that by giving a proper sacrifice, they had a perfect standing with the Lord and needed nothing else, including the Messiah. Such were obeying the ceremonial Law but not the moral Law. (This type of reasoning is comparable to a nominal Christian’s thinking he can go to church on Sunday and then do whatever he wants the rest of the week.) The moral requirements of the Law—how one should treat his neighbor, for example—were relegated to the background, and the ceremony, or form, was given the precedent, whereas it should have been the other way around. The moral Law was of primary importance and of a character value, while the ceremonial Law was secondary and mainly of value as types. There is a similarity with baptism for the Christian. The primary significance is the giving of one’s heart to the Lord, while the outward manifestation of water immersion is a picture and thus is of secondary importance.

Notice the technique the prophet used. It was as though he could read the people’s minds, for he anticipated and asked their questions for them. He gave the thoughts of those who were wondering how to approach God. For example, “Will He be pleased with burnt offerings?”

In what way would a “firstborn” be given for a transgression? By following the evil practice of offering children to appease the god Molech, some of the Israelites actually passed their firstborn children through the fire. They reasoned that because they would have many children, one child could be used to atone for sin. What dreadful reasoning to justify murder!

Why was the question asked, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams?” God was speaking from a national standpoint, as well as from an individual standpoint. In some of the national services, literally thousands of animals were offered. Thus God was criticizing the people at large. The same explanation applies to “ten thousands of rivers of oil.” Oil was mixed with meal and baked into cakes that could be offered, and oil was also offered in drink offerings, which were poured out on the sacrifice. Drink offerings were for God “to drink”; that is, they were supposed to appease and satisfy Him. Jesus “poured out his soul unto death” by offering himself (Isa. 53:12).

Micah 6:8 He hath shown 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?

Micah was talking. While God was behind this whole arrangement and lesson, He allowed the personality of the prophet to shine through. Micah entered into the spirit of the lesson by saying, “God is showing you what He really wants—He wants your heart, your life, not all of these sacrifices. He has shown you what is good, what He requires of you.” We quote verse 8 quite frequently.

Micah 6:9 The LORD’S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.

The RSV has, “The voice of the LORD cries to the city—and it is sound wisdom to fear thy name: ‘Hear, O tribe and assembly of the city!’” In the type, or natural picture, Jerusalem was “the city” that represented the whole nation. In the antitype, Babylon represents the whole arrangement of Christendom. To the end of chapter 6, the “voice” of Jehovah will continue to cry “to the city,” for He was giving a tongue-lashing. It would be sound wisdom to listen to the voice of divine authority and to take correction and instruction (“the rod”). The King James Version is better at the end of this verse.

Micah 6:10 Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?

The RSV reads, “‘Can I forget the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?’” An expression in the Book of Hebrews gives the same lesson.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:23-27).

Why do people pursue evil? They do so because evil brings pleasure and rewards. Moses could have gotten a reward in Egypt, but he gave up the pleasures and riches there to follow the gospel of a coming Messiah. Does the “house of the wicked” offer real treasures? Does one who abandons himself to lust, greed, and power have real treasures? NO! After all is said and done, what the wicked acquire by their wicked works is not really worth the effort. The Lord was saying, “Can’t you give up these toys and the tinsel [the evil] and follow after that which is more substantial?”

Micah 6:11 Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?

The RSV has, “‘Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights?’”

One of the evils specifically mentioned was along monetary lines. The scales were so shrewdly manipulated that the buyer got less than he paid for, yet he could not detect the fraud. For example, the container for the product might have weighed more than it should have so that its weight subtracted from the weight of the contents. Then the customer was charged for gross weight and not for net weight. Another example is where the butcher put his thumb on the scale when weighing the meat, and all the while he just pretended to be carefully determining the weight. These are examples of planned deception.

In the old days, a merchant had a bag of different-sized round weights with slots in them. To determine the weight of the product, weights were fastened on the line balancing the scale.

However, the weights were intentionally marked incorrectly to give a false measure in favor of the merchant. Then a man who earned $100 a week by using deceitful practices would go into the Temple and donate $20. God was saying, “Shall I count this man pure who comes to me being ostensibly very liberal when the money was acquired by deceitful practices?” This principle is very soul-searching, for it can come home to us in little ways.

Micah 6:12 For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.

Jerusalem was supposed to be the “holy city,” but its inhabitants got rich through deceitful practices and “violence.” Examples of this violence would be robbing widows’ houses (foreclosing on widows’ houses when they were in dire straits), extortion, seizing lands, wicked balances and deceitful weights, and exploiting the poor.

Much of Micah’s prophecy was reprimanding the rich: judges, nobles, merchants, and priests. All strata of society were corrupt, but the burden of the prophet’s message was to the upper class.

Micah 6:13 Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.

The RSV has, “‘Therefore I have begun to smite you, making you desolate because of your sins.’” This verse refers to the coming judgment whereby the land would be made desolate, or fallow, by the Israelites’ being taken captive to Babylon.

Micah 6:14 Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.

The RSV reads, “‘You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger in your inward parts; you shall put away, but not save, and what you save I will give to the sword.’” Verse 14 was also a prophecy of the impending disaster that was to come on Jerusalem. Ironically, a person could be doing all sorts of tricks and violence to accumulate money, and then in would come a foreign conqueror who would brutally murder members of that person’s family and take the saved-up money. Hence a lifetime of extortion in preparation for retirement on a bed of ease could suddenly go up in smoke. Such extortioners would then feel doubly guilty. They had used a double standard in order to get their reward, and when the reward was taken from them, they had two disappointments: one of conscience and one in regard to the disappearance of their “nest egg.” In addition to what the leaders seized, soldiers of conquering armies took booty from the conquered; that is, they took what the leaders left behind.

Micah 6:15 Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.

Verses 13-16 were predicated on the capture of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar, which also affected the environs of the city and brought just retribution.

Micah 6:16 For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.

Omri was an evil king of the ten-tribe kingdom, and so was Ahab (1 Kings 16:25,26,30). The ringleader of the breakaway from Judah, and thus the first evil king of the ten tribes, was Jeroboam. The people, especially the rich and the powerful, walked in the statutes of Omri in that they followed his evil example and character instead of hearkening to the Lord. Because of the evil, God would make Israel “a desolation” and their inhabitants “an hissing.”

(1975 Study with Excerpts from a 1993 Study)

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