Studying the Book of Micah
Plus a Suggested Five-Part Sermon Series from Micah
Introduction: The moment the New York legislature burst into cheers about passing a bill to murder of children for any reason up to the point of birth, our nation crossed a line from which, apart from divine mercy, there is no return. It’s akin to the child sacrifices that doomed the nation of Judah. I have not seen such evil in the United States before. We need a prophetic voice, which means our pulpits must take seriously the preaching of the Old Testament prophets. Those books are in the Bible for a reason. But the prophets are not all doom and disaster. Micah is an example of a man whose sermons encompassed sin, repentance, and restoration, and whose ministry fostered a spiritual awakening. His seven chapters are worth mastering, and the structure of the book is worth noting.
The Theme of Micah: God’s Warnings Can Be Awakenings.
The Background of Micah: What we know about Micah himself is in verse 1 of his book: The word of the Lord that came to Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah…. To understand the times during which Micah preached, scan 2 Chronicles 27 – 32. Jotham was a relatively good king who reigned 16 years, and during this time Micah began his ministry. When Jotham died, his 20-year-old son, Ahaz, took over. He was diabolically evil, and it wasn’t safe to be an infant. “He…sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 28:3). Micah preached through this period. When Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king and instituted an awakening in the land. Micah’s ministry undoubtedly helped usher in this awakening, and the structure of his book reflects this history. Isaiah was preaching during the same period, but Isaiah was primarily in Jerusalem. Micah was a prophet to the small towns. Notice how many small towns he mentions in his book. Fittingly, to him was given the honor of announcing the small-town birthplace of the Messiah (5:2).
Part 1: Micah’s Discourse (Chapters 1-5)
The first five chapters of Micah are a sermon or series of sermons—a booklet—that deals with three themes: (1) Judgment – chapter 1; (2) Repentance – chapters 2-3; and restoration – chapters 4-5. He began by warning Judah of God’s coming judgment and he mourned over the devastation coming to the small towns of Judah. In chapter 2, Micah explained why God is preparing to judge His people. He condemned the false prophets in chapter 2 and the corrupt politicians in chapter 3. Abruptly Micah jumped to coming restoration in chapters 4 and began describing the Millennial Reign of Christ. He and Isaiah shared some of the same language. He pinpointed the location of Christ’s birth (5:2) and predicted that the one born in Bethlehem would stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. He will be our peace. Remember that the Old Testament prophets didn’t distinguish between the first and second comings of Christ. So having spoken of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, Micah described the worldwide victory of Christ’s return, when God “will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed Me” (5:15).
2. Part 2: Micah’s Dialogue (chapters 6-7)
The last two chapters have a decidedly different tone to them, indicating that a spiritual awakening was unfolding, perhaps the awakening that occurred when Hezekiah became king. In chapter 6, the Lord enjoined the people to repent, not with warnings and threats, but with a tone of love and longing: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? I brought you out of Egypt… I sent Moses to lead you…” The people responded, in effect, saying, “What do you want us to do? Do we need to offer thousands of rams and rivers of olive oil? Do we need to offer you our first-born sons?” The Lord replied, “You don’t need to do any of that. All you have to do is act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” The people were struck with sorrow and contrition in chapter 7, saying, “What misery is mine!” They recounted their sins (7:1-6), and resolved to watch in hope for God as their Savior (7:7). That leads to the key verse of the book, Micah 7:9: “Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until He pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness.” The book ends with one of the Bible’s most magnificent declarations of God’s awesome grace and merciful forgiveness (7:18-20).
Conclusion: When we find ourselves in the days of Ahaz, when it isn’t even safe to be an infant, there is still hope for our land. The preaching of prophets like Micah and their themes of sin, judgment, and restoration, can bring an awakening, and God can “hurl all our iniquities in the depths of the sea” (7:19).
PS: Some Ideas for Creating a Five-Part Sermon Series from Micah…
- Possible Title: God’s Warning, Our Awakening
- Sermon 1: Changing Seasons in the Life of a Nation – Survey 2 Chronicles 27-32, looking at the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, drawing parallels to our own times.
- Sermon 2: The Coming Judgment – Micah 1 – God’s judgment is holy and good, for evil cannot be permitted to win. God is coming from His dwelling place and the earth will melt before Him. Even small towns will not escape. He warns us in order to spare us.
- Sermon 3: What Sin Does to a Land – Micah 2 and 3 – A land is ruined with sin infiltrates the people, the preachers, and the politicians of a land. But notice 2:7: “Do not my words do good to the one whose ways are upright?”
- Sermon 4: The Way It Should Be – Micah 5 and 6 – Do you ever dream of the way the world ought to be? The way it can be? In these chapters, Micah describes that period of time when Christ will rule 1000 years over the nations. The real shepherd is Christ, born in Bethlehem. He can be your peace now, and the qualities of His kingdom can happen in your heart today.
- Chapter 5: How To Experience Awakening – Micah 6 & 7 – In these chapters, the people become responsive to Micah’s message. They want to know what He demands of them, and He tells them it is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (6:8). They confess their sins (7:8), and the Lord assures them He will throw all their sins into the depths of the sea (7:19). Dwell on an exposition of the last three verses of the book, for this is a description of the infinite forgiving, restoring, renewing grace of God.