The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. (Micah 7:2 NIV)
Some thoughts on Micah’s entreaty regarding the moral breakdown of Isaraelite society, after listening to James Montgomery Boice’s exposition of Micah 7.
God has stored up His wrath on sinners for His great Day. We know this because it is promised repeatedly throughout the Bible. But that does not mean He is not judging now, also. He does send His wrath onto the earth when He judges nations. (Romans 1:18). He is supreme in His holiness, and one of those supreme attributes is that He judges now. When He judges a nation, its rulers, and its people, He shows us that the wages of sin really is death. (Romans 3:10). On a more individual level or regarding a family unit, when we go our way He begins to show us the frustration of sin in our lives, and eventually if someone is unrepentant, destruction comes- ether now or later.
Micah begins his picture of judgement on national Israel by showing a three-pronged cycle.
1. God judges moral breakdown in a society. “Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.” (Micah 7:2b).
2. It continues with a breakdown in leadership. “Judges accept bribes. Rulers demand gifts. The powerful dictate what they desire— they all conspire together.” (Micah 7:3).
3. His judgment finalizes with breakdown in the family, the most personal and foundational of all. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household. (Micah 7:5-6)
The cycle Micah describes above begins with a general immorality in a society, descends to more personal immorality such as corrupt leaders, rulers, and judges. It ends with neighbors betraying one another and one’s own intimate family members being an enemy. A society exhibiting that kind of judgment is truly at the end of its national life.
We see that last-stage internal family betrayal as an indicator of a society’s moral breakdown is repeated in Matthew 10:36, “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
Societies break down, that happens. What Micah is doing in recording his own day’s societal breakdown is that he was showing the breakdown against God’s moral excellency. In chapter 7, Micah is talking about the judgment of God upon a rebellious society. What makes this so significant, is that this is an aspect of God’s judgment in the here and now (of Micah’s day, of Jesus’ day and of our day and of the future day) and not only a future Day of the LORD. It’s like this- if a society refuses God who made them and blesses them and protects them, then breakdown will follow. This promise of wrath revealed upon corrupt and rebellious societies is mirrored in the New Testament cycle of Romans 1:18-32, a cycle which I’ve mentioned often.
When you see this kind of breakdown is should be evident to the people as to what has happened in their national life. In Romans 1 it effectively states that when they would not have God, He would not have them. When a society rejects God, the decline of national life is inevitable. They reject God, He rejects them. They rebel against God, He gives them over to rebellion. After a while it is impossible to detect who is doing the rejecting, as the very sin a society chose becomes their very own judgment.
Micah asked, Who is like our God in His judgments? and it is good and wise thing to remember and ask ourselves in this day.
Yet for all the reality of wrath and judgment, there is a promise of deliverance! There is no one like God in His judgments, yet there is no one like God in His deliverance. God judges, but He delivers and when He delivers, He shepherds! He is a good God who cares for His flock. Micah was speaking specifically of Israel and to Israel here, look at the promise of future deliverance of the nation God has elected!
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.
He is a God who fulfills His promises! What do we need to do in the meantime, as we wait for the glorious return?