The book of Micah is a beautiful book. Micah lived about 700 B.C. At this time, the Children of Israel had been living in the Land of Canaan for about 700 years and were well established. Israel was all still intact. They thought that as God’s people, He would always preserve them. After all, there were no other people on earth who were preaching the truth. If they were wiped out, who would God have? They were the depositors, as Paul says, of the oracles of God.
In Micah 3:11 God, through the prophet says, “Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay.” They were making a comfortable, secure living in the priesthood. “And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord. . .” Does anyone like to be used? We do not like to be used, but how often we are tempted to use God. The Children of Israel used God. They leaned on Him to their advantage. “We are His people. We do not have to listen or obey Him, but He must take care of us. He has promised us things and we are going to hold Him to those promises. All nations will be blessed through us.” They knew everything was not right, politics had entered the church, but they reasoned if there was anything wrong at the head of the church, God would right it.
God’s church was going through. Through conniving or politics or however else the leaders happened to get at the head of God’s church—since they were on top of the heap that was going through, they thought they were going to succeed, too. All they had to do was stay on top. “Are we not God’s people? therefore, no harm can come to us.” “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah 3:12. Because of this attitude, because of you who are entrenched in your offices, because of you leaders of the people who are working for pay instead of for a calling, Jerusalem will be devastated, will be plowed like a field and be left destroyed.
Micah 4:3 says, “Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds.” It is a hard thing for us to admit that God is not dependent upon us. Somehow we are determined that God has to be dependent on us. It is true, God wants to use us and it is even true that God has made His work dependent on some men, somewhere. God has suffered many losses because people have been untrue. He could have, many times, sent angels to do the work, but He has left it in the hands of men, and many times, unfaithful men.
And yet, never has God made His work entirely dependent upon people and never has He made it dependent upon any certain group of people. Hosea, a contemporary of Micah, says, “I will say to those who were not My people. ‘You are My people!’ ” Hosea 2:23. John the Baptist said, “God can raise up children to Himself from these stones. Do not think that He is dependent on you.” One of the most dangerous philosophies for the church, is to come to the place where we think that because we are God’s church , He is dependent on us. It is deadly and it destroyed the Children of Israel. Because they thought God was dependent upon them, the Children of Israel continued to carry out their ceremonies, rituals, and forms of worship. As apostasy deepened, the forms of worship increased. Their professions increased while their morality decreased.
Micah, in chapter 6, verse 6 speaking for the people says, “With what shall I come before the Lord, . . . Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” Do you know why God required calves a year old? Because He did not want them to get the use out of them and then give them when they were old. A year old calf was a real sacrifice. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Isaiah, descibes what the people were saying in chapter 58, “Look God, we have done everything. We have fasted. We have come with our sackcloth and ashes and we have given offerings and tithes and we have worshipped and come before You day after day and You do not hear. How come?” Isaiah answers, “It is because your sins have hid His face from you.”
How does mankind come to the place where he thinks he can do things to buy God’s love? God requires a change of character. Can we do something to buy our way into heaven? Can we attend enough meetings to somehow appease God, as though He needed appeasing? Can we give enough offerings, enough tithe, or fast long enough?
There is nothing we can do to atone for our sins but accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus. However, there is a condition. Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” John 3:3. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. Is that a fair condition? God says, “You cannot claim Me as your Lord unless you allow Me to come into your life.”
The Children of Israel leaned on the Lord, but did not want Him to come into their lives or to be subject to Him. Why? They were afraid He might change their lives and we do not want to be changed because we like the way we are. That is why the Bible says, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17. By faith, we know that God loves us and He will do nothing but what is for our own good. By faith, we know that God’s way brings peace and joy and happiness even though it may not look like it to the natural eye. “In the world,” Jesus said, “you will have tribulation.” John 16:33. You may suffer persecution for keeping the Sabbath. You may suffer loss of job, or be unpopular. Even family members may turn against you. But, by faith, we know that while we suffer persecution on the outside, God has promised to give us peace, joy, and happiness on the inside.
Now the Children of Israel asked Micah, “Doesn’t God want us to worship Him? Doesn’t He want our calves of a year old? What about our sacrifices of oil and calves and our convocations and our ceremonies and all these other things?” The gist of Micah’s answer is, “Unless these ceremonies are bringing you closer to God in character, why do them?” (See Micah 6:6–8.)
The Scribes and Pharisees read the Scriptures daily and Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures every day and they teach of Me and yet you refuse to come to Me.” (See John 5:39.) They went to church, they fasted, they gave, they prayed and they even kept the Sabbath of the Lord, but they were lost. They fooled everyone into thinking they were religious and yet, there was one thing they never did. They never surrendered or accepted the way God had worked out for them. God’s way involved the cross. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24
We must be broken on the Rock and yield completely to the Lord. I must come to the place where I am willing to yield all sin. But someone says, “I am not willing. So what do I do?” We are told if we pray, “Lord, make me willing to be made willing,” The Mount of Blessings, 142. He will do that. God will begin to work on our heart. God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Ezekiel 33:11
The Lord through Micah gives promises to encourage us in this work of surrendering. “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; and I will receive His righteousness.” Micah 7:7–9
Promises and Warnings
God is merciful, yet the Children of Israel used these promises of God’s love and grace and goodness as excuses for sin. That is dangerous and presumptive. They said, “God is going to save us anyway. He will correct all our iniquity. Do not criticize. Do not cry aloud. Just trust in the Lord.”
“Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who make my people stray; who chant ‘Peace’” Micah 3:5. Why were they crying peace? Because they thought they were standing on the promises of the Lord. They said, “Peace! Everything is going to be all right. God’s going to see us through.” God said, “While they chew with their teeth, but who prepare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.” Ibid. God was putting nothing in their mouth. “Therefore you shall have night without vision, and you shall have darkness with divination; the sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be dark for them. So the seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners abashed; indeed they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer from God. But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” Micah 3:6–8. But they said, “Don’t do that. Just say peace. Stand on the promises of God.” (See Jeremiah 6:14 and Desire of Ages, 106.)
True prophets were not prophets of peace. They gave good courage and promises on condition of obedience, but they also warned against iniquities. These prophecies of Micah are given for today. Notice Micah 4:1, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days . . .” In Micah 4:6, 7, it says, “’In that day,’ says the Lord, ‘I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast and those whom I have afflicted; I will make the lame a remnant, and the outcast a strong nation; so the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on, even forever.’” God has promised, in the last days, to gather the outcasts of Israel and to make of them a remnant.
The Remnant—His Church
Have we learned the lessons from Micah? Are we today in danger of crying “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace? Or are we in danger of trying to appease God and earn our way into His favor? Are we standing on promises to our own destruction, not fulfilling the conditions? “Sins exist in the church that God hates, but they are scarcely touched for fear of making enemies. Opposition has risen in the church to the plain testimony. Some will not bear it. They wish smooth things spoken unto them.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 283, 284
“Just as long as God has a church, he will have those who will cry aloud and spare not, [like Micah] who will be his instruments to reprove selfishness and sins, and will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear. I saw that individuals would rise up against the plain testimonies It does not suit their natural feelings. They would choose to have smooth things spoken unto them, and have peace cried in their ears. I view the church in a more dangerous condition than they ever have been. Experimental religion is known but by a few. The shaking must soon take place to purify the church.” Ibid. The remnant in the last days are going to be made up of the poor, blind, lame and halt. “In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient and independent of God and He cannot use them. But the Lord has faithful servants who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view. There are precious ones now hidden who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but it may be under a rough and uninviting exterior that the pure brightness of a genuine Christian character will be revealed. Chaff like a cloud will be blown away on the wind even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat. All who assume the ornaments of the sanctuary, but who are not clothed with Christ’s righteousness will appear in the shame of their own nakedness.” Testimonies to the Church, vol. 8, 80, 81
That was the message of Micah. God’s people are in danger of trusting in being God’s people. “We are the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” And yet, being the temple of the Lord, they have not developed a Christian character. God says He will destroy them, but a remnant will be left of poor and humble people. The promises in Micah are made to the remnant, “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the [what?] remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; they shall make a loud noise because of so many men.” Micah 2:12. “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the [who?] remnant of His heritage?” Micah 7:18. The remnant is going to increase, people will come in, but it is only going to be a remnant of the Children of Israel.
“‘In that day,’ says the Lord,‘I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast and those whom I have afflicted.’” Micah 4:6. There is coming a time when God will mold together a remnant. They are going to cry and be heard from one end of the earth to the other. It is described as three angels flying in the midst of the heavens with a fourth angel giving them power and that the earth was lightened with its glory. Then it is that God is going to receive the glory. Man’s wisdom will be made of none effect.
Many people are not going to be satisfied with this because God alone will receive the glory. All of man’s glory will be made of none effect. Look at Micah 4:9. “Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor.” People are going to be crying, “Look, we do not have any more kings in our midst. Where are our great counselors? They seem to be gone.” But it is at that time that Jesus will take charge of the church. It is that time that He and the Holy Spirit will receive the glory and He will be the head of the church. What God is looking for today is to become the head of His people. He wants to pour out upon His people, His Spirit. If we will yield ourselves to His character, to His Spirit, to His leading and guiding, God is willing to take charge of the church for His name’s honor and glory.
Today the Lord is inviting us to turn from the strongholds of men to the strongholds of God. May we each have the privilege to be among His remnant in that day when the Lord’s word will go forth with power to the world and He will come to judge the nations in truth and righteousness.