Micah 6. How Have I Wearied You?
What Do You Want From Me?
Key Notes: Israel wants freedom; God wants justice and mercy. Loving mercy. Justice? Trivial cheating. Honoring the pledge.
If we think of Hosea as preoccupied with sexual sin, Micah emphasizes social sin, sin in the City. This chapter is set up as an argument between two unhappy parties, God pleading with Israel and Israel’s exaggerated and inadequate reply. The prophet then supplies the right response, a famous quotation. The chapter concludes with God’s further indictment.
6:1–2 The mountains and hills are called to testify in God’s contention with Israel, as if no one else will listen.
6:3–4 God asks what he has done wrong to make Israel tired of Him. He reviews some of His work on Israel’s behalf, a series of rescues starting with Exodus and ending with Joshua 5.
* God brought them out of bondage by plagues on the Egyptians. Exodus.
*God gave them three kinds of leaders: a priest, Aaron; a prophet, Moses; a song-leader and prophetess/women’s leader, Miriam. Ex.15:20–21
* Balaam, paid to curse Israel by Balak, king of Moab, was compelled to bless Israel three times. Num.22–24
* And what happened between Shittim and Gilgal—a lot ! Num. 25-Josh.5
* Israel fell into idolatry with Baal at Peor and had to be purged. Num.25
* Joshua was commissioned to succeed Moses, giving continuity of leadership. Num.27
* Israel warred against the Midianites and won. Num.31
* East Jordan was successfully settled by Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Num.32
* Moses recited the Law to the new generation entering Canaan. Deuteronomy.
* They crossed the Jordan at flood-tide, with the waters held back as at the Red Sea. They entered the Promised Land intact. Josh. 1–4
Weary of God? God was weary with Israel, too.
“Yet you did not call upon Me, O Jacob, but you have been weary of me…” “….you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities.” Isa.43:22–24
“’What a weariness this is, ‘ you say, and you sniff at me', says the Lord of Hosts.” Mal.1:13
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say,’ How have we wearied Him?’ By saying ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them’ or by saying ’Where is the God of justice?’' Mal.2:17
The psychology of Israel is not hard to grasp.
“For long ago you broke your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said ‘I will not serve.’ Yet under every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down as a harlot.” Jer.2:20
“Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to You?’ Jer.2:31
Freedom, they cried. After being freed from Egypt by God, then they wanted to be free from God too so they could chase after whatever other gods they chose.
6:6–7 What does God want? A choice calf? Thousands of rams? Tens of thousands of rivers of olive oil? My first-born son as a sacrifice?
6:8 God has shown plainly what He wants: a person who does justice, loves mercy and walks humbly with God.
6:9 The City is important in Micah.
The voice of God cries out in the City. He cries out against the concentration of resources (“treasures”) used for wickedness; deceptive commercial practices, violence, lying and deceit in the City.
1:5 The sin of Jacob was its capital, Samaria. The sin of Judah is Jerusalem.
1:10- The destruction of ten cities attests to their wickedness.
3:1 The rulers of the house hate good, love evil, and eat people.
3:9 The rulers of the house abhor justice, pervert equity, and build Zion on blood.
3:12 The citadel of Zion will become a plowed field. There are pictures of an Arab plowing on Mt. Zion in the’20’s.
4:1 The New Zion will the center of education, righteousness, judgment and peace.
5:2 A little village will yield the Great King.
6:9 The voice of the Lord cries out to the city against crooked commerce.
Compare the city and the Country.
In the Country people are focused on the weather, growth of plants, the life of animals, because their lives depend on these things. They worry about insects and disease. Since farmers have little control over the weather, they look to God-especially in crisis--for rain, and good crops. Wealth and power is dispersed.
In the City people are focused on commerce, money and on each other. Wealth and power is concentrated and so is criminal activity. Exploitation, theft and deception are common. People are not thinking about rain and good crops. God is not in the equation. The existence of the City is a spiritual problem in itself. Babylon is the prototype of the wicked city.
( A secular author sees the City in ways that resonate with the Biblical perspective. The City in History. L. Mumford. Harcourt, Brace & World; NY.’61.)
6:13 The consequence is that God is going to make Israel’s work futile. Because they follow the life-style of King Omri, father of Ahab, God will see that they are disgraced.
The key verse is Mic.6:8.
Do justice-- instead of cheating and lying. A lot of injustice seems minor. Christians are not immune to trivial cheating. One of the besetting sins of Christians is failure to keep promises, volunteering and then not showing up. It is demoralizing to rely on people who don’t come or who drop out before the job is done. If two are carrying a telephone pole and one drops his end, the other will have a torn shoulder.
Pledging to the building fund and not making good is another besetting sin. It is a standard statistic of church fund-raising experts that 17% of pledges will not be honored. The unpleasant interpretation is that 17% of “Christians” are liars. “I promised ten thousand? But that was last year. Things aren’t so good right now.”
When is a lie not a lie? When conditions change? "We changed churches."
Love Mercy. “Love mercy” is a unique Biblical expression, found only here. Having mercy or obtaining mercy are common Biblical expressions. But how do we come to love mercy?
I think we learn to love mercy by letting people give mercy to us.
If you ask for help, you are giving the other person the opportunity to be merciful. Many people—most people—have a warm-hearted reaction to someone reaching out for a helping hand. It is fun to be in a power boat and take part of a water rescue. Sometimes the first step in a friendship is responding to a need, like a loaf of bread and a jar of jam for a new neighbor. Store-clerks and restaurant wait-staff enjoy being helpful. The surgeon exults over his healed cancer patient.
I have been greatly blessed by strangers who helped me when I was traveling—stuck in the airport in Moscow, a flat tire in Nebraska, a failed hotel reservation in Miami. We must give them the opportunity, enjoy the receiving and learn to give mercy back. The store manager rebuilt my Hudson pump and we have been friends ever since. I had received mercy.
But we are ambivalent about receiving mercy. We prefer to be independent. We would rather be lost than ask a clerk for directions. We avoid store people who try to direct us in a purchase. We would rather not get any advice. (The Internet is great for information because there is no personal interaction and no obligation.) Patients would rather talk to a computer about their illness than to a nurse or doctor. When injured we fend off attempted rescuers. We don’t want presents because we don’t want to be under obligation to give back, and we lose the joy—both the giver and the receiver are the poorer.
Observe that Micah puts justice before mercy. CS Lewis points out that
“….the Humanitarian theory wants simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. This means that you start being “kind” to people before you have considered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindness which no one but you will recognize as kindnesses…. Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. That is the important paradox.” (The Quotable Lewis; W Martindale; J. Root; Tyndale,’69; p.426)
Walk with God, humbly, but walk.
“Do two walk together unless they have an appointment?” (Amos 3:3). Make your appointment with the Lord. Walk where He walks. Listen to what He says. Do what he tells you. Sometimes you will have to say “I can’t. Please help me.”
PS. Offering and receiving mercy must be done with discretion. Con-men, rapists, frauds on the Internet, pyramid schemes, and home-repair rackets make us cautious. A free ride in a stranger’s car may be fatal. But this makes genuine mercy all the more important to exhibit.