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THE DISTRESS AND HOPE OF THE GODLY
The Momentary Triumph of Wickedness (7:1-7)
The final chapter of the Book of Micah begins with a vivid picture of the momentary triumph of wicked men within the people of God, while the godly man waits for the hour of salvation. Many interpreters do not ascribe it to Micah, believing that it includes words and expressions normally found only in literature later than his time and that it does not reflect Micah’s basic optimism.
Whether Micah or another prophet actually composed the statement, it is a thoroughly pessimistic view of the Jewish community. And whether the "I" of verse 1 represents the prophet or Zion is not of great concern. The viewpoint is that of the lonely but faithful good man who looks out upon a society that has become hopelessly bad. He represents the Remnant reduced to its last individual, a Zion in which the multitudes of believers have become unfaithful to their sacred obligations.
The initial figure of speech likens the community of God’s people to a harvest field or vineyard which has been thoroughly stripped of all fruit. No godly men remain. Like rotten fruit littering the ground, all that can be seen are those princes and judges who insist on bribes and the "great man" who with a word indicates his evil desire. In such conditions the prophet notes that no one can be trusted, not even the members of one’s family.
Bad as moral conditions are at this moment of spiritual extremity for the good man, he sees that "confusion is at hand" (vs. 4), and he resolves to wait for the salvation which God will provide. What parallels to the evils of the prophet’s day may be noted in the present moment? How may the good man be saved from complete and hopeless pessimism?
The Submission of a Repentant Sinner (7:8-10)
The psalm begins with an address to the enemy of the godly man. Strangely, this enemy is a woman — the personification of a hostile city or people rather than an individual. The enemy, thus personified, is told not to rejoice over the low estate of the godly, who is pictured as sitting in darkness. The period of darkness will shortly come to an end, and it will be the enemy who will be "trodden down like the mire of the streets."
In the meantime the speaker will bear the indignation of God, considering his judgment as due because of sins which the speaker has committed. Out of the darkness of the present evil moment, the speaker confidently expects to be brought forth to the light by the action of God himself.
The darkness of the present moment is apparently due to the hiddenness of God, for the enemy has asked scornfully, "Where is the Lord your God?" The presence of God is not apparent to the enemy, and the only indication which the speaker has of his presence is the assurance that the present evil is from God because of sin.
A Psalm Celebrating God’s Mercies (7:8-20)
The Book of Micah closes with a psalm which celebrates the mercies of God. It is composed of sections which may have had separate origins but now form a personal expression, continuing from the pessimistic and realistic tone of verses 1-7. Like many of the Psalms, this passage moves through the attitude of prayer and praise to an optimistic tone.
A Confident Meditation on God’s Restoration (7:11-13)
In what appears to be a disconnected fragment the author (or editor) of the final chapter of the book looks toward that indefinite day when God’s purposes will be accomplished. In its present setting "that day" refers to the day in which the godly man (or city) will gloat over the enemy of the preceding section.
The unsatisfactory condition of the walls of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of which was the focal point of ambition for postexilic Jewish nationalism, was the irritating core of the boil of religious dissatisfaction. Different solutions to the problem are projected by the postexilic Jews: in Zechariah 2:4-5 the prophet contemplates a city without walls; in Nehemiah 2-6 we find the practical approach of political strategy and allocation of responsibility for actual construction; at the end of Micah the prophet-poet simply looks forward to a far distant day when wall-rebuilding may be a reality along with other blessings.
In a meditative mood the writer lets his mind look forward to the extension of the boundaries of the Jewish state and to the return of the scattered Jews from all directions. East and west are represented by Assyria and Egypt respectively, and also by the two seas, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. North and south are indicated by the mountains which stand in these directions.
But the land (the Land of Promise, not "the earth") will be desolate because of the sins committed earlier. "That day" does not include a complete transformation of nature, as it appears to do in Isaiah 49:8-13; Isaiah 49:19-21. The vision of this portion of Micah is a limited one, but it breathes calm and hopeful confidence in God’s restoring work.
A Dialogue with the Ancient Shepherd (7:14-15)
Turning from the mood of meditation the poem addresses God as Shepherd of his people (Micah 7:14). God is asked to bring his people out of the forest and let them feed in the fertile pastures of Bashan and Gilead as they had once done, during the days of the kingdom period. Again the point of view is that of the loneliness of the Exile or of the postexilic period.
In reply (Micah 7:15) God promises to show wonders as in the days of the Exodus.
Further Meditation: the Effect of God’s Wonders (7:16-17)
Returning to the mood of meditation, the poet reflects on the effect which the sight of God’s wonderful actions will have upon the nations of the world. Graphically, he sees them "lick the dust" in abject terror as they come out of their strongholds at the sight of God’s powerful actions. So far has the picture changed from the darkness and distress of 7:8!
A Concluding Address to God (7:18-20)
In the final section of the poem God is again addressed, but now the stress is laid upon the greatest of his wonderful works, namely, the forgiveness of sins and his passing over transgression for the remnant of his people.
Again the language can hardly be earlier than the Exile, where the faithful Jew learned that God’s punishments did not imply a complete casting away of his people. Because of God’s profound dedication to steadfast love — that quality of faithfulness to fulfill obligations whether defined by law or contract or not at all — the exiled Jew came to a deep and persistent inner security in his relationship to God. If God demanded steadfast love of his people, he also showed steadfast love in relation to that people. Even the sins for which suffering had come upon the people did not mean the complete end of their relationship with God. Hence there arose the sure awareness that God would "again have compassion upon us" (Micah 7:19).
In the light of this profound assurance the poet-prophet could address God with the confident faith of the concluding verses of the Book of Micah. The faithfulness promised to Jacob and to Abraham would manifest itself in the forgiving of sins in the time of distress. What other religion offers so much today?
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"Commentary on Micah 7". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany