A. The sins of covetousness and pride.
1. (1-2) Covetousness among God’s people.
Woe to those who devise iniquity,
And work out evil on their beds!
At morning light they practice it,
Because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and take them by violence,
Also houses, and seize them.
So they oppress a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance.
a. Woe to those who devise iniquity: All sin is bad before God, but premeditated sin is worse. Here Micah spoke plainly to those who devise iniquity – in this case – those who oppress others through their greed and covetousness.
b. At morning light they practice it: These wicked people spent all night thinking of evil things to do, and eagerly woke up early, at morning light, to carry out violence and oppression against their neighbor.
i. This could also be a reference to ancient legal practices. In the ancient world, law courts opened for business at morning light because the rising sun demonstrated light dispelling darkness. Micah saw the corruption of Israel’s law courts and explained that they practiced their theft and evil at morning light, when the courts opened.
c. Because it is in the power of their hand: There are some sins we never commit because we are never put in a place where we can commit them. The real test comes when it is in the power of our hand to sin and we remain faithful to the LORD.
2. (3-5) God’s proud people brought low.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
“Behold, against this family I am devising disaster,
From which you cannot remove your necks;
Nor shall you walk haughtily,
For this is an evil time.
In that day one shall take up a proverb against you,
And lament with a bitter lamentation, saying:
‘We are utterly destroyed!
He has changed the heritage of my people;
How He has removed it from me!
To a turncoat He has divided our fields.’”
Therefore you will have no one to determine boundaries by lot in the assembly of the LORD.
a. Against this family I am devising disaster: The people devised iniquity; God devised disaster upon them. In His justice, He gave to them what they gave to others.
b. Nor shall you walk haughtily, for this is an evil time: Micah rebuked God’s people for their pride among God’s people and announced that in the evil time to come – the time of judgment coming on God’s people – they would be brought low and would no longer walk haughtily.
c. To a turncoat He has divided our fields: In the coming judgment – in particular, the judgment coming on Israel by the conquering Assyrian Empire – they would leave their land in the possession of strangers.
B. Though they sin against His word, God promises restoration to His people.
1. (6-9) God’s people reject the word of His prophets.
“Do not prattle,” you say to those who prophesy.
So they shall not prophesy to you;
They shall not return insult for insult.
You who are named the house of Jacob:
“Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted?
Are these His doings?
Do not My words do good
To him who walks uprightly?
Lately My people have risen up as an enemy;
You pull off the robe with the garment
From those who trust you, as they pass by,
Like men returned from war.
The women of My people you cast out
From their pleasant houses;
From their children
You have taken away My glory forever.”
a. Do not prattle: When God’s prophets came to His people, they didn’t receive their message. They disregarded God’s word as mere prattle. As a result, God stopped sending prophets (so they shall not prophesy to you). Fortunately, God’s people responded to Micah’s warning before God stopped sending him, but it took a while.
i. Micah began his ministry in the reign of Jotham, but nobody listened. Then he prophesied during the reign of Ahaz, but nobody listened. Finally, he prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and the leaders and the people repented. Micah didn’t give up, even though the results were slow in coming. Micah preached for anywhere between 16 and 25 years before there was any response.
b. Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? In their foolishness, the people of Israel thought that God was the problem. They needed to understand that there was no restriction on the Spirit of the LORD; instead they provided all the restrictions.
i. “Do you not think, again, that we very much act as if the Spirit of the Lord were straitened when we only look for little blessings? I am very glad to see three hundred or four hundred persons in a year converted and added to this church, and this has long been the case; but if I ever imbibed the idea that this was all that might be done, I should be straitening the Spirit of God.” (Spurgeon)
c. Do not My words do good to him who walks uprightly? The key to their preservation in the midst of judgment was to stick tightly to God’s words. When they rejected God’s words, they were left poor and destitute, both materially and spiritually.
2. (10-11) God’s people embrace false prophets.
“Arise and depart,
For this is not your rest;
Because it is defiled, it shall destroy,
Yes, with utter destruction.
If a man should walk in a false spirit
And speak a lie, saying,
‘I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,’
Even he would be the prattler of this people.
a. This is not your rest: Micah exposed the lies of false prophets showing that they could never really give rest. The words of false prophets are defiled, and bring utter destruction instead of the peace, rest, and restoration of God’s word.
b. If a man should walk in a false spirit and speak a lie: With judgment looming on the horizon – especially for the northern kingdom of Israel – there were false prophets who spoke of days of wine and drink, giving false comfort and hope to a deceived people. These were the real “prattlers,” not the true prophets of God, as they were falsely called by the ungodly in Micah’s day (Micah 2:6). The only prophet they wanted was one to tell them there would be plenty of alcohol (I will prophesy to you of wine and drink).
3. (12-13) A promise of restoration.
“I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob,
I will surely gather the 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 people.
The one who breaks open will come up before them;
They will break out,
Pass through the gate,
And go out by it;
Their king will pass before them,
With the LORD at their head.”
a. I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob: Though judgment was promised because of the great sin of God’s people, they were still not beyond the grace and goodness of God. He still promised restoration to the remnant of Israel.
b. They shall make a loud noise because of so many people: The remnant would not be few; there would be many people brought back to the LORD and His ways – with the LORD at their head.
c. The one who breaks open: This can be translated as a title; the King James Version has it as the Breaker. We can see this as a more obscure, but no less precious messianic title of Jesus: the Breaker. In this office, He is the captain and leader of His people, advancing in front of His flock. We need a Breaker, a trailblazer for our lives.