This chapter starts to bring events around to Israel’s side again. Much of the book of Micah describes the destruction caused by the Assyrians, and the wicked actions of Israel that brought it about. The book culminates in chapter 7 with the reversal of fortunes enjoyed by the people, as soon as the Lord relents, shows his forgiveness towards them, and brings Israel’s enemies down to the dirt.
I began this lesson by asking the students to review past chapters. What did the children remember? They remembered the motion of Israel: going out and coming back in again. The Assyrians were attacking the North, and the South was counting on Assyria rather than God. The people were overwhelmed by guilt rather than intent on following the will of the Lord. With prompting, they remembered the People Soup and the wicked kings who preyed on their people. War, destruction, and guilt were the overwhelming themes.
After reading the chapter, we began the first section (vv. 1-7) where we encountered an important agricultural metaphor that seemed to shift its meaning (vv. 1-4). The kids have gone berry- and apple-picking in their lives, and they knew what it looked like at the end of the season, when the bushes and trees were all picked-over. This was Israel at this moment; as one child said it, the people were just the “trash.” This metaphor displayed how the land was “picked over” as a result of the war. The land looked empty. Then the metaphor shifted as the people complained that no good people are left. The best “fruit” of the people, the pious and upright ones, were gone. The image shifted from what the people’s enemies had done to the people and what they had done to themselves. They had become so wicked that they were “prickly shrubs” that cannot produce fruit at all. We remembered the unjust leaders and judges from 3:9-11, how the judges unjustly favored the rich over the poor. Injustice among those in charge of justice proved too much for the Lord.
Furthermore, life had become impossible because no one could trust each other any more (vv. 5-7). Not only were the judges unfair, but you could not trust your wife, children, parents, or friends. The Lord stood out as the only good one remaining—and the narrator, the people, had no one left but the Lord to trust. The Assyrians had not taken the best fruit; the people lost its best fruit—their good and pious citizens—and could no longer grow fruit at all.
During the next section, a reversal of fortunes took place (vv. 8-13) and the Lord is called on to bring this reversal to pass (vv. 14-17). (The kids began humming “What Goes Around … Comes Around,” by Justin Timberlake at this point.) We imagined being smashed by a superior force, just as Israel was beaten by Assyria, as I acted like the Lord and towered over one of the students and taunted her. According the to text, the student had to say that she had to “bear the anger,” that the threat came not from the tall teacher (Assyria), but from the Lord as a result of her sin (v. 9). She will stay crushed until the Lord decides to stop crushing her—Assyria really isn’t the enemy but a tool of the Lord. After taunting the student/Israel—mocking her faith in the Lord—Assyria would eventually fall down so low that Assyria will be like the “mud in the streets” (v. 10). What has gone around will come back around; Assyria crushed Israel and taunted her, but Assyria would finally be crushed. The end of Assyria would come because of Assyria’s “fruit” of their deeds, just like Israel (v. 13). Finally, after kings constantly disappointed them, the people long for the Lord to be their shepherd (vv. 14-17) to lead them out into wonderful pastures and bringing their enemies down to the dust like a snake.
The end of the chapter—and the book—highlight the Lord’s unique patience and love (vv. 18-20). This description of the Lord contrasts with the wrath that we’ve seen up to this point. How is the God who sends war and famine and humiliation against his people one who claims love and graciousness towards the people? The book teaches the people how to recover from the war and loss of the war against Assyria. When Israel learns that the war and loss come as a result of their sin, and that when they learn to put the injustice and oppression that they have inflicted on their own people, the Lord will again make them victorious. Moreover, he will completely put away their sin—down to the bottom of the sea (v. 19). The Lord will not forget his people, but continue in fulfilling his promises made from the beginning (v. 20).
After six chapters of Micah explaining the war and affliction that Israel experienced, this final chapter brings hope to the fore. While this section highlights the devastation caused by Israel against the people, it also reverses their fortunes. Rather than an afflicted, guilty Israel, the people will enjoy victory and forgiveness from their God. Israel has the chance to learn a lesson, and this lesson brings hope in eventual victory.