Micah 1 – Iconoclasm

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Today’s Passage: Micah 1

Hoo boy. No sooner had I hit verse two of Micah than I was saying, “I can’t handle any more of this.” It feels like the minor prophets are just judgment after judgment, a divine lament of Israel’s protracted moral degradation and a statement of the inevitable consequences. And they’re not even told as narrative: it’s like if an entire book took the form of the protagonist’s impassioned speech at the climax. The book of Micah isn’t the story of Micah and God and Israel; it’s what God had to say to Israel through Micah. And it doesn’t open on an especially rough note, but the constant truth and consequences of the prophets can wear on a guy.

So what’s the sin of the moment? What’s the cause for divine beef? It’s Israel’s insurrection. Micah states, “All this is for the rebellion of Jacob” (5). The “all this” in question refers to the events of the previous verses, which prophesy that God will come forth to stomp down the high places, melt the mountains, and split the valleys. He will liquefy the very terrain of the land. Israel’s rebellion against its Lord has provoked him to wreck shop on its geography.

Israel’s not leading itself in this rebellion; they’re under someone else’s hand. You see this phrase “high places” showing up throughout the chapter? It’s a single word in Hebrew: a technical term for a place of worship. These spots would typically include an altar and stone pillar, situated at an elevated location, possibly to reach closer to heaven. Solomon had let them creep into Israel as places of worship for his foreign wives, and Israel had been dealing with the infestation ever since. At several points in the monarchic period of their history, they positively embraced the high places. Micah’s time is one of those times.

And if you’re wondering how bad it can be, Micah will tell you. He asks, “What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?” (5). Judah, the southern kingdom, is up to its capitol city in idolatry, and I do mean “up”. The city of Jerusalem is at a higher elevation than its surroundings. When it gets turned into a high place, it’s a really high place.

And God’s had enough of it. “All of her idols will be smashed…and all of her images I will make desolate” (7), he threatens, and God doesn’t make empty threats. He’s got a message for the graven images: once I’m done wrecking shop on the mountains, I’m coming for you.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Micah 1, it’s that idolatry is bad news. Don’t worship statues made out of rocks, kids. I may sound flippant, but I may need my sense of humor just to get through this stuff, because check verse eight: it drove Micah to go barefoot and naked in mourning. This book is not playing games.

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