Micah 5 – The Remnant

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Today’s Passage: Micah 5

This chapter of Micah has stuck in my mind over the years. Matthew points to it as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6), and I think it may have been Matthew’s reference to Micah that originally brought me here. I remember reading the verses in the lower-left corner of the page in the blue-covered Bible I had at the time, reading the lines, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (2). That idea struck me as incredibly cool: Jesus Christ’s work in time and space and his involvement in our human world were ancient, primeval, reaching even further back than his appearance on earth two thousand years ago.

I could play devil’s advocate against myself here, put up a skeptic’s argument that this isn’t a prophecy about the Messiah or that Jesus Christ didn’t fulfill it, and then refute it. But I’ll save you the time, because the lid on this can of worms is airtight. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, and Micah predicted it. If we’re looking for an opportunity for givin’ a time, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

Micah again prophesies concerning the remnant of Israel, which he first introduced in chapter two and revisited in more detail in chapter four. Here, he describes the remnant as “Like dew from the Lord, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man” (7). The idea of the remnant strongly appealed to me in high school: the underdogs, the dark horses, the outcasts whom the world rejected, but whom God preserves and restores and brings back bigger than they were before. Even if their fallen state was self-inflicted, God can offer forgiveness, healing, restoration. Here, he promises victory for his people: “Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries, and all your enemies will be cut off” (9).

But it’s easy enough to take an idea from the Bible and apply it to you personally, use it as a picture of how you had a bad day one day and saw your fortunes turned around the next. It’s easy to keep those myopic, self-centered blinders on even after your adolescence. It’s another thing entirely to recognize that, however well it fits your life, the narrative’s not about you. Micah’s prophecy isn’t merely a metaphor for you to use however you see fit.

At the end of this chapter, God details his judgment against his people, promising to cut off support after support: horses and chariots (10), cities and fortifications (11), sorceries (12), and finally idols (13-14). He vows, “I will root out your Asherim from among you and destroy your cities” (14). Israel’s status as God’s chosen people does not exempt them from his law, and it won’t exempt them from his judgment against all their evil.

So you think of Israel exiled to wander in the desert for an entire generation before reaching the Promised Land to the point where the humans who entered it weren’t even the same humans who first heard the promise. You think of the fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the Babylonian Captivity, the four hundred years of silence between the last of the minor prophets and the advent of that Messianic shepherd that Micah promised. And you realize: the remnant is what’s left after the devastation, and sometimes it takes entire generations for the remnant to recover.

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