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man in jail July 8 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Micah 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Understanding Punishment and Discipline

When we were children we did not always understand the punishment our parents gave us. If our brothers or sisters were punished, we might have gloated. If we were ever jailed as a teen or young adult, we may not have understood why our parents or friends did not bail us out. Most adults now know that punishment is given so justice may be met, so there might be change of heart, and so we might be disciplined to be better people. After we have learned the lessons of discipline, there is hope for a better life. This is what the nation of Judah needed to learn and what we often need to be reminded of when discipline or punishment comes our way.

In today's Bible reading we learn that Judah is guilty of repeating the same sins and crimes against humanity and God for which her sister nation, Israel, had committed. For Israel’s crimes and her stubborn rebellious heart, the LORD used the strength of the Assyrian armies to devastate her, capture her and deport her to their land. There she is now exiled. Exile is imprisonment in a foreign land where the captured are free to go and do as they please under the supervision and will of their captors.

The prophet Micah predicts Judah will suffer the same fate as Israel, not by the Assyrians but by the Babylonians. Micah 3 ends with a prediction of Judah’s judgment (note: after the northern ten tribes of Israel are exiled, Judah is often called Jacob or Israel because she is the only tribe left of that family and nation).

Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; who build Zion [Jerusalem] with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets (Micah 3:9-12, NIV).

Judah thinks she will not be punished because Zion or Jerusalem is God's city. The temple of the LORD resides there, the priests still offer the required sacrifices, and she has prophets who are still speaking. Nevertheless, Judah will suffer punishment for her sins because she is evil.

Although Judah's punishment is certain, she is offered hope of a future day. The prophet Micah writes, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it” (Micah 4:1, NIV). It will be a day of peace and security for the whole nation of Israel and the world. “That day” speaks of the millennial reign of Christ in Jerusalem. “That day,” however, has not yet come. Soon, the nation will suffer judgment.

Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies” Micah 4:10, NIV).

What will be the response to Judah’s demise? The other nations will gloat! (Micah 4:11) “But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan” (Micah 4:12, NIV).

What is his plan? According to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11,12 and Jeremiah 29:10), God’s plan is to punish Israel and Judah for seventy years, and then after her repentance, he will return a remnant to her land. In a future day, a king will rule from Jerusalem (a reference to Jesus Christ). He will conquer the foes of Israel, bring justice, and destroy the idols of Jerusalem. But not now. Now Judah will suffer as Israel did. No sacrifices will be enough.

What does the LORD require of them to change his mind? “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV). Judah is not following the LORD's requirement so she, too, will suffer.

During this time, what is Judah to do when she sees God’s judgment for her sins? Micah tells her to “heed the rod [of punishment] and the One who appointed it” (Micah 6:9, NIV). The rod may refer to the menacing nation of Assyria. Judah is to pay attention to what God did against Israel and Judah's fortified cities (through Assyria) and fear him.

The people of Judah, like many of us, must have asked, “Can’t God just overlook my sin and forget it?” This is what the nation desires, and many times this is what we desire when we are guilty of sin. God says to Judah,

… I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins…. You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab's house, and you have followed their traditions [a reference to copying Israel’s wickedness]. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations (Micah 6:13, 16, NIV).

The pain of punishment causes sorrow and grief. This is God’s intent in order that she (and by principle, we) might repent and respond to the discipline of the LORD (Hebrews 12:5-11). Although we may sit in the darkness of our suffering, however, the LORD will be our light and restore us, as he will the nations of Israel and Judah (Micah 7:1-2, 4, 7-8). Judah will someday confess, as we should when God punishes us, “Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD's wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness” (Micah 7:9, NIV).

The prophecy of Micah ends with a message of hope for Judah and Israel. This message of hope is similar for us, too, if we properly respond to the LORD’s discipline.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago (Micah 7:18-20, NIV).

It is true we do not inherit the promises given to the Jewish people (unless we are Jewish), but as God’s children through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he will again show us favor when we turn to Him from our sins (more...).

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's learn from the discipline of others so we don’t suffer the same fate.
  • When we are disciplined we need to respond properly to it. The LORD is only doing it because he is just and righteous; he wants us to be that way, too. God loves us. He longs to restore and bless us (more...).

Focus Verse

Micah 7:18, NIV “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

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A Look Ahead: Hearing the message of Micah and seeing the threat of Assyria prompts King Hezekiah to Cleanup and Restore the people's relationship with the LORD so they might experience his favor and be protected. See how this works in our Next Lesson.

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