“What misery is mine!”
So begins Micah’s lament for his nation. The prophet is miserable because he looks out on the people of God and can’t find anyone who is godly. It seems as if everyone has turned away from Yahweh and are descending deeper into wickedness. The light of God’s word had shone among them and they shut their eyes, turned their faces, and retreated into the dark.
Micah’s words of lament paint a bleak and ugly picture: Israel is like a vineyard with no grapes. God’s chosen nation had been planted next to flowing streams of water with every resource to flourish and produce an abundant harvest. Instead, their green leaves shrivel up, there is no fruit and they resemble a thorny, dried-up bush.
As bleak as Micah’s metaphor is, the reality is even worse. After turning their backs on Yahweh, God’s people have turned on each other. Brother hunts down brother. Daughter rises up against mother. Lover betrays lover. The household of God is fractured by distrust and violence. If Ezekiel was alive to describe it, he might liken the people to a valley of dry bones.
This is the world in which Micah lives, and it is made all the worse by the fact that the murders, liars, and idolaters around him are supposed to be a living witness to the goodness and glory of the LORD God. How does one maintain faithfulness and not give up all hope in the face of such backwards wickedness? Micah gives us his answer at the conclusion of his lament, and it follows in a long line of prophets who found themselves in a similar situation.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for Yahweh,
I wait for God my Saviour
My God will hear me.”Micah 7:7
Standing in the dark shadows cast by sin, Micah refuses to abandon the hope of light and life. He knows that resurrection is possible, as his words in the following verses show, and he determines to wait faithfully for that day to dawn. Micah’s hope is fixed firmly in the person of Yahweh himself, for it is Yahweh who will be his light (v.8) and it is the righteousness of Yahweh which will appear to justify the repentant and shame the rebellious (v.9-10). It is Yahweh who possesses the power of resurrection and it is Yahweh who has proclaimed the promise of resurrection.
Very likely, Micah is recalling the acts of Yahweh in the past which have formed his resurrection hope. He may have thought of how Noah and his family stepped out into a renewed creation after being shut up inside a wooden ark, surrounded by the swirling waters of judgment. Perhaps Micah remembered how, at the promise of God, the dead womb of Sarah gave birth to life. Maybe King David’s memorable lines about rising from the pit of despair after a long silence were playing through his head. Or possibly, Micah’s thoughts were on the well-known resurrection stories about Elijah and Elisha.
Whatever it was that prompted Micah’s firm hope in the resurrecting power of his God, it was rooted in the character and action of Yahweh. Micah believed that when things seem hopeless, there is hope in God.
We are in a much better position to see the resurrecting power of God than Micah was. We can read all the stories of the Old Testament which herald and hint at the resurrection, but we also can look back to the decisive resurrection event which puts a face to our resurrection hope.
And so we look to Jesus who came as the light into a dark world who did not recognize him. We look to Jesus who wept and lamented over the rebellion and wandering of God’s people. We look to Jesus as he set his face toward death while all the people of God shrunk back into the shadows. We look to Jesus who hung on a cross in the blackest black as the weight of our sin crushed him. We look to Jesus who lay dead in the darkness of the grave and arose to step out into the light. We look to Jesus, because one day, no matter the form or power of our present darkness, we too shall step out into the light of God’s glory.
And we will do so in step with the prophet Micah.