“I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men.” (Micah 2:12)
Read: Micah 1-2
The minor prophets can be hard to read and understand for many reasons. Because these books contain prophecy, a question you must always be asking is whether the passage you’re reading has been fulfilled or if the promises await a future fulfillment. Also, because the prophetic literature is mostly poetry, you must ask if the language and descriptions are meant to be taken literally or figuratively. Because these books are written to a culture and a people far removed from us, we must ask how these texts apply to our lives. These questions are crucial if we are going to interpret these books correctly.
Another challenge stems from the fact that the prophetic books were written in ancient Hebrew, and some things might be lost in the translation. For instance, did you know that God’s judgment on each of the cities mentioned in Micah 1 is connected to the meaning of each city’s name? For example, in 1:10, Beth-le-aphrah means “house of dust,” and the prophesy says they will be forced to roll in the dust.
But one of the main reasons the minor prophets so difficult to read—and the reason why many Bible reading plans are out there—is their subject matter. Just about every single one of the prophetic books is focused on Israel/Judah’s sin and the judgment that is coming to them because of their sin. The language and the nature of the judgment, therefore, can be strong, especially when we remember that these Israelites are God’s own people! Reading through these texts can be taxing and heavy as we are consistently met with God’s terrifying, and yet just, wrath.
Despite their difficulty, however, we do ourselves a great disservice when we neglect the minor prophets. Coming face- to-face with the reality of God’s holiness and how seriously he regards sin, especially in the lives of his own people, is good for us. As John Calvin remarks,
If ever there was a city that God wanted to spare, it was Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Micah proclaims that its downfall is coming. Hence, his purpose is to show that, wherever iniquity reigns, God’s judgment will come to pass. No place of sanctity or position of privilege will protect anyone, for our Lord judges with complete impartiality.John Calvin, Sermons on the Book of Micah (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 55.
Additionally, within those same passages of judgment, we see the brightest and strongest pictures of God’s mercy and grace on that side of the cross. One of those shining examples is Micah 2:12-13, where, after pronouncing Samaria’s destruction and Judah’s ravaging that will come at the hand of Assyria (Micah 1), and a woe on all those who have used their power to steal land and oppress the weak (Micah 2:1-11), the Shepherd-King gives his faithful in the land the greatest reason why they shouldn’t lose all hope. Though they will be scattered and whittled down to a remnant, like a shepherd God will gather his people again and “set them together like a sheep in a fold.” And though they will be a remnant, so many will be saved that they can rightly be described as “a noisy multitude of men.”
Then in Micah 2:13, the imagery shifts to that of a king victoriously delivering his people from a besieged city. He bursts through the walls and leads his people out to safety. Though his own people will be battered, bruised, scattered, exiled, and on the verge of being wiped out due to their own covenantal sin, the Good Shepherd-King Yahweh is not done with them and will again gather them together into a single fold where they will never suffer shame nor harm again.
Does that picture and description remind you of anything? In the Gospel of John, written hundreds of years later, we are again given this picture of a Shepherd-King. We find the Good Shepherd in John’s gospel:
So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.John 10:7-16
And a few chapters later, this same shepherd rides into Jerusalem as her humble king:
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (12:12-15).John 12:12-15
While Micah’s prophecy is a promise to Israel that God will, one day, call them back to him, and the Good Shepherd title of John 10 refers to Jesus’ general saving of Gentile and Jew in this present age, the imagery and the lesson are the same. Whether you are in a season of blessing or sorrow (because of God’s discipline, the fact we live in a fallen world, the works of the devil, or for some other reason), trust in your Good Shepherd-King who is faithful to protect and deliver you to his side where there is life, and life abundantly.
Discuss and Pray Together: Discuss how God can be both just and forgiving, and why that is important. Finish by sharing prayer requests and praying for one another.