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Monday, February 22, 2016

Not Isaiah this time

I'm really enjoying see how the prophets fit into the history of what was happening at the time - which prophet spoke at the same time as which, who spoke in the same places... even which prophets said the same words.

So, last week we looked at the beginning of Isaiah, and this week, instead of going through the rest of Isaiah, we're jumping across to Micah who spoke in the countryside while Isaiah preached in town. Enjoy!

(17) Oded and Micah: two more prophets in Judah

Uzziah reigned in Judah, obeyed the Lord, then tried to combine the positions of priest and king, earning God’s disapproval. He ended his days co-reigning while isolated with leprosy. Uzziah’s son Jothan ruled next, followed by grandson Ahaz, the one who asked for Assyria’s aid against Syria and Israel, when Isaiah told him to trust God. Ahaz ends up so deeply subject to Assyria he even copies their altars in God’s Temple. Then came Hezekiah and revival.

Chronicles expands a bit on the relationship between King Ahaz, Syria, and Assyria:
1.       Read 2 Chronicles 28:1-4. Does this sound like the sort of king who would have looked to a prophet for advice?

2.       Read 2 Chronicles 28:5-8. Did you remember this exile of the Judahites?

3.       Read 2 Chronicles 29:9-10,15. Do these sound like evil Israelites who no longer believe in God?

4.       Read 2 Chronicles 29:16,20-21, 2 Kings 16:5,7-8. Kings and Chronicles are clearly written from different points of view. What might influence the different view-points?

a.      When we look at different Christian denominations, what influences our different viewpoints?

b.      And when we look at other nations and religions?

This is the Ahaz to whom God sent Isaiah. Meanwhile, in a small town in the Southeastern corner of Judah, near the Philistine territory of Gath, a prophet called Micah is also called to speak.
1.       How might we expect Micah’s point of view be different from Isaiah’s?

2.       Read Micah 1:1, Jeremiah 26:18. So which reigns did Micah speak through?

3.       Read Micah 1:2-4. Taking the imagery at face-value, what natural phenomena might Micah be describing?

4.       Read Micah 1:5 But God is Lord of nature. What is our transgression? Where are our high places?

5.       Read Micah 1:8-9. How does God feel about upcoming events? Do you think he weeps over Syria or Palestine?

6.       Micah mentions twelve cities. The names aren’t random – they tell a story. But why 12?

a.       1:10 Gath was the nearest Philistine city. They would attack if they heard of trouble in Judah.
b.      Beth Aphrah – house of dust – is probably near Bethel. Mourners roll in dust. (It’s not just children of prophets that end up with meaningful names. What story might God tell through your name?)

c.       1:11 Shaphir (SE of Ashdod) means beautiful – those who think they’re fine will be carried off naked.
d.      Zaanan (first city in Joshua 15:37) means come out – under siege you can’t escape.
e.      Beth Ezel means house of nearness – the enemy will be very near during the seige
f.        1:12 Maroth means bitterness. It was probably a subdivision of
g.       Jerusalem, which will be under siege.
h.      1:13-14 Lachish was a center of worship for false gods, and now owes a bride-price (called parting gifts in some translations) to God.
i.         Moresheth Gath is where Micah lives.
j.        Achzib means deceit
k.       1:15 Mareshah means a possession and
l.         Adullan is a cave where David hid (1 Samuel 22:1)

Micah uses the familiar “Woe” format, and many familiar themes. Try to imagine a prophet speaking in a small, sorely pressed town, not too far from the battle lines with foreign powers.
1.       Read Micah 2:1-2. Is this just about lying in late and dreaming? Why should or shouldn’t houses and fields be seized?

2.       Read Micah 2:3-5. So... does God think the punishment should fit the crime? Or is that a natural progression?

3.       Read Micah 2:6. Did people listen? Would we listen if someone suggested society really had to change?

4.       Read Micah 2:11-13. What’s the difference between Micah’s message and that of the popular prophets/prattlers? How could they, or can we, tell which message is true?

5.       Read Micah 3:1. In those days, in a nation belonging to God, the government was meant to be an arm of God’s law.  How does that apply in the modern world?

a.      In a democracy, should we try to change a government voted for by the people, or should we try to change people?

b.      In a country governed by religious law (Jewish? Muslim?) should we try to overthrow the leaders, ridicule the religion, or try to find common ground?

6.       Read Micah 3:2-3. Is he really accusing the leaders of being cannibals? Who do you think is listening to him? How do think they might react to what they hear?

7.       Read Micah 3:5. Some translation say they chant peace while chewing. The word used for chew is one usually used for serpent bites! Who might we think of as false prophets today? Do they “prepare war” against God?

8.       Read Micah 3:6-7. Does this imply that even false prophets have visions? In that case, what makes them false? And what does their lack of vision tell us about God?

9.       Read Micah 3:8-12. What sins does Micah list? How might this affect, say, prophetic voices calling us to support the modern-day Jerusalem for the Jews movement?

Micah uses the same “in the latter days” theme as other prophets too.
1.       Read Micah 4:1-2. What might the original hearers have thought was being promised? What do we think this refers to?

2.       Why might end-times prophecies come so frequently after prophecies of disaster? And today?

3.       Read Micah 4:3-4. Does any music come to mind? Do any other prophecies we’ve read recently come to mind (read Isaiah 2:2-4)? Do you think the prophets were aware of each other’s words?

4.       Read Micah 4:5. It’s a “hard verse” of the Bible. What do you think it meant to the first listeners? What might it mean now?

After promising a future where everyone comes to Zion, God promises a rather nearer future.
5.       Read Micah 4:9-10. How would viewing suffering as childbirth help people bear it? Read John 16:21-22. Will it help us bear living in a broken world? (Read Micah 5:2 for the child they’re going to bear.)


6.       Read Micah 4:11-12. Is God always on the side of the victorious?

1 comment:

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Extremely conspicuous and vivid post in term of Old Testament explanation and understanding! It adds a lot to my comprehension!