Memory Text: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
Key Thought: Even amid the worst apostasy, the Lord was willing to forgive and heal His people.
The prophet Micah ministered in one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history. The country long had been divided into two kingdoms. Finally, Assyria put an end to the northern kingdom, and Micah could see evil and violence creeping into Judah in the south. He preached against the fatal sins of dishonesty, injustice, bribery, and mistrust. Micah was the first biblical prophet to predict the destruction of Jerusalem (Mic. 3:12).
Yet, through divine inspiration, the prophet saw light in this dark time. With the help of God’s perspective, he looked beyond the coming punishment. Micah offered encouraging words and said that the Lord’s anointed Leader would come from Bethlehem. The Messiah would be the leader who would save Israel and speak peace to the nations by teaching them to “beat their swords into plowshares” (Mic. 4:3). God’s rebuke would be the channel of restoration and ultimate blessings.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 18.
In Micah 1:1-9, the prophet invites the whole earth to witness God’s judgment against sinful people. The capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem are singled out because their leaders failed to be role models of what it means to follow God with undivided hearts. These two cities would be the first to suffer destruction.
The thought of destructive judgment produced a real tension in Micah’s life. Because his prophetic call united him with God’s purpose, he had no choice but to announce what was coming in the near future. But the prophet also loved the people to whom he belonged, and the idea of their captivity drove him to personal lament. Oftentimes bad news had the most devastating effect on the mind and the body of the prophet.
God’s prophets were involved very much in the messages that they proclaimed. They did not enjoy speaking about the terrible things that would happen. They often used laments to express their reactions to the coming disasters. Their pain was real. To their listeners, the message was contained both in the prophetic words and also in the external signs, which often betrayed a deep pain stemming from within. Micah’s reaction to divine judgment reminds one of Isaiah, who for three years walked half-naked and barefoot as a visible sign of the shame that captivity would bring. For those who have the resources, you can read about the great suffering that Ellen G. White endured in her ministry as well; this will help us to better understand what these servants of God had to go through.
Read 1 Peter 4:14-16 and then look at yourself and whatever trials you are going through. How much suffering has come to you because of your faithfulness to God? How much due to your unfaithfulness?
One of the constant problems that the Hebrew nation faced was the deception that their special status as God’s people—their knowledge of the true God, as opposed to the silliness of the pagan idolatry (see Ps. 115:4-9)—made them somehow immune to divine retribution. The terrible truth, however, was that it was precisely because they had special status before God that they would be deemed that much more guilty for their sins. Time and again, such as in the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord warned them that all the blessings, protection, and prosperity that would be theirs were conditioned upon obedience to His commands, such as seen in this caution: “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deut. 4:9).
However much we might try to fool ourselves, in what ways are we, as Seventh-day Adventists, with so much light, in danger of making this same error?
In Micah’s book the mood often drastically changes from gloom to sublime hope. This hope is seen in one of the most famous of all the Messianic prophecies.
Out of a little Judean town would come Someone from eternity to be a ruler in Israel. Micah 5:2 is one of the most precious biblical verses written in order to strengthen the hope of the people, who eagerly awaited the ideal Leader promised by the prophets. His rule would usher a time of strength, justice, and peace (Mic. 5:4-6).
David was a native of Bethlehem, a town also called Ephrath (Gen. 35:19). The mention of this town stresses the humble origin of both David and His future successor, who would be the True Shepherd of this people (Mic. 5:4). In the humble town of Bethlehem the prophet Samuel anointed Jesse’s youngest son, David, who was to be king over Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13, 17:12). When the wise men came looking for the new-born “king of the Jews,” King Herod asked the Bible experts where to search (Matt. 2:4-6). They referred him to this passage, which foretold that the Messiah would come from the small town of Bethlehem.
As incomprehensible as it is to our finite and fallen minds, that baby born was the eternal God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. “From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 19. However incredible the idea, it is one of the most foundational truths in Christianity: the Creator God took upon Himself humanity and in that humanity offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If you take the time to dwell upon what this teaches us about both the value of our lives and what we as individuals mean to God, you can have a life-changing experience. When so many people struggle to find purpose and meaning to their existence, we have the foundation of the Cross, which not only anchors us in what our lives mean, but also gives us the hope of something greater than that which this world ever could offer.
In the beginning of Micah 6, God dialogues with His people, listing all the things that He has done on their behalf. In response, the worshiper who comes into the temple asks what he might do to please God. What is it that constitutes an acceptable offering: year-old calves, a multitude of rams, rivers of oil, or even the worshiper’s firstborn child? There is a steady progression of the size and value of the offerings listed in this text.
Read Micah 6:1-8. What crucial truth is being taught here? Why is this especially important for us, as Seventh-day Adventists? What does this tell us about how truth is more than just correct doctrine and detailed understanding of prophecy? See Matt. 23:23.
The prophet declares that God already has revealed what He wants. Through the teachings of Moses, the people knew what God had graciously done for them (Deut. 10:12-13). Micah’s answer was not a new revelation that signaled a change in God’s requirements. Sacrifices and priestly services were not God’s first concern. God’s supreme wish is to have a people who act in justice toward their neighbors, with consistent devotion and love toward the Lord. The most extravagant offering that people can give to God is obedience.
Micah 6:8 is the most succinct statement of God’s will for His people. It summarizes all prophetic teachings on true religion: a life displaying justice, mercy, and a close walk with God. Justice is something that people do when prompted by God’s Spirit. It has to do with fairness and equality for all, especially the weak and powerless who are exploited by others. Kindness means to freely and willingly show love, loyalty and faithfulness to others. Walking with God means to put God first and to live in conformity with His will.
Why is it easier to keep the Sabbath strictly than it is to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God?
Micah’s book begins with a description of judgments, but it ends with words of hope. There are people who try to explain away or deny the reality of God’s judgments. To do so is to fall into the trap that Micah’s contemporaries did, those who believed that God never would send judgments on the chosen nation.
God’s justice is the other side of His love and concern. The good news presented by Micah is that punishment is never God’s last word. God’s action in Scripture consistently moves from judgment to forgiveness, from punishment to grace, and from suffering to hope.
Read Micah 7:18-20. How is the gospel revealed in these verses? What hope is seen here for all of us? Why do we need it so desperately?
Micah’s closing verses present his praise filled with hope. The question “Who is like God . . . ?” matches Micah’s name, which means “Who is like the Lord?” It serves as a reminder of the uniqueness of God and affirms the truth that there is no one like Him. How could there be? After all, He alone is the Creator. Everything else is created. Even more importantly, our Creator is a God of grace, of forgiveness, a God who went to the most unimaginable extremes possible in order to save us from the destruction that is, rightly, ours. He would do it for the Hebrew nation; and He will do it for us, as well.
It is possible that we today are surrounded by difficult circumstances and painful experiences that leave us to wonder why God allows all this to happen. Sometimes it is just so hard to make sense of things. In such times, our hope rests only with the Lord, who promises to hurl our sins into the depths of the sea. There is hope for the future in remembering what God has done in the past.
Take a good hard look at yourself. Why is your only hope found in the promise that God will cast your sins “into the depths of the sea”?
Further Study: “If Jerusalem had known what it was her privilege to know, and had heeded the light which Heaven had sent her, she might have stood forth in the pride of prosperity, the queen of kingdoms, free in the strength of her God-given power. There would have been no armed soldiers standing at her gates. . . . The glorious destiny that might have blessed Jerusalem had she accepted her Redeemer rose before the Son of God. He saw that she might through Him have been healed of her grievous malady, liberated from bondage, and established as the mighty metropolis of the earth. From her walls the dove of peace would have gone forth to all nations. She would have been the world’s diadem of glory.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 577.
Mandela Hector lives in Trinidad. He had no special interest in religion. Then his cousin invited him to attend his church, and Mandela realized that God wanted to be part of his life. He bought a Bible and began reading it. Questions arose in his mind that his cousin’s pastor couldn’t answer, so Mandela searched elsewhere for answers.
He discovered a religious television station and began watching it. A sermon on prophecy caught his interest. He was impressed that the speaker’s message was based on the Bible. Mandela read each Bible text for himself and was convinced that the words were from God.
One evening the speaker talked about how the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday long after Jesus had died and rose again. Mandela realized that the Sabbath wasn’t Sunday but Saturday. He told his boss that he would no longer work on Saturdays. But because he knew of no church that worshipped on the Sabbath, he rested at home that day and worshipped with his cousin on Sundays.
When Mandela realized that the station was affiliated with Adventists, he found a church in town. On Sabbath morning he got up early, eager to celebrate the Sabbath in God’s house. When one member learned that a television program had brought Mandela to the church, he was amazed for Adventist television wasn’t generally available in Trinidad at that time. Only then did Mandela realize that God had provided the television signal in one small neighborhood where he lived so that he could learn God’s truths.
A few months later Mandela cemented his relationship with Christ by baptism. He wanted to share his new faith with others. He discovered Adventist books and began reading. When he learned about literature evangelists, he knew he had found his calling. He quit his job to work for God.
Although not everyone wanted his books, Mandela saw God leading him. He met people who told him they had dreamed that a man would come with a book or magazine to answer their questions just before Mandela arrived. “This is truly God’s ordained work,” Mandela says. “When I think of how God led me to His truth, I’m amazed that He could care so much for one person. I want to share that with others.”
Our mission offerings bring God’s message to people in many different ways. Mandela and millions of others thank you for sharing God’s truths with them through your mission offerings.
All art in these lessons and on the cover are courtesy of GoodSalt.com.
Sabbath School Lesson Copyright 2012 by the Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide,
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
All Rights Reserved.
For questions and concerns about the Study Guide,
please contact the editor of the Bible Study Guide, Clifford Goldstein.