This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.
Justice or Grace
God deals with sinners in one of two ways: deserved justice, or undeserved grace. In Micah’s day, both Samaria and Judah clearly deserved God’s judgment for their oppression, idolatry, and corruption. They lived out this wickedness right alongside the motions of offering sacrifice, expecting that because they had the covenant promises and the temple in their midst, God would accept and protect them.
In his great grace, however, God sent the prophet Micah to confront their sin, warn them of judgment, and call them to repentance. Micah prophesied of the coming judgment, when God would abandon them (for a time) to the invading enemies of Assyria and Babylon, who would trample their cities and carry their people off to exile.
Ultimately, Jesus himself is the long-anticipated Shepherd-King who has made peace with God.
But while God is a righteous Judge who carries out deserved judgment, he is also a merciful Savior who gives undeserved grace and full forgiveness to those who turn to him in repentance. The specific hope Micah presented was the promise of a Shepherd-King who would gather his faithful remnant back in the land, tenderly care for them, and defeat their great enemy. The result would be that people from many nations would come to worship Israel’s God. To God’s people who had suffered under a line of failed kings and oppressive foreign regimes, Micah announced the coming of a Shepherd-King who would arise from Bethlehem, saying, “He shall be their peace” (Mic. 5:2–5).
Ultimately, Jesus himself is the long-anticipated Shepherd-King who has made peace with God. He has done it, however, not through the raw power of military deliverance but through “the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). He did not come to destroy but to be destroyed, laying down his life for his sheep (John 10:15). He now rules over his people in perfect justice and abundant mercy, empowering his people, by his Spirit, to walk humbly in his just and merciful ways (1 John 2:6)—the very life Israel in Micah’s day had abandoned.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.
Because of this Shepherd-King, all those who look to Christ in trusting faith experience his kindness instead of his anger. They can expect that God will “pass over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance” (Mic. 7:18) because the prophet who confesses, “I have sinned against him [the Lord],” also proclaims, “he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication” (Mic. 9). Ultimately the transgression of all such persons has been put upon God’s firstborn, Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24–26). Christ will “bear the indignation of the Lord” on their behalf (Mic. 7:9). Though we may suffer and fall in our life’s battle with evil, we shall rise, as the prophet believed he himself would, due to the Lord’s vindication (Mic. 8–9)—and, as indeed will all those who are united to Christ by faith (Rom. 6:5). This is the wonder of the gospel in Micah.
This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.
Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • Ruth • 1–2 Samuel • 1–2 Kings • 1–2 Chronicles • Ezra • Nehemiah • Esther • Job • Psalms • Proverbs • Ecclesiastes • Song of Solomon • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Lamentations • Ezekiel • Daniel • Hosea • Joel • Amos • Obadiah • Jonah • Micah • Nahum • Habbakuk • Zephaniah • Haggai • Zechariah • Malachi
Matthew • Mark • Luke • John • Acts • Romans • 1 Corinthians • 2 Corinthians • Galatians • Ephesians • Philippians • Colossians • 1 Thessalonians • 2 Thessalonians • 1 Timothy • 2 Timothy • Titus • Philemon • Hebrews • James • 1 Peter • 2 Peter • 1–3 John • Jude • Revelation
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