The Recapitulation in The Apocalyptic Address

Micah, chapter 6

Hear now what the LORD is saying, “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, And let the hills hear your voice. Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, And you enduring foundations of the earth, Because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute. My people, what have I done to you, And how have I wearied you? Answer Me. Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt And ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled And what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, In order that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.”  With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? The voice of the LORD will call to the city— And it is sound wisdom to fear Your name: “Hear, O tribe. Who has appointed its time? Is there yet a man in the wicked house, Along with treasures of wickedness, And a short measure that is cursed? Can I justify wicked scales And a bag of deceptive weights? For the rich men of the city are full of violence, Her residents speak lies, And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. So also I will make you sick, striking you down, Desolating you because of your sins. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied, And your vileness will be in your midst. You will try to remove for safekeeping, But you will not preserve anything, And what you do preserve I will give to the sword. You will sow but you will not reap. You will tread the olive but will not anoint yourself with oil; And the grapes, but you will not drink wine. The statutes of Omri And all the works of the house of Ahab are observed; And in their devices you walk. Therefore, I will give you up for destruction And your inhabitants for derision, And you will bear the reproach of My people.”

The phrase of the year will be “social distancing or “shelter in place.” I hope it will actually be, “Jesus saves.” We are going to stop socializing in parks and playgrounds, restaurants and churches, but socializing over our smartphones and tablets…Wait a minute… Maybe we will be okay. My hope and prayer, and possibly God’s will is to deprive us of our former culture, forcing us deeply into the culture we’ve created, so that we long for true, social interactions; maybe even in churches. But I am getting way ahead of myself. We have context to consider from a recapitulation in an apocalyptic address. Nevertheless, see if you know where I am going as we look at the recapitulation in Micah.

“Hear now what the LORD is saying.” This is not necessarily indicative of a recapitulation in and of itself but coupled with the context it assuredly is. We could translate this to read, “listen to what the Lord is telling you.” It’s emphatic and commanding, it leaps off the page. Therefore we have to see what the Lord was saying to them and see if it applies to us in some form or fashion.

“Arise, plead your case before the mountains, And let the hills hear your voice. Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, And you enduring foundations of the earth, Because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.” We won’t automatically understand the metaphor made in the apocalyptic address, therefore we look forward to see what we can understand. We see the word, because and because we see the word, because, we understand that the metaphor relates to the because, because that is how because is used in speech. “Because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.” Because the Lord has a case with his people, he encourages them to plead their case to the mountains. I am not trying to rewrite the Bible but when we see things from a different perspective it can often clarify. That is exactly the intent of the recapitulation in the apocalyptic address. God shows things from different vantage points and through a different lens. By saying to the people, plead with the mountains, he is in fact mocking them, like he did to Job. God is being very sarcastic. The context continues to clarify this.

“My people, what have I done to you, And how have I wearied you? Answer Me. Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt And ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled And what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, In order that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.” In an apocalyptic address, the Lord reminds his people of how he brought them out of Egypt in the Exodus. We should see what they should have seen in this apocalyptic address. We should see the historical narrative of the abortions of the  Israelites’ children, the slavery and the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the sea, the manna, the quail, the water in the rock and the smoke and fire. But we should also see the death, the fiery serpents and the wandering in the wilderness. We see the big picture by the smallest situation and realize how God granted grace even as they grumbled against God. In this apocalyptic address God also specifically mentions Balaam and Balak. There is more to this than meets the idiomatic eye. We see Balaam and Balak in another apocalyptic address, in the book of Revelation. To the church in Pergamum, Jesus said, “I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.” But what does the historical narrative describe? In an irony of ironies and in a recapitulation of a revelation, God reminds his people of the sins of the priests and prophets by pointing to a gentile king who wanted a gentile prophet to preach against Israel for a large sum of money, but he couldn’t do it.

“When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his ddiscourse and said, ‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens beside the river, Like aloes planted by the LORD, Like cedars beside the waters…’ Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, ‘I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the LORD has held you back from honor.’ And Balaam said to Balak, ‘Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the ccommand of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak” And now behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come.'”

Eventually, Israel kills Balak but much happened in the meantime, even a census, but for time’s sake we won’t look at all the details. I am sure some prophecy pundits are out there comparing the Coronavirus and the United States census to the plague in Israel and the census during the time of Balaam and Balak. I can no longer tolerate the prophecy pundits who ignore the indiscriminate science of a virus that kills the weaker, more fragile people in society. The christian community should see the Coronavirus for what it is, the result of a fallen world and an opportunity to see our sins and the fragility of our lives, using it as an opportunity to share the gospel. But rather we panic like the rest of the world and take to social media saying things like, “this will usher in the apocalypse.” But that’s not what apocalypse means. Yes, history repeats itself and as we have seen, throughout history, we see and call out to God in times of trouble but rarely do we call on God and give thanks in times of plenty. The apocalyptic address does indeed show the sins of the people and the power of God. Micah is an excellent example. Nevertheless the goal of every apocalyptic address is for God’s people to repent or to stand fast on their current position or to proclaim a period of purification. So specific are the apocalyptic addresses that they have recapitulations, showing the scene from a different perspective. And usually the end result is revealed. Notice this in today’s text.

“And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled And what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, In order that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.” God gives them his reasons for the past but also speaks to them concerning the present. God reminds them of what he did for their fathers and how they rebelled. Then God shows them a mirror so that they see themselves. Finally he speaks of the future but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We look at their present time first.

Micah writes, “With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? The voice of the LORD will call to the city— And it is sound wisdom to fear Your name: ‘Hear, O tribe. Who has appointed its time? Is there yet a man in the wicked house, Along with treasures of wickedness, And a short measure that is cursed? Can I justify wicked scales And a bag of deceptive weights? For the rich men of the city are full of violence, Her residents speak lies, And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.'”

In an obvious allusion to Jesus, the only begotten son, Micah compares giving his son to multiplied sacrifices. All of what man can give is worthless. Similarly, Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah wrote, “Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. ‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ Says the LORD. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, And the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are acovered with blood.'”

The good news is the good news, both Isaiah and Micah prophesied about the Messiah. Isaiah continues; “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.'” Even in the midst of a absolutely-awful, apocalyptic address we still see that God granted grace.

Why then do the prophecy pundits see nothing but gloom and doom in the apocalyptic address? It’s because they hyper focus on the doom and gloom but everytime we see doom and gloom it is surrounded by times of peace and promises of grace. Yes young Timothy, people do die and it is part of reality of life in the fallen world but it does not mean that we don’t mourn and that it isn’t incredibly sad. But also we do tend to overreact and others act like absolute idiots, licking toilet seats on airplanes. The christians should be in the forefront of pain and suffering with words of hope. We rip this verse out of context but notice how it fits in the context; “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Should we share our toilet paper with those without? Can we humbly walk with God by setting up social media pages in our communities where people post their surplus and other post their needs and set up a place for a sanitary, safe exchange? The goal of the christian in the Coronavirus should be sacrifice and coming out of the suffering changed, for the better. In the meantime we have to be patient and wait on the Lord, yet looking to the future. We live on the right side of the cross, Israel demonstrates the need for the cross.

“So also I will make you sick, striking you down, Desolating you because of your sins. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied, And your vileness will be in your midst. You will try to remove for safekeeping, But you will not preserve anything, And what you do preserve I will give to the sword. You will sow but you will not reap. You will tread the olive but will not anoint yourself with oil; And the grapes, but you will not drink wine. The statutes of Omri And all the works of the house of Ahab are observed; And in their devices you walk. Therefore, I will give you up for destruction And your inhabitants for derision, And you will bear the reproach of My people.”

The story doesn’t end here, nor does the recapitulation of the apocalyptic address. Lord willing, we will see the confession of the prophet, Micah and the glorious latter days, and the glorious gospel. Isaiah also writes of the consequences of the sin of Israel and the salvation to come. “I will also turn My hand against you, And will smelt away your dross as with lye, And will remove all your alloy. Then I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning; After that you will be called the city of righteousness, A faithful city.”

Micah wrote, “Woe is me! For I am Like the fruit pickers and the grape gatherers. There is not a cluster of grapes to eat, Or a first-ripe fig which I crave. The godly person has perished from the land, And there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; Each of them hunts the other with a net. Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe, And a great man speaks the desire of his soul; So they weave it together.” Isaiah also wrote, “Woe is me for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips.”

We have to see our own sins and shortcomings if we expect to be beacons of light in tumultuous times. But we don’t proclaim death and destruction we proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Micah continued; “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.” Micah was a Biblical prophet, pointing to a Savior in an apocalyptic address, showing God’s working in history from behind the scenes. Babylon and Assyria were not conquering nations, but God’s tool to bring about his plan for salvation. We live on the other side of that salvation–it is tempting to rip Micah and other Scripture out of context and apply it to ourselves. But it was not written to us or about us. Nevertheless we see in it some timeless truth. Primarily that God has grace in times of trouble and has sent his son to save people from their sins. It is not time to panic but time to be Christ like. The light shines brightest in darkness. Before we assume that the Coronavirus is sent from God to judge us, we have to fully understand the context of apocalyptic addresses. They were written for specific times. But in studying these specific times we see the timeless truths. Men call out to God in darkness, in trouble and in pestilence. Our pray shouldn’t be for a rapture rescue but for an opportunity to advance the kingdom.

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