“Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for anyone or linger for mankind.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
In English classes growing up, every couple of years we did a unit on poetry. Confessedly, I hated those units. Oh, I did fine in them. But I just don’t care for poetry all that much. Now, that’s not universal. I love the poetry of Shel Silverstein, for instance. But he wrote for kids so… I think the real reason I struggled to like it was that I struggled to understand the imagery being used. That same struggle is why many people—including me—stay away from the prophets in the Old Testament. The imagery is hard to understand. Yet if we’ll do the work to get our minds around it, there are riches to be had; riches like we find right here.
This is one of those verses in the prophets that in most translations is written in poetic form. It’s one of those verses with imagery that is not immediately apparent. It’s one of those verses that I often simply read once and then move on. Better yet, I let my eyes glaze over it so I can say I’ve read it and can then justify checking it off my reading list. For whatever reason, though, this time it caught my eye. The Holy Spirit has a way of doing that if we will just keep coming back to the text again and again.
Do you understand what Micah’s saying here? He’s talking about the remnant of Jacob. That much is obvious. Okay, but what was that. Well, a remnant is what’s left of something after most of what it was is gone for some reason.
For instance. I washed a bunch of cups the other day. A little while later, our oldest came down to get a drink, grabbed one of those cups, filled it with water, took a big gulp, and had a mouthful of soap. He had discovered a remnant of soap that hadn’t been rinsed totally out of the cup. I then re-rinsed all of them a bit more thoroughly than I obviously had before.
The nation of Israel was due for judgment. They had abandoned the Lord and His Law time and time again. They had resisted His calls through the prophets to get back on track with how He had called them to live in the first place. Worse, rather than coming back all the way when they did, they pursued the external practices of the faith, but wouldn’t give God their hearts, their real devotion, which was the thing He wanted most. More to the point, they had committed themselves to behaving just like any other nation. As a result, He was going to treat them just like any other nation.
Well, the plight of any other nation was to last for a while, but eventually get conquered and destroyed when a bigger and stronger nation came to power in the region. This happened to all the nations around Israel, one after the next. If they wanted that end for themselves—yes, no one really wanted that end, but it came part and parcel with the path they were taking—He wasn’t going to stop them from receiving it.
The problem was, Israel wasn’t like all the other nations. They were different. God made them to be different. He had different plans for them. And even though they may not have been terribly cooperative with those plans, He hadn’t given up on them just yet. And so, He was going to preserve a remnant of the people with whom He could continue working out His grand plans.
Imagine for a minute just how strong a note of hope this would have been for the people. Imagine being a parent and hearing this news. Even if you were destroyed when the invaders came, there was a chance your children would be part of that remnant and be able to continue the legacy of your family forward into the future.
This was something God wanted to set before the people ahead of the judgment, during the judgment, and again after the judgment. While He wanted them to understand clearly the consequences of their sinfulness as a people, He did not want them thinking He was like all the other gods who would simply abandon and destroy their people. He was going to preserve. He was not only going to preserve, He was going to restore and rebuild. Powerful stuff.
Over the years, the people began to think of this restoration in very personal terms. This should come as no surprise. They imagined being restored in their own land and reclaiming the glory they had back when David and Solomon were ruling over the people.
What Micah says here, though, points in a somewhat different direction. He talks about the remnant being like the morning dew. More specifically, he talks about them “along many peoples” like dew from the Lord. This is one if those images that is a little fuzzy to understand and easy to just skip over and go in to the next verse. Understand it we must, though, because there is something powerful here if we will look closely.
There are a couple of ways this could be understood. The first is how Micah’s audience would likely have understood him. The remnant were going to be a strong nation once again that would be a source of life and refreshment to the peoples around them. They would be totally independent of any external rulers or laws. By their example they would lead. That’s the idea of the last part of the verse. God would make them in this way a blessing to many.
That’s one way to understand it. But there’s another. This other isn’t likely how Micah’s audience understood him, but they could have meaning it is a legitimate interpretation. I’ll frame it like this: If a group of people are going to be among another people, the idea I get is not that they are together and to themselves, but rather that they are integrated more seamlessly into these peoples. They are able to refresh so well because they are so thoroughly integrated.
Now, this was not the way Israel imagined their restoration would go. Indeed, the message from the apostles that God intended to open the doors of the faith to Gentiles was not well received at first. But, it was the very integration of Jewish people all over the eventual Roman Empire that made the spread of the Christian faith which has brought restoration to the world such a successful adventure in those early days.
It is now the church, whom Paul identifies as the new Israel in Romans 9, that is everywhere, bringing the grace and love of the Lord like water to the earth. We are integrated into nearly every community in the world. Wherever there are people, there are followers of Jesus bringing the transformationally restorative power of the kingdom of heaven to the world.
What we find here, then, when we take the time to wrestle with the unfamiliar imagery in order to understand it better, is a picture of God’s intention for His church—an intention we are now carrying out in our lives. God wasn’t just talking to them, He was speaking through them to us. He was describing who we would one day be. That means not only did God plan for you, He’s been planning for you for a long time. Be encouraged. He knows what He’s doing.