“In that day — this is the Lord’s declaration — I will remove your horses from you and wreck your chariots. I will remove the cities of your land and tear down all your fortresses. I will remove sorceries from your hands, and you will not have any more fortune-tellers. I will remove your carved images and sacred pillars from you so that you will no longer worship the work of your hands. I will pull up the Asherah poles from among you and demolish your cities.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If you were to read these verses all by themselves and without knowing anything about what came before them, what would you think is Micah’s focus? What is “that day” in which God is going to do all of this removing and destroying? As a first guess you might go with something like the day of judgment. That would make sense. On what other day would God do all these kinds of things to the people? Well, as it turns out, that’s not quite right. In context, this all falls not on a day of judgment, but a day of restoration. What gives? Let’s talk about it.
First, let me apologize for a much longer passage than usual. I tried to think of a way to break this down, but you really needed to see the whole thing to get a full picture of the weight of God’s words here. When I first read this a few days ago, it really captured my attention. I had just been marveling at God’s promise of restoration that comes just before this and the way it points forward toward the church in the kind of language it uses, and then this slapped me in the face.
Micah starts here by saying, “In that day…” The context points to the fact that he’s still talking about this day of restoration. The distinction here should be obvious. After all, almost any other time God talks about the day of restoration, it’s all good stuff. He will restore their land and their economy and their religion and all manner of other things.
But here? This is all about taking away and destroying. This sounds a whole lot more like judgment than restoration. What gives?
Well, let’s think about some of the things He’s talking about taking away and destroying. He starts with horses and chariots, cities and fortresses. What were these things? They were all connected with the nation’s military prowess. As far as what God has in mind here, I think there are two things worth noticing.
First, if God was going to restore the people, the purpose of that was to draw them into a deeper relationship with Himself. If we are going to be in a committed and growing relationship with the Lord, it is going to involve trusting in Him first and foremost. Well, when we are confident in our own strength, we are more likely to believe we don’t need God. Israel’s temptation was to hide behind their strong military. By taking it away, God was giving them the opportunity to trust in Him rather than in their perceived military might.
The other thing here is this: If God was going to take away their military, perhaps the reason was they weren’t going to need it anymore. They wouldn’t need it because He Himself would be their strength and their shield. That is indeed a note of hopefulness.
The next thing God promises to destroy is all of their false religious practices. If they were going to be restored in Him, they were going to have to put a halt to whatever it was that was dividing their hearts between it and Him.
Essentially, what God was saying in all of this, was that He was going to strip everything away that was not Him so they would be ready to be with Him. This would not be an easy, much less painless process, but it would make them more like Him and that’s what mattered most.
So what does this mean for us? God hasn’t changed since then. He’s still in the business of restoring broken and lost people in His image. And, the process of restoration can still be rough. It still involves taking away from us what we are tempted to count as our own. This often hurts, but our faithful God would rather see us wounded and complete than whole and incomplete.
He wants to make us complete in His image. This means taking away from us anything that is not Him and getting rid of it. Think about your own life. What are the things you are most tempted to lean on other than God? If you’ll let Him, Jesus will take that burden and replace it with His light one.
He wants to see you whole in Him. But know well, things you won’t give willingly He will eventually just take away. That’s what will hurt. If you want to grow in the image of Jesus, though, you’ve got to work with the Spirit to identify and remove whatever is not Him so you can bring everything to the right place again with His help. He’ll do it, you’ve just got to let Him get started.