Until the early twentieth century, it was customary for survivors to wear mourning clothes for a period of time after the death of their loved one. (Famously, Queen Victoria wore black for forty years after her husband died.) After World War I, however, when nearly every family was affected by grief and loss of some kind, the custom of mourning clothes began to wane.
As we read the book of Micah, we might imagine this prophet from Moresheth dressed in all black, intoning words of lament. Unlike Jonah, who selfishly despised Nineveh’s repentance and God’s response of grace, Micah cried out in pain when he heard the words of the Lord, which announce the judgment both of Samaria and Judah. Those words grieve him, and he howls like a jackal and moans like an owl (1:8). His sorrow is His heartbreak over the estrangement of his people from their God and the promise of their exile.
Like Amos his contemporary, Micah is the bearer of bad news, and his proclamations of divine judgment are not welcomed. The people forbid him to prophesy; they dismiss the prospect of their pending disgrace. The Lord is patient, they reassure themselves! They have presumed upon the covenant God made with them, forgetting that when it had been ratified it had come with conditions (see Deuteronomy 28). Obedience would be rewarded by prosperity and divine favor; disobedience would be punished with disease, defeat, and exile.
But Micah’s ministry was not always unsuccessful. In Jeremiah 26, we have reference to Micah’s prophetic ministry in the days of Hezekiah. “Zion shall be plowed as a field,” he had warned, and the king had duly repented. Moreover, that repentance had been met with God’s decision to relent from the disaster He had promised to bring.
“Hear the words of the Lord”: this is a constant refrain in the book of Hebrews, which reminds us that God used to speak through the prophets but now He has finally spoken through His Son, Jesus. As we continue in our study this month, don’t simply hear the words. Listen. Pay attention. Put into practice whatever God is asking you to do.