A Lament for Samaria and Jerusalem
1 1 God's Message as it came to Micah of Moresheth. It came during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. It had to do with what was going on in Samaria and Jerusalem. God Takes the Witness Stand 2 Listen, people - all of you. Listen, earth, and everyone in it: The Master, God, takes the witness stand against you, the Master from his Holy Temple. 3 Look, here he comes! God, from his place! He comes down and strides across mountains and hills. 4 Mountains sink under his feet, valleys split apart; The rock mountains crumble into gravel, the river valleys leak like sieves. 5 All this because of Jacob's sin, because Israel's family did wrong. You ask, "So what is Jacob's sin?" Just look at Samaria - isn't it obvious? And all the sex-and-religion shrines in Judah - isn't Jerusalem responsible? 6 "I'm turning Samaria into a heap of rubble, a vacant lot littered with garbage. I'll dump the stones from her buildings in the valley and leave her abandoned foundations exposed. 7 All her carved and cast gods and goddesses will be sold for stove wood and scrap metal, All her sacred fertility groves burned to the ground, All the sticks and stones she worshiped as gods, destroyed. These were her earnings from her life as a whore. This is what happens to the fees of a whore."
8 This is why I lament and mourn. This is why I go around in rags and barefoot. This is why I howl like a pack of coyotes, and moan like a mournful owl in the night. 9 God has inflicted punishing wounds; Judah has been wounded with no healing in sight. Judgment has marched through the city gates. Jerusalem must face the charges. 10 Don't gossip about this in Telltown. Don't waste your tears. In Dustville, roll in the dust. 11 In Alarmtown, the alarm is sounded. The citizens of Exitburgh will never get out alive. Lament, Last-Stand City: There's nothing in you left standing. 12 The villagers of Bittertown wait in vain for sweet peace. Harsh judgment has come from God and entered Peace City. 13 All you who live in Chariotville, get in your chariots for flight. You led the daughter of Zion into trusting not God but chariots. Similar sins in Israel also got their start in you. 14 Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts to Good-byeville. Miragetown beckoned but disappointed Israel's kings. 15 Inheritance City has lost its inheritance. Glorytown has seen its last of glory. 16 Shave your heads in mourning over the loss of your precious towns. Go bald as a goose egg - they've gone into exile and aren't coming back.
Woe to Those Who Oppress the Poor
2 1 Doom to those who plot evil, who go to bed dreaming up crimes! As soon at it's morning, they're off, full of energy, doing what they've planned. 2 They covet fields and grab them, find homes and take them. They bully the neighbor and his family, see people only for what they can get out of them. 3 God has had enough. He says, "I have some plans of my own: Disaster because of this interbreeding evil! Your necks are on the line. You're not walking away from this. It's doomsday for you. 4 Mocking ballads will be sung of you, and you yourselves will sing the blues: 'Our lives are ruined, our homes and lands auctioned off. They take everything, leave us nothing! All is sold to the highest bidder.'" 5 And there'll be no one to stand up for you, no one to speak for you before God and his jury.
6 "Don't preach," say the preachers. "Don't preach such stuff. Nothing bad will happen to us. 7 Talk like this to the family of Jacob? Does God lose his temper? Is this the way he acts? Isn't he on the side of good people? Doesn't he help those who help themselves?" 8 "What do you mean, 'good people'! You're the enemy of my people! You rob unsuspecting people out for an evening stroll. You take their coats off their backs like soldiers who plunder the defenseless. 9 You drive the women of my people out of their ample homes. You make victims of the children and leave them vulnerable to violence and vice. 10 Get out of here, the lot of you. You can't take it easy here! You've polluted this place, and now you're polluted - ruined! 11 If someone showed up with a good smile and glib tongue and told lies from morning to night - 'I'll preach sermons that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: More money, the best wines . . . you name it' - you'd hire him on the spot as your preacher!
12 "I'm calling a meeting, Jacob. I want everyone back - all the survivors of Israel. I'll get them together in one place - like sheep in a fold, like cattle in a corral - a milling throng of homebound people! 13 Then I, God, will burst all confinements and lead them out into the open. They'll follow their King. I will be out in front leading them."
Israel's Leaders Denounced
3 1 Then I said: "Listen, leaders of Jacob, leaders of Israel: Don't you know anything of justice? 2 Haters of good, lovers of evil: Isn't justice in your job description? But you skin my people alive. You rip the meat off their bones. 3 You break up the bones, chop the meat, and throw it in a pot for cannibal stew." 4 The time's coming, though, when these same leaders will cry out for help to God, but he won't listen. He'll turn his face the other way because of their history of evil. 5 Here is God's Message to the prophets, the preachers who lie to my people: "For as long as they're well paid and well fed, the prophets preach, 'Isn't life wonderful! Peace to all!' But if you don't pay up and jump on their bandwagon, their 'God bless you' turns into 'God damn you.' 6 Therefore, you're going blind. You'll see nothing. You'll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They've had their day; from now on it's night. 7 Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They'll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance."
8 But me - I'm filled with God's power, filled with God's Spirit of justice and strength, Ready to confront Jacob's crime and Israel's sin. 9 The leaders of Jacob and the leaders of Israel are Leaders contemptuous of justice, who twist and distort right living, 10 Leaders who build Zion by killing people, who expand Jerusalem by committing crimes. 11 Judges sell verdicts to the highest bidder, priests mass-market their teaching, prophets preach for high fees, All the while posturing and pretending dependence on God: "We've got God on our side. He'll protect us from disaster." 12 Because of people like you, Zion will be turned back into farmland, Jerusalem end up as a pile of rubble, and instead of the Temple on the mountain, a few scraggly scrub pines.
The LORD's Universal Reign
4 1 But when all is said and done, God's Temple on the mountain, Firmly fixed, will dominate all mountains, towering above surrounding hills. People will stream to it 2 and many nations set out for it, Saying, "Come, let's climb God's mountain. Let's go to the Temple of Jacob's God. He will teach us how to live. We'll know how to live God's way." True teaching will issue from Zion, God's revelation from Jerusalem. 3 He'll establish justice in the rabble of nations and settle disputes in faraway places. They'll trade in their swords for shovels, their spears for rakes and hoes. Nations will quit fighting each other, quit learning how to kill one another. 4 Each man will sit under his own shade tree, each woman in safety will tend her own garden. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so, and he means what he says. 5 Meanwhile, all the other people live however they wish, picking and choosing their gods. But we live honoring God, and we're loyal to our God forever and ever.
Israel's Redemption from Captivity
6 "On that great day," God says, "I will round up all the hurt and homeless, everyone I have bruised or banished. 7 I will transform the battered into a company of the elite. I will make a strong nation out of the long lost, A showcase exhibit of God's rule in action, as I rule from Mount Zion, from here to eternity.
8 "And you stragglers around Jerusalem, eking out a living in shantytowns: The glory that once was will be again. Jerusalem's daughter will be the kingdom center." 9 So why the doomsday hysterics? You still have a king, don't you? But maybe he's not doing his job and you're panicked like a woman in labor. 10 Well, go ahead - twist and scream, Daughter Jerusalem. You are like a woman in childbirth. You'll soon be out of the city, on your way and camping in the open country. And then you'll arrive in Babylon. What you lost in Jerusalem will be found in Babylon. God will give you new life again. He'll redeem you from your enemies. 11 But for right now, they're ganged up against you, many godless peoples, saying, "Kick her when she's down! Violate her! We want to see Zion grovel in the dirt." 12 These blasphemers have no idea what God is thinking and doing in this. They don't know that this is the making of God's people, that they are wheat being threshed, gold being refined. 13 On your feet, Daughter of Zion! Be threshed of chaff, be refined of dross. I'm remaking you into a people invincible, into God's juggernaut to crush the godless peoples. You'll bring their plunder as holy offerings to God, their wealth to the Master of the earth.
The Rule of the Deliverer from Bethlehem
5 1 But for now, prepare for the worst, victim daughter! The siege is set against us. They humiliate Israel's king, slapping him around like a rag doll. 2 But you, Bethlehem, David's country, the runt of the litter - From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel. He'll be no upstart, no pretender. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. 3 Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes until the birth pangs are over and the child is born, And the scattered brothers come back home to the family of Israel. 4 He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God's strength, centered in the majesty of God-Revealed. And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect - Peacemaker of the world! 5 And if some bullying Assyrian shows up, invades and violates our land, don't worry. We'll put him in his place, send him packing, and watch his every move. 6 Shepherd-rule will extend as far as needed, to Assyria and all other Nimrod-bullies. Our shepherd-ruler will save us from old or new enemies, from anyone who invades or violates our land.
7 The purged and select company of Jacob will be like an island in the sea of peoples. They'll be like dew from God, like summer showers Not mentioned in the weather forecast, not subject to calculation or control. 8 Yes, the purged and select company of Jacob will be like an island in the sea of peoples, Like the king of beasts among wild beasts, like a young lion loose in a flock of sheep, Killing and devouring the lambs and no one able to stop him. 9 With your arms raised in triumph over your foes, your enemies will be no more! 10 "The day is coming" - God's Decree - "When there will be no more war. None. I'll slaughter your war horses and demolish your chariots. 11 I'll dismantle military posts and level your fortifications. 12 I'll abolish your religious black markets, your underworld traffic in black magic. 13 I will smash your carved and cast gods and chop down your phallic posts. No more taking control of the world, worshiping what you do or make. 14 I'll root out your sacred sex-and-power centers and destroy the God-defiant. 15 In raging anger, I'll make a clean sweep of godless nations who haven't listened."
The LORD's Controversy with Israel
6 1 Listen now, listen to God: "Take your stand in court. If you have a complaint, tell the mountains; make your case to the hills. 2 And now, Mountains, hear God's case; listen, Jury Earth - For I am bringing charges against my people. I am building a case against Israel. 3 "Dear people, how have I done you wrong? Have I burdened you, worn you out? Answer! 4 I delivered you from a bad life in Egypt; I paid a good price to get you out of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you - and Aaron and Miriam to boot! 5 Remember what Balak king of Moab tried to pull, and how Balaam son of Beor turned the tables on him. Remember all those stories about Shittim and Gilgal. Keep all God's salvation stories fresh and present."
What the LORD Requires
6 How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? 7 Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin? 8 But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously - take God seriously.
9 Attention! God calls out to the city! If you know what's good for you, you'll listen. So listen, all of you! This is serious business. 10 "Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth you've piled up by cheating and fraud? 11 Do you think I'll tolerate shady deals and shifty scheming? 12 I'm tired of the violent rich bullying their way with bluffs and lies. 13 I'm fed up. Beginning now, you're finished. You'll pay for your sins down to your last cent. 14 No matter how much you get, it will never be enough - hollow stomachs, empty hearts. No matter how hard you work, you'll have nothing to show for it - bankrupt lives, wasted souls. 15 You'll plant grass but never get a lawn. You'll make jelly but never spread it on your bread. You'll press apples but never drink the cider. 16 You have lived by the standards of your king, Omri, the decadent lifestyle of the family of Ahab. Because you've slavishly followed their fashions, I'm forcing you into bankruptcy. Your way of life will be laughed at, a tasteless joke. Your lives will be derided as futile and fake."
Israel's Moral Corruption
7 1 I'm overwhelmed with sorrow! Sunk in a swamp of despair! I'm like someone who goes to the garden to pick cabbages and carrots and corn And returns empty-handed, finds nothing for soup or sandwich or salad. 2 There's not a decent person in sight. Right-living humans are extinct. They're all out for one another's blood, animals preying on each other. 3 They've all become experts in evil. Corrupt leaders demand bribes. The powerful rich make sure they get what they want. 4 The best and brightest are thistles. The top of the line is crabgrass. But no longer: It's exam time. Look at them slinking away in disgrace! 5 Don't trust your neighbor, don't confide in your friend. Watch your words, even with your spouse. 6 Neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces. The closer they are - sons, daughters, in-laws - The worse they can be. Your own family is the enemy.
7 But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me. Spreading Your Wings
The LORD Brings Light and Deliverance
8 Don't, enemy, crow over me. I'm down, but I'm not out. I'm sitting in the dark right now, but God is my light. 9 I can take God's punishing rage. I deserve it - I sinned. But it's not forever. He's on my side and is going to get me out of this. He'll turn on the lights and show me his ways. I'll see the whole picture and how right he is. 10 And my enemy will see it, too, and be discredited - yes, disgraced! This enemy who kept taunting, "So where is this God of yours?" I'm going to see it with these, my own eyes - my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter. 11 Oh, that will be a day! A day for rebuilding your city, a day for stretching your arms, spreading your wings! 12 All your dispersed and scattered people will come back, old friends and family from faraway places, From Assyria in the east to Egypt in the west, from across the seas and out of the mountains. 13 But there'll be a reversal for everyone else - massive depopulation - because of the way they lived, the things they did.
The LORD's Compassion on Israel
14 Shepherd, O God, your people with your staff, your dear and precious flock. Uniquely yours in a grove of trees, centered in lotus land. Let them graze in lush Bashan as in the old days in green Gilead. 15 Reproduce the miracle-wonders of our exodus from Egypt. 16 And the godless nations: Put them in their place - humiliated in their arrogance, speechless and clueless. 17 Make them slink like snakes, crawl like cockroaches, come out of their holes from under their rocks And face our God. Fill them with holy fear and trembling. 18 Where is the god who can compare with you - wiping the slate clean of guilt, Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. 19 And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. 20 You'll stay true to your word to Father Jacob and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham - Everything you promised our ancestors from a long time ago.