“Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?” (Micah 2:7). Straitened is not a word we use often today. We might talk about dire straits: that is, a very tough situation. In the past, you might have heard someone who is broke say they are in straitened circumstances. The Hebrew word used by Micah here was “qatsar,” which means “to be short.”
But this can be translated as “cut down,” “grieved,” “curtailed,” and “vexed” among other definitions. No matter how you cut it, the idea is this: the Lord wanted his people to understand then as now that He cannot be changed, belittled, or manipulated.
He is bigger than any threat any person might erect against him: against his truth; against his glory. I just love this verse, and I want to understand it better.
The Context of Micah 2:7
The ESV Study Bible indicates that Micah was bringing “God’s ‘lawsuit’ against his people” and that “he indicts Samaria and Jerusalem for their sins.” His people had forgotten their Lord, and it was time for God to discipline Israel. The Lord judges; he “scatters his people for their transgressions and sins” but is also a “Shepherd-King who [...] gathers, protects, and forgives them” (Ibid.).
Israel had grown heartless towards their neighbors, and cold towards their God. “Lately my people have risen up as an enemy; you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war” (Micah 2:8). Whether stranger or fellow Israelite, some mild-mannered person would cross the path of one of these evildoers and wind up being robbed or worse.
How Are They God’s Enemy?
Notice that to treat one’s neighbor scornfully and greedily is to make oneself an enemy of the Almighty. These two ideas are connected in verse 8, and Jesus drives the point home. He tells his followers that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord and to love your neighbor. (Mark 12).
In Micah 6:8, the eponymous prophet says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” If anyone listening was convicted of sin and led to repent of hard-heartedness, this was what the Father intended and he was glad.
We all sin, but “do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly?” (v.7). Discipline and rebuke, when provided by a just and loving God, is a gift to the one who loves him. It’s not an example of God losing his temper.
The Israelite preachers had forgotten what their job was: to lead the people. To act as under-shepherds to the head Shepherd — their Heavenly Father.
Instead of protecting their people from pagan lies and unbelief by teaching the truth about their God, the behavior of these preachers, so cold towards the Lord, set a blasphemous and deadly example. They didn’t love justice, or mercy, or their neighbors. They did what they wanted; not what God wanted.
I don’t have to look far to see the same kind of disbelief in my own heart. Even though I know in my head that God is bigger than life and all life flows from him, I sometimes act as though I forget that He is bigger than my imagination can handle.
God's Love for His People
Although I have to take my time with his Victorian English, Charles Spurgeon spoke eloquently. He got his point across in a lively way. Spurgeon explained how Israel “did not want to hear any more about God; they had given him up; and they wished to have no more to do with him.”
They had tasted some level of prosperity but acted as though they were responsible for their comforts and successes. Many of the Lord’s preachers were leading the people away from God.
And God was justifiably angry, but the religious leaders resisted the prophet’s warning: “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?” (v.7, The Message).
Israel thought they would get away with their treason because God doesn’t react. He doesn’t lose his cool. What they failed to realize is that this patient God had given Israel many opportunities to repent and return to him.
Their history declares as much. The Exodus shows us this pattern, of Israel losing everything and then being rescued. The Book of Judges is all about this — Israel sins, is oppressed, is rescued, then they reject the Lord once more.
The Almighty has patience, so much of it, but “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6).
The religious leaders wanted God’s prophets, such as Micah, to shut up and sit down. But Micah spoke for their Heavenly King. They threatened Micah with all kinds of punishment for his boldness and obedience to God, and “by these means they thought to stifle the voice of the Spirit of God, and make him dumb in their midst.”
Spurgeon explains the ancient context, but he also asks “Can you do it? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?” I suspect we have often tried to vex God or curtail his power, whether consciously or unconsciously.
The Power of God’s Word
We don’t have that power. When someone has a Word from God, which he is commanded to speak, “speak it he must, and nothing can silence him."
While an individual might share the gospel in a less than patient way by yelling and berating (which is not God’s way or his desire), the Word he speaks is not an instance of lashing out by the Lord.
Scripture was laid down centuries and even millennia ago, and God was fully aware that we would need it long after Scripture was written onto a scroll. We seek autonomy, only to fall under the rule of some idol (desire for wealth, love, praise, etc.).
Many people have indeed lost their lives to share God’s loving discipline, in the hope of leading at least a few of them back to God. And even though they were killed for doing as much, the gospel cannot be silenced.
As Spurgeon said, God “will raise up others. He is never at a loss. [...] If the whole church of God were to apostatize [...] it would make no difference whatever to the eternal purposes of God.”
Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, our role in the Lord’s Kingdom is to testify to God’s goodness and glory, his grace and greatness, and to proclaim him as King while we decrease.
A Non-Verbal Power
If there wasn’t a single person available to preach his Word, the Lord would still speak. He can bring his truth to those whom he chooses by way of the Bible, although I for one am so grateful for the guidance of people who love Jesus and are mature in faith and understanding.
Still — leave a man on an island, shipwrecked and alone with nothing but some beef jerky, tinned peaches (plus a can opener), and a Bible: Scripture will speak for itself.
Spurgeon explains, “Give us an open Bible, and we shall never be in the dark.” No definition for “qatsar” describes the Lord or his Word.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/iStock_Getty Images Plus_pixelheadphoto.jpg
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.