6.32 Micah -- Precursor of the New Covenant

Besides the declaration of God's future rule over the Gentiles, and the restoration of the Davidic kingship, there is another passage that anticipates the New Covenant proclaimed 750 years later:

         With what shall I come before the Lord
               and bow down before the exalted God?
               Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
               with calves a year old?
         Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
               with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
               Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
               the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
         He has shown you, O man, what is good.
               And what does the Lord require of you?
               To act justly and to love mercy
               and to walk humbly with your God (Mic 6:6-8).

 

Here we see the tension between the priestly and the prophetic dimensions of Jewish religion.  It is too much to say that this overturns Temple-centered formal religion.  As he says elsewhere,

         Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
                to the temple of the God of Jacob (Mic 4:2).

So Micah believed in the Temple and its rituals.  But sacrifices alone are not what God is looking for.  He indulges in prophetic exaggeration: thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil.  In other words, more priestcraft does not equate with righteousness. 

        

Instead, what God really looks for in a person is treating others fairly, even generously, and living in dependence upon God, rather than in proud self-reliance.  This simple statement overturns the concept of the religious life: it takes it out of the hands of the professionals (priests, scribes, lawyers, learned rabbis), and brings it down to the level of the common man and woman in their daily relationships.  It is a new standard of judgment, applicable to all men and women, even Gentiles!  Consider -- it took a tremendous amount of specialized learning and years of training to understand the "innards" of Jewish faith and practice, and all of this knowledge was a barrier to the uneducated -- the farmers, fishermen, housewives, and most of all, the Gentiles.  But Micah swept this obstacle aside: "don't think that an annual sacrifice of a dove or sheep can get you off the hook for living selfishly the rest of the year.  It's how you treat those around you each day, and whether you reverence God in your heart."   This is a simpler rule to understand than the Mosaic Law, but not any easier to follow.

        

There is also a subtle messianic note in verse 7:

         Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
               the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Mic 6:7)

         This at first sounds like a rhetorical question, with the answer being "No, of course I can't do that."  But in fact, God Himself did this very thing on our behalf in the New Covenant:  He offered His firstborn son for the sin of our souls.  And as a result of that sacrifice, the believer is enabled to practice the righteous life described in verse 8.