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man in jail July 8 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Micah 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Understanding Punishment and Discipline

When we were kids we did not always understand the punishment our parents gave us. When our brothers or sisters were punished, we might have even gloated. If we were ever jailed as a teen or young adult, we may not have understood why our parents did not bail us out. Most adults now know that punishment is given so that justice may be meted out, so there might be repentance, and so that we might be disciplined to be better people. After we have learned the lessons of discipline there is hope for a better life. This lesson is what the nation of Judah needed to learn and a lesson we often need to be reminded of when some troubles come our way.

Judah was guilty of repeating the same sins and crimes against humanity and God for which her sister nation, Israel, had committed. For Israel’s crimes and her stubborn rebellious heart, God used the strength of the Assyrian armies to ravage her, capture her and deport her to their land. There she was exiled. Exile is imprisonment in a foreign land where the captured are free to go and do as they please under the supervision and will of their captors. The prophet Micah predicts Judah will also suffer the same fate as Israel, not by the Assyrians but by the Babylonians. Micah 3 ends with a prediction of Judah’s judgment:

Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel [since Israel is now in exile and the remaining tribe of Judah still occupies the land of Israel, Judah is sometimes called Jacob or Israel], who despise justice and distort all that is right; who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets, (Micah 3:9-12, NIV).

Judah would suffer punishment for her sins, but in Micah 4 she is offered hope of a future day. Micah 4:1 says, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it,” (NIV). It will be a day of peace and security for the whole nation of Israel and the world. “That day” speaks of the millennial reign of Christ in Jerusalem. “That day,” however, has not yet come. For now the nation would suffer judgment.

Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.” Micah 4:10, NIV)

What would be the response to Judah’s demise? Micah 4:11 says the other nations will gloat! “But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan,” (Micah 4:12, NIV).

What is His plan? According to Jeremiah 25:11,12 and Jeremiah 29:10, God’s plan would be to punish Israel and Judah for seventy years, and then after her repentance return a remnant to her land. In a future day, a king will rule from Jerusalem (a reference to Jesus Christ). He will conquer the foes of the kingdom of Israel and Judah, bring justice, and destroy the idols of Jerusalem, but not now. Now Judah would suffer as Israel did. No sacrifices would be enough. What did the LORD require of them to change his mind? “He has showed 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,” (Micah 6:8, NIV). Judah was not following the Lord's requirements so she, too, would suffer.

During this time, what was Judah to do when she saw God’s judgment for her sins? Micah 6:9 tells her to “heed the rod [of punishment] and the One who appointed it,” (NIV). The rod may refer to the menacing nation of Assyria. Judah was to pay attention to what God did against Israel and Judah’s fortified cities and fear the LORD.

Israel, like many of us, must have asked, “Can’t God just overlook my sin and forget it?” This is what the nation desired, and many times this is what we desire when we are guilty of sin. God says to Judah,

… I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins…. You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab's house, and you have followed their traditions [a reference to copying Israel’s wickedness]. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations. (Micah 6:13, 16, NIV).

The pain of punishment causes sorrow and grief. This is God’s intent in order that she (and by principle, we) might repent and respond to the discipline of the LORD (Hebrews 12:5-11). However, though we may sit in the darkness of our suffering, the LORD will be our light and restore us, as he would the nations of Israel and Judah (Micah 7:1-2, 4, 7-8). Judah would someday say, as we should when God punishes us, “Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD's wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness,” (Micah 7:9, NIV).

The prophecy of Micah ends with a message of hope for Judah and Israel. This message of hope is similar for us, too, if we properly respond to the LORD’s discipline. Micah 7:18-20 says,

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago. (NIV)

It is true that we do not inherit the promises given to the Jewish people (unless we are Jewish), but as God’s children through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God will again show us favor when we repent (more...).

Lessons to live by:

  • Learn from the discipline of others so you don’t suffer the same fate.
  • When you are disciplined, and all of us are in one way or another, respond properly to the LORD’s discipline. He is only doing it because he is just and righteous; he wants you to be that way, too. God loves you. He longs to restore you and bless you (more...).

Today’s Bible memory verse: Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (NIV)

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