Paint me a picture: How to read Micah
This Sunday at 6pm we start a series in Micah. It would be great to read it through for yourself.
Micah is a book in the prophets. It’s a book of messages from God to Israel.
For the ‘Bible geeks’ amongst us, here’s my fuller explanation of how prophets work: Most prophetic books are a series of extended statements (oracles). Oracles were spoken by God to his prophet at a particular time in Israel’s history. They were then spoken by the prophet to God’s people. New oracles are often introduced with phrases like ‘Hear’, ‘Sing’, or ‘Woe’ (be careful- these are also repeated throughout oracles!). Each oracle is a poem, a carefully composed set of words describing a picture, or series of related pictures. These word pictures were meant to captivate the imagination of listeners. They convey God’s message not only in their content but through tone and composition, teaching not just the facts of God’s message, but how to feel about this message. Basically prophecy is a beautiful, very cool Bible genre (loved by geeks like me)!
Micah is not like a gospel or epistle. If we try to read it like them, we’ll go wrong.
Here are 4 tips for reading Micah:
#1 Identify the pictures…
As you read through, identify different oracles. Notice phrases like ‘Hear’, or ‘Woe’. Use them to identify separate oracles. You won’t get it perfectly right, that’s ok, it’ll help you break down the book into different ideas.
#2 Imagine the pictures…
Now slow down, and imagine what picture is being painted in each oracle. You’ll want to do this with the details within oracles. What’s the image in Micah 1:6 when Micah says Samaria will be a place for planting vineyards? You’ll want to step back and consider the overall picture of oracles. What’s the overall impression Micah 1:2-16 is trying to convey? And you’ll want to imagine not just the technicalities of the picture being painted, but the colours (tone) being used to paint it. What tone is Micah conveying in describing Samaria’s incurable wound in Micah 1:9? You won’t have time to do this with every image, but try it for a few, enjoy thinking about this genre.
#3 Let the pictures teach you about God…
When translated ‘Micah’ literally means ‘Who is like God?’ That’s a massive clue to the purpose of this book! These oracles were put together to teach us about God. So, having imagined the pictures, step back and ask, what is this picture teaching me about God? There’s oodles of application here. How does this view of God compare to your view of God? Pray that you’d have a view of God like Micah’s.
#4 Enjoy the pictures!
On your first read through, don’t get bogged down. Enjoy seeing new treasures, riches and depths! (Maybe even indulge your inner 'Bible geek'!)