I just finished preaching through the book of Micah and along the way one of the questions I got was this one from a gentleman in our church. I love interacting with the Word and growing in complete understanding of God’s story. Perhaps his question, and hopefully my answer will help you grow too:
I hope you can help. I’m having a lot of trouble with Micah and I hope it’s just my misunderstanding but it seems to me that God is punishing the innocent along with the guilty. I know that not everybody in Jerusalem was following false prophets (kids and Micah himself if nobody else). Allowing the conquering of cities causes the deaths of everybody including the faithful. Death as punishment does not teach one to change your behavior.
I always love and appreciate that you interact with the Biblical material in thoughtful ways. So thanks for wanting to learn, understand, and grow. And this is, without a doubt, a hard question as we read the history of the Old Testament (OT). My thoughts and understanding …
The Old Testament is full of stories about God rescuing the faithful out of the midst of the unfaithful. Rahab (a non-Jew) in the pagan city of Jericho. Lot and his family out of the ungodly city of Sodom, so first off I do believe that while not all is recorded in each setting, this is the picture of how God operated – that is the idea of a faithful remnant being deported into babylonian exile and not destroyed. There always is, as you have mentioned, a faithful remnant.
That being said, certainly the sin of some (or many) did effect others who weren’t making sinful choices. And this is always the case, then and now. Leaders make ungodly choices (in the home, in the community, in the church, in government) and innocent people suffer. The principle – Sin effects everyone. There are innocent victims in a world groaning to be released from its brokenness (Romans 8:18-25). Thus the role of the righteous – To fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. To love justice. To practice compassion. To protect the oppressed. When a culture forgets this … and even those who are supposed to be God’s heart in that culture forget this, as the nations of Israel and Judah, then God “disciplines/afflicts/trains/brings his leadership” over them.
The hideousness of this in the Old Testament, and the punishment for sin, has been from the beginning until now. And in fact becomes the very backdrop for the Messiah. The temple sacrifices in the OT were God’s provision for sin to be punished without the person being punished. That is the very picture of the cross of Christ. Sin to be punished without people being punished – A Substitute sacrifice … and in Christ, one for whom we also get His Righteousness! In our civilized modern culture, we look and cringe as the OT history unfolds, but in part that is because we are now on this side of the cross and God has made a way for ALL to be rescued through His Son. This is what we call the Church Age, or the Day of Salvation. But that OT sort of destruction will return, when Christ returns in judgment (Revelation – End Times scenarios). Even the prophets of the OT wrote of that “End Day” in their words not always knowing what they were really referring to or when it would come. Thus the role of the righteous – To call all men everywhere to repent. To preach the Gospel to all nations. To declare the day of salvation. To exalt a God who is full of grace and has made a way for our rescue!
In the end, the innocent (those declared innocent because of Christ) will ALL be rescued, restored, resurrected. AND the guilty (those still in their sin) will ALL be destroyed, judged, thrown into the lake of fire. This is the real concern for all who care about mankind – that great day when change is no longer possible. Spiritual death was the punishment God issued to Adam and Eve after the Fall in the garden … and the whole of the Bible is the Gospel story of God’s rescue from that moment where spiritual death entered the human race. He went about reversing the curse. And for those who see their spiritual death and call upon the Lord, He gives new life … and for those who ignore their spiritual death, they face an even greater death.
Hope this helps some in both understanding God’s operation in the days of Micah, and as it is set in the whole of the Gospel story.