5 Reasons to Preach the Book of Micah to Teenagers
For a long time, I have been both intimidated by and nervous to preach any Old Testament Prophet. In my mind, these are the hardest books of the Bible. Not only do I need to be competent in a literary genre foreign to most of my sermon prep and personal experience, but I also needed to be aware of the complicated nuances of Old Testament history and geography. To my shame, I even wondered if the harsh tone and brutal imagery that’s characteristic of the Prophets would be useful to my students. Would they be able to get past the perceived offensiveness of the text?
I say “to my shame,” because all of Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for teaching and discipling teens. But also because I had forgotten, however briefly, that it’s often in brutality and darkness that the grace and brightness of Jesus shines most brightly. So in spite of its difficulties, here are four reasons to preach the book of Micah.
(1) Micah is dark and brutal.
Few books go as deep and as dark as Micah does so quickly. In the first chapter, we are told that Israel’s gods are nothing more than a whore’s change, that the pride of each of her cities will become her downfall, and that God will melt mountains when he comes. As the book progresses, we learn of corrupt leaders, corrupt prophets, corrupt judges, and the oppressed women, children, and families who have been crushed by all of that corruption. Micah presents a dark and brutal description of a world that has forgotten to love God and neighbor.
While this may be a reason many stay away, I believe it’s the very reason why we must study Micah. In a culture that is hyper-aware and hyper-responsive to injustice and oppression, Micah shows us that Scripture cares and is unwilling to mince words when confronting evil. Our older students need to know that the Bible is not unconcerned with their social justice causes, and our younger students need to know that evil is real and needs to be addressed.
(2) Micah addresses both individual and systemic injustice.
Micah reveals how neglecting to love God and our neighbors expresses itself in both individual and systemic injustice and evil. This is important because most of our students will hear a lopsided view of evil.
If they come from more conservative minded churches, they might hear a narrative that casts all evil as personal and individual. Our world is messed up because bad people do bad things. The solution is that these bad people need Jesus to change their hearts, to change their behaviors, to change the world we live in. If we can change the heart, then issues like racism, sex slavery, and inequality will disappear.
But if students come from more liberal minded churches, they might hear a narrative that casts all evil as societal and systematic. Our world is messed up because there are systems, structures, and laws that oppress minorities, women, and others on the outside of power. The solution is social action to overturn these forces.
Both narratives are incomplete and Micah refuses to play an “either-or” game. Since no one loves God or their neighbor, evil will express itself both in individual hearts and in institutions (since they are created by men and women with sinful hearts and intentions). The solution is both a new heart given by God and a new kingdom inaugurated by the Messiah.
(3) Micah beautifully blends the justice and mercy of God.
Micah’s descriptions of God’s wrath are some of the most potent in all of Scripture, and without fail, they are written next to some of the most tender promises of God’s mercy and grace. When secular scholars read Micah they often conclude that it is written by at least two distinct authors. They reason that it is impossible for one God to be so full of wrath and judgement towards sinful Israel, and at the same time promise those same sinners his sweeping visions of mercy, protection, and deliverance.
Micah gives us an opportunity to explain this divergent set of excellencies in our God. God’s mercy and his justice are not incompatible but are in fact our only hope. While our world will see these two attributes of God and conclude that they are incompatible and offensive, we can show our students that Christians must cling to them as the power and wisdom of God.
(4) Micah is all about Jesus.
If Jesus had not absorbed our sin on the cross and given us his righteousness, the secular scholars might have a point. It would be impossible for God to be both that angry and that loving towards the same people. The only way both justice and love can coexist is if they meet on the wrath-absorbing, righteousness-giving cross of Christ. And while Micah never knew Jesus’ name, you see him throughout the text.
He is the Warrior-shepherd who rescues and gathers his flock. (Micah 2:12-13, 4:8, 5:4 cf. John 10:11)
He is the Judge who turns weapons of death into salvation and growth. (Micah 4:3 cf. 1 Cor 1:18)
He is the Lord who dignifies the lame, and the outcast. (Micah 4:6-7 cf. Luke 4:21)
He is the King who will be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2 cf. Matt 2:1)
He is the God who does not desire sacrifice but mercy. (Micah 6:6-8 cf. Matt 9:13)
He is the Lord who saves by faith alone. (Micah 7:7 cf. Eph 2:8-9)
He is both our Judge and our Advocate pleading our case. (Micah 7:9 cf. Rom 3:26)
(5) Micah answers questions teens are asking.
As student pastors, we are faced with addressing the hard questions our students ask: Is God a moral monster? Why does God talk about enslaving people? How do we deal with God’s violence towards other ethnicities, religions, and people? Is the God of the Old Testament worth worshiping? Does God’s use of war to bring about his ends justify our support of war?
The Old Testament is avoided because it’s hard. But I believe this is precisely the reason we should run head-long into it. Even if we fumble in our answers, even if we flub the presentation, and even if our logic isn’t airtight as we faithful press into Scripture, our students will see their leaders committed to a God bigger than them.
I pray they see leaders who are humbled by a God they can’t always explain or provide a justification for. I pray they would see in us not a blind faith, but a faith built on the historic resurrection of Jesus. I pray they see a faith that says “Even though I can’t explain this, I know that God is good.” If there is anything teens need in this world, it’s that.