TODAY’S READING: MICAH 1-4
“Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.” – Micah 1:2
“Let the Lord God be a witness against you.”
This sounds rather ominous because of the word against. Many hear the word witness and immediately take this to be a courtroom setting where God is testifying against those that have done wrong. In this context, against means:
- in opposition or hostility to
- contrary to
- in competition with
- as a basis for disapproval of
But, is God against you?
In Romans 8:31, Paul asks the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer to the rhetorical question is nothing can be against because God is for us, for you. For Paul, it wasn’t even possible to ask the question “Is God against me?” for his presumption was that God is for you and therefore nothing can be against you.
I check quite a few English translations of Micah 1:2. All of them but one translate the Hebrew word that is the letter beyt as against. But, this is by far not the most common translation of this preposition. I think another translation for this Hebrew preposition is far more likely.
We have to remember that all scripture is a witness to Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44-45 and John 5:39-40). So, we need to interpret every book, every verse, and every word in the light of Jesus.
So, the context of Jesus and the context of this verse through the inspiration of the Spirit tells that me against is not the correct translation of this Hebrew preposition in this case.
Notice that this word from Micah is addressed to “you peoples, all of you,” which is more likely “you peoples, all of them.”
Who are “peoples” and “all of them?”
Not just the Jews because the next line says, “Pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it.” Therefore, this word is addressed to all peoples, all nations, every person in the earth.
Another clue that the Hebrew preposition should not be translated against is that the witness of the Lord God comes from “the Lord from his holy temple.”
The witness comes from the temple, which is not a courtroom. So, the typical understanding of this word being a scene in a courtroom is wrong.
But, could this mean that the Lord is witnessing against us from the temple?
Well, what do we mean by the temple?
John 2:19-21 says, “Jesus answered them , ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” When we read all scripture in the context of Jesus and as a witness to him, we understand Micah as saying that the witness “against is coming from the Lord’s temple, which is the body of Jesus.
Now, where was Jesus? Where was the Lord’s temple?
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word for dwelt is literally tabernacle. So, the Word became flesh in Jesus, and God’s tabernacle or temple was among us. The temple was among us not against us.
So, the Septuagint translation of Micah 1:2 says, “And the Lord God will be among you for a testimony.”
What was Jesus, the Word made flesh, tabernacling among us for a testimony of?
According to John 1:15-18, Jesus’ testimony was the glory of God, full of grace and truth and that from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Only Jesus could give this testimony because only Jesus had ever seen God. Not even Moses had seen God the way that Jesus did.
So, if we changed all of those English translations that used the word against to “and let the Lord God be a witness among you” then it doesn’t sound quite so ominous. Now it sounds more like God is for us as Paul says.
But, there is one English translation that doesn’t use the word against. According to the Douay-Rheims Bible, Micah 2:1 says, “And let the Lord God be a witness to you.”
In John 1:15-18, we already saw that the Jesus’ witness to us was of God’s glory from which we have all received grace upon grace. But, John gives us other perspectives as to what Jesus witnessed to in 1 John.
1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Jesus’ message, his witness, his testimony, to us is that God is light. God is good. And, because God is good there is no evil or wickedness in him at all. Therefore, God is not and cannot be against us.
1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”This is another aspect of Jesus’ testimony to us. Jesus witnessed to us that God is love.
How, when, did he do this?
On the cross, from the holy temple that is body.
1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
But, Jesus isn’t just the propitiation of sins for those who believe. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The our in this verse refers to the believer. But, John says Jesus’ love and work on the cross is effective beyond the sins of the believer. Rather, Jesus’ love and work on the cross is effective to remove the sons of the whole world, everyone that is in the earth.
And, this brings us back to the original setting of Micah 1:2. For, Micah told all peoples, all of them, everyone that was in the earth to pay attention. They were to pay attention because the Lord’s witness among us and to us would come from his temple, the body of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in John 12:32, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus tells us that we have to read everything in his light, according to his witness. When we do, we understand the true meaning, the inspired meaning of the Old Testament, regardless of what the Old Testament authors meant and regardless of how modern day translators interpret the text in their translations.
God is not a witness against you. God is not coming to smite you. Nor is God coming to destroy you or anyone else.
God is a witness among you. And, as Jesus showed, he is among the poor, the hurting, the lame, the blind, the weak, the oppressed, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the prostitute, the drunkard, and on and on.
God is a witness to you. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). God was on the cross with Jesus. And, God was witnessing his love to you, his goodness to you despite whatever you have done to him or others.
God is for you.