Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the people of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem? “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations. All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” Micah 1:3-7
Well the book of Jonah was a whirlpool of wisdom to be sure. What it lacked in length it made up for in depth. Welcome to the book of Micah.
This book contains one of my favorite “life verses”, Micah 6:8, so I am excited to float this stretch of the river and see what other nuggets we can pan from this book. Although I have read Micah before I really knew nothing about Micah the man. Apparently he was a “farm boy” that was more comfortable in a rural setting than the city. I am with Micah in this respect, I much prefer woods and wild places to cities and streets. I suspect this will show up in the language that Micah uses to convey his messages.
The passage begins with a command – “look”. This one word conveys so much meaning. How often do we float through life looking but not seeing because we are either looking the wrong direction or not seeing something right in front of us. Micah is directing us to look at something rather important, “The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.” Micah is beginning his message with a description of God descending from heaven. That is jumping in with both feet for sure.
As God descends “The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.” Whenever someone describes the nature of God by analogy it is worth some careful pondering to see what is hidden beneath the surface.
Metaphors like this remind me of geodes, or crystal-filled cavities in rocks sometimes referred to as thunder eggs. My dad and I spent many happy hours hunting for geodes when I was growing up. The interesting thing about geodes is that on the outside they look rather boring and often similar to other rocks, but if you know how to “see” them you can find geodes that, when you slice them open, contain amazing crystals caverns.
So lets slice open this “geode” about God and see what we can learn. The metaphor begins with “The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart”. Mountains and valleys (think Grand Canyon here) are really the biggest items we can wrap our brains around aside from something like the moon or the sun which both seem small because of their distance from us. So to say that mountains melt beneath God and valleys split apart is to say that God is bigger and more powerful than anything in our experience. The people of Israel have had plenty of first hand experiences with this power, but they have trouble remembering.
Then comes these amazing similes, God takes downs mountains and valleys like “wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope”. I think everyone has had experience playing with candle wax at one time or another. A little bit of heat transforms this otherwise hard substance into something malleable and soft. Certainly God can do this for the physical world, but I think an even more interesting way to think about it is in the spiritual realm. God takes hardened souls, and through the heat of trials and challenges, softens them so they are malleable and able to be formed in God’s image.
The second part of the simile is the water reference and it holds special meaning for me as a hydrologist and geomorphologist (one who studies erosion and runoff), “like water rushing down a slope”. Water has amazing power to transform landscapes through erosion. One only needs to look to the Grand Canyon for a prominent example. I think that God wields similar power over our lives if we allow His rushing waters to flow over our souls. I think in many ways the transformation is often imperceptible over short time frames, just like erosion in the Grand Canyon, but over a lifetime God can sculpt our souls into some amazing things if we let Him.
This is an amazing first plunge into Micah. So far I am impressed by the “earthy” tone that Micah is using and I am excited to learn more.
Prayer: God Your hand can sculpt our souls as easily as melting wax or water on a slope. Help us to allow this sculpting or our souls.