We are familiar with the story of David’s sin against Bathsheba and Nathan’s confrontation that followed (2 Samuel 12). Nathan told David a parable about two men: one rich and one poor. Wanting to prepare a meal for a guest, but unwilling to slaughter one of his many lambs, the rich man instead stole the pure man’s only lamb and killed it. When David heard the story, and assumed that it was an actual event, he was incensed. “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die!” he declared. Nathan immediately responded, “You are the man!”

David was quick to condemn sin in others but needed to learn that God was as serious about his sin as he was about the sins of others. Micah 1 emphasises a similar lesson. He begins his prophecy by vividly foretelling coming judgement (vv. 1–4). He warns that “the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.” “Mountains will melt under him,” says Micah, “and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.”

This kind of language is fairly common in the prophetic writings, but usually it is linked to the judgement of the nations. If the normal course of events was followed, Micah’s readers would have had every reason to assume that the judgement told in vv. 1–4 would come upon the nations opposing God’s people. Perhaps as Micah introduced his message, the people were cheering him on, waiting to hear God denounce Assyria for its violence. Verse 5, then, would have come as a complete shock to the people: “All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel.” The Samaria and Jerusalem temples had become houses of idolatry, leaving God’s own people no better off than the pagans who opposed them.

How desperately we need to learn this lesson. We can so easily pride ourselves on our godly heritage and rich blessings. We quickly identify faults in others but ignore our own glaring errors. We are critical of other churches while we maintain that ours is pure and faithful to the Lord. We read of God’s messages of displeasure against sinners and immediately think of other Christians and other churches who desperately need to hear the message.

This attitude leads us to presume on grace and shrug indifferently at sin in our own lives. If we are tempted in that way, we desperately need to hear Micah’s message. We desperately need Nathan’s finger pointed directly at us as he boldly declares, “You are the man!”

Notice how Micah responded to this message: “For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals and mourning like the ostriches” (v. 8). He did not take delight in the thought of God’s judgement. He lamented that the “wound” of God’s people was “incurable” and thus invited certain judgement. The language he employs here is funeral language. He would go about mourning, as if attending a funeral, as he thought of God’s judgement falling upon his people. And he would call the people to do the same.

Verse 16 similarly captures funerary language: “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair, for the children of your delight; make yourselves bald as the eagle, for they shall go from you into exile.” The proper response to God’s word of judgement was humble repentance. They should mourn over their sin while there was still time to do so, before judgement irrevocably fell. There was refuge to be found in Yahweh for all who would mourn over their sin.

As we read about God’s attitude to sin in his word, we must guard against a haughty attitude that immediately seeks to apply it to others. We must instead ask the Spirit to reveal our own sin to us and then humbly confess that sin to God, trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. That is the only appropriate response to God’s word, which reveals his holy hatred of sin and determination to judge it.

As you meditate on Micah 1 this morning, ask God to deliver you from the pride that condemns sin in others while embracing it in your own life. Consider your own sin with godly humility and look to Christ for the forgiveness that he offers.