How to Read Micah

The Book of Micah

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application.  

Micah contains prophetic warnings to Israel. God must confront and judge the evil among His people, but His covenant love and promises are more powerful than evil. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Micah, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 

Now that you have an overview of Micah in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Micah. Read about God’s steadfast love and compassion in Micah 7:18–20. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Micah 7:18–20.   

Micah 7:18-20 (ESV)

God’s Steadfast Love and Compassion

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

19He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: God will show steadfast love to Jacob and Abraham.

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Micah 7:18–20? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) God will show steadfast love to Jacob and Abraham. (Interpretation) God will be faithful to the promises and the covenant He made with Abraham and Jacob, down through their generations.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Micah 7:18–20? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Micah? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God makes a covenant with Abraham, to make his offspring more numerous than the stars. God continues His covenant with Abraham’s descendent Jacob, and makes a covenant with him, to bless all the families of the earth through Jacob’s family. The Israelite nation becomes a great multitude. Israel rebels, and God warns of the judgment that will come upon them. God brings a remnant of his exiled people back to Jerusalem. Jesus is born, a descendant of Abraham and Jacob. Jesus’s death and resurrection provide a way for all the families of the earth to have restored fellowship with God and become part of His family. This family will last forever. 

Contextualize: What themes does Micah 7:18–20 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the story of Micah? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the earlier books of the Bible?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Because God is faithful to keep his covenant and show steadfast love to Jacob, Abraham, and all their descendants, I am part of God’s family today. When circumstances are difficult, or life is confusing, or things seem dark, I can recall the character and faithfulness of God to show steadfast love and keep His promises. This is a source of hope and encouragement. 

Apply: How does the truth from Micah 7:18–20 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Chronicles to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps us wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Micah, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Micah this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.