The prophets of the Old Testament never sugarcoat the judgment of God. They tell us that God is serious about justice in the world. Because of Israel’s failure, God will bring his judgment upon the whole world. In many prophecies, the judgment seems to begin on the created order. In Genesis 3, God cursed the “earth” because of man’s sin. Along with the curse on the ground came the curse of pain on the woman. Her pain in childbirth shall be multiplied. I think this might explain Paul’s use of the image of childbirth pangs when he describes the situation in Romans 8:22. He says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The disruption of the natural order of things in the created order is often used as a prelude to God’s bringing forth his judgment on the world. God’s birth in a manger in Bethlehem brought peace and joy to the world. Since that was not welcomed, He will come again, but it will be quite different. Micah 1:4 describes some of those birth pangs, “And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.”

Mays says, “Here there is a poetic portrayal of the way all the earth, mountain, and plain, gives way and begins to disintegrate before the force of his appearance; the picture of mountains dissolving and plains splitting shows that the most permanent topography of the world cannot maintain itself when he appears. How much less men who oppose him! Metaphors visualize the disintegration. Mountains dissolve like melting wax before fire. Plains cleave like water that breaks into many currents as it spills down a rocky slope.”[1] God’s water breaks, marking His inevitable and imminent appearance on the scene.

God’s appearance to bring judgment on the wicked is something the righteous long for. Believers need not fear God’s second coming, but should look forward to it and even pray for it. Isaiah did. Isaiah 64:1-2 says, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood, and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” The Psalmist had a similar prayer. In Psalm 144:5-8, David prayed, “Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke! Flash forth the lightning and scatter them; send out your arrows and rout them! Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies.” When believers today pray “thy kingdom come,” it’s asking for God’s reign to settle in upon the affairs of man on earth like it is in heaven. This majestic description of God’s coming to judge the nations should serve as a reminder to all that God reigns in both heaven and earth. His reign will come upon the earth, and we should be ready for it. Those who fear God today will have nothing to fear tomorrow. Wiseman wrote, “Men feel secure so long as God remains in heaven, but when he comes to earth in judgment they are gripped by the terrifying realization that they must meet the holy God in person. If men would tremble before God, instead of before each other, they would have nothing to fear.”[2]

[1] Mays, James Luther. n.d. Micah: A Commentary. Edited by Peter Ackroyd, James Barr, Bernhard W. Anderson, and John Bright. The Old Testament Library. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.

[2] Wiseman, Donald J., T. Desmond Alexander, and Bruce K. Waltke. 1988. Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 26. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.