God Hates Injustice!
Chapter 1 announced judgement on Samaria and Jerusalem – now the specific reasons for the judgement are now given. The leading men devised wickedness at night and performed it by day (v.1-5). Seer and prophet preached lies (v.6-11), the social and moral sins of the nation cried for judgement. Judgement started with leaders of Samaria and Jerusalem for misleading and oppressing the people.
Plotting evil (v.1-5) v.1 “Just do it!” – A slogan of our day – even in the church: “Dream a dream for God” – devise some great plan and carry it out. If it is possible – do it. There is a word for this: EXISTENTIALISM. The plans here are evil – man’s plans as opposed to God’s directions. The spirit of our society is to just do it! – It is totally contrary to Scripture! The Spirit of the LORD is one of discipline, self-control, restraining one’s self – how little of this is heard and how greatly it is scorned - it is disparagingly called “repressing” and is seen as very unhealthy. The evil is deliberate, premeditated - they plot and scheme, planning, thinking out the evil that they will do while they are at ease. As they lie on their beds they don’t sleep but conceive wicked plans which they can carry out once day breaks. If it is possible, able to be done, they will do it - the criterion for acting is "can I get away with it?" not "is this right or wrong?" - if it is "within the power of their hands" then they will do it. As soon as they have the chance, they do the evil they have conceived. The mind is set on thinking up evil things that can be done. יהוה decrees woe on those like this!V.2 Behind the “just do it” philosophy is SELF – I want something for myself and so I take it – never mind about the other. They coveted the fields of others and because it was within their power to seize them, they did. Defrauding others – taking from the helpless, exploiting the poor in order to gain for themselves – this is not unknown in our day. Businesses put their prices up if they can get away with it – and who makes the wealthy rich? – The poor and weak that have no alternative but to pay up. Business doesn’t set the price by what is reasonable, but the maximum they can get without the competition gaining the market. Don’t believe me? – look at what you pay for toll calls compared with before Telstra-Clear was in the market – and we pay less for out line charges than centres where there is no competition. If they can do it …. they will. It is the powerful who can – it is they who exploit the weak and יהוה holds them responsible. They defraud helpless people – their fellow man! This gets יהוה angry. In particular they took people’s inheritance – land doesn’t mean as much to us today, perhaps a farm being passed from father to son have more of a sense of the value of the land. But the land was a big thing in יהוה s sight – He gave His people the land. We move to another city or suburb, sell up and buy another property – but it wasn’t like that – that land was their inheritance – it wasn’t to be sold. If someone got into financial difficulty and had to sell his land, it had to be returned to him in the year of Jubilee – it was never to pass out of their possession – it was their inheritance, their portion, their lasting possession. But these people took that which was not to be taken. Whatever they want, they get. This is what their night time scheming was about - getting the property of others that they had seen and desired for themselves. They coveted the possessions of others (cf. Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”) - not only did they covet, they allowed the covetousness to be carried into action - they took what they wanted - they simply seized it, i.e. stole it (cf. Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.). They saw a man with fine fertile fields, so they seized them. Saw houses that they liked, so they took them (? Remember Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard). They oppressed the poor - took from those who had little and were too weak and lacking in influence to prevent them. God hates this! - taking advantage of the disadvantaged. They would take away from a man the place in which he lived, rob him of his inheritance. This too is something which יהוה abhors - the inheritance is of extreme importance and is to remain within the family. v.3 But they will not get away with it. There is someone who notices what we do. We see injustice around us, exploitation and we feel impotent to do anything about it – but be encouraged, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? יהוה saw their deeds, their evil and the injustice, the oppression of the less fortunate - יהוה comes personally to the defence of the poor who are being taken advantage of. He is incensed by injustice and oppression and would Himself act in judgement against these greedy affluent people with no morality. They make their plans but יהוה has His! Guess whose will prevail?! יהוה is planning disaster from which there is no salvation – they won’t be able to save themselves! There is a consequence for wickedness. Men will reap the reward for what they have done. Here are these men arrogantly doing as they plan, so arrogant – they think that none can stop them or prevent them doing what they determine to do. But their proud path will be brought to an abrupt halt – calamity will overtake them. They "schemed" (חֹשְׁבֵי v.1) so יהוה Himself "planned" (חֹשֵׁב). They devised "evil" (v.1) so too יהוה would bring "calamity" and an "evil time" on them – what they did will be done to them - יהוה is a God of retribution, of recompense, of vengeance. Vengeance is His prerogative, He reserves it for Himself [Romans 12:19 “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.] God brings down the proud from their arrogant haughtiness - it is a principle of God: HE IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD. (cf. James 4:6 “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble”; 1 Peter 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble; Psalm 138:6 For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar; Luke 1:51-53 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed; 1 Samuel 2:3-10 “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed. “The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. “The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor. “He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. “Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.”). A terrible time will come upon the proud, the rich, the affluent, the oppressor of the poor who takes advantage of those less well off. When יהוה plans calamity, who can escape it?! V.4 יהוה plans to bring calamity and disaster – instead of walking in confident self-assurance, pride and arrogance, they will be an object of ridicule. People will mock and taunt them – laugh at their downfall – Because of the disaster that would overtake them they would be the subject of lamentation - people would sing songs of mourning about what happened, so terrible would be the distress that would come upon them. The calamity with which יהוה has struck His people will become proverbial. The mourning will be bitter and intense. יהוה is a God of retribution – He pays back! – They defrauded people of their inheritance (v.2), now they will be dispossessed – יהוה would cause their own portion to be taken - it would be exchanged to belong to another. What they have will be taken from them - in fitting retribution for all that they have taken from the poor. All their fine wealth and possessions which they had gained for themselves by unjust means would be given to the heathen. Is there a message here for our materialistic society of today? v.5 This is exile – their land taken from them and they removed from the land – they will no longer be in Israel so they can no longer go to the temple and go through their hypocritical religious motions – they will have no one in the assembly of the LORD – it was there that the land was Divinely allocated by casting lots [cf. Joshua 13:6 I will drive them out from before the sons of Israel; only allot it to Israel for an inheritance as I have commanded you. Joshua 18:10 And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.]. Land was apportioned by lot before יהוה - it was He who distributed it - so it was assigned by a lot cast in His presence. But no more would land be apportioned out to people - it would be taken from them, not assigned to them. When the time comes for the land to be given back to God’s people, there will not be any share for those wicked ones who seized the possession of others.
Suppressing God’s voice (v.6, 7, 11) v.6 – The people tell Micah not to prophesy (cf. Amos 2:12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’ Isaiah 30:10 Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”; and to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Jeremiah 11:21 the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, so that you will not die at our hand”) - but if the prophet doesn’t speak out a warning there is no possibility of these calamity being turned back. The people did not want to hear the warning, be told that their way was evil, have their consciences pricked, because they did not want to repent. Like ostriches, they refused to hear, to face up to the reality. But the reproach would not be turned back - preventing the warning being sounded doesn’t prevent that which is being warned about, occurring. But if people would heed the prophetic warning the judgement might be avoided. v.7 - The people refuse to believe God will bring calamity. Is God impatient? Are these His doings? - doesn’t He do good? - this evil is from the enemy. These words and attitude are very familiar in our day where we think God doesn’t act in judgement - He is not to be blamed for disasters around us - they "just happen", or "it is an attack of the enemy" - we never attribute calamity to God - therefore we fail to see events as God’s warning - we miss hearing His voice, fail to see our need to repent. "Judgement doesn’t come to God’s people" (but cf. 1 Peter 4:17) - it begins with God’s people! They convinced themselves of their own innocence, that they were walking uprightly (despite v.1, 2 - how our desperately wicked heart deceives us!) so they would experience good not evil from יהוה’s hand (see TEV). v.11 - These corrupt people do not want to hear from God, they prevent the true prophet from preaching (cf. v.6) but they happily listen to one who prophesies what they want - prosperity, wine and drink, luxury and a good time. Sound familiar? Today, how we love prophets who prophesy encouraging messages [1 Corinthians 14:3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.] - but one who speaks of sin and judgement? - he is disdained - he is not prophesying because prophecy edifies. We are no different from the people of Micah’s day. We only allow what we want to hear. We recognise as prophet, as spokesman of God, the one who speaks according to our will, not God’s!! We endorse the man chasing after wind, vanity and lies! But the true spokesman of יהוה is silenced. How long oh Lord?!
Taking advantage of the helpless (v.8-10) v.8 - God’s people reject the message of יהוה’s prophet, they don’t want to hear. Like ostriches, they bury their head in the sand and refuse to accept that judgement is coming. But יהוה’s verdict is that they are guilty (v.8,9) despite their claim to be walking uprightly (v.7) – So יהוה lists their specific sins: God’s own people have turned against the One who loved them - they forsook Him and became His enemy; they rob the poor, taking the very garment off their back, leaving them naked, in order to increase own wealth. They take the robe of the unsuspecting passer-by, or the one who has returned from war - sacrificed for the nation, only to find those for whom he risked his life take from him all he has. The innocent, the noble are the ones who are taken advantage of and oppressed. Such injustice יהוה detests. They attack God’s very own people as enemies (cf. TEV). v.9 - It is the weak, the poor, the innocent, the righteous, the defenceless that are oppressed and taken for all they are worth. The sins יהוה pinpoints are those of social injustice - pursuing your own ends at the expense of others. Women are evicted from their homes, driven away and their children robbed of their honour. All that is precious is taken from them. They destroy that which is noble, honourable and good in order to gain for themselves. In their rapacious greed they destroy the very fabric of society - the home and family. v.10 – God hates injustice. יהוה is angered by the oppression and social injustice. He sees, and so He decrees exile - they will flee as fugitives - "Arise! Go!" That is the order from יהוה! They had sought a life of pleasure, ease and comfort - but יהוה would not allow them the rest they sought - "this is no place of rest." Their uncleanness had brought painful, violent destruction upon their own heads by the hand of יהוה Himself. Our actions have consequences. The land was polluted by their unjust, oppressive practices - judgement would cleanse the land as it removed these corrupt ones far away. The land would be cleansed so that a righteous remnant might return to possess it.
Restoration of the remnant (v.12, 13) v.12 - So יהוה’s judgement was coming on His morally bankrupt people who lived by oppression, greed, robbery and injustice. But, as always, יהוה would keep a remnant for Himself - those not participating in all the pervading corruption. There would be mercy on a remnant. The LORD would gather His own. Although judgement is certain, just as sure is יהוה’s preservation of a remnant for Himself - "I will surely gather ...", "I will surely assemble ...". Note the emphatic language (אֶאֱסׄף אָסׄף); (אֲקַבֵּץ קַבֵּץ). From Jacob He will gather them - from the unregenerate deceiver; not just Israel, the new man. יהוה Himself will be a Shepherd to them - He will gather together His sheep that have been scattered in judgement - bring them into one place and feed them. A remnant will be saved (cf. Romans 9:27-29 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” And just as Isaiah foretold, “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.” 11:2-5 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 26-29 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.). Once again they will be a noisy throng - not scattered ones and twos, but bustling with people - the deserted place will be filled with men. v.13 - יהוה Himself will lead them out in aliyah - He will go up before them - leading the way up to Zion, up out of captivity. The Lord of the break out - breaking out of captivity, out of the nations, out of exile, out of bondage to sin and idolatry. They will break out of the oppression that יהוה’s judgement had brought upon them because the "Breaker" (the One breaking out - הַפֹּרֵץ) has gone before them. They will pass through the gate of the fortified city – out of exile into liberty! Hallelujah! יהוה their King will rescue them! The One who broke the bonds of sin and death! Jesus the Messiah, King of the Jews, will reign from mount Zion! Praise His Name! They will go out, their King leading the way! The Lord, יהוה Himself, at their head! Praise God! Deliverance will come to God’s people - יהוה Himself will lead them out of captivity into glorious liberty! Hallelujah!
So what is the lesson? What is the message of this chapter? It is a warning to us in our affluent society against pursuing wealth and pleasure, against seeking self. It is a warning against exploiting the weak and helpless. The principles of this chapter suggest our own nation is ripe for judgement. But there is the encouragement that God will preserve a remnant. Israel will be restored, so too will the weak and helpless who place their trust in יהוה alone. Jesus is coming again soon to reign as King over all.