Leaders [1-4] Sin: injustice: v.1 - Micah goes straight to the top - to the civil leaders - rulers and judges. Micah’s concern always is injustice – does it irk you? The rulers’ office is to preserve justice and control and order within society. It was their place to know justice and enforce it [Romans 13:1,4 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God….. for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.]. But they are the very ones themselves practicing injustice and oppression. When those in authority are corrupt, the ones supposed to uphold justice, what chance is there that society under them is morally upright?! If a ruler is crooked so is the building it is used in building. v.2 - Justice has been totally perverted by these leaders. They hate what is good and love what is evil. Therefore they encourage evil and suppress righteousness. They are totally absorbed with their own welfare, when their responsibility is to be concerned for the welfare of the people under them. But they turn everything around - instead of concern for their well being, they tear their people to pieces - ravage them like a wild animal - eating them alive! Their terrible greed is forcefully pictured by the figures of wild beasts tearing their victims, and a butcher cutting up meat for boiling. They rob the people of what they have in order to increase their own wealth - getting rich on the back of others by exploiting and oppressing those under their power (cf. 2:1,2, 8,9). Turning around values – good being called evil and evil being called good. “Civil union” – redefine morality – good and fair for homosexuals to live together and be recognized the same as heterosexuals. The “righteous” thing is to be reasonable and inclusive, allow everyone to do as they think right. But Yahweh calls homosexuality an abomination! What He says is evil, our society defines as good. And those who uphold the Biblical standard – they are deemed narrow-minded, extreme – good is called evil; evil is called good! And it comes from the leaders – they didn’t dare let it go to referendum. It was pushed through under urgency, the leaders had an agenda. This is the very thing this chapter is condemning. The leaders hate what is good and love what is evil. Exploiting the common people – taking advantage v.3 - It is "My people" that they are devouring - יהוה’s own precious people are being eaten by the leaders who are meant to tend them (cf. Jeremiah 23:1,2 Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord. Ezekiel 34:2-4,8-10 Prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.” ’ ”). The shepherds are eating their own flock! It is cannibalism - man eating man - not even an enemy nation! They are consuming themselves! Tearing their skin off of them, breaking their bones, chopping them up for the pot so that they can eat them – were they literally doing this? Of course not, what they were doing was satisfying their own desires and appetites at the cost of their brothers’ life! No wonder יהוה is incensed! No wonder judgement cannot be averted! יהוה heard the cry of the oppressed and took up their cause against those who oppressed them. v.4 Consequence יהוה ceases to respond: Because of their injustice, oppression and cruelty calamity and distress would come upon them, but unlike the poor who cried to Him, יהוה would not hear their voice in their day of distress. They will cry, but there will be no answer. How tragic! They had never cried to יהוה in the days when they were oppressing the poor - they had no thought for Him at all - now, suddenly, now that they are in distress, they start crying out to יהוה - but it is too late! They only cry out to יהוה out of self interest, when things go wrong, when they need something from Him. Sound familiar? People have no time for God but when things go bad they blame Him! But יהוה will not answer these people who have long disregarded Him and ignored the warnings of His prophets. Our deeds affect יהוה’s response to our call. He hid His face from them because of the evil things that they did (cf. Isaiah 59:1,2 The Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.). There is no hope for the one whose cry יהוה refuses to answer, the one from whom He hides His face. Another recurring theme: Yahweh’s retribution, vengeance – what they do will come back upon themselves
Prophets [5-7] Sin: self interest: v.5 - From the civil leaders, יהוה now turns His attention to the spiritual leaders – you expect politicians to be corrupt and even the clergy but prophets were the ones who were supposed to keep them on track – to speak out a word from Yahweh when the leaders had gone astray. The prophet was the one who spoke the truth when everyone else was speaking lies. But these prophets deceived! – spoke what was false. They used spiritual position for selfish motives – sadly, church history is full of this. Prophesy peace to those who pay them and war in they don’t. Roman Catholic church sold indulgences. Held common people in fear of judgement and used that to extort money from the people. Closer to home – I was in a church where “words” about the LORD’s will to buy the neighbouring property for expansion – the house was never bought, the money never used for what it was given or for what “the LORD said”. The prophets were meant to lead the people back to God, back to the right way. But instead of leading them back, they lead the people astray. יהוה was incensed because it was His very own people over whom He’d given them responsibility, that they were deceiving - "My people ... !" (cf. v.3). Just like the civil leaders, they use their position to further their own ends - their only interest is self-interest - their god is their stomach (cf. Philippians 3:18,19 For many whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. Romans 16:18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.). If someone gives them something to eat, then they will prophesy good - "peace". But they tailor "God’s message" to what they get out of it. If someone doesn’t give them food, then they prophesy evil - "declare that there will be holy war" - a "holy war" that יהוה hasn’t declared, a peace that יהוה has said will not be (cf. 1:6-16; Jeremiah 6:14 “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.). A prophet is to speak what יהוה says, but these men make up messages as it suits them. Their words are not true so they lead people astray. A common phenomenon among "prophecy" today. It is a serious thing to say God has spoken when He hasn’t! Consequence: revelation ceases v.6 They spoke when God had not spoken - therefore no further revelations would be given. The prophets had exploited the privilege given them for evil selfish purposes, therefore it would be taken from them. Night and darkness, instead of day, and the sun would go down - no more would they be able to see - have spiritual insight into the future or into the mind of יהוה. Revelation would go from them, also divination. That which they used to make a living would be taken from them because they treated it lightly - as a thing to be exploited rather than something holy, the word of יהוה Himself! Spiritual insight is not something to be used to get rich - a mere occupation by which money can be made [cf. tele-evangelists, pastors of mega-churches, itinerant ministers, gospel singers etc.]. Spiritual insight will be taken from those who use it unworthily, whose motives are not pure. v.7 - The prophets and seers would be ashamed, embarrassed because they would go to prophesy and could not - there would be no answer from God. There would no longer be any revelation and they would be left looking stupid, covering their mouth because they had no message to speak. They relied on using their mouths to make a living - now oratory would be taken from them. Once there is no more revelation there is no more reason for their being - who is interested in a prophet who cannot prophesy?! There is a consequence of saying something is from God when it is not: revelations ceases! This is their livelihood, their raison d’etre - if a prophet gets no revelations what is he to do? They treated God’s word lightly so it is taken from them. What of ministers who have used Scripture to justify their own agendas. When it is made evident to everyone that they haven’t heard from God they are publicly shamed – God doesn’t hear them, He doesn’t respond (cf. 1 Kings 18:29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.).
The true prophet [8-10] Message: upholding justice; exposing sin; revealing deception: v.8 In stark contrast is the true prophet of God – filled with power (1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.) cf. Elijah on Carmel. What characterizes the true man of God: power, the Spirit, justice, speaking the truth, exposing sin. - The true prophet does not speak from himself - from human resources. He is filled with power from on high - full of the power of the Spirit of יהוה Himself! He doesn’t speak what people want to hear and tailor his message according to how they treat him (cf. v.5) - he is full of courage and speaks the truth - speaks judgement. His message isn’t influenced by men and their response but is justice - says it how it is, unshifted by other influences. It is a message that he knows will not be popular but nonetheless proclaims faithfully what יהוה says. This takes real courage - to pronounce to people their rebellion and sin as יהוה sees it. Today - who has the courage to preach the coming judgement? The true prophet is a man of strength and courage, full of the Spirit’s power, who speaks the undiluted truth, says what יהוה is saying uninfluenced by the response of man - who exposes sin for what it is - not allowing men to continue in their state of suppressing the truth - not facing up to their true state of sinfulness. We have a multitude of preachers whose existence depends on them having a following, so they speak pleasing things. How we need the voice of the true prophet! And how rare it is to find one who speaks without worrying what men think [Matthew 22:16 “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.] who speaks what is right and just because that is what matters to him – the TRUTH, not man’s opinion. v.9 - Micah now returns to addressing the leaders (cf. v.1). Micah was full of justice but these leaders abhorred justice - deceit, underhanded and crooked dealings, oppression and wickedness were their way of living. They hated justice, because if there were justice they would be condemned. Injustice was the means by which they became rich. They twisted all that was straight, upright and honest - corruption, violence and injustice were the means they used - this is now they built their city, their kingdom. Priest, prophet and prince were all in it together – had an understanding – one did not call the other to account. They had institutionalised corruption. v.10 - They built Jerusalem with blood - by murder and violence - by shedding the blood of those who stood in their way. Killing others to obtain what they wanted. יהוה’s holy city was founded on injustice and violence, taking innocent blood! No wonder יהוה is incensed! When Zion (God’s people) is built on wickedness it must be completely torn down in order to be built on holiness, righteousness and justice (cf. v.12) - it cannot be patched up because wickedness is an integral part of it. First it must be completely torn down before it can be rebuilt in glory as יהוה intended it (cf. 4:1-8). The sin is: injustice, violence, wickedness, bribery and financial irregularity, hypocrisy. They maintained God is with them, that nothing bad will happen. IT IS LIES!! The truth is that their fair city will be a heap of rubble, overgrown, a ploughed field. What a tragedy to be so deceived. v.11 - יהוה denounces the leaders of Israel for their corruption, injustice, violence and murder. Like the prophets (cf. v.5) they used their position for personal gain - were in it for what they could get out of it. The mercenary motive was what ruled - just as it is today. This is what motivates Babylon in the humanistic society destroyed in the end times. This corruption pervades all the leadership of the nation - civil and religious and spiritual. Prophet and priest - they are all in it for the money - they only perform their function to extort the maximum fee possible (cf. Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.). Yet they still claim to be God’s people, that "God is on our side" - "He will protect us from disaster" - just as we claim today. We presume upon God and our relationship with Him - when, in fact, there is no relationship at all. It is all merely religious words, confident clichés, there is no relationship with יהוה - if there were we would not be selfishly grabbing all we could at the expense of the poor and weak. יהוה’s nature is to give to the poor, to lift them up; not to exploit them. How can one claiming to be in relationship with יהוה act totally contrary to His character?! Their deeds were evidence that they were far from יהוה. Yet they were under the delusion that they were near to Him merely because they continued the religious ritual. But their heart was far away. When religion becomes mere ritual - ceremony which your heart is not in - God is far away. Despite the illusion, they were far from God - He wasn’t in the midst of these greedy, selfish, unjust, corrupt people. They were deluded – deceived – you disregard God and you end up deceived [2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.] Calamity would indeed come. יהוה would prove no protection in that day. Similarly today, many religious people think that they are O.K. with God, that He will deliver them - but it is mere tradition and meaningless ceremony - God is not in their midst at all! They are relying on a false hope - they think that they are in relationship with God by church attendance, but they do not know Him at all! Destruction inevitable v.12 – There is always a consequence. Their actions and behaviour has consequences: "therefore, because of you ...." - not only for themselves but for the whole nation. Their corruption was the cause of the destruction of the nation. The capital, יהוה’s holy city (that city that was "indestructible" because it was יהוה’s dwelling cf. Jeremiah 7:4-7,12-15 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice …… then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the Lord, “therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. I will cast you out of My sight.) would be a city no more but, rather, a ploughed field. It would lie devastated for some years - enough to allow the temple mount to grow into a forest. Injustice and corruption among the nation’s leaders brought about the downfall of the whole nation! Corruption pervaded יהוה’s holy city - it must be cleansed. The only way to remove the corruption was to totally destroy the city. It will then be rebuilt in righteousness and justice with Jesus ruling as King! Hallelujah! (cf. 4:1-8). You cannot patch up a corrupt system. First corruption must be rooted out, then the righteous Kingdom can be established. Some of the elders of Judah quoted this verse in defence of Jeremiah when his life was in danger because of strong reaction to his temple sermon (cf. Jer 26:16-19 Jeremiah 26:19 Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah; and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus the Lord of hosts has said, “Zion will be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem will become ruins, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.” ’ Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and the Lord changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them.”). This prophecy was heeded! God’s word had its effect and turned the people from their ways. Prophecy may sound negative but the consequence if we heed it is wonderful.