Micah 2-4 Rulers and Prophets Denounced April 23, 2018

 

Last week we noted that Micah’s ministry overlapped the ministries of Amos and Hosea.  He prophesied serious consequences to the northern Kingdom unless they changed their ways significantly.  His message was fully consistent with the teachings of Amos and Hosea.  The kingdom had grown rich and fat.  The rulers and the upper class did not need God because they were able to take very good care of themselves.  They became greedy and covetous, and exploited the poor, taking from them the little they had.  They were able to meet their religious obligations by worshipping the golden calves and the Baals.  They found sexual freedom in the practices of the pagan gods, probably very similar to our country today.  YHWH’s rules did not apply in the Northern Kingdom, except for a faithful few.  The people were unable to return to the Lord, and the entire nation fell in 721 BC.

 

Micah’s ministry to the Southern Kingdom overlapped with Isaiah.  The conditions in Judah were not much better than in Israel.  Uzziah was a good king in Judah, but at the end of his reign he fell away from YHWH.  He was made a leper for taking upon himself the role specifically assigned to the priesthood.  When he died Jotham, his son, became king.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he did not remove all the pagan practices his father permitted.  In today’s language it is called syncretism.  He reigned 16 years and died a young man of 41.  His son, Ahaz, ascended to the throne and he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, his God.  He spread pagan worship throughout the land, and even sacrificed his own son to Molech.  He sealed the doors of the Temple so the people could not worship there.  This is the condition both Micah and Isaiah find in Judah.  (See 2 Kings 15-16).

 

We finished our study last week with a word of hope and redemption.  The day will come when God draws his profligate children back to him.  A high price will have been paid.  They Northern Kingdom will have to be destroyed and the people surviving the assault by Assyria will be scattered through the mid-east and beyond.  God says, I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel…Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.

 

 

Unfortunately in today’s study the words of warning and judgment resume.  Judgment is directed at the heads of the land and the rulers; the political class.

 

3:1-4  And I said:

Hear, you heads of Jacob

and rulers of the house of Israel!

Is it not for you to know justice?—

you who hate the good and love the evil,

who tear the skin from off my people

and their flesh from off their bones,

who eat the flesh of my people,

and flay their skin from off them,

and break their bones in pieces

and chop them up like meat in a pot,

like flesh in a cauldron.

 

Then they (the heads and the rulers) will cry to the LORD,

but he will not answer them;

he will hide his face from them at that time,

because they have made their deeds evil.

 

We read last time how Ahab and Jezebel murdered Naboth to take his vineyard land (1 Kings 21).  Here we see how the rich and the powerful treat the poor and the vulnerable.  Micah tells the leaders to hear the word of the Lord.  God is voicing his indictment of their practices.  Every nation has a ruling class, and God holds them more accountable than the ordinary people.  

 

Luke 12:48  Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

 

 David recognized it in his day. 

 

Psalm 9:15-20 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;

in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.

The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;

the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

 

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! 

Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

 

Psalm 37:8-10 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

For the evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;

though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

 

James found it to be a problem in the church in his day.

 

James 5:1-6 5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have laid up treasure in the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on the earth in luxury and gin self-indulgence.  You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the righteous person.  He does not resist you.

 

Only God can transform the evil heart of man.

 

Psalm 37:1-6  Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass

and wither like the green herb.

 

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;

 

trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

and your justice as the noonday.

 

We find this same judgment of the wealthy in our country today, and almost everyone living in the USA today is wealthy.  God expects righteousness and generosity to rule in his kingdom.

 

3:5-7    Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets

who lead my people astray,

who cry “Peace”

when they have something to eat,

but declare war against him

who puts nothing into their mouths.

 

Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,

and darkness to you, without divination.

 

The sun shall go down on the prophets,

and the day shall be black over them;

the seers shall be disgraced,

and the diviners put to shame;

they shall all cover their lips,

for there is no answer from God.

 

Micah, Amos and Hosea were not the only prophets in town.  As in every age there are false prophets, and the people are eager to hear them and follow them.  Who do you think are false prophets in our country today?  Jeremiah  was constantly opposed by the false prophets in his day, who denied the obvious and inevitable invasion by Babylon.  

 

Jeremiah 6: 13-15 “For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest,

everyone deals falsely.

 

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

 

No, they were not at all ashamed;

they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;

at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”

 

Jeremiah 14:13-18    Then I said: “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’”   And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them.  They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.  Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

 

“You shall say to them this word:

‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,

and let them not cease,

for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.

 

If I go out into the field,

behold, those pierced by the sword!

And if I enter the city,

behold, the diseases of famine!

For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land

and have no knowledge.’”

 

3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power,

with the Spirit of the LORD,

and with justice and might,

to declare to Jacob his transgression

and to Israel his sin.

 

Micah is sure of his calling and therefore can speak with authority.  The Spirit of God was just as active in the Old Testament as in the New Testament.  Micah knew that a nation could be strong only if righteousness prevailed.  Military power and financial strength will ultimately fail if justice does not rule.

 

We should evaluate the prophets of our day in this light.  Are they filled and driven by the Spirit, or are they not?  Is their message consistent with the overall revelation found in the Bible?  Can a secular prophet ever offer good advise or teaching?  Can a secular scientist do good science if he rejects the creator?  Can they draw the people closer to God? 

 

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.  For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

 

3:9-12 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob

and rulers of the house of Israel,

who detest justice

and make crooked all that is straight,

who build Zion with blood

and Jerusalem with iniquity.

Its heads give judgment for a bribe;

its priests teach for a price;

its prophets practice divination for money;

yet they lean on the LORD and say,

“Is not the LORD in the midst of us?

No disaster shall come upon us.”

Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

 

These words of Micah were remembered 100 year later in Jeremiah’s day.  We will read this story from Jeremiah 26:1-24.

 

 

The Mountain of the Lord

 

4:1-5 It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

and many nations shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

 

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore;

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk

each in the name of its god,

but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God

forever and ever.

 

This is a salvation oracle.  Although God cannot tolerate sin in his people, and punishment will be severe, God will not entirely reject his people.  There will be a future restoration of his chosen people.  Many other people will be added to the chosen race as well.  Many nations will say: 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

A day will come when wars will cease and God’s chosen people will be restored.  Will that happen before the Christ returns or do we have to wait until the second coming?

 

The Lord Shall Rescue Zion

 

4:6-8     In that day, declares the LORD,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.

 

And you, O tower of the flock,

hill of the daughter of Zion,

to you shall it come,

the former dominion shall come,

kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.

 

A day will come when Israel is restored.  God’s punishment has made the nation lame and afflicted, but she will be restored to full strength.  We are familiar with Isaiah’s promise of that day:

 

Isaiah 40:1-5    Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

       Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD's hand

double for all her sins.

 

A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

 

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

 

4:9-13   Now why do you cry aloud?

Is there no king in you?

Has your counselor perished,

that pain seized you like a woman in labor?

 

Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,

like a woman in labor,

for now you shall go out from the city

and dwell in the open country;

you shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued;

there the LORD will redeem you

from the hand of your enemies.

 

Now many nations

are assembled against you,

saying, “Let her be defiled,

and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”

But they do not know

the thoughts of the LORD;

they do not understand his plan,

that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

Arise and thresh,

O daughter of Zion,

for I will make your horn iron,

and I will make your hoofs bronze;

you shall beat in pieces many peoples;

and shall devote their gain to the LORD,

their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

 

5:1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us;

with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.

 

The current situation in Jerusalem is not good.  The Assyrians are on the march and are approaching the gates of Jerusalem.  Many cities have already been captures and the people are fleeing to Jerusalem for safety.  There is much pain and the situation in the city is dire as Sennacherib surrounds the city.  Hezekiah proved to be the right king for the time.  See 2 Chronicles 32:1-23.  God miraculously delivered the city  this time.  100 years later the city will fall to the Babylonian invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, because the people did not learn their lesson this time.

 

The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

 

5:2-4 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

 

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has given birth;

then the rest of his brothers shall return

to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,

in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth.

Hezekiah was a good king who faithfully served the Lord.  The nation prosper under him.  Isaiah was his closest prophet during the time of the Assyrian invasion, and his advise was always sound.  However, there is another ruler to come.  He will come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown.  He will be the ultimate king of Israel and of the whole world.

 

5:5-6 And he shall be their peace.

When the Assyrian comes into our land

and treads in our palaces,

then we will raise against him seven shepherds

and eight princes of men;

they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,

and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;

and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian

when he comes into our land

and treads within our border.

 

The Assyrians did not understand who the God of Israel was.  They shouted mocking words of him from before the walls of Jerusalem.   See Jeremiah 32:12-15 and 2 Kings 18:13-19:37.  They did not know that they were playing into the hands of the very God they mocked.  But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD;

they do not understand his plan that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

The Assyrian army was destroyed by the angel of the Lord in one night.  185 thousand men died overnight.   Jerusalem was spared.  Sennacherib went home to Nineveh in disgrace and was soon assassinated by his sons.  

 

2 Kings 19:35-37  And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat.  And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

 

A Remnant Shall Be Delivered

 

5:7-9 Then the remnant of Jacob shall be

in the midst of many peoples

like dew from the LORD,

like showers on the grass,

which delay not for a man

nor wait for the children of man.

And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,

in the midst of many peoples,

like a lion among the beasts of the forest,

like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,

which, when it goes through, treads down

and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.

Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,

and all your enemies shall be cut off.

 

Israel has been scattered among most of the nations in the world.  But she is there to be a blessing (dew) to the nations.  Our experience tells us that the nations do not see Israel as a blessing, but as a thorn in their sides.  History is replete with nations that would like to exterminate the Jews.  Anti-semitism is fairly aggressively on the rise again today.  But the Jews also represent judgment (lions) on the world.  Can you think how Judaism as blessing and judgment is possible?

 

5:10-15 And in that day, declares the LORD,

I will cut off your horses from among you

and will destroy your chariots;

and I will cut off the cities of your land

and throw down all your strongholds;

and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,

and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes;

and I will cut off your carved images

and your pillars from among you,

and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands;

and I will root out your Asherah images from among you

and destroy your cities.

And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance

on the nations that did not obey.

God has already decreed judgment on Israel.  Now he is describing the terms of his judgment on all the nations that refuse to acknowledge and worship him.