American Journal of Biblical Theology
There is a challenge among committed Christians who wish to interact intensely with this pagan and secular world, a challenge that can test one’s faith in God, and one’s resolve to cling firmly to it. Society is a complex network of authorities, starting with the pecking-order of the home. A godly home is characterized by mutual submission where each family member understands their appropriate set of responsibilities and allows each to express them in a way that demonstrates uncompromised agape love, and in doing so honors the LORD. Those in the home are subject to authorities outside the home that include the workplace, government, and even the church. The ideal workplace for a Christian would be one where personal faith can be lived out without persecution or rejection. So, to would be the ideal society, or the ideal church. However, we live in a world that is immersed in sin as literally every world government and nearly all organizations outside the church summarily reject the idea of serving in obedience to Jesus Christ. Christians can even find their church organizations hostile to those who wish to submit completely to the LORD.
This was certainly the case for the remnant of faithful during the experiences of ancient Israel and Judah. If we are concerned about the rejection of today’s Christians who are preaching and teaching of the godlessness of our world authorities, we may be reminded of the plight of the true prophets of God who, during the demise of ancient Israel and Judah found similar rejection, even in the midst of crisis.
THE STATE OF THE NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS
Micah 3:1. And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?
Chapter three begins Micah’s third oracle in the text, an indictment against the national and religious leaders. Micah’s heart was breaking over the current state of the northern nation of Israel and the southern nation of Judah. Called by the LORD as “His chosen people,” only a small remnant of Judah professed faith in God. Most of Judah and all of Israel continued to maintain Jewish traditions but had replaced their faith in the LORD with an insatiable desire to be like the rest of the world and partake in their wicked pagan practices. This bent for sin, that characterizes all who reject God, claimed even the Jewish religious leaders to whom Micah is directing this passage.
If anyone should know be aware of their responsibility to lead the people in godliness, it is the Jewish religious leaders. They have been called by God to lead His people. They have been given the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, that contains God’s plan of salvation by faith and His promises to those who will turn to Him. The Torah contains God’s plan of action towards those who reject Him, a plan that includes their destruction and separation from Him. God’s promises of land and protection were conditional upon their obedience to Him. Yet, somehow the religious and national leadership chose to select among themselves which portions of the Torah to honor, and by so doing, formed a religion of works, citing the Law of Moses, and rejected a relationship of faith with the one True God who called them to leadership.
The church today still holds the same responsibility to lead its people in true biblical doctrine and righteousness. Careful observation of the state of the Jewish “church” can be instructive as we observe the true state of the church today.
Micah 3:2-3. Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; 3Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.
If chooses to describe the basic attitude of ancient Jewish leadership culture it was one of arrogant and hypocritical prejudice against, virtually, all others. Considering themselves righteous simply because of their elevated position and their purported obedience to some of their chosen tenets of the Mosaic Law, they considered all others to be less righteous, and consequently, of lesser human value. Non-jews were considered fully unrighteous, and of almost no human value. Anyone who showed any form of sickness or disease was despised as unrighteous because of some sin that caused their malady. The poor were also despised for their state based upon a similar argument. Anyone who would disagree with their legalistic form of religion was considered a blasphemer and worthy only of death.
Though prejudice and hatred characterize the state of most of this lost world, it is certainly not an appropriate expression of God’s people. In what ways does the church today mirror the prejudices of the ancients? When one looks at the demographics of churches today, most memberships demonstrate a very narrow segment of society, essentially serving as exclusive clubs that invite people of similar racial or socio-economic identity. Christian denominations often consider other denominations of lesser value, and sometimes even consider them pagan. Churches and their leadership hold to pagan and secular practices that are clearly ungodly such as gambling and homosexuality. Churches often support policies that deny human rights such as abortion, a practice that demonstrates hatred toward the unborn, choosing to deny a created eternal soul from ever having the experience of life. We might look at the socio-political violence that we promulgated by the church in the dark ages and point our fingers at their ungodliness, and fail to recognize the sin that so characterizes much of our church today. The church has become so much like the world that it is largely ineffective in sharing the love of God with it. In a desire to “be like the nations,” the modern church is making the same mistakes as the ancient Jews.
Micah 3:4. Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.
“They” in this verse refer to the religious and national leadership of Israel and Judah. Thinking themselves to be wise, their foolishness will ultimately be exposed, if not in this life, certainly at the throne of judgment. In part, this prophecy represents some vindication of the faithful who are witnessing the apostasy of their nation and its leaders, recognizing that their faithfulness will be rewarded, and the ungodliness of their leadership will be exposed and judged. God will not be mocked, and certainly not by the religious crowd. Though our churches may demonstrate religious ritual and practice, those whose hearts have not been given to the LORD will find all of their works to be fruitless
One cannot take their religious affiliation as evidence of saving faith. Saving faith only comes by repenting from a desire for the things of this world and turning to God fully for who He is: Savior and LORD. To turn fully is to accept Him as your personal LORD, an act that is characterized by a true desire to be obedient to Him in every way, and demonstrated by a hunger to be closer to Him, and to learn more of Him every day. Satan knows that Jesus is LORD, and his cries at the judgment will fail to save him. Likewise, one who rejects personal Lordship of God and only acknowledges Him as “the LORD,” faces a similar eternal rejection. This is not a state to be taken lightly.
THE STATE OF THE TEACHERS AND PREACHERS
Micah 3:5. Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
Micah then turns to those who teach and preach religious practice among the people. We may be reminded by the statement by the writer of the general epistle of James, “not many of you should be teachers, for yours is the greater judgment.” When Micah describes the religious teachers he describes them as violently devouring the people with their mouths while they verbalize a false peace, clearly a reference to their hypocrisy and the devastating consequences of their teaching. These, who the people are trusting to lead them, are serving their own desires for wealth and power rather than serving the true spiritual needs of their flock. They are more concerned with their own state in life than they are of the state of those whom they have been called to serve.
This passage also reminds us of the responsibility that all Christians have to share the true gospel, and to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, a context that will always be bathed in God’s unconditional agape love. If one thinks of himself/herself before those he/she teaches, repentance is in order. Self-serving teachers and preachers are “biting with their teeth” while they proclaim their false words of peace. The word used for “bite” refers to the bite of a venomous serpent. Those who base their doctrine on the teachings of others and not on the researched and studied Word of God, and then promote those teachings among others, have the potential of teaching gross error, and the bite of that error is like that of a deadly serpent. A lack of dedication to the depths of the truths of God’s Word will subject the teacher or preacher to judgment when their lack of biblical accuracy misleads the people. Those who preach and teach their own socio-political or religious agenda, even when it is supported by the church organization are subject to the same judgment. Teaching and preaching to the flock is a tremendous responsibility and should be engaged only with prayer, and submission to the Holy Spirit, and sound biblical interpretation.
Micah 3:6-7. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. 7Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.
As Micah is declaring this prophecy, the teachers of the Law are basking in the sunshine of their experience. They have believed a lie for so long that they believe it to be the truth even when, deep in their hearts, they clearly know their hypocrisy, because like all people they clearly know that they are not sinless.
The light of their self-centered and arrogant foolishness is about to be extinguished, and they will find themselves in darkness. The only sunshine that they are experiencing is the level of power they have in their circle of influence. They feel respected by their peers and those who serve them. However, this cold and godless sunshine has no power to sustain them when their own power and influence is destroyed. Those who are teaching and preaching in Israel will find the nation destroyed in their generation. The southern nation of Judah will suffer the same fate during the lives of their great-grandchildren. The destruction of their nation and their places of assembly will take from them all that there is that defines who they are. There will be nobody to listen to their teaching. Their prophecies of peace will have been denied. Their declarations of the permanence of the temple will be denied. They will not have anything to teach to those who are no longer listening.
Like the ancients, the false teachers and preachers of today’s world face a similar fate. If their false teaching is exposed in this world, their little kingdom will fall. They will have nothing to teach to those who are no longer listening. If they carry their false teaching to the grave, they will not be finding an advocate with the Father, but rather the declaration, “Get thee away from me, I do not know you.” The blood of all those who have been misled will be accounted to the soul of the false teacher: “for yours is the greater judgment.”
Micah’s prophecy should be a wake up call, not only to teachers and preachers who prepare and teach biblical doctrine. It is also a call to every believer, as each is a witness of the gospel to each person who is encountered in this wicked world. Christians have the opportunity to teach and lead others to saving faith, or to deny the faith and serve to lead those around them to the lake of fire that is reserved for satan and his minions. There is simply no gray area between the two because the blood of the lost is on the hands of those who deny the faith and let them die.
THE PATH TO FORGIVENESS
Micah paints a bleak picture of the state of the people. He sees a religious establishment that has wandered far from faith and is leading the people on a path to destruction. However, Micah also knows the grace of God, and His purpose of forgiveness:
Micah 3:8. But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
Calling upon the Name of the LORD, Micah declares his status as a true prophet, drawing His credentials from an entirely different school than the prophets of his day. The religious leaders and rabbis drew their credentials by their associations with one another. Micah draws his credentials from his relationship with God, a relationship that provides him with the power of the Holy Spirit, a power that reveals truth and empowers judgment. Micah’s ordination to declare the sins of the nations comes directly from God and carries His authority. The Holy Spirit has given to Micah an understanding of the apostasy of the nations and the consequences of their choices. It is the Holy Spirit who has called Micah to declare this to Israel and Judah.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit speaks the truth to the faithful remnant today. Just as the Holy Spirit sheds God’s light into the dark corners of people’s sin, He illumines the faithful to see into those dark corners and calls upon the faithful to declare God’s goodness to the people. Jesus commanded the faithful to make disciples everywhere they go, first at home, then to those who they find hard to love, then to the region, and then to the world. The power to proclaim the goodness of God comes from the Holy Spirit, and it is the same power and purpose that was given to the prophet, Micah. The faithful remnant today serves as the modern-day prophets who are called to share the truth of God’s Word in a pagan and secular world that desperately needs forgiveness.
Micah 3:9-12. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. 10They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 11The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. 12Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
We have a choice of how we will respond to God’s call to His people. If we, as a church, continue in our apostasy and continue to seek to be “like the nations,” we will have missed the mark of the calling of God. Micah describes the consequences of such a decision as the utter destruction of Israel and Judah, a prophecy that would prove true in every detail.
If we have churches, congregations, and leaders today who proclaim Christianity but lack its power, it is because they are not practicing their craft with the power of the Holy Spirit, but rather their craft is simply emboldened by the craftiness of the evil one. God will not bless the work of those who deny Him. He will not accept before Him a church that denies Him and lacks the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that serves as the seal of salvation for all people, and all who approach the judgment of God without that seal will find only rejection. Instead of the seal of faith, their seal will be characterized by the total depravity of this world culture that rejected God. John refers to this as the mark of the beast, 666: the total depravity of this secular and pagan world system.
The only future for the beast is the lake of fire, a metaphor used by John to describe the state of eternal separation from God. This is not a future that any rational person would choose. The only way a person chooses separation from God is through submission to false teaching, whether it be from any of the world religions, those who deny religion, or even those who deny Christian fundamental truths
God has ordained a path of salvation to those who will place their faith and trust in Him. He has ordained the faithful to serve as His hands, His feet, His heart, and His voice as the gospel is carried on to more and more people so that all could have an opportunity to hear the good news of the gospel. We do not have need to live in fear of Micah’s prophecy if we have turned to God in faith. We do not need to live in fear of judgment for failure to share His love with others if we simply learn to love others. Micah’s prophecy may be dramatic and negative, but it does serve as a reminder of God’s amazing grace, that He desires to save even those who abuse Him and His word. Let us be assured that we are numbered with the faithful remnant, and by our faithfulness we can be assured of eternal peace with God.