Saturday, July 11, 2015

Public Trust Betrayed

Scriptural Reading: Micah 3:5-12
Devotional Reading: Matthews 7:15-20

We live in a time when leaders make their decisions based on the polls rather than justice as viewed by God. When a young white man decides to go in a black church (versus a black night club, for example), stays for Bible study, and then massacres nine (9) black parishioners while speaking hate epithets against blacks, can our leaders not see the hate and determine justice must be done?

In the aftermath some spoke up true enough. Others were afraid and only went so far as to say it was a horrific crime as it happened in a church. Still others have yet to address either the issue that it was a hate crime and it happened in a church. One such leader told a reporter the public was aware of the problem. He did not want to be engaged in this conversation.

What these leaders failed to remember is that our God is not a respecter of any persons. He is a God of love not hate. As such they are failing God by betraying the public with their message(s) for their self-interest. Today we must watch, listen very carefully, and pray for discernment and understanding because of the existence of corrupt leaders in the government and in our churches.

It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor…If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”1 Jenny Horne chose not to be neutral. She is a lawyer and a descendant of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. Yet she put her heritage aside to put forth a strong teary argument in the debate that the confederate flag had become a symbol of hate and should be removed from the South Carolina capitol. The prophet Micah would surely join forces with anyone who speaks against injustice, and Micah 3:5-12 presents strong evidence of that claim.

This quarter of study is entitled “God’s Prophets Demand Justice.” We are in Unit II – “Micah Calls for Justice Among Unjust People” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second of a four-lesson study focusing on the injustice of corrupt leaders.

Last week we studied Micah’s ministry against the rich who took advantage of the poor and manipulated the economic system to their favor. Now his ministry shifts against the corrupt leaders (judges, magistrates, princes), false prophets, and priests whose total obsession was to advance their greedy ways. Micah pleads for the heads of Jacob and magistrates of Israel to hear what the LORD has given him to say. In Micah 3:1-4 he announces that despite the fact they supposedly know justice, they do not do justice because they hate the good and love the evil. They are unfaithful shepherds who fleece the flock. God does not like ugly. There will come a time when these most wicked, proud and scornful sinners will cry out to God but He will not answer them. He will hide His face from these oppressors of the innocent. This fate is the opening of today’s lesson.

Micah then pronounced the LORD’S condemnation against the false prophets in Micah 3:5-7, Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who make my people stray; who chant “Peace” while they chew with their teeth, But who prepare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths: “Therefore you shall have night without vision, and you shall have darkness without divination; the sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be dark for them. So the seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners abashed; indeed they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer from God” (NKJV) The false prophets were exposed for leading the people astray. Micah is most concerned with the ethical issue that the prophets prostitute themselves in delivering the message for what the people want. They flatter and deceive, crying out that there shall be “Peace” by biting their lips and suppressing the truth when someone feeds them the right price. However, if anyone refuses to pay their price, he is treated as an enemy. The corrupt messengers prepare to wage war against the listener. They do not understand peace. First of all you must know what the peace of God is.1 The Apostle Paul defined “peace” at Rom 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ”. (NKJV) It is not possible to have peace with man until we have peace with God. With the peace of God in their hearts man can bring peace to the world. Without such peace in their hearts, the message is meaningless.

Micah also declares that whatever had been working for these prophets will no longer be available in the future. The minds of the false prophets shall be confused, and they shall not have visions. They had kept the people in the dark and now God will bring them into the dark. The word divination was associated with the pagan neighbors and was strictly forbidden by the Law of Moses. (Deut 18:9-14) The word seers implies the ability of the false prophet to foresee. However, God will bring darkness over all corrupt messengers and each of them will be humiliated and ashamed because He does not answer them. Their smooth words will no longer speak for God.

The contrast between the false prophets who were corrupt and Micah, the courageous messenger, is as clear as night and day. He validates his message by stating he is unique among them. The false prophets are crying they get no answer from God, while Micah can declare at verse 8, But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. (NKJV) Micah announced to the false prophets that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to declare God’s message of justice to Israel and Judah. He had an assurance of the truth that he had the power. So he wanted them to know he boldly stood for the LORD. He had the courage (might) to preach the sins of the nations of Jacob and Israel through divine revelation. The message of the false prophets was to simply fulfill the desires of the people versus the Will of God.

Having described his ministry as one that declares the sin of God’s people, Micah proceeds to expose the sin, especially due to leadership. These are the very people who should have upheld law and equity. They thought they were safe. In verses 9 and 10 Micah declared, Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: (NKJV) Micah repeated the same request for their attention as he did in verse 1. Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? (NKJV) This is now spoken during the period of King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah. The ten tribes of Israel have already gone into captivity with the Assyrians, but the prophet Micah continues to speak respectfully to their leaders. He is reproving their sin and not being rude or uncivil. What is their sin? They twist everything God declared good into something evil or crooked. These crooked leaders built up Zion with blood and Jerusalem in the idolatry of self-interest, stating they were doing it in the name of the LORD.

The ungodly leadership continued to plague Judah more than 100 years after Micah’s ministry. The prophet Jeremiah had the same thing to say against King Jehoiakim, son of King Josiah in Jer 22:13-17, “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for labor. He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar, and decorates it in red. Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.

All of Jerusalem is perverted and judgment is coming due to their sins. Micah gives the exact cause for the indictment at verse 11, Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet the lean on the LORD, and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us.” (NKJV) The rulers (magistrates, judges) of the nation are ruling for bribes. And innocent poor go to jail while the rich become richer. The priests are teaching for pay. And additional ordinances were created against the poor to favor the wealthy. Prophets are performing their duty for money instead of for the LORD. And their delivered messages were leading people astray like roaring lions tearing the prey as they devoured their human lives, taking their treasure and precious things. (See Ez 22:25) Everyone was for sale to the highest bidder. Although each of them knew righteousness and justice in the Name of the LORD it did not appear to be profitable to them. They falsely claimed that they had true trust in God. The Master Himself taught in Matt 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NKJV) (See also Mark 8:35-37)

Micah proceeded to pronounce judgment in the Name of the LORD upon Zion, Jerusalem, and the Temple as reflected in Micah 3:12, Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. (NKJV) When King Hezekiah heard this judgment, he heard it with his heart for he feared the LORD. Hezekiah sought the LORD’s favor and the city was spared. The prophet Jeremiah then confirmed the prophecy of judgment 100 years later. He was saved from execution when a group of elders reminded the people of Micah’s prophesy. They felt the city had been spared at earlier and would be spared again if they take heed to Jeremiah just like King Hezekiah had heeded Micah. Such was not the case. Theirs was only a temporary fix. Unfortunately for them, their trust was false and the Babylonians shall take Judah into captivity. The older part of Jerusalem that was first conquered as a fortress by King David and called Zion (2 Sam 5:9) shall be plowed like a field. Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins. The Temple site, God’s holy place among His chosen people, would also be destroyed. The sins of the leaders brought destruction to the nation. However, God is merciful. A remnant shall survive the corruption.

I spent twelve (12) years in the political arena. Family members attempted to dissuade me from taking this course of action when I expressed my initial interest. I was told I was not evil enough. My response was that I was qualified to do the job. I have to say I saw much evil, more than I care to even mention. Many were the times I had to make a hard decision that was a test to righteousness. And many were the lies circulated against me because I would not fold. Yes, I eventually left office, but I kept my integrity in Jesus Name. Have you ever been tested?
1McGee, J. Vernon Thru The Bible Commentary Series, The Prophets Jonah and Micah, Nashville, TN Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Deborah C. Davis

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