We begin the second cycle of prophetic ministry from the great prophet Micah. Remember that he ministered over the course of forty years or so, and yet was able to summarize his message in these seven short chapters. That is probably one of the reasons why his words are so concentrated and potent.
In this second cycle, the words of warning and the words of judgment are combined, and so the next message will go straight to the words of consolation.
“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? Who hate the good, and love the evil; Who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Who 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 . . .” (Micah 3:1–12)
Summary of the Text
Micah begins by addressing the civil rulers. Hear, oh you heads and princes. Shouldn’t you understand judgment (v. 1)? But instead you have inverted everything, hating the good and loving what is evil (v. 2). Instead of feeding your people, you feed on them. You flay them, you pull the flesh off their bones in order to eat it, you break their bones, and chop them up in pieces so that they might fit in your cauldrons (vv. 2-3). But when these cannibal rulers get in trouble, and cry out to Jehovah, He will be merciless to those who have been merciless (v. 4). He will turn away His face. The prophets who spoke lying words, who would bite with their words while mouthing peace, plotting their war again Jehovah, what will come of them (v. 5)? Instead of a vision, their night will be pitch black. The sun will go down over their prophecies, and they will minister in darkness (v. 6). Their seers and diviners will be abashed, and will have no answer from God (v. 7).
But Micah was ready to stand against them all. He was filled of Jehovah’s power, and fully ready to declare the sin and transgression of Jacob and Israel both (v. 8). Hear this word, you princes who twist everything (v. 9). You seek to build your city on the foundation of blood and iniquity (v. 10), which is why it will all come to nothing. Your judges look for bribes, your priests are hirelings, and your prophets are willing to see visions for a fee (v. 11). Is it any wonder that everything is so corrupted? Even so, your will dare to claim the presence and protection of Jehovah (v. 11b). And this is the reason why Zion will be plowed under. It is the reason why Jerusalem is going to be transformed into heaps of rubble. The mount of the house (i.e. the Temple) will be like the high places of the forest, meaning that trees will grow there (v. 12). Notice that here it is just “the house,” but when the consolation begins in the next verse, it is the house of the Lord again. The Lord has returned.
Some years later, when Jeremiah prophesied that the Temple of the Lord would be laid flat like Shiloh had been (Jer. 26:6, 9), the priests and prophets and people gathered against Jeremiah to kill him. The princes of the land refused to kill Jeremiah, and the elders of the land defended him by pointing to this verse from Micah (Jer. 26:18; Mic. 3:12). Micah had said the same thing, and he was not killed.
Isaiah pronounces a judgment on those who invert all the basic moral categories (Is. 5:20). Micah charges the rulers of both kingdoms with a gross dereliction of their duty—weren’t you supposed to know what justice is (v. 1)? You sit on the Supreme Court. How did you manage to get there without knowing what justice is? But instead of learning justice, you have decided to hate what is good, and to embrace what is evil.
This is an inescapable reality. There is no way for rulers abandon good in order to adopt a studied neutrality. There is no such neutrality. It doesn’t exist. It begins with saying that wickedness is an option, but it rapidly becomes celebration of evil. And then to celebrate wickedness is a decision to persecute those who testify that your deeds are evil. Good and evil do not dwell together as roommates—one must move out.
Cruelty & Its Pretenses
Their campaign brochures and rhetoric and stock photos are all about normal, happy people, and the cry goes up that we should coexist, and love everybody, and make no distinctions, no exceptions. You have seen the bumper stickers.
But it always ends in blood (v. 10). At the first they keep up the pretense, but a time eventually comes when all the hot bile of their hatred comes pouring out. They flay their victims. They crush their bones. They chop the meat of their people up, and then stuff their stew kettles full. They despise the people they rule over. And as they are shepherds who feed only themselves (Eze. 34:2), the time necessarily comes when they feed on the flocks—instead of feeding the flocks.
Avarice Is Where It Begins
The mission of those who love the law of God is to uphold justice, and the only basis for justice, which is the holy character of God. When rulers—whether princes, judges, prophets, priests—decide that the first thing is to “get ahead,” it is not long before they are pursuing mammon instead of justice. The heads judge for reward (v. 11). The priests will teach you about the grace of God for a sum (v. 11). The prophets will give you a word from God if you cross their palms (v. 11). What is the end result of all such mercenary ministry? The end result is that all true justice is abhorred (v. 9), and the meaning of equity is distorted beyond all recognition (v. 9).
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.”
Exodus 18:21 (KJV)
“The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: But he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.”
Proverbs 28:16 (KJV)
This should not surprise us. We live in a time when words like justice, and equity, and reconciliation, and love is love is love derive all their definitions from the lexicons of Hell. And it all began with mammon. It all begins with the fact that we are not ruled by men who hate covetousness.
But God is hard to those who are hard. God is merciless to the merciless, and those who love their cruelties drag a host of cruelties down upon their own heads.
God put no words in the mouths of these characters (v. 5), so they come up with the word peace all by themselves (v. 5). But while they speak that word with their mouths, they also bite with that same mouth (v. 5), and they war against God. Very well, then. God will return fire (vv. 6-7).
The Courage of Micah
On one side were arrayed regiments of falsehood and unbelief, and on the other side was Micah. Micah was clothed in power, judgment, and might, and this enabled him to tell both nations what their sin was. He was equipped to do this without a spirit of timidity. His message was not an “it seems to me” message, but rather a “thus saith the Lord” message. And is this not what our diseased generation needs to hear? Hear the Words of God, you sinners. Stand up straight, and listen to what the prophet has to say. Do not be tender in your sins. Do not be precious about having to hear about them.
In the text of Micah, we will come to the consolation in our next message. That consolation, that salvation, comes through Christ and only through Christ. But before we come to that point, we need to let the message of this chapter settle down into our bones. We tend to have shallow views of Christ because we have shallow views of our sin. We heal the wound lightly, saying peace, peace, when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). We want a slightly damp Jesus-washcloth that we can use to dab around the edge of our wound. But the wound is deep, and gangrenous, and self-inflicted, and we are entirely unconscious, and only the grace of God can admit us into His ICU—a place where He makes all the decisions. Our condition is indeed desperate. In fact, the image of an ICU patient is too weak—we are actually dead (Eph. 2:1-2).
But Christ is the resurrection and the life. Th risen Christ is the one we must look forward to.