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Micah 3: Correcting Corrupted Leaders Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 December 2006

Leaders must be willing to take the hard stands.  Whether you are talking about religious leaders or political leaders or family leaders or whatever, a faithful leader will make the difficult decisions.  In thinking about this, I am always reminded of Martin Luther’s stand against the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation.  Time and time again Luther was given the opportunity to recant his writings and teachings.  Yet, time and time again Luther took the hard stand and stood firm on Scripture.  He, along with many other reformers, was willing to stand against hundreds of years of Church history and doctrine.  As radical as it was, he was not willing to compromise on the Bible and its teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone.  He was willing to take a difficult stand in the face of terrible corruption within the leadership of the Church.

Luther’s stand is similar to the task of Micah in his ministry.  The leadership in Judah was corrupt and they were plunging the people into horrible sin.  Yet, Micah and the other prophets were called by God to deliver a hard message to these leaders, namely repent or face judgment.  We have seen this message already in the book of Micah and we continue to see it throughout.  In chapter 3, Micah attempts to correct some of the gross errors of the leadership in Judah.  This morning, I want us to consider these errors and how Micah corrects them in order to instruct us in our leadership today and in our handling of leaders as well.  Thus, let’s identify these errors together.

First, the leaders were ruling unjustly (v. 1-4, 9-11a).

In the first four verses of the chapter, Micah is addressing what we would consider the governmental leaders in Judah, or the magistrates.  Look at verses 1-3.  In verse 1 Micah accuses them of ignoring justice.  He goes on to speak of their hatred of good and love of evil.  He gets graphic in his description and refers to their actions as cannibalistic.  They were not leading the people justly.  He describes the same in verses 9-11a.  Look at those verses with me.  Again the rulers of Israel detest justice and take bribes.  They build the city with blood and iniquity.  These are hard charges that Micah is bringing against Judah’s leaders.  He wants them to know that their actions are despicable to the Lord.  The Lord expects the rulers to rule with justice, to reward the good and punish the wicked, to be fair in judgments, to rule faithfully.  Yet, this was not the case in Judah.  The rulers were not just, they were wicked.  They turned their backs on justice and on the faithful in Judah.

Thus, Micah writes of the judgment that awaits them in verse 4.  Look at that verse with me.  As we have seen the last two weeks, the judgment of God fits the crime.  Judah’s leaders were turning their backs on justice and so God would turn His back on them when they cry out in their time of need.  God is not to be manipulated.  He does rule from a distance when things are going good and come to our beckon call when things get hard.  No, He demands obedience and He will forgive true repentance, but He is not ignorant or easy to fool.  He knows the difference between true repentance and repentance only because we have been caught and want to avoid the consequences.  He will hide his face from these leaders who have continually hidden their face from justice.

It will do us well to remember that we cannot ignore justice and expect God’s blessing or expect Him to bail us out when we get in over our head.  Yes, when we truly repent He will forgive us, but we cannot think that we can manipulate or fool Him.  He will not be mocked, as Paul tells us in Galatians 6:7-10.  Look at those verses with me.  God will test the hearts of men.  He knows if we are sowing to the flesh or sowing to the Spirit and the harvest we reap will reflect such.  We must examine ourselves and make sure that we are doing good to those of the household of faith.  With Micah, we must hold our leaders accountable for just leadership.

Second, the leaders were prophesying for profit (v. 5-7, 11b).

Micah moves to correcting the prophets in verses 5-7.  He addresses them in verse 5.  Look at that verse with me.  Micah is accusing the prophets of simply wanting to get fed.  If someone is willing to put food on their table, then they can expect a report of ‘peace.’  If they cannot meet the prophets’ wants, then they can expect war.  Look also at verse 11.  At the end of the day, the issue is not what has the Lord actually said, but rather what can be said that will profit me the most.  As one commentator noted, for these prophets “money talked louder than God.”   Their greed controlled their message.

Thus, Micah tells us that God will judge them by remaining silent.  Look at verses 6-7.  If all these prophets are going to do is speak the message that will make the most money, then God will refuse to give them true messages.  If they are ignoring the message of God just to get food, then God will remove their gift altogether, so that when they truly need to hear from God, He will be silent.  Over and over again, the punishment fits the crime.  If these prophets are going to misuse their gift, then the Lord will simply take the gift away, which will lead to their disgrace and shame. 

Likewise, we cannot expect God’s true blessings if we are unfaithful to His true message, which is Christ crucified for sinners.  We can preach another message, a less offensive one that does not speak much of sin or judgment.  This message may attract the masses and fill our churches, but it will not save.  Only the true gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation (see Romans 1:16-17).  We cannot base success on growth in numbers or giving.  Rather, we must base success on faithfulness to the Word and to the true gospel of Christ.  As your leader, as the one who is charged to teach the Word in this Church, I must admit that preaching for profit can be tempting at times. 

Every week I am called to preach the message of the cross, the offensive message of sin and judgment apart from Christ.  Every week I am called to preach the whole counsel of God, at least in reference to whatever passage I am preaching.  In other words, there are times when I look at the particular passage for the week and I think: ‘I know this is going to be offensive to my people.  I know this is going to be hard on them because it is hard on me.  I know that some might leave our Church if I preach what I believe this text is teaching.  I could make some enemies this Sunday morning.’  How easy it would be to ignore such texts and ignore such messages?  How easy it would be to just preach messages that everyone could agree with, messages that did not offend me or the congregation?  Yet, if I give in to this temptation then I am guilty of what the prophets were doing in Micah’s day.  Likewise, if you expect me to skip the hard texts, or at least explain them away so that they are not so offensive, then you will have slipped into this error.  No, we must decide together that we want the true message of God, delivered to us in His Word.  We want the hard texts, the offensive gospel, the convicting truth that is revealed to us in the Bible.  If there comes a day, when either you or I are tempted to take another approach, I pray that we remember what Micah is teaching us here, namely that the message we need is the message of God.  Faithfulness to this message must be the measure of our success as a Church and as a community of faith.

Third, the leaders were assuming God’s favor (v. 11b-12).

Micah makes another accusation against these leaders at the end of verse 11.  Look at that verse with me.  Even though these leaders were ruling unjustly and prophesying for a profit, they still expected God’s favor because after all, they were the people of God, they had God’s temple in their midst in Jerusalem.  Thus, they did not see any need to listen to Micah and the other true prophets because God was not going to judge them. 

Yet, once again Micah tells them of coming judgment.  Look at verse 12.  The leaders thought that because the temple of the Lord was on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem that the city was safe against all her enemies.  Yet, Micah tells them that they are presuming on God’s kindness, which is not meant to lead us to more rebellion but to repentance (see Romans 2:4).  Just because they were the people of God did not mean that they could do whatever they wanted.  It did not mean that they could continually rebel against God and still expect His protection from their enemies.  No, the city that they thought would never be destroyed would be reduced to a heap of ruins if they did not repent.

Assuming God’s favor is a mistake that many professing Christians continue to make today.  Many think, ‘I grew up in Church.  I was baptized when I was younger.  I give a good portion of my money to support ministry.  I pray all the time and read my Bible occasionally.  Thus, the Lord will obviously bless me and protect me from the judgment to come.’  This is unbelievably dangerous reasoning and yet it is so prevalent in our Churches.  We must remind people that Christianity is no license to sin.  Listen to the words of Christ again in Matthew 7:21-23.  Thus, we cannot presume on the kindness of God that is meant to lead us to repentance.  We must examine our hearts and lives for fruit if we want to have true assurance for the coming Day of judgment.  We must hate our sin and be putting it to death, lest we show ourselves to be unregenerate. 

All of these errors must be corrected by the Word of God to avoid judgment.  Look at verse 8.  Micah speaks of being filled with the Spirit and delivering the difficult message of judgment with justice and might.  Yet, how can we know that we are speaking and being faithful to the true message of God?  We can only know this as we are faithful to the Word of God.  Through obedience to the Word we can be sure that we are speaking with the Spirit and with power.  In fact, Micah’s message was delivered in power, for in Jeremiah 26:16-19, we are told that Hezekiah did repent in response to this message.  Thus, we preach the Word with hope.  We correct corrupt leaders and corrupt thinking with power as we do it by the Word.  Thus, may we be faithful to the Word, faithful to the true message, faithful to the whole counsel of God.  Amen.

Mays, quoted in David W. Baker, Desmond Alexander, and Bruce Waltke, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 163.

~ William Marshall ~

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