Micah 3

 

 

 

v. 1-4 – Sins of the Rulers, and their Punishment

 

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?”  The prophet denounces the sins

of the rulers, false prophets, and priests; and begins with the injustice and oppression

practiced by the great men. And I said. The new address is thus introduced as being

analogous to the denunciations in the preceding chapter, which were

interrupted by the promise of deliverance, to which there is no reference

here. O heads of Jacob; synonymous with princes of the house of

Israel (compare v. 8; ch. 1:5). Micah addresses the heads of families

and the officials to whom the administration of justice appertained. These

magistrates and judges seem to have been chiefly members of the royal

family, at any rate in Judah; see Jeremiah 21:11-12.  Septuagint, οἱ κατάλοιποι

οἴκου Ἰσραήλ - hoi katloutoi oikou Israel -  ye remnant of the house of Israel.

Is it not for you to know judgment? Ye, of all men, ought to know what is just

and fair, and to practice it (compare the opening of the Book of Wisdom).

 

Magistrates, Judges, Leaders – the equivalent in the United States today

are Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, lower

Judges, Governors, State Senators, State Representatives, Mayors,

Councilmen, even the General Populace who elect such leaders (Jeremiah

5:31 “my people love to have it so  (CY - 2009)

 

2 “Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off

them, and their flesh from off their bones;”  The good…the evil; i.e. goodness

and wickedness. Septuagint, τὰ καλά τὰ πονηρά - ta kala ta ponaera  - the good;

the evil; wicked -  (Amos 5:14, etc.; John 3:20; Romans 1:32). Who pluck off

their skin from off them. They are not shepherds, but butchers. We have the

same figurative expression for merciless extortion and pillage. Ezekiel makes

a similar complaint (Ezekiel 34:2-4). Cheyne sees in this and the following

verse a possible allusion to cannibalism as at least known to the Israelites

by hearsay or tradition. There is a passage in Wisdom (12:5) which somewhat

countenances the idea that the Canaanites were guilty of this enormity, but it

is probably only a rhetorical exaggeration of the writer. In the present passage

the terms seem to be simply metaphors taken from the preparation of meat for

human food. Such an allusion is natural in the mouth of one who had just been

speaking of Israel as a flock (ch. 2:12).

 

3 “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.” The idea of the last verse is

repeated here with more emphasis.  The people are treated by their rulers as

cattle made to be eaten, flayed, broken up, chopped into pieces, boiled in the

pot. The Psalmist asks the question “Have all the workers of iniquity no

knowledge?  Who eat up my people as they eat bread, AND CALL

NOT UPON THE LORD!”  (Psalm 14:4) (For an analogous figure, see

Ezekiel 34:3-5.)

 

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.”  The merciless shall not obtain mercy. Then,

when the day of chastisement has come, “the day of the Lord,” of which,

perhaps, the prophet spoke more fully when he originally delivered this address.

He will not hear them” - A just retribution on those who refused to hearken to the

cry of the poor and needy (compare Psalm 18:41; Proverbs 1:24-33; Jeremiah 11:11;

James 2:13) – as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings; according

as they have made their actions evil, , or because they have, etc.; ἀνθ ὧν

- anth hon - as much as who - (Septuagint).

 

vs. 5-8 - Sins of the False Prophets Who Led the People Astray.

 

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.”

Concerning the prophets (ch. 2:11). These are the lying prophets of whom

Jeremiah complains (Lamentations 2:14). That bite with their teeth, and cry,

 Peace. Very many commentators take the phrase, “bite with the teeth,” to

mean “eat,” so that the clause signifies that the prophets when bribed with

food predict peace and happiness to people. The antithesis of the following

clause seems to require this explanation, which is further supported by the

Chaldee. But it is quite unprecedented to find the word translated “bite”

(nashakh) in the sense of “eat,” or as it is taken here, “to have something to

eat;” wherever it occurs it means “to bite like a serpent,” to wound

(see Genesis 49:17; Numbers 21:8-9; Amos 5:19; 9:3). The parallelism of

the succeeding member does not compel us to put a forced interpretation

upon the word. These venal seers do vital harm, inflict gravest injury,

when they proclaim peace where there is no peace; by such false

comfort they are really infusing poison and death. He that putteth not

 into their mouths. If any one does not bribe them, and so stop their evil

mouths. They even prepare war against him. The Hebrew expression is,

they consecrate” or “sanctify war.” There may be allusion to the religious

rites accompanying a declaration of war (Jeremiah 6:4; Joel 3:9); but Micah

seems to mean that, if the customary bribes are withheld, these prophets

announce war and calamity as inevitable; they proclaim them in God’s name,

as speaking with His sanction and under His Inspiration (compare Jeremiah

23:16, etc.; Ezekiel 13:19; see note on Zephaniah 1:7).

 

6 “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.”  Night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision. The

Hebrew is, “from,” or “without a vision.” Septuagint, ἐξ ὁράσεως -

ex horaseos -, out of vision; Vulgate, pro visione. Hence some interpret this

as spoken to the false prophets, who, to punish their lying prophecies and

pretended revelations, shall be overwhelmed with calamity. But it is best

taken as still addressed to the rulers, and Micah tells how that in the time of

their distress there shall be no prophecy to direct them (compare 1 Samuel

28:6; Proverbs 1:28; Lamentations 2:9). “Night shall be unto them

without a vision.” “Night” and “darkness” are metaphors for calamity, as in

all languages. That ye shall not divine; without divination. Septuagint,

ἐκ μαντείας - ek manteias - out of prophecy. Parallel and identical in meaning

with the preceding clause. The sun shall go down over the prophets; i.e. over

the false prophets. The sun of their prosperity shall set. Micah seems to derive

his imagery from the phenomena of an eclipse (compare Jeremiah 15:9;

Amos 8:9). The day. The time of their punishment (Micah 2:4;  Amos 5:18)                                                                  

 

Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people perish” -

rather, cast off restraint, become ungovernable, cannot be reined in

(Exodus 32:22, 25).

 

 

 

                                    Civil Rulers (vs. 1-6)

 

“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,” etc. The punishment threatened in this chapter is

against the authorities of Israel, against the princes who turn right into

wrong and slay the people, against false prophets who lead the people

astray and confirm them in their sin, and against the priests in connection

with both princes and prophets. The passage before us is directed to the

princes and the rulers. These are represented as radically corrupt, hating

good and loving evil, and cruelly oppressive: “Who pluck off their skin

from off them, and their flesh from off their bones.” And more than this,

they eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them.” They

are represented not only as slaying the people, robbing them of the means

of existence, but devouring them, treating them like cattle, which are first

killed and then boiled in the pot for food. All this, of course, is strong

figure used to make a strong impression. We have two things worthy of

notice concerning civil rulers.

 

·         WHAT CIVIL RULERS OUGHT ALWAYS TO BE, They ought

always to “know judgment,” that is, always practically to know the right.

The ruler who has not a practical knowledge and love of the right is out of

his place; HE IS A USURPER!  There is such a thing as right in the universe.

What is the standard of right? Not public sentiment, not human law, but

THE DIVINE WILL!   God’s being is the foundation of right; God’s will

is  the standard of right; God’s Christ is the most complete revelation of

that standard.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)  The man who is not Christly in character

is more or less despicable everywhere, BUT NOWHERE SO MUCH AS ON

A THRONE!  Are we not commanded to honor the king? Yes, but the

command implies that the king is honor-worthy. Reason, conscience,

and the Bible call upon us to loathe and despise MORAL CORRUPTION

ON A THRONE!

 

                                                                               “He, a king,

A true right king, that dare do aught save wrong,

Fears nothing mortal but to be unjust;

Who is not blown up with the flattering puffs

Of spongy sycophants; who stands unmoved

Despite the jostling of opinion.”

(Marston.)

 

·         WHAT CIVIL RULERS OFTEN ARE. What were these rulers?

 

1. They were morally corrupt. These rulers were of those who “hate the

good and love the evil.” They were in heart radically wrong, corrupt to the

very core, hating good.

 

2. They were socially cruel. They treated the people as the butchers and

the cooks treat beasts — kill them, boil them for their own use. How often,

even in the history of England, have rulers treated the people as mere cattle

for food!

 

3. They were divinely abandoned. “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but

he will not hear them: he wilt even hide his face from them at that time.”

The Monarch of the universe is no “respecter of persons.” Princes are no

more in His eyes than paupers; and He will treat both according to their

character, their responsibility, and their merits. He has often roused nations

to send their rulers howling into infamy and ruin. After all, the existence of

corrupt kings is to be ascribed to the ignorance, the cowardice, and

servility of the people. Let the peoples of the earth advance in intelligence,

moral discernment, and independency, and such rulers will disappear.

Corrupt rulers are like glowworms, that in the night seem brilliant, but in

the day contemptible grubs. Weak, ignorant, and tyrannical kings appear

glorious in the night of popular ignorance, but abhorrent as the day of

mental intelligence advances.  (implications for the United States of

            America in this  present world??????????????????????? CY - 2022)

 

7  Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea,

they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.”  Shall the

seers be ashamed. The false prophets shall be ashamed because their oracles

are proved to be delusive. They shall all cover their lips; the upper lip; i.e.

 the face up to the nose, in sign of mourning and shame (see Leviticus 13:45;

Ezekiel 24:17, 22). It is equivalent to covering the head for the same reason,

as Esther 6:12; Jeremiah 14:4. Septuagint, Καταλαλήσουσι καὶ αὐτῶν πάντες

αὐτοί - Katalalaesousi kai auton pantes autoi - taking the verb to mean

shall open” (not “cover”) their lips against them. For there is no answer of God.

There was no revelation (Psalm 74:9; Ezekiel 7:26). Septuagint, Διότι οὐκ ἔσται

  ἐπακούων αὐτῶν - Dioti ouk estai ho epakouson auton -  Because there shall

be none that hearkeneth unto them.

 

 

 

 

                                    False Prophets (vs. 5-7)

 

“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. Therefore night shall be unto

you, that ye shall not have a vision,” etc. The following is the version of

Delitzsch: “Thus saith Jehovah concerning the prophets who lead my

people astray, who bite with their teeth and preach peace. And whoever

should put nothing into their mouths, against him they sanctify war.

Therefore night to you because of the vision, and darkness to you because

of the soothsaying; and the sun will set over the prophets, and the day

blacken itself over them. And the seers will be ashamed and the

soothsayers blush, and all cover their head, because there is no answer of

God.”  Here he attacks the false prophets, as before he had attacked the

princes.’ ‘That make my people err’knowingly mislead my people, by not

denouncing their sins as incurring judgments. That bite with their teeth,

and cry, Peace;’ i.e. who, so long as they are supplied with food, promise

peace and prosperity in their prophecies. ‘And he that putteth not into their

mouths, they even prepare war against him.’ Whenever they are not

supplied with food, they foretell war and calamity: they sanctify war, i.e.

proclaim it as a holy judgment of God, because they are not fed. ‘Therefore

night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark.’

Calamities press on you so overwhelmingly as to compel you to cease

pretending to divine (Zechariah 13:4). Darkness is often the image of

calamity (Isaiah 8:22; Amos 5:18; 8:9). ‘Then shall the seers be

ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips.’

The Orientals prided themselves on the moustache and beard. To cover the

upper lip, therefore, was a token of shame, mourning, and sorrow

(Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17). ‘Cover not thy lips,’ i.e. assume

not the usual token of one mourning (ibid. v. 22). They shall be so

ashamed of themselves as not to dare to open their mouths, or boast of the

name of prophet. ‘For there is no answer of God.’ They shall no more

profess to have responses from God, being struck dumb with calamities

(Fausset). False prophets are here brought under our attention again, and

three things are suggested concerning them.

 

·         THEY ARE DECEIVING. God says, they “make my people err.”

Preachers often make their hearers err.

 

1. In theology. They propound ideas, crude and ill digested, concerning

God, Christ, moral conditions and relations, utterly inconsistent with truth.

 

2. In worship. The forms they propose to use in worship, the rules they

enjoin for it, are often such as to give the people wrong ideas as to what

worship really is.

 

3. In morality. Their standard of duty is often wrong; hence wars are

sanctioned, priestly exactions and assumptions encouraged and maintained.

Ah me! how the preachers make men err on these great subjects!

 

·         THEY ARE AVARICIOUS. They “bite with their teeth, and cry,

Peace.” Greed governs them in all their ministries. They are ever

hungering after gain; pelf with them is a passion. Their eyes are ever

on pew rents, offerings, tithes, etc. If their greed is offended, they

prepare war against” the offender; they raise an opposition strong

and deadly against him. They are “greedy of filthy lucre.”  (I Timothy 3:3)

 

·         THEY ARE CONFOUNDED. Confounded in darkness. “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.” They were blind leaders of the blind, and

they themselves fall into the ditch. Confounded in shame. “Then shall the

seers be ashamed, and the diviners be confounded.” Jehovah ignores them.

“There is no answer of God.” “Those,” says Matthew Henry, “who deceive

others are but preparing confusion for their own faces.”

 

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.”  Micah contrasts his own powers and acts with those of

the false prophets. “I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord” - Micah asserts

that he speaks and acts by the direct inspiration of God; he claims three

gifts bestowed upon him by the Holy Spirit to enable him to effect his

purpose. The first of these is “power,” — such might imparted to him that

his words fall with force and proclaim their Divine origin (comp. Luke 1:17;

Acts 1:8). The second gift is “judgment”the righteous judgment

of God; this fills his mind and comprises all his message. The third gift is

might -  a holy courage that enables him to face any danger in delivering

his testimony (compare II Timothy 1:7). In these points he is in strong

contrast to the false prophets, who were not inspired by the Spirit of God.

spoke not with power, called good evil, and evil good, were timid and

time-serving.  Jacob... Israel. The two are identical as in v. 1, and the

clauses in which they occur contain the same thought repeated for

emphasis’ sake.

 

 

 

                        God’s Gift of a Faithful Ministry (v. 8)

 

The expression, “But truly (אוּלָם),” implies a contrast to what precedes.

The false prophets were in alliance with the tyrannical princes, and were

destined to humiliation and to the utter loss of whatever power they once

possessed. But Micah, conscious of a Divine calling and of fidelity to it,

can point to himself as an illustration of God’s precious gift of a faithful

ministry. Note:

 

·         ITS QUALIFICATIONS. The fundamental one is:

 

1. The indwelling of the Spirit of God. The true prophet or minister

magnifies his office, but does not exalt himself. He traces all he has to God,

as does St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16).

Pretenders to the prophetic or pastoral office were “sensual (ψυχικοί -

psuchikoi - sensual), not having the Spirit,” inspired only by the spirit of

the world, or of self; but true ministers can use St. Paul’s words (1 Corinthians

2:12), for they are relying on their Divine Master’s promise of the Holy Spirit.

 

2. Hence spiritual power. It may be special and superhuman, such as

prophets and apostles enjoyed. But the more valuable power is that which

enables us to witness for Christ (Acts 1:8), to exert a holy influence

(II Corinthians 3:2-3), and to preach “in demonstration of the Spirit

and of power.” Power is a general term; the Divine Spirit manifests His

presence by a diversity of gifts appropriate to special necessities. Two of

these are mentioned here as needed by the prophet and, in truth, by every

faithful minister.

 

3. Judgment, including such thoughts as these — a clear sense of God’s

equity in His dealings (Ezekiel 18.), an impartial utterance of God’s

sentences (Jeremiah 1:16-19), and therefore discrimination in all his

messages and in his treatment of his hearers, “doing nothing by partiality,”

(I Timothy 5:21);rightly dividing the Word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15);

warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we

may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28)  Such a

ministry will emit light as well as heat, will show discretion as well as zeal.

 

4. Moral courage. “Might,” such as the apostles sought and received

(Acts 4:29-31; compare Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:4; II Timothy 1:7).

All these gifts are needed in a high degree — “full,” etc. “However the Lord

may bless the meanest gifts of such as be honest, yet neither are ministers to

be empty vessels nor swelled with ostentation, but a large measure of real

furniture is to be sought after.” All these qualifications were more or less

fully manifested in the true prophets of God; e.g.

 

a. Elijah (Ecclesiasticus 48:1),

b. Isaiah (Isaiah 58:1),

c. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:11, 27),

d. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:8-11), and many others.

 

·         ITS DIFFICULTIES. The main difficulty here suggested arises from its

relation to the sins of men.

 

1. The burden of the Lord laid on ministers requires them to be willing to

be used in the disagreeable task of convicting communities and individuals

of sin. This may be traced in the long prophetical and apostolical

succession of God’s true ministers, including such illustrious names as

Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul.

We too must be prepared to show to the Church and to individuals their

sins in trade, their transgressions of the royal law in their conduct, whether

towards servants or masters. Thus we may seem to many “men of strife,”

or even enemies (Galatians 4:16).

 

2. But we do not successfully “show” to men their transgressions unless

they are induced to abandon their sin and accept God’s method of

deliverance. We seek to take men alive out of the snare of the devil (see

II Timothy 2:24 26, Revised Version). It is a terrible thing to convict a

man of sin, and yet fail to save him, thus increasing his condemnation.

 

·         ITS ENCOURAGEMENTS.

 

1. Frequent successes. We learn from Jeremiah 26:17-19 that Micah’s

message on this occasion led to the conversion of Hezekiah, or to the

reawakening of his zeal as a reformer. The Christian minister’s song of

victory is often heard (II Corinthians 2:14).

 

2. Constant Divine approval. Sometimes a sense of failure causes a feeling

of isolation and of heart sickness, such as Jeremiah often felt. But even

then we can fall back on the sense of the abiding presence of God

(John 16:32), and of His approving smile (Isaiah 49:4-5).

 

 

 

 

            Worldly and Spiritual Power: A Contrast (v.  8)

 

In this verse the prophet seems to place himself in contrast with the false

prophets to whom he had referred. They, and the priests and rulers with

whom they were in association, may be taken AS REPRESENTING THE

WORLDLY POWER OF THAT AGE  whilst he represented that spiritual

power which is inspired in the true servants of God by the working of His

own Spirit. It is instructive, in reading this chapter, to contrast these worldly

and spiritual forces.  (Especially along the lines of Ephesians 6:12 - CY - 2022)

 

·         THE FORMER IS POWER OFTEN EMPLOYED TO CRUSH; THE

LATTER IS POWER EVER EXERTED TO SAVE.

 

·         THE FORMER IS POWER BRINGING BLIGHT UPON THOSE

WHO COME UNDER INFLUENCE; THE LATTER IS POWER THE

EXERCISE OF WHICH EVER RESULTS IN BLESSING.

 

·         THE FORMER IS POWER THE PUTTING FORTH OF WHICH IS

PROMPTED BY SELFISHNESS; THE LATTER IS THE OUTCOME

OF LOVE.

 

·         THE FORMER BRINGS SHAME AND DISHONOUR UPON

THOSE WHO EMPLOY IT; THE LATTER YIELDS TO ITS

POSSESSORS PRESENT DISTINCTION, AND SHALL SECURE TO

            THEM IMPERISHABLE RENOWN.

 

vs. 9-12 - Recapitulation of the sins of the three classes rulers, priests,

and prophets, with an announcement of the destruction of Zion and

the temple.

 

9 “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.”

The prophet exemplifies his courage by delivering in full the

denunciation with which he commenced (v. 1: see note there).

“Hear this…..ye heads….princes of the house of Israel, that abhor

judgment and pervert all equity” - Ye, who by your position ought

to be models and guardians of justice and equity, but violate all laws,

human and Divine, make the straight crooked, and distort every

notion of right (compare Isaiah 59:8). 

 

(I would like to preface this by saying that I recently watched a sermon

by Adrian Rogers over TV on this chapter with particular emphasis

on “Truth Fallen in the Street” of v. 14 – it was entitled “A Nation

in Crisis” – program 2093 – which aired on April 5, 2009 - I would

recommend accessing this site (Bro. Rogers is deceased) – at 

www.lwf.org (lwf = Love Worth Finding) – Every American should

ponder this  - every person in the world could and should profit

from it.    (Now I am writing this eleven years later and it seems that

our nation is much more down the road in sin with the complication

of COVID – 19 – if a nation or a world ever needed to make peace

with God, it is NOW! CY – 2020 - this added 2022)

 

10 “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.”

They build up Zion with blood. Blood is, as it were, the

cement that binds the building together. They raise palaces with money

gained by extortion, rapine, and judicial murders like that of Naboth (1

Kings 21.; compare Jeremiah 22:13, etc.; Ezekiel 22:27; Habakkuk 2:12).

Cheyne thinks this to be a too dark view of the state

of public morals, and would therefore consider “blood” to be used for

violent conduct leading to ruin of others, comparing Isaiah 1:15; 59:3;

Proverbs 1:11. In these passages, however, actual bloodshed may be

meant; and we know too little of the moral condition of Judaea at this time

to be able to decide against the darker view.

 

The land they were seeking to “build up” by unrighteous means should

be brought to naught, and the responsibility of its overthrow would

rest squarely upon their shoulders.  (In effect the world has come

to the place now in seemingly such WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES

that God willdestroy them which destroy the earth” – Revelation 11:18 –

CY – 2009)  (Much worse now - CY - 2022)

 

“THEREFORE SHALL ZION FOR YOUR SAKE BE PLOWED LIKE A

FIELD” – v. 12

 

           

 

 

                                                National Stability (v. 10)

 

·         THE ENDEAVOR TO SECURE NATIONAL STABILITY IS

LAUDABLE AND TO BE COMMENDED. Princes, nobles, leaders of

the people of all classes, ought to seek to build up Zion and Jerusalem; and

earnest, enthusiastic effort directed to this end is honorable and worthy of

all praise.

 

·         THIS RESULT CAN ALONE BE GAINED BY RIGHTEOUS

MEANS. National strength and stability has its very foundations in truth,

rectitude, justice, and goodness.

 

·         THE ADOPTION OF ANY OTHER METHODS MUST

INEVITABLY RESULT IN DISGRACE AND DECAY. These rulers

built up Zion with “blood,” i.e. oppression, wrong, cruelty; and Jerusalem

with “iniquity,” perverting all that was true and right; and hence, despite

the semblance of outward prosperity, the process of decay and dissolution

was going on, and became at length completed in the ruin of the nation

(v. 12).

 

·         THEY ARE THE TRUE PATRIOTS WHO LIFT UP THE VOICE

OF WARNING, AND WHO EXPOUND AND ENFORCE THE

PRINCIPLES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. To adopt this course specially in a

worldly, self-indulgent age is sure

 

(1) to render the teacher unpopular with many;

(2) hence it requires holy courage and daring;

(3) which will be possessed in proportion as the man is moved by

                 the Holy Ghost.

 

11 “The 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.”  Judge for reward - The very judges take bribes

(Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:12), which the Law so stringently forbade

(see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19). The priests thereof teach for hire -

The priests were bound to teach and explain the Law, and decide questions

of religion and ritual (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:11; “thou shalt not

declinefrom the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor

to the left”  - Deuteronomy 33:10; compare Haggai 2:11).  This they ought to have

done gratuitously, but they corruptly made it a source of gain. Divine for money - 

The accusation in v. 5 is repeated.  These false prophets sold their oracles,

pretending to have a suitable revelation when paid for it (Ezekiel 22:28;

Zephaniah 3:3-4)  Yet will they lean upon the Lord- treating the Lord as if

He was some good luck charm. These priests and prophets were worshippers

of Jehovah and trusted in Him, as though He could not fosake His people.

They had faith without love, divorced religion from morality, made a certain

outward conformity serve for righteousness and truth. Is not the Lord among us?

(Exodus 17:7). As though the very fact that they had in their midst the temple,

wherein Jehovah’s presence was assured, would protect them from all

harm, whatever their conduct might he. Such presumptuous confidence is

reproved by Jeremiah (7:4, 8, etc.; compsre Amos 5:14, and note there).

 

 

 

                                                Spurious Faith (vs. 9-11)

 

The prophet at once vindicates the claim he has just made (v. 8). We

have here:

 

·         AS UNSPARING EXPOSURE OF SINS IN HIGH QUARTERS. All

classes are involved, and to each class the most scandalous characteristic

offenses are imputed.

 

1. Civil rulers. They are open to bribes, in direct violation of Exodus 23:8,

and therefore pervert judgment. These sophists on the judgment seat

make “the worse appear the better reason;” and at length reach such a

stage of iniquity that they “abhor judgment,” and “call evil good” etc.

(Isaiah 5:20; compare II Peter 2:14). In the striking figure of Isaiah

(Isaiah 59:14), “truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”

Their crimes are set out in detail in v. 14. Meanwhile they are building

fine mansions or laying out estates, but at the price of blood, like Ahab

(1 Kings 19.) or Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:13-19); or they are wronging the

poor, though the consequences may be fatal; as in modern society some of

the “heads thereof” connive at social systems in government or in business,

by which the poor are defrauded of their claim to a livelihood. “The bread

of the needy is their life; he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood.

He that taketh away his neighbor’s living slayeth him: and he that

defraudeth the laborer of his hire is a bloodshedder” (Eccleisiasticus 35:

21-22).

 

2. Ecclesiastical leaders. The priests’ duty was to teach the Law

(Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:11; 33:10), but they too needed

douceurs, or fees or bribes. They probably misinterpreted the Law from the

same motive as did Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17). “So Arian bishops,

themselves hirelings, by false expositions of Scripture countenanced Arian

emperors in their persecution of the faithful” (Pusey). So, too, persecuting

priests and prelates in more recent days.

 

3. Prophets. These religious teachers were raised up to promote a

reformation; but they too had been dragged down to the level of other

teachers. Divine prophecy had been corrupted into divination, as in the

case of Balaam, and covetousness was universal (v. 5; and compare Ezekiel

13:1-6). An instructive parallel may be found in the case of the regular

clergy of the medieval Church, who were gradually degraded to the low

moral level of the secular clergy. We are reminded of the odiousness of a

mercenary ministry. Thus all classes were combined in a conspiracy of

unrighteousness (as in Ezekiel 22:23-31), and the love of money was

the root of all this evil.

 

·         AN INDIGNANT PROTEST AGAINST UNWARRANTED FAITH

IN GOD. They flatter themselves:

 

1. That they may lean upon the lord. Deaf to all past teachings, blind to the

danger signals which history has erected, they insult God by leaning upon

him, and expecting him to support their vile souls and pampered bodies

(compare Deuteronomy 29:19-20). They further take for granted:

 

2. That the lord is among them. Though invisible to sense, and sending

repeated protests, they assume His favorable presence. They trust in lying

words, saying. “The temple of the Lord are these” (Jeremiah 7:4), as though

the temple of the Lord and the Lord of the temple were identical. In a church

at Innsbruck, on the tabernacle containing the consecrated wafer are the

words, “Ecce tabernaculum Dei - behold the tabernacle of God.” If this

daring perversion of Scripture had proclaimed a truth, what a false

confidence for an unworthy communicant; as though “Corpus Christi” -

body of Christ and “Christ in you” were the same! “There standeth One

among you whom ye know not” (John 1:26) may be true, but

in a new sense; if not to sanctify, to condemn.

 

3. That no evil will be fall them. As though God’s protests and a guilty

conscience were not in themselves evils and the forecast shadows of

coming doom. So deceitful and desperately wicked is the heart of man.

These truths may be applied to many “nominal Christians.”

 

a,  Ambitious monarchs or statesmen, “building up” their country by huge

standing armies, or navies, or palaces, at the cost of grinding taxation,

leading to semi-starvation and loathsome disease as among the Italian

peasantry, or of tyrannical extortions from Egyptian felaheen, or of a

merciless conscription as in Germany, driving some of her best sons from

her shores.

 

b.   Landlords amassing fortunes from rack renting the fever slums of

            London, or confiscating the fruits of the tenants’ industry in Ireland.

 

a.      Drink sellers fattening on the pauperism of their wretched customers,

            or carrying liquid poisons to tribes just emerging from barbarism.

 

b.      Hireling preachers or priests, prophesying smooth things to unrighteous

aristocrats or plutocrats, or lulling guilty consciences by the opiate of the

sacrament. Such men of expediency crucified even the Son of God that

Zion might be “built up” (John 11:48; see Jeremiah 5:30-31).

To that final question an answer is found in v. 12.

 

 

 

                        The Ministry Viewed in Relation to Hire  (v. 11)

 

The Jewish priests and prophets were the teachers of the people in matters

of religion and morals. They exercised “the teaching faculty;” and this must

form a prominent feature in those who devote themselves to the work of

the ministry in every age (1 Timothy 3:2;  Colossians 1:28; II Timothy 2:15;

II Corinthians 4:2). The power of the pulpit in these modern times depends very

largely upon the maintenance of its teaching efficiency. The men the Church

requires as its ministers are such as will come forth week by week not to utter

a number of weary platitudes, but to enforce living truths, and to present these

in forms fresh and new. Note

 

·         SUCH LABORERS ARE WORTHY OF THEIR HIRE. The

support of the Jewish priesthood was arranged under the Law

(Deuteronomy 18:2); the prophets also received temporal gifts in

recognition of their services (1 Samuel 9:7-8). In the New Testament

this principle of pecuniary acknowledgment being made for spiritual service

is distinctly enunciated (Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:7, 14).

 

·         TO RENDER THIS SERVICE FOR THE SAKE OF THE “HIRE” IS

SELF-DEGRADING, AND IS AN OFFENCE TO GOD AND THE

GOOD.

 

1. It leads to mere officialism.

2. It results in the perversion of truth, the character of the message being

made to depend upon the nature of the bribe and the desire to gratify those

who offer it.

3. It gives rise to sheer hypocrisy. “Yet will they” (i.e. hypocritically) “lean

upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us?” (v. 11).

4. It awakens vain self-confidence. “None evil can come upon us  (ibid. 11).

5. It incurs fearful responsibility. “The blood of souls” will be required of

such. The ruin of Zion and Jerusalem was here fastened upon such,

“Therefore shall Zion for your sake,” etc. (v. 12). How honorable is the

work of the faithful minister of truth! How essential it is that they who

engage in it should experience the Divine call, and should guard well their

hearts so that they may be true to themselves and may render acceptable

service to others! Whatever their “hire” here may be, how glorious is the

reward awaiting all who are found true in this calling; for “when the chief

            Shepherd appears they shall receive a crown of glory.” (I Peter 5:4).

 

12 “Therefore 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.”

 

 “THEREFORE SHALL ZION FOR YOUR SAKE BE PLOWED LIKE A

FIELD  - This verse presents to us the CULMINATION of IMPIETY and

INIQUITY.

 

We have here described that “death” which “sin when it is finished” ever

bringeth forth” - (James 1:15)

 

This is the prophecy quoted by the elders to King Jehoiakim

(Jeremiah 26:17-18). It may have been delivered before Hezekiah’s

time originally, and repeated in his reign, when it was productive of a

reformation. The denunciation is a mournful contrast to the announcement

in Micah 2:12; but it was never completely fulfilled, being, like all such

judgments, conditioned by circumstances. Therefore… for your sake  - For

the crimes of rulers, priests, and prophets” –  Shall Zion… be ploughed as a

field - Three localities are specified which destruction shall overtake Zion,

Jerusalem, and the temple. Zion means that part of the city where stood the

royal palace. The prophecy relates primarily to the destruction of the city

by the Chaldeans, when, as Jeremiah testifies (Lamentations 5:18), Zion

was desolate and foxes walked upon it. The expression in the text may be

hyperbolical, but we know that the ploughing up of the foundations of

captured cities is often alluded to. Thus Horace, ‘Carm.,’ 1:16, 20 —

 

                        “... imprimeretque muris

                        Hostile aratrum exercitus insolens.”

 

 

(Compare ‘Propert.,’ 3:7, 41; and for the whole passage, Isaiah 32:13-14.)

“The general surface of Mount Zion descends steeply eastwards into

the Tyropoeon and Kidron, and southwards into the Valley of Hinnom.

The whole of the hill here is under cultivation, and presents a most literal

fulfilment of Micah’s prophecy” (Thomson, ‘The Land and the Book,’ p.

540). “From the spot on which I stood,” says Dr. Porter, “I saw the plough

at work in the little fields that now cover the site of Zion” (‘Illustrations of

Bible Prophecy,’ p. 17). Jerusalem shall become heaps  - The city proper

shall become heaps of ruins (Jeremiah 9:11; Nehemiah 2:17; 4:2)

Septuagint, ὡς ὀπωροφυλάκιον ἔσται - hos oporophulakion estai - like as a

hut of a garden watcher - as a storehouse for fruits, as in Psalm 78 and 79) –

The mountain of the house - The mountain on which the

temple was built, Mount Moriah, and therefore the temple itself, no longer

mentioned as the Lord’s dwelling place. (Today the second most holy shrine

in all the Arab world, The Dome of the Rock, sits atop it – Zechariah 14:4

appears to teach that at the time of the Messiah, that an earthquake will tear

it down and the new temple will be built in its place – “As the high places of

the forest; or, as wooded heights, returning, as it were, to the wild condition in

which it lay when Abraham offered his sacrifice thereon. In the time of the

Maccabees, after its profanation by tile heathen, the account speaks of

shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest or in one of the mountains (1

Maccabees 4:38). Such was to be the fate of the temple in which they put their

trust and made their boast all the while denying Jehovah.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    The Abuse of Influence (vs. 1-12)

 

God has imparted to all men the power of influencing others. We daily

exert an influence either for good or for evil. They who know us, and who

come into contact with us, are the better or the worse as the result of such

knowledge and association. The nature of our influence depends upon our

own character. Whether this subtle power we all possess is to result in

good or ill depends altogether upon what we are ourselves. Let the life be

pure and holy, fed and sustained by those hidden springs which take their

rise in the throne of God, and then a healthy and helpful influence will

assuredly follow, as effect follows cause. The extent of the range of a

 

God has imparted to all men the power of influencing others. We daily

exert an influence either for good or for evil. They who know us, and who

come into contact with us, are the better or the worse as the result of such

knowledge and association. The nature of our influence depends upon our

own character. Whether this subtle power we all possess is to result in

good or ill depends altogether upon what we are ourselves. Let the life be

pure and holy, fed and sustained by those hidden springs which take their

rise in the throne of God, and then a healthy and helpful influence will

assuredly follow, as effect follows cause.   As Jesus said – “If any man thirst,

let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture

hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” – (John 7:37-38)  -

The extent of the range of a man’s influence depends very much upon the

social position he occupies.  The more prominent a man is among his fellows,

the wider will be the circle of his influence. In every community there will be,

of necessity, positions of special prominence to be occupied. To desire to

occupy these for the sake of being prominent, and accounted great, is indeed

a very poor ambition; but to desire to reach these in the hope of gaining and

using for good the additional influence thus acquired; whilst “rising in the

world,” to be also ascending the heights of holiness and goodness, and in

ascending thus to reach out the hand of help to others and to assist them to

climb above the mists of error and sin, is an aspiration that is truly noble;

and happy is it for communities when such men rise. When good men are

exalted “the city rejoiceth.” (Proverbs 11:10-11) These verses present to us

a painful example of the opposite of all this.  Note we have here

 

·         GREAT INFLUENCE GROSSLY ABUSED. Three influential classes

in the kingdom of Judah are specially referred to.

 

1. The princes; i.e. the ruling class, the judges and magistrates, these

functions being exercised by members of the royal family (Jeremiah

21:11-12).

 

2. The priests; i.e. members of the Jewish priesthood, taking part in the

services of the temple, and also in teaching the people.

 

3. The prophets; i.e. not the men who were specially inspired of God, like

Micah, but men who claimed to possess a desire to work for God, who

were trained in “the schools of the prophets,” and who became a very

numerous class in the land, and took an important part in the education of

the community. In these three classes we have comprehended the most

influential men in the land; men who, by virtue of their position, ought to

have exerted the wisest and most salutary influence upon the people. But

instead of this the very opposite was actually the case. They who should

have been “the salt of the earth” were “as salt which had lost its savor.”

The princes, instead of righteously administering the Law, sought their

own enrichment. They accepted bribes (“The heads thereof judge for

reward,” v. 11), and they utterly sacrificed the rights and interests of the

people. “They built up Zion with blood” (v. 10), i.e. they reared their

luxurious palaces and increased their own store of wealth by perverting

equity, and by unrighteous decisions. Their unjust judgments, their

extortions and oppressions, so pressed upon the people that the very life

blood of the nation was drained. Under the expressive figure of

cannibalism, the seer describes the effect of their rapacity (vs. 2-3). The

prophets also were utterly mercenary. If the bribe was only given, they

prophesied as desired. “They caused the people to err, biting with their

teeth [i.e. feeding upon the bribe] and crying, Peace” (v. 5); but only let

the bribe be withheld, and they altered their tone and became the heralds of

evil tidings (v. 5). Nor were the priests behind in cherishing the same

spirit. “The priests teach for hire” (v. 11). The support of the Jewish

priesthood was provided for by special Divine arrangement. The tenth in

Israel was apportioned to the sons of Levi as their inheritance

(Numbers 18:20;Deuteronomy 18:2). But though thus provided

for, such was their greed that, “producing the answer of God upon the

receipt of money, they sold the grace of the Lord for a covetous price”

(Jerome). And so did these prominent and distinguished classes in the

kingdom of Judah abuse the great influence which had been bestowed upon

them. History repeats itself; and there have been times in the development

of other nations which have presented the counterpart to that which is here

recorded respecting the kingdom of Judah (see, for example, the state of

Europe during the age preceding “the Reformation,” as described by

D’Aubigne, ‘History of the Reformation,’ bk. 1. ch. 3.).

 

·         THE ABUSE OF INFLUENCE RESULTING IN CALAMITY.

 

1. To the abusers themselves. The prophet declared that the day of

retribution would duly come, and that in that day of Divine manifestation

in judgment

 

c.       the rulers should be requited for their evil deeds “measure for measure”

(v. 4), and in the time of trial should find no help in God, for He would

hide His face from them (v. 4);

 

d.      the false priests and prophets should be overtaken by judicial blindness

(v. 6), shame and confusion should be theirs, as the coming events

brought to light the falsity of their declarations (v. 7), and the Divine

oracles would be silent in that day (ibid.).

 

2. To the nation. The land they were seeking to “build up” by unrighteous

deeds (unrighteousness) should be brought to naught, and the responsibility

of its overthrow would rest upon them.Therefore shall Zion for your sake

 be ploughed as a field,” etc. (v. 12).

 

·         LEARN:

 

1. The blessing of influence well directed.

2. The boon those who in high places exert such an influence confer upon a

     community.

3. The need of constant intercession with God on behalf of the leaders of a

     nation, in order that peace and prosperity may rein. “I exhor therefore,

     that, first of ll, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of

     thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority;

     that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

     (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

 

 

            AVARICE (Greed, Materialism, Covetousness)

                                                     (vs. 1-12)

 

There is nothing wrong in a man’s seeking to acquire riches. Money is

good. Its possession is to be desired, since it carries with it the means of

surrounding its possessor with the comforts of life, and at the same time

gives him the ability to impart good to those who are less favored and in

circumstances of need. The very endeavor also to secure this calls into

exercise such qualities as industry and thrift, which are truly commendable.

It is rather the love of money, and the inordinate desire for it for its own

sake, that merits condemnation. (materialism is a god in the United

States today) UnitedWorldly treasure becomes the greatest

possible curse when it is accounted by men the chief good. It will buy up

everything else. Time, intellect, justice, truth, conscience, the most sacred

rights of humanity, will be bartered for this; and every true well wisher of

the race will endeavor to stem the ever-swelling torrent, and to present

motives to turn the energies and enterprises of the world into another and

higher direction. This chapter may be viewed as illustrative of the

deplorable evils and the fatal results of this spirit of avarice.

 

 

·         THE DEPLORABLE EVILS CONNECTED WITH AVARICE.

 

1. It saps the foundations of equity. (v. 1.) These rulers understood the

Law, but being so thoroughly possessed by the mercenary spirit, they failed

to administer it righteously — were partial in their decisions, favoring

those who offered the most tempting bribe, and thus caused the legal

administration in the land to become rotten and corrupt.

 

2. It leads to oppression and cruelty. (vs. 2-3, 10.) The one concern of

the princes was to enrich themselves and to find themselves surrounded

with all luxuries and splendors; and hence they cared not to what lengths

of extortion and fraud and oppression they went, or what suffering might

be involved, if only they could compass this end.

 

3. It renders its subject unfaithful in the discharge of the most sacred

trusts. No trust can be more sacred than that committed to the man who is

constituted a teacher of spiritual truth, and upon whom it devolves to

direct men in the ways of righteousness and God; but here (v. 5) we have

such catching the spirit of covetousness, and, as the result, proving

altogether faithless to God and to the consciences of men, prophesying,

peace to those who bribed them, and “war” to those who withheld the

mercenary gift.  (Unfortunately, I cannot help to think of Congress and

political leadership, at the national level, often at the state level. - CY - 2022)

 

4. It excites the spirit of self-confidence and self-sufficiency. These leaders

of the people, whilst acting thus at variance with the true and the right, yet

finding their ill-gotten gains increasing in their hands, boasted that evil

could not reach them (v. 11).

 

·         THE FATAL RESULTS OF AVARICE.

 

1. Loss of the Divine favor. For “covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians

3:5) and God will not give His glory to another (v. 4).

 

2. Non-apprehension of spiritual realities. (v. 7.)

 

3. Complete frustration of their designs. The palaces they had built up with

blood, and the city they had defiled by their iniquity, should come to

naught, and in its overthrow all that they had unrighteously sought to

secure for themselves should perish (v. 12). They who boast that they are

full and increased in riches, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17),

are in reality the most needy and desolate. Spenser, in ‘The Faery Queene,’

has described their true condition –

 

“Most wretched wight whom nothing might suffice,

Whose greedy lust did lack in greatest store,

Whose need had end, but no end covetize,

Whose wealth was want, whose plenty made him poor,

            Who had enough, yet wished evermore.”

 

 

  

 

                                    Gifts for Divine Service (vs. 8-12)

 

·         THEIR NATURE (v. 8.)

 

1. Power.” (v. 8.) Weak as the prophet felt himself to be, he was

conscious of a Divine influence resting upon him and inspiring him,

clothing him with holy energy and irresistible might. His mind and heart

had been brought into an enjoyment of the highest and holiest fellowship

with the Invisible and Eternal. His soul was animated by the inward witness

of the Father’s love. His whole nature was quickened so that the spirit,

instead of being ruled by the body, had the body as its willing instrument,

and all acting in concert with the will of God. God dwelt in him and he in

God. His spiritual life was healthy and vigorous. His was the strength of a

man who felt that he had been called to engage in a work demanding

peculiar gifts and endowments in order to its successful discharge, but that

all he thus wanted God would bestow, so as to render him efficient; and

hence he was ready for service — full of inward strength, “full of power.

 

2. Judgment.” (v. 8.) The reference is not to judgment in the sense of

being able to discriminate character (although this is very desirable), but

judgment in the sense of enlightenment to understand the message to be

delivered. Here was a messenger who knew what to say; who did not go

forth with a sense of uncertainty, but as one who had received his message

and was prepared without hesitation to deliver it.

 

3. Might.” The idea is that of courage. He not only knew what to say, but

was ready to say it fearlessly. Humble in origin, born and trained up in

obscurity, he cowered not even before princes and nobles, but rather

caused them to tremble by the holy boldness with which he declared unto

them “all the counsel of God.”

 

·         THEIR SOURCE. (v. 8.) “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit

of the Lord. These words betray no egotism on the part of the prophet.

Had he simply affirmed himself to be a man of power, he had doubtless laid

himself open to the charge of manifesting that “self-praise” which is “no

recommendation;” but the qualifying sentence entirely frees him from the

charge“by the Spirit of the Lord. He was inwardly strong; he was

enlightened to know what he ought to utter in God’s name, and he was

prepared to go forth and to say it with unflinching courage, because there

rested upon him “an unction from the Holy One,” and he was inspired by

God’s own Spirit.

 

·         THEIR EXERCISE. “He declared unto Jacob his transgression,” etc.

(v. 8). With an inspiring consciousness of the presence with him of the

Lord he served; with a clear perception of the character of the age and of

the announcements he was to make in God’s name, and with a boldness no

adverse force could intimidate, because divinely sustained, he went forth to

his appointed service, reproved the rulers for their unrighteous judgments

and their acceptance of bribes, and their acts of cruelty and oppression

(vs. 9-10), chastised the priests and prophets for degrading, by their

mercenary conduct, the high functions they were called upon to discharge

(v. 11), and predicted the coming overthrow of the nation, fastening

upon these guilty leaders the responsibility of occasioning the impending

doom (v. 12). The history of the Church of God through all ages tells of

men thus inspired by God’s Spirit with “power” and “judgment” and

might;” and hence who nobly fulfilled their commission. Peter on the Day

of Pentecost, Paul before kings and governors, Luther before the Diet of

Worms, Knox carrying on the work of Reformation in Scotland, Whitefield

and the Wesleys in the work of revival — there rested upon the heads of

these true servants of the living God the tongues of heavenly fire; their

arms were nerved by the might of omnipotence, and there dwelt in them

the wondrous spiritual force that shall yet regenerate the world. There are

difficulties connected with service to God in the present as in all past times;

yet these should not dishearten or daunt us, but in the Divine strength we

should courageously meet these and contend against them until they are all

overcome. It betrays the possession of a weak faith, and seems to indicate

that he does not realize what Divine resources are available to him, if a

man in his work for God sits down before the difficulties of his position as

a worker, dispirited and fretful shall we manifest less courage in reference

to spiritual service than men exhibit in the ordinary pursuits of life? Shall

we acknowledge ourselves baffled and beaten when the mighty energy of

God’s own Spirit is available, and may be ours if we will? There was

exhibited on one occasion at the Royal Academy a striking picture of a

gallant knight mounted on his charger and approaching a dark cavern. His

steed was represented as drawing back through fear, and the dogs

following as shrinking through terror; but lo! the knight wears a

countenance untouched by alarm. There may be perils ahead, but he reckons

not, for his hand grasps the cross and his trust is in the living, loving Lord.

Let our trust be thus centered, and no difficulty lying before us, or no

antagonism against which we may have to contend in holy service, shall be

able to daunt us, but we shall say,” Who art thou, O great mountain?

before Zerubbabel thou shall become a plain.” We should “covet earnestly

the best gifts,” and above all seek to be “endued with power from on high.”

            (Luke 24:49)

 

 

                                    The True Prophet (vs. 8-12)

 

“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.

Hear this, I pray you,” etc. It is supposed that this chapter belongs to the

reign of Hezekiah; if so, the mournful state of matters which it depicts

belongs to the time preceding the reformation. These words lead us to

consider the true prophet.

 

·         THE WORK OF A TRUE PROPHET. “To declare unto Jacob his

transgression, and to Israel his sin.” It is a characteristic of all true

prophets, that they have a keen moral sense to discern wrong, to loathe it,

and to burn at it. No man is a true prophet who is not roused to thunder by

the wrong. It has been charged against the preachers of England that it is

not wrong that rouses them, but little dogmas that agree not with their

theology, sects that unite not with their Church, policies that interfere with

their income and position. We fear this is too true. The crimes of the

people of England are not denounced by the pulpit as they should be — the

vice in high places, the injustices perpetrated under the name and sanction

of law, the cupidity of traders, the swindlings of joint stock company men,

by which they become millionaires and win a seat in the Parhament of the

nation. These things are not held up as they should be for public

execration, in the broad sunlight of eternal truth,  Where have we men

now to “declare unto Jacob his transgression, and unto Israel his sin”?

 

1. This is a painful work. It will incur the disfavor of some, and rouse the

antagonism of the delinquents. Still, IT MUST BE DONE — done as John the

Baptist did it, who denounced his countrymen as a “generation of vipers;”

done as Christ did it, who leveled His terrible “woes” at the heads of the

great criminals of His age.

 

2. This is an urgent work. No work is more needed in England/America

today. To expose wrong goes a great way towards its extinction. Honeyed

words in the pulpit we have enough, tawdry dissertations , and sensational

inanities (meaningless remarks). God multiply men of the stamp of John the

Baptist and of the Apostle Peter, who on the Day of Pentecost charged home

the terrible crime of the crucifixion to the men he addressed!

 

·         THE POWER OF A TRUE PROPHET. “Truly I am full of power by

the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might.” There is no egotism

in this. A powerful man knows his power, and will ascribe it to THE

RIGHT SOURCEthe “Spirit of the Lord.” Micah’s power was moral;

it was the might of conscience, moral conviction, of invincible sympathy

with ETERKNAL RIGHT andTRUTH!  This is a very different power

to that of mere intellect, imagination, or what is called genius. It is

higher, more creditable, more influential, more God-like. What does the

man who has it care for the smiles or frowns of his audiences? He sets his

face like a flint. The praises of his fellow men affect him no more than the

twitterings of a sparrow would an eagle; their frowns, no more than the

yelpings of a cur affect the monarch of the forest.

 

·         THE FIDELITY OF A TRUE PROPHET. This is seen here in three

things.

 

1. In the class he denounces. “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house

of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel.” He struck at the higher

classes of life. “Heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of

Israel.” Ah me! how little we pulpiteering cowards here address

ourselves to the crimes of the upper classes! The low, the helpless, the

destitute, we are always lecturing. Do your ecclesiastical lords lecture

royalty, think you? I read their profuse flatteries often, but their

denunciations never. The prophet’s fidelity is seen:

 

2. In the charges he makes. “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem

with iniquity.”

 

a.   He charges them with extortionate cruelty. “The civic rulers only are

addressed in v. 9, viz. those who were charged with the administration of

justice and of the affairs of the state, but who did the very opposite — who

abhorred justice and made the straight crooked because they passed

sentence for bribes. They thereby build Zion with blood, etc., i.e. obtain the

means of erecting splendid buildings by cruel extortions, partly also by

actual judicial murder, as Ahab, and after him Jehoiakim, had done”

(Delitzsch). Building up Jerusalem by blood is something like building up

churches by beer. It is not uncommon now for large brewers, from the

enormous profits of their pernicious craft, to build up magnificent temples

for God. What an outrage on decency! What an insult to omniscient Purity!

 

      b.   He charges them with base mercenariness. “The heads thereof judge for

reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof

divine for money.” He saw mercenariness:

 

1.   on the bench, inspiring the judge;

2.   at the altar, inspiring the priests;

3.   in the pulpit, inspiring the preachers.

 

Money was the motive power of all. With all this mercenariness, still they

leaned upon the Lord,” that is, professed to worship the one true and

living God, and ignorantly and presumptuously concluded that He would

be ever amongst them, and that consequently no great evil would overtake

them. The prophet’s faithfulness is seen:

 

       c.  In the doom he proclaims. “Therefore shall Zion for your sake Be

ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain

of the house as the high places of the forest.” The prophecy was never

literally fulfilled till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when the

ground on which the city stood was ploughed up, in token of its utter

demolition, and no city was to be built there without the emperor’s leave.

“It is,” says an old writer, “the wickedness of those who preside in them

that brings the ruin. It is for your sake that Zion shall be ploughed as a

field; you pretend to build up Zion, but, doing it by blood and iniquity, you

pull it down. The sin of priests and princes is often the ruin of states and

Churches. Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi -  the kings act foolishly, and

the people suffer by it.”

 

·         CONCLUSION. Such is the true prophet.

 

 

                        The Desolating Effects of Sin (v. 12)

 

The Book of Micah may popularly be considered as consisting of three sections:

 

Ø      the first setting forth national guilt and corruption (ch. 1-3);

Ø      the second (ch. 4. 5.) as presenting glimpses of a brighter and better age;

and,

Ø      the third (ch. 6. 7.) as unfolding the nature and importance of sincere

and practical religion, and the Divine mercy to all who thus turn to

God and serve Him with all their hearts.

 

The verse before us closes the first part of the prophecy, and presents to us the

culmination of a course of impiety and iniquity. We have described here that

death which “sin when it is finished” ever bringeth forth” (James 1:15).

Notice:

 

·         THE HISTORICAL FACT OF THE MATERIAL DESOLATION

WHICH WAS TO RESULT FROM THE PREVAILING NATIONAL

TRANSGRESSION. (v. 12.) Observe:

 

1. This prophecy was doubtless oft repeated by the prophet. That it was

uttered by him during the reign of Hezekiah is clear from Jeremiah

(Jeremiah 26:17, 19). But it had probably been uttered by him

previously, for the words which follow (Micah 4:1-3), and which are

closely connected with them, were quoted by Isaiah from Micah during the

earlier reign of Jotham (Isaiah 2:2-4). The prophets enforced their

teaching by constant reiteration. “To write the same things to you,

to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Philippians 3:1).

 

2. The faithful utterance of this dark sayingwas the means of working a

temporary reformation. (See Jeremiah 26:17, 19.) It might have

exposed the seer to the greatest peril. To declare such evil omens at a time

when the prosperity of the land was reviving under the wise rule of

Hezekiah might have involved the prophet in suffering, and even death.

But, happily, it had its desired effect; it caused the king and the people to

bow before God in humiliation, and “judgment” against the evil works

which had been wrought “was not executed speedily” (ibid. v. 19).

 

3. Though thus delayed, the destruction of the land was ultimately

effected. Dean Stanley observed in reference to this prediction by Micah,

“The destruction which was then threatened has never been completely

fulfilled. Part of the southeastern portion of the city has for several

centuries been arable land, but the rest has always been within the walls. In

the Maccabean wars (1 Maccabees 4:38) the temple courts were overgrown

with shrubs, but this has never been the case since” (‘Jewish Church,’

2:464). It is possible to be too literal in our interpretations, and the facts of

history are simply sufficient to indicate how entirely that which Micah

predicted (v. 12) has come to pass (see Richardson’s ‘Travels,’ p. 359;

Keith on ‘Prophecy,’ p. 257; Porter’s ‘Handbook,’ p. 92).

 

·         CONSIDER THIS AS SYMBOLICAL OF THAT SPIRITUAL

DESOLATION WHICH IS EVER THE OUTCOME OF EVIL. It is the

natural tendency of sin to render the transgressor desolate in heart; indeed,

a man cannot indulge in a course of evil without his inner self, his spiritual

being, becoming waste. A man yields to the sin of avarice, and perhaps as

the result of its indulgence he gains his hundreds and thousands, gets the

best of many a bargain, and at length amasses a fortune; but then he loses

peace of mind, kindliness of heart, the joy resulting from cherishing all

generous impulses, and probably also his soul; so that whilst in the worldly

sense he has succeeded, he has prospered at a terrible sacrifice, even the

withering of his highest and noblest powers; he has “got on,” has “risen in

the world,” but his heart is left void and desolate. So also is it with unholy

ambition. We think of Sennacherib saying to Hezekiah, “Where are the

gods of Hamath?” etc. (Isaiah 36:19-20), thus proclaiming defiantly his

victories; or of Herod sitting upon his throne, arrayed in gorgeous apparel,

making his oration to the people, and priding himself in their flattery as he

heard their cry, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (Acts 12:21-23);

and whilst on the one hand we see in them representatives of

the lovers of power, of outward show, of flattery and applause, we see on

the other hand men who, amidst all these outward pretences, were

inwardly empty, waste, desolate. And there may be this spiritual desolation

amidst much of apparent good. It does not follow that because a man is

becoming thus spiritually desolate, his heart is necessarily closed against all

that is good, or that because a man is susceptible of some good he is not

spiritually becoming waste. There may be love of kindred with all those

praiseworthy acts to which this may prompt. There may be large and

generous sympathies. Attention, too, may even be paid to religious

observances; and yet with all this the heart may be closed to the heavenly

influences of the Spirit of God, and may be found at length a moral waste

(Proverbs 4:23). Think of the inestimable value of that Sacrifice, the

design of which was the putting away of sin and the raising to honor and

dignity those whom sin had covered with ignominy and had plunged into

ruin. Our very desolation has rendered us the objects of the special concern

of the Most High (John 3:16). Trusting to Christ, we become delivered

from sin with all its thraldom and misery. And the happy era shall at length

dawn, to which we look forward with longing, expectant hearts, when the

entire moral aspect of the uuiverse shall be changed, and “the desert rejoice

            and blossom as the rose.”

 

 

SPIRITUAL DESOLATION IS EVER THE OUTCOME OF EVIL. It is

the natural tendency of sin to render the transgressor desolate in heart; indeed,

a man cannot indulge in a course of evil without his inner self, his spiritual

being, becoming waste. A man yields to the sin of avarice, and perhaps as

the result of its indulgence he gains his hundreds and thousands, gets the

best of many a bargain, and at length amasses a fortune; but then he loses

peace of mind, kindliness of heart, the joy resulting from cherishing all

generous impulses, and probably also his soul; so that whilst in the worldly

sense he has succeeded, he has prospered at a terrible sacrifice, even the

withering of his highest and noblest powers; he has “got on,” has “risen in

the world,” but his heart is left void and desolate. Herod sitting upon his throne,

arrayed in gorgeous apparel, making his oration to the people, and priding himself

in their flattery as he heard their cry, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man”

(Acts 12:21-22); and whilst on the one hand we see in them representatives of

the lovers of power, of outward show, of flattery and applause, we see on

the other hand men who, amidst all these outward pretences, were

inwardly empty, waste, desolate. And there may be this spiritual desolation

amidst much of apparent good. It does not follow that because a man is

becoming thus spiritually desolate, his heart is necessarily closed against all

that is good, or that because a man is susceptible of some good he is not

spiritually becoming waste. There may be love of kindred with all those

praiseworthy acts to which this may prompt. There may be large and

generous sympathies. Attention, too, may even be paid to religious

observances; and yet with all this the heart may be closed to the heavenly

influences of the Spirit of God, and may be found at length a moral waste

(Proverbs 4:23). Think of the inestimable value of that Sacrifice, the

design of which was the putting away of sin and the raising to honor and

dignity those whom sin had covered with ignominy and had plunged into

ruin. Our very desolation has rendered us the objects of the special concern

of the Most High (John 3:16). Trusting to Christ, we become delivered

from sin with all its thraldom and misery. And the happy era shall at length

dawn, to which we look forward with longing, expectant hearts, when the

entire moral aspect of the universe shall be changed, and “the desert rejoice

and blossom as the rose.” – (Isaiah 35:1)

 

 

 

 

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