The Prophesy of Micah
Study by Bob Burridge ©2019
Study 4: Micah 3:1-12
The Greed Breed
There’s a lot of greed in our world today. People want to have more things even if it means taking advantage of others, neglecting their duties to God, or abandoning the rules of fair business. They want to have things go their way and make them feel good even if it takes lies. Many adjust their behavior to fit what pleases those from whom they need a favor, even if it means ignoring the truth or doing things they shouldn’t.
When Adam who represented us all went against God’s law, the whole human race descending from him dropped into a well of greed from which there is no escape except by the grace of God.
Today we see that self-serving attitude evident in arguments and accusations on TV, radio, social media, and the tabloids. It surrounds us. It threatens to discourage us, or to draw us to join in.
In the courts justice isn’t always blind. She often keeps one eye open peeking at the opinion polls so that she can appeal to what’s popular among the voters and political parties. We’ve seen TV and radio networks make public spectacles out of the judicial process, not for the sake of reporting the news, but to boost their ratings and to be able to charge more for commercial time.
Businesses often care more about financial gain than about the ethical principles God requires of us when we work, pay others for services and products, and invest.
Education is often planned not first by what our children need to know to become wise moral leaders and effective citizens. It doesn’t primarily teach them their duty of responsibly in using the gifts God gives them. Instead, many schools set up their programs and budgets by what will get the most special funding, job security for the teachers and administrators, and will shape the opinions of students to fall in-line with certain political and social opinions.
Even the religious devotions people love to hear and read are more like an anesthetic to keep us from the feelings of guilt. They fail to be a medicine to encourage us and to deliver us from sin by the grace of God through our Savior’s death in our place on the Cross.
Churches develop ministries to deliver what will appeal the most to the public and produce popularity along with the highest budgets and salaries. They often fail to center upon a humble worship of God, and the needs of its people to learn the full content of God’s word including its warnings and promises.
Modern man has become a breed of self-serving egoists. A greed breed. God will not bless this perversion of justice, truth, and mercy. There comes a time when God’s patience comes to it’s end, when judgment must come upon a corrupted society.
Only those will be spared and blessed inwardly who courageously put God first.
Micah delivered God’s indictment against the greedy leaders
Micah 3:1-3, And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?– you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron.
The heads of the Jewish nations were corrupt. It was their duty to know justice, but instead they knew greed. They practiced injustice, and obscured what’s good. They exercised their authority for their own advantage. Instead of carefully applying God’s law, they used their own standards. They twisted the law to satisfy their own desires, and to silence anyone who dared oppose them.
They made good to be evil, and evil good. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, said, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;” (Isaiah 5:20).
By obscuring God’s definition of good and evil, they denied their sin and the need for true holiness. In doing that, they also denied the need for a Savior. Salvation is only meaningful when there is a sense of danger from which there is a need to be saved.
They abused their calling and made it a way to fleece the flock. In Ezekiel 34 God pronounced judgment on the wicked shepherds. He said to them in verse 3, “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.” Instead of providing justly, they abused their authority. They took from those they were to take care of.
Micah describes them with some gory descriptions to show the abomination of what they were doing. It’s not speaking of literal cannibalism. But just like the wicked leaders Ezekiel warned, they used the law to take for themselves, instead of serving God and his people. Those called to oversee the sheep of God, were devouring them. The heads of Israel had become a breed of greedy exploiters.
God said he would bless the obedient, but curse the lawbreaker.
God withdraws from those who remain opposed to him
Micah 3:4-5, Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.
The Lord will not answer their cries. As it says in Proverbs 1:28 “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.”
The foolish confidently go after their greedy goals. But there comes a time when God will show that they are not his. When things begin to fall apart for them, when they aren’t getting what they want, he will shut his ears to their cries.
The Lord had a message for those greedy prophets. They talk about peace as long as the people they controlled put food in their mouth. They preached “peace and prosperity”, just what their benefactors wanted to hear. It was just like the false prophets in the days of Micaiah of Imlah. It’s like the false prophets in every period of history. They design their message not by what God tells them to say, but by what the people want to hear.
In the New Testament God warned his church similarly in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
This danger isn’t from the openly heathen, or ungodly rock stars, or pornographers. It came from those who appeared to be the leaders of God’s people. 2 Peter describes the danger to the church from false prophets in this church age in 2 Peter 2:2-3 “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words…”
Against those who didn’t give them food for their mouths these self-serving deceivers proclaimed war.
Because of their deeds the Lord will withhold his word
Micah 3:6-7, Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.
The Lord will withhold his light of understanding and revelation, and shame them. The setting of the sun into darkness represents God withholding blessings. Jeremiah said of God’s rebellious people, “her sun went down while it was yet day; she has been shamed and disgraced” (Jeremiah 15:9). The prophet Amos warned, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9)
The Lord is faithful to the promises of his covenant
Micah 3:8, But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
These corrupt leaders and teachers knew the words of the law, but ignored the principles behind those words and the conditions God had attached to his covenant with his people. There is also the promise which is made to those who are kept faithful by grace. God doesn’t abandon his true people.
Micah (in distinction from these false prophets) had a hopeful message from God. The faithful should be assured even when judgment falls around them. The God of Grace sends his true word and promise to his faithful people by means of true prophets like Micah and Jeremiah. There are always those who have not bowed their knees to idols.
1. God enables his people with power and by his Spirit.
The gospel has more power than we might expect. Don’t underestimate the power of God’s truth and of the Holy Spirit. The Messiah secured by grace blessings no one deserves. It’s by grace because no one on his own is truly obedient in all things. Christ died to pay for our moral crimes against God. He lives in us to enable us to live for him. Those who are truly his are enabled to improve in overcoming inward greed.
2. God establishes justice.
Justice remains alive and well though the world obscures it. God’s standard never changes. His promise of justice is never laid aside or forgotten, but it may be at times delayed toward some. The day of judgment will come to the ungodly who pervert justice and abuse the authority they have over others. Our job is to submit to the true standard of what is right: God’s word. We are to live by that standard and admit that it exposes all of us as guilty. But we are also assured that those who are oppressed, yet who trust in the promises of God’s gracious care, will find blessing in the Messiah. He endured our just punishment in our place.
3. God grants his people courage to stand up against sinful oppression.
The false prophets ignorantly, pridefully, say they lean on the Lord! They even say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster will come upon us.” (3:11). They didn’t want the truth. They preferred a lie. God’s people should take courage and expose these departures from God’s truth and law. We need to abandon the greed breed. Expose their parentage. The unrepentantly greedy are sons of hell, not sons of heaven.
Because of greed the oppressors will suffer great loss and destruction.
Micah 3:9-12, Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
1. The civil leaders acted for their own benefit.
They took from the people and built palaces, lived in luxurious abandon, and made impressive monuments to themselves.
2. The priests and prophets adjusted their message for self benefit.
You would think the clergy, the priests, and prophets would call the nation back to God, and would seek to be its conscience. But no! They were too busy with their own self-interests. Yet they claimed God’s presence and protection!
God’s law was not being applied objectively. It was used to silence their opponents and to further their own agenda. The servants of the Lord were being punished in the land, not the lawbreakers. Meanwhile the false prophets lived in luxury in the corrupted palaces. Corrupt leaders throughout history jailed Micaiah, Jeremiah, John the baptist, the Apostles, the Reformers, and the Puritans. For their greed they will suffer great loss and destruction.
This warning was literally fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Temple in 586 BC. It came again in the violent destruction of the rebuilt temple by Rome in 70 AD.
The leaders of the people disobeyed God’s ways in order to get what they want, but what they will get instead is destruction. The greedy want what they think they deserve. They will ultimately get what they really deserve! They don’t get (for long or with satisfaction) what they are greedy for.
Greed grows well in the fertile soil of fallen hearts.
As descendants of Adam we are a greedy breed of creatures. Micah’s words cross the millennia and come to us here today. What motivates us? What’s behind our every-day plans and decisions? Is it greed? Do we live to get? We are good at seeing greed in others, but do we dare to honestly judge ourselves by the same standard?
– What determines how we budget and spend our time each day? each hour our God gives us?
– What determines our financial budget? Does it begin by giving God his tithe when we gather for worship? Do we consider how all our spending contributes toward God’s glory?
– What drives us as we interact with our families? how we perform our work and chores each day? how we conduct ourselves out in the community and in the marketplace?
Do we see and grieve over our tendency toward greed, or do we cover it over? We shouldn’t be a part of the greed breed. It won’t get us what we might think it will.
The cure is found in the grace of God that sent our Savior to die on a cross to redeem us lost sinners, and to transform us from being self-centered creatures into being God-centered creatures. God gives us some basic tools which he uses in our lives to help us to accomplish this important spiritual growth. We are to study his word preserved for us in the Bible, engage in sincere and regular prayer, gather for worship on Sundays where we partake of the Sacraments Jesus gave us, and we encourage one another in the family of believers to be growing into Christ-likeness.
Our thoughts should be filled with things that are pleasing to God, and we should do our part in spreading the life-changing gospel message to those brought across our path each day. Christ provides well for his people. In him is life abundantly. We need to seek his kingdom and righteousness in all we think and do.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Index to the Studies in Micah