Micah 3:5, 8 (ESV)
5 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.
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.
The minor prophets are often difficult for us to read today. We just don’t live in their world. Thus, sometimes, we fail to see the significance of the things being said. When we read words like those above, we know that something important must be happening, but how are we to deal with that for today?
Here is an illustration that might help you understand the situation of Micah’s day. Think for a moment about a gangster movie, any mob flick from years gone by. In all of those movies, there were dirty cops who took bribes from the mob in exchange for ignoring the lawless behavior of these powerful men. But, for the movie to have a hero, there would be a few good cops who stood for justice no matter what.
One way to think of the prophets is as the law enforcement officers of God’s holy covenant. Israel made some very clear agreements with God at mount Sinai. In those agreements, God spelled out how he would rule Israel as their God and how he would protect Israel as his people. The protection was contingent on Israel’s following the commands of God as spelled out in the covenant law. At the same time, the covenant contained clear stipulations for what God would do to the nation should they decide not to follow him and turn to false gods.
During Micah’s day, the people of God who had agreed to the covenant provisions were refusing to follow God. They and their leaders were doing evil in God’s sight. Thus it was the duty of the prophets of God to remind the people of the law. The prophets were to tell the people that God was going to do what God had promised to do if they failed to turn from their sin and return to the Lordship of their God.
What was happening, however, was something entirely inappropriate. The people who were claiming the office of prophet or teacher in Israel were actually refusing to declare the clear word of God to the people. These charlatans would speak well to any person who paid them, fed, them, or otherwise treated them like royalty. They would speak harshly to anyone who dared oppose them or who refused to give them whatever they wanted. So, like dirty cops in a gangster flick, most of the supposed prophets were using their position for personal gain and were ignoring the clear word of God.
Micah, however, was not like the other prophets. He spoke God’s word to God’s people, Micah would clearly declare to Israel that they were living outside the bounds of the contract that the nation had made with God. He clearly warned them of the consequences of their behavior, including the coming judgment of God as promised in the law. Micah was not mean, just honest. And because of Micah’s devotion to the clear word of God, he was the true prophet of God.
With this picture in mind, we can see at least two ways to handle a passage like Micah 3. First, we can see that the word of God is true and priceless. Like Micah, we dare not compromise the clear teaching of Scripture, regardless of the supposed rewards offered us by our society. While some of the things that God’s word declares will not be in favor in society, we must not compromise the Scripture. Attempts to make the teachings of God more palatable to a people who are already rejecting God only lead to the kinds of compromises, heresies, and flat-out sin that we see in the false prophets of that day. Honor God by clearly, ,lovingly, and powerfully upholding his word.
Another take on this passage has to do with its gospel implications. Every minor prophet passage, including this one, shows us that there is a standard and that people never fully meet it. Thus these passages point us to the coming Son of God who will fully satisfy the law of God on our behalf and who will fully and perfectly take upon himself the penalty that we should have had to pay for breaking that law. What a joy it is to have a Savior who keeps us from living in a world of dos and don’ts. Now, because of the Savior, if we are in Christ, we live in a state of grace, the requirements of the law fully done, the wrath of God fully satisfied. There is no longer a fear that we can do the wrong thing and be outside of the covenant that God has made with us. The New Covenant makes all who are in Christ part of God’s forever family.