I often find myself wondering what it must have been like for the prophets of the Bible to receive the word of the Lord concerning His judgments upon their nations. They knew that what He instructed them to say would not be popular, and would be difficult to receive. Yet, they were obedient, often at great personal cost, to forewarn their countrymen of the coming justice from God's holy temple in Heaven.
Such was the experience of the prophet Micah, who lived from 740 BC - 670 BC. He was the first prophet to predict the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the capital of the ancient nation of Israel before its fragmentation into separate northern and southern kingdoms. Jerusalem then became the capital of the southern kingdom, Judah.
Micah was an equal opportunity prophet, rebuking the northern kingdom of Israel [as well as Judah] of dishonesty in the marketplace and corruption in government. He announced impending doom and judgment from God for enriching themselves while impoverishing their citizens. He announced, on behalf of God, their transgressions, rebellion, and idolatry... something common to nearly all the prophets of the Bible. So, why am I focusing on this minor prophet? Because, as I said in the previous post, the Holy Spirit unexpectedly brought this short book of seven chapters to my attention. As I read it, I could not deny that Micah's messages to the princes/leaders and people of Jerusalem could just as easily be given to us. Let me share with you what my spirit heard...
Micah begins his message with the earnest appeal for the people -- all of them -- to pay attention because the Lord God is going to be a witness against them. He is going to be "coming out of His place" because of the transgressions [rebellion] of the house of Israel and Samaria. Now for a little history ... the direct transgression he is referring to is the division of the nation of Israel into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But this was all set in motion years before by King Solomon when he built two houses: the house of the Lord and his own palace, the king's house. He then prostituted himself with Hiram, the king of Tyre, to receive gold to build the houses and multiple his wealth. As if that wasn't enough, he took foreign wives from Egypt, Moab, Ammon and other pagan nations. It was an alliance not countenanced by God.
Solomon sold the king of Tyre cities in the land of Galilee, virtually selling the birthright of the nation of Israel. And because of this corrupt alliance, the taxes were raised to fund all that Solomon owned, resulting (after his death) in the conflict between the ten northern tribes, under the rulership of Jeroboam, and the two southern tribes, under the rulership of Rehoboam. Solomon's slide into idolatrous worship [against the manner of worship God had prescribed] eventually led to Jeroboam's own fall from grace. He had been Solomon's superintendent over the taxes and labor of the citizens to maintain Solomon's extravagant lifestyle. He was effective in that role; enough so, that the prophet Abijah revealed to Jeroboam God's intention to make him a ruler of a new kingdom. When, after Solomon's death, Jeroboam attempted to explain to Rehoboam, the heir to Solomon's throne, that the northern tribes were too burdened by the taxation and labor, their demands were rejected and the nation of Israel split in two.
Both Israel and Judah would see their once prosperous and God-blessed nations slide into degeneracy and destruction. Jeroboam would altar the methods of worship that God had established by worshiping at the altars of pagan gods, appointing his own priests [from other than the tribe of Levi]; and changing the times of the Lord's Feasts. Rehoboam's leadership served the nation of Judah just as grievously. Using the trappings of power and wealth, he continued to burden his people with heavy taxes, and engaged in worshiping false gods, even to the point of giving a home in the Temple of Jehovah to heathen deities. The falling away from the ways of YHWH to worshiping false gods cost the people of ancient Israel dearly. God would use foreign kings and nations to discipline both kingdoms. The northern kingdom of Israel would be conquered by Assyria. From 740 BC to 722 BC the inhabitants were deported and taken into captivity; never to return to their homeland. Likewise, in 589 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 586 BC he destroyed the Temple and took the inhabitants of Judah into captivity for 70 years.
Both kingdoms traded their unique and blessed inheritance from the Lord for worldly wealth and power. In fact, they traded those blessings they had received from God and transferred them to foreign countries. All this is prophesied by the prophet Micah ... All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place [site of idol worship] of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country ... All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste, for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them, and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return (Micah 1:5-7).
I can't help but see a similarity to the sins of our nation. Have our leaders prostituted us to foreign nations for their own wealth and power? Have we entered into ungodly alliances with our enemies? Do our leaders seek to yoke us to heavier taxes and break the backs of the laborers instead of easing our burden? Have we, as a people, abandoned our God-ordained ways of worship for ways that feed our souls instead of our spirits? Are we falling for soothing and appealing words of false teachers who encourage us to embrace all religions as the same, worshiping the same God?
Micah 2:4 says, On that day they shall take up a [taunting, deriding] parable against you and wail with a doleful and bitter song of mourning and say, ‘We are completely destroyed! God exchanges the inheritance of my people; How He removes it from me! He divides our fields to the rebellious [our captors].’ I can't help but wonder if our enemies are mocking and taunting us in the same way. Will our leaders soon bemoan the state of the yoke they have placed upon us [by their immoral alliances]? Will they realize too late that the land they have taken from our hard-working citizens will be given into the hands of an idolatrous king?
And I know there are those who do not think that God's word against the ancient nation of Israel could possibly pertain to us. I hear all the time, that we are under the blood of Jesus, so we are not under the same condemnation or discipline that they were. But I will remind everyone that our God is Immutable, unchanging. It is not that He could change, but chooses not to. It is that He will always respond to everything according to His unchanging character. He is unchanging in who He is, in His perfection, in His purposes, and in His promises. So, while it may seem I only speak of doom and destruction; and it may be hard to accept that we are following this same path, and are deserving of His discipline, I will never fail to remind us all that by repenting, asking for forgiveness, and seeking His face, we can also be deserving of His promises.
In order to receive those promises, we must be honest with ourselves. Not one of Israel's ancient kings restored the true worship of God. And the result was unavoidable national captivity. I do not believe it was our destiny to repeat that heresy. But I cannot ignore that this nation does not honor and glorify -- yet alone, worship Him -- the way He desires. Yes, there is a remnant that is desperately seeking to restore that Biblical model. We must recognize that our God and His ways are eternal; they are unchanging. And the words He spoke through His messenger Micah, nearly 2800 years ago, still ring true. Let us pray together and endeavor with might and purpose to change the trajectory of our nation so that we can avoid the downfall that is looming. We do not have to repeat the sins of the past!
Next: Micah's message of hope to this generation!
Micah 2:1-2 Woe (judgment is coming) to those who devise wickedness and plot evil on their beds! When morning comes, they practice evil because it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away. They oppress and rob a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.