As I continued my study of Micah, I found a somewhat related point to my previous post. Micah’s accusation against Israel is primarily lodged against her elite: the prophets, priests, and rulers. Let’s take a look at some of the relevant passages.
Those who have power covet their neighbors possessions and steal them:
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance (2:1-2 ESV).
The rulers of Israel, who are tasked with the responsibility of knowing God’s law, loving God’s law, and meditating on it day and night, hate the good and love the evil. Their disdain for his law and their own countrymen is described as cannabalism. They are said to feed on their subjects:
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 (3:1-3 ESV).
The prophets, men tasked with knowing God’s Word, knowing the sins of the people, and warning Israel to return to covenant faithfulness, have abandoned this task. Instead, they are like Grima Wormtongue from the LOTR series. They whisper in the ears of rulers and priests that all is well. God is happy with his people. No danger lurks in the shadows. God has abandoned these men. They have no prophetic vision. They have no connection to their God.
Thus the LORD says 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. 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 (3:5-7 ESV).
Rulers and judges take bribes to rule in favor of the rich. Priests covet the sins of the people in order that they might profit from their sacrifices. All the while, the prophets reassure the people that god is not angry with them. The Lord condones their actions. He is in on their side.
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” (3:11 ESV).
All of these accusations come to a head in 6:1-8. Here God brings a charge against his people. The passage begins by God calling upon the mountains to serve as witnesses against his people. After the mountains have been summoned to act as witnesses in this cosmological courtroom, we find a series of three questions (Waltke; TOTC, 210). In the first series, God asks his people what he has done to them. He proceeds to outline the various ways in which he has acted for their salvation in the past. The second series consists of the peoples response. The third series is God’s final word.
Hear what the LORD says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.
“O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (6:1-8 ESV)
Though Israel’s response in the second series may seem heartfelt, the observant reader will notice that Israel has not changed at all. In essence, Israel asks, “What can I do to make this go away? If thousands of sacrifices or thousands of rivers of oil are not enough, I’ll even offer my firstborn.” Israel is attempting to bribe God. Follow with me here. Israel’s elite is accused of asking for bribes, accepting bribes, and stealing their neighbor’s goods. Apparently they think the Just Judge operates the same way. Since God lodges a grievance against us, that must mean he wants us to bribe him into making this go away. As we might except, God responds by saying that he wants their hearts: he wants justice, humility, and uprightness.
The application may again seem remote. The thought of offering bulls, goats, and oil as sacrifice might seem grotesque (unless of course we are talking about good ole fashion barbecue). Yet, we do the same thing in our own way. What do you want God? Would it suffice if I read the Bible first thing when I wake up in the morning? What if I read it 10x times more than I do now? I’ll bring my children to church. If I do all these things, will you promise to stay out of my heart and out of my life?
No, none of these sacrifices suffice. God wants our hearts. He wants justice. He wants us to love one another. He wants humility, which means we stop exalting ourselves, we stop relying on ourselves and place our trust in him. He wants justice, not what benefits us.
This word needs to be constantly applied to my heart as much as it does to yours. I pray that God will do just that.
love the LOTR reference!