The work of the prophets must have been tough for them. Tough because for all the hope and the glad tidings that were wrapped up in the messages they received, there was the present condition that had to be addressed. A good example of how tough that task was is seen in the words Micah shares,
I will mourn and lament.
I will walk around barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
and moan like an owl.
For my people’s wound
is too deep to heal.
It has reached into Judah,
even to the gates of Jerusalem. (Micah 1:8-9 NLT)
Those are heavy words from a man who has heard from God with news about God’s people that will be a bitter pill to swallow. Not only that, but it will be very tough for the people to endure and they only have themselves to blame.
Among other things Micah shares, there is something about the behaviour of the leaders and the prophets that I thought was interesting about why God will bring about judgement.
“Listen, you leaders of Israel!
You are supposed to know right from wrong,
but you are the very ones
who hate good and love evil. (Micah 3:1-2 NLT)
Micah outlined previously how people would plan to do evil to the point of robbing people of their inheritance in the desire to gain more property and material riches. This particular tactic was highlighted in the reign of Israel’s King Ahab who, with the help of his wife Jezebel, was able to take a vineyard that was the rightful inheritance of a man called Naboth. To gain the property an elaborate religious ruse was raised as the pretext to falsely accuse Naboth, have that accusation ratified by the people and leading to Naboth being killed and Ahab grabbing the vineyard for himself.
That kind of behaviour should have been condemned, but as that was the life of the leaders who was there to condemn the leaders?
That role should have been taken by prophets – and although Elijah at that time confronted Ahab, Micah – years later – has an accusation about the nature of the prophets as a whole.
You false prophets are leading my people astray!
You promise peace for those who give you food,
but you declare war on those who refuse to feed you. (Micah 3:5 NLT)
Rather than addressing the issues that mattered with God’s call for justice and for those who are poor and oppressed to have relief and support, the prophets were only going for sponsored messages that fit with the requirements of the sponsors. Injustice would abound whilst the ears of the powerful was being soothed.
That reinforces the charge God makes against His people. There is also the issue as to whether or not God wants all the religious activities that people thought would be acceptable. Look at the self-absorbed thinking: We’re in trouble with God, we might be under attack. Maybe if we give more sacrifices and attend more religious services and jump through the hoops, maybe God will respond to that. Maybe as long as we can give the impression of being pious and express the right things, God will be happy with that.
God’s response to that is to bluntly refuse any of those religious trinkets.
This leads to a famous quote referred to from Micah,
O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NLT)
This is the heart of the charge against the people. From the leaders and the prophets, to the cities and the countryside; from the Northern Kingdom of Israel even seeping into the Southern Kingdom of Judah – what was required from the Lord was not being met. The people no longer loved mercy – they were ruthless to each other.
The people were not interested in doing right, when they thought they could benefit themselves from doing evil. And at the essence of that was their attitude when it came to God. If we acknowledge God is the Most High ruler of creation, that should lead to a response of humility from which the desire is for what’s right and the love is there for mercy to others.
That’s the heart of His charge against the people then. How does that charge relate to us today?
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden