The NASB Ryrie Study Bible adds a subtitle to Chapters 3 and 4 together titled, A Message of Doom and Deliverance.
Micah opens the chapter in verse 1 with a brutal question for the leaders of Judah and Israel. "Is it not for you to know justice?"
In the beginning of verse 2 he emphasizes that these corrupt leaders hate good and love evil.
In the rest of verse 2 and verse 3 Micah uses a graphic image of the leaders acting as a butcher to flay the skin and meat from God's people, then breaking their bones and cooking them in a pot.
One might be tempted to call this exaggeration; but it paints a great picture of how the rich saw the people- a source of what they wanted. What do you call it when someone who has so much tries to take away the labor, effort, and means of those who have little. When you tax those who cannot afford it and give the tax to those who don't need it. When you side with the rich in court so they can take from those who can't live without it. It shows a callousness to see another person as resources to be pilfered.
Verse 4 goes on to say that they will cry out to the Lord, but He will not answer them. He will hide His Face because they have practiced evil deeds.
Sadly, it's not clear to me if the "they" in verse 4 is referring to rich doing the butchering or to the poor being butchered. Maybe there is a clue in the original text that the commentaries may know about; However, I would be wary of assuming it's the rich being punished here. Maybe it is to be inferred that the rich cry out later when they are being butchered by the enemies. However, the way it reads here, it would be God's people crying out as they are butchered by the leaders. Maybe that is counterintuitive; you may assume the Lord would sympathize with the people when the leaders are bad; but the people were doing evil. That's who Micah came to preach to- the people.
Just because one group is clearly bad; doesn't take God's eyes off of our sin. Maybe the president is really bad. Maybe you don't like what Congress or the courts are doing. That can be true AND it can be true that you, also, are sinning. Always be getting your own house in order before assuming that God will take your side in a fight. Always be searching your heart, and asking the lord to search it and tell you what YOU need to be working on. You'll have less time to be judging others.
That way, when you cry out to God, He will hear you and respond. It doesn't mean you'll love what He decides; but you will be able to trust that He isn't hiding His face because of your evil deeds.
Both MacArthur and Wiersbe state that it is the rulers whom God hides his face, as a consequence of previously butchering the people. This interpretation makes sense; but isn't written to express this clearly to me.
Verse 5 begins a section on false prophets.
He calls them "prophets who lead my people astray." I think that's significant. It tells us that they are false prophets, because they lead His people the wrong direction. But it also makes clear that, while false, they are still prophets. They said and did things that warranted the trust of the people to walk away from their God and followed the false prophets astray.
Maybe the people were so hungry to hear what they wanted, and were disenchanted to hear the real Word of the Lord. However, I still think it is significant that these people were called prophets. They had to have brought some false light to the table.
The reason I'm camping on this concept is because I see it everyday. People desperately want to believe in something; but they want to believe in something on their own terms. They don't want to be given a list of do's and dont's. They don't want want to believe that going to a Bible-preaching church each week would make their lives better. They want their food sweet and their moral to be relative to their personal preferences and choices. They want to define good and evil, based on their own emotions. I know vegans who treat it like a religion. It's all-consuming to them. I know people who are absorbed by their hobbies. Or careers. Or even another religion that's "easier" to follow than the light yoke of the Lord.
It's heartbreaking because these people have the same need as those following the Lord; but they aren't getting what they really need because the enemy has blinded them with a false light.
I've written about it a hundred times. It's so easy to judge the people of Judah and Israel. And it is terrible that they had so much first-hand, concrete, kinesthetic, timely relations with Jehovah and still failed. However, we have the Holy Spirit and Jehovah is still written on every heart. We are just as blessed, if not more, and we all still fail- apart from the righteousness of Jesus the Christ.
Wow. Bit if a rant there, huh? The point is this. I know it's become a bit cliche', but the best way to identify a counterfeit, such as a thing in your life that has become a false prophet, is to know the real thing so well that the counterfeit will be obvious. Know the Word. Stay in prayer. Keep your heart (and your neck) soft to the Lord. When the counterfeit comes, it can't lead you astray; you will be under the protection of the Almighty.
So anyway, back to the false prophets of verse 5.
The first complaint against them in this court proceeding is that can be mollified and predict "peace" when their mouths are being stuffed. The actual phrase is "when they have something to bite with their teeth." This may just mean food; but in the old Gold Rush days, one way to test for value in a metal was to bite to see how soft it was. I assume this might mean something similar.
However, if you had nothing of value to give, "they declare holy war." This may have been doubly offensive to the Lord. First, priests, prophets, preachers, and anyone in the ministry should careful consider those in need. The rich have needs also; but often, the Lord uses the need of man to bring him to the Lord. If a man arrives at the church or temple or ministry and they are first asked to give...an opportunity to glory the Lord and save a soul may have been lost.
Second, the use of the word "holy" gives me extra pause. They actual make it a HOLY issue if you don't have anything to give. They are implying that God demands the bribe or tax or offering being levied by the false prophet. I'm guessing that kind of behavior goes on the permanent record and brings with it particularly hot fires in hell.
Verses 6 and 7 offer a glimpse into the consequences for these false prophets.
- Therefore, it will be night for you
- without vision
- darkness for you
- with divination
- the sun will go down on the prophets
- and the day will become dark over them.
- The seers will be ashamed
- diviners will be embarrassed
- they will all cover their mouths because there is no answer from God.
This is strongly contrasted, in verse 8, by what Micah will experience:
- I am filled with power
- with the Spirit of the Lord
- with justice and courage
- to make know to Jacob his rebellious act
- even to Israel his sin.
Back to the Rulers
Starting in verse 9, Micah turns back to all of the various leaders with his message. He emphasizes that this group abhors justice. They twist everything that is straight. (Doesn't that sound like this crazy, upside down age?)
In verses 10 and 11 he charges them with the following sins:
- built Zion with bloodshed
- and Jerusalem with violent injustice.
- leaders pronounce judgement for a bribe
- priests instruct for a price
- prophets divine for money
- "Yet they lean on the Lord saying, 'Is not the Lord in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us'."
Again, it's already terrible to do these corrupt and heartless things with power given to you by the Lord. But to use His signature on the sin...dark and hot consequences...
Verse 12 tells the how this particular portion of the story will end.
"Therefore, on account of you,
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest."
MacArthur points out that this was brought about for Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
Wiersbe reminds us that God's love in unconditional. We did nothing to deserve or earn it. However His judgement is conditional. We are in a covenant and expected to do and to not do certain things. There is no way to read and believe the whole Bible and come to the conclusion that God hasn't put conditions on our behaviors. God was ok with the destruction of His beautiful city and Temple rather than to let them keep sinning. It's worth remembering that He is an unchanging God.
This ends chapter 3; but when you get to chapter 4, be sure to reread this last verse. It seems like a transition to end times prophesies related to this passage.
I guess the conclusion I can make now; before completing this combined collection of chapters 3 and 4, is that God does not restrain justice forever. If you're wondering why He isn't punishing so and so; or if you are dismayed that so and so seem to prosper despite their evil deeds- trust His Name and His Character. He is the Lord God Almighty, the Lord of hosts. none will escape consequences apart from the forgiveness of Jesus the Christ. Amen.