A SURVEY OF THE MINOR PROPHETS, Part 5

Micah 3:1—12; Malachi 2:1—9

“Judgment is coming!” declared Micah, and there is way to escape it. Because of gross injustice in the land and because wealthy and/or influential people wanted it that way, judgment was on its way. The leaders of the land were taking advantage of both their privileges and their responsibilities.

1. Wicked leaders rebuked, Micah 3:1—4

Micah was a prophet who came from small, rural village in Israel but his ministry struck at the heart of the seat of power in the land. He prophesied during the 8th century BC when the future of the Jews was a little fuzzy. Babylon was in ascendancy as a world power, and the Jews were aware that they were flexing their military muscles. At the same time, the Jews were confident in their Covenant with God; that He would protect them. But Micah gave them a dose of reality. Trusting in the Covenant only worked when you were holding up your end of it. The leaders of the nation, by their sinful, rebellious actions, were steering the entire nation toward sure destruction.

a. Sins of injustice, vs. 1—3

Back in chapter 2, Micah wrote about the Shepherd:

I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. (2:12)

In contrast to that Shepherd, the rulers of Micah’s day behaved in exactly the opposite way. They had a total disregard and disrespect for God, His Law and the people they were charged to care for. The present rulers of the nation “hated good and love evil.” As we read these powerful verses, we see that these rulers were like cannibals, who were guilty of butchering God’s people, skinning them alive, and leaving them to fend for themselves.

God does not like people being treated unjustly by a nation’s leaders. When wickedness and evil take the place of justice and righteousness, there is only Person the people can appeal to: God. Those who practice injustice will ultimately face the God of justice; they cannot escape.

What makes leadership—at any level—fail? When leaders, civic and religious, place their personal preferences, their own ideas, evil, unfairness, and corrupt practices ahead of God’s Word and what God has ordained, that leadership will absolutely fail. These kinds of leaders were spoken of elsewhere in the Old Testament:

Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the LORD. (Psalm 14:4)

…those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among humankind. (Proverbs 30:14)

b. God’s refusal to listen, vs. 4

Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done.

It’s worse for leaders who plunge onward in ignorant or careless rebellion to God’s will than just ordinary people. People like that have no sense of the sacred stewardship that they has been given them, and of the negative influence they have on people. A leader with no moral authority, though he may say all the right things, will take a nation down the wrong path.

God’s answer to this situation is found in verse 4. Those who abuse their position of authority will find themselves on the outside looking in; utterly alone and without any resources if and when they cry out to God for help. Truly you reap what you sow.  We call this “poetic justice,” and it’s something Solomon taught in Proverbs 21:13—

Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

And in the New Testament, James writes about this as well:

…judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

2. God judges corrupt leaders, Micah 3:5—12

Micah zeroed in on the nation’s leaders in the preceding verses, and now he takes aim at another group of leaders: the false prophets of his day.

a. The curse of false prophets, vs. 5—7

For those who could pay their fee, the prophet would give a comforting word. But for the poor, who could not afford to pay a prophet, they were met with another word:

As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if you feed them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if you do not, they prepare to wage war against you. (verse 5)

These “men of God” were as corrupt and greedy as their political counterparts. They were yes-men, mercenary in their motives.

God will not permit this sin of misleading His people to go unpunished. To speak for God is no small matter, and those who do it in an intentionally inaccurate manner, would a “blinding” judgment from God.

The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God. (verse 7)

The judgment on false prophets reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 15:14—

Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.

And this was precisely what was happening; the false prophets were deluding the people. These religious hucksters would face an unenviable end. Their false words would be exposed for the lies they were and their false predictions of peace would be exposed by the fact of the Exile and Captivity.

b. Exile predicted, vs. 8—12

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, to Israel his sin. (verse 8)

In another contrast, Micah is totally different from the false prophets whom he just slammed. He was full of God’s power, and was able and qualified to speak for God.

But people do love the “placebo preacher,” who smiles broadly and dishes out homey bromides by the page. But when times get truly tough, that kind of preacher finds it hard to get work. At critical times, true believers yearn for the truth of God’s Word. The empty, brainless talk of “used car preachers” is cold comfort when it is not backed by God’s dynamic power.

Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. (verse 12)

In the face of all this blatant hypocrisy, Micah told it like was going to be! This must have taken amazing courage. True servants of God, those of yesterday and today, don’t care about what happens to themselves; they proclaimed the unvarnished Word of God with total disregard for the consequences.

The teaching of James Wolfendale ring true:

When teachers corrupt doctrine, and preachers withhold the gospel; when rulers and princes pervert equity, and neglect special duties for the defense of which they are put in office; they poison the stream of life and turn it into deadly fountains.

Because of all the poison in the land, Micah makes it crystal clear the the Exile on the horizon is a direct result of its corrupt leadership. Jerusalem would fall. The Temple would be destroyed. The leaders would have no one to blame but themselves.

3. A warning to spiritual leaders, Malachi 2:1—9

The last Minor Prophet is also the last book of the Old Testament, and his book is a little different from those of the other Minors. Malachi’s message was not written in poetic form, but in prose. Just like Micah, centuries before, Malachi’s message is full of power, especially for those in power.

Malachi’s message was a direct challenge to the a corrupt priesthood of his day. Malachi accused the people of a lackadaisical attitude toward the Temple and sacrificial system, but their attitude of complacency and indifference to God had grown out the sorry state of the priesthood.

a. A curse on the priests, vs. 1, 2

And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.”

The priests were not taking their position seriously; they did not even come close to honoring God in the proper fashion. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger,” was prophesying to the people during the time of Nehemiah and probably shortly before the days of Ezra, as Israel was trying to rebuild Jerusalem and their lives after their return from Exile.

During that Exile, the people had no Temple to worship in, and by the time they were released and allowed to return home, most of the people had never been in a Temple of God and no clue about the importance of the Law and the traditions that made their religion work.

Even the priests were like this. In particular, among other sins, the priests were allowing the sacrifice of lame or sick and diseased animals to the Lord, in defiance of the Law. These priests had no fear or awe of God and certainly no sense of responsibility.

There is nothing worse than a minister who goes into the pulpit with an unbelieving or unfaithful heart; who doles out “Readers Digest”-type sermons and pious platitudes to their congregation. It would be better for them to be the worst sinner on the block.

God’s curse on these priests had already begun, and they probably didn’t even know it. Their words of blessings upon the people would be turned into curses. Things would never improve for the the people as long as these despicable priests were there.

b. Covenant with Levi, vs. 3—6

God was about to make things very difficult for the priests, and ultimately the people. The days of any kind of prosperity were coming to an end. This curse would have far reaching implications for all except those from the tribe of Levi.

c. The true priesthood, vs. 7—9

What the priests should have done and how they should have behaved is held up in contrast to what they had actually been doing. The priests were supposed to be the teachers; the leaders in scholarship. But they had fallen from that ideal in Malachi’s day!

For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. (verses 7, 8)

Instead of leading people to the truth, these priests did the exact opposite! This kind of recklessness violated the covenant God had with Levi. God would not tolerate this kind of thing to continue. To have an ill-prepared minister, a lazy or incompetent pastor, a preacher only interested in lining his pockets is bad enough, but there is nothing worse that a deceiver, a schemer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing behind a pulpit!

So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law. (verse 9)

This seems to be a common judgment on wayward ministers: shame and humiliation. As many commentators have noted, not all the priests were bad, but because of the bad ones, all were tarred with the same brush.

Once again, as has been noted several times in our survey of the Minors, we see the law of reaping and sowing coming into play. Galatians 6:7—

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow.

The religious leaders of Malachi’s day thought they could live as they pleased; that they could dishonor the Name of God with impunity. But the learned, to their everlasting shame, that they were terribly mistaken. They received in their own lives what they had sown in the lives of others.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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