This morning I have fresh on my mind an interaction between me and three people down at the city square last night. For quite some time I talked to a woman named Melissa and we had a wonderful conversation. I got to hear a little bit about her life and we were able to talk about faith. Then a man named Michael came over and he joined into the conversation. Again, we had a wonderful conversation as well. I got to hear about his life and we were able to talk about his knowledge of the faith.
But then a third friend of their rode up on a bike. Initially he did not say anything. In fact, he seemed to have no desire to engage any way. And to be honest, I did not engage him in conversation. At that point I was too focused in on my discussion with Michael. But at some point Joe spoke up and there was anger in his eyes. He made it clear that he did not think Christianity was real, he thought it was foolish and he spoke of Christ in very blasphemous ways.
Initially I tried to talk with him. He would ask me questions and I would try my best to answer them but Joe would not let me finish one sentence. I have to admit that I became very frustrated. There was part of me that wanted to simply stop talking to him but there was another part of me that really did want to talk with Joe and to answer any questions that he might have. There was part of me that would even want to just listen to him and to show him that a Christian can love him even when confronted by someone who thinks this is all so foolish.
As time went on there were times when I found that my responses were not always done in the way that I would have liked. I found that it was getting harder and harder to talk to Joe without raising my voice or responding in a manner that was, quite frankly, more Chris, then it was Christ-like. And at that point Joe and I walked away from each other.
I mention all of this because this illustrates the very thing that I was wanting to talk about in the sermon today. I wanted to take this sermon and to appreciate Micah for ministering the way that he did to the culture he did, under very difficult circumstances.
So as we get going this morning I will tell you up front that this will be a two part sermon. This week we will see how Micah is a great example of a man who was led by the Spirit to interact with leaders who were godless and wicked. And in doing so, Micah would eventually come to the end of his abilities and have to draw upon the grace of God to continue to minister in a way that would be Spirit empowered and God glorifying. Micah can show us how to interact with men and women who have come to love evil and hate the good.
Next week we will go farther into this text, and perhaps into the next text to see the comfort that we can have even in hearing Micah talk about such things as we find in verses 2-3. A believer can be filled with hope when evil men are in power. A believer can be filled with hope even when God responds to these evil men with great judgment and discipline in which the believer gets caught up in.
In chapter three Micah is addressing the wickedness of the political, social and religious leaders in Israel and Judah. He is addressing the king and his household, political leaders, religious leaders and the false prophets of his day. Micah lived during a turbulent and chaotic time and it would have been so easy to have been caught up in all of the chaos and confusion. Micah was called to minister with a level head and heart of boldness through it all. In doing so, Micah becomes a good example for us.
We too are called to go into all the world to preach the gospel. Consider Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So when we go out and we encounter all sorts of reactions and when we are put into difficult situations; what should our reaction to all of this be? What should our disposition and demeanor consistently reflect as we draw upon the presence of Jesus and the graces that He alone can provide?
Micah will give us a good example in Micah 3 of what this can look like.
In Micah 2:6 the leaders of Micah’s day had very little patience for Micah and others like him. They said to him, “Do not preach, (You all) should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”
How would Micah respond to such opposition and to the rejection of the message he preached? (Persistence, Power, and Patience)
Notice the very first words of our text today, “And I said”.
- Micah does not yell, scream, shout
- He does not insult, show contempt, disgrace them, disrespect them
There are two things that we can hardly talk about in our culture anymore without seeing major rifts occur, feuds and fights break fourth, and broken-fellowship occurs. We cannot discuss politics or religion without there being fights, ugly disagreements and conflicts.
And these are the very two things that Micah is continuing to put as the central part of his message before the leaders and before the people. And with all of the tension and stress that this can create our text begins with three simple words, “And I said”.
I will admit to you that in the context of this book, and even the context of these verses, these words seem mild, anticlimactic, soft and weak. To be honest, given the context, these words seem to be inappropriate.
Why? These leaders hate the good and love the evil. They are not indifferent to good or evil. They are not lukewarm in regards to good and evil.
- They passionately love evil with an insatiable appetite
- They despise, hate and utterly reject whatever is good, right and godly.
Where is Micah’s outrage?
Where is the prophets sense of urgency?
Where is Micah’s passion for the plight of the people who are languishing at this time?
These leaders are ‘cannibalizing’ the people. They are taking their houses, their inheritance, perverting the Word of God and showing no pity toward the people and there is no fear of God in their heart.
In modern language we would say of them:
- They rip the people to shreds
- They are throwing the people under the bus
- They are stabbing them in the back
- They are throwing the people over the cliff into the rocks below
Micah’s graphic language concerning the sin of these leaders (2-3)
“They tear the skin from off of my people, and their flesh from off of their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off of them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron.”
Notice that it is within this context of these words that Micah speaks to them and says, “And I said...Is it not for you to know justice?” There is no yelling, screaming or insults. There is no malice spewed towards them from Micah. Although his words are shocking, he is not seeking ‘shock value’. In other words, He does not want the real issue to be lost at this point, “Is it not for you to know justice?”
Is Micah timid? No
Is Micah’s heart hard?
Has Micah’s heart been jaded? No
Micah 1:8 “For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches.”
How does Micah describe his ministry? Micah 3:8, “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 and to Israel his sin.”
Listen to these words by the old Puritan Richard Baxter, “If our words be not sharpened, and pierce not as nails, they will hardly be felt by stony hearts.”
Micah’s words are like nails (especially when compared to the words of the false prophets). His words are meant to press upon their hearts, not to kill them, but to bring conviction and true repentance. He is seeks a God honoring reaction from them that the Lord will graciously respond to.
They will indeed respond in verse four, “They they will cry to the Lord...” But because it is not true repentance we read, “...but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.”
True repentance is not merely a reaction to the nails of judgment upon the flesh of men; but it is the reaction that comes from the sharpened nails of the gospel upon the heart.
Notice that our text opens with the word, ‘And’, “And I said”. Micah is building upon something that he has previously talked about and let me make three observations concerning this.
First, Micah is well into his ministry at this time. He has been engaged in ministry long enough to be hardened and jaded by his difficult call. He has been in ministry long enough to be tired, exhausted and weary. But even at this point, Micah continues to speak to these leaders. This shows that he has learned to draw upon the grace of God to remain faithful and fresh in ministry.
Could it be that when we see so many being impatient, unkind, hostile, rude and arrogant towards others today it is a sign that the majority of people are not drawing upon the grace of God to help them love, be gentle, and merciful to others?
Secondly, consider what came right before this. Micah 2:12-13, “ ”
This good word that he just gave does not mean that Micah never has to address sin again. [When I buy new clothes I am notorious about never using the old ones ever again. But a preacher often returns to the topic of sin so that the unbeliever can see their great need for a Savior and so that the believer puts no confidence in the flesh but walks with the Spirit.]
Nor does preaching this good word mean that people will immediately get saved. The preacher needs to continue addressing sin and the promise of God to save us while we are powerless to save ourselves.
Thirdly, notice that when we are consistently to faithfully preach the Law and the Gospel a more proper diagnosis of the heart can be made. Isn’t that what we see going on in verse four? “They will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.”
Perhaps the confusion on these very things in our day is an indication that we have failed to preach the gospel in its totality consistently and faithfully. Then we can say confidently with the apostle John, “Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth in not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:4-6)
Let me briefly give you five reasons why Micah is calmly communicating with these people at his time.
- Why Micah is persistently preaching to them
- Why Micah is passionately trying to persuade them
Reason #1 – This is clearly in our text but it is easy to overlook. Simply put, Micah desires to be heard.
“And I said, Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!”
Again in 3:9, “Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight.”
As a preacher I need to speak with a demeanor that will compel you to hear for that occasion.
Reason #2 – Micah is speaking for the Lord and representing Him in his ministry to these leaders. As such, Micah puts on display the grace of God through word and deed.
Consider 1 Timothy 4:16 when Paul speaks to Timothy, “Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Micah is going to act in such a way that he will not hinder the message he preaches. He knows that the Word of the Lord is powerful and it needs to be given every opportunity to produce repentance in his audience.
Consider Martin Luther’s words, “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip and my friend Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.”
Reason #3 - Perhaps one reason Micah can speak at his time and not yell is because he was will aware that the Spirit was the primary enablement behind his message. Again, Micah 3:8 says, “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 and to Israel his sin.”
Paul was aware of this too. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Reason #4 – Paul says in Romans 2:3, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” Micah’s message is like sharpened nails but his demeanor reflects that of the Lord for whom he speaks, and after whom he is named.
Reason #5 – Listen to 1 Timothy 3:1-3 concerning the qualifications of an overseer and elder. “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self- controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”