As we read our text today we find that the prophets had declared war upon the poor and the disadvantaged. They had declared war with the righteous, the godly and the upright. Those who could not give them what they wanted, or who would not give them what they wanted, they sought to destroy. But those people who would give them the things that they declared “Peace” upon. As a result of this, some were embroiled in a battle and all others were led astray far from the Lord not knowing that this would cost them their life (Proverbs 7:23).
Those who did not give these false prophets a bribe would immediately find themselves facing an army of people who were set against them. We see this in verse five, “...but (they) declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.”
The battle has become one man against the many. It was a group of powerful people, against an individual.” And once this person is isolated they become easy prey for the predator unless the Lord intervenes. This is how David prayed when he faced such an adversary in Psalm 25:16, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
In some ways these men are like snakes and vipers. This is because at the end of verse 5, when we read, “...who puts nothing into their mouths”, this wording often has to do with snakes in scripture. This is the meaning in 10 of 11 of the times that it is mentioned in scripture. These men, like snakes, are deceptive and deadly. Like malicious, murderous, sinister serpents they kill their victims to feed themselves. (Exegesis of Micah, Waltke, p.159)
Therefore, these men are like those that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 23: 32-34 saying, “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” (32-35) These men in Micah’s day and the ones that Jesus addressed here were deadly serpents who persecuted and killed godly people.
Notice how bold these men are in their ungodliness and greed when they declare war against such people. That word, ‘declare’, in verse 5 speaks of declaring aloud and announcing before all the people that a war has begun.
Boldness such as this is often seen in the gospels and in the book of Acts. With these words they seek to stir up the emotions, passions and fervor of the people; so that, the people will turn against their victim. In this way, theses rulers can often be used to fulfill the wicked rulers desires while they are able to keep their hands clean in a sense (Matthew27:23). Let’s look at two examples.
Consider Matthew 27:20-23,
“Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’”
Consider Acts 21:27-31,
“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place...Then the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And ...they were seeking to kill him.”
These false prophets have multiple victims in verse 5. These men are using their office and power (2:1) to enrich themselves and to harm others. And they lead God’s people astray leading them also to their own demise (You lead my people astray). We see this also in Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
So, in our text the Lord is going to respond in two ways towards them. First, there will be a day of darkness coming upon them. Secondly, the Lord sends men like Micah to them to wage war against them. But please note that it is the Lord that is at work in both these things. In other words, we will see that it is not God accomplishing what is found in verses 6-7 and what Micah will accomplish is verse 8. Without Micah being filled with the Spirit of the Lord, there would be no verse 8. Micah would not be able to minister. All ministry should be Spirit enabled ministry.
Let’s consider the fact that the Lord will send darkness upon them.
We see this in Micah 3:6-7,
“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.”
There is a time of night and darkness which will overtake them. And as a result of this, they will be disgraced, shamed and they will cover their mouths.
There are two reasons that they will respond by putting their hands over their mouths. First, they have unclean lips. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, speaks of this in Isaiah 6:1-5.
“And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (5)
Let me point out a few parallels to Micah 3:5-8 from this verse. First, Isaiah, when in the presence of God, feels lost and undone, and the only cure for this is from the Lord. In Micah 3:5 the Lord says that these prophets “Thus says the Lord who lead My people astray”. This speaks of the wanderings of a lost person or of the staggering of a drunken stupor. These people are going astray mentally and morally into sin and transgression. They are lost in their sins and have wandered away from the Lord, and they need to be rescued. (John 10:6 – ...but go to the lost sheep of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Secondly, Isaiah is immediately aware that he and the people have unclean lips. Their lips need to be cleansed and there is only one way to be cured for such uncleanness – the Lord. Isaiah 6:6, “Then one of the Seraphim flew to me having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
The second reason that they will cover their mouths can be seen in the following ways. It is because they have no ability to have visions, dreams or to see anything. They will be put to shame when the Lord does not speak and respond. (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:17-18) They will be ashamed when the things that they have promised, like peace to those who gave bribes, are proven to be false; and when the destruction of the righteous is not completed, as a remnant will be saved. They will also be ashamed when they find that their trust was in worthless idols. We see that they have mixed true worship with pagan worship when we read that they practice divination (6). This is an occult activity where one seeks omens and it is forbidden in scripture (Dt. 18:10; 1 Sam. 15:23).
(Psalm 24:3-4 – Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.)
(Jonah 2:8 – Those who pay regard to vain idols, forsake their hope of steadfast love.”)
As a result of these things, these prophets would now be left powerless and made to be blind. Much like what happened to Samson when he too did not steward his calling in a godly manner; and thus the Spirit left him and he was powerless and made blind. (Judges 13- 16)
The second way in which God has responded to them is by sending the prophet Micah to them. As a true prophet, Micah had been given the Spirit of the Lord and equipped for the mission that he has been given. We see this in verse eight, “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.”
Micah has been equipped and well supplied specifically for this mission. He has been outfitted for this task and endowed with these much needed graces. Micah has the Spirit of the Lord and with Him come many blessings. Micah lists three here: power, justice and might. To be sure, the gifts and blessings available to believers cannot be limited to these. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is joy, peace, grace, wisdom, knowledge, boldness, mercy, etc.
Micah has received power. Through the Spirit his ministry, his life and his words are endued with dynamic power. He is given physical and psychological strength to endure opposition and discouragement that might often be associated with his ministry at this time. This power gives Micah the courage to stand up, at the peril of his life, to address wrongdoers.
(Psalm 20:8 – They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.)
(Isaiah 40:30-31 – Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.)
With this power, Micah will address the people by declaring to them their sin and transgression (8). Here, the word ‘declare’ means to hold out and to place in a conspicuous spot before a person.
Jesus boldly declared the truth before men like Micah speaks of here. I think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:55 as I consider this verse. “At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day, I sat in the temple teaching...”
With this power, Micah will not be timid, weak, too shy, or too complacent to do this; rather, he will with great power declare their sin to them so that they might cry out with David, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” (Psalm 25:11)
Micah has also been given ‘justice and might’. It has been said, “Justice with no might is toothless; might with no justice is brutal.”
This word speaks of strength, power and valor; which are all languages of war. Since these false prophets had declared war on him, he has been made capable against his adversaries. Capable of executing a triumphant and victorious battle. He will not back down from just causes and issues. His voice will be heard in Israel and in Judah as he speaks of their sin and their transgression.
God has called upon men and women who were full of the Spirit to fulfill His purposes in this world. Let me give you just a few brief examples.
In Acts 6, when the apostles sought to find men capable of feeding the widows, they told all the disciples to find those among them who were of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
Stephen was one of the seven men chosen who was described as ‘a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit’. (6:5) Not only did this enable him to be faithful in this calling to the widows, but he was also gifted of the Spirit to speak boldly, like Micah, to those of his day. He preaches to them a sermon and ends by saying, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (51-53)
Because of these words the people were enraged and sought to kill him. We then read these words, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (55-56) When Stephen needed the Lord the most, the Lord was there, this was not case for the false prophets of Micah’s day.
Another example is found in Paul. In 2 Timothy, Paul mentions twice that at this time in his ministry he had been abandoned and left alone by all (1:15; 4:16). Yet Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit, knew that the Lord was with him through it all. “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me... But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lions mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:15, 17-18)
What a great comfort it was for Micah, Stephen and Paul to know that the Lord is with them and in them! Empowering them to live life, do ministry, to speak boldly, and to die gracefully.
Do you seek the Lord’s presence and grace in your individual life, in your family life, in your vocation, and in your ministry? Are you equipped for the calling you have? Are you receiving strength, power and might; so that you can say with Paul, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (1:12) And how would Paul specifically guard what he had been entrusted with? He goes on to say, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (1:13-15)
We all have been called to be engaged in some ministry and in some battle. Against great odds and despite our weaknesses we are to have victory. But how? Consider the words of Richard Sibbs as,
“We both fight and prevail in the power of his might...In all, especially difficult encounters, let us lift up our hearts to Christ, Who has Spirit enough for us all… There can be no victory where there is no combat. The victory lies not upon us but upon Christ, who hath taken upon Him as to conquer for us, so to conquer in us. Let us not look so much who are our enemies, as who is our Judge and Captain; not what they threaten, but what He promises.” (Spurgeon Heir of the Puritans; The Bruised Reed) (CF Psalm 20)
Let me close with these words from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 7,
“So to keep me from being conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”