Micah – Week One
Today begins our study on Micah, the last minor prophet we’ll discuss. All of the minor prophets that we’ve covered (Amos, Jonah, and Hosea) are categorized as “minor” only because their written word in the Bible is much smaller than those considered to be major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel & Ezekiel). Labeling them as “minor” prophets certainly doesn’t indicate that their message was minor or insignificant. What each of them was given to say by God was just as important as their “major” counterparts. And like we discovered with Amos, Jonah, and Hosea, what Micah had to say to the Israelites is just as pertinent to us today.
The first chapter of Micah informs us that the Word of the Lord came to Micah in visions. In that first chapter, Micah addresses the judgment God will render to Samaria (which is the capital of Israel) and he describes the fall of the Northern Kingdom that will occur at the hand of the Assyrians several years later. If you recall, the Northern Kingdom (aka Israel) was invaded by the Assyrians, and the Israelites were taken captive and scattered. More than a hundred years later, the Southern Kingdom (aka Judah) was invaded by the Babylonians and taken captive. This first chapter of Micah describes what will take place. Micah 1:9 GNT “Samaria’s wounds cannot be healed, and Judah is about to suffer in the same way; destruction has reached the gates of Jerusalem itself, where my people live.”
We’ve talked a good bit about what the Israelites were doing (or not doing) that displeased God. The big one was idolatry. They had taken on worshipping other gods. There was sexual immorality. There were insincere and meaningless sacrifices to God. They were disobedient and had forsaken their covenant with Him. God’s chosen people had lost their passion for Him and their devotion to Him. Micah highlights a result of this fractured relationship with God: the loss of relationship between the people.
Micah 2:1 GNT “How terrible it will be for those who lie awake and plan evil! When morning comes, as soon as they have the chance, they do the evil they planned. 2 When they want fields, they seize them; when they want houses, they take them. No one’s family or property is safe.”
Most of us are of the age that we remember a time when the doors to our homes stayed unlocked during the day and when we didn’t worry about locking our cars ever. We slept with the windows open. Women could put their purses in the buggy at the grocery store and walk away without even thinking about it. Children could play outside all day long without an adult watching over them. Disagreements among people were resolved by discussion, compromise, and a good old-fashioned handshake.
Nowadays, it’s not enough to keep our homes locked. We have cameras on the doorbells, and alarms on every door and window. The only way most of us would sleep with the windows open is if the windows had burglar bars on them. We cling to our purses and possessions tightly. We keep a close watch on our children and grandchildren and are wary of any other adult that approaches them. Disagreements over property lines, loud music, parking spaces, and Black Friday deals are handled with closed fists and yes, sometimes, even gunfire. We live in a constant state of defense mode simply because we have to do so. Even in our 50, 60, and 70-something years, times have changed, and we no longer enjoy the fruits of a God-fearing, God-loving, and God-seeking world.
These studies of the Old Testament have certainly taught me that although we like to think of ourselves as so very different from the people to whom these prophets spoke, we’re not. George Bernard Shaw, the great playwright once said, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.”
I do believe that there are valuable lessons for us even in these obscure books of the Old Testament. What was said then has meaning for us today.
Micah 3:1 TLB “Listen, you leaders of Israel—you are supposed to know right from wrong, 2 yet you are the very ones who hate good and love evil;”
Leaders referenced in the Bible were often designated by God. God appointed Moses to go to Pharoah to deliver the Israelites from captivity. After having Jesse’s sons paraded in front of him, it was only when God said, “This is the one; anoint him” that Samuel named David as the future king. Jeremiah was told that his appointment came before he took his first breath. Jeremiah 1:4 TLB “The Lord said to me, 5 “I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” God met Saul, a most unlikely spokesperson, on the road to Damascus, and called him to preach to the Gentiles. Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Paul –all fulfilled their appointments and commitments to God even though they had some slip-ups in there from time to time.
But let’s not overlook those who were great disappointments. Do you remember King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon? Jeremiah 25:9 NLT “I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy.” But Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a great role model for the people of God in those days. “Nebuchadnezzar was essentially the representation of everything that embodies human sinfulness driven by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.”[i] He was the king responsible for taking Israelites into captivity and destroying the temple King Solomon had built. Nebuchadnezzar was the one who threw Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to participate in idolatry. By our definition, Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t qualify as God’s deputy, but God saw otherwise.
The New Testament gives us another example of an unlikely appointment. Mark 3:14-15 BSB “And He appointed twelve ones, and He called them apostles, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons.” The next few verses give a listing of those twelve chosen by Jesus and verse 19 closes the list with “and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.”
Scripture tells us that Nebuchadnezzar was appointed, and Judas Iscariot was appointed. Something just seems wrong about that though, doesn’t it? If we believe that God is all-knowing and that everything that has happened and will happen comes as no surprise to Him, then why are evil, God-rejecting, and self-motivated people put into leadership roles? The truth is, God sometimes gives us the leaders that we deserve. He will allow certain people to take on leadership roles in order for us to see that God should be our one true leader.
Micah addresses the leaders of the day stating that they should know right from wrong. And really what he’s saying is that they DO know right from wrong but they’ve chosen to disregard their moral compass. They’ve chosen to love that which is evil and despise that which is good.
Things haven’t really changed all that much, have they? It’s challenging to name leaders who do the right thing. This is a “duh!” statement, but don’t you find it incredible that even Christians can’t agree on the best candidate?
There is contention over who has been the worst United States President. Some of the US Presidents in our lifetime have made the list, but there are many from before our time that were considered to be not-so-good good leaders. Grover Cleveland had an affair with a widow which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. President Cleveland later paid for the child to be placed in an orphanage. [ii] Andrew Jackson is at the top of many lists of worst US Presidents. “During his lifetime (1767-1845), Jackson went from poverty to wealth because he personally embraced the institution of slavery.” “Records show he beat his enslaved workers, including doling out a brutal public whipping to a woman he felt had been “putting on airs.” And when any of them ran away, he pursued them and put them in chains when they were recovered. “[iii]
The corporate world has seen its fair share of leaders who should have known better. Scott Thompson was the CEO of Yahoo but resigned from his position when it was discovered he had lied about his college degree.[iv] Volkswagen had a CEO just a few years ago who is facing criminal charges. Martin Winterkorn, the ex-CEO of VW “agreed to pay Volkswagen nearly $14 million after an investigation found the former CEO failed to respond properly to signs that the company may have been using illegal diesel engine technology.”[v]
So, if we can’t count on presidents or CEOs to be good leaders, then certainly we can look to the ones standing behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings, right?
“Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard ranted against the evils of premarital sex, adultery, and gay marriage. That is, until he was caught in a gay sex scandal in 2006.” “Robert Tilton was a televangelist based in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale. It came out in 1991 that he was running a scam where he asked viewers to send him prayer requests, promising to pray over each plea. An investigative report found thousands of requests dumped in a garbage bin––but not until the televangelist kept checks, money orders, and cash for himself.”[vi]
Even more recently other church leaders have been caught doing what they knew was wrong. There is a documentary titled, “Hillsong: Megachurch Exposed” which details the downfall of two of its well-known leaders. One of the co-founders of the global megachurch, Brian Houston, resigned from his position earlier this year. “In January 2022, Houston stepped away from his ministry duties, citing a need to fight the criminal charge of concealing his father’s alleged past child sexual abuse. However, he was also under an internal investigation himself, and on March 18, Hillsong revealed that Houston had violated the church’s code of conduct by entering the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs during the church’s annual conference in 2019. Hillson also said that Houston exchanged an “inappropriate text message” with a staffer in 2013, “along the lines of, ‘If I was with you I would like to give you a kiss and a cuddle or a hug,’” resulting in her resignation. Hillsong blamed Houston’s actions on “sleeping tablets,” per the Christian Post.” Ironically, Houston had previously fired the well-known pastor of Hillsong’s New York City’s location Carl Lentz “in November 2020, citing “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.” [vii] It was soon revealed by Pastor Lentz himself that he had engaged in an extra-marital affair.
Just this week, I came across this headline: “Megachurch Leader Arrested Alongside Her Parents for Allegedly Torturing and Murdering Daughter” This took place in San Diego in August of this year. Leticia McCormack “the 49-year-old church elder was booked on a charge of murder, three counts of torture, and three counts of willful and cruelty to a child.”[viii]
The sad truth is we don’t have a lot of good, God-fearing leaders that make the news simply because doing the right thing and living by God’s definition of good isn’t newsworthy although it should be. Instead, our newsfeeds, our headlines, and our social media are filled with scandalous, salacious, back-biting, accusations meant to tear one another down for the sake of self-promotion and just pure meanness.
We’ve witnessed it throughout the years in political campaigns. Political ads used to be all about empty promises of what a candidate would do for their constituents; now the ads are all about digging up the dirt and slinging mud at the opponent making the campaigns much more about choosing the lesser evil.
Locally, our leaders consistently fail us, they disappoint us in their behavior, and their standards. Even celebrities that we admire and follow will let us down when we find out that they’re not what we imagined them to be. Even bringing it home, some of us didn’t grow up with God-fearing, Bible-reading parents who ensured we were raised in the church. So, what to do when we’re surrounded by godless, evil-loving, self-absorbed leaders who choose to live in the wrong rather than the right? Those who chose worldliness over Godliness.
“As Christians, we have only one authority, one compass: the Word of God.”Rev. Billy Graham
Our moral compasses no longer work the way they should. An actual compass “works by detecting the Earth’s natural magnetic fields.”[ix] But a compass can stop working properly if “the needle in the compass has become demagnetized. This means the needle is no longer capable of responding to the local magnetic field.”[x]
It probably comes as no surprise to you, but we are in threat of being demagnetized to God in almost every area of our life. We aren’t flooded by good leaders. We live in a world in which we are no longer surprised when outrageous wrongdoings and immoral behavior are revealed about people. It’s as if we’ve come to expect our leaders, our figureheads to turn out to be unrighteous.
But is there anything we can do or do we simply shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh well!”?
Micah was living in a time much as we do now and he didn’t just shrug his shoulders. Instead, he listened to God, and he spoke the truth. He addressed the wayward leaders and he also addressed the false prophets of that day.
Micah 3:5 NLT “This is what the LORD says: “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.”
What was happening was these false prophets were making promises of peacefulness and prosperity to those who catered to them. Warren W. Wiersbe said, “As long as they were given something to eat and drink, the prophets would declare whatever kind of message the donor wanted to hear.”
Here are some quotes by modern-day preachers and evangelists.
“You don’t have a god in you, you are one.” (Kenneth Copeland)
“Well, you need to hear about money, because you ain’t gonna have no love and joy and peace until you get some money!” (Creflo A. Dollar)
“Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.” (Paula White)
“I think the people already know what they’re doing wrong, and I certainly believe in Hell. But to me, when I see thousands of people before me, it just doesn’t come out of me to say, ‘You guys are terrible, and you’re going to Hell.’ I’d rather say that God is a God of mercy.” (Joel Osteen)
Let me share the reported net worths of these people.
Kenneth Copeland – $760 million.[xi]
Creflo A. Dollar – $27 million[xii]
Paula White – $6 million[xiii]
Joel Osteen – $100 million[xiv]
Promises of prosperity, declarations of self-importance, and assurances of tickets to Heaven apparently pay well.
It’s more popular to discuss “cheap grace” than “costly grace”. According to “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is essentially fake salvation, as real salvation requires a serious commitment. And fake salvation is dangerous, because it lures you into a false sense of security until you find yourself losing out on eternal life.”[xv]
Are we guilty of promoting cheap grace? Are we more concerned with telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear?
Paul speaks of false prophets in Romans 16:17 NLT “And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.”
We live in a world overflowing with false prophets and unrighteous leaders and they’re not just in a pulpit on Sunday mornings. We’ve allowed the world to take what God says is wrong and say it’s okay. We’ve permitted compromises, we’ve redefined what’s sinful and we have formed our own opinions on God’s Word based on our comfort and ease of mind. Somewhere along the line, we’ve buried the true gospel and adopted just the “good news” – “God loves us all. God wants you to be happy, prosperous and fulfilled.” We love sharing Jeremiah 29:11 with people as a means to persuade them to join the church and become Christian. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
We just kind of leave out the part that these words were spoken to the Israelites who were currently living in exile because they had turned their backs on God and disobeyed His laws every chance they got. These were His chosen people who chose not to choose Him. And, as a result, they were scattered and enslaved.
These are the verses before the famous verse of promise. Jeremiah 29:8 NIV “Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”
That’s when God says He has plans for them to prosper and not be harmed. After 70 years of being exiled for their disloyalty and unfaithfulness to Him. That promise will be fulfilled after 70 years of consequences for their disobedience. And the next few verses wrap it up. “You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. 13 You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you 14 and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 29:12 CEV)
That all-too-familiar verse of God’s plan to prosper us is contingent on us turning back to Him, worshipping Him with all of our hearts after we acknowledge our betrayal of Him and His Word.
Micah 3:8 GNT “But as for me, the LORD fills me with his spirit and power, and gives me a sense of justice and the courage to tell the people of Israel what their sins are.”
That should be our verse. That we claim God as our Lord, we incline our ears to the Holy Spirit and we rely on staying connected to them both for guidance, truth, and discernment. That we have the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to tell those around us that they’re going the wrong way!
I want you to imagine for just a moment that you’re standing in a wide-open field late at night, under the stars, enjoying the peacefulness and only the sounds of nature. When suddenly, a whirring noise drowns out the sounds of the crickets and a large bright light dulls the blanket of stars. A large circular aircraft lands on the grassy plain before you and reveals a large opening as a little green creature descends and makes his way toward you. As his slender form glides before you, he speaks merely five words. “Take me to your leader.” To whom would you take him?
One thought on “Take Me to Your Leader”
Thank you Diane!!