For an introduction to this series, click here.
Nov. 13, 2006
The prophets had a startling message for the Israelites, and Micah delivered just such a message. It is interesting to note the contrast between the major and minor prophets. It is not just the fact that they are longer, because Daniel is about the same length or not significantly longer than Hosea or Zechariah. It is the scope of the teaching. Now I know the book order is not inspired, but the people who did put them in order knew what they were doing. The four major prophets, Jeremiah to a lesser degree than the other three, have a broad scope, viewing the entire course of human history, often jumping ahead or behind thousands of years in a single passage. The minor prophets focus on the near future for Israel, as a general rule.
Anyway, Micah has another message of doom for both Israel and Judah. Micah prophesied in the days of Jotham the northern king and Ahaz and Hezekiah the southern kings. This would make him a contemporary of Isaiah. Micah ends the first section of his prophecy with this solemn warning:
"Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair, for the children of your delight; make yourselves as bald as the eagle, for they shall go from you into exile." (1:16)
There is no chance for repentance, no way to prevent the inevitable from happening. Sadly, I'm not so sure that the people of Micah's generation were too upset to hear this message. When Isaiah prophesied judgment on Judah because of Hezekiah's sin (remember this would have been around the time of Micah's prophecy), Isaiah records Hezekiah's response: "' The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.' For he thought, 'There will be peace and security in my days.'" (Isaiah 39:8) Many of these people did not care about the future. They were just concerned about the here and now. That's one of the main reasons they did not repent of their sin.
In Chapter 2, Micah confronts the sin of the people. Interestingly enough, as with many of the prophets, the most egregious sins listed are economic sins:
"They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD: behold against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster." (2:2-3)
If you read the Law, God said a lot about protecting the poor. Farmers were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested to leave some for the poor and the travelers. They were not supposed to go back over their fields twice to make sure they got everything, but they were to leave what fell to the ground for the poor. By the way, Boaz was obeying this command when Ruth followed after his farmhands and picked up what they dropped or missed for her and Naomi. Boaz recognized she was special, and so he told his workers to drop some on purpose for her. Also, every 50 years, land was to be returned to the family that originally inherited it.
I am not suggesting that we should return to these arrangements, but I do believe that liberals and conservatives both exploit the poor to their own benefit politically and economically, and both are wrong. Liberals will tell poor people to have more kids they can't afford so they can justify more government spending for health care and housing for the poor. They will get them hooked on lottery tickets to subsidize their grand plans. Rich bankers - mostly conservatives, at least economically - will give poor people credit cards they can't afford and then write them a title loan or some other gimmick to "help" them pay off their debts, which actually gets them more in debt.
God says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27, ESV) In the conservative Baptist circles I run in, we do the second half of that really well, but too often we miss the first half. We tend to blame the poor. No one is denying that, especially in a free society such as ours, one's place in life is largely the result of the choices one makes, but the command is still there. There are all kinds of disclaimers I could throw out here, but the fact remains that Christianity, especially conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, has not and is not doing enough to help the needy in our own society, much less around the world. I know there are lots of reasons for that, and I agree that if we took the tax money wasted on helping the poor and gave it to organizations that really know how to use their resources for the betterment of society and the glory of God, they would accomplish a lot more. However the fact remains, and we do too little about it.
Wow that was a long rant, and I didn't even get to Chapter 3, which has some of the best stuff in it. I'll get to it tomorrow.