Do you really want to hear God’s Word to you? Don’t be too quick to say, ‘Yes’. Of course, I hope your answer to the question is in the affirmative and that it rises from your heart. But are you sure you want to hear God speak to you if His Word contradicts your ways? Isn’t there something in your fallen nature that wants to contradict His Word in such circumstances? Well, not exactly contradict it, because that would never do. (Here we run into the deceitfulness of sin.) But you’d like to be able to say that it doesn’t really mean what it appears to assert. There must be some other and more appealing interpretation. Never forget that God’s Word does good to those who want to do God’s will and walk in His ways (7b). Such people need not fear it. So what is your heart attitude today?
Micah’s preaching was not popular because he went ‘straight down the line.’ There was no messing about with him. He shot from the hip; told it like it was. He saw that the people of Israel had a forthcoming appointment with the justice of God (6, 7), and that this would mean eviction from their land (10). Again, we encounter cause and effect, sowing and reaping: You rob unsuspecting people out for an evening stroll. You take the coats off their backs like soldiers who plunder the defenseless. You drive the women of my people out of their ample homes. You make victims of the children and leave them vulnerable to violence and vice. Get out of here, the lot of you. You can’t take it easy here! You’ve polluted this place, and now you’re polluted – ruined! The Message. They had unjustly put people out of their homes; the Lord would justly rip up their tenancy agreement. They had made the land ‘sick’ and there would be a purging (see Leviticus 18:24-28). (Note: it has been pointed out that God is not against those who become rich by hard work and honest means, nor does he take the side of people who are poor because of laziness or sin in other forms. But He is anti every form of oppression and injustice. He wants everyone to have fair and equal possibilities.)
We still have false prophets in the church today who do not preach the unpalatable parts of the Bible and do not want to hear them taught. They want to silence faithful Biblical preaching. I am appalled when I hear, from time to time, how far some clergy veer from the clear standards and precepts of the Bible. I am sure that many do it to justify their own infidelity. It is also likely to elevate your ratings in the popularity stakes (in some sectors) when you regularly dish up 5 minutes of what people want to hear. Don’t put anything in front of them that will disturb them. They might leave and then we’d lose their 50 pence from the collection plate. It all adds up you know!
Not talking about the anger and judgment of God against sin won’t make it go away. In fact, to continue wilfully in sin, and encourage others to do so, is to invite it to draw nearer. Here is a word to those who occupy a pulpit from time to time: It is a solemn responsibility to preach God’s Word. Never say anything other than what the Bible clearly says, even if you don’t like it; even if you think it will make your congregation squirm. Here, too, is a word to those in the pews: search the Scriptures yourselves to see if what you are hearing is true. Test all things. Just because he (or she) is wearing a back to front collar it doesn’t necessarily mean the preacher is telling the truth. It ought to, but that’s another matter! (See Jer.6:13, 14 for a similar situation to Micah’s)
There is a contemporary resonance to these words. They wanted ‘prosperity’ preaching: If someone showed up with a good smile and glib tongue and told lies from morning to night – ‘I’ll preach sermons that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: More money, the best wines…you name it’ – you’d hire him on the spot as your preacher! The Message.
If you stay on the highway of God’s truth you will remain safe; but if you veer from it you will end up plummeting to destruction. False prophets drive off the cliff, with a bus load of passengers. In destroying themselves they destroy many. These prophets are eagerly listened to; they talk about the Lord’s blessings but they say nothing about His demands. They prophesy what people want to hear, not what God wants to say. Thus they are ideal ”prophets” for those who love prosperity more than they love God. Tom Hale: The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1264.
Prayer: Lord, speak into my life all you want to say that is for my good and your glory. Help me listen.