Text: Micah 2:1-10
I want you to open your Bibles to the Book of Micah. As I mentioned last Sunday, for the few weeks that I’m going to be preaching, part of that time we’re going to be going through that great prophet, the Book of Micah. Today, we’re reading from chapter 2. In the beginning, let me just read verses 6 and 7:
“Do not prophesy,” their prophets say. “Do not prophesy
about these things; disgrace will not overtake us. Should
it be said, O house of Jacob: Is the Spirit of the Lord angry?
Does He do such things? Do not my words do good to
him whose ways are upright?”
The other day, as Kaye and I were driving up, I came up behind a semi that was carrying caskets. It was a certain casket company that I had heard of. I sort of like what they had on the back. They said, “Drive carefully, heaven can wait.” I sort of like that, but when I pulled around in the front of that truck, I looked on the side and they had their advertising slogan. Their advertising slogan was, “Committed to the Dignity of Life.” Now, folks, it takes a mighty imagination to put caskets and life in the same situation. What they are committed to is not the “dignity of life”, but what they are committed to is the “dignity of death.” Of course, you don’t want to use “death” in your advertising slogan…that’d be the “death of your advertising slogan” right there, because death is not one of those words we want to hear nor one of those experiences we want to contemplate. But, as we passed by that truck, a verse of Scripture came to mind… Jesus said, “Thou hast a name that thou livest but are dead.”
A lot of times the name that we have contradicts what we’re about. And I think that part of Micah’s word in this seventh verse is a word of sarcasm, really. Now, the Hebrew language is not as precise as the Greek language, and the Old Testament texts are much older and much rarer than the New Testament, so you’ll find a variety of translations of these sixth and seventh verses. For instance, the King James reads like this, “Thou art named O house of Jacob…” He’s rebuking him because of their sin and he’s just been rebuked because of his preaching against their sin, so he comes back and says, “O you who are named house of Jacob…” It’s the same thing as if you and I were to say to someone, “…and you call yourself a Christian…” It’s a word of sarcasm. What he’s saying is, “You people are named or called ‘the house of Jacob’, but your whole life betrays that.” It’s a terrible thing when we claim a name and that name is no longer appropriate…when we cling to a title or the name of something and the thing for which that name stands no longer exists.
What Micah is saying and I think what he is saying to us, and that’s one of the reasons I love these minor prophets…they are, I think, the most contemporary part of the Bible you’ll find. For they spoke to their generation. They spoke to their contemporary scene. We often when we hear the word “prophecy” or “prophets”, we normally and most usually think of “foretelling the future”, but actually that’s only a part of their ministry. You have the word “foretelling”, but then you have the word “forth-telling”. Prophetic preaching is not necessarily predicting the future, but it is crying out against the inconsistencies of the present life of God’s people. That is prophetic preaching.
That’s exactly what Micah is doing. In chapter 1 Micah cries out against the sins the people are committing against God. In the chapter 2 he’s talking about the sins they are committing against each other. I think it would be helpful to kind of get the outline of this chapter. In the first five verses Micah is preaching his sermon and an unpleasant sermon it is. In verse 6 he is interrupted. I mean, somebody out there just can’t stand that kind of preaching and so they say, “Do not prophesy!” There is a play on words here. Literally, they’re saying, “Do not preach!” And so they preach…they started to preaching to Micah and telling Micah not to preach. “Do not preach about these things…Disgrace will not overtake us…We don’t like what you’re saying…We don’t like your message,” and so they interrupt and they tell him to stop preaching and in verse 7, we have a rejoinder from Micah. He comes back and he says, “Should it be said O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord restrained? Does He do such things? Do not my words do good to them whose ways are upright?” And then in verse 8 he takes up the message again and closes it in verse 10 and verse 11 is sort of a “by the way” that he adds at the end.
So, as Micah preaches, he’s interrupted and they say, “Don’t preach like this” but he comes back and he says to them, “Shouldn’t these things not be said O house of Jacob? You who are called the people of God…you’re not living up to that name, and because of that judgment is going to come.”
Now, I would like to talk to you this morning about living up to that name. Just as they had been given the name “the house of Jacob”, which stood for the promises of God, for the faithfulness of God, for the people of God, so you and I have been given the name “Christian”. We are supposedly followers of “the Way” and disciples of Christ, but do we live up to that name? If we fail to live up to that name, I believe God will judge us and disgrace will overtake us. So, let me make four suggestions…suggestions that Micah offers on living up to that name…
I think if you and I are going to live worthy of the name “Christian”, the first thing is that we should be willing to face the truth, whatever that truth is, however unpleasant or pleasant it may be…of all people, we, God’s people…we need to be able to face the truth…to hear the truth and receive the truth.
Now, as I said, there are various readings here and some translations read like this, “Should it be said” or one says “Should not these things be said?” In other words, I think he is referring to the things he’s been saying in chapter 1 and 2 and these people cry out and say, “Don’t say these things!” and he comes back and he says, “But shouldn’t these things be said?…Should not these things be spoken of? They’re there. They’re real and they need to be spoken.” And of course you can understand why they interrupt this because in verse 1 you’ll see Micah is crying out against their sins against one another…against the way they treat each other…their unethical behavior…their selfish ambition…their desire to gain what they want no matter who they hurt simply because they can get by with it:
Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil
on their beds! (Their sin is premeditated, you see. They
sit around and lie around thinking about what they can do
in the morning to gain advantage, to make more money,
to get my way, to fulfill my own ambition.
At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their
power to do it.
Why do they do it? They do it because they can get by with it! This is important to remember because we’re going to be coming back to this in a moment…As long as they can get by with it, they will do it!
They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take
them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of
his inheritance. Therefore, the LORD says:
“I am planning disaster against this people,
from which you cannot save yourselves. You
will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a
time of calamity. In that day men will ridicule
you; they will taunt you with this mournful
song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s
possession is divided up. He takes it from me!
He assigns our fields to traitors.’
Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the
LORD to divide the land by lot.”
Finally, God says, “I’m going to take away not just your possessions, but I’m going to take away your privileges…there’ll be no one in the congregation to watch over you and to divide your lot.” And at this moment somebody stands up and says, “Stop that kind of preaching! That’s upsetting to us. Now, preacher, we’re all happy here and we’re all contented and things are just going fine and we don’t need you coming along and upsetting everybody. Look, you’re making some of these people kind of nervous.”
Micah was definitely not a “seeker-friendly” preacher. And that’s what these people wanted. As a matter of fact, verse 11, as I mentioned earlier, is sort of a little “Columbo touch”. He ends the message in verse 10 and then as he walks away, he says, “Oh, by the way…
If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy
for you plenty of wine and beer, he would be just the
prophet for this people.’”
He says, “You attack me for preaching what I preach, but before I leave and I’m sure this will be the last time I’m invited to this august convention, but before I leave, just let me say that if somebody comes along…some liar and deceiver…some blowhard full of hot air and tells you that you’re going to have everything you want…life’s going to be pleasant and everything’s just hunky dory…boy that is about the job description for the kind of preacher you want. Thank you very much. Good-bye.”
And what he’s saying is, “Should not these things be said? Shouldn’t we of all people be willing to face the truth even though at times that truth is hard?” When I was a pastor, and this may be why I’m no longer a pastor, I don’t know…but when I was a pastor we had two or three occasions in our church when there was a problem and everybody was thinking about it. I mean, it was on the mind of everybody. But, nobody was saying anything about it, you know…act like it’s not there…act like it hasn’t happened… And I can’t stand that. I can’t operate under those conditions, so on two or three occasions, when that was true and that was happening, I just stopped in my sermon and said, “Alright, folks, none of you are listening to what I’m saying because your mind is somewhere else. We all know we’re all thinking about. Alright, let’s talk about it. Let’s get this thing settled.” I believe that’s the way it ought to be done. Like I say, you know, maybe that’s why I’m no longer a pastor. But, some of these things should be said! We, of all people, should not be afraid of the truth.
So, the first thing if I’m going to be worthy of that name is I need to be willing to hear the truth, whatever that truth is. The second thing is this…I need to understand that the Spirit of the Lord is not limited nor restricted. He says, “Is the Spirit of the Lord restricted? Has the Spirit of the Lord boundaries over which He cannot cross? Has that power that resides in the Holy Spirit somehow been limited?” Now, I think primarily in Micah’s case he’s talking about a couple of things here. I think he’s saying the Spirit of God can’t be restricted in what He inspires the prophet to preach. Micah is saying, “You’re telling me not to prophesy like this, assuming that this is not what God would want, but I’m telling you that you cannot restrict the Spirit of the Lord and He inspires me.” And in another place in this book, he talks about the fact that he is filled with the Spirit of the Lord and that’s what motivates him to bring this message. But he’s also talking about the judgment that’s going to come upon the people of God, because they insist that no disgrace can overtake them. They insist that nothing can happen to them, and so he says, “Is the Spirit of the Lord limited in what He can do? He can inspire certain kinds of preaching. He can bring judgment. He can empower His people to be what they ought to be. He can give them the strength to endure whatever they need to endure. Is the Spirit of the Lord limited?”
You know, that’s a pretty good question for our day. I do think we try to restrict the Spirit. I want to live where the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants to do and not to restrict Him and not to build boundaries around what He can say and what He can do. We do have a tendency to do that, you know. Theologically, experientially, we have a tendency to limit Him. And I don’t know but what one of the great needs of the church today is for us to give the Holy Spirit freedom in our lives to do what only He can do and that is to empower us to live Christ-like lives.
How in the world can I live up to the name Christian? “Preacher, you’re talking about being worthy of that name!” Is the Spirit of the Lord limited? Is He constrained? Is He boxed in? Oh, one of the dire essentials is this: that I understand in my Christian life that the Spirit of God holds the same promise for us today that He did on the Day of Pentecost when He first descended and indwelt the church. And all that Jesus would do for us, were He physically present, the Holy Spirit is doing for us and wants to do for us because He indwells us, and we must not limit the Holy Spirit.
There’s third thing I think that is essential: You and I must learn to discern between what God does and what God does not do. We need discernment to determine what is of God and what is not of God. Notice the prophet says, “Does He do such things?” Now, the implication is that simply because God has allowed this intolerable situation to continue for so long doesn’t mean He approves of it. Now, see they think that He does. They say, “No disgrace will overtake us so don’t preach like this.” Actually, the Hebrew word can be translated “don’t prattle on and on”. The word means “to drip.” They call his preaching “just drivel.” “You’re just prattling on…that’s all your preaching is…no substance to it…nothing of importance to it…nothing serious about it…you’re just prattling on and on…you’re just like a dripping faucet…driving everybody crazy…making no sense…why the Lord is with us. Why look how we’ve been doing. The Lord hasn’t done anything so far. We’ve increased and we’ve grown and God hasn’t done anything. God approves of all of this. He must! Look how successful we are.”
Now, you know, you take success and add a dash of self-righteousness to it and that makes a powerful argument in any situation. I mean, after all if you’re highly successful in what you’re doing…money’s rolling in…business is going great…it has to be God’s blessings…it has to be God. And then you’re a little bit self-righteous…you know the Lord…you’ve been to church lo these many years and you have the various translations…you’ve been to the seminars and that sort of thing, and you add a touch of self-righteousness to that and then here’s all this great success and to you that equals God’s approval.
One of the most glaring needs of the church today is the need of discernment…to be able to discern that which is of God and that which is not of God. Now, if we simply say if something is successful or if it’s allowed to continue and go on and on and on then it must be God’s will, then we are falling into the same folly that the people did in Micah’s day. Micah is saying, “Just because God has allowed you to prosper in your crooked ways…don’t make the mistake of saying that God approves of that.” We need discernment!
I read a lot. I like to read. I read across the board. I read everything practically…everything religious, and secular and in between. I don’t read science fiction…I don’t care for it. I love history. I love philosophy. I like good novels…I read just a little bit of everything. I’ve noticed something, though…that when you go into a bookstore and you’re trying to find a good novel…and you’re looking for a novel and here’s a title that you’re unfamiliar with and you open it and on the back it says that this book was “critically acclaimed.” Do you know what that means? That means it didn’t sell much. It didn’t sell well at all! It was critically acclaimed. I mean the critics liked it…they had high praise for it. You know, this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner…I forget the author’s name…the book is THE STONE DIARIES. Nobody had heard of that book until she won the Pulitzer Prize and now it’s finally on the Best Seller List, and if it had not won the Pulitzer Prize, it would still have been as good a book as it is, but it would never have appeared anywhere and nobody would have ever heard of it.
Now, simply because something hits the Best Seller List, folks, doesn’t mean that it’s great literature. Let’s face it, some of the books on the Best Seller List are not great literature. I mean, some of these guys are not writing “Shakespeare” you understand. And they’re usually not critically acclaimed, either. I’ve noticed through the years if something is critically acclaimed it usually doesn’t sell well, but if it sells well it usually is not critically acclaimed.
Now the point, you may be wondering, do I have one…yes, I do, if I haven’t forgotten what it was. It’s been quite awhile since I started out on this. The point is just because something hits the top of the Best Seller List doesn’t mean it’s great literature and worth of your reading. And just because something in the church or something in the life “hits the top of the Best Seller List” doesn’t mean that the great critic of all, the Word of God, approves of it. You and I, if we’re to live worthy of the name, must be able to discern what is of God and what is not of God.
Then finally, if we are going to live worthy of the name, we need to receive, respect and appreciate the Word of God. He says in the latter part of verse 7, “Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?” It’s a question asked of these protesters who say, “Stop giving us that word,” but the answer is, “If you’re right, all these words will benefit you…those who are upright never need to fear the truth…never need to hide from the truth. God’s Word is always beneficial to those who are upright.” Every time we read it and every time we hear it…it does us good. It brings benefit into our lives if we are upright.
I remember when I was a teenager and I had just shortly before come to the Lord and I had gotten serious about this business of living for Christ. We had a very great church and every service was just “super charged”. The pastor was a very dynamic pastor and you know, to tell you the truth, I was afraid to go into those services unless I knew I was clean inside and out. And I remember on many occasions standing on the front steps of that church and before I’d ever go in…standing there confessing every sin I could think and guessing at a few others, you know. And then when I went in I didn’t worry about what he was going to preach. I got a blessing and it was beneficial to me. But there have been those times when I’ve gone in when things were not right in my heart and I sat there and I was tense and I was resisting and I wasn’t enjoying it because I felt maybe the next word he speaks he’s going to look at me and point out my sin. But those who are upright do not need to fear the truth of God…the Word of God…it only blesses them…it only does them good. And that’s why I ought to love and study it and devour it and to live by it. How in the world can I expect God to bless my life and how in the world can I expect God to approve of my bearing His name is I do not love and live His own Word?
Now Micah has a conclusion to his sermon and so do I. It’s found in the tenth verse. He says,
“Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place,
because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy.”
I want to call your attention to those first few words… “Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place…” Now, primarily he’s referring here to the captivity that’s going to come and he’s saying basically that this land that you thought was going to be your “resting place” isn’t going to be that so pack your bags and get ready to travel. Why? Because you’ve defiled it by the way you live…not only your sins against God, but your sins against one another…your selfish ambition…your petty interests…your haughty spirit. This is not you resting place.
And I think that that gives us leave to say that those of us who are not living up to the name and we’re not willing to face the truth and not willing to repent of our sins, not willing to let the Spirit of God bring about conviction and purification in our lives…this is not of place of rest for us. You’ve come to the wrong place. If that’s your kind of religion, this is not your kind of church. If your kind of religion is the kind of religions that says, “Well, as long as I’m prospering then that must be God’s blessings and everything must be okay and I don’t want to hear any of this discouraging word and as long as I can get by with what I’m doing and the way I want to do it and if I have to hurt somebody else…if I have to trample over somebody else to get what I need…” If this is your kind of religion, then this is not your religion place…you’re not going to find any rest here. You’re not going to find any peace here. That’s what he’s saying.
Living up to the name! It seems an impossible thing to do, but He would never have given us that name in the first place had it not been possible by His grace and by His power to live a life worthy of that holy name.
Would you bow your heads with me now for a moment as we pray together?
I wonder if God has spoken to you today from His Word. I wonder if the Lord hasn’t appointed out some things in your life that really contradict the name that you bear as Christian. There’s some misuse that makes it impossible for you to live up to that name. Perhaps some of you do not have that name because you’ve never been saved…you’ve never come to know Christ as your Lord and Savior. Today, we want to give you that opportunity to open your heart to Him. Jesus says that if you come to Him He will in no wise cast you out. That’s the marvelous thing about our Lord. And we’ll see that as we go through the prophet of Micah. It ends on a note of hope and deliverance…that’s how this book will end. Sometimes it seems as though God may be harsh in His judgment upon our lives, but that’s never the final word with God…that’s never the last word. The last word is always mercy and grace and deliverance and peace. So, perhaps today, you need to partake of that. Maybe there are other needs in your life, perhaps you believe that God is leading you to place your life and letter into the fellowship of this church…whatever it is…let’s not restrict the Holy Spirit this morning. Rather allow Him to do whatever He wants to do.
Father, we pray in Jesus’ name now that the Holy Spirit will
not be restricted or limited during this time, but that we will
give Him full control of our hearts and lives. May Your will
be done. All we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005