For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 27
From Gospel Translations
1 Chronicles 23; 1 Peter 4; Micah 2; Luke 11
WHEN THINGS GO RADICALLY WRONG in a culture, the problems often become intertwined. Two of the strands are twisted together in Micah 2:6-11. The passage begins and ends with a warning against false prophets, but in the middle of the oracle is Amos’s ongoing denunciation of the powerful people who are stripping bare the powerless (2:8-9).
Begin with the latter. They are so corrupt, Micah announces, that they act not like the people of the covenant, but like their enemies (2:8a). Women and children are despoiled by these brutes (2:9). Children cruelly lose their inheritance while these powerful people become richer—even though it is written, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless” (Ex. 22:22-23).
With this background in God’s revelation, one might have thought that the prophets of the land would be calling the powerful to account. Instead, the powerful and the corrupt turn out to be the prophets’ patrons. These prophets still preach, but what they preach is that Micah must not preach (2:6). Micah’s response is blistering: “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” (2:11).
We must see how this happens. It is terribly easy for the preacher to shape his message to fit in with the spirit of the age. What begins as a concern to be relevant and contemporary—both admirable goals—ends up with seduction and domestication. This is especially likely when the rich and the powerful are paying our bills. At every level it is easy to fool oneself into thinking that cowardice is prudence, that silence on the moral issues of the day is a small price to pay in order to have influence in the corridors of power. Get invited to the White House (or even denominational headquarters!), and you will never inveigh against its sins. Give a lecture at a prestigious academic organ, and be sure to ruffle as few feathers as possible. Become a bishop, and instead of being the next J. C. Ryle, you sell your silence. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. God will always have his Micah and his Amos. But it happens frequently enough that we ought to return often to God’s revelation, to make sure that our message is shaped by what he has said and is neither the fruit of smart-mouthed petulance nor the oily “appropriateness” of those who cleverly say only what people want to hear.