Alferd Packer headed across the San Juan Mountains in 1874 with 5 other folks. By the end of the winter, after being lost in the snowy Rockies, Packer alone emerged and was charged not only with murder but also with cannibalism, the eating of other human beings. Alferd Packer isn’t the only person in history to have done this or to be so accused. In fact, wikipedia has an excellent article on the subject, listing many of the recent cases from around the world. There were many more than I expected.
Frankly, the whole subject makes me a bit squeamish, as it should for the very thought of killing a person, and filleting them for dinner is not only disgusting and repugnant, but it is also morally reprehensible and an act of the greatest vileness and savagery. Yet, how many of us feel this way when we see injustice alive in our city, state or world? How many of us are as disgusted by corrupt judges, as we are disgusted by cannibalism? How many of us are disgusted in the same manner at politicians who saddle up to religion in order to ensure they remain in power, as we are outraged by one person eating another?
Shouldn’t these things anger us to the same degree as cannibalism? Shouldn’t we be repulsed at sin? According to Micah we should. In fact, Micah wants people to recognize sin as equal to cannibalism. All sin feeds on others. All sin affects others. Listen to his words, Mic. 3:1-3…
Micah starts off asking the leadership and the rulers of the country if they know justice? Are they acquainted with right and wrong? Can’t they recognize good and evil? Can’t they see it? Of all people, the elite of the land, the powerful of the state should know the difference between good and evil? For [they are] God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for [they do] not bear the sword for nothing. [They are] God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
But they do not know right from wrong and in fact Micah says, – Mic. 3:2a, 9-11a “2 you who hate good and love evil…Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; 10 who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. 11 Her leaders judge for a bribe…”
The leaders are corrupt; the judges are doing what is in their own best interest. They have rejected the Word of the Lord and run after all the ways that God has forbidden to them. They constructed a beautiful city on the backs of the poor; they accepted bribes to decide cases. They enriched themselves at the expense of truth and honest government. Their actions are the actions of a despotic government where bribery and kickbacks reign, where the innocent are sent to jail and the guilty are acquitted, and where money is king. That sounds like much of the world today!
And Micah takes the indictment a step further, the rulers aren’t just apathetic to God and his word, but they hate all that is good. Micah uses a very strong word here; in fact, according one commentator, it is the strongest word in the Hebrew language for hatred. It is hatred, anger, and wrath all rolled up. It is what one feels and experiences as he looks upon an enemy who has grievously wronged him in some way. That is the view of God’s law that these leaders have and the flip side is that they love evil. They have united themselves with it, bonded themselves to it and have a great affinity for it. They have become God’s enemies and enemies of the nation.
The Psalmist uses this kind of hate language in the 139th psalm saying, Psa. 139:21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. But unfortunately the rulers of Judah have mixed up the proper objects of each of these orientations in life. They have hated God and his ways, instead of hating those who hate God and hate his ways. They are chasing the shekel (dollar) and fame and fortune.
These things and many others that we have surveyed over the past few weeks are what Micah calls building Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with wickedness (Micah 3:10).
And what is really bad, the religious people of the day went along with all of it. They loved the idea of security apart from God, i.e. plenty of money for their pockets. In fact, those prophets whose job it was to call out to the civil and economic rulers of the country when they were erring, had just jumped into bed with them and were instead calling out against those who criticized the establishment and the status quo. Mic. 3:5, 11b “This is what the Lord says: “As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him… her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.”
There is a danger when God’s people get caught up with the world and begin taking their cues from the culture at large. They loose their prophetic voice and they become blind to sin and their discernment becomes cloudy. They begin leading their churches away from God and his word and they challenge anyone who calls their sin, sinful. When God’s people land in bed with government, they have become wordsmiths for the establishment. They have become prophets for hire, and people will surround themselves with whatever their itching ears want to hear when sin takes hold in society and the church doesn’t stand against it (2 Tim 4:3-4). And the sad thing is religious people like this think that God is with them, they think that they can just call out to God and he will uphold their evil purposes and plans, but they have lost their bearing towards righteousness and justice and judgment.
Aren’t these twin realities present in our government and our churches today? In our government, isn’t the rule of special interest groups on both sides of the aisle cannibalism of the governed? Or how about the congressional per diem rates on travel and the clause that allows anything under $1000 per trip to be pocketed by the representative or senator without taxable implications. Is it not theft? Cannibalizing the people for the benefit of the rulers? Or how about when the church lets the political right and the left hijack it for their ideologies and claim God’s sovereign will for all their ideas. Let’s be honest, is it really God’s will that all nations be capitalists and that taxes be zero? Or is it really God’s will that government provide health care to every citizen? No, the answer to both is no and regardless of how you feel about the issues, you can’t put the church in bed with government on these kinds of issues. God’s will transcends these petty issues and goes straight toward righteousness and holiness and the exaltation of the Great Name of God Almighty.
The religious establishment should be the first to decry the marriage of political ideology and faith, but alas, too many churches are busy aligning themselves with various –isms and ideologies and agendas instead and trying to make the church fit their social agenda. (Did you know you can now buy study bibles for the homosexual, feminist, Marxist, and the environmentalist to name a few? Isn’t this another example of the melding of the religious with the socio-political establishment of the day? Isn’t this allowing culture to dictate Truth, instead of Truth dictating culture? Aren’t these things the cannibalism of Christ’s body for what is passing away and of no importance? It is one of the most insidious forms of cannibalism for it uses people and faith to enhance our own appetites.
Luther Mays, writes, “In a culture fascinated by wealth and its acquisition the morality of good business has a compelling power to influence decisions and attitudes in subtle and indirect ways” (pg. 89, OTL Micah). Ask those tough questions about government, your political stands, about immigration and other items and let Scripture speak to you for confession may be in order, and repentance or a change of action might be needed. Ask the hard questions about how you are getting your money in your investments plans? Is it coming from unjust, unchristian means?
I have a good friend who is a financial planner and I have talked with him at length about this and his line is always the same, “Sin is profitable.” In fact, every financial planner I have spoken of when I tell that that I don’t want to invest in a business that engages in, supports, or makes money off of sexual sin, unjust labor practices in the developing world, military might or by abusing the environment has told me, “Sin is profitable and if that is the case, there is nothing left.” If that is the case, why are Christians still involved in these systems? Consider our sin and our complicit involvement in it and repent as needed. I love this quote from Thomas Brooks, one of our puritan brothers of another time, he writes, “Though true repentance is never to late; late repentance is seldom true.” Don’t put off what needs to be done today would be Micah’s first encouragement to his audience.
It’s all wrong, it’s all disgusting, it’s all like a vultures feeding on carrion, except the carcass isn’t dead yet, so the prey suffers all the more. And God promises that this kind of living won’t last, nor will it stand. And Micah is calling us to repentance. All of us. For all of us are guilty of these gross errors.
There will come a day Mic. 3:4 “Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done.” This is a scary passage, but one that is corroborated throughout the scriptures in various places and various ways. The door to salvation is not always open Micah says. Continual sin, repeatedly and habitually ignoring God’s voice and God’s law has consequences. Speaking to the rulers of the nation, Micah says, The day may come when you finally realize the tragedy of the circumstance you find yourself in, but God will be nowhere around.
And that applies to individuals as well. Is. 55:6 has great advice for individuals and nations, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” for there is a time when God may not be found and when God is not near. Unfair, you say. Is it? Have you not reaped what you have sown? Isn’t that what the 5th and 6th chapter of Galatians speaks about when Paul writes, Gal. 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal. 5:21b… I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Even the author of Hebrews tells us not to put off until tomorrow what needs to be dealt with today, Heb. 3:15 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” For when we put off dealing with sin and recognizing sin as sin, then God takes his presence away and leaves the world to reap his wrath and punishment. Here is how Micah puts it, Mic. 3:6-7, 12 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. 7 The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.” 12 Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
So how is a Christian to respond to all of this? There are two possible ways, both of which I encourage you to reflect and act upon. The first according to Heb. 3:13 is to But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. Repent of the sin in your life. Look long and hard and encourage one another to look long and hard and see that sin present in your life. Recognize the way cannibalism has snuck into your ways of operating in the world.
Mic. 3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. Micah’s response was singular – to declare to Jacob his transgression. God’s people, once they have dealt with their sin are not to proclaim an easy peace, a Pax Romana or Pax Americana, nor are they to proclaim financial security, nor are they to overlook the sin of society in order to make people comfortable, rather they are to proclaim sin as sinful. They are to call the elephant in the room exactly what it is, an elephant in the room. Proclaim sin’s sinfulness to the church and the world.
“And why would I do that?” you may ask. Because if you have been born again, then like Micah you have been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and with justice and might. Micah recognizes four things that have been given to him. The first is that true prophets of God are filled with power. The Hebrew word is koah, and it means that God’s people have been given a power to persevere in the face of opposition. Another thing we have is might, geburah, a courage that equips us like warriors going out for action in the face of an enemy. Perseverance and might are ours; they come from God. Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to, Col. 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… In fact Paul tells Timothy 2Tim. 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
We have endurance, for it is one of the fruit of the Spirit – faithfulness. Given by God himself so that we might endure. And we have courage for that is the testimony of the apostles, Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” It’s not that we conjure up valor within ourselves, our valor comes from being with Christ, and he gives it to us.
But the second thing, which I jumped over from power to might, is this: Believers are filled with justice. Mispat is the Hebrew and it means a sense for what is just according to the norms set by Yahweh for the social order. We as believers have the Word of God written on our hearts (Jer 31:33) “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” That means we inherently know what is good and bad, what aligns with the word of God and what doesn’t and when we compare these things in our heart with what is in the Bible we should be finding congruence and because of the power and might we have from God we can then faithfully stand and proclaim God’s word to the world and call sin sinful.
But finally, Micah was filled with the Spirit of God from which all power, justice and might flows and we too are filled with that holy Spirit, for Jesus himself said, Acts 1:4,5,8 …“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…8 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.””
People of God, it all points back to Jesus, he decried the injustice in the world, through his word, then through his prophets, then through his own very life, and now he cries against it through his own body, the church full of his members. Let us have great confidence, endurance and might to declare to the world its sin, and the judgment awaiting it, but let us also proclaim the reality of true repentance, for there is hope for all who are washed in the blood of the lamb, and filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
For blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city of God. (Rev. 22:14) Amen.