Sermon Outline, Third Advent
Peter J. Leithart
December 11, 2007
Category: BIble - OT - Micah
Micah prophesies of a “ruler in Israel” (5:2). But to grasp the full promise of this prophecy, we have to read it in the light of Micah’s description of Israel’s current rulers. To put it mildly, they are not pleasant fellows. The Christ is going to come to establish right rule and righteous rulers.
“And I said: ‘Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones. . . .’” (Micah 3:1-12).
Israel’s kings were called to rule differently from other rulers. The law emphasized their responsibility to hear the Word of Yahweh, to avoid greed and marriage alliances with Gentiles and trusting in military might (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Prophets frequently point to the injustice of Israel’s rulers, who become as violent and oppressive as Gentile kings (cf. Jeremiah 2:8; 3:15; 10:19-22; 12:7-13; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11:4-17). Micah’s description is one of the most vivid and gruesome. Jacob’s heads slaughter the people like sacrifices, stripping their skin and chopping them up to cook them (vv. 1-3). They twist justice and seek to build Jerusalem on blood (3:9-10).
Yahweh sent prophets to be a check on royal power. They were supposed to confront the kings with their injustice, and insist that the kings conformed to Torah. Prophets in Micah’s day have become Yes-men to power (v. 5). So long as someone gives them a square meal, the prophets will proclaim peace (v. 5). Prophets are supposed to bring the light of vision into Israel, but instead darkness is coming instead. Creation is being undone because of the prophets; the lights are going out (v. 6). Without prophets to confront them with Yahweh’s word, the rulers and heads are free to do what they please. Money is one of the sources of corruption in Israel. Judges take bribes, priests teach what they are paid to teach, and prophets will re-assure Israel for cash (v. 11). As a result, Zion is going to go the way of Samaria, and become a heap of ruins (3:12; cf. 1:6).
Yet, in the midst of this corruption, the Lord has a witness. Micah speaks in the first person in verse 8: He is the true prophet filled with Yahweh’s creative Spirit. The Spirit gives him courage to confront Israel and Judah with their sins. This is the one glimmer of hope in Israel.
ONE TO BE RULER
Micah’s prophecy of oppressive rulers, as well as corrupt priests and prophets, is directly relevant to the Christmas story. In the very chapter where Matthew quotes Micah 5, we see a king, Herod, who strips the skin from the people and boils their flesh (Matthew 2). The Christmas story is about the coming of the true prophet, the greater Micah, who will preach in the courage of the Spirit. The Christmas story is about the coming of a just King who will throw down the tyrants, rule His people, and set faithful shepherds over them.
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