Photo credit to someone on the internet.
“I said, ‘Please listen, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Isra’el: Shouldn’t you know what justice is?’” (Micah 3:1)
Here’s that warning again, shama, or hear and listen and do. Micah is beseeching, not just asking. Who is he speaking to? He’s speaking to the leaders, both the government leaders and religious leaders of Jacob and Israel. And we shouldn’t just think that this message is only good for Jacob and Israel and only good for those days back then. This is need to know life information for today. If we don’t learn from this life lesson of the past, it will unfold again right in front of us today, and again and again in the future. Oh, wait! It is unfolding in front of us from nation to nation today!
What do You, God, hold leaders responsible for? “Is it not for you to know judgment?” (KJV) “Shouldn’t you know what justice is?” So I guess the question is, “What do You mean by that? What do You consider justice or judgment?” And how can we know it? What does that mean?
Micah isn’t the only prophet helping us to understand this. Zechariah shares, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10) What did this mean in ancient societies? Well, first, the word for justice in Hebrew is mishpat. It’s real meaning is about the administration of government but not just by man. It’s about the administration of government according to Your rulings, God. And that administration is given by You not to a political body but to leaders, who in Israel were the tribal chiefs and the patriarch or the king. Individuals personally administered justice. In other words, these individuals carried forth Your will and saw that the people carried it forth in their lives. Well, at least that’s what they were supposed to do. But whether they did or they didn’t do that, You held and still hold each personally liable for whether they carry through their decisions according to Your directions or not.
The standard for justice isn’t whatever floats a judge’s boat. It’s not whatever society wants or thinks they need. The standard for justice is God’s word. That’s what our leaders are to live by and rule by. That’s the example they are supposed to be setting for us. So the personal involvement goes deeper than with the rules of God. It’s a personal involvement with You, God. Personal involvement with You leads to personal involvement with what You love and uphold and against what You abhor. Take away the personal involvement, and who gives a hoot about the rules?
What’s happening in the world today when someone wants their rights so much that they strip someone else of their rights even to the extent of thinking it’s ok to rob them of their life? Where are the leaders speaking out against this? Micah accuses leaders of hating good, and loving evil, of plucking skin off the people and the flesh off their bones and eating it. Yuck! But what are our own leaders inciting others to do in our world or in our country? And why is this happening? Because we’ve lost the personal knowledge of the compassion of God.
God’s compassion is a real thing. His mercies are truly new every morning. In Zechariah, the leaders had forgotten compassion, raham. Skip Moen says that raham is, “an intense, deep personal connection comparable to the feelings a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Very personal.” Now think about this. Why are our leaders supposed to feel this way about those they rule? Because this is the way God feels for us. Is this what our leaders practice today? Are we in leadership positions in our homes or churches or communities? Are we practicing this kind of leadership? Am I?
Jeremiah continues this thinking, “‘but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24) So here is another word to think about. It’s in Micah and Zechariah and Jeremiah here. It’s that word know. What does it really mean? We think of knowledge today and we think of knowing a lot of information. But that’s a Greek idea and not the Hebrew idea here. This is the word yada and if you want to understand true religion, you need to understand yada. True religion is sake, understanding and yada, knowing. Without both, you can’t have a right relationship with God. And without a right relationship with God, You can’t do it right in the world. Understanding is about really thinking and grappling and getting down to the really deep stuff about following Him. It’s serious questions that lead to serious answers. But searching out the answers till you find them isn’t enough. We have to know Him. How do I do that?
It goes from knowing about Him, about the extent and facts of all He’s done, including coming to earth as man and God, teaching, living, being crucified for the glory of God and our sins and redemption, dying, rising again, and reigning over all. And it extends to the closest intimacy of knowing Him like when a man and woman become one through sexual intimacy in the wholeness of marriage and unity. It’s not enough to understand who God is. We have to experience who He is too. Skip Moen states again, “the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH. He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge” and more. Maybe the problem why our leaders are failing and the people are following is because of what they are missing out on, this real relationship with One who truly cares.
Without giving You complete sovereignty in our lives we can’t be full of what You are full of. How can we exhibit qualities like faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in their true form without knowing what their true form really is like? I can’t just know about faithfulness, I have to convert my knowledge into action. I can’t just know about justice, I must convert it into action. I can’t just know about what’s right, I must do it and convert it into action. But who is going to show me what these all translate into in our lives? The One who is each of these is the Only One who can show me.
I can’t become a doer of the word unless I personally know the Word first. Maybe our leaders don’t know all this. But I think, living in this country, and living in a world where every day nature screams out the glory and presence of God, I’m not going to say they aren’t aware enough to be held accountable. The fact is that the true Judge of all mankind will hold us all, every one of us, up to His measure of justice, not ours. If my life and rulings don’t look like His, then they aren’t. I’m the one who needs to re-examine my thinking and my ways and change my understanding, not You, Lord.
Judgment was coming for Israel. And judgment will come for each of us too. And I have a feeling that You hold leaders to a very high standard, you know, “to whom much is given, much will be required.” John warned, “This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” You know, you don’t have to tear someone’s flesh off to be evil, poneros. Poneros comes from “a group denoting poverty or need, has the senses 1. ‘sorrowful,’ ‘unhappy,’ ‘laden with care,’ 2. ‘bringing trouble,’ 3. ‘pitiable,’ ‘poor,’ ‘unfit,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘bad,’ ‘unlucky,’ 4. ‘unsuccessful,’ 5. ‘plebeian,’ 6. ‘politically useless,’ ‘worthless,’ and finally 7. ‘morally reprehensible’ with the various nuances.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) It’s everything that God knows is not good. It’s what is “bad, unfavorable, worthless, unhappy, hurtful, futile, and evil.” Later, Micah is going to share what God considers good. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Do you know that man here is every human being? Every one can know and everyone can have a relationship with God.
When we do and say things that cause sorrow or dissension or unrest, it’s evil, short and simple. When I set up people to fail, when I deliberately make someone else unhappy, when I cause someone to be unsuccessful, when I’m unattractive because of a wrong attitude, when I make life futile, or make people feel worthless, or when I’m disobedient, I’m guilty of evil. What about when I’m all about being burdened about me and how I’m being treated instead of being burdened for others? Wonder if that thinking leads to police brutality or to civilians shooting innocent policemen just like that? Self-pity can be a dark evil, can’t it? Now the reprehensible isn’t so far away. See what despising what God has created in His image can lead to? It’s dangerous stuff that we’re overlooking here. Maybe we ought to call evil what it is, evil.
It’s for all of us to know judgment. It’s for all of us to understand and know You God and know Your ways and live by them because You are Light and anything outside of You and Your ways is darkness. It’s really easy for us to turn to the dark side, just look at what happened to sweet little Anakin. It tears me up throughout that whole movie where he keeps holding on to those dark thoughts and seeing where it takes him. It’s so sad. And that’s where many of us are turning today as we follow self-pity and our rights and our pride. We’re entering a place of sadness and darkness and separation from God and separation from true fellowship with mankind. Selfishness is much different than selflessness.
God is inviting us to know and feel with Him. He is actively concerned, He is pursuing inner engagement, true dedication to us, and attaching Himself to us. He has genuine sympathy, pity, and affection for us. He truly feels. He feels hurt and humiliation and heaviness and hopelessness for us and with us. With a heart that loves and clings and wants our greatest benefit, He watches as His beloved bride sleeps with others and doesn’t give a hoot about Him. Man, that’s sad. That’s awful, isn’t it?
See, Israel wasn’t giving a hoot about her faithful Husband. She didn’t have any feelings for Him like He had for her. All her sympathy had dried up because she was all about herself. And isn’t that the way our culture has adapted? Where is sympathy today? Where is it for God? Where is it for others when it’s so easy to shoot and kill or destroy people’s lives because they don’t agree with us? Maybe we’ve become less human and more like corrupt animals the farther we walk away from You, God. And yet You still cry for our loss.
Well, I want to feel the way You feel and I want to feel the way You feel about me, about You. I want to love intensely and faithfully like You. I want to understand and exhibit true sympathy. I want to be real and really care and really act upon that caring. I want to be like Micah. I want to be of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might to not only declare sin as sin, but to live according to Your ways and according to You because I am Yours and You are mine. And if the world chooses to walk another way, let me continue to stand for You, not because I’m a prophet or anything special, but simply because You are the only One worthy of standing and being Judge. I just want to cling to You as tightly as You cling to me. I truly can’t wait until the day that I become one with You because I’ve been judged as truly Yours in Jesus.