Recall that there are three cycles of Micah’s word to the people, and each one of the three contains the elements of warning, judgment, and consolation. We are still considering the first cycle, and we have come to the portion of that cycle that states the judgment that Israel and Judah are under, along with pointed references to the reasons for it.
“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practise it, Because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; And houses, and take them away: So they oppress a man and his house, Even a man and his heritage . . . (Micah 2:1–11).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The woe is pronounced. Woe to those who cook up their evil schemes on their beds, while they should be sleeping (v. 1). They are eager to get to their wicked business because as soon as the sun rises, they get after it (v. 1). Whatever sin they can perform, they do. The first thing that lies under God’s judgment is their avarice. They seize fields and houses, and they rob a man of his landed inheritance (v. 2). And so God says this. “While you were devising your mischief, neither was I sleeping. I was devising disaster for you” (v. 3). The disaster will be significant enough to become a matter of songs and proverbs. The ruination is total and complete—“utterly ruined” (v. 4). There will be no one in the assembly of the Lord who will be able to distribute the inheritance, or assign the lots (v. 5; cf. Deut. 32:8-9; Josh. 14:1-2). What does Israel preach? They preach at the preachers of truth, and the message is stop preaching. Sound familiar? They cannot abide hearing the Word of God unvarnished (v. 6). They count the words of God to be harsh and sharp-edged, and God slaps away their complaint. Are not His words good to those who are good (v. 7)? But God’s people don’t want any. They rise up to rob a peaceful man of his rich robe (v. 8). Their cruelty is apparent in that they drive women from their pleasant homes (v. 9). Little children are the ornament of God, and they abuse them as well (v. 9). Canaan was supposed to be a land of rest, but because of uncleanness it had ceased to be that (v. 10). Grievous destruction was pending. And yet if a windbag liar rises up with message that will butter you on all sides with flattering grease—“your best life now!”—and prophesies to you of wine and whiskey, you would think you had found your man (v. 11).
These evildoers are bent on sin that harms. They lie awake in their beds coming up with schemes of plunder. As soon as the sun comes over the horizon, they are up and about. When their traps are being set, they hide them, but once the trap is sprung there is no need to keep the cruelty hidden. The whole point is to take what you want with impunity, and the only reason for denying that you have a thieving heart is because it is not yet profitable to do so. Why do they do what they do? Because they can. It is in the power of their hand (v. 1).
Their avarice is merciless. They have no compunction about ripping off women and children. They turn women out of the pleasant houses (v. 9). And what is taken away from the defenseless children is what God calls “his ornament.” Calvin says this at this place: “Now, what was taken away from the children, God calls it his ornament; for his blessing, poured forth on children, is the mirror of his glory; he therefore condemns this plunder as a sacrilege.”
Micah and Isaiah had to deal with the same kind of people, and perhaps even the same people. “Which say to the seers, See not; And to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, Speak unto us smooth things, Prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:10). And Ahab did not like Micaiah, and why? “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so” (1 Kings 22:8). This is a phenomenon that is not limited to the Old Testament. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3)
Notice how the carnal heart defines a good prophecy. A good prophecy is one that contains a good outcome for him, the “god of the system.” But this is like pretending that the one who listens to the prophecy is the client, and the prophet is some kind of marketing agency. You hired him to make you look good on Instagram.
A humble servant of Jehovah would define a good prophecy as one which spoke the truth. But a wicked generation only wants the truth when the truth is convenient. If the truth is useful, they will use it, and if it is not useful, then they will accuse the prophet or preacher of “being negative all the time.”
FLATTERY AND CONSOLATION
When the worthless servant came back to his master in the parable, he said, “I knew you were a hard man,” and the master responded with sufficient hardness (Matt. 25: 14-30). In that parable, the master showed himself generous to the servants who were worthy, and hard to the one who slandered him as being hard. To the pure, all things are pure (Tit. 1:15). The impure project their impurity onto everything else. This is why, in this passage, God says that while they were not sleeping in their imaginative pursuit of crooked profits, He was also not asleep. As they were preparing a manmade disaster for the helpless, He was preparing a God-shaped disaster for them (v. 3).
The issue is not the fact of consolation, but rather the ground of it. In the very next section, we are going to see that Micah gives words of consolation and hope, but they are words that are grounded in the truth. God is not hostile to consolation, but rather is the author of all true consolation. But He hates lying consolation, and this is because at the end of the day all lying hopes are lies about Christ.
Only in Christ can we bear to hear the truth about our sin—because only in Christ is that truth followed by a resurrection from the grave of that sin.