Kingdom Defiled audio (4MB)
It doesn’t take a genius to realise there’s something wrong with our world. I mean, I guess on the surface things look pretty good. We live in an age of wealth and prosperity, of innovation and exploration. Our day to day lives are pretty peaceful. Sure we’ve had our share of questionable leaders in the past, but the current guy’s better than anyone we’ve had in the last 30 years. Who’d want to go back to having Ahaz as King of Judah? He was a king who didn’t walk in the way of the Lord, if there was ever one. There were shrines going up to Baal everywhere, pagan sacrifices in the temple. There was even talk that he made his sons pass through fire like the you know who do. We’re lucky Hezekiah survived and took the throne after Ahaz died. Talk about chalk and cheese! He’s nothing like his father. You can tell Hezekiah’s a man after God’s own heart, he’s working to clean up the streets of Jerusalem and restore right worship in the land.
And outside the city things aren’t too bad. The Assyrians have been quiet for a while. I heard there was some trouble a little while back, but Hezekiah managed to negotiate our way out of it. So yeah, I guess things you could say life’s pretty peaceful.
And the economy’s certainly booming! The economic reforms the government’s been pushing have worked. The papers are saying we’re living in the most affluent time since the reign of King Solomon!
And it’s not just the papers saying this. There’s prophets and priests everywhere proclaiming peace, assuring everyone that God’s favour still rests upon us, that nothing bad could ever happen to Jerusalem.
You might say I’m crazy for saying there’s something wrong. But I’ve been spending some time listening to this other prophet, Micah. Which Micah? Micah from Moresheth. It’s that little country village down near the coast. Now I know what you’re thinking, what could a country bumpkin know about what’s really going on in the world? But Micah’s been around for a while. He’s been here in Jerusalem prophesying for about as long as Jotham was on the throne.
There’s something about him that’s different. It’s almost like he’s filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord. He’s not out there preaching peace and prosperity like all the other prophets. Which probably explains why he doesn’t get invited to all the cool parties. Instead he say’s God’s called him to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. It’s not wonder everyone says to him, ‘Do not preach, one shouldn’t preach of such things (2:6).’
As I said, I’ve been listening to Micah for a while and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s right. If perhaps the Kingdom isn’t so healthy as everyone’s been saying. Micah’s been saying this isn’t a problem that’s skin deep, but that we’re rotten to the core (1:9). He’s been saying that God’s Kingdom has become defiled and corrupted.
Micah’s been saying that the prosperity we’re enjoying has come at a cost. The rich are getting richer alright, but it’s been at the expense of the poor. He’s reminding everyone that God gave us the Promised Land as a gift, and that God commanded that those with land should use it to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners amongst us. Instead those with power have begun taking the land away from its traditional owners. They’ve been cheating people out of their homes, using violence to drive them off their land. Micah’s been saying we’re not entering an age of prosperity but of selfish materialism. Sound familiar?
Even if someone wanted to complain, who’d listen? Those in power just seem to turn a blind eye. The authorities just look for the pound of flesh from people and don’t care about right or wrong. They’re only interested in what they can get out of it. It’s no secret around here that if you want a case to go in your favour you’ve just got to grease the right wheels. Who hasn’t heard about Judge Judea? In her court the cases are real, the people are real, but the rulings go to the highest bidder. She’s not the only one, all the judges are like that.
And it’s not just the judges! The priests teach for a price and the prophets give oracles for money. They only say what people want to hear. Their message is always ‘everything is awesome!’ (everything is cool when we’re living our dream’). It’s no wonder that church, I mean temple, attendance is so high. People love to listen to preachers like that, who don’t call them out, who just reinforce the status quo.
But Micah’s not like that! While all the others are saying ‘everything is awesome’ Micah’s been proclaiming that all the faithful have left the land, that no one is left who’s upright. While everyone else has been saying life is roses, Micah’s been saying actually it’s all thorns! God’s plan had been for this Kingdom to be a light to all the nations, but we’ve made it a pit of darkness. We’ve defiled it.
[Stand and move to centre stage]
Well, Micah could just as well be a prophet for today as for the 8th Century BC. If we look at the world today, we might say not much has changed. The evils that Micah spoke against, the corruption, the perversion of justice, the exploitation of the weak and the poor at the hands of the rich and powerful, the veneer of religion are just as much the sins of our world and time. God’s world, God’s Kingdom, even God’s church is no stranger to corruption, evil and wickedness.
If not much has changed since Micah’s day, then it’s easy to ask, “Where’s God in all this?”, “How could he let this happen?” and “What’s God going to do about it?” Micah doesn’t just point out what’s wrong with the world, he answers those questions. But the answer he gives is both good news and bad news.
The good news is that God knows what’s been going on. God isn’t ignorant of what’s been happening. He’s seen all the wickedness and violence that’s taken place. In fact, almost the first words we hear from Micah are that God stands as a witness against the people. He’s aware of how defiled and corrupted the world and his kingdom have become.
What’s more, Micah tells us that God cares. His concern is evident throughout the book. God cares about his people, he cares for the poor and the oppressed. God’s heart was torn with anguish at what was happening in Israel and Judah in Micah’s day, and God’s is torn with what happens in our world today.
And God doesn’t just stand on the sidelines. God sees, God cares and God will act! God is coming out of his place, he will come down and tread upon the high places on the earth. Those who scheme evil, will have an evil fate ahead of them. Those who use dishonest scales will find themselves weighed and found wanting. Those who deafen themselves to cries for justice will find that God doesn’t answer their call. Those who prophesy peace won’t see the calamity that’s coming.
That’s all good news! When people ask, doesn’t God care? We can say, yes he does. When people ask, ‘how can God let this happen?’ we can say, he won’t let evil go unchecked.
What’s the bad news then? God sees, God cares, and God will act in judgment. God knows the wicked thoughts that are in our hearts, the dreams we have on our pillows. He cares about the world and those whom we might hurt with our words and actions. God will come to judge the sin in our lives. God won’t spare us just because we come to church, or we try to do more good things than bad, any more than he wouldn’t spare the people in Micah’s day just because they lived in Jerusalem.
What hope do we have then? How can we escape the judgment that we know we deserve? By putting our trust in God, by seeking his mercy and forgiveness and by living faithfully to him. We’ll see more next week that God is the one who will restore, who will rebuild, who will renew his Kingdom and his people. The only one who can rescue us from God’s just justice, is God himself. He’s the only one who can cleanse us when we’ve become defiled. Let’s pray now that God will forgive us and strengthen us to live for him.