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Princes And Priests Apostate
The second division of the book begins with a summons to the heads and princes of Israel to hear the prophet’s rebuke. It is no longer the common people who are addressed, but the princes, or judges, in vers. 1 Timothy 4:0, and the prophets in vers. 5 to 8. Then both are grouped together, the priests also being included, as “heads of the house of Jacob,” in vers. 9 to 12.
It is a solemn thing when the leaders of God’s people cause them to err; when those who should have been a bulwark for the truth turn away therefrom, “speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
They who should have known judgment, and who were raised up of God to rule the nation in righteousness, were the very ones who were leading the mass astray. Often has it been so in the history of the Church, as well as of Israel. Therefore the need to test all that is taught or practised, by the only infallible rule, the unerring Word of God. If Christians are content to be styled “the laity,” and leave their spiritual interests in the hands of their guides, they have themselves to blame if they are led in wrong paths. Each is responsible to exercise himself unto godliness, and to try the things that differ.
It too frequently happens that leaders become pretentious and haughty, regarding themselves as “the clergy,” whose special province it is to find sustenance in “the ministry,” forgetting that to minister is to serve, not to lord it over possessions. No pride is worse than spiritual pride. No pretension is more to be abhorred than ecclesiastical pretension. But there are never wanting vain, self-confident men, who are ever ready to arrogate to themselves high-sounding titles and powers if the people love to have it so. And it is solemn indeed to realize that it generally is the people themselves who are responsible for this kind of thing, because of the readiness with which they accept the ipse dixit of some gifted uninspired man, rather than to search the Word for themselves, that they may find therein set forth the path for their feet.
Here, the people were indifferent, and the princes lived recklessly, despising the “lower classes,” and flourishing in their presumption and avarice. In place of caring for the flock of God, as those who must give an account, they looked upon them as their lawful prey, “flaying the skin from off them” (vers. 2, 3).
One is reminded of the grim jest of Pope Leo X, who, it is said, made the remark to his companion princes of the church, “What a profitable thing this myth about Jesus Christ has been to us!” And all because the Bible had been kept from the people, and they were willing it should be so.
But the hour of judgment is coming, when all such must answer to the great Shepherd of the sheep for their unholy ways. “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but He will not hear them: He will even hide His face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings” (ver. 4).
In the second section it is “the prophets that make the people err,” who are summoned to hear the Word of the Lord. The princes ruled by sheer power, because of the awe in which they were held. The prophets perverted the very words of the Lord, and gave false burdens, in order to hinder any from inquiring concerning the path of life. Prince and prophet have been blended into one splendid hierarchy in Christendom for centuries, but in our day have been largely divorced, so that we can readily distinguish between those whose power rests on assumption of ecclesiastical character, and those who lead astray because of professed spiritual insight, entitling them to be heard as exponents of the truth, while perverting, or setting aside, the Word of God.
But all alike, however their systems may differ, have one characteristic mark: “They serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18). This was what marked the false prophets in Micah’s day- and in all days before and since. “Who, when they have something to bite with their teeth, cry, Peace; but who prepare war against him who putteth nothing in their mouths” (ver. 5)- such is Leeser’s graphic translation of a verse that in the Authorized Version is a little ambiguous.
The true prophet of the Lord is not concerned about financial or other recompense. He goes! forth in dependence on Him who has sent him, and is thus free to speak His Word, “not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth the hearts.” Every false religious system is marked by greed for filthy lucre, and its advocates act on the thought that so readily found lodgment in Simon’s heart, “that the gift of God might be purchased for money.” It is the error of Balaam, and is especially characteristic of the last days.
Thus perverting the truth for personal profit, they darken counsel by words without knowledge. But as they have hidden the light from others, they shall go into the night at last The sixth and seventh verses are intensely solemn, and may well cause teachers of error to tremble. “Therefore the night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.” Unspeakably awful will be the awakening when those who have posed as the very oracles of divine truth before their fellows shall have their eyes opened to see that they are lost and ruined forever; and though they cry out in the anguish of their despair, there will be no answer of God!
How different was the case of Jehovah’s true servant! In simple confidence he could say, “Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (ver. 8). Undismayed by the fear of man that bringeth a snare, he could faithfully proclaim the mind of God, as revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. He was the servant not of men, but of Jehovah of hosts; and his ministry was in the energy of faith, hence in the mighty power of God.
The last section is a summing up, ere the glad tidings of future blessing are told, of which chap. 4 treats.
Abhorring judgment, and perverting all equity, the rulers built up Zion with blood; yet, with most barefaced effrontery, they declared the Lord was in their midst and ratified their doings. “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us” (ver. 11). Thus they made Him the minister of unrighteousness, and made His holy name their answer to any who sought to reach their consciences.
Saints of God are called to “follow righteousness.” If this be overlooked, it is the veriest assumption to talk of having the Lord’s presence, and declaring themselves in the line of His testimony. This 11th verse may profitably be weighed in connection with Jeremiah 6:13, where the condition a few years later is found not to have improved, but deteriorated, as is ever the case when evil is left unjudged.
Because of this hardened condition, Zion was to be plowed as a field and Jerusalem destroyed; the mountain of Jehovah’s house being treated as the idolatrous high places of the groves. If righteousness be not maintained by His saints, God will remove their candlestick and annul their pretensions. He who is the Holy and the True will not go on with iniquity.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Micah 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34