When you think of “power” what do you think of? The pink energizer bunny? Your local power station? Powerade? Maybe you think of superheroes and villains each have a power they can wield to either help or hurt humanity. Maybe you think of your boss or the President. Each one has power.
What is power? Is power the strongest person in the room? Is power violence? Power can mean a lot of things but when I say power today I’m talking about the authority and ability to make things happen. Maybe you think power is inherently evil and no one should have power over another. But to be made in the image of God is to be made to rule or reign with God—to share in God’s power (2 Tim 2:11-12). This means that power is not inherently evil but actually good.
Micah 3 is about power. The prophet Micah first addresses those who have misused their power, who wield unjust power. Then Micah himself models just power before hinting at gospel power. Why should you care? Because we each have power no matter how young or old we are and we can either use that power for good or evil. We can either commit injustices with the authority God has given us, and must answer to God for those deeds, or we can act just and true instead. Micah starts by giving us an example of unjust power.
Unjust Power – Authority that uses others for its own good. (v1-4)
Micah condemns the rulers of Judah and their wrong use of power in the first three verses. Now he uses a graphic metaphor of cannibalism. A metaphor is a figure of speech or image so they weren’t actually cannibals. They didn’t eat each other but the way they treated each other was selfish and unhealthy.
1 Then I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel.
Should you not embrace justice,
2 you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;
3 who eat my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
like flesh for the pot?” (NIV®)
What are they doing? As we learned last week in Micah 2 the leaders of Israel, the elders, judges, and wealthy are using their influence to steal the land and homes of the poor and weak. They are using their authority to take advantage of others. As Bernie would say, “They loved things and used people instead of using things and loving people.” So how does God judge them? What’s their sentence?
4 Then they will cry out to the Lord,
but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done. (NIV®)
Since they have hidden their faces from the poor and needy, and have not listened to the cries of the downtrodden, God will hide his face from them. They will cry out to God and God will not listen.
I want you to transport yourself back in time for a moment. You’re standing by the city gates and watching the sale of a widow’s home and property to a rich lender. She has lost everything and will likely have to sell her children into slavery, but the rich lender did everything in public and according to custom. He lent her money when she was in a tough spot but she couldn’t pay him back at the high interest rate. So now he gets to take everything. What would you do? Would you try to help? Or the lender did everything by the book so what’s done is done? Would you side with the powerful or the powerless?
Now let’s step into the present? How do you feel about the #MeToo movement? What’s your gut instinct say? When you hear that powerful men in business and entertainment have taken advantage of women is your first instinct assuming the accusation is true or that there’s a hidden agenda? Do you naturally side with the powerful or the powerless? Be reflective. Why do you think that is? Is it because one of the parties is familiar to you and you can relate to them? Is there some other reason? What does the Bible say? It tells us we shouldn’t automatically side on the side of the accuser or the accused but on the side of truth.
Leviticus 19:15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (NIV®)
However, the Bible over and over again acknowledges that the poor and needy are taken advantage of, not the rich and powerful (Isaiah 1:17, 3:14-15; Amos 2:6-7, 4:1; James 2:2-6).
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (NIV®)
I know there’s been some question of whether or not women are making it up to get something they want. One 2010 study reported that only between 2-10% of sexual misconduct allegations are false. So anywhere from 92 to 98 of 100 cases are true. A 1996 report by the FBI put that figure at 8%. The US Bureau of Justice reports only 35% of sexual assaults are reported to police. There’s no easy answer to the #MeToo movement. But as the church we should be concerned with both truth and justice and be extra mindful that in a world full of sin it is not usually the powerful who are victims but the powerless. What did Micah do when he encountered unjust power? He confronted it with just power.
Just Power – Authority that lovingly corrects and leads others to God’s goodness. (v5-8)
In our next verses Micah again indicts those in power, this time prophets who only prophesy good if they’re paid, and prophesy ill if they’re not paid.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
they proclaim ‘peace’
if they have something to eat,
but prepare to wage war against anyone
who refuses to feed them. (NIV®)
These prophets are corrupt. What’s their sentence? They who claim to see God are blinded by God.
6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions,
and darkness, without divination.
The sun will set for the prophets,
and the day will go dark for them.
7 The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
They will all cover their faces
because there is no answer from God.” (NIV®)
If you claim to hear from God but use that authority to take advantage of others, God is not going to talk to you anymore (1 Peter 3:7). But Micah contrasts this with how the Lord God has really and truly called him to exercise just and good power.
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression,
to Israel his sin. (NIV®)
Just power is power based upon the Holy Spirit, upon God instead of oneself. Micah can exercise proper authority because he’s not counting on his own understanding of the situation or his own wisdom but on the wisdom and commandments of God. He is filled with God’s power and justice and might. And what does he do with this God-given, Holy Spirit inspired, power? He lovingly corrects the sins of Israel and Judah and works to lead them back to God’s goodness.
Take a moment and think about your relationships. Think of your coworkers, those who you report to and report to you. Think of your family members, the ones you love and the ones that sanctify you. Think of your neighbors, friends, and church. What kind of power are you exerting in those relationships? Do you use your power to manipulate and get ahead of others or to get your way? Or do you use your power to love and care for them like a good parent uses their power to love and care for their child? Are you willing to use your power to correct them and lead them to the Lord, so far as you are able, or are you more concerned that you might lose your power if you do so? Just power corrects and leads others to God.
What’s the goal of striving to use our power wisely? Was Micah effective? The book of Jeremiah says this about Micah’s ministry.
Jeremiah 26:18-19a “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“‘Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’
19 “Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the Lord and seek his favor? And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them?…”
So what happened? Micah lovingly corrects and leads the people to God and they actually repent and follow. King Hezekiah himself turned to God and sought the Lord’s favor. Never lose hope in the power of just power. But is just power enough? Will a good use of power lead people to salvation? We need something more. We need gospel power.
Gospel Power – Authority that lays down its life for the good of others. (v9-12)
Here in our final verses the prophet Micah calls out the judges, the priests, and the prophets (v9, 11). He’s facing the prophets, priests, and kings. But like a warrior charging into battle he faces his enemies with courage—with the Holy Spirit in his chest (v8).
9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
10 who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness.
11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.” (NIV®)
What is this disaster? Why does Micah need the Holy Spirit to empower him? Because he prophesies the destruction of the temple, what they hold most valuable and dear.
12 Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. (NIV®)
Just imagine how threatening Micah’s prophecy is. Listen to this description of the temple’s importance:
“Within Israel the temple bore manifold social, spiritual, political, economic and cultural importance. In contemporary America it would be the equivalent of the entire range of our iconic political and cultural institutions: the White House, Capitol Hill, the National Cathedral, Wall Street and Hollywood. More than this, Jerusalem, in a profound theological sense, was considered the center of the earth—the hill Yahweh would defend against all attackers. And at the center of Jerusalem was the temple, in whose inner chambers the King of the Universe was known to dwell with an especially awesome presence.” (A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp; p. 86)
Micah isn’t just saying there’s going to be a run on the banks or your church is going to burn down. He’s saying, “God has left you and you’re going to lose everything!” How do you think the people probably felt hearing this? Scared? Angry? Murderous?… Micah reminds me of another fearless prophet.
Mark 13:1-2 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (NIV®)
This prophecy is the one the Sanhedrin twists a few days later to try and condemn Jesus to death. When Micah prophesies the destruction of the temple he is foreshadowing a greater prophet who would prophesy the same thing. Both are correct. Babylon destroys Micah’s temple and the Romans destroy Jesus’ temple. Both risk their own lives to deliver this message.
Gospel power is willing to lay down its life to rescue others. Micah’s willingness to risk his own life makes it possible for his people to be saved from God’s wrath in their lifetime. Jesus’ actual sacrifice of his life makes it possible for any to come to him and be saved from God’s wrath in the life to come. Every day God gives us an opportunity to lay down our lives for the good of others.
This may be what Romans 12:1 calls becoming a “living sacrifice”. This is laying down your time day after day to serve others, to take care of their needs, to use your gifting to bless and grow them. It means giving up your preferences and wants for what God says is good. This is gospel power, real authority.
Gospel power could also mean laying down your actual life. France has been through a lot recently. They’ve had the yellow-vest protests and riots and wave after wave of terrorist attacks. During an attack last March there was a glimpse of gospel power. A lone gunman took several people hostage in a French supermarket. Arnaud Beltrame, a French police officer, offered to trade places with a hostage during the standoff. Because of his actions the hostage lived but he died.
France needs Jesus. That’s why it’s so exciting we’re sending a group of teenagers over there this summer as missionaries and have given money to Thierry Mirone, a French Missionary, before. Although we don’t know for certain the state of this man’s heart his Catholic priest thinks he was a true Christian. Father Jean-Baptiste wrote this of Officer Arnaud:
It seems to me that only his faith can explain the madness of this sacrifice which is today the admiration of all. He understood, as Jesus told us, that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). He knew that if his life belonged to [his wife] Marielle, it also belonged to God, to France and to his brothers in danger of death. I believe that only a Christian faith animated by charity could ask for this superhuman sacrifice.
Bernaud is a clear example of someone having power entering a state of vulnerability in order to rescue the powerless. This is a beautiful picture of gospel power and this is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us. He who had power risked himself to rescue the weak. Now it’s time for you and me to go and do the same. Will you confess any use of unjust power to Jesus and will you exercise just power and gospel power in the places God calls you to serve this week? God is honored when we use our power for the sake of others.
Pastor Jonathan Romig preached this message at Cornerstone Congregational Church. You can download a PDF copy of this sermon above, which includes further endnotes and references. Click to listen to sermons or to read our story.