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Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12

Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 23, 2013 AM

One of my assignments for a course in seminary was to observe different kinds of worship services. They do this in order for students to not only experience different kinds of worship, but to also see how not to do worship. In one instance, students went to a church that met in an old theater. The service began with upbeat music that lasted about 30 minutes. The pastor came out following the music and announced he had received a vision from the Lord that 20 people would give him $20 and those who did so would receive a special blessing. He asked everyone to close their eyes and told those who would give the $20 to raise their hands. He then pretended to count and announced falsely that 20 had raised their hands. He then made the same false claim for those who would give $10!

We live in a world where greedy people use unscrupulous methods to reap dishonest gain. Pretended good is often an effective cloak for evil. Christians should examine their motives at home, at work, at school and the church to make sure they do not exploit others. In Micah’s day, the leaders of Israel were guilty of using people to obtain power and wealth for themselves. They failed in their God-given responsibilities to promote justice and the welfare of the people who trusted them. Micah graphically teaches us about how corruption is a path to nowhere! Let’s discover what he says…

READ: Micah 3:1-12

Micah introduces a broad condemnation of the leadership of Israel (also referred to as “Jacob”). Micah rebuked the leaders for failing to do what they knew was right. They were aware of their responsibilities to provide for and protect the citizens of Israel. However, they ignored their duties and savaged the people like wild animals devouring their prey. Micah predicted they would suffer for their crimes. Micah teaches us that…

I. Corruption is moral cannibalism! (Vv.3:1-4)

1. Micah spoke prophetically against the corrupt leaders of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Jacob and Israel are used synonymously for both in this verse. God’s people had two basic categories of leaders in Micah’s day. The civil rulers were the king and those who served him as officials. The religious leaders included priests and prophets. Micah focused on the civil rulers in verses 1-4. God was to be the ultimate ruler; and the civil and religious authorities were to serve as He directed. This rule is called a theocracy. The leaders were to care for the people as shepherds do for a flock. The rulers were to lead the people to obey the laws both civil and God’s by godly example. These leaders were expected to “know justice”! Yet they hated good and loved evil! A godly king would appoint judges who would dispense justice impartially for all. These civil authorities however were ungodly and failed in their responsibilities. Their failure denied justice for the people and established a culture of corruption in the nation. (Sound familiar?) We live in a day whereby our court system is reinterpreting our Constitution to suit their own political agenda. The corrupt rulers of Israel reversed the moral code of God for their nation. They were supposed to pursue righteousness and avoid wickedness. Yet, like wild animals, they tore the skin off their victims and the flesh from their bones! The actions of the leaders were hypocritical and opposed to God’s will and His laws. The leaders were anything but shepherds of the flock. They were like wolves in sheep’s clothing! In very descriptive terms, Micah related that these cannibals “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!” When God’s final judgment came on them Micah warned, “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!” Corruption is moral cannibalism!

EXAMPLE: All believers function as moral leaven in a spiritually corrupt world. We set examples for others, our families, our classmates, or at our workplace. The question we must keep in front of us is what kind of example and influence are we. Does it measure up to the ethical standards God has revealed in His word? We see evidence in our day that some civil and political authorities have lost their moral compasses and no longer know the way of truth. They call evil good and good evil. People suffer in a nation that will not honor the Lord and the basic principles of righteousness. What can Christians do when justice is denied and civic rulers fail to lead wisely? First, we can speak out as Micah did about the ungodliness in society. Christians who speak out about the sanctity of human life, the value of the traditional family, and other moral issues follow a long tradition of courageous believers who stood up for truth in the past. Second, we can vote and be active in the process of choosing our leaders. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. We should use every opportunity to bring our biblical convictions to bear on the election and conduct of our leaders. Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism!

Micah condemned spiritually weak and corrupt prophets who failed to warn the people of the consequences of sin. He warned these disobedient prophets that they would not receive guidance from the Lord because of their rebellion. Their sins made impossible their receiving any revelation from the Lord. Micah contrasted his ministry with theirs, describing himself as a true prophet who spoke with the power of God’s Spirit. Micah reminds us that…

II. Corruption brings spiritual poverty! (Vv. 3:5-8)

1. Micah then turned his attention to the corrupt spiritual leaders of Israel. The prophets represented an office of spiritual leadership. True Old Testament prophets received revelation from the Lord and preached it to the rulers and the people. True prophets rebuked civil rulers when they personally failed to live moral lives. In Micah’s day, however, God identified the prophets as those “who lead my people astray.” They should have cared for the flock entrusted to them! Instead, they had become hirelings who would prophesy what the people wanted to hear. Micah related that, “if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.” These ungodly men were motivated by greed and lacked integrity. Their work was not a ministry but a way to gain wealth and power. They lacked courage and were no longer guided by the truth. They became prophets for hire who would say anything for profit. Many years later, Paul warned Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 NIV) Micah warned that spiritual darkness would be their punishment, “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.” The darkness would fall on them because they failed to warn the people to repent. It also represented the judgment that would come. In fact, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced.” Why? In shame, “They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God!” Judgment fell on the nation despite these leaders’ promises of safety and security. On that day, everyone would know just how corrupt these men were! Their false lies would amount to nothing! Corruption brings spiritual poverty!

EXAMPLE: Greed and materialism continue to shape the messages of many false religious leaders in our day. Many offer cures or guaranteed prosperity if contributors will give money to them. Some of these individuals align themselves with corrupt business or political leaders to defraud people through false offers of hope. Spiritual leaders today also need to be warned by the example of those in Micah’s day. The love of money offers many temptations that can corrupt a pure ministry. The fear of rejection can lead some to preach or teach only those principles that people want to hear. Avoiding sin and judgment is a way to be popular with sinners but not with God. The false prophets were the most popular religious leaders until judgment overcame the nation and the true prophets like Micah and Isaiah were revealed. We must always convey the truth without regard for the cost. There can be no permanent success when we suppress the truth of God’s Word. We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty!

Micah condemns Israel’s political leaders for their injustice and bloodshed. These judges perverted justice by taking bribes. They exonerated the wicked and failed to protect the innocent. Micah condemned the spiritual leaders for condoning the sins of those paying them and for falsely promising safety from divine punishment. Micah warned of a devastating judgment that would destroy the nation.

III. Corruption demands accountability! (Vv.3:9-12)

1. Micah next summed up his condemnation of the corrupt leaders and identified the failures of civil and religious leaders. Those who abhor justice have no respect for God. God declares Himself to be an impartial Judge who is no respecter of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7). Justice is denied when bribes or partiality corrupt the process. God desires human judgments to reflect His fairness and equal treatment of all. Money, position, power, friendships, or other considerations must never be allowed to deny justice through punishing the innocent or releasing the wicked. Micah accused the leaders of perverting everything that is right. Sin is a perversion of something good. Lies are a perversion of truth. Adultery or same sex marriage is a perversion of traditional marriage. Betrayal is a perversion of loyalty. These officials had fallen down a slippery slope of personal ambition and everything they did was tainted by their sin. They despised “justice and distort all that is right” and had built “Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.” The leaders judged “for a bribe” and the spiritual leadership, the priests, taught the people “for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money”! WOW! The acceptance of a bribe in exchange for a political favor was prevalent in Micah’s day; nowadays we refer to it as political action! The disobedient priests and prophets had become so spiritually blinded to their own ungodliness they falsely professed loyalty to the Lord! They knew they were corrupt but wanted to continue their charade by displaying a false confidence by telling the people, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” All is well, no problems here! Spiritual leaders are supposed to be like watchmen on the wall who would warn the people of impending judgment. Micah alone warned that, “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!” The people could not imagine such destruction. The majority of the civil and religious leaders told them God would never allow such to happen. They were wrong. The prophecy of Micah would occur and the fulfillment would be exactly as he described. Yet, we learn that corruption demands accountability!

EXAMPLE: Corruption continues to be a major problem in our world, demanding vigilance and oversight by authorities. When the government becomes complicit in the bribery, justice is not possible. Money and greed have historically been the cause of much of the corruption in the judicial and political system. After all, a million here and a million there adds up to real money when it becomes billions! A major source of misery around the world continues to be governments that allow or participate in a corrupt judicial or political system. Western democracies have sought to include checks and balances to eliminate bribes and maintain a fair judiciary and government. Even so, the temptation to subvert justice for financial gain is too much for some, and they cash in on it. The church and its members must be above reproach in seeking any financial gain. Those who proclaim God’s truth must be people of integrity who would be willing to risk financial loss rather than compromise the message. We are ultimately accountable to the Lord for our ministries, and we can be sure He will judge us impartially. Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

Conclusion:
Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism! We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty! Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Following God includes loyalty — Esther 3

Following God includes loyalty — Esther 3:2, 5-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 21, 2013 AM

Sandra struggled with two seemingly irreconcilable forces in her life. She believed God had called her to be a missionary but she could not believe He would send her to such a dangerous place. Like many Christians Sandra has falsely assumed God’s primary function is to protect, preserve, and prosper His people. They focus on Scriptures that affirm God’s love and care for His own. These believers assume God would not lead them to serve Him where they would be uncomfortable, much less, where there is potential danger. However, God’s objective is to carry out His purposes through His people. Those purposes may require His people to serve Him at great personal risk. The Lord expects His people to exercise faith as they serve Him in the risky situations into which He leads them. Perhaps we forget that following God includes loyalty even when there is risk involved.

The plot of the Book of Esther thickens in chapter 3 with the introduction of the villain. A man named Haman accepted a promotion by King Xerxes to a position of prestige and power. The office to which he was elevated is not stated, but several details about Haman are noted. His father’s name was Hammedatha. He was an Agagaite, which identifies him as a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites during the era of Israel’s early monarchy. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, teaches us that following God includes loyalty. Let’s discover what occurs…

READ: Esther 3:1-6

One cannot sort-of-kind-of follow God and expect God’s blessings. King Saul failed to learn this lesson and his disobedience affected not only himself but future generations. The Amalekites were a Canaanite tribe who consistently opposed Israel from the exodus out of Egypt to the reign of David. God had ordered Saul to eradicate the Amalekites in a holy war. However, Saul spared Agag until the prophet Samuel voiced the Lord’s displeasure and then executed the Amalekite king. Saul’s failure to completely obey God allowed the Amalekites to survive and to continue to harm Israel. In these verses, we discover that in following God…

I. God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty! (Vv. 1-3)
1. The writer of Esther portrays King Xerxes as a man easily manipulated by others. The king had ordered his subjects to bow down as recognition of Haman’s status. The Hebrew verb means to fall on one’s knees and bow down. The important aspect was not the posture but the attitude it reflected. The word translated pay homage often is used to denote worship of deity. No doubt Haman’s vanity had influenced Xerxes to order this gesture. The narrative does not state why Mordecai refused to bow. His behavior throughout the story demonstrates his personal loyalty to the Persian king. So his refusal was not a sign of treachery. Nor can it be attributed to some Jewish law against bowing to other humans. The Scripture offers numerous examples of Jews’ bowing to other people: “Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites”, so he could bury his wife Sarah.  (Genesis 23:7 NIV) David honored King Saul after he could have easily killed him, “David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.” (1 Samuel 24:8 NIV) Those who sought audiences with the King of Israel, bowed before him in respect (2 Samuel 14:4). And Bathsheba bowed before David in order to garner his support for Solomon to be king (1 Kings 1:16). However, Mordecai had both religious and political reasons for steadfastly not bowing to Haman. Jewish tradition held that no self-respecting Jew would ever show reverence to an Amalekite. So Mordecai may have seen his refusal as conforming to God’s command to not honor false idols, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God!” (Exodus 20:5 NIV) Mordecai would have understood that the Persians saw such tribute as an act that bordered on acknowledging the honored individual was a god. In that case, bowing would have been idolatry. I would conclude Mordecai took the risk of offending Haman because he recognized God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty!

EXAMPLE: What risks have you taken lately for your faith, what risks are you willing to take? Many say they “love” Jesus and we all desire that He love us, but what has our love or His love motivated us to risk for His kingdom purposes. Do your co-workers, classmates, friends, neighbors and family members know you will not bow to the world’s ungodliness? Frank got up from the lunch table and walked out when one of fellow co-workers began telling a crude joke. The jokester snickered, “What a prude Frank is. He thinks he is better than us!” Art looked at him, stood up, and remarked, “No, perhaps he doesn’t appreciate your ungodly crude jokes, and in fact, neither do I.” Art then left the table. Later, as Art was working, the young man who had been telling the joke sought him out and apologized for his poor choice in jokes. He related that his wife did not appreciate his humor either and wondered why. Out of this conversation, this young man and his wife soon were attending Art’s church. Art had shared with him that as a Christian, we show our worship and loyalty to him even by the words we use. Just as Mordecai took the risk of offending Haman because he recognized God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty, we can as well!

Vowing revenge but scorning to lay hands on a single victim, Haman meditated on the extirpation of the whole Jewish race. He knew they were sworn enemies of his countrymen; and by artfully representing them as a people who were aliens in manners and habits, and enemies to the rest of his subjects, he procured the king’s sanction of the intended massacre. All because “Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.” Mordecai teaches us that…

II. Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

1. Mordecai’s loyalty to God in not bowing to Haman enraged the Persian. His anger revealed his true character. He was obsessed with his power and prestige and consequently craved constant human praise. His pride left no room for accepting less than unconditional adoration. Therefore, Haman resolved to kill Mordecai for not admiring him as much as he admired himself! The death of just one man would not satisfy Haman’s vanity. So great were his rage and his pride that he resolved in destroying every Jew in the Persian Empire. He believed only this result would be appropriate considering the so-called offense against him. The failed attempt to rid Persia of Jews is the primary plot of the Book of Esther. Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship. The hardship may affect the individual, God’s people, or both. In the case of Mordecai, it put him and all other Jews in danger. God’s people today sometimes confront hostility when they refuse to give others what God alone deserves. They are to remain steadfast and not allow opposition to lead them to compromise. On the other hand, God’s people must not blame an entire group for the actions of one member as some folks do when they decide to leave a church fellowship over their own personal pride being wounded. When Mordecai failed to show Haman the respect he desired, the Persian determined to eliminate all the Jews from the empire. When Haman cast lots to identify the proper time for his mass murder, it fell in line with God’s purposes. The Amalekites, not the Jews, would be annihilated. Afterwards the Festival of Purim was begun in celebration of the Jews’ deliverance by God from Haman’s evil plans. Haman had persuaded King Xerxes that the Jews threatened the Persian Empire’s national security. To these false accusations, Haman added a bribe and was able to accomplish his aims He obtained a royal decree setting aside a time for slaughtering the Jewish people. Haman’s scheme might have succeeded except for God’s providence. Mordecai’s cousin and adopted daughter was the Queen of Persia. God had placed Esther in a situation where she could make a difference if she trusted Him. When faced with a choice of either remaining complacent or standing for his beliefs, Mordecai learned that identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

EXAMPLE: Isn’t it interesting that Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that, your brother has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24 NIV) Yet, far too often Christians act like the hated Haman and get easily offended when they are not properly recognized, bowed down to, or respected in the way they think they should be. What a contrast is Mordecai to Haman! Haman wanted and sought after human recognition, Mordecai sought only to honor God. Mordecai learned that identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

Conclusion:
God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty! Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Careless Acts of Men – Today’s Thoughts…

The Careless Acts of Men – Today’s Thoughts…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 2008

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5)

Things do not change much in life or history. People still fall in love, parents have children, and the government often creates hardship when it interferes with people’s lives. Just like it did with Mary and Joseph’s. Of course being a Christian and believing in the predestination of God I could say it was predetermined that the government would interfere in the life of the parents of Jesus, but we all make choices. Including governments that are instituted by God.

I find it fascinating that one small stroke of the pen by an emperor somewhere off in far distant Rome, made the difference in where Jesus was born. I am sure he did not care and if it was brought somehow to his imperial attention that his signature on the decree for taxes would make a couple, the mother pregnant, travel across the Middle East, he would not have been concerned in the least. And isn’t this, I suppose, the way of all bureaucrats that have removed themselves from the people they are supposed to govern?

It also brings up another question: How far removed are we from influencing the lives of others around us? Keeping promises, following through on paying what we owe, keeping our word, or even by the mere fact we cut someone off on the road. Perhaps we treated a salesclerk harshly, or a waitress with disrespect, or a neighbor with contempt, and, we, could care less. There it is: care less. Careless living as a believer can cause others harm when we do not think before we act. To be careless is not taking care of how we live or how we act as a believer. At least Caesar August had an excuse! He needed more tax money and a proper census needed to be taken so that no one would be charged more, or of course less, than they should have been. After all Rome was at least consistent. What then is our excuse when we could care less when we do something that affects the lives of others, our families, or ourselves? Now do not try and let yourself off the hook by declaring, “Perhaps it is the will of God!” Be careful of such a careless attitude.

Joseph was obedient to the decree of Rome and he went dutifully to register his new wife even though she was pregnant. It was his duty. The signature of an Emperor put into motion the will of God where the Messiah would be born. He did not care whose life it affected. The outcome God meant for our good, but how do you watch your carelessness? Should we not all take care as to how we carelessly treat others,  especially this holiday season?  Oh I pray so! What do you think?
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

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