Uniform 07.12.2015: No Tolerance for Corrupt Leaders and Prophets


Micah 3:5-12

In a 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show entitled “Opie and the Spoiled Kid,” Opie’s friend Arnold kept getting into trouble. Andy finally confiscated the boy’s bicycle due to violations of Mayberry’s no riding bikes on the sidewalk ordinance. Soon the boy’s father brought him in to meet with Andy. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the boy hadn’t received much disciplinary action at home.

Finally, Andy said to the father, “There’s a real nice woodshed out back.”

“Woodshed? A good old-fashioned woodshed?” the father inquired.

“Real nice one,” Andy answered.

After Arnold’s father escorted him out back, Opie asked Andy, “Is Arnie going to get spanked, Pa?”

“Don’t you think he deserves it?” Andy asked.

“I don’t want to say. After all, he is one of my own kind,” replied Opie.

That’s similar to the response I have to this week’s lesson text. Micah has some tough things to say to the prophets of his time; those prophets were what we now call “preachers”–and I’m one of their own kind!

Micah unleashes several criticisms of the preachers of his day. Let’s consider three of them.

First, their preaching was motivated by self-interest. They preached for the money (v. 11a). Now, pastors and preachers should be compensated for their work (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). That does not mean, though, that money should ever be the primary motivation for the preacher’s preaching. We preachers shouldn’t be like the character in one of Charlie Daniels’s long-ago songs:

Preacher man talkin’ on the TV, puttin’ down the rock and roll.
He wants me to send a donation ‘cause he’s worried about my soul.
He said, “Jesus walked on the water,” and I know that it’s true,
But sometimes I think that preacher man would like to do a little walkin’ too.”
(Long-Haired Country Boy, 1974)

Micah’s second criticism is related to the first: the prophets adjusted their message to fit their audience. Nothing is wrong with a preacher adjusting her method of delivery in order to increase the probability of being heard by particular people in a particular setting. But those eighth-century prophets spoke soothing words to those from whom they profited and troubling words to those from whom they did not (v. 5). While I don’t think I’ve ever been guilty of the latter charge, I suspect I have been guilty of the former. It is tempting to soften the message for those to whom we are beholden for our living.

Micah’s third criticism that I want to emphasize is that the prophets failed to be self-aware. They failed to recognize that their ministries had become corrupted and so they inappropriately and inaccurately presumed upon the presence of God and protection by God (v. 11b). Preachers, like all Christians, are responsible for keeping an appraising eye upon their spirit and their practices to ensure that their motives are as pure as possible and that their actions are in line with those motives. We need to preserve our integrity at all costs.

I hope this lesson leads us to pray for our preachers. Theirs is vital work and they need to be encouraged. One way that we can encourage them is by letting them know that we want to hear what they truly believe to be God’s word for us. Another way we can encourage them is by not letting their compensation (or lack thereof) be tied to whether we “like” what they say. And a third way we can encourage them is by praying that they will be true to their calling to preach the word and honest with themselves about their spiritual condition and ethical practices.


1. What are some differences in the ways that we view the relationship between our nation and God and the ways that the Old Testament envisions the relationship between Israel and God? Do those differences impact the ways in which we evaluate the policies and practices of our political leaders? Why or why not? How or how not?
2. Micah positively contrasted his ministry with that of the other prophets of his time (v. 8). To what extent can his self-description be used as a model for a present-day pastoral ministry? What if anything needs to be added to it? What if anything needs to be subtracted from it?
3. Micah said that the political and religious leaders of his day bore special responsibility for the coming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (v. 12). How would you describe the responsibility that our leaders have for the moral and ethical climate in our nation?
4. What do we expect of our preachers? What is the basis of our expectations?

Reference Shelf

Judgment Deferred or Unfulfilled?

Following this indictment, God announces a sharp judgment (3:12). Jerusalem/Zion will experience such disaster that the area will once again be able to be plowed as a field and the temple area will become only a minor shrine in the woods (see 1:6 for comparable language regarding Samaria, which suffered such an end as well). Had this prophetic word come to pass (see below), it would have effectively put an end to Israel, the people of God.

This announcement of judgment is of no little import in that it is the only prophetic text that is fully quoted by another prophet (see Jer 26:18- 19). Notably, the Jeremiah text claims that this prophecy was not fulfilled because God “repented” (changed the divine mind) in view of Hezekiah’s prayers. From the testimony of Jeremiah 26:3 (comparably, Jer 36:3), where God’s positive purpose in Jeremiah’s preaching of judgment is announced, one could say that Micah’s prophetic word was effective: Jerusalem was not destroyed.

That Jerusalem was later destroyed in 587 BCE could conceivably mean the “reinstatement” of Micah’s word for a new time and place. But such language would not be a helpful way of thinking through this issue. The later destruction of Jerusalem was not a necessity because Micah spoke what he did. Micah’s word was not suspended for a time, “lying in wait” for some more applicable day. God’s changing of the divine mind regarding Micah’s prophecy was a genuine change. A new situation had to develop for the kind of word that Micah spoke to be applicable once again. At the same time, even when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the city was not reduced to aplowed field or a wooded height. Micah’s word did not come to pass as spoken even then. Jerusalem has survived through the centuries.

Terence E. Fretheim, Reading Hosea-Micah (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2013), 204-205.

The Heart of the Book of the Twelve

Mic 3:12 serves as the center of the Book of the Twelve according to a Masoretic note in the margins of the Hebrew text (see BHS, which reflects the marginal note that appears in the Leningrad Codex, the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible). The note implies it is the midpoint of “the book” by verse count, but since there are 64 verses after this verse in Micah and only 40 that precede it, it clearly cannot have referred to Micah by itself. Rather, this note highlights Micah’s role as the center of the Book of the Twelve, which is confirmed by the fact that this verse falls right in the middle of the 1050 verses in the Book of the Twelve.

James D. Nogalski, Micah–Malachi, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2011), 549.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Uniform Series Curriculum Editor.


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