Woeful Warnings

By Walter Kim

Micah 2:1-13
1    Woe to those who plan iniquity,
      to those who plot evil on their beds!
      At morning's light they carry it out
      because it is in their power to do it.
2    They covet fields and seize them,
      and houses, and take them.
      They defraud a man of his home,
      a fellowman of his inheritance.
3    Therefore, the LORD says:
      "I am planning disaster against this people,
      from which you cannot save yourselves.
      You will no longer walk proudly,
      for it will be a time of calamity.
4    In that day men will ridicule you;
      they will taunt you with this mournful song:
     ‘We are utterly ruined;
     my people's possession is divided up.
     He takes it from me!
     He assigns our fields to traitors.'"
5    Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the LORD
     to divide the land by lot.
6    "Do not prophesy," their prophets say.
     "Do not prophesy about these things;
     disgrace will not overtake us."
7    Should it be said, O house of Jacob:
     "Is the Spirit of the LORD angry?
     Does he do such things?"
     "Do not my words do good
     to him whose ways are upright?
8    Lately my people have risen up
     like an enemy.
     You strip off the rich robe
     from those who pass by without a care,
     like men returning from battle.
9    You drive the women of my people
     from their pleasant homes.
     You take away my blessing
     from their children forever.
10   Get up, go away!
     For this is not your resting place,
     because it is defiled,
     it is ruined, beyond all remedy.
11   If a liar and deceiver comes and says,
     ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,'
     he would be just the prophet for this people!
12   I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob;
     I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
     I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,
     like a flock in its pasture;
     the place will throng with people.
13   One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
     they will break through the gate and go out.
     Their king will pass through before them,
     the LORD at their head."

Crime and Punishment (2:1-5)

Micah delivers a devastating message of warning to the powerful who covet and seize the land of their fellow Israelites. The economic loss for the poor is catastrophic and deserving of punishment. The crime, however, exceeds even these injuries.  By coveting, the elite transgress one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20), and in so doing they break faith with God.  By seizing the land, the wealthy rob these farmers of their place within the covenant blessings. The Lord originally apportioned the land to the Israelite tribes and families during the conquest under Joshua's leadership. Since these territories were gifts from the Great King, they were not to be transferred (cf. 1 Kg. 21:3). Thus, God's punishment of exile fits the crime. Those who dispossess will themselves be dispossessed. Sin is a serious matter. Our greed and envy not only defraud our fellow human beings but also violate God's intentions to bless others.

False and True Comfort (2:6-13)

Just as the leaders exploit their privileged position to the demise of the people, so too the prophets do harm to the nation. Their problem is the opposite of abuse. The prophets instead yield too readily to popular opinion. They are unwilling to speak a harsh warning, but they glibly reassure Israel that "disgrace will not overtake us" and virtually promise "plenty of wine and beer." Although abuse and pandering seem to be very different problems, both lead to spiritual bankruptcy. The prophets provide no moral compass for the nation. For some of us, the abuse of power is a real temptation. We need to submit our ambitions to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. For others, it is the desire to be liked that prevents us from confronting sin in us and in others. We'd rather have the false comfort of people's approval than the true comfort of the Lord's will.