Woe to the Oppressors
Scripture Text: Micah 2:1-11
We are continuing our look at the prophet Micah who prophesied during the reigns of three of Judah’s kings. Micah was a contemporary to other eighth-century prophets like Hosea and Isaiah. Like other prophets, he had a unique calling – God commissioned Him to speak God’s Word to God’s people, calling them to repentance. A prophet was a mouthpiece of God during a particular time or a particular situation. Micah wrote that “the Word of the Lord” came to Him, and that he was filled with the “Spirit of the Lord.” That is why Micah could declare with all of God’s authority, “This is what God says.” So, like other prophets of God, when Micah spoke, it was a good idea to listen. In fact, the book of Micah could be divided into three main sections that begin with the word “Hear.” In chapter one Micah wrote the following:
Micah 1:2 Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
This first major section of the book describes the impending judgment of God. Last week, we read Micah’s prophesy concerning God’s punishment on Samaria and Judah – God was a witness against them and was bringing destruction upon them for their sin. Today’s passage from Micah chapter two continues this judgment section with Micah speaking about the oppression in God’s land and the oppressors who were causing it. Micah directed his attention towards powerful leaders in Judea who exploited the vulnerable (vss. 1–5) and rejected God’s message (vss. 6–11). We see in this passage confirmation that the problems of the world are a result of sin. Sin is the root. Wickedness exists in the world because sin exists in the world. And where wickedness exists, oppression follows, and that is Micah’s message to God’s people.
- Wickedness Leads to Oppression and Disaster (vss. 1-5)
- Evil Seeks to Suppress the Truth (vss. 6-9, 11)
- God’s People Can Find Rest in Him (vs. 10)
Wickedness Leads to Oppression and Disaster
In ancient Israel, a family’s property was a permanent, sacred trust from God. God had given the land to the Israelites and distributed it to the various clans and families. The Israelite community celebrated this idea of a family’s inheritance to the land during the year of Jubilee, where debts would be canceled and people would return to the land God had given them. However, by the time of Micah, rich and powerful landlords had destroyed the Israelite community through their greed. These wicked landlords believed that God’s land belonged to anyone who had the power to take it and some of them had that power to take it. These schemers were devising plans to seek what was not rightfully theirs. These greedy men were oppressing the weak and poor and removing people from the land God had promised them. This tearing away of the people’s inheritance was a blatant violation of God’s Law – “You shall not covet.” (Ex. 20:17)
Micah wrote about how great their desire to harm the community was: “When the morning dawns, they perform it.” Micah might have said, “These schemers do in the daytime what they have planned in the night.” They schemed for what they desired. I can remember how I dreamed about certain things when Gena and I were considering moving to Louisburg and purchasing some property there. I would stay up much of the night, and plan about it during the day. I would plan about how we would get it and what we would do with it. I am not saying that acquiring property or wealth is bad, but if we are not careful, selfish desires can consume us. I have on many occasions been consumed by my own selfish desires.
The people to whom Micah wrote this prophecy were schemers. They planned how to take what was not rightfully theirs. These wicked people were so consumed by greed, that they did not rest a moment and were ready to execute the frauds they had devised in the night. And they had the power to do these things. They were restrained neither by the fear of God nor by any regard for justice. What they could do, they dared to do. These greedy oppressors were an enemy of the people taking advantage of the weak. They evicted women from their homes, taking God’s material blessings from them and their children. In fact, God called His people an enemy:
Micah 2:8 But lately my people have risen up as an enemy; you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war.
Sadly, wickedness hurts the innocent. The weak and innocent are often oppressed by the greedy schemes of wicked people. The good news is that God is the Judge. He will hold all people accountable.
To these wicked schemers, Micah declared “Woe!” Woe to these wealthy men who coveted other people’s possessions and seized the houses and lands from the weak. Woe to those who devise (dream up, plan, scheme) these wicked things. Woe to these oppressors. The punishment for their wickedness was that their own lands would be taken by foreign invaders – the Assyrians. These oppressors had seized property from the defenseless, so now foreign invaders will seize the land from the oppressors. Micah warned God’s people that God was going to cleanse Judea from its perverse and wicked inhabitants. Disaster would occur to both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Evil Seeks to Suppress the Truth
Not only do wicked people oppress the innocent, through greed and selfish desires, they also try to suppress the truth. False prophets rejected Micah’s message concerning God’s judgment. They told him “quit your preaching! This disaster you are prophesying will not happen to us.” Perhaps like many people, these wicked people and false prophets focused only on God’s love and God’s patience. Last week I mentioned that for some people, their Bibles include only two verses: God so loved the World (John 3:16) and Judge not that ye be not judged (Matt.7:1). But, that makes for a really thin Bible! Maybe the wicked people to whom Micah was preaching thought God would not allow disaster to happen to His people. We all tend to think we are better off than the next person. Well, I haven’t done this or that. At least I am not as bad as that person. We are blinded to our own sin.
People typically do not want to hear about God’s judgment or the destruction of His people. We want people to preach prosperity and good things, not judgment and consequence. People do not want to be held accountable. That is why so many resist believing in Jesus Christ, for if He is real and what He said is true, it means something for us. If Jesus Christ is who He said He was, then there is a consequence for my actions, or inaction. Micah wrote several rhetorical questions in verse seven that expose the misunderstanding of the people. God’s people thought that a God of grace could never plan the disaster Micah prophesied. The Israelites had lost sight of God’s holiness and judgment. God’s Law had become a distant memory to be quickly forgotten at the first sight of financial gain. The people welcomed “preaching” that suited their own desires – preaching that emphasized greed rather than God’s judgment on unethical behavior.
We see that the word “Preach” frames this section of the chapter. Micah mentioned “preaching” in verses six and eleven. In verse six, Micah quoted what these people told him, “Do not preach to us!” Israel expected God’s righteous judgment on Israel’s enemies, but not on His chosen people. They did not want to hear about God’s judgment on themselves. They did not want to hear God’s Word. They only wanted to hear what was pleasing to them. Paul mentioned something similar to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:3–4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Evil men want to suppress the truth and told Micah to not preach truth. Rather, they want to utter wind and lies. Paul’s charge to Timothy: Preach the Word. No matter what the naysayers say. No matter what those who want to oppress the people with lies and suppress the truth of God’s Word, you, people of God, preach the Word! The sum of God’s words is truth whether we agree with it or not. We see in Scripture that while others repented of their wickedness and turned to God, like the Ninevites to whom Jonah preached, God’s own people lacked that same repentance for their own sins. 2 Kings tells us the unfortunate truth of God’s people who were unwilling to listen to God:
2 Kings 17:13–14 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God.
The people were condemned for desiring these false prophets over the true Word of God. God asked in this passage in Micah, “Don’t My words bring good?” Are we better off doing things our way instead of God’s way? Are we not better off trusting God and obeying Him over the selfish desires we want? I say that we are.
God’s People Can Find Rest in Him
Micah’s prophecy to God’s people was that disaster was coming. The oppression caused by evil men who took advantage of the innocent was going to affect the whole nation. The wickedness that the people were doing was so contrary to God’s nature that they were acting as His enemies, not as His people. God’s people had risen up “as an enemy” and “with no thought of war.” The Promised Land was supposed to be a place God’s people felt secure, but it had been plundered by the wicked. Therefore, God told the people the following:
Micah 2:10 Arise and go, for this is no place to rest, because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction.
They were to get out of the land. The home that God had given them was not a place of rest. God told the Israelites to “Arise and go” which may have been a reference to their future exile. These oppressors were soon going to be evicted from their land and forced to go into exile.
There is another way to look at this verse, though. We will face oppression, trouble and sometimes persecution. Oftentimes, this is no fault of our own. Wicked people do evil things that bring oppression to the innocent. Sometimes, however, like the Israelites, we bring oppression on ourselves. When we deviate from the truth of God’s Word and do things our way, we will bring trouble in our lives. The good news of the Gospel is that we have the assurance that this place is not our final resting place. This is not a place of rest! Wickedness may prosper for a season, but God’s righteous judgment is coming. He promises to gather His people together and give them a final, eternal, blissful, resting place with Him. We will see next week the King who will gather His people and lead them to this rest. The good news we have in today’s passage is that in the midst of wickedness, we can have hope. In the midst of oppression and trouble, we can have peace. God’s Word tells us that this place is not our home. This world is no place to rest.
In closing, what joy there is for the one who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Widespread injustice has denied rest to others, and so the Lord demands that the people leave their place of rest. True rest is found only in Jesus Christ. We see the Lord who scatters His people for their sins is also the Shepherd-King who faithfully gathers, protects, and forgives them. Are you oppressed today? Have you oppressed others? The good news of the Gospel is that you do not have to scheme for things that ultimately will not fulfill your desires, nor do you have to worry about justice in this wicked world. God is waiting to give you peace, hope and joy through His Son Jesus Christ. Will you come to Him today?
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.