When God Doesn’t Answer
Scripture Text: Micah 3:1-12
We are continuing our look at the prophesy of Micah, a minor prophet in the Old Testament. Micah is not minor because he was less important than others, but because it was a shorter book. Micah wrote in order to bring God’s “lawsuit” against His people, to indict them for their sins and pronounce a divine sentence on them. So far, Micah has told God’s people, the Israelites, God was going to punish them for years of disobedience, rebellion, and oppression of the weak and innocent. God had put up with their ungodly behavior long enough and was going to punish them through a ruthless and wicked people, the Assyrians, who would destroy the nation. The Israelites were about to reap what they had sown, and it was not going to be pleasant. However, in the midst of this judgment, Micah offered hope. In the midst of trouble and judgment, there was hope.
The Judge who scatters His people for their sins, is also the Shepherd-King who faithfully gathers, protects, and forgives His people. Maybe children can relate to that. Parents who will lovingly punish their children for wrongdoing, are the same ones who lovingly forgive and protect them. Throughout Micah’s prophesy, he moves between God’s judgment and God’s forgiveness. We see a back and forth of Micah telling God’s people that they have done wrong and God was going to punish them, and then telling them that God was also going to help them and save them from destruction. The last time we looked at Micah, we read about the Shepherd-King who would one day gather His people and lead them to victory. Even though God’s people were going to be removed from their land and scattered to foreign lands, God would one day bring His people back together though the work of a Savior.
Today’s passage goes back to Micah’s prophecy regarding Israel’s punishment for their sin. The focus in this section of Micah’s prophesy is God’s judgment against two primary groups in Israel: the political leaders and the spiritual leaders. To these leaders, Micah wrote that God was not going to answer them in their time of need. Because they had done wrong and led God’s people astray, He was not going to answer them when they needed Him. Have you had those times in your life when you felt God was not answering you? To be sure, sometimes we need a little more patience (or a lot of it) because it may be that God is not ready to answer, or in the way we desire. But, sometimes, we contribute to unanswered prayers. We bring it on ourselves, and that is what happened to Israel’s leaders at the time of Micah. We see three reasons for hindered prayers in this passage:
- Prayers hindered for those who do not treat others justly
- Prayers hindered for those who do not speak the truth of God
- Prayers hindered for those who only do good things for a return
Prayers Hindered for Not Treating Others Fairly
In very graphic and descriptive terms, Micah described the destruction Israel’s leaders have caused to God’s people. These leaders treated God’s people so badly, Micah described it in terms of cannibalism – you “eat the flesh of my people.” Micah was not saying that these leaders were literally cannibals, but they were treating the people so unjustly they were destroying them. Instead of shepherding the people God had called them to lead, these civil leaders were exploiting and oppressing them like animals to be butchered. These leaders should have known better. They should have known and practiced justice; instead, Micah wrote that they “hate what is good and love evil.” They betrayed the trust placed in their leadership. Does that sound familiar? How many people have been let down by those in leadership?
Unfortunately, it is all too common. Those who should be doing right and leading people rightly oftentimes do not. God places leaders in their positions to lead people justly. God cares about justice, and when leaders fail to do that, the people suffer and God is angry. What a contrast these leaders are to the good Shepherd-King from the previous chapter who will gather His people and will lead them to freedom. Micah pronounced judgment on these corrupt leaders. Because these leaders acted wickedly God was not going to answer them when they call on Him for help. Just as these leaders had no doubt refused to hear the cries of the people they were supposed to be leading justly, so God would refuse to hear their cry in time of need.
We don’t have to limit this passage to civil leaders. Certainly, they carry the burden and responsibility of leadership, but might what Micah prophesied here apply to everyone as well? How have we oppressed others? Have you treated someone else unfairly? Have you done something to hinder someone else’s faith? What can we do to encourage folks to come to Christ and be a part of His Church? Perhaps, God’s unanswered prayers are a result of unjust or unkind acts towards someone you know. Think about it.
Prayers Hindered for Not Speaking the Truth About God
The second group which Micah pronounced God’s judgment was Israel’s prophets. In chapter two, we read where there were people that told Micah, “Do not preach these things to us.” Perhaps, some of these people who said this were the false prophets in Micah’s time. They only preached good things when it suited them. A “Prophecy for a Profit” or “Prophets for Peace” were these guys. They would tell you something good if it suited them or if they were paid. Like Balaam, give them a little money, maybe some food in their bellies, and they would pronounce God’s blessings on you. These false prophets were not really concerned about the spiritual condition of the people. They didn’t care about whether the people they were ministering were doing right or wrong. They led them astray and they lied about what God really said.
God would no longer speak to these prophets in visions. He would not answer them. These false prophets led God’s people astray by telling them lies supposing that it was from God. Maybe you have known folks like this. They distort God’s Word for their own purposes. They speak God’s promises when it suits them, but ignore it when it doesn’t. These people are not really concerned about the spiritual condition of those they serve. God told them that He was not going to answer them. They had done wrong and He was not going to listen to them. We must be faithful to obey and speak God’s Word, not just when it’s convenient, or our prayers can be hindered.
Prayers Hindered for Doing Good Things for a Return
The third way in this passage that prayers were hindered was that Israel’s political and spiritual leaders were doing things strictly for a return. Justice was bought and God’s Word was purchased.
Micah 3:11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.”
These leaders led the people for something in return – it wasn’t because they genuinely wanted to serve the people. And somehow, these evil men thought they could act wickedly and get away with it. They did not believe that Micah’s prediction concerning God’s judgment would happen. They believed that God was for them and would not punish them for their sin. Sometimes folks believe that they could do evil and still expect God’s blessings. Because of their wickedness, Micah wrote that judgment and destruction was coming.
Do you have a genuine concern for the people in your lives? When you see people sitting in church with you, do you see them as pew warmers, filling a seat, increasing the numbers of the church, or do you see them as living, breathing, souls who might be spiritually lost or discouraged? Do you see people as means to an end, money bags for what you want, or do you see them as people loved by God with real spiritual needs? Do you see people, all people, as precious souls to be won for Jesus Christ?
As a spiritual body, the Body of Christ, the church must be genuinely concerned about people, both their physical needs and spiritual needs. The primary mission of the church, the one that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter twenty-eight, is to make disciples of all nations. We can do that without a church building, nice pews, music, and instruments. Our primary mission is see people as spiritual beings who need a relationship with Jesus Christ and to go make that happen. Now, I am not saying that we control who gets saved and who doesn’t, but God has called all of us to be obedient and share the good news and to make disciples without expecting a return.
An Intimate Relationship with Jesus Christ is the Answer
With this passage, we see several reasons why God wouldn’t answer the prayers of the corrupt leaders of Israel. We can really summarize all of them into one statement: The practice of injustice (or sin in any form) leads to alienation from God. Hear what the prophet Isaiah said about this:
Isaiah 59:1–2 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Sin causes separation between God and us. Sin is separation with God, and this hurts our relationship with God and hinders our prayers to Him. The answer to this is a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Micah railed again the unjust rulers and false prophets of his day who led God’s people astray, but he offered this advice:
Micah 3:8 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 and to Israel his sin.
The false prophets were motivated by greed, but Micah was empowered by the Spirit of the Lord for his prophetic ministry. The false prophets spoke lies. Micah had the Spirit of God and spoke the truth of God’s Word. Micah preached that a right life is one where one’s heart has turned to God, which results in godly living. As we read in the letter from James, a right relationship with God and good morals are inseparable. If we are intimate with Christ, the rest will naturally flow. How well are we doing that? Are we distracted by things that don’t really matter? Are we focused on things that don’t really accomplish the mission of the church? Are we holding on to things that are holding the church back from doing what God has called us to do? How intimate is our relationship with Jesus Christ and how focused are we on the mission He has called us to do?
Do you feel that God is not answering you? Have you considered why that might be? Could it be that there is unconfessed sin in your life? Is God withholding His blessings because we are not doing what is right – we are not serious about being the people He has called us to be? One of the key themes in the book of Micah is that faithfulness to God does not consist merely in going through the motions, such as being in church on Sunday, reading the Bible and praying together, but in expressing genuine love for God and love each other.
Maybe you are discouraged and wondering what God is planning? How are you helping/hindering that? We must pray fervently for God’s will and blessing on the work He has called us to do. Unless the Lord builds a house, those who build it labor in vain? (Psalm 127:1) God is the One Who builds a house? But notice, He uses us to build it, too. We must pray for God’s will to be done, but we must also be working to see it happen. What are you doing to make that happen? Are you sharing your faith with others? Are you inviting family, friends, and strangers to join you in church? Are you concerned, really concerned for the spiritual condition of friends and family? May it be so! Amen!
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.