“Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” – Micah 2:1-2
I was reading my Bible this morning; Micah, chapters 1-3. It’s gripping, perhaps even chilling, particularly for an American who sees much the same travail in his own country.
The history and some thoughts for today (note, I’m pulling from several sources here … I’m not a Biblical historian myself):
Micah prophesied during the reigns of “Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Micah 1:1), which would put him on the scene between 740 and 687 BC. Things are not going well in Israel. Sure, there are those for whom life is good, but in terms of living out the law of God, things are not going well.
The wealthy and mighty would seize the homes and farms of the poor, unconcerned with the well being of others. Businessmen cheated people with dishonest weights, which we considered just yesterday. The political and religious leaders had become utterly corrupt and oppressive, to the point that they “hate the good and love the evil” (Micah 3:2). They had grown to “detest justice and make crooked all that is straight” (Micah 3:9). Of the leadership He said “Its heads give judgement for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money” (Micah 3:11).
Pretty much everybody was out to make a buck, and everybody was out to find a way to oppress whoever they could, to extract the labor and property of others for their own purposes and benefit. Boy … that feels awfully familiar.
And what does Micah have to say about all of this? Well, as was always the case with prophets of God, Micah pulls no punches. “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” – Micah 3:12. That’s rough.
OK, some caveats are in order. Please do not read any of this as “the Lord told me that the end is nigh for America” – He didn’t. Perhaps it is, and perhaps He has told somebody … but it wasn’t me. Even in Micah’s day the prophesy of “a heap of ruins” didn’t come true for some time. Sennacherib and the Assyrians made a mess of Samaria in 721 BC, but were foiled in their attempt to capture Jerusalem. The city was destroyed (heap of ruins) in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzer II. That’s at least 100 years, probably more.
Further, I am not one to draw equivalences between the nation of Israel and America in terms of covenant standing with God. Plenty of Christians like to hold that America is a “Christian nation” and that our actions as a nation are held to the same type of standard as Israel’s. I will argue (i) that Christianity (in the modern considerations) is much more of an individual affair than a national one and (ii) to the extent that there are national concerns, the U.S. cannot point to a covenant between it and the God of the Bible. Beyond that I’ll try not to quibble about individual versus corporate righteousness.
Caveats down, we’re still not off the hook. The consistencies are just too much to brush aside. America, as a nation, has similarities to Israel in its contempt for social justice, in it’s “me-first” approach to life, and in its conceit that nothing bad can come (see Micah 2:6). The political order is built around a corruption and perversion of justice. There is no more fair dealing, just cronyism, bribes, and kickbacks (all with our tax dollars).
When the system does claim some desire to “help” those in need it does so by violating fundamental human rights to life and liberty, and rarely accomplishes anything other than ensnaring those “needy” in a never-ending, human-spirit-crushing trap of dependency. This is all a self-serving mechanism to prop up its own power structure though. Fearful people vote for all manner of corruption as long as they get to keep their scraps.
And how long will it stand? Who knows. By our standards, far greater injustices have stood for a long, long time (see the DPRK). The fallen state of man does not paint a pretty picture.
Perhaps the country moves in a good direction. It can happen; it surely can. Nothing comes without a price though, and changing course would cause some pain.
And what shall we do? Well, I propose that Micah offers a simple proposition:
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:6-8