“All this will happen because of Jacob’s rebellion and the sins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Isn’t it Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Isn’t it Jerusalem?” (CSB – Read the chapter)
This morning we start something new. A new prophet with a new theme. Our prophet for this journey is named Micah. I’m particularly partial to this one because I have a Micah of my own. As with all of the prophets, Micah has some wisdom and warnings for us that keep us set well on the path of Christ if we are willing to listen and put them into practice. We’ll start here with a wise warning about where sin starts.
Micah was a prophet to Judah and Israel during the reigns of Judean kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was a season when Israel to the north was in its final days. During the reign of Ahaz, Israel was conquered and destroyed. As far as Micah’s trio of kings goes, the bookends were pretty to really good, but the middle was about as bad as he possibly could have been. You name it as far as something that offended God is concerned and Ahaz did it.
Micah’s prophecy, offered a kind of final warning to Israel and a warning to Judah not to follow in the footsteps of destruction of her sister to the north once she was destroyed.
Here at the beginning, Micah offers a general warning of judgment and then doesn’t make the people wait on a reason for it. God is judging them for their sins. Indeed, judgment is always in response to sin.
But then, almost in anticipation of a coming question from his readers, Micah goes on to identify the source of their sin. What exactly are the sins for which they are being judged?
His answer to this question is really interesting. He identifies the sin source for both Judah and Israel. The sin of Israel, he says, is Samaria. The sin of Judah is Jerusalem. These were the respective capital cities of these nations. But how does this work? How could a single city be the source of sin for a whole nation?
This brings us to an interesting observation. No, a single city can’t spoil a whole nation with sin per se, but cities do tend to create culture and a culture infused with sin can spoil a whole nation. The problem wasn’t Jerusalem in and of itself. Rather, the problem was with the kind of culture the civic and religious and cultural leaders in Jerusalem were brewing and exporting to the rest of the nation. Jerusalem was creating a whole culture of sin and then sharing liberally with the rest of the country.
Thinking about this got me thinking about something else: Does this idea apply to us today and if so how? My answer: I think so, but carefully.
This nation is much larger and more diverse in every way than Israel could have even imagined being. Our culture changes profoundly depending on where you go. To travel from Portland, OR to Jackson, MS is to enter an entirely different world. That being said, we do have some places that have more of a shaping influence on our culture as a whole than others. When it comes to our arts, entertainment, and financial culture, New York and Los Angeles stand heads and tails above everywhere else. As for our seat of political power and, to the extent that politics has for many become like a religion, religious power, Washington D. C. is the primary locus.
Now, let me be careful in what I am and am not saying. If there is sin in our nation (and there is a lot of sin in our nation), each individual sinner is responsible for what he contributes to the problem. No one but I am responsible for the sinful choices I make, and no one but you are responsible for the sinful choices you make. That being said, where our culture as a whole has embraced a sinful decadence in many ways, these three cities have much to do with it.
Like with Israel and Judah, these places are emblematic of our larger problem with sin. A judgment against them (and only God knows if or when that would happen) would symbolically be a judgment against the rest of the nation. To draw on an uncomfortable illustration, this symbolic judgment is very much what the planners and executioners of 9/11 had in mind.
The question remains then: What should we do about this? Here are three quick thoughts. First, we are responsible for our own junk, no one else. If we have a sin issue in our lives, we’ve got to deal with it. No one else has that job. Just us.
Second, although we may live within the context of a certain culture, we are not held hostage to that. Where it deviates from Biblical faithfulness, we have a duty to gently, but firmly stand against it. We can do this by word or deed or some combination thereof, but if you are a follower of Jesus, the only thing that makes any sense for us to do is stand with Him and against all others.
Third, we need to pray for the folks who are living and working in these centers of culture creation, especially where they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Their lot is in many ways more difficult than we could imagine. They need our support.
Ultimately, our relationship with God is different than Israel’s was. It is different than Judah’s is too. We dare not look to them for too many examples in this regard. But, we can take the warning and make following Jesus the number one goal in our lives. When we do that, we don’t have to worry about any culture creating or creators. We’ll be setting the right trends all by ourselves. That is worth whatever we can give to it. Let’s get going.