Monday, May 15, 2017

The Grounds of the Lord’s Controversy

Micah 3

God is having a prolonged, public contention with Israel. They are unjust in forcing Him to do so for He has been nothing but good to them for centuries. In this we see applied two truths. First, our God is a demanding God, and second, it is not fair for us to give Him cause for a controversy with us.

In today's post we are going to examine Micah to see if we can establish the grounds of the Lord's controversy with them. What are His reasons? What support does He give to prove their error? What evidence of guilt on their part does He base this controversy on? Just what exactly had they done so wrong so as to cause this contention between them?

As I read Micah I found four basic causes for the Lord's controversy. First, they sinned with great calculation.

2.1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.

It is one thing to "fall" into sin at a sudden opportunity, though often there is often a long process here as well. Bob Jones, Sr. used to say, "Behind every human tragedy is a long process of wicked thinking." Long before there was a sudden visible fall there was an abandonment of a personal walk with God, and a corresponding and growing internal weakness. But it is an entirely different thing to systematically set about doing as much sin as you are possibly capable of doing. The former is bad; the latter is awful.

In the past six months I have read two lengthy books detailing the history of the Italian mafia and the Irish mob in America. Many of these men began with targets of opportunity but as time progressed they shifted to cold, calculating, pre-meditated crime. They did not evolve – which implies accident – so much as grow their underworld empires. They sinned with great calculation. And when you get to the place that you plan your sin precisely, and plan it in such a way as to maximize it you are in an exceedingly dangerous place.

Second, they sinned with great energy.

2.8 Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war.

7.3 That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.

Some men sin simply because they are lazy. It is easier to sin than it is to do right. They do great harm, personally, to their own character in this manner but comparatively little damage to the rest of society in the great scheme of things. This path of least resistance makes them crooked, yes, but it does not make them criminal masterminds.

There are other men, however, who throw all their passion, ambition, and determination into sin. They dream of sinning bigger and better, and then they diligently labor to build a foundation of actions under the air castles of their sinful dreams. Hugh Hefner began "Playboy Magazine" with $1000 from his mother, mortgaged his furniture to add a few hundred more, and almost single-handedly launched the sexual revolution in America. That, along with growing rich, was his intent, and he gave his life to see it succeed.

This second cause for controversy often follows the first. If you are going to lose sleep studying and planning on how to expand your sin then you are probably going to go at it hammer and tongs when you are awake. Greed, lust, and pride initially are driven by yielding to the sudden urges of our flesh, but given enough time to develop they can harden into truly awful weapons in the devil's arsenal. Show me a world of misery and I will show you behind it men who are driven passionately to pursue their sin.

Third, they sinned with great damage to others.

Last month I finished Martin Meredith's classic work, "The Fate of Africa." It is an 800 page tome detailing the horror of a continent that lies prostrate at the feet of leaders marked deeply by greed and blood. Country after country after country lies in ruins fifty years after achieving independence precisely for the three causes God has laid out thus far in Micah.

2.2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.

2.9 The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.

3.2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

7.2 The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.

Such sinners as I have described are often in a great hurry to accomplish their sinful goals. In the process their ruthless attitude and energetic commission of sin runs people over like a steamroller. They do not care who they hurt. They have no conscience. Though they often have great affection for their own families they never transfer that to any of their victims. To them, society is simply a collection of marks, a herd of prey.

Such men cannot be reasoned with. Such men cannot be shamed. Such men cannot be charmed. They do not care about anything other than their own single-minded pursuit of their carefully crafted and energetically pursued sinful ambition.

Of course, in so doing, they unleash an attitude that devours the only thing left of any value and affection in their own life – their family.

7.5 Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.
6 For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

Josef Stalin's daughter, Svetlana, was his pride and joy. Amid the horror of blood and misery he unleashed on Russia and Europe she trundled along by his side, an innocent child. But when death took her as an old woman in 2011 it found her in Wisconsin, living a quiet life as far away from her father's memory as she could possibly get. She had run run as far and as fast as she could.

Other men find not only that their families abandon them but that their families turn on them. Herod the Great ended his life in bizarre paranoia, competing with his own sons to see who would manage to snuff out the life of the other first. Herod the Great "won", and so viciously murdered his children that Caesar Augustus said he would rather be Herod's pig than his son for he treated his pigs so much better.

People often seek to justify their sin by saying, "I'm not hurting anybody but myself." Of course, that is not true, by a long shot, for everyone has some influence over others around them. But even if it were true it would not stay true long. Sin is a highly contagious disease that refuses to stay quarantined. Your own sinful pleasure is not enough. Now you must take what someone has or involve others in order to maintain the same level of enjoyment in sin. Sin breaks down your own internal rules, and eventually brings you to the twisted place of enjoying the pain you cause others. It is no coincidence that the evil that is ISIS actively recruits new soldiers from among inner-city Europe's rappers and gang members. Given an opportunity to wreak havoc on a wide scale appeals to many such lost souls.

Fourth, they sinned right through the preaching. I do not mean they sinned during the preaching. I mean they sinned through it as a weapon cuts through a shield put up to stop it.

It is one thing for a remote tribal culture to be steeped in sin that has never seen a Christian missionary. It is quite a different thing for a people who have long had the light of the glorious gospel of Christ to turn from Him to the idols of humanism, paganism, and hedonism. It speaks of a people who have become completely callous to the awfulness of sin.

There are two steps to developing the hardened attitude of this fourth cause. First, the people scorned preaching.

2.6 Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.

They sought to quieten the God-called preacher, to get him to pipe down, to stop naming sin, to stop preaching righteousness. But they did not stop there. They co-opted the preacher, pulling him into their orbit, getting him to proclaim as good all that was previously preached against as bad.

2.11 If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.

"Drink up! Enjoy yourself and your life to the fullest. I am not here to judge but to love, not to hinder but to condone. Especially when in so doing I stand to profit financially."

3.11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

We can thus see that we are dealing with a people who are calculated in planning their sin, they are energetic in the commission of that sin, they are heedless of the damage they cause in pursuit of their sin, and they are blowing right through the stop sign of preaching that God has put up to slow them down. Truly, God had great grounds for a great controversy with such great sinners.

What is the application for us today? History shows us that great sin brings one of two things: great grace or great judgment. John Newton, the ex-slaver gloriously transformed into a preacher of the Gospel said on his death-bed, "Although my memory is fading I remember two things very clearly. I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Saviour." Such a man it was who gave us the immortal strains of "Amazing Grace."

To the contrary, I bid you notice the book of Revelation. It is filled with judgment and the wrath of God. There is no more room for grace. It has been refused too long, men are too confirmed in their sin, hardened in it. They will not repent so God cannot longer stay His hand.

As I write this my mind and my heart are screaming, "America." Corporately, as a culture, and willingly, as a people, we have furnished God each of these four grounds for controversy just as long ago Israel did. We give ourselves diligently to become better and better at more and more sin. Along the way the misery of violence and suicide and assault and depravity and corruption rise like flood waters. Preaching? Who pays it heed anymore except for those preachers who sell us a lie while the ones who speak the truth are increasingly attacked.

His hand of mercy and grace is yet held out still. But for how much longer?

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