Monday, June 12, 2017

The Responsibility for the Controversy

Micah 5

Thus far in our journey through Micah we have discovered that our God is a demanding God, and thus justifiably had a controversy with His people. We have likewise seen that it is unfair of us to cause Him to have a controversy with us. Then in examining the causes of the Lord's controversy we saw that great sin brings one of two responses – great grace or great judgment. Finally, we have seen that the center of the controversy was rooted in Israel's major urban centers, and from that we pulled the application that we must place a priority on reaching cities for Christ.

In today's post I intend to examine just who exactly was responsible for the controversy. Who was at fault? Next week we will chase this with some applications from today's discussion but first today's discussion.

When establishing where the fault lies we begin with the necessary dictum that anytime God has a controversy with man the fault does not lie with Him. After all, He only does wondrous things. (Psalm 72.18) Ergo, we set that possibility aside and then begin our examination.

Scripture teaches us that everyone in a group bears some responsibility for the direction of that group. Let's take Bob, for example. Bob is a member of the Klu Klux Klan. If Bob is personally in favor of the sinful racism of the KKK Bob patently bears some responsibility. But I contend that even if Bob is not in favor of the sinful racism of the KKK he still bears some level of responsibility.

When Joseph's brothers confronted him, beat him up, and sold him into slavery in Egypt, was Reuben for or against it? He plainly sought to minimize any evil done to Joseph but he was still a part of the group that perpetrated it. Years later, upon being confronted by Joseph in Egypt all the brothers – including Reuben – admitted their culpability. And they [the brothers jointly in front of the unknown Joseph] said one to another, We are very guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. (Genesis 42.21) Reuben's personal anguish is clear in the story. That anguish was driven by his sense of guilt even though he was not the primary mover of the wrong actions of the group.

Why? Why is a member of a group who is not necessarily in favor of its wrong actions still partially responsible? I propose there are three reasons. First, because even though Bob isn't racist he failed to change the racism of the group to which he belonged. Second, because even though Bob isn't racist he failed to separate from the KKK when he realized he couldn't change its direction. Third, even though Bob isn't racist he failed to be observant enough so as to notice that what the KKK was doing was wrong. For any combination of those three reasons Bob bears some personal responsibility for the errors of the group to which he belongs.

We see this not only in Reuben but in Daniel as well. Daniel was part of an Israel so wicked God disciplined it savagely with the big stick of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian Empire. Everything we know about Daniel is good, yet in his great chapter of prayer he clearly takes upon himself some responsibility for the actions of his nation.

Daniel 9.4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God;

Understanding this, lets go back to Micah. Some of the responsibility for the controversy thus rested on every Jewish soul, and Micah implies as much.

Micah 1.2 Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
Micah 6.2 Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD’S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.
3 O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.

Having established some level of genuine personal responsibility on the part of each Jew corporately lets see if we can build on that. Scripture also teaches that each individual is liable for their own personal actions. So then every one of us shall give account of himself unto God. (Romans 14.12) Was each Jew somewhat responsible for the wrong direction of his country? Yes. But just as clearly, the individual Jews in question who stole, cheated, hurt, abused, bribed, and murdered those around them were fully responsible for their own individual sins. Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. (Micah 7.13) We see, then, both a corporate and an individual responsibility.

There is, however, yet a further responsibility that bears mention. The Word of God also teaches that the leadership of a group bears a special responsibility for the actions of that group. My brethren, be not any masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (James 3.1) Leadership is influence. If the group I am leading is doing wrong then it obviously has a great deal to do with the influences that are coming to bear on that group. Sure, there may well be outside influences acting upon the group, but even the group's susceptibility to such negative outside influences is in some real way my responsibility.

To put it another way, we rarely find in Scripture a right leader with a bad group. What we most often find is a bad leader who influences the group to go the wrong direction.

Lee Roberson, the longtime pastor of the great Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee said it this way, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." He was right, and this is why we see the leadership of Israel singled out for special attention by God via Micah during this controversy.

Micah 3.1 ¶ And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?

5 Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
9 Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.

In this third chapter of Micah God deals with a number of grounds for His controversy, but in so doing He singles out three specific groups in leadership: princes (3.1,9), prophets (3.5-7), and the priests (3.11).

In summation, who in Israel bore the responsibility for causing God to have a controversy with His people? Each Jew corporately, bad Jews personally, and Israel's political and religious leadership. In God's eyes all of these bore the responsibility for the coming judgment. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest. (Micah 3.12)