To the Church at Laodicea By Chuck Missler "And unto the angel of the church…
Micah on Faith When Government Has Failed
By Nathan Jones
Donald Trump is officially the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee. Polls are showing that both candidates have abysmally low ratings in the vital categories of credibility, capability, and likability. And yet, the public voted for them and the political establishment endorsed them, though reluctantly. Political historians are hard up in finding any election where both candidates have been so thoroughly despised by so many Americans. Our citizens are wondering just how did this fiasco happen, and more apprehensively, has our system of government finally failed?
Christians are worried that the culture has turned hostile towards Christianity and are asking: “How do we have faith when government has failed?”
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets (available on our website and on Kindle and Nook), you will marvel at the similarities between the people of Israel in the Prophet Micah’s time and God’s people today when asking that very same question.
We’ll begin with an introductory story, an elaborations on Scripture, an imaged scenario that the text hints at but doesn’t necessarily describe. We ask that you take this story as intended—as historical fiction to illustrate historical fact. Then we’ll dive directly into the book of Micah and learn what the prophet has to teach us concerning having faith when government has failed.
“Please, Sire, please, I beg of you. Without our family lands, where will we live? We’ll have nothing to grow. My family will starve!” The sobbing man pleaded on his knees before the king. His teary eyes gazing respectfully down upon the stone courtyard.
Ahaz, sovereign over all Jerusalem and Judah, scowled down from his lofty height upon the court’s raised bench. With barely restrained patience, he sneered contemptuously, “What business is it of mine if your family doesn’t have… What was it again? Ah, yes, food. Isn’t it for the greater good of our nation that you do your part in keeping our Syrian enemies away?” Cocking an eye at the groveling man, Ahaz accused, “Do you not want us to be spared from their wrath?” The man’s blubbering response was indiscernible. Rolling his eyes, the king shifted position on his dais in order to change tactics, then added with a feigned importance, “Take comfort! Your patriotic sacrifice will long be remembered.”
At this remark a soft snort emanated from the jury benches of the twelve watching elders. A young prince in training, also observing the proceedings from his own spectator’s chair, glanced timidly towards the softly snickering officials. These men made Prince Hezekiah feel even more uneasy than he’d already been feeling throughout the long day’s proceedings. From this open courtroom situated just outside the Temple gate, he’d witnessed his father the king and the governmental officials in case after case strip one poor farmer after another of their rights and land. The sacrifices, no, let’s be honest—the thefts—were each couched in the flag of duty and patriotism. He shuddered inwardly at the sight, for the lofty counselors maintained the hungry look of a pack of starved wolves, and the peasant farmer was the rabbit!
Before the poor man could eke out one more plea, the king dismissed him with a bored wave of the hand. The bailiffs descended upon the weeping man with batons and dragged him harshly out of the king’s presence. No sooner had the man’s cries faded out of earshot than the king and his counselors erupted in uproarious laughter! Long moments later, when they’d finally gotten control of themselves, a fat official in silken blue robes commented, “Did you see the look on his face as he was being ‘escorted’ away, Sire? I believe that one wins the prize.” The king wiped a tear from his eye and nodded a reply. “Oh, no, the prize is yours. Indenture the farmer to finish the season and then throw him out. I expect you to double my portion of the harvest, though.” The official smiled wickedly and gave a slight bow. Hezekiah had watched queasily as this scenario play out again and again with each passing case, as Judah’s officials reduced their own countrymen into destitution.
The king’s head lolled over towards Hezekiah and fixed him with a disappointed glare. “No stomach for being a ruler, Hezekiah? You not man enough?” The disdain in his father’s voice was evident. Hezekiah knew better than to disagree with his father, or end up just like his brothers, all of whom were now dead. Out of the sight of this court, the punishment for his mild temperament would be yet another harsh beating. Here at least he only had to endure public humiliation.
King Ahaz, disappointed at not getting a rise out his weakling son, rubbed his hands together and asked the court’s scribe, “Okay, who’s next on the docket?” The scribe read from his schedule. “Sire, it is a plea from the city of Moresheth near Gath. They are disputing the decree to turn their town over to Assyria as payment for their aid.” He studied the page for a second confused. “And, they’re being represented by a man calling himself ‘Micah, God’s Lawyer’.” At that strange pronouncement the court members yet again lost their composure and burst out in another round of laughter. Hezekiah merely attempted an awkward smile. After gaining back some control, the king challenged, “Scribe, are you joking?” Stricken, the secretary fell to the ground and promised emphatically that he was not.
The king scowled across the courtyard at the spectator priests. Hezekiah pitied them, somewhat. They had little to do since the king had closed up the Temple and stripped it of all its valuables. Now they just counted the king’s money, rather than their own. “You, priests,” demanded the king, “ever heard of this man Micah?” Their heads rocked back and forth negatively in unison like a bunch of cows grazing on grass. One of their number did step forward. He was dressed in the finest of robes, hair slicked back and beard braided. When he smiled it was like the sun exploded his teeth were so white. Hezekiah recognized him as one of the king’s favorite prophets. “I know of him, Sire,” the prophet stated in a voice as oily as the last press of olives. “He is Micah the Prophet. Known to the lowly people as the ‘Prophet of the Poor’.”
A hawk-nosed official snorted. “Prophet. Lawyer. Whatever! If he’s a lawyer he’s one of us, right? Sire, I recommend we just offer him a small bribe and send him on his way.” The elders agreed this was a good plan. The king also nodded in agreement and had the bailiff call the lawyer in. While waiting, they descended into mocking speculation about what this small town “lawyer of God” must look like.
Somewhere between their taunts of “prissy little” and “muck covered,” a terrifying howl interrupted their sport. Like a jackal baying at the moon combined with the mournful wail of an ostrich, Hezekiah observed, was this horrible sound clamoring up the white stone steps towards their court. First a bare, uncovered head topped the platform, followed by a totally bare, uncovered body. From courtiers to priests to king, all recoiled in horror. Except for a burlap loincloth, the spindly man was totally naked! Without slowing his pace, the prophet Micah with one bony finger jabbing at the court exclaimed powerfully, “Hear now what the Lord says: ‘Arise, hear the Lord’s complaint, for the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He. Will. Contend. With Israel!’”
Fleeing Into the Arms of a Bully
Did you know that right now nearly 200,000 people are suffering in the modern-day equivalent of Nazi concentration camps? These horrific work camps can be found in North Korea. This Asian country, officially and ironically named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is according to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights one of the worst offender of all the nations when it comes to their appalling human rights record, infringing on nearly all of their Universal Declaration of Human Rights such as the freedom to have an opinion and expression.1 CNN News reports that murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses are common methods employed by this authoritarian government for the purpose of terrorizing their population into submission.2
When the Korean Conflict unofficially ended in the early 1950s, the dictator of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, declared himself “Eternal President” and closed his nation’s borders in order to establish a totalitarian Communist government. This type of government controls every aspect of its people’s lives. So controlled are the North Korean people that they have no access to the Internet or media outside State sponsored propaganda, and the basic freedoms of movement, expression and the right to assembly are nonexistent. To protect the power of the regime, the people are starved in order to fund the massive military engine stationed along the United States-protected South Korean border.
Since Kim died, his son and grandson have continued the con job of pretending they are gods deserving of worship. Therefore, to be a Christian is a crime in North Korea, with the automatic sentence of hard labor in the work camps. Conditions are horrific for those living in these labor camps. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a persecution watch ministry, estimates that some 30,000 Christians suffer daily in these death camps for the “crime” of not worshipping their “Dear Leader,” and some never even make it there alive.3
VOM tells a true day-in-the-life story of Christian perse-cution in a little village there called GokSan.4 A pastor and 26 of his underground church members were bound and taken before a screaming crowd of Communists. The soldiers demanded that the Christians “Deny Christ or die!” Not getting the answer they were looking for, the soldiers threatened to kill the children. The only response was a mother of a young girl who leaned down and whispered to her daughter, “Today, my Love, I will see you in Heaven.” The Communists proceeded to hang all of the children. When the sobbing parents still refused to deny Christ, the soldiers brought out a huge steamroller and crushed the remaining church members who were singing “More Love, O Christ, to Thee, More Love to Thee.”
Governments such as North Korea do not understand the purpose of government. What then is the purpose of government? United States Founding Father Thomas Paine, in his pamphlet Common Sense (1776), wrote that security is “the true design and end of government.” Another Founding Father, John Adams, in his book, Thoughts on Government (1776), believed the purpose of government was to be found “in the goal of happiness through virtue.” Thomas Jefferson, in his writing titled Political Economy (1816), declared “The most sacred of the duties of a government is to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.”
Security instead of enslavement, justice instead of corruption, virtue instead of vice, and the preservation of the happiness of its people rather than the cause of their suffering—those were the godly ideals these men founded a nation upon. These ideals correspond to what the Bible says is the purpose of government—namely, to provide an atmosphere in which believers can live as 1 Timothy 2:2 teaches, “a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
Are nations like North Korea merely bad apples, or do they demonstrate that government in and of itself is inherently evil? Because they were steeped in the Bible, the Founding Fathers thought very poorly of human government. Thomas Paine wrote that “government, even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one.” The reason the Founding Fathers believed government was inherently evil was because they believed in the biblical teachings such as Romans 3:23 and 10:10-18 that mankind is inherently evil and in need of a Redeemer. In fact, the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 that there is nothing more corrupt than the human heart. The Bible therefore warns over and over not to trust in Man. One of the strongest of these warnings is found in Psalm 118:8-9: “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes [politicians].”
As another Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, confirmed: “Men are inherently evil, governed by greed and lust and love of power and a host of even less endearing passions.5 America’s first President, George Washington, put it this way: “Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”6
The authors of the United States Constitution knew that while government is a necessary evil, it remains prone to falling into villainy and corruption. Therefore, in their writings they wisely taught that government must be limited. Government must constantly be checked by the population so that it can only extract the least amount of taxes in order to perform the most limited of functions—providing security for its people.
A government that isn’t constantly monitored will grow into a monster, one that in order to feed its endless thirst for power will consume its population’s money and trample on their God-given inalienable rights. In other words, the Founding Fathers knew that government is composed of people, and people are inherently fallen and evil. And, the more corrupt and evil a government becomes, the greater the people will suffer. As the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. David Allan Hubbard, once remarked:
When the lawless, vicious men are the government, where do the people go for help? They must feel like a little child who flees from a bully into the arms of his father, only to have his father hold him while the bully beats him.7
Whom can we flee to when our own “father” is also a bully? How can we then, like those Christians from the little village of GokSan, maintain our faith in God when government has utterly failed us, even to the point of death? The answers can be found in a seven chapter book found in the Old Testament, inspired by God and authored by the Minor Prophet Micah.