Sunday School Lesson


July 5

Lesson 5

No Rest for the Wicked

Devotional Reading: Proverbs 11:1-10

Background Scripture: Micah 2

Micah 2:4-11

4 In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.

5 Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord.

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

7 O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?

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.

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.

10 Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.

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.

Key Verse

O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly? —Micah 2:7

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize how the Lord’s people acted unjustly, how they had mocked both God and His messengers, and the judgment that awaited them.

2. Tell how God’s people today (the church) are sometimes guilty of the attitudes and actions of Micah’s hearers.

3. Examine areas of life where he or she has not taken God’s Word seriously in daily conduct or treatment of others and make a plan for change.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Cheerleaders or Coaches?

B. Lesson Background

I. Prophecies of the Future (Micah 2:4, 5)

A. God’s People to Be Jeered (v. 4)

B. God’s People to Be Judged (v. 5)

Making Practice Match Profession

II. Problems in the Present (Micah 2:6-11)

A. The People’s View of God (vv. 6, 7a)

Is God Intolerant

B. God’s View of the People (vv. 7b-11)

Conclusion

A. “Mercy Me!”

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

A. Cheerleaders or Coaches?

Samuel A. Meier contrasts false prophets with the Lord’s true prophets in terms of cheerleaders and coaches. The false prophets were like cheerleaders during a football game in which the team they root for is getting crushed by an opponent. They continue to cheer and exhort the team to keep playing and giving their best, even though the outlook is hopeless.

The true prophets, however, are more like coaches who take corrective action when they see mistakes and careless play occurring. As these coaches become frustrated with the team’s effort (or lack thereof), they call time-out and tell one or more players in no uncertain terms how badly they are playing, even to the point of benching them. Good coaches will tell the truth and not mince words, which is essentially what true prophets of the Lord always did.

Today’s lesson continues this quarter’s study of some of the Old Testament prophets. These were men who did not hesitate to confront and rebuke God’s people when that was called for, and it certainly was called for in the days of the prophet Micah. His book is the source of our next four lessons.

B. Lesson Background

Like Amos (lessons 1-4), the prophet Micah possessed a great passion for justice and for right living among God’s chosen people. Micah 6:8 (see lesson 7) includes one of the most compelling statements in all of Scripture of what God requires of His people. The Hebrew name Micah means, “Who is like the Lord?” Micah will raise that very question at the conclusion of the book (lesson 8). There are several men of the name Micah (or the longer form Micaiah) mentioned in the Old Testament, so we take care not to get them mixed up. The man of interest to us is mentioned by name only in two places: Micah 1:1 and Jeremiah 26:18 (see lesson 6).

Amos and Micah may well have been contemporaries. While Amos’s ministry is dated during the reign of Uzziah king of Judah (Amos 1:1), Micah’s occurred during the reigns of Jotham (Uzziah’s son), Ahaz (Jotham’s son), and Hezekiah (Ahaz’s son). Jotham’s reign overlapped that of his father’s since Uzziah had to be confined during the latter years of his reign because of a leprous condition he brought on himself. Jotham ruled in his stead until and after Uzziah’s death (2 Chronicles 26:16-23). So Amos and Micah could have carried out a portion of their ministries at the same time.

We know Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah since Isaiah 1:1 mentions the same kings that Micah 1:1 does except for Uzziah. But while Isaiah seems to have been more like a “court prophet,” having contact especially with kings Ahaz (Isaiah 7:1-14) and Hezekiah (38:1-6; 39:1-8), it appears that Micah ministered more in the rural areas of Judah. He notes in his book a number of towns in Judah that are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. He himself was from a village called Moresheth, located about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Of course, the smaller towns needed to hear God’s message just as much as the city dwellers in Jerusalem.

There was great turmoil and uncertainty for both Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) during Micah’s time. The Assyrians had become a formidable threat to both Israel and Judah when Micah’s ministry began; in fact, they would be the instruments in God’s hands to carry out His judgment against the northern kingdom, whose capital Samaria finally fell in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1-6).

Micah’s message was aimed at both Israel and Judah. His book begins with a reference to both capital cities, Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:1), and proceeds to indict both on account of their rebellion against the Lord (1:5-9). As chapter 2 opens, Micah declares a “woe” against those who had become obsessed with doing evil and could think of nothing else, even while “upon their beds” (2:1).

In their defiance of God, such people had become so arrogant and smug that they were confident the Lord would do nothing to hold them accountable for their actions. Such people are described as those who “covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away” (Micah 2:2). Such seizure of others’ property was strictly forbidden by the Law of Moses. The promised land belonged to the Lord; in recognition of that fact, land was not to be transferred permanently to another party (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7-9). The fate of the schemers opens today’s lesson.

I. Prophecies of the Future

                                                                     (Micah 2:4, 5)

A. God’s People to Be Jeered (v. 4)

4. In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.

The Hebrew word translated as parable can mean more than just a story intended to convey a spiritual truth (the common definition of a parable). It can also designate something much more concise—a wise saying, or what we could call a proverb (that is how this same word is translated in Ecclesiastes 12:9 and Proverbs 10:1). It can also describe a poem, perhaps something as simple as a nursery rhyme, such as many of us learned as children.

In the context of the verse before us, the parable that is to come is further described as a doleful lamentation. The lamentation that immediately follows will be used sarcastically by enemies to mock God’s people following the judgment that He will bring on Israel and Judah because of their passion for pursuing evil.

The phrase the portion refers to the sections of land that the greedy have seized from others and claimed as their own, since that is the context of Micah 2:1, 2. But the tables will be turned: the oppressors will find themselves to be the oppressed as the seizers suddenly become the seized. The he in this verse (three times) most likely refers to the Lord. He is the one to change the way the land has been shamefully reapportioned.

On what basis would the Lord do such a thing? Very simple: it’s His land. He had granted it to the nation of Israel, and He can take it from those who have refused to acknowledge Him as the giver. He will allow outsiders to take control of the fields over which the greedy think themselves to be in control.

Visual for Lesson 5. Point to this visual as you ask, “Is changing one’s ways the same as repentance? Why, or why not?”

B. God’s People to Be Judged (v. 5)

5. Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord.

To determine land boundaries by lot recalls the process by which the promised land was originally allocated to the tribes of Israel (see Joshua 18:1-7). Those who are guided by selfish interests have ignored these divisions of the land and have taken it upon themselves to reassign boundaries in their own favor by using a cord (measuring line) in some way. Therefore they will be denied any further opportunity to do so; in fact, they will find themselves outside the borders of the promised land altogether—living in exile.

What Do You Think?

When are we most likely to act selfishly? What can we do to resist this temptation?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In the exercise of authority (at work, in church, etc.)

In thinking about and voting on social issues

In how we handle money

Other

Making Practice Match Profession

When I was teaching in a certain city a few years ago, some students in the class told me of a recent event in their town. Two men robbed a convenience store on a Sunday morning. The store had a surveillance camera, so the thieves took the video cassette from the camera before they left.

The police had been called, however, and they soon caught the thieves with the video still in their possession. One of the policemen inquired, “I know I shouldn’t ask this, but why didn’t you dispose of this tape that proves you are the thieves?” Their answer: “We didn’t have time, because that would have made us late for church.” It is amazing how often people will profess to a particular religious identity—to a religion that has high moral values—but then act in direct opposition to that identification!

Recently my wife was watching a TV program that described the efforts of a charitable organization that was meeting a dire social need. She told me that we should send money to these people. But while doing some research online, I discovered they were under investigation for fraud and financial mismanagement. They were trading on heartrending conditions as a cover for their base dishonesty. Perhaps they had some clever rationalization to justify to themselves the validity of their practice. Jesus had something to say about this in Mark 7:9-13 and elsewhere.—J. B. N.

II. Problems in the Present

                                                                  (Micah 2:6-11)

A. The People’s View of God (vv. 6, 7a)

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

The evildoers’ attitude toward God’s appointed messengers (prophets such as Micah) is now exposed. We see in this verse what seems to be the very words the false prophets use to try to counter Micah’s message of coming judgment. The false prophets have the audacity to tell someone like Micah, whom the Lord has called and commissioned to speak His word, prophesy ye not.

The Hebrew verb used three times in this verse for prophesy is interesting in that it is not the usual word used for the action of prophesying. The word used here is literally “to drip” or “to drop” (as in water dripping drop after drop). It appears to be a derogatory way of picturing what prophets like Micah do (the same word occurs in Amos 7:16). When we think of how irritating a constant dripping sound can be, we will have a good mental picture of how the evildoers view Micah and what he stands for. They want his annoying “dripping” to stop!

These selfish, greedy people should feel shame. But as Jeremiah later states it so well, “They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). The evildoers want a message that caters to their self-serving agenda, not one that holds them accountable for the wrongs they have done and are doing. This is why prophets like Micah, who challenge the status quo, are often treated with such contempt (compare Jeremiah 26:7-11; Amos 7:10-13; Acts 7:52).

What Do You Think?

How does culture try to silence the voice of God today? How do we counteract this?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding legal (judicial) methods

Regarding misrepresentation

Regarding labeling or stigmatizing

Other

7a. O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings?

The prophet now attacks the rhetorical questions that his opponents are using or will use. The Hebrew word translated straitened comes from a root that conveys the idea of being “shortened” (as translated in Psalm 89:45; 102:23). Micah’s opponents are accusing him of being too narrow in his view of God. Are these [the acts of judgment that Micah prophesies] his [the Lord’s] doings? they are depicted as asking. “Certainly not!” is the answer they expect.

Those opponents presume that God will never act toward the house of Jacob in ways like prophets such as Micah predict that He will. These evildoers think that a broader, more tolerant view of God is needed.

Is God Intolerant?

Our “politically correct” culture discourages people from talking about the realities of immorality. When I was a youngster, people who indulged in certain kinds of immoral behavior were called perverts; now they are called practitioners of alternative lifestyles. The list of justification-by-renaming grows longer by the day.

Even so, I do not normally listen to the various talk shows that point out such problems. It is not because I disagree with what they say; rather, it is because they often make their points in incendiary and belligerent ways. However, a member of my family often does listen to these programs. One day I was walking through the house and heard a talk-show host speak of a recent survey that indicated 80 percent of Americans think that the country is going downhill morally. The other 20 percent think morals to be improving. The talk-show host was dumbfounded by the latter.

But I thought, You must pay attention to how that 20 percent defines morality. To that segment, if governments pass laws allowing same-sex marriage, then that indicates people are becoming more tolerant, abandoning the “narrow-minded” views of the past. Therefore the “moral” levels are improving! To that segment of the population, allowing abortion on demand, etc., means we are forsaking previous intolerance and becoming more “moral.”

We dare not mistake God’s patience as tolerance or approval of sin. God is just as intolerant of sin as He ever was. Isaiah 5:20 still applies: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”—J. B. N.

B. God’s View of the People (vv. 7b-11)

7b. Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?

The rhetorical questions of the enemies (v. 7a) are now answered by a rhetorical question from the Lord. Two can play this game! True, God is good, loving, and merciful. But His goodness should not be used as a means of rationalizing or avoiding responsibility for sinful actions. “Good and upright is the Lord,” writes David in Psalm 25:8, “therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” God’s goodness is experienced personally and intimately by those that walketh uprightly—those who receive His instruction and align their ways with His.

Ironically, the evildoers are pictured earlier as walking proudly (Micah 2:3). One gets the picture of people who stand tall in their arrogance and self-assurance. But spiritually they are not upright at all; they fall far short of what God finds pleasing.

What Do You Think?

How is God’s Word a source of blessing to the upright today?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding the blessings that come from knowing truth

Regarding the blessings that come from following divine guidance

Other

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.

So far have God’s people strayed from His righteous and just standards that He considers them an enemy. He then cites specific examples of their heartless actions. The greedy are pictured as seizing the clothing of others. The phrase securely as men averse from war seems to describe their callous attitude: the greedy are like warriors returning from the battlefield, men who arrogantly feel they have every right to seize the possessions of others as plunder. Satisfying their own desires is their priority.

What Do You Think?

How do we resist having an attitude of arrogance that leads to (or results from) greed?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In business

In politics

In cultural struggles between “the haves” and “the have nots”

Other

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.

The cruel acts against the women of my people illustrate the charges issued earlier in Micah 2:2: “they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away.” Their children are also mentioned, as those from whom God’s glory has been taken away. The Hebrew word for glory signifies something of honor or adornment; perhaps one can think of a legacy or heirloom meant to be passed on from generation to generation. The greedy evildoers are depriving people of land that, by God’s design, is meant to be theirs. The absence of any reference to a husband or father may indicate that these women and children are widows and orphans. As such, they are vulnerable to abuse, having no one to protect them from the scavengers.

10. Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.

Now come the words of judgment, decreed through Micah by the righteous judge of all the earth. Those described as having “risen up as an enemy” (v. 8, above) are now commanded to arise ... and depart from the promised land. They are being evicted.

The promised land is intended to be a place of rest for the people of God (Deuteronomy 12:8, 9; Hebrews 3:18, 19), but the evildoers have polluted that land with their sinful conduct. The severe language here is in keeping with the words of Moses in Leviticus 18:28, where he commands the people to be obedient to God “that the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.”

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.

The final verse of our lesson exhibits the use of satire. Earlier (v. 6) Micah had quoted the greedy evildoers who wanted messengers like him to keep quiet and avoid unpleasant topics like God’s wrath and judgment. Now Micah offers the Lord’s declaration as to what kind of prophet would appeal to this people. If someone would prophesy (again Micah uses the Hebrew word meaning “to drip” that was noted in verse 6) for them wine and strong drink, he would be just the right kind of prophet for this crowd! Again, the only “prophets” these selfish individuals are interested in listening to are those who will give their stamp of approval to the sins they like to commit.

What Do You Think?

What kinds of false messages seem most attractive to unbelievers today? How would you rank-order these in terms of temptation-danger?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

How wealth is to be gained

Where truth is to be found

How satisfaction is to be obtained

Where the greatest threats lie

Other

The fact that the word spirit is not capitalized is very fitting. This has at least two possible interpretations: (1) since the hypothetical prophet of this people is lying, then he guided by a false spirit, or (2) these deceptive messengers are nothing more than “windbags” since the Hebrew word for spirit can also be translated “wind” (as in Job 8:2). By contrast, however, Micah claims to be “full of power by the spirit of the Lord” in Micah 3:8, a passage to be considered in lesson 6.

Conclusion

A. “Mercy Me!”

The expression “Mercy Me!” was used by past generations to express amazement at seeing or hearing something unexpected or unusual. Apparently it comes from a prayer asking the Lord to have mercy on an individual who is praying. Perhaps the expression arose from the idea of asking God for mercy to survive or endure some unexpected news, especially of something quite disturbing.

The prayer for God to have mercy is of itself a valid request. One thinks of the publican in one of Jesus’ parables who was so distraught at his unworthiness to come before God (in contrast with a haughty Pharisee) that he simply but earnestly prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

However, the one who prays for God’s mercy must recognize that mercy, like any of God’s good gifts, is not to be hoarded but to be displayed openly toward others. This is what the wicked in Micah’s day failed to understand or refused to accept. Like the unforgiving servant in another of Jesus’ parables, those who receive mercy yet fail to extend it to others forfeit whatever mercy has been demonstrated toward them (Matthew 18:21-35). The next time you need God’s mercy, ask yourself when was the last time you extended mercy to someone else!

B. Prayer

Father of mercy, be merciful to us sinners. Prompt us, however, to do more than just ask for mercy for ourselves. Help us not to become so proud or spiritually nearsighted that we view mercy as only for us and forget that it is to be extended to others daily. We have so freely received; may we freely give. In Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Treat others with the mercy you desire God
to extend to you.

How to Say It

Ahaz Ay-haz.

Amos Ay-mus.

Hezekiah Hez-ih-kye-uh.

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

Jeremiah Jair-uh-my-uh.

Jotham Jo-thum.

Judah Joo-duh.

Micah My-kuh.

Micaiah My-kay-uh.

Moresheth Mo-resh-eth.

Pharisee Fair-ih-see.

Samaria Suh-mare-ee-uh.

Uzziah Uh-zye-uh.


July 12

Lesson 6

No Tolerance for Corrupt Officials

Devotional Reading: Matthew 7:15-20

Background Scripture: Micah 3

Micah 3:5-12

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.

6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.

7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

8 But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.

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.

10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.

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.

12 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.

Key Verse

Truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. —Micah 3:8

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List descriptions of the false prophets and of Micah’s prophetic office.

2. Explain how greed can influence someone to use a position of power to exploit people.

3. Plan a worship service in which leaders in the church and/or community are honored and in which prayers are offered on their behalf.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Before You Lead Others...

B. Lesson Background

I. Corrupt Messengers (Micah 3:5-7)

A. Selfish Motives (v. 5)

Prophesying for... What

B. Sure Doom (vv. 6, 7)

II. Courageous Messenger (Micah 3:8-12)

A. Empowered by God (v. 8)

You, on Retainer

B. Exposing Sinful Acts (vv. 9-11)

C. Expecting Judgment (v. 12)

Conclusion

A. Leaders in Society

B. Leaders in the Church

C. Prayer

D. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless