In a Day of False Prophets
What is a politician but a prophet? He or she stands there before the crowds, shouting out oracles of doom and gloom if the people continue on in their wicked ways but glorifying his/her own natural abilities to lead the people into a shining new future. Each one claims to offer the “right” way. Too often, both are false prophets.
The lectionary’s reading today from Micah 3:1-8 speaks to that very thing. In this particular instance, he is calling the religious leaders of Israel false prophets. Micah calls them to justice and compares them to cannibals, for by the very fact that these leaders live off the hopes and need of the people of Israel, they consume the people as they lead them astray. Their time is coming, Micah says, when the leaders will realize how wrong they are and finally turn to God but it will be too late. The sins that they have committed are those of injustice and greed. Micah has no compassion for those who plunder and pillage that which the Lord has declared Holy.
I love these violent, gory scriptures. It is a heck of a way to get a reader’s attention. Rather than be turned off by the images of skin being torn “off my people, and the flesh off their bones” and those who would “eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a cauldron,” I feel a great need to get past the violence and into the message that Micah was attempting to convey. It seems that the more gruesome and violent the image, the bigger the message.
We have to say that Micah was passionate if nothing else. His major concern was justice. He saw these religious leaders, these people who held great influence over the people of Israel and he knew that these same leaders were feeding off of the need of the people. The people were oppressed and the leaders justified it through the “Law”.
We have much the same thing going on today. Sarah Palin makes wild and outrageous insinuations that Barack Obama is a terrorist, enough so that one of the spectators in the crowd yells out, “Kill him!” John McCain asks “Who is the real Barack Obama?” and a member of the audience loudly answers, “A terrorist!” Neither of these candidates shush either person. McCain at least has the grace to grimace. Regardless, both are inciting people to react with mob mentality. Both are feeding off the ignorance, fear and bigotry of their audiences.
So, what does Micah proclaim the Lord has to say to those who lead the children of God astray? Micah’s prophecy (ala the Message interpretation): "Therefore, you're going blind. You'll see nothing. You'll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They've had their day; from now on its night. Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They'll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance."
But what will happen to the people? Will they change their idols? Will they stop listening, gloating, reacting to the outrageousness of those they claim to follow?
What about those who still, in this age of 2008, refuse to vote for a person because she is a woman or he is a black man…what lies in store for those people? Will they remain blind and bigoted?
Ah, but there is more to the verse…sadly, it isn’t about all those people at all. It is about the rest of us.
“But me—I'm filled with God's power, filled with God's Spirit of justice and strength,Ready to confront Jacob's crime and Israel's sin.”
We are alive with the power of God. It is within us, surrounding us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and that awareness that bigotry in any shape or size is unjust, this is our charge. Not only must we understand that we are filled with “God’s Spirit of justice and strength” but we must be ready at every moment to confront that crime and sin of bigotry, hatred and fear.
We cannot allow the cannibalistic plundering to continue. We are living in a world where people have manipulated the fears and ignorance of others for far too long. Our way of living has changed to the point that basic civil rights have disappeared, not for criminals and terrorists, but for ordinary citizens who happened to be now openly profiled as “other”. We are not safer now with Homeland Security; rather, we live in a world controlled by rules and regulations made up by those who are not as concerned about keeping us safe as much as they are about maintaining a certain amount of power. Our system of government has been dangerously compromised with the increase of power in the Executive branch with a lessening of power of the Legislative branch. The Judicial branch has become a tool of the Executive office. We are lopsided for the first time since the framers of the Constitution designed this system. We are drowning in our own refuse all the while consuming more than we can afford. Our lives are dependent upon a rapidly diminishing fuel source. We are being driven to distraction by corporate greed.
Everything we do is based upon a desire for immediate satisfaction.
And to what expense? We allow others to manipulate us. We are the unjust. We are the sinful. The price that the manipulators pay will be high. Our price may not include living in “dark shadows and knowing nothing” but it will be high. Life as we know it must change if for no other reason, it is wrong.
We are “filled with God’s Spirit of justice and strength” and it is time that we use it to confront not only those who would manipulate us but also our own dark selves. We cannot allow our fears or our ignorance to be used as weapons against us. We are “filled with God’s Spirit of justice and strength.” It is time to live into that reality.