Angst, Apathy and Irony in the Apocalyptic Address

Micah Chapter 2

Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. Therefore, thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time. On that day they will take up against you a taunt And utter a bitter lamentation and say, ‘We are completely destroyed! He exchanges the portion of my people; How He removes it from me! To the apostate He apportions our fields.’ Therefore, you will have no one stretching a measuring line For you by lot in the assembly of the LORD. ‘Do not speak out,’ so they speak out. But if they do not speak out concerning these things, Reproaches will not be turned back. Is it being said, O house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the LORD impatient? Are these His doings?’ Do not My words do good To the one walking uprightly? Recently My people have risen as an enemy— You strip the robe off the garment, From unsuspecting passers-by, From those returned from war. The women of My people you evict, Each one from her pleasant house. From her children you take My splendor forever. Arise and go, For this is no place of rest Because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction, A painful destruction. If a man walking after wind and falsehood Had told lies and said, ‘I will speak out to you concerning wine and liquor,’ He would be spokesman to this people. I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men. The breaker goes up before them; They break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it. So their king goes on before them, And the LORD at their head.”

CAGED;

  • Context
  • Author’s Aspirations to his Audience
  • Genre
  • Examples
  • Divide Rightly

Take a long view of Scripture and let the Bible interpret the Bible as you see the sublime string and put aside preconceived notions and presuppositions, teachings and traditions. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Mine for gold and read the Bible for all its worth. Embrace the cross of Christ and see how our sin was overcome by the love of God, who was pleased to crush his only son for our transgressions. Remember Romans 5:8 and understand that it is pivotal in God’s relationship to mankind. Everything in the Bible points to the cross of Christ and the great love of the Lord for sinners. The Law and prophets are but a mere shadow to the substance of Christ, according to the apostle Paul.

Definitions are important, extremely important, nevertheless in an apocalyptic address words take on larger than life attributes because God is revealing his power through words of mortal man. Lightning, thunder, celestial signs, pillars of smoke and fire are often used to show God’s judgment against sin. However God uses more than metaphor and simile to proclaim his power, will and judgment in the apocalyptic address. He utilizes other literary language to highlight our hypocrisy and his holiness including, foreshadowing, analogies, poetry and especially irony. In Matthew we remember reading; “And the disciples said to Him, ‘Where would we get so many loaves in a desolate place to satisfy such a great multitude?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ And they said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’ And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples in turn, to the multitudes. And they all ate, and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And sending away the multitudes, He got into the boat, and came to the region of Magadan. And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.'”

When I first wrote about this I entitled the missive, How about a Billboard because Jesus was constantly performing signs and wonders but they weren’t the signs and wonders of which the Pharisees and Sadducees were expecting because of their misinterpretation of the Old Testament’s apocalyptic addresses. Jesus points to their misinterpretation and even though he did many miracles, promised them no sign but the sign of Jonah–his death, burial and resurrection. However ironic this scene was, it is only a small sample of irony in an apocalyptic address.

We recently considered “speaking in tongues” in the modern day church which does not resemble the speaking in tongues in the Bible. Modern day speaking in tongues is Old Testament-esque glossolalia, where known syllables are uttered as opposed to the New Testament xenoglossy, where actual foreign languages were spoken. We saw how the modern day tongues resembled Old Testament tongues where the priests were acting drunk. Ironically God mocked them but this is lost in translation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that tongues came in judgment against Israel and pointed back to Isaiah, in which we read God mocking the priests. “‘And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink: The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while having visions, They totter when rendering judgment. For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, without a single clean place. To whom would He teach knowledge? And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? For He says, “Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.”‘ Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary,’ And, ‘Here is repose,’ but they would not listen. So the word of the LORD to them will be, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,’ That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared, and taken captive. Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, O scoffers, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem.”

There is no English equivalent to the mocking God does of the priests and false prophets, which is why we sometimes struggle with seeing the sublime scoffing and scolding of which the Lord gives the priests and prophets. If blah blah blah, blay bling bling, blah meant, order on order, line on line, a little here and a little there,” in English we would better understand, but it doesn’t. Therefore hard as we try, we can’t completely comprehend the irony of the situation, because then, we would stop speaking in tongues. Now, we look for irony in the apocalyptic address.

“Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away.” Instant irony is found in Micah, chapter two. Notice that they scheme or, plan, iniquity in bed but they do or preform the iniquity in the morning. Once again, some of this is lost in cultural clutter. We in the west still live in a sort-of, 9-5 society where we leave our homes during the day, leaving them open to home invasion by those seeking a quick buck for a quick fix. Nevertheless, most crime is still planned during the day and committed at night, under the cover of darkness. Ironically Micah, chapter two is the exact opposite, where the crime is planned in the darkness and performed in the light. While we see the irony, the meaning is still open to interpretation because it is an apocalyptic address. We must continue to consider the context and explore examples in order to ascertain the author’s aspirations to his audience, eventually.

We watch for more irony or the exact opposite of irony–just desserts; “They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time. On that day they will take up against you a taunt And utter a bitter lamentation and say, “We are completely destroyed! He exchanges the portion of my people; How He removes it from me! To the apostate He apportions our fields.”‘” This is the exact opposite of the golden rule. Rather than love their neighbors, they hate their neighbors. In turn, they will reap what they sow. The houses, the fields and their inheritance will be given over to the “apostate.” The reason is because of their greed and scheming, planned at night and performed during the day. We start to see the connection and consequences as we continue to consider the context.

Back to some irony; “Therefore, you will have no one stretching a measuring line For you by lot in the assembly of the LORD. ‘Do not speak out,’ so they speak out. But if they do not speak out concerning these things, Reproaches will not be turned back.” We will come back to the “measuring line,” after we examine the irony. Let’s look at a few different translations of Micah 2:6 for a better understanding of the scenario we see. From the ESV; “‘Do not preach’—thus they preach— ‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.'” And from the NIV; “‘Do not prophesy,’ their prophets say. ‘Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us.'” Though God promises their captivity and removal from the land, he also prophesied the reaction of the people and prophets to this prophecy. Essentially they will stick their fingers in their ears and yell, “lalalalala…I can’t hear you!” And, “shut up, no way!” God says to listen to him through the true prophets but they listen to the false prophets and kill the true prophets.

As for the measuring line, we see similar sayings in Ezekiel and Revelation, Deuteronomy and Exodus. The assembly refers to the tabernacle or temple and the measurements thereof are distinct. But as for an actual measuring line we once again turn to the historical narrative of current culture. In the book of 1 Kings we read of Solomon’s construction of his house and how he utilized a measuring line. Then we fast forward to the fulfillment of prophecy and read in 2 Kings; “I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.”

This seems antithetical and absurd, counterintuitive and crazy but it is how the Lord speaks in an apocalyptic address. Ironically, the measuring line is used to not only build but to destroy. As a builder, myself, I see the importance of measurements in both building and in demolition. Nevertheless, it is ironic for God to speak of a measuring line when it comes to calamity–or is it? Notice that in today’s text we actually see the absence of a measuring line, unlike Ezekiel and Revelation where Ezekiel and John are told to measure the temple, in today’s text there is no measurement, only the mention of the lack thereof. It is still significantly symbolic, otherwise, why use the phrase? It would be as random as saying, no one will toast your bread with butter on the side. God uses the irony in an against their angst against the prophet and their apathy towards the apocalyptic address. We look at Leviticus and the levitical laws and the levitical lines, we delve deep into Deuteronomy, explore examples in Exodus and see, order on order and line on line. They had strict standards to follow and exact measurements given. Yet as Christ said to the Pharisees, “you blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” they didn’t understand or follow the spirit of the Law. Outwardly they kept order and the line but inwardly they devised plans against the Lord and against their neighbors. They loved their false prophets and stammering priests but were apathetic to the word of God. Some things never change. This is why we are studying the apocalyptic address and its corresponding conclusions. 

God gave them the measurements and in today’s text he is withholding the measuring line. The context continues; “‘Do not speak out,’ so they speak out. But if they do not speak out concerning these things, Reproaches will not be turned back. Is it being said, O house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the LORD impatient? Are these His doings?’ Do not My words do good To the one walking uprightly? Recently My people have risen as an enemy— You strip the robe off the garment, From unsuspecting passers-by, From those returned from war. The women of My people you evict, Each one from her pleasant house. From her children you take My splendor forever. Arise and go, For this is no place of rest Because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction, A painful destruction.”

God is good but his people are evil, there’s no way of avoiding this or saying it softly and they are instructed by drunken, stammering priests and false prophets promising peace and prosperity. While we will see a remnant, forever, the war weary and the women, as well as the passers-by, the vast majority of Israel and Judah walk in the ways of the world. They are being led by bad priests and prophets. They walk in darkness as we also once, and still, walk. This is what makes grace amazing, that God saves first and reforms last. We see this in John, chapter three, as Jesus attempts to explain this to Nicodemus the Pharisee. “‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born bagain.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.'”

Do we see the connection and the sublime string, because we have jumped over several hundred years between Micah and Jesus? Let’s hit some highlights and see the similarities and sublime string between the apocalyptic address in Micah and the apocalyptic address of Jesus. First, you don’t believe that Jesus is making an apocalyptic address–but notice the context. “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” That is not a question, nevertheless examine the irony of the response of Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That conversation is like me saying to my pastor, “pastor, truly God has called you to preach the word of God because you speak well and make the difficult easy to understand.” And my pastor responding, “truly I say to you, unless you use a die you cannot live.” It makes no worldly sense and is completely off topic. It gets worse for Nicodemus.

“How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Exactly right, Nicodemus, how can this be possible? We are in the middle of an alleged Covid19, Corona Virus pandemic. Today the NBA has canceled its games and the NHL suspended theirs over the fear of spreading this virus. Some television shows have also suspended shooting, even one on the alleged apocalypse, giving one commentator an absurd opening to say, “a show about the apocalypse is shut down because of the apocalypse,” thinking this to be utterly ironic. Problem; apocalypse means an unveiling. Jesus was unveiling the truth about his kingdom to Nicodemus in an ironic manner. Let me sum up the conversation:

Nicodemus: Teacher, God must be with you based upon these signs.

Jesus: You must be born again.

Nicodemus: That makes no sense.

Jesus: It doesn’t have to–I am God–this is how I speak. I mention earthly things and you don’t understand, much less heavenly things, and you teach? Flesh is flesh but the Spirit is Spirit.

Nicodemus: but, but, but…

Jesus: I didn’t come to condemn, you have done that yourselves, therefore I came to save because you can’t do that yourselves.

Nicodemus: (crickets chirping)

Jesus: I am light, men love darkness because they are evil…

Which brings us back to Micah 2:1; “Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands.” Whether in darkness or in light, Jesus knows what is in our minds. And what is in our minds, what we plan and scheme, eventually, we will probably do it–Jesus sees that too. And this is certainly indicated in Micah. God is saying apocalyptically that, I know your thoughts and your deeds.

We can look at the use of hands in an apocalyptic address–something of which is altogether misunderstood and manipulated by the prophecy pundits. But it is sublimely simple; hands represent what we do. Jesus’ nail pierced hands represent what he did. The mark of the beast is not some microchip in one’s hand but rather the hand is representative of one’s allegiance to either the world or God. It’s a parody of the mark of the Lord. We can use our hands for worldly things or heavenly things. We can look at the measuring line in an apocalyptic address. Sin literally means to cross the line into trespass. The people in Israel ignored God’s measurements by making Samaria their place of worship and they also included idols in their worship. Therefore their boarders were about to be breached by Assyria; and Babylon would come to Judah. God had set their boundaries, not only as far as sin, but for the land of their tribes as well. We see this clearly as God speaks about their inheritance through the prophet, Micah. But again, the people don’t want to hear it and get angry. Like the dogmatic dispensationalists, they believe that the land is their inheritance and even God, himself, cannot take it away.

We can look at “calamity” that “cannot be removed from their necks.” That is, it’s done, your sin is complete and the calamity coming is unavoidable. We can look at “haughty walking” being nipped in the proverbial bud and the bitterness and the taunting. We can look at the “apostate” inheriting their land, mocking them with their own words and in it, see the irony and the foreshadowing of another apocalyptic address in the form of a parable. Micah reads; “On that day they will take up against you a taunt And utter a bitter lamentation and say, ‘We are completely destroyed! He exchanges the portion of my people; How He removes it from me! To the apostate He apportions our fields.'” Jesus says; “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” But what’s the context–where is the apocalyptic address? What’s the therefore there for?

“There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.’ And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”

Same thing he did to those who told the true prophets to shut up and then they killed them. It’s right there in both apocalyptic addresses–how do we miss it? But wait it it gets worse; Jesus begins by quoting Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah–watch this: “My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. And He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones. ‘And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. And I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.’ For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.”

Often in an apocalyptic address meanings of metaphors are revealed as we have seen in this passage of Isaiah–Israel is the vineyard and Judah is the plant. Similarly in Revelation one, the seven lampstands are the seven churches. This is why the complete context needs to be considered. For times sake, because we also have to let the Bible interpret the Bible by expository exegesis of examples, we are only looking at a chapter each time. However as we continue, if the Lord wills and tarries (I hate that saying, God is at work on his throne) and the Corona Virus doesn’t get us, we will see this apocalyptic address unfold. But lastly for today we notice the end of chapter two.

“Arise and go, For this is no place of rest Because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction, A painful destruction. If a man walking after wind and falsehood Had told lies and said, ‘I will speak out to you concerning wine and liquor,’ He would be spokesman to this people. I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men. The breaker goes up before them; They break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it. So their king goes on before them, And the LORD at their head.”

Jesus is coming to the remnant in a remnant rescue!

 

 

 

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