January 19, 2018

Times Are Changing, Must We Change with the Times?

Don Johnson

The first paragraph of Micah contains a stirring indictment:

Micah 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. 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. 3 For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. 4 And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. 5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem? 6 Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof. 7 And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.

What is the transgression of Jacob? Samaria.

What are the high places of Judah? Jerusalem.

The prophet Micah indicts the leadership of the nation (or nations, at this point in history).

Samaria is the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Jerusalem is the capital of the Southern Kingdom, Judah. These cities are named as symbolic of the leadership of the people of God. We will find further charges against Israel’s leaders in subsequent passages from the prophet:

Micah 3:5 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.

Here the phrase “that bite with their teeth” seems to indicate that the prophets prophecy Peace as long as their stomachs are full. Tom Constable puts it this way: “The false prophets gave benedictions to those who paid them, but people who did not give them anything received maledictions of doom and gloom (cf. Lam. 2:14; Jer. 6:14). Self-interest motivated these prophets rather than the fear of the Lord (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3).”[1] If people will pay, they will pronounce what they want to hear. This isn’t leadership.

Micah 3:11 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.

Again the theme is taken up. The leadership of the nation is content to mouth orthodox platitudes as long as the cash keeps coming. They have no wish to disturb the populace with the Lord’s rebuke. They will not take risks that might earn them the wrath of the people and the loss of their position. This is not leadership.

Making New Testament Applications of Old Testament Concepts

Now, to be sure, the sins of ancient Israel were quite different from the current sins of our people. The context is quite different. The fact is that we are not Israel, we are the church. We don’t have the same centralized authority over our religion. There are multiple places to look for leadership in the New Testament era. (The primary place of leadership for Christians is that found in the local church, but there are other leaders we pay attention to as well in our modern and quite connected computer age.) Our leaders are not leading us into idolatry, to consorting with false gods, as Israel’s were.

Nevertheless, Micah has much to say about the premium God places on leadership. Those who are leaders in God’s economy have a responsibility first of all to God, rather than to the people they lead. They need to proclaim God’s message, not their own, nor what the people want to hear.

In our day, increasing pressure is coming to bear on Christian leadership. The pressure is meant to lower the standards of God’s word, to allow the world and its principles to dictate the fashion of the churches and the way of life of its people. One of the most obvious places of pressure is the homosexual agenda. Incredibly, many professing believers are succumbing to the pressure to modify Biblical views in this area. I am not aware of any fundamentalist who has dared to make such concessions, but the pressure is there nonetheless. We should not, however, pat ourselves on our backs about the orthodoxy of our positions here. There are many other areas in which pressure is being brought to bear on Christian leadership. The fundamentalist leaders of our churches and other institutions need to be constantly vigilant against the threats these pressures impose. We should not weaken our standards simply to accommodate increased attendance in our churches or to sustain enrollment in our colleges or to build a crowd for our evangelistic campaigns.

What we need is for leaders to lead, and to lead Christians back to the Bible, to make it the watchword of their lives. In our most recent issue of FrontLine, Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco writes on the subject of “Passing on Biblical Fundamentalism to the Next Generation.” (It is an excellent article, by the way, and a very good reason you should subscribe or renew your FrontLine subscription.) How do we pass on the spirit, ethos, philosophy, and values of biblical fundamentalism? Among several other suggestions are these words:

“Memorizing Scripture, though commendable and important, is not enough. God’s Word must be internalized — ‘hid in [the] heart, that [one] might not sin against [Him]’ (Ps. 119:11). It must be mastered until it masters us or leads us beyond preferences (what we hold) to formulate deep-seated convictions (what holds us). If God’s truth is not recognized as inspired (a message from heaven), it is highly unlikely that it will be internalized (taken to heart).”[2]

Communicating Bible truth in such a way as to lead Christians to internalize it is the goal. Our leadership should do everything to accommodate that goal, not to accommodate the age.

When changing world situations confront us, Christians sometimes change policies and procedures. Of course as we age, we tend to be reactionary about change. We acknowledge that change is inevitable, and some changes are merely matters of policy that have no bearing on spiritual realities. But let us pause when we consider change. Are we changing so that we will have “something to bite with [our] teeth?” (Micah 3.5, nau, paraphrased). Are we changing so we will have people who will follow our leadership, to keep the cash in our pockets? Or are we changing because we can clearly see the leading of the Lord to make the changes we are contemplating?

Often I have heard justifications for change along these lines, “Well, young people are different now-a-days.” (Or old people, or people in general…) “Times are changing and we need to change with the times.” You’ve all heard similar expressions, and to some extent they may be true. When we hear them, we are expected to nod sagely, perhaps to sigh with nostalgia for the old days, and accept the change.

But I wonder, concerning this kind of leadership, when it comes down to it, those making changes don’t need to justify them to you or to me. They need to justify it to the Lord. Do you think the Lord will nod sagely when you say, “Well, young people are different now-a-days.” Will He simply sigh with nostalgia for the good old days when you say, “Times are changing and we need to change with the times.”

Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.

  1. Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Mic 3:5. []
  2. FrontLine, March/April 2015, 12 []

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