Monday, October 30, 2017

Micah 3:5-12 Positive and Negative Preaching

KEY TEXT: Micah 3:6-8 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

KEY THOT: False prophets, seers and diviners have one thing in common: they are positive preachers. They are always giving out "good news" because that's what people want to hear. So, it was during Micah's time, when false prophets, seers and diviners were not fore-telling but fortune-telling: "Great things will come! God will bless you! You're ok. You're beloved of God. Nothing bad can ever happen to good people." So false prophets, seers and diviners have only one slant: positive messaging to comfort the afflicted. A true prophet first afflicts the comfortable before comforting those so afflicted: "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin" (v.8).

Most preachers like to preach positive messages--it is nice because it makes the people feel good about themselves and also feel good about the preachers. So it is preferred because it spreads good feelings and good-will all around. But it is detrimental and downright dangerous when what is imminent is divine judgment not divine blessing--as in the historical situation that Micah was facing. Positive preachers become false prophets when they avoid telling people the "hard truth" of sin and judgment in order not to offend the people and bring upon them guilt and condemnation. 

When a preacher avoids "negative" messaging because he believes that would be preaching law and sticks to only "positive" messaging thinking that that he is thereby preaching the "pure" gospel, he ends up becoming a false prophet. A true prophet preaching under the anointing of the Spirit comforts and afflicts the people in the same breath. The Word is like a fire and hammer that break down the walls of self-assurance and the self-satisfaction to bring them to repentance while it restores and rekindles fire of the broken and penitent by assuring them of God's forgiveness and love at the Cross: "Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29-30).

The true prophet has both positive and negative messages in the same sermon  because the proud needs to be humbled and the humble needs to be exalted. But the true prophet is also an evangelist, proclaiming the Good News of God's grace and mercy. So his preaching always end on a positive note, building up the listeners by offering them hope of restoration through repentance: "the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" (1 Corinthians 14:3). 

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter's sermon so afflicted the listeners that they were "cut to the heart" and asked "Brothers, what shall we do?" He then went on to comfort them with these words: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38). So Peter's Gospel began by afflicting the comfortable with the judgment of the law and ended by comforting the same afflicted listeners with the consolation of the gospel. 

Abba-Father, help us to become truly prophetic in our teaching and preaching of Your Word, so that we may not be afraid to afflict the comfortable to bring them to repentance while always seeking to comfort those so afflicted with the Gospel. Amen.

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