Our text revolves around the theme of conflict between prophets, which makes sense given the context supplied by verses 1–4. These verses are not a part of our text because of their graphic imagery which pictured the ruling class as eating the people alive, as a stew. It is a little hard to stomach this imagery to say the least. If you were looking for a comparable illustration, you could use Victor Hugo’s work, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, to draw out how he pictured the rulers, rich, clergy, and everyone else sent to the side of this nameless condemned man whose crime we do not know. He pictured them as having always come in fresh from an unshown meal. While this condemned man sat alone starving and waiting to die, they all walk in wiping their mouths from their last meal like some fresh kill. Hugo was known for making a condemned man comparable to Christ as seen in his novels: Les Misérables, Toilers by the Sea, Bug Jurgal, and his artwork, Ecce Homo. This detour into Hugo might be useful to set the frame for our text and provide a nice foreshadowing to our Gospel made more vivid in Christ. Hugo was writing his works during a time of great social crisis in France. Likewise, Micah was writing during a social crisis at the end of the eighth century brought on by economic instability. Judah was agriculturally abundant, and even seems to have capitalized on its location by charging taxes on trade routes, which especially enriched its elites. However, their status as a vassal of the Neo-Assyrian Empire meant that its kings intermittently imposed burdensome taxes (2 Kings 15:20).
I think the best way to get at preaching the Gospel in our text is to compare the prophets and rulers Micah holds before us to Christ, who is not only a better prophet but the prophet’s hope and the prophet “par excellence.” The prophets Micah has are self-serving, pandering, lying, and so much more. Jesus is blessedly opposite in every way. To draw out the Gospel comparison, I would like to reference the work of James Voelz who, for a Pre-Lenten workshop at Concordia Seminary called “Seeing Is Not Believing,” did some masterful work to talk about how Christ as prophet kept His word. This should serve as the final move in the sermon after you have developed every other part of the sermon and structure. After you have set up the problem with Micah’s audience not listening or following God, you must then establish how God Himself will send the greater prophet Messiah for the purpose of saying and being the Word fulfilled, which we do not get from our text. Then, this would be the final move.
“Jesus is the one you need to listen to. Why? Because He is the one who died and rose again! But how do you know? You and I were not there personally! We, like Thomas, did not see Him or touch His wounds! So, how can we know for sure? We know because we have the Word fulfilled in the Gospels! We have the Word fulfilled from the prophetic scriptures! We have the eyewitness testimony of those who were really there! Jesus’ disciples and the naysayers and the bystanders were all eyewitnesses of these facts. We have it all! In the shorter ending of Mark’s Gospel, we all experience the resurrection like those scared women. We believe not on account of what we saw or felt or because of any physical evidence. No, we only believe on account of the Word which came true! How do you know it came true? Jesus Himself says the very words we need. He Himself predicted everything, from the donkey for Palm Sunday (Mark 11:2-6) to the person who would point to the place where they would celebrate Passover on Maundy Thursday (Mark 14:13-14). And when He said it… It was so! Jesus predicts His betrayal by the religious leaders (Mark 10:33) and even the abandonment of His wayward disciples (Mark 14:27). And when He said it… It was so! Jesus predicts He will be mocked and spit upon and scourged (Mark 10:34) and even killed (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). And when He said it… It was so! But here is the real proof. He also said He would rise again from the dead and He did (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). Even the young man says it happens “just as He said” (Mark 16:7). Even the disciples obediently shared this good news with everyone they could (Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:5 and 6). Even Saint Paul, who went from wayward to way-making disciple, testifying to the truth of Jesus’ Word (1 Corinthians 15:8,12-13). But here the struggle is that all we seem to get is just the Word of Jesus. That is it! Truthfully though, that is all you will ever need to know God will fulfill His promises to you. Jesus said it and it was so!... for you!”
Naturally, the “Compare and Contrast” is the best structure for a sermon like this.
“(This) structure systematically explores relevant similarities and/or differences between two topics in order to accomplish a purpose for the hearer. In this sermon, the purpose of comparing/contrasting is crucial. While proverbial wisdom says you cannot compare apples and oranges (like Micah’s problem prophets and Jesus), the preacher responds that you most certainly can, depending upon what your purpose is. The sermon does more than simply inform hearers of similarities and/or differences. It uses the information for a purpose, and that purpose often makes a difference in their lives.”
Typically, when you use this structure there are two ways you can go. You can either work part-to-part or whole-to-whole. I am going to suggest we do the latter. Working whole-to-whole means you unpack all of the individual items of one topic before proceeding to a listing of the individual items of another topic. For example, comparing and contrasting the rulers and prophets of Micah’s day, Micah, and Jesus. How you decide which approach (whole or part) to use:
“...is often based on the balance of information you have and what you desire your hearers to remember. Whole-to-whole encourages them to remember the topics (for example, Micah and his situation and Jesus). Part-to-part encourages them to remember the items that compose the topics (for example, the types of ways the false rulers and prophets failed compared to how Jesus kept His Word perfectly).”
Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Micah 3:5-12;.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Micah 3:5-12.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Micah 3:5-12.
Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!