Now time to get again into the word of God, the book of Micah, beginning tonight with Chapter Seven.
Right. That's what he meant-- Chapter Five through Seven. So let's turn there and we'll make it through Chapter Seven. Once upon a time, in a small village in Europe was the town clock in that part of the world called the glockenspiel. And the glockenspiel or the clock in the center of the towns kept the time so that the people who lived in these villages would always have the standard to go by. But as time would have it, the glass that kept the hands and the movements intact broke on the clock. And what would happen is the people going by would look at the clock and then look at their own timepiece, their watch, and they would reach in and adjust the clock according to their own watch. And then another. And then another. And then another.
So eventually, because all of them set the standard by their own standard, eventually no one knew what time it was. That was the problem, so to speak, with ancient Israel and ancient Judah at the time that Micah prophesied. Having forsaken the laws of God, the standard of God, and then coming up with their own standards, their own rules and regulations, they lost all authority like those people in that village in Europe losing the standard of authority.
And so the lord sent to them many prophets. One was Micah, a country boy from a village down in Judah called Moresheth, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. And Micah, this country preacher, was called to go to the big city and speak against Sumeria capital in the north and Jerusalem capital in the south. Primarily his ministry was toward Jerusalem.
He was a contemporary, we mentioned last week, with another prophet by the name of Isaiah. And their prophesies interface so beautifully. Chapter Two of Isaiah, Chapter Four of Micah are very similar in content, at least the beginning portions of them. We noted that Micah performed his ministry during the reign of three kings that are mentioned in Chapter One, verse one-- Jotham, Ahaz, and King Hezekiah.
So he had quite an extensive ministry during the reigns of these kings. And he predicts the judgment will come. And he predicts that it will come to a group of people who were saying as he was prophesying, oh, no, it'll never happen to us. And what would happen and what did happen to Sumeria will never happen to Judah, because surely we're God's people. And as God's people, we're immune and protected from these kinds of tragedies.
We saw last week that the book is comprised of three messages, three sermons. And you can tell the beginning of each message because of the words here. And so in Chapter One, hear these words all you people. And then in Chapter Three, hear you heads of Jacob. So Chapter One and Two is the first message. Chapters Three, Four, and Five is the second message. And we'll finish the second one tonight in Chapter Five. And then Chapter Six and Seven is another hear ye as God speaks through this prophet his final message.
Now each of these messages, each of these sermons has a combination of several elements. There's the rebuke for their sin. It is stated. It is brought to them very plainly. There is then an announcement of judgment. But then there is with that the promise of blessing through the Messiah. And all of these sermons, all three of these messages, have all three of those elements. So that as you work your way from Chapter One through Chapter Seven of Micah, we find that the messages are both denunciatory and conciliatory.
Denouncements are made concerning their future, the future judgment because of their present sin, but also this beautiful promise woven through of how God will even yet forgive them and restore them. So Chapter Five verse one, we're in the middle of that second message. "Now gather yourself in, troops oh daughter of troops. He has laid siege against us. They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek."
In the Hebrew bible, verse one of Chapter Five is actually verse 14 of Chapter Four. You'll notice Chapter Fourteen has 13 versus. Not so in the Hebrew bible. This verse is placed back in Chapter Four because of the subject matter. Now, you know that the word of God is absolutely and totally inspired of God. God breathed. But chapter divisions and verses came much later and aren't necessarily inspired. So the subject matter of verse one really does belong back in Chapter Four. Because back in Chapter Four, the prophet speaks of the coming Babylonian invasion of Judah as well as the gathering together of all nations against Israel in the end of days, which is the battle of Armageddon. So we have a hint of that in verse one-- "Gather yourself in troops, oh daughter of troops. He has laid siege against us. They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on his cheek."
The last King of Judah that was set there by a Nebuchadnezzar as a vassal king was King Zedekiah. And the siege of Jerusalem lasted about 2 and 1/2 years. The siege of Jerusalem began in 588 BC in January and ended in 586 BC in July. So 2 and 1/2 year siege, until finally the Babylonians penetrated the walls of Jerusalem and the city fell to the Babylonians in 586.
When the city fell, some people escaped through the walls out into the plains toward Jericho. King Zedekiah was one of those who escaped. The Babylonians caught up with him, brought him to Riblah, and stood him before King Nebuchadnezzar who pronounce judgment upon him, had his sons killed before his eyes. And then as a last parting gesture before carting him off to Babylon, put out his own eyes so that King Zedekiah would forever live in Babylon having his eyes put out but the last memory would be the death of his own sons.
And this could be the reference here when it says "He laid siege against us. They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on his cheek." Now, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians King Jeconiah was that last king if you remember in Jeremiah that God predicted the lineage of David would end there. Then Zedekiah was put up on the throne as a vassal king. And now he's deposed. And all of this city virtually all of the country is in Babylon.
Anybody looking at that would say, well, it's over. The ruler of Israel is gone. The Davidic line is gone. There's no hope of God ever to fulfill his promise to the Jews in giving them an earthly kingdom, until we get to verse two of Chapter Five. And it begins with a great word to begin such a horrible background with, "But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel whose goings forth are from of old from everlasting."
So the rulers of Judah slain or taken captive. Someone would say, it's all over. God's saying, oh no, it's just beginning. Have I got a ruler for you. And the ruler is predicted to be born in Bethlehem. Now there were two Bethlehems. One in the south, in Judah, here called Bethlehem Ephratah, which means fruitful. And the other one up north in Zebulon.
And so the southern one is identified here. Bethlehem Ephratah, fruitful. The term Bethlehem in Hebrew is "Bethlehem, house of bread." And both "Ephratah" and "Bethlehem," those two words describe that beautiful valley just outside of Jerusalem where so much of the produce was grown. It was a very productive, fertile area.
But Bethlehem was an insignificant village. It's as though you are small among the thousands of Judah. Bethlehem was so small and so insignificant a place that in Joshua 15, which gives a listing of all of the towns and villages there, Bethlehem isn't in it. And later on when the Jews come back and there's another list given in Nehemiah Chapter 11, Bethlehem isn't in that either. But it's predicted that out of that insignificant little village will come the ruler of Israel. 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there is a prediction that the ruler of Israel will come from Bethlehem.
And the circumstances of Jesus' birth are absolutely amazing, how God orchestrated that. How do you get people living up in Nazareth to come and have a baby born as the prophet said in Bethlehem? Easy. You move a guy named Caesar Augustus who thought he was the guy who called all the shots. But there was a God in heaven behind the scenes moving him to bring a census, a taxation census, on all of the world so that the people would go back to their town of tribal origin and be registered. Joseph and Mary's tribal origin was down south. They were from the lineage of King David. So because of this decree from Rome, they had to go and leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem.
Think of all of the things from a human point of view that could have gone wrong. Mary's very, very pregnant. The Bible calls her great with child, her last stages of pregnancy. And she's no doubt riding on a donkey from up north down south. The donkey could have slipped on a rock. Mary could have fallen off. There could have been complications in her pregnancy that could have rendered the birth of Jesus in any town between Nazareth and Bethlehem. But so carefully orchestrated by God and Mary and Joseph come to Bethlehem, the house of bread, from whence would come the bread of life, the fruitful one, and the ruler in Israel.
Notice further, God says, out of you shall come forth to me. That's a very telling phrase. In other words, this ruler that will be born in Bethlehem will come forth with the sole purpose of fulfilling the will of the Father. He'll come unto the Lord. His whole life will be governed by the will of God. Same verse describes who's going forth are from of old, even from everlasting. Interesting.
This ruler to be born in Bethlehem preexisted, lived before He came into the world in Bethlehem. So what Micah is describing is very similar to what Isaiah described, that the ruler that would govern Israel and perform all of the will of God was a preexistent one who came in time and space via an incarnation and was born in Bethlehem. He's from of old, even from everlasting. Isaiah predicted, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called wonderful counselor mighty God everlasting father prince of peace. This baby will be eternal God.
It's interesting that the rabbis looked at Chapter Five verse two and understood it to refer to the Messiah. There was no question at the time of Jesus' birth and the opening pages of the New Testament that the rabbis then understood that Israel's Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Because when the Magi from the east come and Herod is all excited that they're visiting his city, he goes to these religious rulers and says, hey, where is Israel's messiah to be born? And they immediately quoted Micah Chapter five, verse two. They knew it. Bethlehem.
They quoted this verse. "And yet, though the magi come from the east and went to Bethlehem to worship this newborn Messiah, these religious rulers though they knew the text so well, didn't even get up and go and check it out." They could have easily gone five miles and walked over to Bethlehem to see if this was really it. But they didn't. They could quote the scripture, which they did. But they didn't-- well, as Dr. Jay Vernon McGee says, they didn't wrap the bible in shoe leather. They knew chapter and verse, but they didn't walk it. They didn't live it. They didn't check it out.
Verse three, "Therefore he shall give them up until the time that she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remnant of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel." Now this woman giving birth, this figure of speech is a common one. We've already read several comments like this in the book of Micah and Hosea and Isaiah, Chapter 66 and several other chapters, this idea of a woman giving birth to a child.
And when we get to the Book of Revelation we have one of the visions that John sees of a woman who is clothed with the sun and the moon and a garland of 12 stars on her head. And she's about ready to give birth to a child. And she gives birth to a male child. Now that woman in Revelation 12 is Israel giving birth to the Messiah. And here is the same thought here, "until the time that she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remnant of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel." As I see it here, there is a two-fold labor of the nation of Israel. One is giving birth to the Messiah. Second is giving birth to the remnant of Israel during a time of labor called the tribulation period. That out of unbelieving Israel will come a believing remnant, 12,000 from each tribe.
And that will be birthed through a very difficult time. Jeremiah calls it the time of Jacob's trouble. And in that same passage, Israel is likened to a woman giving birth to that believing remnant. Verse four, "We sweep all the way forward to the second coming. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the lord, in the majesty of the name of the lord, his god. And they shall abide for now he shall be great to the ends of the Earth." In this verse we have a hint of the manner in which this Messiah will eventually reign. He'll come as a shepherd would come, feeding and nourishing his flock, and that beautiful picture of the lord feeding his flock like a shepherd caring for his flock.
And immediately our mind goes to John, Chapter 10 where Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. And we also understand that between his first coming at Bethlehem and his second coming to rule the world will be a very monumental event called the cross, where the shepherd will give his own life for the sheep so that the shepherd becomes a lamb. As John said, behold the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. So Micah the prophet in contrast to the Earthly rulers who failed and were going into captivity, God promises a Messiah for Israel, the ruler, the preexistent one, the one who will rule and reign like a shepherd his people forever and ever. So the second coming is in view here.
David, when he writes the psalms, he was a shepherd as you know, one of our favorite psalms is Psalm 23 where David says the lord is my shepherd. Some people have studied a little bit about sheep and shepherds and they discover the truth about sheep and they are sometimes insulted to discover that sheep are regarded by shepherds as not too bright. Dumb animals. Herd instincts. They'll follow sheep blindly, crazily off cliffs, as was a recent news report. And yet David, who was the shepherd, didn't seem to be insulted by it but rather delighted in the fact as if to brag and say, hey, look who my shepherd is. It's the lord.
You see, the quality of life of any flock is determined by the care of the shepherd. You've got a good shepherd, you delight to be one of the sheep. If you've got a bad shepherd, then it's like oh, man. We've all met pet owners who don't take care of their pets very well. They don't groom them often. They barely remember to feed them. And they have the dog or the cat, but you think why-- they shouldn't have that dog. They don't really take good care of it. They should just give it away to somebody who loves the breed.
On the other extreme are those pet owners who go overboard. Every dog show, they enter their little pup in. They have the seasonal Christmas and Thanksgiving dog sweaters. They have the personalized dog house. And Fido is spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X, you know, the French Phydeaux. We've met people like that. And we think, oh, brother. Are they going overboard on this pet thing or what?
But if you were the dog, which owner would you rather have? The one who dotes over you are the one who forgets all about you? The lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. And hear that beautiful promise, he shall stand and feed his flock. Just a quick note about this. There was a movement that was very popular some years ago called the shepherding movement. And it was biblical discipleship taken to an unbiblical extreme, whereby you have your own personal shepherd who controls the decisions you make. If you want to buy something or if you want to marry someone or you want to move somewhere, you can't do it unless that request is filtered through your personal Shepherd who is responsible to God for the decisions you make.
Here's my question. If you can have the lord as your shepherd, why would you want anyone else to be your shepherd? Why would you settle for anything less than that? If the lord delights to feed you and to guide you and to lead you? I had a gal come into my office several years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico at our previous church. And she sat in my office and she said, there's a guy and I think I'd like to marry him. But I told the lord, I won't marry him unless you tell me it's the lord's will.
I said, well, you're out of luck. Because I have enough struggled to determine the Lord's will for my own life, let alone your life. She goes, well you're my shepherd. I said no, the Lord is your shepherd. I can feed you His word and his principles, but you stand and make your decisions before God, not me.
So the Lord is their shepherd, and He promises to be that and rule and reign as a shepherd in verse five, and this one shall be peace. "When the Assyrian comes to our land and when he treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princely men." Messiah's coming can be summed up by one thought-- peace, peace.
Ephesians says, "And he himself is our peace." So it has broken down that middle wall of division that separates Jew and gentile. The Messiah will have peace in himself. The Messiah will bestow peace upon his people. And the Messiah will enforce peace as all the weapons of warfare are turned into implements for farming and for the betterment of mankind.
"They shall waste with a sword the land of Assyria and the land of Nimrod at its entrances. Thus, He shall deliver us from the Assyrian when He comes into our land and when He treads within our borders." In verse five and six, the Assyrian that is mentioned here is probably representative of all nations that eventually will come against Israel. I say its representative because at that time the Assyrian Empire was the big threat during Micah's prophecy. But it's best to see in this prophecy of the Messiah that Assyria is a representative name, a metonym, a literary device where a part represents the whole. As already prophesied in the previous chapter, many nations will come against Jerusalem and surround them.
And in the great tribulation will be a confederacy of nations that have a sole purpose and that is to blot the Jews off the face of the Earth. Now, in verse seven and eight, watch the description of the remnant of Israel, how they are described by two figures. "Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like do from the lord like showers on the grass that tarry for no man nor wait for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the gentiles in the midst of many peoples like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep who, if he passes through, both treads down and tears in pieces and none can deliver."
In that part of the world, between May and late October, there is no rainfall. The summer crops don't have a chance unless there is dew. And so the idea, the beautiful picture that Israel the remnant of believing redeemed Jews will become to the world a source of refreshment. And Zechariah will really expand on this so beautifully how this remnant will be a source of joy and beauty and refreshment to the entire civilized world during the kingdom age.
But during the kingdom age, there will be a rebellious element. That's why there needs to be the rule with a rod of iron. The Messiah will rule over the earth for 1,000 years with an iron-clad rule. And these redeemed believing Jews who will rule and reign with him will be a part of that. And so because of that, not only will they be a source of refreshment but they'll be like the lion with power and authority, co-ruling, co-reigning with the lord.
"Your hand should be lifted against your adversaries and all your enemies shall be cut off. And that shall be in that day, says the Lord, that I will cut off your horses from your midst and destroy your chariots." God will give them victory over their enemies. "I will cut off the cities of your land and throw down all your strongholds. I will cut off sorceries from your hand. And you shall have no soothsayers. Your carved images, I will also cut off and your sacred pillars from your midst. You shall no more worship the work of your hands. I will pluck your wooden images from your midst. Thus I will destroy your cities and I will execute vengeance in anger and fury on the nations that have not heard."
To make Israel ready for this new ministry that they'll have in the kingdom age, they have to be purged from their foreign alliances, from foreign chariots as is mentioned here. They trusted in foreign alliances in so many times. They have to be purged from their objects of idolatry. And they are going through a time of purging both then, before, and through the Babylonian captivity and eventually in the future, before Messiah comes to rule and reign, the time of Jacob's trouble. So "I will execute vengeance and anger and fury on the nations that have not heard."
So, so far, the revelation of this coming ruler Messiah is pretty profound. He's going to be born in Bethlehem but his origins are from eternity. He's coming to do the will of God but he's coming for the betterment of mankind. Beautiful prophecies of his coming, both a baby and eternal God in one person.
Now Micah Chapter Six goes from the future to the present. The future is not in focus in Chapter Six. The present condition of Israel is and this now is the third and final division of the book of Micah. It's that last message that he gives. And it's written in the form of a legal summons. You might want to picture it this way. Micah is the lawyer for the plaintiff. The plaintiff is God. And he's bringing his indictment against the defendant which is Israel. And so you're going to see Micah sort of giving a summary statement to the defendant as God brings charges upon them, verse one. Here's the plaintiff's case.
"Hear now what the lord says. Arise. Plead your case before the mountains and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, O you mountains, the lord's complaint and you strong foundations of the Earth, for the lord has a complaint against his people. And he will contend with Israel. Oh, my people what have I done to you and how have I wearied you? Testify against me." So there is Micah, the lawyer for the plaintiff reading the case aloud to Israel. And the jury here are the hills and the mountains of Israel. They've been there a long time. They had been there through all of the years of God's faithfulness.
Sometimes we have a saying in our own language we say, boy, if the walls could talk, what they'd say. Well, if those mountains could talk, what they had witnessed in all of the history of Israel. And it is not uncommon for sometimes the prophets to call on in animate nature as witnesses against the people of God. Moses does it, Deuteronomy 32. Jeremiah does it and Isaiah does it, calling upon the Earth or the mountains as witnesses.
So the indictment is read. And now three exhibits, three lines of evidence in this court case are presented. Verse four is exhibit A. And that is God's past provision. "For I brought you up from the land of Egypt. I redeemed you from the house of bondage. And I sent before you Moses and Aaron and Miriam." The deliverance of Israel from Egypt becomes their focal point throughout Israel's redemptive history. They always are called to look back and remember what God did, how God delivered them from slavery through the wilderness, and how he provided for their needs and brought them into the promised land.
And every time their history is brought up, that is the focal point. And it's such a focal point that God says the passover becomes the beginning of your calendar year the beginning of months to you. So they're to remember God's provision.
In the book of Deuteronomy when the lord first calls them to look backwards, and he says remember how when I let you from Egypt and brought through the wilderness that your clothes didn't wear out, your feet didn't swell? I cared for you. I gave you food from heaven, water from the rock. I provided for you. And what the lord is doing here is getting them to jog their memory, to remember.
It was Oscar Wilde who said memory is the diary we carry with us everywhere we go. Sometimes it's good to open that diary and remember all of the goodness of the lord, how he's led you thus far, what he's done for you, what he's done to you. That's exhibit A.
Exhibit B is God's protection. "Oh, my people, remember now what Balak, the King of Moab counseled and what Balaam the son Beor answered him. From acacia grove to Gilgal that you may know the righteousness of the lord." God reversed the curse that Balaam brought upon the children of Israel back there in Numbers Chapter 32 or 23 and 24. Now Balak, who is the King of Moab, was trying to figure out a way to get the people of God Israel cursed. So he hired a greedy preacher named Balaam. And for money, he got him to stand at some key positions and for money he was to look down upon the camp of Israel and pronounce curses.
Every time he did that, instead of a curse he brought forth a blessing. So that which Balak meant for evil, God turned around for good. And instead of cursings, God brought blessings. So here's exhibit B. Not only did I provide for you in the wilderness, I protected you in the wilderness from these curses. Further in verse five, the second part, is exhibit C-- God's power. For he says from acacia grove to Gilgal. The acacia grove was the east bank of the Jordan River that parted. And Gilgal was the west bank of that river. So God miraculously brought him from point A to point B as that Jordan River opened up and they went through, that you may know the righteousness of the lord.
Now all of these lines of evidence, all of these exhibits-- A, B, and C-- his provision, is protection, his power should have humbled them. They should have recalled all of that and said, yes, God has been so good to us. We will humble ourselves before the lord. We will turn back to him. But rather than that, they dug their heels in and became prideful. Pride caused them to forget.
So verse six is the response. The defendants now have heard the case. They have seen the exhibits brought into court. Now this is the defendant's questions. They respond by offering up to God four different approaches to worship. And notice they say in verse six, with what shall I come before the lord and bow myself before the high God. Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? So they first suggest an intensity of worship. To bow down was common to do in the presence of any king and it was an outward demonstration supposedly of a humility of heart. So it was an outward manifestation of worship to bow down before God.
But you know, sometimes outward demonstrations of worship can be done pridefully. They can be done so that we get the attention of other people who see our outward humble demonstration as we do it in front of everybody else and they notice us and we take pleasure in them noticing us as if we are to say look how humble. I am. I'm so proud to be so humble, this intensity of worship, as we draw attention to ourselves.
In the same verse, shall I come before him with burnt offerings and calves a year old. The second approach, they suggest, is a quality of worship. Leviticus Chapter Five, there was the prescriptions of all the different forms of the offerings of the animals. And for passover they were to bring an animal that was a yearling, a sheep that was a year old. So shall I come before him with burnt offerings and calves a year old? Is that what God wants? Does God require the highest quality of worship that we can give him?
But what's the answer to that? Yes, God delights in high quality of worship. However, God doesn't want great music and great harmonies and great melodies if the heart isn't in it. And sometimes we can mistakenly place the art over the heart. We make it all about the art form. God makes it all about the heart form. Which is the right style of worship? We should give God the best, the highest quality. Amen. But never when we divorce it from the heart. And sometimes we can substitute the art for the heart.
The woman at the well as Sumeria made it all about the art form when she said our fathers worship in this mountain, you Jews say Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. You remember Jesus' response? "Woman, the hour is coming and now is when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem will they worship the Father. The Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth," heartfelt worship.
Verse seven, "Will the lord be pleased with thousands of rams, 10,000 rivers of oil?" Now they're saying, well, maybe I should give God more. Maybe he wants more sacrifices and more worship. He wants more quantity. It's interesting that as the sacrificial system of the Jews progressed through the old testament, sometimes there were episodes where they went way overboard in the giving of sacrifices. For instance King Hezekiah who's mentioned as one of the kings during Micah's ministry at one point gave 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and the rulers of Hezekiah gave 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep.
Is that what God wants? The highest quality of worship, the most demonstrative type of worship? It goes on to say, shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul. Man, that's hard core. Now they go from the quality and quantity of worship to an austerity of worship. What if I sacrifice my own child, would that be pleasing to God?
Now human sacrifice was forbidden by God for the Jews. They weren't to be like other nations. They were to care for their children not sacrifice them. And yet the pagans offered sacrifices of their children to gods like Moloch as they would place their little babies on the hot arms of Moloch as a sacrifice. And some of the kings, even two of the kings, degraded themselves to this low level of human sacrifice. It's not what God required. It's not what God wanted.
But some people are willing to do all sorts of crazy religious ceremonial things in the place of heartfelt obedience. Whether they're Baal worshippers, and they cut themselves with knives and danced in a frenzy, first, Kings 18, or they offered their children to Moloch like two of the kings did. Or as is still the case in some places in the world, people will crawl on their knees up long flights of stairs where there was an apparition or is a statue and their knees become bloody. And they think, in this form of worship God certainly is pleased.
But remember, Paul said even though I would give my own body to be burned, if I have not love I am nothing. So it wasn't the intensity of worship or the quality of worship or the quantity of worship or the intensity of worship. What God wanted was the reality of worship. I want your heart, your life that conforms to what you say to be into it.
So that's the court case. The indictments are read. The defendant makes his plea that is Israel with these four suggestions. And now finally in verse eight is the lawyer's close. "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your god." Three elements that sum up and deal with daily life. This is what I want, says the lord.
And it could be summed up by simply loving the lord your god with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. What does the lord want? Child sacrifice? Intensity of worship? More offerings? Rivers of oil? Bowing down and being very demonstrative? No. This is what the lord wants-- do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your god.
Now back in those days, the people of Judah and Israel were abusing the poor. They weren't just. They weren't forgiving debts. They were taking garments off of the poor as we've already noted. They were oppressing them. All the while, they were still offering their sacrifices in worship. Going through the rituals, going through the motions, going through the ceremonies. But God says, I want you to do justly. And then to love mercy.
It's pretty easy to understand why God would say that, isn't it? Back in verse four and five, God rehearses how merciful he was to the nation. Look how merciful I was to you. I provided for you. I protected you. I with my power brought you from Egypt through the wilderness across the Jordan into this land. I was so merciful to you. Now you're my people. I want you to be merciful to others. Love mercy.
Jesus said, blessed are the merciful. They shall obtain mercy. Did you know, by the way, that though mercy is so often mentioned in the bible as a trait of God and thus a trait of God's people, that ancient peoples regarded mercy as a weakness. In fact, the Romans and the Greeks both said that mercy was the worst of all human traits. And rather self-confidence and even pride was to be esteemed greatly. One Roman poet called humility a disease of the soul. And that which man would throw away or lower, God would exonerate. This is what God wants. Do justly. Love mercy and to walk humbly with your god. Not just an outward display, not just to watch me bow before God and see how humble I am, but a true humility.
Which begs the question, how does one cultivate true humility? Few suggestions. Pray. You see whenever you pray you are showing your dependence not upon your own self, goodness, or merit but your dependence upon God. You're basically saying help lord, I need you. Prayer in and of itself is a demonstration of humility when it's done with the right attitude and the right heart. Worship is another way. You're making it not about me but all about him. A third suggestion is take a task that is not assigned to you.
I never liked the attitude where people would say, well, that's not in my job description. Hey we're servants of the most high god. We're slaves. When we see a need to humbly meet that need is a way to cultivate humility. And finally, another way is to encourage others. To encourage others. There's something about genuine encouragement when it's not flattery but genuinely building people up that produces and keeps that oil of humility flowing in their lives. Somebody once put it this way-- a pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results. God's people can use your encouragement.
Verse nine and onward, as the court proceedings come to an end is a sampling of the sins of Israel, which brought the lawsuit. "The lord's voice cries to the city, wisdom shall see your name. Hear the rod who has appointed it." In other the words, listen for the impending judgment that is coming.
"Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked and the short measure that is an abomination?" If you remember back in the law in Leviticus 19, the Lord said that they weren't to have unjust weights and measures. They weren't to have one for selling and one for buying but there was to be an equity that would promote their justice.
"Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales and with the bag of deceitful weights? For her rich men are full of violence, her inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore, I will also make you sick by striking you, by making you desolate because of your sins. You shall eat, but not be satisfied. Hunger shall be in your midst. You may carry some away, but shall not save them. And what you do rescue I will give over to the sword. You shall sow and not reap. You shall tread the olives but not anoint yourselves with oil and make sweet wine, but not drink wine. For the statutes of Amri are kept, the works of Ahab's house are done, and you walk in their counsels that I may make you a desolation and your inhabitants a hissing. Therefore, you shall bear the reproach of my people."
Now here, these people, God's people, who call themselves by that name Israel and Judah, they weren't keeping God's laws. They had disobeyed God's commands. So the question is, well whose commands were they keeping. Whose standards were they going by? And here we see King Amri and King Ahab. Now they're mentioned because of the idolatry that they brought into the land. King Amri built Sumeria. King Ahab was the king to introduce Baal worship via his wife Jezebel into the northern kingdom. And because of that, their influence in the north brought influence to the southern kingdom eventually of Judah, two of the most wicked kings.
So we see this frequent mix all throughout these chapters, God making the denouncement but then God making a promise about his Messiah and conciliation in judgment. Now, in Chapter Seven, after such a compelling courtroom case, we see how Micah takes it personally and what he does in response to this. You might want to picture it if he's the lawyer for the plaintiff, he steps out into the lobby of his own personal emotions.
And he says, woe is me for I am like those who gather summer fruits, like those who glean vintage grapes, there is no cluster to eat of the first ripe fruit which my soul desires. The faithful man has perished from the Earth. And there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood every man hunts his brother with a net. The nation had effectively become like an orchard after the harvest or like a vintage after the gleaning. There was no fruit left. There were no good people left, no righteous people, no just people.
"That they may successfully do evil with both hands, the prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, the great man utters his evil desires. So they scheme together." As we noted a couple of chapters back, the religious heads as well as the political and judicial heads were all in collusion together not to uphold the law, but to disobey the law. "The best of them is like a briar. The most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen and your punishment comes now shall be their perplexity. Do not trust in a friend. Do not put your confidence in a companion. Guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom, for son dishonors father, daughter rises against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies are men of his own household."
Things have gotten so bad, civil unrest had progressed so much that no one could be trusted any more. Relationships had so broken down among them that even the nearest and dearest-- children, parents, friends, spouses-- couldn't talk to each other, couldn't trust each other. Now Jesus uses these verses as an illustration when he commissions his disciples to go out. And he predicts the kind of oppression that will come on those who are representatives of the gospel, that your enemies will be of your own household.
And how many times have we discovered that the ones you think will be the most sympathetic to your new found faith in Jesus Christ are the ones who think, are you nuts. We've known you all our lives. We know the real you. Don't bring on this righteous stuff into this house, this holier than thou stuff. Oh, you've had a conversion have you? And you find that the closest to you become the most distant. Those that you think would understand don't get it. And the enemies can be of your own household. Therefore, the prophet says, therefore I will look to the lord. I will wait for the god of my salvation, my god will hear me.
Now this is a good move. When life gets this bad to just not make a sudden move but wait, stay put, stay at the yellow light and wait upon the lord and watch what God will do in that kind of a situation. When you lose your friends or spouse or parents or children in a trustworthy relationship, God becomes your anchor of hope.
Last night at our church for our Saturday evening service, Franklin Graham came and spoke. We have every year what we call Operation Christmas Child where shoe boxes are collected for kids around the world. And this year Samaritan's Purse collected 7 and 1/2 million boxes full of presents that all have a gospel tract in 100 different countries with all the languages that present Jesus Christ. It's a very powerful way to get the gospel out. And I've been involved in the project for a number of years. And he came last night and he spoke. And he told us an amazing story.
They were in one country and they were distributing the boxes via the churches in the area. The kids were so excited as each one grabbed their box and opened it up and found the toys. And the parents were excited that somebody thought about their child on the other side of the world enough to buy gifts for them. So exciting. Until a box was handed to one little boy who had a frown on his face and he pushed the box away and he goes I don't want a box. I want parents. He had lost his parents. He was an orphan. He wouldn't take the box. I don't want it.
Eventually, one of the counselors who was there, the distributors, knew this was a difficult situation, but persuaded the little boy to take the box anyway. Look, somebody in the other side of the world loves you enough to give you these gifts. At least you should open it. So the kid opened it. Found the toys. And there at the bottom of the box was a picture of the couple that sent it with a little address and a little bit about themselves.
Well, within a couple of months time the child decided that he would write this couple in America. And that couple then wrote back to that child who had received their gift and correspondence went on till eventually the couple decided to go to that country and visit that little boy. And you see this couple couldn't have children. And they had been praying about adopting a child. And as it went, they adopted that little boy. So here's a little boy looking at that box, pushing the box away. God put parents in that box. They became his parents.
So the very difficult time of Israel's history when you couldn't trust parents or children, there was such a breakdown and isolationism, the prophet says I'm going to wait on the lord. I'm going to trust in the lord my god. He will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy. When I fall I will arise. When I sit in darkness the lord will be light to me. I will bear the indignation of the lord because I have sinned against him until he pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light. I will see his righteousness. And she who is my enemy will see and shame will cover her who said to me where is the lord your god? My eyes will see her. Now she will be trampled down like mud in the streets.
So after confessing faith in the lord, Israel warns her enemies in effect that she is going to rise again. And the prophet is speaking for the nation. We're going to wait on the lord. The lord is still going to be faithful. And we'll rise up again. In the day when your walls are to be built, in the day the decree shall go far and wide, in that day they shall come to you from Assyria and the fortified cities from the fortress to the river from sea to sea and mountain to mountain. Yet the land shall be desolate because of those who dwell in it and for the fruit of their deeds.
These are the blessings that await the remnant under Messiah's rule in the kingdom age, as they become the due, the blessing to the people during that time. God drew out the scripture, made a promise, and repeats an inviable promise that Israel will be restored and occupy the land that he promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promised to the Jews a kingdom. And God promises that Messiah will reign and that redeemed Israel will reign with the Messiah during that millennial age. It's a promise that is repeated. It is seen and types and shadows throughout the old testament on into the new testament book Of revelation.
When we get to the book of Zechariah, we discover the promise where they say they will look upon him whom they have peers. And they will mourn for him as one mourns for his own son. And the same scripture goes on to say that a fountain of cleansing will be opened up, cleansing for sin that brings their salvation, and that the Jews will become such an attraction those redeemed remnant Israelis that 10 gentiles will cling to the garment of every Jew because they see this kind of spiritual quality that they have during that time, during the kingdom age.
Now verse 14 and we close out the book, Micah's own prayer, his petition. "Shepherd your people," he says to the Lord. "Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your heritage. Who dwell solitarily in a woodland in the midst of Carmel, let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old." That's his prayer.
Now listen to God's answer in the next verse. "As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders. The nations shall see it and be ashamed of all their might. They shall put their hand over their mouths, their ears shall be deaf." During the 70th week of Daniel, that seven-year period, the time of Jacob's trouble, especially that second half of that, that horrible time of tribulation, God will show incredible signs and wonders on the Earth. And one of the signs will be the keeping of the Jewish remnant, the miraculous preservation during that time.
"They shall lick the dust like a serpent. They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the Earth. They shall be afraid of the lord, our god, and shall fear because of you. Who is like you, pardoning iniquity, passing over transgression of the remnant of his heritage. He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in mercy." It's beautiful that Micah ends the book with a play on words of his own name. For the word [HEBREW], Micah, means "who is like the Lord." It's very similar to the word Michael, which means "who is like God." That's his name. And using his name is a play on words. Who is like you, O, Lord? Answer, no one.
God is so willing to pardon even the grossest kind of iniquity that is spelled out in this book. So who is like you pardoning iniquity passing over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage. Verse 19, he will again have compassion on us. He will subdue our iniquities you will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.
So beautiful. In spite of all of their continued unfaithfulness God says he will be faithful to keep the covenant promise that he made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob. God will be faithful. And how we love that promise. You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Now place that together with Psalm 103 where it declares as far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us. Aren't you glad he didn't say as far as the north is from the south? That's just a hemisphere away. You can go for the North Pole in the South Pole but east to west, you keep going. It's never ending.
And Isaiah 118, though your sins are a scarlet I'll make them as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, and they shall be as wool. Micah here says God will throw him into the deepest sea. And I love what Corrie ten Boom said. She said when God cast your sins into that deepest sea, he then posts a sign which says no fishing allowed. So all of the accusations of the accuser of the brethren matter not.
Neither should they matter to you. Oh, but I remember the failures of my past. Why? Learn from them. Move on. God's forgotten about them. He's thrown them into the deepest sea. Sometimes we hold on to what God has gotten rid of in his book. And so why come before him and keep bringing it up again. Oh, lord, remember that failure and remember that failure? God was happy to wipe it away at the moment you confessed it to him. Cast into the deepest sea.
These last three verses of Micah every Yom Kippur, these last three verses are joined with the book of Jonah and are read in the synagogues on the eve of Yom Kippur. And every ultra orthodox or every Orthodox Jew would typically go to a running stream or a river and symbolically pull out his pockets and empty his pockets of all of the sin as if to manifest this verse. All of the sins would be cast into the deepest sea as the river would run into the sea. And these verses are recited at that moment and during that season.
And here's the truth of these verses. Our God has a big eraser. All of us have a past. All of us have baggage. All of us have weaknesses, and even besetting sins. But we're dealing with a God who loves to forgive, who loves to pardon, who loves to erase, restore, and give you a clean slate and a fresh start. Jesus said the son didn't come into the world, God didn't send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. That's the glorious gospel.
I found something a few years ago that caught my attention. I thought it was really weird until I thought about it a while and thought that our country, our culture, our society carries around guilt and would do anything to get rid of that guilt. The guilt complex. It was a little advertisement I'm referring to called disposable guilt bags. Now listen. It sounds corny. It's because it is. The advertisement, if you were to call in, you would get 10 disposable paper bags with instructions that read thus. Place the bag securely over your mouth, take in a deep breath, and blow all of the guilt out, and then dispose of the bag immediately. Corny, right? Dumb, isn't it?
The Associated Press that ran the article said and, they were selling them for $2.50, they couldn't keep up with the orders. It was a brilliant marketing scheme. And the idea is that people will resort to anything to get rid of their guilt. But listen, you can't blow your guilt away. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Guilt can only be removed by the blood of God's son Jesus Christ. It has to be cleansed. And God offers that fountain of cleansing through his son.
Heavenly father, we're so honored that you're a covenant with us is based not upon our own goodness, not upon our own works, not upon the quality or quantity or intensity of our own worship but upon the finished work of your son Jesus Christ. And our response as the psalmist said is to take the cup of salvation and to render thanks unto the Lord. You've shown us, lord, who you are and what you require, that we would do justly, that we would love mercy, and that we would walk in humility before you. Thank you for this time together. Thank you for these wonderful prophets that you used and that still speak so vibrantly and vitally to our own lives. In Jesus' name, amen.
Shall we stand? Who is a pardoning God like thee? What is it that God has never seen and can never see but we see all the time? God has never seen his equal. Who is a pardoning God like thee? He will never see his equal. There is nothing to equal our God. Man, we see our equal all the time. But God, unequaled. A pardoning god. And tonight he will pardon you. Whatever is the guilt that you might be carrying, though you can't blow it into a bag, God will pardon our guilt. There is no God like our God. And so tonight the pastors are down here at the front. They're here to pray for you and to pray with you. And so if you are in need tonight of a pardon, God wants to pardon your sin. All you have to do is request. And God is willing and God is anxious to pardon your guilt.
Whatever need you might have, God is able to meet that need. So if you would just come and receive prayer tonight, God will work in your behalf, guaranteed. And so take the opportunity to spend some time with God, opening your heart to him, and receiving from him tonight whatever it is that you might need in your life.
(SINGING) Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God. Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God. Our God is an awesome God.