the message from God through His prophet Micah, 1:2. God Rules, O.K.?
By comparing 1:1’s list of kings with Hosea 1:1 and Isaiah 1:1, we discover Micah lived at the same time as Hosea and Isaiah. Micah was probably younger than Isaiah as there are several reminiscences of prophecies Isaiah gave in the book: including one word for word identical passage: Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:1-4.
At least once Micah acted out his message: The Bahri housegroup may be pleased we acted “The Pit” last week and not Micah! In 1:8 he walks around with no clothes or shoes, distraught with grief like a person mourning the loss of a close loved one – to confirm and reinforce his prophecy of God’s impending, catastrophic judgement on Israel and on Judah.
Read 1:1, 2; 2:3; 3:1-3; 6:1, 2, 9 end 6:8.
Our reading of selective verses highlighted God’s displeasure with His own people. In an imaginary courtroom scene, God accuses His people of abusing their position. The prosperity of a few brought injustice for many. Power comes from God and is not for selfish benefit. It is to be used for the common good. And God was challenging His people over their abuse of their power.
To bring us the big picture of Micah’s message I have lifted 5 themes that recur throughout the seven chapters:
1. Who God is.
2. God’s view of the people’s sin.
3. God’s measured judgement.
4. God’s offer of salvation.
5. God’s securing of a remnant, ending with a final description of who God is.
Application: What you think about God is the most important thing about you. More important than your business qualifications and experience. We live in a most educated generation. Many ‘degreed’ pastors – but where is their spirituality? More important than your job title and position. More important than the respect people give you because of who you are and where you live and the car you drive. What do you think about God?
1. Who God is? Micah tells us God is the God who speaks. “The Word of the Lord that came …” 1:1. “Hear all you peoples” 1:2. He also tells us God is Sovereign. Illustration: The Queen of England, the President of USA, the secretary general of the UN, the Chinese Commander in charge of the world’s biggest army – do not rule the world. Not one of them or even all together. ‘God is able to do all His holy will’. Only God is infinitely powerful, and He has delegated to mankind responsibility to use given powers in ways that bring to God glory and pleasure. He holds us to account for doing – or not doing – just that.
Micah immediately adds that God is sanctified, set apart: distinctly ‘other’ than anyone or anything else. 1:2 “The Lord (Adonai) from His holy temple”. Breath-taking, earth-shaking holiness. 1:3, 4 Micah’s God is set apart, Sovereign and speaking.
Application: What about your God? A wrong view of God could mean you end up in hell not heaven! Do not keep your trust in a god who is not God!
2. God’s view of His people’s sin. 1:7 speaks of “idolatry”. This is substituting something – anything – for the living God. “Prostitution” = self-gratifying temple worship, not God-honouring temple worship. 2:6 “Preach what people want to hear, not what God wants to be said.” Attempts to silence God’s voice! Also 2:11 “If a deceiver says: ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer’, (God says) he would be just the prophet for this people!” God’s view of His own people – religious, evil, pleasing self in worship, but not pleasing God.
2:8 social evil: robbing the stranger.
2:9 sexual evil: abusing women and children.
3:1 leaders’ who do wrong, not right.
3:2, 3 social abuse of neighbours for selfish gain.
3:9 facilitating making, helping to make injustice happen. Distorting the truth.
3:11 deceiving on spiritual issues – for money - to gain or to save money, compromising true values.
7:3 “the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire – they all conspire together.”
7:5, 6 No-one trusts anyone, not even other close family members.
Application: God sees His people as no different from the others around. They are not ‘set apart’ nor ‘holy’ as He is. God used Israel to drive the Canaanites from the land in His judgement on their sin, and yet the Israelites now sin as the Canaanites did! Is the Church no better than the world? Scandals are often revealed … how many more are still hidden away?
3. God’s measured judgement. Illustration: The other day I saw a man really hitting his donkey for moving the wrong way and almost causing an accident! Perhaps as parents, some of you have lashed out at your children immediately a clash happens – when really a later, cool and calm response would be better.
God does not retaliate on mankind’s sin without ensuring a measured and appropriate response. And He warns: using three prophets, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah, even now in this historical moment.
Illustration: Sudanese friend Obed recently used an illustration of a car driver going unintentionally the wrong way down a one-way street. The police stop him and warn him. If the driver gets angry maybe the police will take him to the office and charge him. If the driver listens to the warning and apologises, the incident will go no further. (The bribing option is not open to the genuine Christian, of course).
Let’s see what God does. 1:2 God speaks against His people. 1:12; 2:3 God sends disaster to them. Covetousness 2:2, defrauding 2:2, ignoring victims 2:4, having judges and prophets in your pocket!! 3:4, 7 God shuts Himself away from their prayers and their worship. 4:6 God causes His people grief. 5:10-15 “In that day … God will destroy … demolish … tear down … uproot … and take vengeance.” God express 5:15 His anger and wrath”.
Illustration: I was here in Khartoum when President Bill Clinton sent two cruise missiles and demolished the Shifa factory in angry response to terrorism, in Kenya and elsewhere. I heard them fly in and saw the destruction.
Illustration: I was in England at Cliff College, Sheffield University, when our lectures were interrupted by TV news pictures of Osama Bin Laden’s anger at Imperialism, Western Capitalism and Decadence, bias in Middle East and lack of respect for Islam, - bringing down the World Trade Centre, New York. Let me tell you something. Terrifying as those things were and terrible as it must be when the Antonov bombs from the sky, there is worse! The Bible says “It is a dreadful (fearful, terrifying) thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31.
That’s where unsaved sinners are going!
In Micah 6 God summons creation and history as His witnesses against His own people. Creation & history have seen all of God’s faithfulness and all of God’s people’s failure.
6:6, 7 highlight the financial burden put on the poor to bring Temple sacrifices. In one of the two most well-known passages of Micah, the prophet asks a challenging question: 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you?”
Do you remember when Jesus was asked that in Mark 10? His reply was ‘Do not commit adultery, murder, steal, give false testimony’ etc. The questioner said ‘I’ve done all that’. So Jesus – in measured judgement – puts His finger on the sore spot saying – “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”
What does the Lord require of you (and me) today? I’ll answer it. Whatever has hold of your heart other than Him. Anything, anyone else. Only when He has all your heart can “justice, and mercy, and humility” flow through your veins and affect all your life!
4. God’s offer of salvation. Woven through this tapestry of God’s judgement of sinners is the prize thread of God’s salvation for repentant sinners.
Application: There are only two kinds of people in the world. I’m not talking of the division between black, white; rich, poor; Northerner, Southerner; even Christian, Moslem. God sees just this: Sinners and Repentant Sinners, that is sinners who turn from their sin to their Saviour Jesus. The latter may well find salvation. 2:12, 13 “I will surely gather all of you … one who breaks open the way will go before them”
4:2-5 “God will teach us His ways … God will judge between many peoples … we will walk in the name of our God for ever.”
4:10 God will redeem you, by using the Messiah (the other well-known verse of Micah) 5:2 “But you Bethlehem, Ephrathah, out of you will come for me One Who will be ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”
We plan to look at more prophesies of Jesus on December 1st. (Yes, only 80/70 shopping days until Christmas! depending on your Sunday conscience!)
Application: Be thankful, Christian. Be glad. Hold up your head high. Say with Micah 5:4 and with the Psalmist “The Lord is my shepherd.” You cannot save yourself.
5. God’s securing a remnant. 2:12; 4:7; 5:3, 7, 8; 7:18, use this word. Illustration: Brenda may be sewing curtains, chairs covers, petticoats, a wall hanging. Often not all the material is used. The piece left over is called ‘a remnant’.
God says out of all sinful humans only those who become repentant sinners will survive His judgement! He is gathering some (not all) people to Himself. He wants all, but most won’t come when requested. He gives any person freedom to choose to go to hell. Everyone deserves that. But only those who choose, go.
Which brings us full circle. Micah ends, as we should, still awe-struck and amazed at Who God is. 7:18 he asks a rhetorical question, one to which there is only one answer. “Who is a God like you, Who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant? … Who does not stay angry for ever … but Who delights in showing mercy.” Give God delight tonight. Cast yourself on His mercy (there is no safer place).
God Rules, O.K.?
Khartoum International Church on 6th October 2002.