September 21, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Finding Hope When There Is No Hope
Covenant God, when anguish fills our day and doubts keep us awake through the night, help us to remember Your faithfulness shown in Your mighty acts of ages past, trusting Your present power and constant love, revealed in Christ our Lord. Amen.
There will be no boots on the ground! Uh-oh, we’d better send troops in tomorrow!
Whelp, we’re out of money, but the last bill just got paid. Uh-oh, the basement is flooded and the water heater is broken!
I got the spare tire on the car Dad; but it’s flat, too!
Everybody can say your own right now, right? From this past week? Or even from this morning?
Muck and mire and mud and mush; dark and dire and dim and dank.
Where is the light in the midst of this dusk? Where is the hope when every day seems hopeless?
This Fall we are looking together at a couple of pieces of Scripture that we might choose to ignore if we didn’t have each other to read with. As we start our new Program Year, our Sunday mornings will explore God’s Word from a couple Old Testament prophets. Last week we started with Micah 1 where we saw this Old Testament man of God warn his people of God’s impending judgment – and we noticed how well his warning for Judah and Israel also applies to us in America today!
As we re-start this study today, a foreboding warning of doom and gloom followed by the rank and rummy encore of emptiness – why are we reading this depressing book? Two reasons: 1) Micah is mostly a book of WORSHIP—even the prophet’s name suggests worship. The name “Micah” means “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. And in the whole book, every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to God! No one is like Him!
But the most obvious characteristic of this book is its claim that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE, JUDGMENT, and GRACE.
Micah lived at the same time as the Old Testament prophet Isaiah – but they had some distinct differences: Micah was a man of the fields, Isaiah was of the city. Micah took little interest in politics, giving himself to the concern over spiritual and moral problems; Isaiah was in close contact with world affairs, the associate of kings and princes. But both Micah and Isaiah saw God as the infinite Ruler of all nations; they both recognized the absolute holiness and majesty of God; and they both stressed that violating principles of God’s divine sovereignty and holiness would bring judgment and doom.
So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the second chapter of Micah, & see what it says about finding hope even when there is no hope to be found. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 2:1-13…. —-
3 [T]he LORD says:
“I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.
You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.
4 In that day people will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song:
‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up.
He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’”
5 Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the LORD to divide the land by lot. …
… 12 “I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.
13 The One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out.
Their King will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.”
Judgment was coming because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. We’ll describe this in more detail in a minute, but for now we can simply say their unfaithfulness took the forms of ARROGANCE, VIOLENCE, and REJECTING GOD’S WORD.
But we will discover God’s blessings coming because of God’s faithfulness to Israel! Way back in Genesis 12 (1,200 years before Micah) we hear God promise Abraham a land, a people, a nation, and a Savior for the whole world. And in the New Testament we discover that promise fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (700 years after Micah)!
A quick look at this Old Testament book of Micah shows what appears to be three main messages, all beginning with the word “Hear” or “Listen”. And each one ending with a word of hope or Good News. Micah 1 (which we read last week) begins with “2 Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign LORD may bear witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.” And ends in Micah 2:12 with a promise of restoration, “I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.”
This pattern is repeated with the beginning of chapter 3 and the end of chapter 5; and the beginning of chapter 6 and the conclusion of chapter 7.
Last week we read the “Hear ye” of chapter 1, and chapter 2 continues with the specific justice and judgment dealt. This includes the destruction of Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel, and then the warning of the same kind of destruction on Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah. And that is followed with the only response Micah can muster – he mourns for the loss his people will suffer.
In today’s reading in chapter 2 we see the main reasons for this inevitable judgment. The specific sins of Micah’s day included: ARROGANCE, VIOLENCE, and REJECTING GOD’S WORD!
The well-off, the powerful, the noblemen, were arrogant – they didn’t need God or anyone else. They were self-sufficient. In my childhood TV upbringing, they were the Thurston Howell, III’s, of Gilligan’s Island. They could buy their way out of any work, out of any trouble, and so they shunned those who might have claimed that being in community meant relying on one-another, and even leaning on God.
They used any violent means necessary to get what they wanted, and to rob from the weak, poor, downtrodden.
(Those were the justice issues.)
And, maybe most importantly, their judgment from God was because they rejected God’s Word. God’s prophets were ignored, on good days, and they were beaten and even killed, on bad days. And, to make things worse, false prophets – men who spoke words not based on biblical teachings or heard from God, false prophets – were listened to and revered!
(That’s the worship issue.)
Before we get to the finding of hope when by all human means there certainly appears to be absolutely no reason to have any hope, I want to ask us to consider how different we are in America, in Spokane, in LPC, today? Are we so arrogant to think we don’t need any other Christian churches with which to work? Do we not need our fellow Presbyterian churches, at least those with whom we know affinity? OK, so we are seldom violent here in our church (unless you call gossip and name-calling violence), but how about as a society? Violence is in the news every single day. And, how are we with God’s Word?
So, now that we are in the deep dungeons of depression and despair, where’s the hope? Our Call to Worship from Psalm 77 reminds us to look to God, to seek the LORD. Psalm 121 starts with, “I lift my eyes to the hills (to Jerusalem, to the Temple)—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Micah hears God promising to fulfill His promise made to Abraham 1,200 years earlier! God will assemble a faithful REMNANT of His people. Did you hear that “R” word? He is gathering a “remnant”. That means there will be many not gathered(do you see why Micah mourned?), many who will suffer the judgment of justice meted out. But there’s hope? There will be a faithful remnant!
And verse 13 says that God will lead those who FOLLOW – like a flock of sheep following their Good Shepherd, like a patriotic people following their King into their future. These are those who pay attention to God’s Word – in their every life circumstance.
Later, Micah will tell us more about the ultimate fulfillment of that restoration, and from where that “King” shall arise who will lead God’s flock.
But for now, we have heard Micah warn the people of Judah and Israel, and dare I say, the people of Spokane and America. We have heard the basis for God’s righteous judgment – we have not loved the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength; and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
But God has sent a Good Shepherd, and He calls our name. Are we able to choose to follow Him?
I find it sad that so many in Israel and Judah did not heed the words of such men as Micah, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. But then I wonder how well I heed them myself? Do I, do we, do you, listen to the New Testament spokesmen like Peter and Paul and James and John? Do we even listen to Jesus all that well?
The author of Hebrews, in the New Testament says it this way: “1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hebrews 2)
It is so easy to be arrogant and covetous and to reject God’s Word. Will we be a part of the faithful remnant who choose to follow our Good Shepherd? Will you? Amen.
Fry, Rodney; “Micah – Judgment Now, Blessing Later”; Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Rogers, AR; September 2009.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 467.
Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 23-30.