Micah 7 – Who Is a god Like Yahweh?

Mark Wheeler

Reformation Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Micah 7

Who Is a God Like Yahweh?

Pour out Your Spirit’s power upon Your people, O God, until we humble ourselves, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Revive Your Church and heal our land. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Have you ever gone up to Green Bluff to find the perfect pumpkin for your jack-o-lantern carving contest on the day before Halloween? Or to the costume shop on Halloween? Or even to the grocery store to buy your favorite bag of candy after 4:30 on Halloween? What do you find? Nothing! There are no round-enough pumpkins, nothing the right size, and the only bags of candy left are those peanut-flavored marshmallow things!

That is the image we find when we open the last chapter of the Old Testament prophet Micah. Only Micah isn’t looking for a gourd or a costume or some candy – he’s looking for just one righteous person left – and he can find none!

We are now in our seventh and final week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!

But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE who demands righteousness, which authorizes His JUDGMENT against us and provides a means for His GRACE.

So with that backdrop in place, on this Reformation Sunday when Protestant Churches commemorate our beginnings by reflecting on how much the Church needs to always keep looking to Jesus, let’s open this seventh chapter of Micah, & see what it says about who we are, and who is a god like Yahweh. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 7:1-20…. —-

What misery is mine! …. Many translations say, “Woe is me!” And then Micah starts listing off the ways his world – the people of Jerusalem and Judah – mistreat each other, how we take advantage of those who have less, and even how the family-system has broken down, and our best friends, even our spouses, cannot be trusted.

Micah lives in a time and place where the government did not care about God’s Word, and his neighbors just did whatever was right in their own eyes. He lived in a world where city mayors could subpoena church pastors for their sermon notes, because God forbid the preachers might actually preach what the Bible teaches (are you aware of this exact thing happening in our own country less than two weeks ago?).

Like Abraham before him (Genesis 18:23-33) and Jeremiah (5:1-5) and Ezekiel (22:30) after him, Micah is on the hunt for one righteous person! But like the poor family looking for a decent pumpkin on October 30 – there just aren’t any!

The next 6 verses are filled with all the ways people act un-justly, hate mercilessly, and walk boldly without their God anywhere in their lives! But even in the darkness of this seemingly endless cave of evil, Micah holds out for salvation, But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,    I wait for God my Savior;     my God will hear me.

 In technical terms, Bible scholars write that Micah 7 begins with a giant-sized LAMENT. OK, the scholars don’t really talk like that, but that’s what they mean. He writes on behalf of his people who are grieving about their HUMAN condition.

Micah confesses the sins of his people, and he proclaims their desperate need for a Savior.

That is our human condition, too. The next 10 verses describe how hopeless we are without our God to save us. We might think we’re doing alright – and compared to the guy next door, maybe we really are! But when we honestly evaluate our values and life choices against what the Bible teaches, no one can claim “good enough”. We just aren’t … good enough.

I get angry over the silliest stuff. And then I plot revenge. Caitlin shows me, regularly, the grace of doing dishes that she did not dirty, and she washes them without complaint – I complain, and plan payback. I never follow through with those schemes – but I think about them! Not good enough.

Paul writes, quoting from the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes (7:20), “There is no one righteous. No, not even one!” (Romans 3:10).

If you came with your spouse today, look at each other and confess some way you have acted unworthy of the love you still expect to get. If you came alone, look up to God, and just apologize for an attitude or a thought you have had with you this morning, maybe even while sitting here in worship.

Because while this chapter starts with lament – the whole middle section clings to the promise of God’s SALVATION!

And then the closing lines simply praise Yahweh because even in the midst of their terrible hardship – even when my job is on the line, even when the mortgage is beyond what we can afford, even when we are separated from loved ones, even when sickness and disease afflict our bodies and drain our resources, even when we are hurt by someone we trusted – Micah reminds us that God is TRUSTWORTHY!

He sings out: 18 Who is a God like you,    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors    in days long ago.

 Yes, calamity had come – we experience some sense of scary stuff every day – but Yahweh will be a light in our dark places! Micah cries out for God’s protection, and then he recalls how God had led His people out of slavery and bondage in Egypt; and he prays for his people to see God’s works of wonder again! May our enemies see God’s mighty acts of wonder – and praise God!

Paul tells us that one day “every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Philippians 2:10, compare Romans 14:11)

Who is a god like Yahweh? No one!

Who pardons sin and forgives the offenses of our ill-fated attempts to be good enough? Only Yahweh!

Only the only God, the creator if the heavens and the earth, who so loves the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Who is a god like Yahweh? No one!

Our God is greater; our God is stronger; our God is higher than any other!

Our God is healer, awesome in power; that’s our God! There’s none like Him; there’s none like Him!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

Micah closes this chapter, he finishes his whole book, singing about how unique our God is – completely incomparable! He is victorious over our sins and He buries them in the depths of the sea.

700 years after Micah wrote these lines, Mark tells us about Jesus Christ the Son of God; John tells us how Jesus came to take away the sins of the world; and Matthew and Luke refer us directly to Micah’s prophecies and how Jesus fulfilled them to the “T”!

Are you in a funk today? Is there darkness in your life, or the lives of loved ones? Are you grieving the state of our nation? Are you mourning over your church’s denomination? Are you afraid or worried about what might be around the corner?

Are you like the disappointed family in the pumpkin patch looking for just one last relatively OK pumpkin?

Remember who your God is! He turned water into wine. He opened the eyes of the blind. There really is no one like Him – none like Him. Into the darkness He shines – so that out of the ashes we might rise!

Who is a god like Yahweh? There’s none like Him!

He loves you! And He sent His only Son to die – for you. Trust Him today. Do you? Amen.

Pour out Your Spirit’s power upon Your people, O God, until we humble ourselves, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Revive Your Church and heal our land. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resources:

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 496.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 54-60.

Tomlin, Chris; “Our God”; 2010.

 

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Micah 6 – Who Is Like Yahweh?

Mark Wheeler
October 19, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 6
Who Is Like Yahweh?

Shepherd of Your flock, restore Your wayward people; lead us again to green pastures and renew us beside the waters of comfort. Because of Your faithful care, we worship and praise Your holy name. Amen.

I read about a man named Andy this week. Andy was an interesting guy. He’d never been out of his home town until he went to college. He rarely showed any signs of emotion, but he had a great sense of humor.
Andy became a devoted Christian while he was in college, and often told people, “Just remember. Jesus loves me, and He loves you.” When he became angry, however, Andy would simply say in a deadpan fashion, with a completely straight face, “Just remember, Jesus loves me, and he sorta likes you.” But when things really went badly – I mean really bad, he would eventually throw up his hands and look at the sky and yell, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?”

Can any of you relate to Andy? Just looking up at God and pleading with Him, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?” I can testify, for a fact, there have been plenty of times when that was me!

We are in our sixth week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.

So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the 6th chapter of Micah, & see what it says about what God wants from me! And we will see that there is no one like Yahweh! Listen to God’s Word from Micah 6:1-8…. —-
1 Listen to what the LORD says:
4 “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah was the prophet of the downtrodden and exploited people of Judean society. He prophesied during a time of great social injustice and he boldly opposed those who imposed their power upon the poor and weak for selfish ends. As he preaches to the people, Micah himself raises the question that Andy asked – “Good God almighty, what do you want from me?”
Of course, Micah is a bit more poetic – “What does the LORD require of us?”

The context in Micah carries with it the sense that these people were hurting, and they came to God doing their best to meet every rule, to follow every church expectation, to even exceed the minimums. And yet, they suffered. They were still looking for a job; they were still fighting the courts; they were still diseased or injured or alone or afraid. Good God Almighty – what more could be hoped for ?

This third, and final, “Hear ye”-saying of this short book, says, “Listen to what the LORD says”, and then there’s a brief line up of the ways God has rescued the remnant, the ways God has delivered the Judahites, the ways God has saved the Israelites – from their own sin and from oppression from others.
Micah reminds them that there is no one like Yahweh! All we need do is trust Him.

Have you wondered this week, what does God expect from you? You recount the list – I go to church, maybe I even attend Bible study or Sunday School; or I sing in one or two or three of the choirs; I brought a bag of candy for the Trunk or Treat event; I brought a can of lima beans for the UGM Food Barrel; I made some cookies for Just-for-Fun; I serve on one of the boards, or I volunteer to do some activity on Sundays, or I try to give money when I can. What more does God want?

The answer Micah gives is not hard to understand. Micah 6:8 is one of the clearest explanations of God’s expectations of His people.
This is not the first, or only, time the Bible tells us what God expects of us. Way back in Deuteronomy 10:12 the same question is posed: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you?” In this passage the people had built their golden calf in the wilderness, and Moses came down the mountain with the second edition of the 10 Commandments, and the answer to this question is: “Fear the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good.” And Jesus references this passage in Matthew 23:23 where He criticizes the scribes and Pharisees, “Hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others!”
What makes this answer hard is not in the understanding – it’s in the actual doing!

So, what does it mean to “act justly”? I have a number of ideas here that I will throw at you – but first, let’s hear your voices. Name some ways you can do justice in the name of God:
• Recycle and don’t over use the earth’s resources – a fair share for all.
• Treat people of all races, nations, languages and classes as we would like to be treated.
• Work toward affordable housing for all who want/need a roof over their head.
• Improve the employment rate – job availability for every employable person.
• In our relationships, just be respectful and generous.
• When disputes arise, look for peaceful, respectful, trusting ways to reconcile.
• Keep our promises; don’t deceive or take unfair advantage of others.
• Forgive others when they fail at any/all of these ideas.
• “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and the on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

How does one “love mercy”? Name some ways you can love mercy in the name of God:
• Show compassion to the needy.
• Forgive others when wronged by them.
• Go out of our way to be helpful to someone, even a stranger.
• Welcome people into our church, our homes, our neighborhoods – even if the “fit” seems uncomfortable.
• Accept others as they are – not necessarily approve of them, but accept them in love.
• “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

What word should be emphasized in “walk humbly with your God”? In that phrase, “walk humbly with your God”, which word would you put the most emphasis?
• Walk – daily prayer, in every encounter, enact your faith.
• Humbly – respecting others as more valuable than yourself, and knowing that God is God, and we are not!
• With – not lagging behind God, and not running ahead of Him either.
• Your – claiming full allegiance to God and God’s ways, regular in worship, faithful in study, expressive in life; you belong in the House of the Lord!
• God – trusting ourselves to God in all of life’s “boundary experiences” – illness, grief, loss, pain, death; and praising God in all of life’s victories – health, gain, birth, life.
How do we walk humbly with our God?
• Live like we believe what we say we believe! – even when it is hard to do so!
• Be confident that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

None of this is easy – in fact it is impossible for any of us to live-out perfectly. But, thank God, it is not impossible with God in our lives!
Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God will not earn us a place in heaven – salvation still only comes by faith in Jesus Christ! We cannot save ourselves by doing enough justice, or being kind enough, or even by living lives of piety. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day – do you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and do you confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the dead? That’s how we gain salvation.
But this directive from Micah is also not an attack on church tradition or our participation in rituals and liturgies. It is merely an assault on doing those without faith!

Who is like Yahweh? No other faith in the world expects justice and mercy, even humility in our walk with God, to be a response to God’s perfect justice and full grace for His people. No other god is like Yahweh!

Resources:
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr.; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL; 1988; Pp. 226-228.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 491.

Wingeier, Douglas E.; Troublesome Bible Passages; Abingdon Press; Nashville, TN; 1994; Pp. 40-44.

Micah 5 – What Promise Are You Waiting For?

Mark Wheeler
October 12, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 5
What Promise Are You Waiting for?

O God, through Your Son, the Man of Sorrows, You are acquainted with our grief. We pray for Your Church, especially in places of persecution and distress. When hope grows dim, kindle within us patience in prayer and persistence in the struggle for justice and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

In 1865, shortly after the Civil war, the Pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts. was helping with a Christmas Eve service — — — in Bethlehem. He later wrote about his feelings as he went down the hill from Jerusalem into Bethlehem – riding a horse. He said, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, – close to the spot where Jesus was born.
The whole church was singing hour after hour splendid hymns of praise to God, it was as if I could hear angelic voices telling each other of the Wonderful Night of our dear Savior’s birth.”
Two years later, in 1867, this Pastor, Phillips Brooks, put his pen to paper and wrote a very special, and very biblical song that we often hear during the Christmas Season. He wrote these glorious words:

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Those verses declare the heart of Christmas. It is a time of celebration, a time of salvation and a time of quiet contemplation.

We have been investing these early Autumn weeks worshiping God through the Old Testament prophet Micah, who lived about 700 years before Christmas. Micah’s book is a book of WORSHIP – even the prophet’s name suggests worship. The name “Micah” means, “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”, and then every chapter in the book talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
And we have been learning over and over again that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.
So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the fifth chapter of Micah, & see what it says about a promise God’s people had been waiting for. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 5:1-15…. —-
1 Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”…
… 10 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots.
11 I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds.
12 I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells. 13 I will destroy your idols and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. 14 I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles when I demolish your cities. 15 I will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed me.”

The prophet Micah put his pen to papyrus and wrote about this little town of Bethlehem. In just a few brief words, Micah tells the story of a very special town. Though his words may be brief, they contain a wealth of spiritual truth.
The Story of Bethlehem is a special story that needs to be told and retold. Especially in these trying times in which we live. We are living in a day when the real story of the birth of Jesus is lost amid the trees, the decorations, the shopping, and the controversy about appropriate “holiday greetings”. And, yes, I know there are still 74 shopping days till Christmas – for Micah there was still 700 years before Christmas!
And The story of Christmas is also a story of a little town, a town of Bethlehem.

And the Story of Bethlehem is the Story of a Place. When Micah writes of Bethlehem, he writes about a little town that is destined to produce great things.
While Bethlehem may have been a tiny rural village in the country of Israel, it had a colorful past and a brilliant future.

When we think of Bethlehem, we often only remember that it was the birthplace of Jesus, our Lord. But, within the history of this little town, there is a wealth of spiritual truth.
The town of Bethlehem is only five miles south of the great capital city of Jerusalem.
Bethlehem is first mentioned outside of the Scriptures in a historical letter from one of the kings of Palestine to an Egyptian Pharaoh in 1250 BC (that is only 25 years after Moses died!). This would have been during the time of the Judges, shortly after Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and moved the Israelite people into the Promised Land. Bethlehem was already in existence before Israel became a nation.

The name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Micah also calls it by another name “Ephrathah”. Which is an older name for the city, and means “Place of Fruitfulness”. Bethlehem, the Place of Fruitfulness, and the House of Bread.
How fitting that Jesus should be born in Bethlehem! For He is the true bread – “The Bread of Life” that takes away the sin of the world. And His blood fills the cup of the new covenant, the cup of redemption, the fruit of the vine.

Bethlehem is first mentioned in Scripture in Genesis, the first book of the Bible (Gen. 35:16-20). When Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, and his family are journeying home to Canaan (about 400 years before Moses), Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to a son; but Rachel dies in childbirth, and as she is dying, she calls her son’s name “Benoni”, which means “Son of my sorrow”. And Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried just outside of Bethlehem. Jacob changed his son’s name from Benoni to “Benjamin”, which means the “Son of my strong right hand”.

So Bethlehem is initially associated with sorrow and death, but was transformed prophetically into a place that seats the son of my right hand.
Jesus, too, can take a place associated with grief and suffering and transform it into a place of strength and glory.

Jesus was called by the Prophet Isaiah “a Man of Sorrows” (Isa. 53:1-3). The One Who created the universe had nowhere to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). The One Who left Heaven to come and die was rejected by the those He came to reach (John 1:11). He knew pain; He knew sorrow; and in the end, He knew death – on the cross (Isa. 53:4-6; and all four Gospels).
Jesus is our “Benoni”! He is the “Son of My Sorrow”! But he is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, The Son of God’s Right Hand.

The beautiful story of Ruth also transpired in the town of Bethlehem. It was in Bethlehem that Ruth found redemption from her pain and from her past. She found grace, she found mercy, love, and acceptance. She found restoration, hope, family and a future – all in that place called Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is the birth place of David, the shepherd-boy who became the greatest King Israel has ever known. It was a drink from the well in Bethlehem that refreshed David’s soul during a day of battle (II Sam. 23:14-16).
And, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a spiritual well was given to us all. Everyone who drinks from this well, from this living water, will find that they will thirst no more; their thirst is quenched for all eternity (John 6:35; John 7:37-38).

Bethlehem was the focus of an amazing prophecy by the prophet Micah. And that prophecy is the focus of our text today.
Bethlehem witnessed the most amazing miracle the world has ever seen. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, God in flesh came into the world and was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-20). Bethlehem was where the wise men found the Christ Child and offered Him not only their gifts but their worship (Matt. 2:1-12), for He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Yes, Bethlehem is a story of a place. But, it is also a story of a promise. The words from the Old Testament proclaim “From you (Bethlehem) shall come forth for me …. one who is to rule Israel”! These words tell us that God has a glorious plan for humanity. And this little town of Bethlehem is a part of His plan.

When mankind turned from God in Eden, God gave humanity the first glimpse of this promised plan. He told Adam and Eve that a Redeemer would be born (Gen. 3:15). And as the years went by, more and more of God’s plan was revealed. When God saved His people from their bondage in Egypt by the blood of a Lamb (Ex. 12), He revealed a little more of His plan.
When He gave them Manna in the wilderness and brought water from the rock, He revealed a little more of His plan.
When He gave Israel the Law and the sacrificial ceremonies, He was revealing more of His plan.
Every aspect of the Tabernacle, the priesthood and the sacrifices revealed more and more of God’s plan.

Through the mouths of the prophets God gave insight into His plan. When Isaiah wrote about a virgin birth (Isa. 7:14), he was writing about this promised plan. Then the prophet Micah revealed the birth place of the Messiah – He shared where the King would be born – He proclaimed that the One Who would fulfill the promise would come from the little town of Bethlehem.
This glorious plan involved God becoming a human being, one of us. It involved Him going to the cross to die for the sins of the world.
His plan called for our Lord’s resurrection and for his Ascension. And it involves Him coming again — Returning in glory to rule and to reign on this earth. The Micah 5:2 promise is fulfilled in JESUS. But Micah 5:10-15 won’t be fulfilled until Jesus RETURNS!

It is a plan designed with you and me in mind! The prophet Micah closes this prophecy with these words concerning the Christ: “Whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” These words reveal the truth that this One Who would be born in Bethlehem (in 700 more years) was no ordinary Man.
The Prophet Micah tells us that while He may be coming out of Bethlehem, He is eternal! He may be born in Bethlehem, but His beginning is not there. He is Eternal. Jesus is eternal and He is in our midst this very day.
For where two or three are gathered together in His name, Jesus is in their midst. Jesus is in our midst – He is with us this day. Do you feel Him? Can you tell He is here?

The story of Bethlehem is a story of a miracle. The miracle of Bethlehem is that God became man. He did not stop being God! He merely “added” humanity to His deity. Theologians call this “The Hypostatic Union”. Miraculously, God placed Himself within Mary’s womb. Some nine months later Mary gave birth to a Son. And when she looked into the face of her little boy, she was looking into the face of God. God in human flesh!
We cannot fully comprehend the incarnation of our Jesus. He was Fully God, yet, He was fully human. He was as much God as if He had never been a man. And, He was as much man as if He had never been God! Yet he was both!
Jesus experienced humanity in its fullness — He suffered, He was hungry, thirsty, He knew loneliness, He knew grief, He grew weary, slept, wept, was rejected, and He died. Yet, while He was absolutely human, He lived His entire life sinless!
Jesus came to this earth because He loves you and He gave His life as a ransom for you. He came to offer you salvation.

The very end of this chapter says something about God taking “vengeance in anger and wrath”. While we worship this God who became human, who lived and suffered and died, for you and me – the reason this was necessary is because He is also a God of justice. You know how the meaning of words sometimes change over time – in Sunday School last week Madeline mentioned how the word “gay” has changed – no longer meaning anything like it used to.
That’s what happened to “vengeance” here. “Vengeance” really means JUSTICE. What Micah is really saying is that God will act justly with people who reject Him and His ways – but He offers Grace through the miracle of Bethlehem.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord …Emmanuel!

Amen and Amen!

Resources: (My biggest thanks to J. Jeffrey Smead for his Advent message last year)
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 487.

Smead, J. Jeffrey; “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem”; Epiphany Anglican Fellowship; Ligonier, PA; December 2013.

Micah 4 – Are We in the House of the Lord?

Mark Wheeler
October 5, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 4
Are We in the House of the LORD?

O God, Beginning and Completion, in Jesus Christ You confirmed Your covenant with us and sealed every promise in His blood. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to teach all You have commanded to the world, tell all You have done to our neighbors, and live as those who are deeply and eternally loved, for the glory and praise of Your name. Amen.

I meet in a small group of men, 8 of us, all in some form of ministry in the PC(USA). None of us know any of the others extremely well, but most of us get along well enough. However there is one guy in this group who really gets on my nerves – and because he’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert, his style is to “push buttons” and my style is to “sit and stew”. I might be the only one in this cohort that has this problem (that would surprise me, but it could be true), but in my silent frustration I build up resentment and experience a disturbed spirit.
Can anyone in this room relate?

In the musical, “South Pacific”, Lieutenant Cable sings that delightful Rogers and Hammerstein song, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, and it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught!” It is true that little children seem to have no prejudice, but they gain prejudice by their parents or environment or experience. The idea is that we are naturally peaceful people, and we are taught hostility by others. Supposedly, if you leave us alone we are and will always remain sweet innocents.
We might wish that were so, but both history and theology teach us that it is not true. Ever since Cain rose up against Abel we have known that HOSTILITY, SELF-JUSTIFICATION, and PRIDE are what we do. Ever since Lot argued with Abraham, ever since Sarah sent Hagar into the wilderness, we have known that what is native to us is not harmony but hatred. And that means we have to be carefully taught, all right; but it is not that somebody has to teach us how to fight. Instead somebody has to teach us the way of PEACE. Somebody has to teach us how to be GENEROUS. “Why can’t we all just get along?” (Rodney King, 1993?) That is not going to happen all by itself. But we can be carefully taught the ways of peace; we can be carefully taught how to love; we can be carefully taught what generosity is all about.

We are in our fourth week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.

So with that backdrop in place, on this World Communion Sunday when some form of peace and unity among Christian believers is expressed, let’s look at the fourth chapter of Micah, & see what it says about his vision for peace, at least in the House of the LORD. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 4:1-13…. —-
1 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
5 All the nations may walk in the name of their gods,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

What a vision that is! That to the house of the LORD all peoples would come to learn not war, but the art of peace. That to the people of God the nations might come to find out how to move from unending hostility to eternal peace. What a vision!
By nature people tend toward HOSTILITY, SELF-JUSTIFICATION, and PRIDE.
The House of the LORD is a place of PEACE, GENEROSITY, and HUMILITY. Let’s examine this more closely, this idea that the house of God is a house of PEACE, GENEROSITY, and HUMILITY.

First, notice what the house of the LORD must teach if it is to be a house of PEACE. The house of the LORD must teach, quite simply, God’s ways, God’s truths. If we are to be a house of peace, we must diligently and clearly teach the whole counsel of God. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways … .” His ways … The most fundamental task we have is to teach our struggling world who God is and what He is about. All of it.
Christianity is more than helping people be nice to each other. It is more than just having pleasant conversations. To know the Christian faith is to know about God’s plan of salvation and God’s kind of costly peace. I believe that the world is hungry to know that. The world we encounter of HOSTILITY, SELF-JUSTIFICATION, and PRIDE wants to understand how life is more than empty politeness and pleasantries. We are called to teach the ways of God, and they have teeth in them. They are substantial.
Take the Ten Commandments, for example. They are not the ten suggestions. They are moral absolutes, without which life is chaos. If the house of the LORD is to be a house of PEACE, we must teach clearly what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. Is it possible that part of the issue today is that we so want to make nice with the world that we stand for very little that is straightforward and clear?

But then, following closely on that, Micah tells us that God’s call to be a house of PEACE is not only teaching God’s ways; it is also walking in His paths. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” To be a house of PEACE, we must not only teach substantial truths; we must model them. We must live them, act them out. If we are to be a house of PEACE, then we must show the world what reconciled relationships look like. We must actually live like we believe what we say we believe!
At least one way to envision living this out is with God’s GENEROSITY! God has freely given us a full relationship with Him through His Son’s death and resurrection, and His Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Do we generously give what God has entrusted to our care, away to others whom God also loves and may be calling into His flock?
If the church is to be a house of PEACE, then we must walk in God’s paths. We must model peacemaking. We must be a community where it does not matter so much where you have been or what you have done, but that you are here and that you are on the way to redemption. The church must be a place of generous forgiveness. We are not just a bunch of law-abiding middle-class folks who get together every Sunday to applaud one another for being nice. We are a gathering of the wounded and the hurting, the broken and the distressed, all of whom are being brought back to life by the Spirit of God. We are a fellowship of the last, the least, the lost, and the lonely, who do not prey on one another’s faults. Rather we feel one another’s pain and heal one another’s hurts. We carry the gift of peace, costly peace, to one another. To be a house of PEACE is not only to teach God’s truths, but also to walk in God’s paths of GENEROSITY.

And that will require the right set of tools. That will take good skills. Peacemaking is not some vague ideal without any particular skills. If we are to be a house of PEACE and GENEROSITY, we need to have the right tools. Micah’s image is very apt. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” God’s people will become equipped for peacemaking. Good intentions don’t get it done; preparation is everything.
Swords and spears are the tools of pride and fear. Plowshares and pruning hooks are the tools of HUMILITY and service! In Luke 10 Jesus tells 70 of His followers to go into the neighboring villages and ask the Lord of the harvest for laborers because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. LPC is about to experiment with some ways to be laborers in the harvest – with plowshares and pruning hooks, to be with our neighborhoods, here and where we live, to make PEACE in a hostile world, to offer GENEROSITY among those who are too busy justifying their own existence, and with HUMILITY to counter act the pride that lives within each of us.

So, where are we now? What have we learned from Micah? We have learned that to be a house of peacemaking we must commit to teaching God’s ways, all of them, the inconvenient as well as the convenient, the demanding as well as the pleasurable. It will not do to be half-hearted about who God is and what He expects. The world needs us to teach His ways.
And we have learned that to be a house of peacemaking, we need to walk in His paths, we need to model peace-filled lives. We need one another, warts and all. The world needs us to show that we can walk in His paths.
Beyond that, we have learned that to be a house of peacemaking, we need to equip ourselves with tools we can really use. We need to do more than blunder along whispering sweet nothings. We need to teach useful stuff, swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.

But Micah wants us to see one thing more. One more element in becoming a house of PEACE. This house of PEACE begins with people of peace. It begins with personal peace. It starts with individuals who know a peace that passes understanding. When I hear Micah promise that “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid”, I hear him telling us that it is only when we are secure that we can be authentic peacemakers. It is only when we know peace within that we can make peace without. It is only when we have in our minds and hearts, a profound peace about who we are, that we can make peace for others. The world’s peace-issues will never be resolved until you and I resolve our own internal peace.

Do you remember my small group of pastors, and the one with whom I find personal hostility? Well, I expect that that is not the end of the story. As we gather around the Communion Table, as we commence to celebrate unity with believers across the globe, I ask your prayers to help me be a person of PEACE with this colleague, a person who teaches and lives out the whole counsel of God with this neighbor, a person of GENEROUS grace and HUMBLE boldness with our interactions.

And I ask your prayers for yourselves, as well; for we all need God’s help to be such people of PEACE and GENEROSITY and HUMILITY.

Are we in the House of the LORD? It must be about peace with God. It must be about being secure in the knowledge that if we forgive others their debts, so also our heavenly Father will forgive us. It is about having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we in the House of the LORD? Let this be a church where truth is taught and embraced. Let this be a community where we show the world how to live in generous peace. Let this be a place where we are equipped with the humble tools that can make peace. But above all, let this very room echo, week after week, with the voices of those who have found the ultimate peace in the Prince of Peace, for “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid”. In this house of PEACE. Amen.

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 479.

Smith, Joseph; “In This House of Peacemaking”; Takoma Park Baptist Church; Washington, DC; July 27, 2008.