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 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.

Micah 3 – Packed with Power, Pneuma, and Uprightness

Mark Wheeler
September 28, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 3
Packed with Power, Pneuma, and Uprightness

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, tell all You have done, and live as those who are deeply and eternally loved, for the glory and praise of Your name. Amen.

Have you ever tried to tackle a job you were sure was going to be simple, with a quick fix, only to discover that this problem was way more complex than you imagined and way beyond your capabilities, and the more you worked to correct the problem the more you learned was really wrong? This happens to me way more than my manliness wants me to admit.
What I walk away with, though, is a new, humble understanding that I am not God.
There are powerful people in this world – political leaders from benevolent royals to tyrannical dictators; local civic leaders to mafia dons; economic giants to auto-mechanics and street sweepers; sweet long-time church people to ecclesiastical bullies.
But none of them is God. And, eventually, everyone learns that truth.

This Fall we are looking together at a couple of pieces of Scripture that many might choose to ignore if they didn’t have others to read with. So this Fall, our Sunday mornings will explore God’s Word from a couple Old Testament prophets. This month and next we listen to Micah and we hear this Old Testament man of God warn his people of God’s impending judgment – and we notice how well his warning for Judah and Israel also applies to us in America today!
And while this short book is filled with gloom and doom, 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.
And these judgments are for the RULERS, the RELIGIOUS, and the REGULARS.

So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the third chapter of Micah, & see what it says about finding the power we need when we are weak. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 3:1-12…. —-
1 Then I said, “Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice …? …
… 5 This is what the LORD says: “As for the prophets
who lead my people astray, they proclaim ‘peace’
if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them….
…8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice and distort all that is right… 11 Yet they look for the LORD’s support and say,
“Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

Micah – the Prophet of Almighty God – condemns Israel’s civic and religious leaders; then, reveals the future exaltation of Zion and the Messianic Hope! This second message from Micah follows a similar theme as his first message – it announces God’s condemnation of Israel and gives a glimpse of the future Hope! Micah has much more to say about the Messiah in this second message!

In Micah 3 through Micah 5, we find God’s condemnation of Israel’s leaders!
In 3:1-3, we find the indictment of Israel’s civic leaders, the RULERS, – they hate good and love evil – they consume the people; that is to say, they oppress them! The unjust leaders showed about as much consideration for the people as butchers do for carcasses!
In verse 4, we see the Judgment that is to come upon them – they will cry to the Lord; but, He will not hear them – He will hide His face from them!

In 3:5-7, we find the indictment of Israel’s RELIGIOUS leaders – they are false prophets – they lead God’s people astray! When the false prophets had plenty to eat, they predicted Peace; but if they went hungry, they brought down curses! Because of their actions, they will have no vision – they shall be made ashamed.
In verse 8, we see the contrast between Micah’s own ministry and that of the false prophets: Micah will be full of the Power of the Holy Spirit and of Justice and of Might! What my sermon title calls Packed with Power, Pnuema, and Uprightness! He will declare the transgression and sin of Israel!

In verses 9-11, we find Micah addressing the REGULARS (the rest of us) of Israel and categorizing their sin – they abhor justice and pervert equity (or, fairness) – they build up Jerusalem with bloodshed and iniquity – whether they are judges, priests, or prophets, they do it only for the money, giving the lie to their claim to trust in the Lord God Almighty! Everyone had his price for mammon, his god – much like today, isn’t it?
In verse 12, we see the Judgment that is to come upon Israel for their actions – Zion shall be plowed like a field – Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins!

So who was Micah? A small town follower of God who did what God called him to do. He was a spokes-person for this God who is too awesome to even be described – but he is a REGULAR Joe who speaks what God tells him; he was not a civic leader and he was not one of the religious leaders, he was like any one of you – sort of. What made him different? Verse 8. So let’s look a little closer at verse 8!
8 But as for me, I am filled with POWER, with the SPIRIT of the LORD, and with JUSTICE and MIGHT,
to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.

Micah was packed with Power, with Pnuema (that’s the Greek word for “spirit”, we get words like pneumonia from this word) and Uprightness. And with this equipment, he can tackle even the hardest job of declaring his people’s transgressions!

The Holy Spirit convicts, regenerates, baptizes, infills, seals, and comforts us! He leads us into the Almighty Truths of God’s Word! It’s time for true Christian believers to get this same “Power Transfer!” We need the Holy Spirit!

The problem with the effectiveness of many of today’s churches is that we have no Power – the Holy Spirit has been relegated as a thing of the past – in fact, many believe that His Power died out with the deaths of the Apostles! However, nothing can be further from the Truth! The Holy Spirit is Almighty God Himself – and, as such, He does not change and He will never leave or forsake us!
And, in my experience, this is also a major weakness in our personal walks of faith. We forget to rely on the Holy Spirit! In Mark 13:11, Jesus says to His disciples, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
When it comes to communication, our world is rapidly becoming increasingly “high-tech!” The popularity of social networks Such as twitter and Facebook, might cause some people to think that the Holy Bible – the written Word of God – is too “old-school” – too “old-fashioned!” The “tech-savvy” people of our current society might feel put off from reading the Holy Bible because there are no sound effects or ingenious graphics between these pages; however, the Truth is this: There is more “High-tech Power” in God’s Word than in any cutting-edge technology or communication tool that our world will ever know!
If you have ever read the Holy Bible – and, if not, I invite you to start today – you surely have sensed the Lord speaking directly to you – there’s a tailor-made message for every one of us there – as God speaks into our lives! He has hard-wired us with His Holy Spirit – Who literally illumines believers’ minds to understand His Word!
Just imagine, if you will, getting a “text-message” directly from the Creator of the entire Universe, telling you exactly what you need at exactly the right moment! No matter how “high-tech” this world may get, we will never experience a more powerful mode of communication than the Word of God and the Holy Spirit!

Finally, know that the Power of God – Holy Spirit Power – is visible in God’s works of Grace – His unmerited favor! When the Word of God is preached or shown to the world by Spirit-filled Christian believers, the Holy Spirit moves the people to repentance and Salvation! So, friends, let the Gospel be preached – let the Holy Spirit be poured out – and, the world will see such Power as to change the social conscience – such Power as to improve social conduct – such Power as to raise the depraved – such Power as to chastise and curb the iniquity of the human race – that we as true Christian believers may revel in it! There is nothing like the Holy Spirit Power to help us experience God’s righteousness – so let Him come; and, indeed, everything will be accomplished for the glory of God!

When our simple little fix-it jobs have got us by the throat, just remember Psalm 121: “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

May God Almighty richly and abundantly bless each and every one of you with His Power, His Holy Pnuema, and His Upright living! Amen.

Resources:
Dillahunty, George R.; “Micah – the Condemnation and Future Hope”; Freedom Fellowship Church of God; Virginia Beach, VA; March 16, 2009.

Dillahunty, George R.; “Power Up with Holy Ghost Power”; Freedom Fellowship Church of God; Virginia Beach, VA; May 19, 2010.

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

Micah 2 – Finding Hope When There Is No Hope

Mark Wheeler
September 21, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 2
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.

Resources:
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.

Micah 1 – “Will Peace Come in the Mourning”

Mark Wheeler
September 14, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 1
Will Peace Come in the Mourning?

God of awesome majesty, silence in us each false word and turn our lives to Your obedience, so that every word on our lips may bring honor to Your name, and our very lives may be a holy and acceptable gift to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Doesn’t it feel good to be back in the groove of the program year? For some it means their entire lives get re-scheduled – school work and all; for others it means planning commute time differently; and for others it means a new routine for monthly meetings and weekly get-togethers. Here at LPC it means monthly fellowship opportunities and outreach groups are back in action (Breakfast Club and Livewires and Lighthouse Circle, for example), choirs get to plan for regular rehearsals and performances (Chancel Choir and Praise Team and Just-for-Fun), Bible Study groups rededicate (midweek and Sunday School).
It also means we look together at pieces of Scripture that we might choose to ignore if we didn’t have each other to read with. So this Fall, as we start our new Program Year, our Sunday mornings will explore God’s Word from a couple Old Testament prophets. We start with Micah.

Today I want to give you an overview of the whole book (7 chapters, about 6 pages in most Bibles), and then hear some main points from chapter 1.

This background might sound like boring minutia, but hear it out and you’ll see how vitally it effects our understanding of the book.
First, who is this prophet Micah? He’s a small town man, from Moresheth, whom God called to proclaim His word to the people of the big city of Jerusalem.
Second, when did this Micah live? He lived during the time just after the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive/sent into exile by Assyria, 120 years before the southern kingdom of Judah was captured by Babylon. Around 725BC to 680BC. This is important because God’s Word, which is for all people of all time, was written in the context of actual history with actual people during actual historical events. We learn from this that the Old Testament prophet Micah lived in a DIVIDED world – the powerful against the weak, the wealthy against the poor, and the people of God against God Himself!
Third, the name of this prophet describes the book’s most major theme. The name “Micah” means “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. In the whole book, every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him! While the local Philistines had their own gods whom the people of God had started worshiping, and the Assyrians from the east had their own gods, and the Babylonians who would conquer Judah in a number of decades had their own gods – none of them compared to Yahweh, the God of the Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Yahweh is God of the WHOLE world! – of the entire universe! There is nothing like Him!
Fourth, what are ways this main theme gets talked about? There are actually three ways this uniquely powerful and loving God displays His God-ness: Micah wants his hearers (and readers) to know that God is a God of JUSTICE! God is a God of JUDGMENT! And, God is a God of GRACE!

So with that overview in mind, let’s look at the first chapter of Micah, & see what it says about what causes God’s judgment, and whether peace can ever be the result of the hardships we find ourselves in. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 1:1-16…. —-
1 The Word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
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.
3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.
5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem? …
… 16 Shave your head in mourning for the children in whom you delight;
make yourself as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.

The prophet Micah summons the image of a vulture, some translations say “the bald eagle” as a symbol of a people! How fascinating that when Micah looked for something visible that would carry God’s message to Judah, he pointed to a large and powerful bird that had no feathers in its cap. And since in the ancient world, a shaved head showed grief, this bird’s baldness signaled a nation that would grieve, a people that would mourn. “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair for your pampered children; make yourselves as bald as the vulture or the eagle, for they have gone from you into exile.”
Look at the old bald eagle, said Micah; look at his uncovered head. What a picture of loss! Your very symbol of power becomes for you a portrait of pain and powerlessness. The nation is under judgment. Grieve for it. A conqueror will take you away. Mourn for all of that.

Two questions this morning. One: If there is to be judgment, why? What is it that causes God’s judgment? What is it that would bring about the collapse of a great people?
And, two: what about this conqueror? Who or what might he be? Is this to be the leader of another nation, with superior military power? Is this conqueror to be a visionary with a new way of thinking? Just who or what is coming to take over the bald-eagle people?

First, what had the nation done that it should mourn like the bald eagle? What is so severe that they would bring about the collapse of a great people? Micah is confident that painful days are on the way for the people of Judah.
These things Micah will deal with over the course of his entire prophecy. He will go into excruciating detail about some of them. But the great high water mark of Micah’s prophecy gives us all we need to understand the reasons for God’s judgment. Micah 6:8 tells us: “He has told you … what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
The judgment was to come on Judah because, first, she ignored justice; because, second, she was skeptical of kindness and compassion; and because, finally, she left God out of the equation. Judah was headed for a state of collapse – economic, moral, and spiritual collapse. Judah was going to look like a bald vulture, still flying around but showing signs of mourning.
On your Sermon Notes page it asks, “What causes God’s judgment?” And the answer is SIN. The sin that Micah describes for the nation of Judah where Jerusalem was the capitol was that they did not love their neighbors as themselves (justice and kindness), and they did not love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength (walk humbly with God).

In this 21st Century, I tremble not for ancient Judah, but for my own country. I tremble for America. For we are going through a period of financial uncertainty, and those who will pay the price of it are not the stock speculators or the oil barons. Those who will pay the price of our troubled economy are those who are already on the margins, those who can barely eke out an existence day by day. We are hearing too many stories of people who must compromise nutrition for their children because they can no longer afford proper food. We are reading of homes foreclosed and families evicted because jobs have dried up. I do not have answers to these dilemmas; I am not an economist. But I do know that a land that lives on injustice cannot last long. I do know that those who prey on the dreams of the poor are undermining the nation. Bald eagle America, are we experiencing an economic collapse?
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness …?” I tremble for a nation verging on moral collapse. A society where dishonesty and greed are so much the norm that a man who finds a diamond ring worth $40,000 and turns it in is reported as if he were a freak. When kindness and common decency are laughed at, we are on the way to full-scale moral collapse. And then, Bald Eagle America, what do we do and where do we go? I tremble for my country if we no longer love kindness.
And most of all, I think I am ready to point to the bald eagle as our symbol, for fewer and fewer of us walk humbly with our God. Fewer of us understand that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We no longer quake at the thought that a just God will judge us; we want only a nice, sweet, grandfatherly God who pampers us in our little indulgences. We do not want to hear Micah, trumpeting a God who will hold us accountable. We want a bland and generous God who really cares very little about how we live, a God who will give everybody, whether they acknowledge Christ Jesus or not, a nice retirement package in a golden heaven, presumably equipped with sandy beaches and golf courses where we always get a hole-in-one! We are a people who, if the surveys are to be believed, overwhelmingly say that we believe in God, but who refuse to understand that we are to walk with Him, pray to Him, live in and with Him, and live lives worthy of His name! Nor, for that matter, do many want a church that speaks God’s truth and holds out Jesus’ way of life. We want churches that demand little but attendance, and make us feel good but teach little of substance. We are on the way to spiritual collapse.
Economic collapse, moral collapse, and spiritual collapse. Micah is speaking directly to Judah in 700BC, but is he not also speaking to US in 2014AD?! “Mourn for the collapse of your nation. Mourn for the disrepair of your country.” “Make yourselves as bald as the eagle.” And mourn! What does the Lord require but justice and kindness and a humble walk with God? These things we are throwing away, and we will suffer for it.

But, will peace come in the Mourning? Micah also speaks also of a Conqueror who will come to Judah. Part of his warning is that God will send someone who will take them over. Who might that be?
Well, when Micah was preaching, it could have been Assyria. The Assyrians had already conquered the Kingdom of Israel in the north. But in the end, more than 100 years after Micah’s preaching, it turned out to be the Babylonians. Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar was the raging beast that gobbled up the Assyrians and then they conquered Judah.

That’s Judah and her conqueror. What of us? What of America? Who will conquer us? Is God preparing a conqueror for us, as He did for Judah?
Are we to be conquered by the armed forces of another nation? That may seem preposterous right now, when America is the world’s only superpower. But you can bet that ISIS has got President Obama a little nervous right now. It could happen. We did just commemorate 9/11 last Thursday!
Or will our conquest be more subtle? Will it be that no outside force will be so dangerous as our inside forces? Will it be that conquest will come from our abandoning God’s requirements? Will the conquest come from within as we ignore justice, discount compassion, and make a mockery of true faith? Are the seeds of our conquest already sown in our failing economy, our moral misjudgments, and our spiritual anemia?
I know today that I sound impossibly prudish. To call for personal integrity, to summon us to treat all people with dignity, of whatever race or standing or opinion, is to take a stand in quicksand. To ask for respectful language, to work for faithfulness in marriage, to point out the evils of alcohol and marijuana is a struggle that no 21st century prophet will easily win. But God told Micah to call the people to kindness and mercy and integrity; how can we today do any less?
And I know that today it is no longer fashionable to utter the clear word of the Scripture, that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; that outside of Him there is no hope; and that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved. I know that the politically correct thing is to be vaguely spiritual in some non-committal way.
But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Israel and Judah; the God of Micah the prophet and David the King and Solomon the Wise; most of all, the God of Jesus of Nazareth permits no rivals and allows no imposters. Who is like Yahweh? He is God, and there is no other. If we do not take that message to a truth-starved world, then we have lost it all. We are conquered. Not by outside forces, but by our own reluctance to stand and be counted. Are we like bald vultures?

Will Peace, even Joy, Come in the Mourning?
Here is the Good News: Here is the wonderful Good News: Our God has already sent a Conqueror. Our God has already invaded us, and has sent us one who will conquer our hearts as well as our possessions and our bodies. Our God has already come among us in power, and has already gained victory over everything that threatens us.
Our God has sent a Conqueror, the Captain of our souls, who climbed Mount Calvary, and in His sacrificial death paved the way. We learn from Jesus the cost of our salvation and we see in Him the way to love.
Our God has sent a Conqueror, who in His glorious resurrection has defeated death and has destroyed the powers of evil. Our God has sent a Conqueror who has showed us more than justice, whose compassions fail not, and who has taken captive our very hearts.
For though we deserve to die, He gives life. Though we feel grief, He gives a reason to hope. He is a Conqueror, though not like any other. “For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums; with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly Kingdom comes.” (from Lead On, O King Eternal)

Will Peace Come in the Mourning? May our sign no longer be the Bald Vulture, the raptor that signals mourning for a failing people. May our sign be the dove of peace, descending around the cross. The dove of Christ’s peace, doled out in justice, love, and presence. The Dove of Baptism which signals each of us as called by God to stand tall. Come. Come and find peace, even in the mourning. Amen.

Resources: (with special thanks and credit to Joseph Smith [cf below] for his insight and illustrations)
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 464.

Smith, Joseph; “The Bald Eagle”; Takoma Park Baptist Church; Washington, DC; July 6, 2008.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 4-23.