Micah


Introduction to Micah

Micah 1:1-7

“Hear, you peoples, all of you;

pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,

and let the Lord God be a witness against you,

the Lord from his holy temple.”

Micah 1:2

Micah; an introduction

The book of Micah is a list of accusations against Israel from God. Micah explores these accusations and his warnings from God to Israel. The book speaks of Israel’s impending destruction by the Assyrians and later on by the Babylonians. In other words, God is bringing judgement upon Israel for the things that they have done.

Micah wrote in a way that alternated between messages of judgement and messages of future hope. As we delve further into this book, we will see how God acts as judge and yet still keeps His promises to Israel.

God’s courtroom

The language used in verse 2 is like that of a prosecutor calling the attention of the people in the courtroom. God is also the Heavenly Judge calling the whole earth to hear what He has to say. The whole earth is summoned to hear what God has to say about Israel’s sins.

Why does God do this? It is because as Creator, He has the right to rule over everything. This is important because as part of His rule God judges. Thus He has the right to demand that all would hear His proclamation.

Micah then proceeds to pronounce the Judgement on Israel as the messenger from God.

God Hates sin and punishes it

Micah says to both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel that God is coming. In verse 3, Micah describes God coming down from His dwelling place. This is similar to the Exodus account when Moses brought the Israelites to meet God at Mount Sinai.

However unlike the Exodus account, God is coming not to bless His people, but to judge them. This is surprising because whenever the Lord comes it is to deliver His people in response to their prayers (Ps 144:5, Isa 13:5-9). But in Micah, we see God coming to bring punishment on the sins of Israel. This is clearly shown in verse 5, that it is because of the sins of Israel that God judges them.

We remember that God is a holy God, and because He is holy He cannot tolerate sin, especially among His people. Thus God must address the sins of Israel. Israel rebelled against God and His rule. There were many examples throughout the Old Testament that showed Israel’s rebellion (1 Kings 14:15-16, 16:30-33; 2 Chr 28:1-4). Time and again, God gave Israel warnings but they did not heed them.

God punishes those who reject His rule

Because of the evil that Israel had done over time, God has decreed their destruction (v 5). And He starts with the destruction of the Northern kingdom, Samaria. The reason God sentenced Samaria to ruins is because of their people’s idolatrous nature. In part of Israel’s history, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel promoted pagan worship in the Northern kingdom (1 Kings 16:29-33). These practices blatantly violated the first and second commandments of God’s Law (Exo 20:3-5) by openly rebelling against God. The people of Samaria had rejected God’s rule over them.

The purpose of God destroying Samaria is to abolish all forms of idolatry (v7). They had no room for God in their hearts, so God punished them for going against Him. By destroying the idols that they hold dear, the people of Samaria are forced to face the fact that God is King, and He rules over them.

God’s judgement upon Samaria would be brought about by the nation of Assyria. We see from history that Samaria was destroyed completely in 722 B.C. just as God has predicted (v6).

Knowing God as Judge affects our worldview

We see from the book of Micah how God rules over His people as a holy Judge. Because God is holy, He hates all forms of sin. Thus, even the slightest sin warrants punishment, just as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17-30). And we know that the punishment for sin is death (Rom 6:23), because death is necessary to separate us from a holy God for He cannot dwell with sin.

Thus knowing how God is Judge should affect the way we live. We would view our sins as an offence against a holy God, and seek to fight against our sinful ways to pursue holiness in our living.

Knowing God is Judge would also affect how we share the Gospel! It would cause us to show others how innately sinful we all are and what we should deserve - that as Judge, God punishes those who go against Him.

Knowing God is Judge should also cause us to show others that all men are subject to His judgement. We should share that there is a holy God who rules over us all. And because God rules over us, He expects us to live in a specific way as He decrees. If we do not live according to His ways, it is an offence against God. And because God punishes sin, this should lead us to tell others that even the most “respectable sins” warrants eternal damnation.

Knowing God as Judge affects the way we share the Gospel

In light of these, we should not rush through the potentially “offensive” parts on sin and condemnation when sharing the Gospel. But we should spend more time explaining these to show the full glory of the Gospel. It serves to demonstrate the gravity of the punishment that we are saved from through Christ.

We would not sugar-coat or omit these facts because the Gospel has to be consistent with who God is. Not portraying His attributes together accurately would lead us to misrepresent who God really is. This is important because the Gospel reflect the full glory of God.

God’s Judgement is sure, as He has demonstrated through judgement on Israel in the past. Therefore the future judgement and eternal damnation are real and imminent. We may not see His Judgement now, but God has already set a day where all of us will be judged (2 Cor 5:10). Perhaps it is a scary thought when we share this part of the Gospel, because we find it hard to face up to such a reality.

However, if we are truly convinced that God is the Holy Judge of all of us, then we would be bold in sharing the “offensive” parts of the Gospel. May we be bold and truly care for others to tell them about the Gospel in full so that they may come to respond in true faith.

– The End –

Do Not Take God’s Long Suffering For Granted

Micah 1:8-16

“For her wound is incurable; it has come to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself.”

Micah 1:9

Verses 8-16 describes the severe judgement of God coming in the form of destruction towards Judah, up to Jerusalem. God has judged Judah for making a total enemy of Him. And Micah’s response to that was to participate in the shame of his nation and call upon his people to mourn what is coming and unavoidable.

God’s Punishment Reveals His Sovereignty

God promised Israel that she will be His special possession, a kingdom of priests, set apart from other nations, and He will fight for her and overcome her enemies. As part of the covenant, the people of Israel were commanded to obey God’s voice and keep the covenant (Exo 19:5). But the people of Judah did not keep to their end of the covenant. As a result, God’s punishment would come in the form of taking away His protection and blessings and giving them up to their enemies.

They would weep and mourn in dust (Mic 1:10).

They would be without dignity and clothing (Mic 1:11).

They would be without help (Mic 1:11).

They would writhe in pain (Mic 1:13).

They would flee, military defenses and strongholds would be destroyed.

They would lose their possessions Mic 1:14).

Their democratic alliances would breakdown (Mic 1:14).

They would lose their nation (Mic 1:15).

This demonstrates that God is able to provide what He promises and take them away (Job 9:12). He is Sovereign over our lives, possessions, connections, infrastructure and all nations.

Do We Enjoy God’s Blessings and Protection Without Recognising His Sovereignty and What He Demands of Us?

Do we find comfort in short lived happiness such as new family additions without recognising that God is the Giver of life (Job 33:4)?

Do we find our dignity in the way we dress, the kind of school we went to and the jobs we have without recognising that our demeanour, actions should reflect being an image of God (Gen 1:27)?

Do we find our desire the approval and emotional support of our social networks more than God’s approval and comfort (Rom 12:1-2)?

Do we find security in our financial reserves, properties and economy instead of understanding that the real treasure is God Himself (Luk 12:33)?

Do we find security in our state of the art military or democratic alliances without recognising that our God is one who raises nations (Isa 40:17)?

When we do not find our security in God’s sovereignty over all aspects of our lives, we will trust in ourselves and obey our passions instead of Him (Pro 3:5).

God’s Punishment Comes Because of the Hardness of Their Hearts

Micah proclaimed that when the nation of Judah is captured by the Assyrians, there will be weeping and mourning. They will weep and mourn because the people of Judah would lose their home, dignity, possessions and nation. Their military might, infrastructure and alliances which they are proud of and trusted in would be useless.

These people did not mourn and weep over their sins despite repeated reminders of God’s covenant agreement. In God’s covenant, disobedience brings forth punishment. They continued to covet, steal and oppress the vulnerable (Mic 2:1-9). God even judged the leaders for working evil when they were resting, and acting on their plans the moment they awoke.They ignored God’s calls for repentance through earlier prophets like Hosea and Amos. Instead they rewarded false prophets for approving their actions and preaching God’s favour when there was none (Mic 3:11). Their blatant disobedience shows that they hated God and did not trust Him. Their hearts had been hardened beyond repentance and God’s punishment was therefore justified.

Do Not Take God’s Long Suffering for Granted

God’s judgement of Judah did not come without earlier warnings and calls for repentance. God expected His people to repent but their wickedness persisted and got worse over the years.

Israel survived this long because of the grace and patience of God. And God’s purpose for preserving them was so that they might repent (2 Chr 36:15-16; 2 Pet 3:9). However, as Israel persisted in their wickedness without repentance, God’s unavoidable judgement still came upon them (Mic 1:9). God is slow to anger, but ultimately, He will still punish persistent unrepentance (Num 14:18).

Sometimes we take the lack of consequences of our sin for granted and assume that because we have acted a certain way with minimal consequences, we can continue to do so. For the Christian, repentance is a way of life because he wants nothing to do with sin (Rom 6:12-14; 1 John 3:6a). However for someone who claims to be a Christian but does not repent from sin, how can he/she claim to be in Christ? To be in Christ is to be dead to sin and so we should not and will not continue in sin when given warnings (Rom 6:10-11; 1 John 3:4). If we continue indulging in sin despite being shown that it is sin, what does that say about us? That we are not of Christ. And the day will come, when death claims us (Heb 9:27) and we may find ourselves standing with the goats on the day of final Judgement (Mat 25:32)

So recognise today that God is sovereign over all and we owe Him our love, reverence and obedience. Be convicted of our sin against Him who is Holy and repent by trusting Him and obeying His commands. Do not dismiss biblical rebuke and search for approval among the world or false teachings. That is unrepentance and not what a Christian should do.

– The End –

The Sin of Covetousness and Pride

Micah 2:1-5

Adapted from Commentaries on Micah for devotional writing

Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.

Micah 2:1

Covetousness Among God’s People

In the book of Micah, the prophet Micah saw the Word of the Lord regarding Samaria and Jerusalem. In chapter 2 verses 1 to 5, it was a time of prosperity when Micah pronounced God’s message of judgment in the form of a woe oracle upon the wealthy who were oppressing the poor.

In verse 1, the word “woe” has a funeral connotation, which implies that these people to whom the judgment was directed to were sentenced to death by God, and were as good as dead. Who were these people? Verse 2 identifies them as land and home grabbers, who plotted on their beds at night, to carry out violence when day breaks. These were wealthy land owners who were hungry for more fields and houses. Despite already being wealthy, they wanted more and allowed their covetous thoughts to bear fruit in action.

What is covetousness? It is defined as a strong and wrong desire out of greed to take another’s wealth or material possessions. In order to acquire more land, these land owners would plot to abuse their power and practise dishonesty, extortion, violence, and manipulation to take lands from the weak and poor. For example, they placed huge debts on the poor, so that when the poor were unable to pay the debts, these land owners would seize their fields and houses as payment through the help of corrupted court officials. They would even scheme to swallow up their victim’s inheritance, which was family land that was handed down from their ancestors. According to covenant law, one’s land was supposed to remain in the family. But these land owners did not hesitate to take the land of others for themselves through unscrupulous means.

Ultimately these lands belonged to the Lord (Lev 25:23). The landowners knew God’s commandments. Yet they violated the tenth commandment to serve their own idolatrous gains through abusing God’s people. They were able to do so because they had the power of wealth. But instead of using the power of their wealth to do good and to help the poor, they abused their power to oppress the poor and violate God’s commandments .

The Proud Will Be Brought Low

In verses 3-5, Micah prophesied that God’s coming judgment would befall these wealthy land owners and they would no longer be able to walk haughtily. We see that these land owners had no shame in doing what was wrong, and took pride in their power, wealth and possessions.

Unfortunately, while they “devised wickedness” with their power, God in turn “devised disaster” with His power as judgment upon them for their evil deeds . In verse 4, Micah reveals that these oppressors will be brought down low. God would cause the lands that they seized from others to be seized by their enemies, and they would be brought to ruin. Historically, judgment came upon the Israelites (which included the oppressors) by the Assyrians, who sent them into exile and also took their lands.

Micah also prophesied that these land owners would have no one in the assembly of the Lord to represent them (v5). In other words, they would be cut off from the promises and inheritance of God’s people. This would be the Lord’s judgment upon them – that He would do unto them what they did unto others.

God will Judge Covetousness and Pride

From this passage, we see that God knows the covetousness and pride hidden in the hearts of people; it is visible and known to Him . There is no way that we as created beings can hide our thoughts and attitudes from our all-knowing and all-present Creator. Should we remain unrepentant in our sins or think that we can hide them from God, we can expect God to bring judgment , for He is holy and just, and He does not condone sin.

While we may not be like these wealthy landowners who perverted social justice in deceiving and oppressing the poor, some of us have the power of wealth since we are also living in a period of prosperity here in Singapore. Do we use it to do good in God’s eyes, or do we use it for selfish gains?

While certain forms of covetousness and pride may appear innocuous, the nature of it is still sinful . Regardless of the extent and form of covetousness or pride, God hates all of it. This is because even the slightest bit of sin assaults His holiness, and choosing to remain in sin means we reject His authority as Lord. The Lord knows – there is no escaping or hiding from any sin. If we think we can escape, we merely deceive ourselves.

The covetous seek material gain because they are not contented with what God has given to them. They love material gain and this drives them towards their desires. Similarly, the proud boast and find security in their material possessions, power and wealth. Thus, both the covetous and the proud neither trust God nor find security in Him . They do not recognize that all things are given by God in His wisdom and they do not trust in His provision. In other words,covetousness and pride sprout from a heart of unbelief in God.

But is there any hope then? God promised that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God has already provided all that we need to live a life that honors Him – through Jesus His Son ! But do we trust Him more than our earthly possessions?

Brothers and sisters, may we humble ourselves before God to recognize and trust that He is our Wise and Good Provider, and repent from any form of covetousness and pride. May our hearts be contented in Christ, and never settle to accumulate or delight in the temporal possessions of the world that is passing away. May we treasure God as our greatest and everlasting gain, for He is far surpassing in value compared to all material possessions .

– The End –

[1] https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mic/Mic_2.cfm

[2] Kenneth L. Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah , vol. 20, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 62–65.

Yes Men And Their Disservice

Micah 2:6-13

If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!

Micah 2:11

At some point of your life, you would have known someone whom we address as “yes man”. According to the urban dictionary of the Internet, we describe someone as a “yes man” when he or she “will answer yes to any query from their boss/superior regardless of the question's intelligence, bearing, or appropriateness.” [1] Sometimes, we call them boot-lickers.

Usually we can’t stand it when our peers or co-workers do that. We see how detrimental lies can be or even worse, what the possible consequences are when they blindly follow these unreasonable and unprofitable instructions for the sake of bootlicking!

Let’s change the tides and imagine us as managers for a moment. Would you surround yourself with yes men? How would you react if your subordinate tells you that you’re wrong?

One of the deeply entrenched sins we have is pride. Everyday we fight our innate instinct to be right. And our prideful nature is obvious when we are unwilling to hear hard truths about ourselves.

Just Google this and you will find that there are tons of case studies of projects that failed because their leaders surrounded themselves with yes men who were not willing to tell them about their errors. One of these case studies would be Providian Trust, where its CEO Stephen Walsh was not aware of a big problem in a software upgrade that eventually cost $36 million to fix, on top of the original $22 million upgrading cost. [2]

Forbes writes that unsuccessful CEOs “ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them”, and these “spectacularly unsuccessful CEOs seek to remove those potentially threatening executives - leaving only yes men”. [3]

Now, if surrounding yourself with yes men can be disastrous even in the secular setting, how much worse would it be for our spiritual walk!

The Yes Men of the past

In Micah 2:6-13, we read about these false prophets and corrupt oppressive men who also surround themselves with yes men. These false prophets are yes men themselves as they preach to the people a corrupted gospel.

In v.6, these false prophets and corrupt oppressive men chided Micah and insisted that he stopped prophesying things that were unprofitable and disgraceful for them.

Unsurprisingly, the false prophets had been preaching a gospel of peace and prosperity that the people could be merry with plenty of wine and beer (v.11)! And because they were teaching erroneously that the Lord’s patience had no limits [4], the nation of Jacob was doubtful of God’s righteous indignation and that all of them would be condemned and judged (v.1-5).

Being yes men, they did not want to hear Micah’s predictions of disgrace for the nation. Micah prophesied that these enemies who preyed on the powerless and oppressed the women and children, they would no longer be God’s people and will be chased away (v.10). They would not be among the remnant of which God would bring to a victory during that deliverance that He has promised (vv.12-13).

The Yes Men of the present

Yes men are not only those who say “yes” with their mouths, yes men includes those that say yes with their actions! Are you always surrounding yourself with friends who see eye to eye with you? Friends who understand where you’re coming from and therefore pass no judgment on you? Friends who support you, just because that’s what friends are supposed to be?

As we learnt during sermons, true friends are not those which modern culture describes to be accepting, loving and uncondemning. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”! If we truly care for a friend, wouldn’t we want what’s best for him, even if it demands correction and discipline?

Think about our earthly fathers who discipline us and say that it’s for our own good! Hebrews 12:9-10 says that “ we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? ” Our earthly fathers “ disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them,” but God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” All these punishments, corrections and discipline are for the sake of sharing in God’s holiness!

In modern days, as some of us reject God’s teaching and surround ourselves with yes men, and listen to only sermons that are pleasant to our ears, we hear only lies that are feeding our pride and comfort. The time will come when we continuously harden our hearts as Pharaoh did.

Now, Jesus warns us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

If we look to “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 11:11), let us listen to the truth and endure sound teaching, so that we will not turn away from the gospel to seek lies and myths that comfort!

In Micah’s prophecy, God’s sheep will taste deliverance and experience the fulfillment of promise that we will be restored in victory with the Lord as our King! This ultimate, complete fulfillment of vv. 12–13 extends to the future coming of the Messiah! [5]

As we continue to eradicate our sins and be sanctified to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, let us do so by the power of God’s truth. We shall not surround ourselves with yes men, neither shall we ourselves be yes men and do a disservice to people whom we care about!

– The End –

[1] Urban Dictionary: yes men. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=yes%20men

[2] Keil, M. (2019). Yes-men: 5 Reasons Why Corporate Projects Fail. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234343

[3] Jackson, E. (2019). The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful CEOs Hall of Shame. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/02/09/the-seven-habits-of-spectacularly-unsuccessful-ceos-hall-of-shame/#3082d5e713a4

[4] Barker, Kenneth L. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Vol. 20. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

[5] Barker, Kenneth L. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Vol. 20. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Sheep of The Shepherd Flock Together

Micah 2:12-13

I will surely gather all of you, O 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.

Micah 2:12

It’s Sunday morning. You step into church before the service starts at 9am. Perhaps you are a little late. But you made it to church somehow. You may have even travelled from the other end of Singapore just to make it here to the valley of Opera Estate.

Have you stopped to think about why you are sitting here in church today? “Well, as a Christian I go to church.” But surely there must be more than this. Who or what makes you want to continue coming to church every Sunday? Is it the people, the place, the convenience of location, the truth in the preaching, or the joy of worshipping together? Or are you simply going through your routine of attending church each Sunday without really knowing why?

Why are you here in church?

Many of us started coming to church perhaps by the invitation of our friends, or because our parents or relatives are attending church here and we decided to follow them, willingly or unwillingly. Many of us continue to attend church because of family, friends or mere familiarity. But why do we come to church?

Because We Are Saved By The Shepherd

Micah prophesied in verse 12 that God promised to gather the remnant of Israel. According to the Bible Dictionary, the term remnant refers to the righteous people left surviving after a disaster identified with divine judgment. Earlier in Micah, God said that He will judge those who reject Him and oppress His people. Thus, the remnant refers to the remaining portion of people who stayed faithful to God despite suffering and who ultimately experience restoration.

In the later part of verse 12, God further illustrated how He will gather of this remnant as a shepherd who gathers his sheep, like a flock in the pasture. It is interesting that God uses the sheep metaphor to describe His people. It was also used by Jesus in the New Testament:

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” – John 10:14-16 (ESV)

Sheep are prone to wander into danger, so they need a shepherd. The shepherd’s essential responsibility is thus to protect them from harm and death; be it from wolves, eating poisonous plants, falling off the cliff or walking towards slaughter. He also provides them with food, water, rest and shelter to live from day to day.

Jesus identifies Himself in John 10:14-16 as the Shepherd of God’s people. This parallels what God promised in Micah 2:12. God is the One who will gather His sheep, and He does it through His Son Jesus . Jesus gave His life for His people to be saved from slavery to sin and the wrath of God, to restore us to Himself! The basis for our community in the church is the saving work of our Shepherd Jesus in each of our lives. The common thread among all who are being gathered as God’s flock is that we have been made righteous through the sacrifice of our good Shepherd for all sin once and for all. Jesus gave His life for us, and He won the victory over sin and death, to preserve His flock for Himself. And His’ primary task of gathering His people is still ongoing today in the church, through the help of the Holy Spirit. The task has extended beyond the Israelites to include us Gentiles, and will continue until the day of Christ’s return.

Because We Follow The Shepherd

How does Jesus know and gather His sheep?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” - John 10:27-28 (ESV)

Jesus’ sheep know His voice and follow Him. Thus, when God refers to the remnant as His sheep and His flock, He refers to a group of people who faithfully obeys Him amidst a nation of people who have gone astray and rejected Him. Amidst the trials of daily life, they trust God and persevere to obey Him.

God’s people are known and identified by their obedience to Jesus, who is their Shepherd. They need not be forced to follow the Shepherd; they trust that there is no other way to live apart from following Him . This echoes the words of the apostle Peter who said “ Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). These words are characteristic of those who belong to Him – they trust His word and depend on Him alone for true life.

The true sheep will not wander away from its true Shepherd for it knows and follows His voice. While we have been saved by our Shepherd, we are also to live under His rule, because we know Him to be trustworthy to provide for all our needs.

Characteristics of The Flock

When the sheep metaphor is used in God’s word, it would also reflect His creative wisdom and design in how they parallel the nature of our lives as God’s flock, aside from the sheep’s individual relationship with the shepherd in knowing his voice. Here are a few points we can observe:

1. Sheep cannot live in isolation.

An article on the social behavior of sheep says that “sheep are social creatures – they require the presence of at least 4 to 5 sheep around them. Sheep also instinctively flock together for survival and to protect themselves from predators”. [1] Sheep just cannot live in isolation from one another, because they will perish in their own folly or helplessness.

In the same way, God intended His people not to live in isolation. The process of sanctification is designed to take place within a community of believers committed to one another. As one writer puts it, “sanctification is made possible through community, and cannot be pursued in isolation”. [2] Christians cannot grow in sanctification apart from community. If we choose to guard our private lives and distance ourselves from others, we risk impending doom.

2. The actions of one sheep affects the whole.

Another article on sheep behavior describes that “sheep have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good “decision”, such as jumping off a cliff, or following each other to slaughter”. [3]

The actions of one sheep can cost the lives of those near them. Similarly, in living together as God’s flock in the church, we should be keenly aware that like sheep, our personal life and obedience to the Lord impacts the lives of those around us, especially in light of sanctification that occurs through our community. We should not view our conduct lightly or privately when we understand how it impacts others to live for Christ.

Therefore, living together as sheep in God’s flock would require a community with accountability and participation in one another’s lives.

So Why Do We Come To Church?

We come to church, because we are saved by our Shepherd and gathered as God’s flock in a local community. We come to church, because we desire to follow Jesus through living a life together as a flock set apart for God. We come to church, because this is a community where we learn to grow in our love for God and love for one another. We come to church, knowing that as believers with the Holy Spirit in us, we can live lives that are victorious over sin and set apart for God, for His glory.

Believers are not just friends or visitors who come and go on Sundays; we are a flock in Christ committed to one another to do life together.

Through living as a flock together set apart under the rule of our Shepherd, we will grow in our relationship with God and with one another, knowing that our lives are all interwoven together in God’s plan for His glory.

May we be led by the Holy Spirit to live our lives as part of His flock, in obedience to Christ and in showing our love and care for one another in Christ.

Because, this is why we come to church.

– The End –

[1] Gary M. Landsberg, Social Behaviour of Sheep, MSD Veterinary Manual, https://www.msdvetmanual.com/behavior/normal-social-behavior-and-behavioral-problems-of-domestic-animals/social-behavior-of-sheep , accessed 5 April 2019.

[2] Paul Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ , Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008, Chapter 3.

[3] Follow the Leader http://sheep101.info/flocking.html , accessed 5 April 2019.

Are we Image Bearers?

Micah 3:1-4

“And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice—you who hate the good and love the evil.”

Micah 3:1-2

As Christians we have been taught that we are made in the image of God. We are the Imago Dei! Being made in the image of God means that we reflect the attributes of God.

Sin’s entry into the wall distorted our nature and causes us to be unable to reflect God’s image as He intended. Adam and Eve went against God’s command, they desired something against what God had instructed (Gen 3:6). They rebelled against God and in doing so, sin entered the world. Because of sin, we have a tendency to want anything else other than God.

The effects of sin.

We see the effects of sin throughout history. In Micah, we see how God judged the rulers of Israel for the deeds that they had done against their own nation, the nation of God’s people.

Micah shows us that the rulers of Israel were wicked and evil. They were supposed to know what was right and wrong in the sight of God through the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments is a summary of how we should respond to God. It shows us what is good and what is evil, according to God’s attributes. But these rulers loved evil and hated what was good. They corrupted God’s justice and sought to exploit God’s people, who were under their own care, for their own gain.

Micah painted a grotesque picture of how badly the people of Israel were treated (Micah 3: 2-3). He portrayed the rulers as though they were cannibals! The rulers’ exploitation of the people was so bad, it was as if they tore off the skin and ate the flesh of the Israelites. And if that was not enough, they even chopped up their bones as though they were preparing a stew. The rulers did not treat the people of Israel as the image bearers of God; they treated them like animals.

The rulers of Israel were meant to reflect God’s kingship. They were to lead and care for their fellow men as a family, since they were all people of God. They were representatives chosen to display God’s character to Israel. They were chosen to demonstrate how God would rule over His people. However they failed, because of their sin. They did what they wanted for their own gain.

But how does a person truly reflect God’s image? We look to Scripture and we see that there is a man who did so perfectly.

Jesus Christ- The Exact Representation of God

In the book of Hebrews, the author shows that “The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being...” (Heb 1:3).

Because Jesus is fully God and fully man, He is the only “God-man” that is able to reflect the image of God perfectly.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry here on earth, He displayed God’s kingship. Unlike the rulers of Israel before Him, who exploited their people, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry and spoke truth in love. He displayed God’s justice when God’s temple was turned into a marketplace.

We are not left with an abstract idea of how to reflect God’s image. We can learn from Jesus’ example of how He reflects God’s image. Our call is to be imitators of Christ (1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1; 1 Thess 1:6). Though we may not be perfect, remember that we are God’s workmanship created in Jesus Christ for good works (Eph 2:10), which includes reflecting God’s image.

As Christians how are we to reflect the image of God?

In order to reflect the image of God we need to know what God is like. The Bible is the means through which God teaches about Himself. We can better reflect the image of God through a deep understanding of God, and that means we need to know His word well. If we do not understand who we are reflecting, we risk misrepresenting God.

Thus it is necessary for us to study Scripture to know who God is and what He is like. We may not have the complete picture but as our knowledge of God gets more refined, we will understand more aspects about God and what He requires of us.

Understanding who God is would help us to better apply the principles that we take from the Bible to our everyday lives. Reflecting the image of God does not stop at head knowledge. Reflecting God’s image requires us to also live it out. We reflect who God is to others through the way we make our decisions and the way we live our lives. And Jesus is the one who shows us how the knowledge of God translates to living for God. God has given us Jesus Christ, the perfect example for us to follow, whether in decision-making or in living our lives. God uses the life of Jesus to show us what it means to reflect God’s image.

But these changes do not come naturally, they are the result of God working in our lives. To reflect the image of God, we are to be transformed by God’s word through the power of the Holy Spirit. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit enables us to reflect the image of God. It is not something we can do with our own strength.

How does it show that God is working? In our natural state, we are sinful and do not desire to represent God. And there is no way we can create that desire in ourselves on our own (Rom 8:7).Therefore when we do desire to reflect God’s image and represent God properly, it is not our doing, but God’s. When we live our lives knowing that we are image bearers of God, it can only be that God is working.

We are still fallen creatures and we will never be able to perfectly reflect the image of God in this lifetime. However, as Christians, we look towards the day where we would be made new, free from sin, where we can truly reflect the image of God.

So how are we reflecting God’s image in our lives? Are we living lives that misrepresent God, a life that wants to have our own way? Let us endeavor through the strength that God provides, to imitate Christ and reflect God’s image.

– The End –

Discerning a “Godly” Message

Micah 3:5-8

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 and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

“Messages from God” are readily available in our present day and age. With the advent of the Internet and Youtube, such messages are easily broadcast across the world. And because technology is so easily accessible, a myriad of preachers and evangelists take the stage to proclaim God’s word. So how do we discern true godly messages from false ones?

In our passage for this week, Micah speaks of God’s judgment against the false prophets of Judah. Micah was one of many who professed to be God’s prophets. Prophets were those who were called to be God’s spokespeople. But even among the professing prophets, God identified many as false prophets who led His people astray (v. 5). We can discern the message of a prophet by looking at his motivations and his methods.

The motivations of the false prophets

A false prophet is motivated by personal gain. We see that the false prophets in Micah’s time were mercenary. Their message changed according to whether a person provided for them or not. To those who fed them and filled their bellies, they proclaimed peace and prosperity. To these rich and corrupt officials, they proclaimed “Shalom!” However, to those who were unable to give them what they wanted, the false prophets declared a holy war against them (v. 5).

In the first part of God’s judgment, the leaders of Israel were condemned by God for the injustice of exploiting and oppressing the people (vv. 1-3). The prophets were the first line of defence in protecting God’s people against such exploitation and oppression. They were supposed to condemn the evil practices of these leaders, but they endorsed them instead; all because they were indulging their covetous hearts. They were being rewarded with more possessions while supporting the evil practices of the leaders of Israel. Prophets are meant to be on the side of God’s righteousness, not on the side with the most money.

There are no obvious false prophets among us now. But the motivation for personal gain, instead of standing up for righteousness, can be found in many church communities. Some pastors pay more attention to those who have higher financial contributions to the church. However, those who have little to offer in terms of money are sidelined, even if they have much to offer in building up the church spiritually. We may not have the same kind of false prophets like in Micah’s time, but the spirit of proclaiming peace in exchange for personal gain is still as rampant, and just as sinful.

The methods of the false prophets

A false prophet uses deceitful methods to derive his message. In Micah’s time, false prophets were seers and diviners (v. 7). Seers were those who received messages from God through dreams or visions while diviners were essentially fortune-tellers. They relied on pagan practices and omens to derive a message from God. How did God see them?

“And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.”

Jeremiah 14:14

In God’s eyes, the seers’ visions were lies. And the signs and omens of the diviners had no value. In both cases their messages were constructed from “the deceit of their own minds.” The messages they proclaimed were based on worthless lies concocted in their minds, not based on the truth found in God’s word.

Do we see this around us now? Absolutely. We see preachers exclaiming that they have “received a word from God”, but the message subtly goes against what God says in His word. Some preach from a biblical text, but end up twisting and distorting God’s word to preach their own ideas. We have fellow Christians in church spreading superstitious beliefs, instead of encouraging truthful faith in God.

One example is the idea that if you pray more, your requests will be fulfilled by God. This is one of the subtle ways Satan works in the church. The truth is that God gives according to His sovereign will, not ours (James 4:15). Prayer is not a magic incantation that we chant repeatedly to make God give us what we want. We cannot be so arrogant to think that we can manipulate God (James 4:16). Such worthless lies should not be encouraged by any Christian. We may not see false prophets running amok, but their deceitful methods are still rampant.

God’s punishment for the false prophets

God disapproved of how these false prophets soothed the ears of the corrupt, while turning a blind eye to, and even condemning the oppressed. To that, God said that he will take away their visions and divinations (v 6). And He will do these to their shame and disgrace (v 7).

Bruce Waltke writes that “these prophets who should have been the moral eyes of the nation would lose their gifted insight.”[1] He also writes that “the loss of their gift will bring them public disgrace and public disclosure of their falsity and uncleanness.”[1] When God says that “they shall all cover their lips” (v 7), covering of the lips symbolizes shame, humiliation (Micah 7:16) and ceremonial uncleanness (Lev 13:45). The end of these false prophets’ disregard for justice and righteousness is public shame and uncleanness in God’s eyes.

How was Micah different from the false prophets?

2 things made Micah different: the Person behind his ministry, and the message of his ministry.

A. The Person behind a true prophet’s ministry

Micah spoke of being filled with power, justice and might (v 8). He was filled with physical and mental strength to carry out God’s justice. And he did so while being filled with might. “Might” is defined as the bravery to stand up against formidable opposition. Because “might” is a military term, it also carries the meaning of having “power and cunning in executing a triumphant, victorious battle.”[2]

Micah’s ministry was filled with dynamic strength. It was characterized by standing up for righteousness and boldness to stand against opposition. But the only reason why Micah’s ministry was as such, was because he was filled with the Spirit of the LORD (v 8).

Micah’s great strength in ministry, sense of justice and bravery were not a result of his own abilities or training. It was the result of the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The false prophets, however, lacked conviction and power because they were filled with a spirit of greed and deceit. These were in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit, therefore their ministries were powerless, unjust and cowardly.

B. The message of a true prophet’s ministry

Micah’s message was not proclaimed to individuals, but to the collective nation of Israel. His message was not given based on what he could get back in return from the listener. Micah’s message was one and the same: to declare to Israel their sins and the resulting judgment from God. There was no ambiguity or vagueness in Micah’s message. It did not change according to popular opinion or whatever protected his self-interest. This is characteristic of God’s messages: they are impartial (James 2:1).

And do not think that this was a message that the nation of Israel wanted to hear. To heed Micah’s message was to have the leaders do away with their corrupt practices. This would put them at a social disadvantage, at least in a secular sense. They enjoyed the benefits and riches that came from their corruption. But it was wrong in God’s eyes. Therefore God sent Micah to declare Israel’s sin. And Micah was faithful in declaring the truth that the leaders of Israel did not want to hear.

How shall we discern between true and false messages?

A. Evaluating the messenger

Before we evaluate the message, we need to evaluate the motivations of the messenger. What motivates this preacher / evangelist / pastor? Is he more concerned about how much you are contributing to him or the church? Or is he more interested in your repentance and sanctification, regardless of your financial contribution? A true message comes from someone who is more interested in the message God has entrusted to him, not someone who is more concerned about his own personal gain.

We also look at the character of the messenger. What characterizes his ministry? Does he speak boldly to appeal to public opinion, but shrink away when required to confront unrighteousness? Or does he speak boldly even when required to confront another person’s “publicly acceptable” sin? A true message comes from someone who stands for the truth despite widespread opposition, not someone who stands for truth only when it’s convenient to himself.

A true messenger does not stand by his own strength, he is empowered by the Holy Spirit for his ministry. Therefore his ministry is characterized by physical, mental and emotional strength to stand for God’s righteousness. And he will be one who bravely fights against “popular” sin.

B. Evaluating the message

After evaluating the character of the messenger, we then take a look at the message. Does the message seek to comfort people with slogans that scratch the people’s itchy ears? Does it say what people want to hear and in the process, go against what the Bible says? Or does the message speak from God’s word, which includes things that we do not like, but need to hear?

For example, many preachers teach that Christians live under grace, but not under law. Therefore we only need to learn about grace, because God’s laws do not apply to us anymore. In fact, focusing on the law will nullify the effects of grace. But we cannot speak of grace without knowing why we need grace. We need grace because we have failed to obey God’s law and it is outside of our ability to earn God’s pardon. Having failed to obey the law fully, we deserve punishment for our sin. However God freely gives us pardon from our punishment in Christ through faith - this is grace.

So how can we claim to understand grace when it is so closely related to God’s law and our failure to obey them? Yes, we live under grace. But when we truly understand our failures to obey God’s law and own these failures for ourselves, it helps us to understand why we need grace in the first place. In fact, the glory of God’s grace is seen through the seriousness of our disobedience (Eph 2:1-10). It is when we know God’s law that we can truly sing “amazing grace”.

Many times we do not want to talk about God’s law because we don’t want to be held accountable to God for our lives. Or we may not like to see our failures to obey God’s law because it hurts our ego. Maybe we do not want to learn more about what God says is right or wrong because it demands that we come out of our comfort zone. But yet this message has to be preached. A true godly preacher speaks of both the truth of God’s grace, as well as the truth of God’s law.

So as we go through the myriad of “godly” messages on the Internet, or even those “godly” messages received on WhatsApp through our friends and relatives, let us be discerning. Let us “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”, like what the Apostle John commands us to do (1 John 4:1). And we do that by evaluating the messenger as well as the message.

[1] Waltke, B. K. (2007). A Commentary on Micah (p. 173). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[2] Ibid. pg 167

– The End –

A Believer’s Response Towards A Corrupt Government

Micah 3:9-12

Therefore because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Micah 3:12

“We cannot let the government get away with it!” This is the cry of social and political commentators who demand that justice be done upon uncovering incidents of perceived corruption or injustice, brought about by the rule or policies of the leaders of a country. Whether in Singapore or in the US, the uncovered sins of the government will be the talk of the town with cries for their resignation on every political commentator’s Facebook or YouTube channel.

So comes the question, how should a Christian react in the face of such corruption? We might not see such corruption in the Singapore government now, but it might be a matter of time before our leaders lose their clean image.

Micah was facing a truly unjust and evil group of rulers. In our previous devotions, we have just seen the extent of corruption and evil done by the rulers of the house of Israel (v.1-4), and the prophets (v.5-8). Micah now turns his condemnation to address all the leaders of Israel - not just the political leaders who rule the land, not only the spiritual leaders that include the priests and the prophets, but also the heads of the households of Israel (v.9).

Just how evil were the leaders of Israel?

They were evil right down to their very core

People who are living in sin, love their sin. This was the state of the leaders of Israel. Instead of loving justice, they detest it. Instead of obeying and following God’s ways, the leaders of Israel went against God’s revelation of Himself. Despite knowing about God and His ways, the leaders knowingly went against His laws and surrounded themselves with all sorts of vices. This led Micah to describe them as a people who hate good and love evil (v.2).

The wickedness of the leaders was demonstrated in the way that they built up the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. While the buildings and infrastructure around the city may look impressive, Micah saw beyond the beauty in what was built, and took issue with the leaders in the way that this city was built. The leaders of Israel resorted to violence, bloodshed and even murder to get such a wonderful city. They “build Zion with blood” and “Jerusalem with iniquity.” (v.10)

Exodus 23:6-8 describes what God expects of his people. It is strikingly similar to the condemnations Micah brings against the leaders of Israel. This is what Exodus 23 says:

6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. (Exodus 23:6-8)

It almost seems as though Micah said what is in our passage today to show that the leaders of Israel were doing the complete opposite of what God expects of His people in Exodus 23. Rather than working for the good of the people, these leaders oppressed the people and built their empire on the people’s blood. Rather than upholding justice, the leaders of Israel were taking bribes.

They were evil to the point of being self-deceived

Not only were Israel’s leaders carrying out their acts of corruption, they were also self-deceived. They had a misplaced trust in God when they “leaned on the Lord saying ‘is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us’” (v.11). They justified their life with half-truths thinking that God’s presence guaranteed the nation’s security.

They thought that they were blessed by God, without reflecting on God’s demands for their obedience, and without heeding the warnings if they did not obey. Having the mindset of claiming the blessings of God without any thought for holiness or obedience is a sure way to walk the same road as these leaders of Israel.

An evil that went against God’s intentions

Micah also specifically named 3 groups of leaders who had fallen prey to the love of money. The rulers of Israel, the prophets and the priests. The rulers in essence were the kings of Israel, those who had authority over all the people. These were the 3 offices that God had appointed to show to people what the work of the coming Christ would be like. The 3 groups were a shadow, meant to give an image of the work that our Lord Jesus would accomplish. These 3 offices were meant to show God’s glory. And the leaders of Israel had perverted every single one of those offices.

The prophets, meant to be the messengers who speak to the people of behalf of God, were taking payments to pronounce false prophecies upon the people. The priests who were to represent the people before God, acting as mediators between God and men were selling their services out to profit from their God-given roles. The rulers of Israel, who were to uphold justice and protect the vulnerable, were judging based on bribes.

Such a perversion of the offices that God installed in Israel certainly demanded God’s justice upon them. How should a worshipper of God then respond to such leaders?

A believer’s response

Political commentators sometimes take it upon themselves to bring to light the evils done by the government, so that they can call to action the power of the people to vote their preferred government into power. And this is a common observation among political activists, talk show hosts, taxi drivers and any opposition party member; Justice has to be carried out now. But how should a believer respond or think when being placed under a government like this?

The first words of Micah’s response were “hear this” (v.9). In essence, telling the leaders of Israel to pay attention to the warnings and threats that are coming.

A true prophet’s warnings are not those that threaten to remove these people from power, threaten to throw them in jail, or replace them with another group of leaders who might be more God-fearing. A true prophet of God has an eschatological concern; his mind is looking towards the time beyond our lives here on earth, which is the coming judgement of God.

Another learning point is that nothing is hidden from God. While many of the deeds of the leaders of Israel appeared to have been done in the shadows (bribery, murders, giving injustice to the marginalized of society), God sees all that is happening in the land. Not only vengeance, but also justice will be brought about in His time. The leaders of Israel may get away with what they are doing right now, but God sees it all and no one can escape His punishment.

So this is the promise of God; that the Judge this earth will do right. May we strive as a community not to resort to grumbling about our government or being discontented with them. But let us fully trust in the provision of God, humbly live under their rule and trusting that God is fully in control of what happens in our nation.

– The End –

The Glories of the Highest Mountain

Micah 4:1-8

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.

Micah 4:2

It’s now the age of adventure and exploration; people travel around the world to experience what different parts of this earth can show them. A significant part of traveling is to visit landmarks – the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and for the courageous ones, Mount Everest.

The point of visiting these landmarks is not only to see the landmark itself. Hikers not only want to see Mount Everest, but also to set foot on it and conquer the climb, just so to admire the breath-taking summit view. For many of us who may be unmotivated and unfit, we can only imagine how treacherous the climb is! And we can only dream of experiencing the wind blowing at our faces and seeing the view of the spectacular scenery right at the top of Mount Everest. Well, we could hear our friends speak of it; we could Google for images to get a feel. But let’s face it, normal folks like us are not the least interested to climb Mount Everest. We can say that we want to, but we never want it enough to start training for the climb. Because it is insane to face the perilous climb for a view that we have no desire for.

In ancient days, mountains were not travel destinations. Instead, the mountains were ideal places to build temples. Temples signify where a god resides in and from high on the mountain, the god exercised his rule over the region. This is also why temples are built to look like a mountain with the sharp top.

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD

In Micah 4:1, the Bible speaks of the temple mount of the Lord which “will stand supreme above the mountains, higher than the hills”. There will come a time when God establishes his reign. His glory is so irresistible to all his elect that they come to climb his mountain.

As we look at Micah’s prophecy, we can learn a few things about God’s elect climbing his mountain.

1. God’s people want to learn from God and obey Him

Just like the climb to Mount Everest, the climb to God’s mountain is not an easy feat. The road of obedience to the Lord is demanding and filled with obstacles. Jesus says “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22). In fact, it’s humanely impossible to climb God’s mountain! It is impossible without the transformation and the sanctification blessed by God that makes us alive in the spirit to climb his mountain. And so, in Micah, God’s people say, “We want him to instruct us in his way of life, we want to travel his road” (v.2).

Note God’s people state two desires; the first is to learn from God’s teaching about how we should live and the second, to travel his road and to obey him. In fact these are two sides of the same coin! We can’t say that we learn from God’s teaching without obeying Him. Similar to climbing Mount Everest, we can’t say that we want to climb Mount Everest without doing something about it.

Now, if Mount Everest was truly that desirable and fascinating to us, not only would we go ourselves, we would also call our family and friends to join us in the wonderful trip! Imagine those overseas trips to Japan, Europe or Maldives! Wouldn’t you want to share the joy with your loved-ones? It’s similar for God’s mountain!

2. God’s people will bring others along

Seeing the glories of God’s mountain and the desire to be part of it, God’s people also call on others to join them to climb God’s mountain. “Come, let us go up to Yahweh’s Mountain”, they said (v.2).

Are we awed by God’s glory and His magnificence that we can't help but share the good news with people around us? When we see a meteor shower, wouldn’t we turn to our neighbours and say, “look!”

The journey up God’s mountain is not a lonely one, but one that is entrenched in community.

3. God’s people’s reward for climbing God’s mountain

Like how hikers are rewarded for the glorious and splendid summit view of the world, God’s people are rewarded with God Himself, his reign, his love and all the perks that come along with it. The condition for the reward is the faithful submission and obedience to God.

Micah says that there will be peace, security and abundance in prosperity. “No nation against nation will draw a sword, no longer will they do military training” (v.3). The time of peace will come and wars will end, that there will be no need to do military training.

As with peace among the nations, there will also be peace among the people. “Every man will sit under his own vine, beneath his own fig tree, free from fear” (v.3). Fig trees were prized in Israel for their fruit and shade; it was a symbol of prosperity and security. In the past, the greedy and oppressive would own all of the fig trees, leaving none to the weak and poor. However, in time to come, God will bless His people and the land will burst forth in abundance and the weak and poor will no longer be.

LOOKING FORWARD TO GOD’S MOUNTAIN

This promise given by God for the future is not for our knowledge or for Sundays only. Just like the wonders of Mount Everest to its devout mountaineers is not for their information or for their googling when they are bored. They live and train for the hope to be able to conquer Mount Everest.

As Micah concluded this segment of his vision, he said “we shall devote our lives to God Yahweh, for ever and ever” (v.5). How should we live knowing that God will restore his kingdom and that is his promise?

2 Peter 3:11-12 says, “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” and 1 John 3:3 says, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Therefore, we are to strive evermore to live in the light of the future glory in obedience to God.

– The End –

[1] Allen, Leslie C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

[2] Phillips, Richard D. Jonah & Micah. Edited by Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Iain M. Duguid. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010.

God’s Sovereign Control Over Trials

Micah 4:9-13

But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

Micah 4:12

The coming dread

Have you ever had a feeling of impending doom? In Singapore, probably the closest feeling of dread we can experience would be going into an exam hall without studying, going to a business presentation unprepared, a fear of rejection in asking a girl out on a date, or public speaking. These deadly fears most Singaporeans face are nowhere near what Israel would have felt when faced with the coming judgment of God. At stake was their land, livelihood, national security and freedom. All of these would soon be taken away. The Israelites were coming face to face with the judgment of God.

The Israelites knew the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They knew the God who not only brought them out of Egypt, but brought Egypt to its knees with His sovereign hand at work against them. It was this same God who brought the plagues to Egypt who was now turning His wrath against the people of Israel. A true knowledge of what God is capable of, and the knowledge of the coming judgment of God against you is a terrifying thought indeed.

Because of their disobedience, God was allowing the nation of Israel to be invaded by the Assyrians and then exiled from their land by the Babylonians. It was there where Micah described the Israelites to be writhing and groaning from the pain of being separated from their land and their God.

But it was in light of this coming judgment upon the land that Micah gave a word of hope to the people of Israel.

The salvation to come

Micah told the people of Israel “there you will be rescued.” Where is ‘ there’ that Micah was referencing? In Babylon! It was in exile that the Israelites would find salvation from God. The suffering that they were experiencing then was part of the salvation that was to come. Micah’s prophecy was to encourage and remind the Israelites of God’s total control of the situation and events that were going to happen to them. God had so arranged history that events might appear as a victory for the enemies of Israel, but they were actually a part of God’s salvation plan for the nation of Israel. This was Micah’s encouragement to the remnant of Israel: You shall be rescued in Babylon!

The people of Israel would be delivered in the midst of their Babylonian captivity. Not only would they be allowed to return to their land under the rule of king Darius of the Persian empire, but they would also turn their hearts to the Lord and return in true worship of the one true God. The salvation of Israel was not just a physical return to their homeland, but a spiritual return to the one true God.

This should inform us on how we view God and the salvation He brings to us. Many of us like to see God as the solution to all the problems in our lives. While in the midst of our trouble, we pray for our problems to be taken away. We tell ourselves that God has a plan to bless us, prosper us and give us a hope for the future, holding out in hope that God will bring us the relief that we need. We sometimes do this while failing to see that these very trials in life are brought to us by God’s sovereign hand. We should take heed of Micah’s message to the Israelites: You shall be rescued in Babylon!

And this is one of the ways God works powerfully. It is very often through difficult times where we find ourselves at our wits’ end, seeing no way out of the difficult situations we find ourselves in, that we cry out to Him. It is when His people have undying trust in their Lord, that God will deliver them. God places us in difficult situations, ultimately to draw us to Himself.

Your enemies will be destroyed

Not only has God promised to deliver His people, but He also promised that the nations who defiled Israel would be judged for what they have done. In spite of the seeming victory that they may have proclaimed over the nation of Israel, Micah says that these nations “do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan.” They do not see God’s hand at work in their ‘victory’ and their coming judgment at the end of it.

The numerous enemies of Israel were saying “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion (v.11).” The word defiled means ‘to make profane.’ They were looking to destroy the temple and God’s Holy Place, thinking that doing so would rid the earth of God’s holiness. They might have been thinking that they were the centre of history, in carving out their own empire through conquest and destruction. An empire that could not tolerate the existence of Zion and they felt a need to destroy whatever stood in judgment and restraint on their pride. Little did they know that these actions were also pre-determined by the sovereign hand of God.

The Assyrians were destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Babylonians were in turn destroyed by the Persians. God is sovereign not just in the deliverance of His chosen people, but also in the judgment of those who are His enemies.

The God of all the earth will do right

Our problems may seem small in compared to what the nation of Israel had to face. We are not faced with war, or separation from our homeland, or under siege by a foreign army with no way of knowing whether we would live to see another day. But God brings problems to meet us all the same. If we see God’s sovereign control over the fate of the nation of Israel, should we not also accept God’s sovereign control in bringing difficult situations into our lives?

Seeing God’s sovereign hand at work in the Israelites’ judgment, exile and deliverance, the natural response is that we should cry out with all our hearts to place our trust in God, knowing that the Lord of all the earth will do right. Are you facing troubles with your family? Are you facing a difficult boss? Are you lacking money? Are you stressed out by work to the point of depression? Trust that the Lord of all this earth will do right. We may not know the thoughts of God nor understand His plans, but we know that He is working for our good.

– The End –

Anticipating the Promised Messiah

Micah 5:1-6

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days. ”

Micah 5:2

A Messiah Is Promised

Based on our text we can see that it is in God’s design that God would give Israel up to be destroyed and then later redeem Israel through the Messiah He sends (v1-3).

And this Messiah will be the perfect ruler, unlike the past kings of Israel and Judah in previous chapters. Because of the wickedness of Israel’s kings, God was bringing judgement on the land of Israel. The kings of Israel mistreated the people under their rule and had ultimately gone against God. This was shown through the way that they governed the country. Because of such ungodly leadership, they brought suffering upon the people of Israel.

The message of a promised Messiah was thus a message of hope to the people of Israel! It was a message of hope because it showed them that their suffering was temporary and that it would end when the Messiah came to deliver them.

The people of Israel were living in anticipation of the promised Messiah because He was their hope. This promised Messiah was the hope for their salvation. And so they continued to look towards the day where they would be delivered.

The Promised Messiah has come

Micah first proclaimed that the Messiah would come from the town of Bethlehem (v 2). This meant that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. This part of the prophecy was fulfilled through the birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew recounts the genealogy of Jesus Christ in his Gospel account (Matt 1:1-17). He wrote it this way to show that Jesus Christ, who was the promised Messiah, came from the line of King David. Not only was Jesus from the line of David, he was also born in Bethlehem (Matt 2:1, 6).

The second thing that Micah proclaimed was the kind of rule that the Messiah would bring about. The Messiah’s rule would be like that of a Shepherd King (v. 4), one that takes good care for his people. We see how Jesus fulfilled Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah being the Shepherd King. In the gospel of John, Jesus taught and used the illustration of a shepherd to describe Himself (John 10:1-21). Jesus taught that he is the Shepherd who protects his sheep from enemies, even to the extent of laying down his life. The apostles also used the term Shepherd when they referred to Jesus (1 Pet. 5:4). They wrote with the understanding that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah who shepherds His flock.

So we see that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy made in Micah 5. The fact that the prophecy has been fulfilled shows that God keeps His covenant. Therefore, we can trust that whatever God has promised, will come to fruition, including the promise that Jesus will return again.

The Messiah who will come again

We live in the age where we know that Jesus is the promised Messiah. However, there is still sin and suffering around today and that’s how we know that the Messiah’s kingdom is not yet fully complete.

Scripture tells us that there is a second coming (Acts 1:11)! And in Christ’s final return, He will come in glory (Luke 21: 27-28). When Christ finally returns, everything will be restored. There would be no more sin and suffering, everything will be made new. The world will be restored to how God originally intended, without sin.

The second coming is promised in Scripture, and just as the Old Testament prophets called the people of Israel to look towards the coming of the Messiah, we are called to look towards the second coming of Jesus Christ. For what God had promised must come to pass.

Called to look towards the second coming

We will never know the exact day and the hour when Christ would return. However, we are still called to be watchful for Christ’s return in many parts of the New Testament. Jesus taught this in the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13). Jesus explained that we are to be watchful because He may return at any time and we must be ready for His return.

Much like the people of Israel who looked towards Jesus’ first coming, we are to be anticipating Christ’s return. But how does one anticipate Christ’s coming?

It starts with a desire for Christ’s rule. If you do not want Christ’s rule you would not look towards it. When you do not desire Christ’s rule, you will not prepare for His coming.

When you desire Christ’s rule, you will prepare yourself for His return. So prepare yourselves by “walking in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own Kingdom” (1 Thess 2:12). It is walking daily in a manner that is pleasing to God.

However this desire can only be given by God and it is by His grace we desire Jesus’s coming. This is why Charles Wesley writes in one of his hymns “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?” It is through the finished work of Christ that we can desire his return!

How have you been preparing yourself? Have we been living in light of the coming return of Jesus Christ our saviour, our Messiah? Or have we slacked off from our preparation of His return? If we think we can put aside repentance just for a while, do not deceive yourselves.

Perhaps we have been waiting too long and are weary. Hence we don’t see the second coming as a reality to live by today. Since we have seen how God accomplished what He had promised through Jesus’ time on earth, he will surely bring the second coming to reality.

So be prepared, be watchful, because God promised that Christ will return! Are you anticipating His return?

– The End –

The Blessing and Terror of God’s People

Micah 5:7-9

Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.

Micah 5:7-8

The “remnant of Jacob”

Micah moves from describing the future Messiah to “the remnant of Jacob”. The remnant is a common idea that appears throughout the Bible. It refers to “a portion of people left after a disaster, especially a disaster identified with divine judgment.” [1] They are further described as those who remain faithful to God through tribulation and are restored by God in the end.

This idea of “the remnant” was introduced earlier in Micah 4:6-7.

“In that day, declares the LORD,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.”

“In that day” refers to the Day of Judgement when the Messiah comes again to establish His eternal kingdom. At that time, God will assemble and gather His chosen remnant. The remnant are not chosen because they lived in a way that pleased God. They are chosen because of God’s grace, they did not deserve it (Rom 11:5). These remnant may look weak and cast aside by the world. But God will gather and restore them, making them a strong nation.

The remnant of Jacob will not only be found in the geographical Israel. They will be in the midst of many peoples (5:7-8). Therefore, we will find God’s faithful outside the borders of the nation of Israel in the Middle East. We can see this happening now with globalization. You can find Jews in various countries all over the world, outside the nation of Israel. And God will call out a small remnant of faithful Jews from the Jews all over the world back to Himself. This happens when the Messiah returns to establish His eternal kingdom.

The nature of the remnant of Jacob

God said that He will make a strong nation out of these scattered, weakened and afflicted Jews who remained faithful. But how are scattered, weak and afflicted people strong? Here we are given a contrasting picture: they will be like dew from the LORD, but they will also be like a young lion in the middle of a flock of sheep.

Dew was a significant symbol to the ancient Israelites. It described the idea of blessing and life. Dew was featured in Moses’ blessing on Israel before they went into the Promised Land (Deut 33:28). And the withholding of dew from heaven symbolized the holding back of blessings and life (Hag 1:10). So when the remnant of Jacob are like dew from the LORD, it means that they will be a blessing and bring life to those around them.

But the remnant are a blessing to the people not because of their inherent abilities. It is not like they are born with special powers. Blessing comes from them because God blesses the people through them. The dew comes from the LORD, not by the efforts of man. Man cannot invoke their own blessings through earnest expectation. Blessing only comes from God, through the remnant who faithfully trust in Him. The blessings and life that the remnant bring to the people around them is part of their strength.

The remnant of Jacob will be a blessing to the people, but they will not be weak pushovers as well. The contrasting image is that of a ferocious young lion amongst a flock of sheep that tears apart whoever gets in their way. They may look weak and powerless in this present age. But God will strengthen the weak and the afflicted remnant to stand against their enemies and overpower them. The enemies of God who weakened and persecuted His people will be thoroughly defeated on the Day of Judgement.

We know that the Messiah was revealed as Jesus Christ, and the Day of Judgement is when Jesus comes again to judge the world. But we also see that when Jesus comes again, it will not just be a day of judgement, but also a day of restoration. God will restore the remnant of Jacob, His chosen remnant of Israel, to be a strong, everlasting nation. But since most of us are Gentiles by definition, how does this apply to us?

The church standing alongside God’s remnant

As Gentiles who are part of the church, which is the body of Christ, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Rom 10:12). As such, we have the privilege of sharing in the promises of God to Israel. Paul described this as Gentile Christians being grafted into the nation of Israel (Rom 11:17). So when Jesus comes again on the Day of Judgement, the church will be raised up with the remnant of Jacob to be part of God’s eternal kingdom (Rom 11:25-26).

The church will be part of God’s eternal kingdom, alongside the remnant of Jacob. As fellow citizens of God’s kingdom, the church will also share in being a blessing to the peoples, and a terror to God’s enemies. We will be like the dew from the Lord and the lion among the people.

Paul described Christians as “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). The people of the church will be life to those who are saved, and death to those who rebel against God. Therefore, just as the remnant of Jacob are a blessing to the people, so will the church share in being a blessing to the peoples. And just as the remnant of Jacob overwhelm the enemies of God, so too will the church conquer God’s enemies (Matt 16:18).

So how should we respond?

We can either be encouraged, or live in fear. For Christians who call Jesus their Lord, they can be encouraged by the hope of being a blessing to people. We may not feel like we have the capacity to bless others now, or even in our lifetimes. But when Jesus comes again, and by God’s power, we will be “like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass”.

But for those who do not call Jesus their Lord, there is only fear of a bleak future. The enemies of God will ultimately be destroyed. They will be torn to pieces like a lion tearing up a flock of sheep. And there will be no escape, because there is “there is none to deliver”. So for those who do not call Jesus their Lord, repent and live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ while there is still time.

As we wait for the return of our Messiah, Jesus, let us look forward to being a blessing, as well as an unstoppable force in God’s eternal kingdom.

– The End –

[1] Nierengarten, P. A. (2016). Remnant. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

God Cleansing His Kingdom

Micah 5:10-15

And in that day, declares the Lord, I will cut off your horses from among you and will destroy your chariots.

Micah 5:10

The fulfilment of the oracles of Micah

As we come to the last oracles of Micah, one of the questions you might be asking is, "What do the oracles of Micah have to do with us?" We are modern-day Christians; we are living in days of relative peace and we do not have Assyrians waging war with us. So what do the oracles that we have been reading so far have to do with us?

The main reason is how this oracle starts saying, "in that day." It had a double meaning when the prophet was proclaiming his oracle. The prophecies made concerning that day will have two occasions of fulfilment. It will have a partial fulfilment in the near future from when the prophecy was made, and the final and ultimate fulfilment will be in the age of the Messiah when Jesus' second coming is upon the earth, and the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven.

Micah 5:10-15 tells us how God will protect his kingdom. Not just the nation of Israel during Micah's time, but also the future kingdom to come in the Messianic age. It is an oracle detailing how God has a personal stake in the preservation of his kingdom; he preserves his kingdom by purging the unholiness within his kingdom (v.10-14) and by punishing the enemies of the kingdom who seek to destroy it (v.15).

God cleanses His kingdom

Verses 10 to 14 present God actively rooting out all forms of unholiness from his kingdom. The oracle uses the first-person narrative "I will" before any actions (eg. "cut off your horses" in v.10). This demonstrates his personal stake in the matter. God addresses not just the remnant (in reference to Micah 5:7-9) but the whole of Israel. It is the entirety of Israel that has been stained unholy and it is the entirety of Israel that needs cleansing. Bear in mind that the image given is vivid. This cleansing is described using verbs like cut off, destroy, root out, execute vengeance. This speaks of a God who destroys. The road unto holiness is not a bed of roses; it is a life of war and destruction. It is God working to eradicate all forms of unholiness in your life. So what is it specifically that God is working to destroy?

Destroying faith

The purpose of the covenantal relationship between God and His people is not just that God's people can be better off than the non-elect. More importantly, it is to show the greatness and the glory of God. When we seek comfort in someone or something instead of running to God for help, we reveal that deep down in our hearts, we rely on ourselves instead of him. We are essentially saying that 'God will be our source of hope once we have run out of options.'

A deep and abiding trust in God is a way of life, in fact, it is the only way of life that is pleasing to God. As such, God destroys all things that His people put their faith in.

Destroy the faith in one’s own strength

The first sin that Israel needs to be cleansed of is their trust in their own strength. Such confidence in the armies of Israel threatens their covenantal relationship with God.

God’s people must be of the same mindset as King David in Psalms 20:7: "Some trust in horses, and some in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." King David was a military genius who led his armies to many victories. He knew how important these horses and chariots were, yet he also knew that he should not place his confidence in these means but rather in God.

The church today will not flourish through the means of her own resources— be it an educated pastors and leaders, the technical know-how of expositors and educational directors or an impressive building—but a church’s flourishing will only come about through her faith in God.

Destroying faith in the spiritual powers

The second thing that God seeks to destroy is his people's trust in sorceries and fortune-tellers. Note that these fortune-tellers and false prophets were also making prophecies in the name of the Lord. They said, "Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us" (Micah 3:11b).

These are unbiblical concepts masking themselves as coming from the Lord. Seemingly miraculous occurrences or displays of power might lead people to trust in these signs and wonders. However, they are not of God and we should be especially careful when people come "in the name of the Lord.” We may receive signs, or dreams or witness miracles leading us in a certain direction in life. But if these occurrences are leading our trust towards the false prophets and away from the Lord, they likewise need to be destroyed.

Destroying everything else that we worship

The phrase, "the work of your hands" emphasizes that the carved stone images are the products of human engineering. This is another expression of man’s attempt to have life apart from God.

Idols are expressions of our trust in things other than God. In Micah's time, the people would turn to the fertility gods to bring them rain for a good harvest. While we may not be so superstitious in our beliefs, we have modern-day idols as well. We turn to philosophy to secure a sense of life and purpose, we turn to psychology to infuse a healthy mindset to improve ourselves, we turn to positive thinking to devise a happy life.

Many of these ideologies are attempts by man to give life meaning apart from God. When life gets tough, we turn to these ideologies to give us guidance, meaning and assurance that we are doing the right things in life. While they are not physical idols that we bow down to, they are mental idols that we worship and turn to, taking us away from our Creator.

A Christian is one who wholly relies on God. God's kingdom is one where His people come to trust in Him fully. If God is truly who He says He is and we confess that we believe Him, we should live in a way that reflects that belief.

Destroying the disobedient nations

God’s anger and wrath are being poured out on the nations that did not obey (v.15). When Micah was proclaiming this oracle, the Israelites were facing the looming threat of the Assyrians. The destruction mentioned in v.15 was partially fulfilled when God slaughtered the Assyrians. However, this oracle has yet to find its ultimate fulfilment until the second coming of Jesus.

God says in v.15, “I will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed me.” We may think of the word "vengeance" as hateful, extreme punishment and retribution of one who has wronged us. Yet in the Bible, "vengeance" is represented by the Hebrew word (nāqām). It means that a ruler secures his sovereignty by defensive vindication. He preserves the unity of his people by delivering his wronged subjects and punishing those who do not obey. The destruction of the wicked is God’s right, it is His authority and His joy to preserve and guard against the wrongs done against His kingdom.

Throughout v.10-15, we see God’s personal hand at work in the preservation of His kingdom; spiritually, morally and physically. He cleanses His kingdom with threats from within, destroying everything that would keep His people from holiness. He destroys threats from outside, those who disobey Him. And He does not just do this dispassionately but with anger.

From the time of Micah to the present, the Lord has preserved his kingdom against attacks from both within and outside of his church. He will finally execute his protective power on behalf of his elect when Christ returns. Until then, the church must not tarnish her Lord's glory by avenging herself or by trusting in her own resources.

– The End –

What Does God Want?

Micah 6:1-8

From Life B-P Church & Micah Reformed Expository Commentary

He has told you, O man, 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?

Micah 6:8

At the beginning of Micah chapter 6, God is pictured as one who brings a lawsuit against His people for the sin of ignoring Him. In vv.1 and 2 He calls on the mountains and hills to witness His charges against the people. Then He reminds them of the ways He had helped them: vv.3, 4 'O my people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.' The Exodus of Israel from Egypt represents the first great act of God in which He showed His love for the people. In v.5 the inability of Balaam to curse God's people is mentioned as an evidence of God's protection for them.

Then in vv.6-7 God's people are pictured as man who realizes all his sins against God and he is now so conscience-stricken that he wants to know what he could do to remedy the situation. But as you read these verses you will see that what he thinks God requires from him are merely outward acts of devotion. 'Where with shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' Let us focus our thoughts now on what these verses teach about:

I. Man's Mistaken Ideas of What God Really Wants (vv.6-7)

A. In Coming before the Lord

The two questions of v.6 speak about what man thinks he must do in order to come before God. He wants to know, 'With what shall I come before the Lord?' He thinks that as long as he comes before God with the right gift to offer Him, God will surely accept him. Now, there is nothing wrong with the bringing of gifts and offerings to the Lord's house when we come for the worship service each week. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that, 'God loveth a cheerful giver.' The problem is not with the act of giving itself but with the motive for giving. We ought to do it because we believe that all that we have is rightfully His, and that the Lord deserves to receive the best from us. We should bring offerings and gifts to Him out of love and gratitude.

But gifts must never be used as an attempt to gain favour or approval from God. And this was exactly what the man in v.6 was attempting to do when he said, 'Where with shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?' He thought that the gift he brings along will enable him to gain God's favour. Perhaps some of us too may have done this at times. You thought that could purchase God's favour and love with your gifts, and that the Lord would then be obligated to grant you whatever you requested from Him. This mistaken idea actually comes from using our own human wisdom on how to gain favours from the people we know.

Please understand that God's love and favour cannot be purchased whether with money or with acts of faithful service and devotion. Don't ever think that the Lord will certainly bless you with good health and wealth just because you have given Him so much and served Him well. No matter how well you have served Him and how much you have given to Him, always remember that 'We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do' (Luke 17:10) It is only by undeserved grace alone that we can receive any favour from God. And that grace is shown to us only because of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us.

B. In What Pleases the Lord

Another mistaken idea of what God really wants can be found in the things that the man proposed to bring before God. In v.7 he asks whether the Lord would be pleased with them. The first thing he mentioned was burnt offerings. Burnt offerings were prescribed in the book of Leviticus. They are meant to be an act of consecration. The whole animal was burnt on the altar leaving nothing behind. It was completely devoted to God, and in that manner, it honoured God. Now, different kinds of animals could be used for burnt offerings, but the offering of calves that were a year old was considered by the Jews to be the most costly because of their economic value. And so the man in our text was proposing to offer the most costly offerings he could give to God.

That's not all. In the next verse he proposed to multiply his offerings lavishly, by giving thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil to God. I think we can recognise what he was trying to do. He was essentially saying 'I will give you whatever it takes to please you. Just name your price!' And he even goes to the extent of offering to God his most precious possession, his own firstborn child. We remember how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah when God commanded him to do so. But this man is willing to do that even without being asked!

From our own human perspective, all that the man proposed may seem to be commendable acts of devotion. Surely God would surely be pleased with them, would He not? Who will not appreciate such generous gifts? But what God sees is not the gifts but the heart. Beyond the multitude of costly offerings God sees a heart that is not right with Him - a heart that is far from Him and that is still tolerant toward sin. And this makes all the offerings worthless in His sight.

Dearly beloved, you must be convinced that the very best offerings and service that you can render to God are useless as long as you are not right with Him because of your sin. They are merely an empty form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Man is always trying to get back to the good graces of God with some outward religious service or some material gifts. But the Word of God tells us that 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' (Psalm 51:17). This is what God really wants from us.

II. God's Revelation of What He Really Wants (v.8)

“He has told you, O man, 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?”

In these memorable words we see the prophetic summary of God’s law.

First, our duty to man is to “do justice” and “love kindness.” The idea of justice is that we are to treat people fairly, giving them what is due to them. A person who “does justice” is one who treats people right, offering respect, integrity, and fairness.

Secondly, loving our neighbor means to “love kindness.” The word for “kindness” (Hebrew, chesed) is one of the hardest words in the Old Testament to translate with just one term. In different contexts it is translated mercy, faithfulness, and loving-kindness. It is the great description of God’s faithful, kind, and merciful covenant love. As Peter Craigie explains: “ it gives, where no giving is required, it acts when no action is deserved, and it penetrates both attitudes and activities.” To “love kindness” is to look on the weak and vulnerable with the eyes of God’s love and give them not what they deserve, but what they need.

Justice and kindness summarize the second great commandment. Micah concludes with the first great commandment, summarizing our love for God: “to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). To love God is to walk with him. This means a lifestyle wholly devoted to him, seeking his glory in all things and enjoying his pleasure in our lives. To walk with God is to live humbly. The Hebrew word more accurately means to walk “circumspectly” or “carefully”; that is, to act with an awareness of the holiness and grace of the Lord. Walter Kaiser writes, “Pride alone insists on taking first place, but faith seeks to give God first place.… Living a circumspect lifestyle will bring one’s life into conformity with God’s will.” It is only a man or woman who is born again to a living faith who can walk humbly with God, and only one who walks with God is able truly to do justice and love kindness.

– The End –

Introduction and Point I taken from - Seet, C. (2019). Micah 6:6-8 - Walking Humbly With God. [online] Lifebpc.com. Available at: https://www.lifebpc.com/resources/treasury-of-sermons/62-minor-prophets/381-micah-6-6-8-walking-humbly-with-god [Accessed 7 Jun. 2019].

Point II taken from - Phillips, Richard D. Jonah & Micah. Edited by Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Iain M. Duguid. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010.

Godly Fear and Obedience

Micah 6:9-16

“The voice of the LORD cries to the city — and it is sound wisdom to fear your name:”

Micah 6:9

The Heart and Cost of Disobedience

In Micah 6:9-16, we hear the voice of God speak to Israel as He “cries to the city”. Those who fear God are known to be wise, for Micah said that “it is sound wisdom to fear your name” (v9). This mirrors what is said in Proverbs 9:10 that most of us are familiar with: “ the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. But did those who were addressed in this section of Micah fear Him? Let us find out.

Verses 10-11 are rhetorical questions; God hinted in His rhetoric that He recognized the wickedness and deceitfulness of the people. The people of God had gone astray and allowed sin to rule their lives instead of obeying what God wanted for them.

In verse 12, God charged their rich men as violent and the people in their land as deceitful. The dishonest business practices of the rich had affected the people’s finances and personal well-being, yet they continued to use unjust means to cheat people and gain financial power selfishly. Yet it was not just the rich; the citizens of the land in general also spoke lies in their everyday lives! This too went against the commandment of God (Exodus 20:16).

The way they lived showed what they treasured in their hearts, and at the same time it showed what they despised . They pursued selfish gain and indulgence, at the cost of rejecting God’s commands and covenant; there is no justice nor loyalty to God’s covenant by their violent and deceitful ways. They had gone far off from what God desired for their lives, and were not careful to live according to God’s way. God desires His people to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). But they did the exact opposite. In their hearts, they did not fear the Lord – their lives showed that they despised God and His ways.

God hates injustice. Injustice rejects God’s sovereignty and just character. Those who persist in perverting justice will face disaster – because God will not be mocked.

As a result of their wicked ways, God pronounced sure and divine judgment upon them. They will be made desolate in facing constant hunger (v14), plunder (v14) and fruitless labor (v15).

The Heart and Purpose of Discipline

The disobedient did not fear nor observe God’s covenant. They perverted justice, were not loyal to God and did not care to observe God’s commands. These were more than sufficient reasons for God to decimate them. God could have sent them to their deaths immediately if He wanted to because He really can, but He chose not to because He is loving, patient and merciful. God allowed them to face prolonged suffering rather than immediate death and destruction (v14).

In punishing the disobedient through suffering, God is in fact showing them that He is the sovereign and holy Lord to be feared. In addition, He is also demonstrating His loyalty to His covenant and His Word.

In allowing disaster, God does two things. Firstly, He shows His holy, just and sovereign character by judging the unrepentant. Secondly, He shows His love, patience, mercy and grace by causing the repentant to remember who He is and to turn back to Him. Therefore, in God’s infinite grace and wisdom, He preserves all of His reputation and character in His actions.

Perhaps you might wonder what good there is in allowing suffering. But who are we to define what is good and evil? In God’s wisdom, it is right for those who disobey Him to face discipline, punishment and judgment. On the other hand, in God’s wisdom, it is also right for Him to show grace to undeserving sinners so that they may not be destroyed. And often His act of grace is found in times of discipline and suffering, where we come to the end of ourselves and return to God as the One we should rightly fear and treasure.

So, let us not fear discipline and reproof in our lives. While the Lord sends the unrepentant to their destruction, the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, for their repentance, salvation and sanctification.

The Heart and Wisdom of God-Fearers

In verse 16, the people who disobeyed God ironically “kept the statues of Omri” and “walked in the counsel of Ahab” (v16). They obeyed evil kings instead of the one true King! Omri and his son Ahab were kings of Samaria, and kings Omri and Ahab were the most evil kings in that time. In fact, Ahab was influenced by his wife Jezebel to introduce the worship of Baal and Asherah!

Perhaps we might think that this is not relevant to us as modern-day readers of this text. After all, who still worships Baal and Asherah? While we may not have ancient idols like Baal and Asherah, a plethora of idols still exist today. What are the idols that you have followed in the past or are still inclined to follow? It will do us good to be aware, because our present sin patterns are tied to the idols in our hearts. As long Christ has yet to return, we must battle and destroy our idols. But before we can battle and batter our idols, we must know what our idols are. As general wisdom, a Chinese idiom says, “know the enemy, know yourself, and in every battle you will be victorious.”

As followers of Christ, we should not just be discerning of the idols in our lives, but also be loving enough to find out and smash the idols of one another, since we ourselves may often find our own idols too hard or too precious to be destroyed ! The most loving thing we can do for others is to pray and spur them on to truly treasure Christ above all things.

Brothers and sisters, let us remember God’s commandments and words as we live out our daily lives (Exodus 20:1-6). If we truly fear Him, as put in our hearts by His Spirit, then we will take His word seriously about idols in our lives. We will seek to destroy our idols – the love of money, the pursuit of self-glory in our ambitions, love for material possessions, a desire for control, a desire for attention or approval; pride, anxiety, self-indulgence, pornography, lust, anger…etc.

In other words, true Christian faith is not just about coming to church, giving tithes and offerings, attending Bible study and prayer meetings, or serving in the various ministries. These are not the primary marks of true Christian faith. True Christian faith is marked bygodly fear and obedience. True Christian faith is about finding full confidence in the Lord and boasting in nothing and no one else – no idols before God! True Christian faith is also about having our lives transformed by the word of God to fear the Lord who is Holy, and desire to obey Him . This is the sure work of the Holy Spirit within believers.

May we truly be wise to fear God and desire what He wants: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk attentively with Him.

– The End –

What Do We Place Our Hope In?

Micah 7:1-7

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”

Micah 7:7

Micah warned Israel that their judgement was coming. God was punishing Israel for the sins that they had committed and this was God’s righteous judgement. When the day of judgement comes there will be chaos.

Micah lamented that there were no righteous rulers left in Israel. That was what Micah meant by Israel having no “first-ripe fig”. The book of Micah reveals the sins of Israel, namely how the rulers of Israel broke God’s covenant in protecting God’s nation. Micah continued to lament saying that there was not one who was godly. Their nature was to do evil and they excelled at it.

In the past chapters, we see how the rulers of Israel abused their powers for their own gains (Micah 2:2). They twisted justice for their personal gains (Micah 3: 9-11). They did these at the expense of Israel’s citizens. The people who were supposed to bring God’s justice perverted it.

In light of the downward spiral towards ungodliness, Micah advised the people of Israel in verses 5-6. The reason for this downward spiral was because the people did not follow the principle of “doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). It was no wonder that Micah told the nation of Israel not to trust anyone, even close friends and family.

Micah’s response to a fallen world

Even though there was impending punishment for Israel and it looked like evil was winning, Micah responded by placing his hope in God (v7).

Micah remembered the promises God had made to Abraham and Jacob (v20) and he knew that God would keep his promises. Micah understood that God had a plan to restore Israel (Micah 4:10)

Micah’s hope centred around the understanding of who God was. Because he knew the character of God, he could put his hope in Him. Micah knew that the world around had nothing that he could put his hope in because everything around only produced evil (Micah 7:3, Jer 4:22). He could only put his hope in God, and that was reason enough.

What about us?

We live in a world where our movies, television shows, and magazines are filled with sexual immorality, divorce, drugs, violence, filthy language, and rebellion against all authority in the name of freedom. The popular opinion is that there are no moral absolutes, that everything is relative. Paul puts it this way:

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Tim 3:2–5)

Everyone around us seems to be against us pursuing godliness. People of the world would say that Christian morals are backward and judgmental. Christians are labeled bigots and are despised for standing up for their beliefs. All these criticisms discourage many Christians who desire to pursue God. But yet we are called to hope in God while living amidst the pressures from the world.

God is the only person that we can surely put our hope in. But what does putting our hope in God look like?

To hope in God is to put our confidence in Him. But we cannot be confident in someone we do not know. So, to put our hope in God confidently, we need to know who God is. We can know who God is because He has revealed Himself to us. God has revealed Himself through the Bible which is His word (Heb 1:2, Jn 1:1, 2 Tim 3:16). Through the Bible we see God’s nature and how He is consistent throughout time.

This should give us reason to hope in God because we understand that His character is unchanging. God has kept his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God promised that a Messiah would come to bring salvation, and this Messiah has come. The Messiah is His son Jesus Christ. We can place our hope in our unchanging God because His promises are sure.

Nothing good will come out of putting our hope in people or things of this world. Humans will fail because we are sinful. Things will fade away because they do not last. The only constant in all our lives is God because He is eternal and perfect.

As our understanding of who God is grows, we have more reason to hope in God. If God is our hope, we can persevere amidst persecution. If God is our hope, then the insults don’t matter and pursuing Him is not foolishness, because He is all that you need.

Hope in God, because there is nothing else worth placing our hope in.

– The End –

A Christian’s Hope in Dark Times

Micah 7:8-10

“I will bear the indignation of the LORD

because I have sinned against him,

until he pleads my cause

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall look upon his vindication.”

Micah 7:9

Throughout the book of Micah we saw that God’s people were facing oppression from their fellow leaders within and impending destruction from enemy nations. The depravity of Israel’s leaders subjected the entire nation to impending judgement from God (Micah 6:9 - 7:6). And God intended to use Israel’s enemies to execute His judgement on them (Micah 1:8-16). In the face of such circumstances, God’s faithful would naturally feel like they were sitting in darkness (v 8). It was as if they were imprisoned in a deep, dark dungeon with no hope of salvation.

Despite the dire situation, Micah showed us that God’s people did not succumb to hopelessness. In the darkness of their times, God’s faithful did not wallow in the darkness. They embraced the darkness while looking towards the light.

“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.

Though I fall I will rise;

Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.”

Micah 7:8 (NIV)

They were not naive to think that they would get out of God’s judgement unscathed. They knew that Israel would fall, defeated by her enemies. They knew that they were in for dark times. Though they were to be defeated, they knew that they would rise again. Though they would dwell in dark times, they lived confident, that God would be their light. God being their light meant He was their source of wellness, life and freedom.

Imagine someone who is thoroughly beaten up by his enemies. While he lies broken on the floor, he turns to his assailants and proclaims, “Do not rejoice over me, I will rise again.” Such a scene is almost laughable. So where did God’s faithful get their confidence from?

1. God’s punishment would be just

God’s faithful knew that their suffering was not a result of Israel offending her enemies. Israel’s defeat would not have been initiated by the hand of their enemies. They knew that Israel was being punished because God used Israel’s enemies to exact His punishment on them.

“The faithful interpret the primary cause of her fall as I AM’s fury [indignation] (zaʿap) against her sin. The enemy’s military superiority is merely his agent.” [1]

God’s faithful understood Israel’s defeat as the result of God’s wrath against their sin. How did this give them confidence? Because their suffering ultimately came from God. God’s people knew that they were not subject to the unjust whims of Israel’s enemies. Israel’s enemies were only the means that God used to bring about His punishment on Israel.

God’s faithful understood that God is just. That is why they could say that God “executes judgement for [them]” (v 9). Some translations use the word “justice” instead of “judgement”. God’s faithful knew that they would be punished justly according to their sins. Therefore Israel’s enemies could not make them suffer beyond what God allowed. This was what gave them the confidence to “bear the indignation of the LORD…” (v 9).

God’s faithful were confident that they had hope because God is just.

2. God’s punishment would be temporary

God’s faithful knew that because God was just, therefore God would punish Israel according to their offense. But they also knew that God’s punishment toward His people was for the sake of restoring them instead of condemning them.

“The expression “until he pleads (rîb) my [cause]” shows that the faithful remnant understood I AM’s wrath to be remedial and so temporary, and not penal and so final as in the case of the non-elect.” (bold added for emphasis) [2]

The word “until” indicates an understanding that God’s punishment on Israel had an endpoint. God’s punishment would end when Israel was destroyed and they turned in repentance. As Israel repented by turning away from their offense against God, God would plead their cause. God would be their advocate. God would be the one who stood up for Israel and air their grievances. Israel would turn from being the offender to the offended party.

Because Israel’s punishment was temporary and God was their advocate, God’s faithful could have hope in being restored.

3. God’s punishment would end up on His enemies

When God became Israel’s advocate, He would not only air Israel’s grievances but also be the one who executed judgement according to those grievances. As the ultimate Judge of the universe, God will see to it that Israel is vindicated (v 9) and her enemies destroyed (v 10).

Israel’s enemies destroyed the nation of Israel not out of obedience to God, but out of their greed and hunger for power. They sought to conquer Israel out of their arrogance. They wanted to prove their military and religious might. This is what led them to say, “Where is the LORD your God?” (v 10).

Therefore after Israel’s punishment was completed through their enemies, God’s attention turned to these same enemies. While Israel would be delivered out of their punishment, Israel’s enemies would face God’s punishment. They would be shamed for their arrogance when they see the might of the LORD. And they would be utterly destroyed in the end. They would be trampled over like mud in the streets (v 10).

God’s people could have hope because they knew they would not stay destroyed. They trusted in God’s vindication and salvation. And because of God’s justice, their enemies would receive utter destruction for their atrocities against Israel.

A Christian’s hope in dark times

In Micah, we see that God’s people can had hope amidst their darkest times. Their hope rested in God’s just nature, the temporary nature of their suffering, and their future vindication for their suffering. But this hope is not reserved for God’s faithful in the times of Micah. It is still relevant to us today.

Even as Christians, we still live through dark times. We will still be fighting against sin within. Romans 7:21–23 still rings true:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

It may be pride seeking to usurp God’s throne in our hearts day after day, minute after minute. But dear Christian, we have hope. Our hope is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Before Christ was our Lord, we had to bear the infinite wrath of God for our own sins. But now, as Christians, Christ has borne God’s wrath on our behalf (2 Cor 5:21). Because God is just, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). So even as we fight against our sins, we no longer have to bear God’s wrath for our own sins.

We are promised persecution from others for living according to our beliefs (1 Pet 4:12-19). Some are disowned for their faith. Others are ostracized and called stupid by their closest relatives for living a life of self-denial. Some are even persecuted by members of the same church.

But we know that our sufferings as Christians are coloured differently from those who are not in Christ. Our suffering is temporary and serves to restore us to holiness (Heb 12:10-11). God considers us His children. And as His children, He desires for us to share His holiness. Therefore God’s aim for a Christian’s suffering is not destruction, but restoration.

As Christians who are persecuted for how we live, we do not need to be bitter when our enemies get away with it. Because God is just, our enemies, who are actually going against God, will be repaid for afflicting God’s people with suffering (2 Thess 1:6). Whereas for Christians, our hope is found in being granted relief when our Lord Jesus Christ returns for us again (2 Thess 1:7).

So fellow brother and sister in Christ, have hope. When dark times loom on the horizon, remember that these times are temporary. And as we deal with our sinful flesh within and our persecutors from the outside, let us say with God’s people: “He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.”

– The End –

[1] Waltke, B. K. (2007). A Commentary on Micah (pp. 452–453). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[2] Ibid p. 453

The Promised City of Sanctuary

Micah 7:11-13

A day for the building of your walls! In that day the boundary shall be far extended. In that day they will come to you, from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the River, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds.

Micah 7:11-13

Because of a certain celebrity turned politician, walls are all the rage in the news today. “We need to build a wall” was a political campaign slogan meant to promote the message of security and safety for the country.

Walls had such an important function in the time of ancient Israel. Cities without walls had no way of tracking who went in or out. They were more susceptible to raiders and had little protection from invading armies. Defensive walls were built enclosed around a settlement where the inhabitants of the city could fight against potential aggressors. These big city-surrounding defensive walls were those around Jerusalem, the city that Micah had in mind in these few verses.

However, the word used for wall in v.11, (Hebrew: gederay) is not often used to describe a defensive city wall. Rather it is used to refer to a wall that surrounds livestock or a vineyard. Micah was probably thinking of the city of Jerusalem when speaking this prophecy, and it is significant that he uses the words gederay (wall around livestock), which does not refer to a wall that is used for war or defence. Earlier in Chapter 5, God had already promised to destroy any semblance of confidence in military might in Micah 5:10-11.

10 And in that day, declares the LORD,

I will cut off your horses from among you

and will destroy your chariots;

11 and I will cut off the cities of your land

and throw down all your strongholds;

So v. 12 speaks of a gathering of a people within the safety of the walls. The city is safe, but not because of the military might that the city possesses. The image is like a sheepfold, the gathering of a flock, where the faithful people of all nations will seek refuge in, where the great Shepherd will look after and protect His sheep. This is the promise that Micah was proclaiming: To those who cry out to the Lord, those who trust that God is their light (v.8, see last week’s SRD), and those who acknowledge their sin before God and look for his vindication (v.9, see last week’s SRD), God will be their divine protector in the city that He has prepared for them.

The eschatological fulfilment of the city of sanctuary

Another familiar phrase we have seen throughout Micah is now seen once again in v.11; the phrase in that day. This tells us that this gathering of people within the sanctuary city has an eschatological meaning; something that will happen in the end times. As with the other prophecies in Micah, there is a partial fulfilment and an eschatological, ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy.

It was partially realized during Micah’s time when Jerusalem emerged into the light after the darkness of the Assyrian invasion. It had a further fulfilment in the restoration from exile, but it will find its fullest, complete and ultimate fulfilment as the people of God from all nations come to the sanctuary of the new Jerusalem.

This is also a promise for the modern Christian. Not just the Jews who would be coming to seek shelter, there are people of Assyria and Egypt also coming to seek refuge behind these walls. It is notable that this mention of Assyria and Egypt does not exclude the rest of the people in the world. Assyria and Egypt represented the whole world in the eyes of Micah. Assyria was to the northeast and Egypt to the Southwest of Israel, representing the entirety of the world as known to them.

This was what was declared even before the coming of Jesus. God had already sovereignly declared his intention to save a people for himself. He knows the beginning from the end and it is this God who has sovereignly decreed salvation coming to the people of Egypt and Assyria and to the rest of the world. What a mighty God that we worship! However, sanctuary and safety is not what will find those who are the enemies of God.

The rest of the earth will be destroyed

In the land that is outside of the walls, Micah describes it as desolate. It will become a horrible desolation because of their evil deeds. The desolation is the result of the fruit of their deeds (v.13). They will bring the devastation on themselves. Zephaniah 3:8 speaks of this day where the Lord will pour out his judgement on the evil nations of the world.

8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD,

“for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.

For my decision is to gather nations,

to assemble kingdoms,

to pour out upon them my indignation,

all my burning anger;

for in the fire of my jealousy

all the earth shall be consumed.

This lies in stark contrast to the Jerusalem that was mentioned in Micah 6:16.

16 For you have kept the statutes of Omri,

and all the works of the house of Ahab;

and you have walked in their counsels,

that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”

Jerusalem was described in Micah 6:16 as a land of ruin, a desolation among a sea of scornful enemies. However, in v.13, the imagery is reversed. Jerusalem is now a land of blessing amidst a sea of desolation.”

Ultimately, the Lord will restore his people. If not now, then in the eschatological future. Even if he grants temporal relief at this present moment in time, the Lord will restore all his people to be under his protection, and the rest of the earth would be put to destruction. So, do not be discouraged in this life, where we see the world’s moral values slowly turning against what God teaches. We do well to remember that God is in control of this universe and that nothing in this world can stop his hand.

– The End –

Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times

John Piper

Micah 7:14-20

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:18-19

We conclude a series on spiritual parenting today. The title I have chosen for this last message is “Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times.” There are no times that are easy for bearing and rearing children. The point of Genesis 3 is that as soon as sin entered the world, childbearing and childrearing became very difficult. The Lord said to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). And after she and Adam had raised two boys, one of them killed the other.

The Only Way to Be Free

The point of that story is that sin is now in the world—in every parent and in every child. And this is the sort of thing that sin does. It ruins people, and it ruins families. The main problem in the world is the power of indwelling sin. And it is a power. It is a force, a defect, a depravity, a corruption in the human soul. It is not a series of free choices. Sin is a powerful bondage that destroys human freedom.

The only way for a human to be free—for a parent or a child to be free—is to be born again by the Spirit of God; embrace Jesus Christ as Savior; be forgiven for sin by the Creator of the universe; and receive the Holy Spirit as the only counter-power to the power of sin. That is the only hope for the world and for parents and children. This is always true in every age.

No Easy Times for Parenting

So there are no easy times for bearing and raising children into humble, loving, righteous, creative, productive, Christ-exalting adults. There are no easy times. But some times are harder than others. And whether they are harder or not may depend on your personal circumstances or societal circumstances.

My desire today is to help you parent with hope in the worst of circumstances. And I mean both worst at home, and worst in culture. And for those who are not parents, everything I say applies to you, because how to have hope in the worst of times is the same for everybody. We just need it for different reasons.

The Prophet Micah

The Jewish prophet Micah preached during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Micah 1:1). That’s about 750 to 687 B.C. The clearest statement of why he came onto the scene is given in Micah 3:8,

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

and to Israel his sin.

Proclaiming Judgment and Mercy

God sent prophets to make plain to the people their sin. And with their sin the prophets proclaimed judgment, and they proclaimed mercy. This is how it is all through the Bible: Judgment and Mercy. Judgment and Mercy. God is holy and righteous, and sends judgment on sinful people. And God is merciful and patient and compassionate, and rescues sinful people from his judgment. Micah makes this clear in Micah 4:10,

Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,

like a woman in labor,

for now you shall go out from the city

and dwell in the open country;

you shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued;

there the Lord will redeem you

from the hand of your enemies.

The Lord is going to send them into Babylon in judgment. And he is going to bring them back to their land in mercy.

Punishment Is Coming

In chapter 7, Micah refers to parenting in the worst of times—worst at home and worst in the culture. Verse 1: “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” He may be talking about how destitute he is for food. But I suspect he is speaking metaphorically of being destitute of godly friends and associates. Because he goes on to say, verses 2–3: “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.” The leaders are corrupt. They conspire (“weave”) to do as much evil as they can, and to do it well.

Verse 4: “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge.” If Micah tries to get near them, they stick him. “The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand.” So the watchman who is appointed to see the enemy coming—his day is soon here. Punishment is coming.

Even Wife and Children

Now Micah brings it from the culture to the neighborhood and the family. Verse 5: “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms.” In other words, sin and corruption and deceit are so pervasive that you need to watch out, lest even your wife betray you—“her who lies in your arms.”

Now to the children. Verse 6: “For the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.” There are five people in this picture. A father and a mother. A son and a daughter. And a daughter-in-law. So the son is married. Micah has already said that things are uncertain between the husband and wife (“Guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms”). And now he says the son is rising up against his father. And the daughter is rising up against her mother, and the daughter-in-law is siding with the daughter against the mom. Micah even calls them the man’s enemies. At the end of verse 6: “A man’s enemies are the men of his own house.” He refers specifically to the sons. It seems the daughters are focusing their animosity on his wife. But he feels it.

Now this is heartbreaking. Some of you live in exactly this situation. This is the worst of times. The culture is corrupt, and the marriage and family are in crisis. That’s the picture in Micah 7. For some of you, that’s the picture today. And for others, it will be tomorrow.

Jesus Brings This About?

Before I point you to Micah’s hope in this situation, I want you to see what Jesus did with this family portrait in verse 6. Turn to Matthew 10:34–36. Jesus describes the effect of his coming: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [Then he uses Micah 7:6.] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Here are the same five people, the same reference to enemies in your own home, but one striking difference. Jesus says that he brought it about. Verse 35: “I have come to set a man against his father. . .” He doesn’t mean, of course, that he loves to break up families. What he means is that his radical call to discipleship does disrupt relationships. One believes, another doesn’t. A father follows Jesus, a son doesn’t. A son follows Jesus, a father doesn’t. A daughter follows Jesus, a mother doesn’t.

Why Jesus Here?

The point of bringing Jesus into the picture here first is to show that the breakdown in the family in Micah’s day is not necessarily owing only to corruption in the family. It may be owing to righteousness in the family. Everything may have been going smoothly until someone got serious about God, and about his covenant, and his word. Then the accusations began to fly. “You think you’re so much better, now that you’ve got religion! Things were fine, and now you think the rest of us should get fixed.”

And the other reason for mentioning Jesus’ use of this text is to show that there was nothing unique about Micah’s day. It was true in the 8th century B.C. It was true in the first century A.D. And it is true in the 21st century. For somebody, it’s always the worst of times, even if it’s not for you.

What, then, does Micah have to say about parenting with hope in the worst of times?

What Micah Has to Say: Brokenhearted Boldness

He describes himself—I suspect as a representative father and a representative of the people of Israel—and the posture he takes is one of brokenhearted boldness. That’s the essence of what I want to say to you about parenting in the worst of times. Do it from the posture of brokenhearted boldness. And to make sure you know what I mean by “brokenhearted” and what I mean by “boldness,” we need to ask: What’s he brokenhearted about? And on what basis can he be so bold? Let’s look at verses 7–9 to get the answer to those two questions. What’s he brokenhearted about? And how can he be so bold?

Not in Self-Righteousness

Right after saying in verse 6, “A man’s enemies are the men of his own house,” he says in verse 7, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” So in the worst of times, we look to the Lord. We may have tried looking elsewhere. Nothing works. Everything breaks. We thought maybe we could make the family work. Maybe these children were in our power to shape any way we chose. Maybe with just the right marriage books, deeply mutual trust and respect and admiration and affection would be in our power. And now. Now we look to the Lord.

But be careful. Is Micah looking to the Lord in self-righteousness? Such a thing is possible. Is he saying, “I did everything right—all a dad should do. If this family is not working, my heart is broken, but I’m not the problem. They are.” Is that the posture of this man? No, it is not. And I hope it won’t be yours either.

Sinned Against But Conscious of Our Own Sin

Listen to what he says in verses 8 and 9. Listen for the boldness and the brokenness. Why is he broken?

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

Don’t miss the beginning of verse 9, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.” The reason this is so important for spouses and parents to see is that he says it in the context of being really sinned against. In verse 8, he tells his enemy (maybe his son or his wife), “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.” Don’t gloat over me. And in verse 9 in the middle, he says, the Lord will plead my cause and execute judgment for me, not against me. “He will bring me out to the light; I will look upon his vindication.”

In other words, he knows that he is being sinned against. He knows that some of their accusations are wrong. He knows that God is for him and not against him. God will bring him out of darkness and into the light; he will vindicate him. He is bold in this confidence and this assertion. Amazingly bold. Nevertheless, what he draws attention to in order to explain the Lord’s indignation and his own darkness is his own sin. “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.”

Why So Brokenhearted

So here’s my answer to the question: Why is he brokenhearted? It is not mainly that he is being sinned against in the family, but that he sins. The posture of parenting with hope in the worst of times is the posture of brokenhearted boldness. And the brokenheartedness is owing first to his own sin, and only then to being sinned against. This is the great battle we face. Will we find, by God’s grace, the kind of humility that enables us to see our families and ourselves that way?

How So Bold

Second question: How can he be so bold, if he has sinned? How can he talk the way he does when his own sin is so prominent in his mind? Where does this kind of boldness come from? “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise. . . . God will execute judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.”

The answer is given at the end of the chapter. And the fact that it comes as the last thing in the whole book, and that it comes with such emphasis, shows how utterly crucial it is in the book—indeed, in the whole Bible. Verses 18–19:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

The reason Micah is so bold in his brokenness is because he knows God. He knows what is really amazing and unique about God. “Who is a God like you?” That means: There is no God like you. Your ways are higher than our ways. Your ways are higher than any deity in the world. And what is your uniqueness? You pardon iniquity and pass over the transgression of your people. Thus the peculiar uniqueness about the God of the Bible—and there is no other God.

Going Deep with God’s Pardon

How then do you parent with hope in the worst of times? How do you parent with hope when your own family may be divided three against two and two against three? You look to the Lord. You cry out to the Lord (verse 7). And you cry to him with two very deep convictions. One is that you are a sinner and that you don’t deserve anything from God. We have not been perfect parents. We have sinned. And we are not foolish or naïve. We know we have also been sinned against. But everything in our flesh wants to think about that. Only the Holy Spirit can make us see our own sin. Only the Holy Spirit can make us feel our own guilt. That’s one deep conviction.

The other is that there is no God like our God, who pardons iniquity and passes over transgression, and relents from anger, and delights in steadfast love. We are just as deeply convinced of this as we are that we have sinned against our spouse and that we have sinned against our children, and that in all this we have sinned against God. Do you see how both are crucial—how they work together, each making the depth of the other possible? If you don’t feel your sin and guilt, you won’t go deep with the pardon of God. But it works the other way, and this is crucial in families: If you don’t know the depths of God’s pardon, you won’t go deep with your own sin.

These two deep convictions produce the posture of brokenhearted boldness. And that’s the posture for parenting with hope in the worst of times. Broken for our sin in the vortex of being sinned against, and bold because, “Who is a pardoning God like you!”

Brokenhearted Boldness—Intensified in Jesus

And for Christians both halves of this posture are grounded and intensified by knowing Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. For Micah, Jesus was only a hope in chapter 5: “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel. . . . He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord” (Micah 5:2, 4). This good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). And when he did, we saw with greater clarity than ever the greatness of our sin (that required that extent of suffering) and the greatness of God’s resolve to pardon it. And so the brokenheartedness and the boldness are intensified.

So if you are parenting in the worst of times, or want to get ready for parenting in the worst of times, or simply want hope in the worst of times, look at Micah and look at Jesus and take this posture: brokenness because of your sin, and boldness because of Christ. Then in the power of the Holy Spirit, set your heart on being the best imperfect parent you can be—for Jesus’ sake.

– The End –

Piper, J. (2019). Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times. [online] Desiring God. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/parenting-with-hope-in-the-worst-of-times [Accessed 11 Jul. 2019].