Monday, August 03, 2015

Micah II- Sermon Notes

Micah II 4:1-13
Sermon Notes
Justice, Mercy, Humility
Lynchburg, Virginia

         The Minor Prophets are a roller coaster of hard words from God accompanied by follow up encouragement.  To those of you who have been serving Jesus for a while this should come as no surprise. In our personal lives as well as our local church lives and in the life of the broader church, this balancing act is a constant necessity.
         We are lost and outside of God’s blessing. He finds us, forgives us, establishes us and fills us with blessing. We respond in gratitude and all is right with the world.
         But we find it difficult to walk with Christ in blessing. Our gratitude wanes until it looks like an expectation from or even a presumption upon God. We have been blessed and so we assume this blessing will continue. This makes us liable to temptation. We are in God’s blessing but haphazardly expecting this blessing to continue no matter what.
         But God is a kind Father and He chastises those He loves. If you belong to God, you should not expect His continued unmerited favor if you are in blatant sin. You should not expect Him to continue showering blessings upon you if you are drifting away from Him little by little. You should not expect Him to bless you if you are no longer filled with gratitude over His prior and current blessings. Because He is a good Father, He will find a way to get your attention and turn you around.
Often, that way is trouble that comes into your life in the form of suffering. That suffering may be personal. It may be a troubled conscience. It may be physical ailments. It may that your spouse or children suffer. God has many ways to get your attention. Are you paying attention? Do trouble cause you to submit to His Lordship as a humble servant?
I do not want to insinuate that all troubles are the result of particular sins. Everyone in this room is going to die. You are going to die because you have a fallen nature, subject to death. The reason you are going to die is because you have inherited original sin. You are forgiven for this and restored to God in Christ but until the Final Resurrection, you still suffer the consequences of the Fall.
There is much trouble in the world whose source is not particular sins. You get cancer and it is not because you have been sinning in private. It is because you were born a son of Adam. You have trouble with a family member and it is not because you have secretly been envious or bitter. It is because since the Fall, man against man has been the trouble in the world.
But if you are saint, even when you are merely suffering the results of fallen man, you will respond in humility towards God. You will search your heart, confess your sins, seek forgiveness for offenses against God and man. You will receive the forgiveness of the Lord and walk in new obedience.
And this is that heavenly balance. God’s grace is full. It covers all of our sins. But we tend to swing close to and away from God. It is difficult for us to walk in the center of His love with constant obedience. Furthermore, if we have failed in sin, and we all have, it is difficult for us to walk with a clear and peaceful conscience in the center of His forgiveness. Thanks be to God that He disciplines us and also speaks peace to us in Jesus Christ.
So, I do not tire of saying the same things to you. The prophets of old were repetitive. The apostles were repetitive. Your parents were repetitive. This is God’s kindness to us.
Back to Micah.
This is a few years before the fall of Samaria. The prophecy also warns of the destruction coming to Jerusalem and the  impending exile of the people of God. Hezekiah hears the words of Micah and Isaiah and repents. This grants Jerusalem about a 150 year reprieve before judgment falls upon them. And that judgment is exceedingly harsh when Nebuchadnezzer shows up in Jerusalem, besieges the city, finally conquers it and takes the people captive to Babylon. After seventy years they return. But the glory of Israel is gone.
Micah’s prophecy was strong against Israel for her many sins and yet he holds out glorious words of blessing and promise. In fact, the words are so glorious and promise such great blessing, we know that they are not talking about the blessing of the nation of Israel, per se, but rather, the glory that will be God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ.

Mic. 4:1   But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.  2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 
Isaiah 2:2-4 is the same as Micah 2:1-3- clearly a promise of the New Covenant.

4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.  5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. 
This is a prophecy of a blessed time were God’s people receive the fruit of blessing of God. We should keep a couple of things in mind as we think about these blessings.
1.   They are real earthly blessings
We do not want to spiritualize God’s Kingdom. By spiritualize I mean put the blessings only in the spiritual realm, somewhere up there in the sky when we die. The blessings the prophets talk about are real blessings. They include peace from enemies, land, produce, home and hearth. God intends to bless us on this Earth that He created.
To that extent we should be able to see that the blessings are in the re-creation. God is giving us back something that we have lost. That lost was first in the Garden of Eden when man sinned. The blessed land began to produce thorns and thistles. Man was driven out of the Garden and became an exile. The beautiful language of the Promised Land is a return from exile.
Consequently, we see Israel go into exile repeatedly. He has to leave and come back. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah all returned from exile to the promise of blessing. But none of them fully received the promise.
We are told that this could not be the case apart from the promised seed, that One who is Christ. And when Christ comes, we should not expect that the promise somehow ceases. It does not cease. It grows stronger.

2.   They are not absolute
The promise is real and it is earthy. We receive the blessings of new life in Christ on this Earth, here and now. But this is not absolute. Until the Final Resurrection, sin and death will still be looming. They are defeated in principle but they are not utterly banished. Thus, there is a greater promise than the good promise we are living in now. To live in the re-creation is grand. Blessings abound. To die and go to Jesus is grand. That is a true blessing, too. But there is a blessing that is better than both of these. And that is the blessing of seeing the completed victory of Jesus Christ in the full return of God’s people to the Garden of Eden, for death to be destroyed, for the devil to be eternally banished, for sin to be no more.
Blessings are blessings indeed. But if we hold on to them too tightly, our hands may not be free to receive an even greater blessing.

6 In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;  7 And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.
Healing of the lame, the sick and the blind. Jesus’s report to John Baptist.

Luke 7:22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
The Lord shall reign over them in Zion forever. We must ask ourselves where this forever Zion is?
It is not the returned exiles. It is not the land of Israel, proper. It must be the kingdom of God, promises in Isaiah, of His government there shall be no end.
Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

4:8-13 Captivity and return from Babylon.
4:10 Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.
This is important because Israel was on the verge of defeat and captivity but not to Babylon. The present threat was Nineveh and the Assyrians. The Babylonians would not visit them for destruction over 100 years.

Mic. 5:1   Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.  2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
This is the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  But though they have laid a siege against the Lord and against His anointed, the Lord will break out against them.

The occasion of Herod’s deceit to the Wise Men
Matthew 2:4-8 And when he (Herod) had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.  5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.  7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.  8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

5:3-6 Jesus delivers from enemies. Assyria as paradigmatic world power opposed to kingdom of God.
Assyria was the world dominant power at this time. They carried out destruction against Samaria. But they were soon to fall themselves as Babylon rose and the Chaldeans usurped the power of Assyria. Babylon herself did not last long as the dominant power as the Medes and Persians would soon replace them. Of course, we know that after them arose Alexander and the Greeks and then the Romans followed as the next world power. We should see this prophecy pointing to the fact that only Christ’s Kingdom is the dominant lasting force.
This should give us encouragement. America has been a dominant Christian world power. Russia, China and other nations have been Communist oppressors of Christians. The Church has grown strong and again weak in Europe and North America. In the oppressive Communist countries, the persecutors Church has grown in both numbers and strength. God’s ways are not our ways.
God can and will thwart any power raised up against Christ and His Church. The church will prevail. Far from wiping out the Church, oppression strengthens her. No weapon formed against Christ and His Church will prevail.

Mic. 6:6   Wherewith 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?  7 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? 
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
This is a common theme in the Old Testament. In our modern views of the Old Covenant, we often misspeak about the nature of that covenant. We speak of it in terms of works righteousness, as if that was the point of the covenant, that one had to fully obey in order to earn or merit God’s favor.
But that is not true. God never meant that to be the case and the prophets made this explicitly clear. Circumcise your heart was a common refrain. To obey is better than sacrifice is a well-known biblical proverb.
God had always extended grace to His people. This was true of Adam in the garden, of Abraham who’s faith was reckoned as righteousness and all true sons of Abraham, who turn to Christ and are forgiven for their sins.
We are fallen creatures. We cannot earn the reward of a perfect life. Our only hope is to rest in God’s kindness and favor to us. The good works come after the good work of God in reconciling to us through His Son. Our good works in no way leave God indebted to us.
Having then been forgiven, what are we to do? We are to extend to others exactly what God has extended to us.
We are image bearers and justice, mercy and humility all reveal the character of Jesus.

Justice- God keeps track. The wicked shall not be acquitted. Of all people, we Christians must be for justice.
We must pray, speak and act for justice for the oppressed, the poor, the weak, the fatherless, the widow, the orphan.
We must not bow down to those who pervert justice, even if we are in favor of the outcome. If conservatives seek to thwart justice, we must resist. If liberals pervert justice we must resist.
Some wrongs cannot be righted on the earth. We must be willing to leave these cases up to God to deal with according to His justice.
We are justified but it is a justification not our own. We have faith in Jesus and our faith is reckonened as righteousness as we are forgiven our sins. As we seek to do justly, we must never forget how we have been justified. Our justification is a gift.

Mercy- We are a people of justice. This is why we have the rule of law and a blind justice. Justice should rule without being swayed by someone’s riches or someone’s poverty. Justice must be fair.
But if we demand complete and total justice without mercy, then we are not accurately reflecting the character of God.
In personal matters, we must extend great mercy because God has been merciful to us. Within the law, we must have a system that judges righteously with justice as the goal but also still has mercy built into it.
Think of the woman caught in adultery. This was a capital crime. Of course, it was a mickey mouse court. Where was the man? But Jesus still could have condemned her to death but He does not. He convicts her as guilty but His sentence was merciful. Go and sin no more.

Humility- How can God be humble? He does not need to humble Himself because He is perfect. This is what makes the way of the Lord so astounding. He did not have to humble Himself and yet He did so. He humbled Himself and became a man. He humbled Himself to submit to the unrighteousness of mankind.
So, even as we seek justice and mercy, we do so humbly, gladly working towards Justice in Jesus Christ, receiving and extending God’s mercy. Just as you have been forgiven, so forgive. Just as you have been justified by grace through faith, extend that same kind of forgiveness, justice through mercy.

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