Text: Micah 2:12, 13
Would you take your Bibles and turn to the Table of Contents? I’m serious. I want you to open them to the Table of Contents, to the Old Testament section and I want you to look under the “m’s” and find Micah. Find what page it’s on in your Bible and turn there. Now, I do that for a good reason. When I preach from these “minor prophets”…they’re called “minor prophets” not because their message is minor, but because it’s so hard to find them in the Bible. No, because the length of their message is such and it’s hard to find those boys over there…they hide…Micah is hiding between Obadiah and Nahum…I know that helps you a lot. But, if I don’t have folks usually to find the page and turn to it, you know, you just flip here and you flip there and after awhile you get embarrassed and you’re afraid people around you will think, “Well, he doesn’t know his Bible.” And so, after a moment, you just sort of settle on Psalms, you know, and pretend that’s the text and read from it, but I want you to find Micah because we’re going to read from Micah this morning.
Years ago a Spanish philosopher said, “We do not know what is happening and that is what is happening.” Now, I think that what he meant by that is that we do not know what is happening and that is what is happening. I’m almost certain that’s what he meant. I think what he meant was that there is usually something significant happening but we’re not aware of it. I think that’s so true of us today. We’re caught up by the sensational and we always notice the sensational, but the sensational is not necessarily the significant. I think many times the media captivates us with some sensational story and all the while there is really something significant happening over here that we miss.
Do you all – those of you who are old enough – remember where you were when Kennedy was shot? That’s a question that is asked in our generation…and everybody, nearly everybody, remembers where they were on that fateful day. I remember where I was. And that was a significant event, but do you realize who else died on that day? C. S. Lewis died on that day…one of the greatest philosophers and Christian writers who ever lived…a man who impacted not only time, but I think eternity. And while I would not deny that the assassination of a president is a significant event, yet it seems sad to me that the death of such a great man went unnoticed. We were caught up with one thing and missed something else that was very, very significant.
Do you remember when James Belushi, the actor-comedian, overdosed on drugs and died? You couldn’t have missed it if you were alive. It was in all the papers and on television and they’ve done specials about it. But do you realize who else died on that day? You may not recognize her name – Ann Rand – who was one of the great intellects of the twentieth century. She was not a Christian, but she was a great philosopher, a great intellect, a great author…one of the greatest minds that our country has ever produced, and yet, her death went unnoticed while all the world was captivated by the death of an addictive TV actor. We’re caught up with the sensational and often miss the significant. We do not know what’s happening and that is what is happening.
You may not know what is happening in your life today…it may seem as though nothing is happening in your life today…but I guarantee you there is something significant going on, whether you recognize it or not. Another example of this, of course, is the coming of Christ into the world. That was not a sensational event at all. There were no news cameras there. There were no great people there. There were no super headlines there. He was born in a manger, noticed by a few shepherds and a few other people and some livestock. Of course, He was noticed in heaven, but heaven always notices what earth overlooks, and yet the most significant day in the history of the universe was largely overlooked and missed by the entire world.
That was true all of His life. Even when He was grown and had started His ministry and He was doing great things and saying great things, you remember, there were people who were saying, “Who can deny this Man has to be something special…this Man has to come from God because He speaks as no other one has ever spoken and He does miracles that we cannot deny…but isn’t this the carpenter’s Son? I mean, we used to play together in the dirt when we were kids…this surely can’t be the Messiah. And after all, He’s from Polk County. After all, He’s from Nazareth and can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” And yet, the most significant event in the history of the human race went largely unnoticed.
And it’s true today! I want us to read a couple of verses in the second chapter of Micah that describe to us this most significant event of Christ’s coming into this world…and He’s coming for two reasons. First of all, Jesus has come to gather together a people…to create a community of love and fellowship and of course, that’s one of the things that’s missing so much in our day. I don’t know if you read much after sociologists or follow the people who follow the trends, but there are a number of characteristics that are unique to this generation that were not present in previous generations and one of them is that this is a fragmented generation. And there is not a sense of belonging and people are afraid to make commitments. That’s why so many of the younger generation choose just to live together rather than marry, because they’re afraid to make any commitment. The younger generation is less committed to the church than the older generation was. This is a day that people, although in a crowd, feel lonely and isolated and fragmented. And yet, Christ came to take away that loneliness, that fear of belonging, that fear of commitment and to create a community of love and fellowship.
The other thing that our text will tell us is that Christ came also to free us from the things that enslave us. And that’s another characteristic of our day…it is that we are slaves…slaves to so many things…slaves to popularity and slaves to merchandise and slaves to advertising and I think most of all slaves to fear…the fear of the future, the uncertainty of it all. All things are changing too fast. The old landmarks that have been around so long have suddenly changed overnight…political realities can change…technology is moving at such a rapid rate you can’t keep up with it and what is popular today is not popular tomorrow and companies that are growing and successful are out of business tomorrow and so there is an uncertainty about this generation. That’s why it’s sometimes called “the X generation” because it is an unknown…they’re facing unknowns and yet what the prophet is trying to tell us is that Jesus has come to insure us that there is a future with God, and to set us free from that enslavement.
Now, I want us to read from the second chapter, the last two verses…verses 12 and 13 and you may, as you read these verses, think to yourself, “Okay, now he’s really done it. There is no sermon in those two verses.” I am reading from the King James Version, because the King James retains a couple of words that the newer versions translate in a different way, but I think if we want to get the full and graphic picture and image that the prophet is painting here we need to retain these words. So let’s read beginning at verse 12…now in verse 12 he tells us what God is going to do and in verse 13, he tells us how God does that…
I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely
gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as
the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their
fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the mul-
titude of men.
The first thing is that He is going to gather all His people together…He is going to assemble all of them. “I will surely do this…” This is a definite thing He is going to do. “I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah…” now the newer translations I think the NIV, the “Nearly Infallible Version” translates that “pen”… “I will put them together as sheep in a pen…” But I like the reading of Bozrah. Why? Well, because Bozrah is the name of the enemy. They’re in the midst of the enemy. They’re in enemy territory. They’re surrounded by hostility and what he’s saying is that right in the midst of the enemy territory, right in the midst of hostile environment “I will establish you as a flock and I will lead you into a fold or a pasture” which always indicates protection and provision. So, he’s saying these words… “I’m going to gather together a people…I’m going to make a people out of My coming to this earth, and I am in the very midst of the enemy territory…in the very midst of uncertain and unfriendly times. I’m going to give them a place of security, a place of protection and a place of provision, and He says as a result of this “they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.”
Then in verse 13, here’s how it is accomplished…
The breaker is come up before them: they have broken
up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out
by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the
LORD on the head of them.
Now notice the opening words of that thirteenth verse. “The breaker is come up before them…” That’s why I want to read from this version to retain the word “breaker.” Personally I like another translation “battering ram” and if you wanted a title to my message, I guess you could call it “God’s Battering Ram”. The breaker was in a sense a member of the flock. He was a ram with horns and he would go before the flock and the rough meaning of the Hebrew word “flock” was “to lag behind.” And he would go before them and use his horns to break through any kind of barrier, any kind of briars, or any kind of scrub brush or any kind of gate so that the flock could go out and find that pasture…that provision and that protection.
So, the prophet here is calling Jesus by this very picturesque image “the breaker” or “the battering ram”. So I want us to center our thoughts this morning on God’s battering ram. This One whom God has sent to set us free and to bring us together into a community that belongs to God and to one another.
And there are several characteristics that I think are important…To me the most obvious characteristic is this…
Jesus Christ as God’s “battering ram” is one of us.
Notice he says, “the breaker is come up…” It doesn’t say He has come down. It says He has come up. Now, usually when we talk about the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus into the world, we talk about His coming from Heaven to earth…that He came down, and of course that is true… “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word was made flesh and He tabernacled among us…[He pitched His tent among us…]” He did come down and that is the miracle of Christianity and the miracle of the Incarnation…that God wrapped Himself up in human flesh and came to this earth as a man. He did not think it something to be held onto…all the privileges and prerogatives that belonged to Him as God…but He humbled Himself and was found in fashion of a man and became a servant. He was one of us. He was a member of the human race.
He shared our captivity. You say, “Now, what do you mean when you say He shared our captivity. Surely Jesus Christ was not a prisoner. Surely He was never in the slave house of sin. Surely He was never captured by the devil.” No, when I say He shared our captivity, I’m not referring to the captivity of sin, I’m referring to the captivity of human life…the captivity of this world. For when Jesus Christ was here on this earth He was just as much man as He was God and that’s one of the great mysteries and people don’t understand that and I don’t understand it, but it’s alright. I tell you the truth…it doesn’t bother me for God to know some things that I don’t know. I settled that a long time ago. It’s alright for the Infinite to understand some things that the finite mind cannot comprehend. I mean, who would want to worship a God you could fully understand? He wouldn’t be God! I don’t know how it is, but it is that when Jesus Christ was born, He was fully God and fully man…as has been said many times…just as much God as if He were not man and just as much man as if He were not God…He was man. He shared with us His flesh and blood. He was one of us!
And He knew the temptations that we knew. He knew the hunger that we knew. He knew the loneliness. He knew the misunderstanding of friends and family. He knew the rejection of people. He knew all of that. The writer of Hebrews says that He was tempted in all points such as we are. That’s right! There’s only one major difference! He was tempted without sin. He did not yield!
Well, you say, “He couldn’t have sinned. He was the Son of God.” No, I believe Jesus Christ as man could have sinned. I believe He had the possibility of sin or else the temptation meant nothing. It’s not a real temptation if you can’t sin. And I think the temptation for Jesus was greater than the temptation for any of us. Because the more used to sin you are, the less terrible the temptation is. But the holier you are, the less accustomed to sin you are, the greater the battle of temptation. That’s why every time you commit sin, it gets easier and easier and easier, because the temptation becomes less powerful.
Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying and then comes that great understatement at the end of those forty, “He was hungry.” Boy, I was hungry at the beginning of those forty days and in the middle and all the way through… And the devil came to Him and tempted Him and said, “If you be the Son of God, make these stones into bread…” Now, if anybody had a right to do that, it was Jesus Christ. I mean, after all, He was hungry after forty days without food. And those stones resembled little loaves of bread anyway…sort of making the temptation even greater and the greater temptation was that Jesus could do it! He could do it! Now, if Jesus was not able to sin and yield to that temptation, then that was a phony temptation. That was a stage play. That was a performance. If that was a cardboard devil and a styrofoam temptation, it was no real temptation…has no real meaning for Jesus and has no meaning for us.
It was real! That’s why the angels had to come at the end of it and minister to Him because He was exhausted by it all. But Jesus, you see, and here is the difference…He could have turned the stones into bread and He chose not to do it. We can’t but we try. He could but He didn’t. How did He overcome that? By the same resource that you and I have…the Word of God. “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You see, Jesus is one of us.
As a matter of fact, He’s so much one of us that it’s hard to recognize Him. That is so important and I think that many times when we’re discussing the Lord Jesus Christ we are so defensive about His deity, as we ought to be, that we underplay His humanity, but folks, He had to be human as much as He had to be God and that’s why when Jesus died on the Cross, He was able to unite man and God in that one event. He’s the One who brings God and man together. They were brought together in that one Person of Jesus Christ. He is one of us and He has been tempted in all points such as we are.
Sometimes we say, “Nobody knows how I feel.” Sometimes we say, “Well, nobody understands.” But I have to say to you that there is One who understands. There is One who knows how you feel. There is One who has been touched with the same feelings and weakness that you and I have been touched with and that is Jesus Christ. He is one of us!
But, the second thing that is made clear by our text is that not only is He one of us, but…
Jesus Christ as God’s “battering ram” has gone before us.
As I said earlier the idea of the flock is that which lags behind. Here they are in this pen, in this prison, but the breaker, the battering ram goes up before the flock and lowers his head and uses those horns to break through the gates, to break through the tangles, to break through the scrub, the briars and they follow up behind Him.
He goes before us. That’s why I love the way the writer of Hebrews describes Him as the Pioneer of our faith. Jesus is a “trail-blazer” for us. I tell you, there is nowhere you will ever go that Jesus Christ hasn’t already been. There is no path that you will ever trod that Jesus Christ hasn’t already been. He has gone before us. I want tell you something…the Lord Jesus Christ never asks you to go anywhere that He Himself hasn’t already been. We simply follow. He goes before us. He is a “pioneer,” a “trail-blazer.” And that’s true! In His own life, while He was on earth, He was a pioneer. He went before us…blazing new trails…setting the people free from the traditions of the past.
One of the great hang-ups of that day was that they had so many laws that the Jews had come up with…not God’s laws, but their own laws…and Jesus said, “You teach the traditions of men as though they were the Word of God.” They had all of these traditions, you see. And men were enslaved by them…like many of us are today. I tell you, many of us are enslaved not by true convictions from God, but we’re enslaved by traditions that have been heaped upon us by generations that have gone before us. And they are taught and preached today as though they were the Word of God, but they have no real basis in the Word of God.
For instance, you remember it was on a Sabbath when they were passing through the corn field and the disciples were hungry and they began to pluck the ears and I always wondered what those Pharisees were doing in that field on the Sabbath, you know! I mean, you’d think if you were going to walk through a field on a Sabbath, you’d be sort of by yourself – I mean, just “me and the boys were out for a Sunday afternoon stroll…” so they get a little hungry and they start eating from some of the stalks and all of a sudden, up between the rows popped these Pharisees. “I saw that!” And there’s always somebody who’s gonna pop up there and say, “I saw that! Don’t you know this is the Sabbath…what are your disciples doing?” And Jesus said, “Listen, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Do you know what Jesus was saying? Jesus is saying, “Hey, you’ve missed it! Man was not made to serve the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made to serve man!” You’re putting the Sabbath Day in such a position that man must serve it…but man was not made to serve the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made to serve man, to give him rest, to minister to his needs.
Jesus, breaking with tradition, going before us, showing us how life is lived…showing us what it means to love. He met the woman at the well. A Jew talking to a Samaritan is bad enough, but a man talking to a woman by Himself…that was even worse…people would be shocked! What was He doing? He was blazing the trail, showing us what it really means to live and to love. The publicans and the sinners always gathered around Him. They were attracted to Him. We repel them, don’t we? Oh, that always tells me something…when we repel the lost of our day! But they were drawn to Him…and the Pharisees said, “What kind of rabbi is this? What kind of teacher is this? Look at Him! He’s sitting down there and eating. He’s going to Zaccheus’ house. He goes to parties with publicans and sinners.” Jesus said, “You don’t have the slightest idea what God is all about.” He said, “The Lord came to seek and to save that which is lost.”
You see, all through His life Jesus was telling us, “This is the way to do it.” He goes before us. And He went before us on the Cross. He went before us into death. He’s gone before us into Heaven. You see, that’s why you and I don’t really need to be afraid of the future. We are! We are because the future’s always so uncertain and it seems to get more uncertain more and more each passing day. But, God has a future and our future is with Him and He has gone before us and that’s why He came…to break us out of our prisons…to set us free…to draw us together and to go before us and to lead us. He’s gone before us.
When I was a little boy I was in the Cub Scouts. I can’t remember how old you are when you’re a Cub Scout…eleven, twelve, nine? Something like that, but anyway…I remember we took a Cub Scout expedition and we went up into the mountains. Now, there were about four Cub Scouts to each group and a Boy Scout was our leader. In the middle of this area, there was sort of a log cabin…a lodge. And we were all supposed to meet there and the Scout Master said, “When you get there, there will be hot chocolate and Oreo cookies.” And so they dropped us off at different points. It was night, it had been raining, it was an awful night. The Boy Scout had a flashlight and a compass. Each of us had been given a compass reading and if we followed that compass reading we would all end up at the lodge for hot chocolate and Oreo cookies.
And so we set out…we four with our leader. Now, unfortunately our leader did not have batteries that kept on going. It wasn’t long before the batteries ran down and we had no light. I tell you, it’s hard at night when it’s been raining to read a compass. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do that…but it’s hard to read a compass at night in the woods when there’s no light and we tried to read that compass and I remember we went through one man’s grape vineyard and that gave me a clue we were lost. We kept tripping over the vines and the wires or whatever he had and he came out and yelled at us, but it wasn’t long before we knew we were lost. We were stumbling around and falling over trees and falling over branches and everything, but we knew the general area where we were supposed to go.
Finally, I don’t exactly how long…two or three hours…we came to what was obviously a ridge. There was about a space of darkness of I don’t know…about forty feet of darkness…just pitch black in front of us and you couldn’t tell if it was a three feet deep ravine or a thirty foot or a three hundred foot…but the tantalizing thing is that on the other side there were the lights of the lodge where the hot chocolate and Oreo cookies were.
But, I wasn’t about to get down there. I didn’t know what was down there…the bravest thing I’d ever done to that time was to strike a match without closing the cover and I wasn’t about to get down there and we all just sort of stood there and we looked at our Boy Scout leader. He said, “Okay…” And he sort of slipped over the edge and we could hear him sliding down, and then we didn’t hear him anymore. Well, we didn’t know if he was way down there or what! We waited and waited and waited, it started raining again…it was cold…we were scared. Those other guys over there…I just knew by the time we get there they’re going to have all the Oreo cookies eaten and all the hot chocolate gone.
And then finally we heard our leader’s voice on the other side of the ravine. He called out to us and he said, “It’s okay! You can make it! Come on across.” And so we all slid down into that ravine…and pitch black…couldn’t see a thing…but we were following our leader who went before us. I think Jesus says to us today from the other side, “It’s okay. You can make it. I’ve gone before you and I’ve found that it’s safe and you can make it!” He goes before us! There is no place you tread that Jesus hasn’t already put His foot down first! And He yells back at you, “Hey! You can make it!”
But, there is a final description of our Lord here. He’s one of us. He goes before us. And yet…
Jesus Christ as God’s “battering ram” stays with us.
Now have you noticed this thirteenth verse is filled with verbs? The first two verbs indicate an action that has already been done…an action that has already been completed. The breaker has gone up before them. That’s done! They have broken up…that is accomplished! They’ve been set free! Now, the next three verbs indicate a steady stream…they indicate three continuous acts…have passed through the gate, are gone out by it and their king shall pass before them and the LORD on the head of them. That is something that is happening continuously. Once the breaker has gone up before them, then their follows a steady stream. And from the time that Jesus Christ came and died on the Cross and went before us into Heaven, there has been a steady stream of His people assembling and drawing together and you and I today are a part of that continuous stream. But here is the point that I want to make…part of that continuous stream is that He still goes before us. He still is at our head, you see.
When Jesus ascended to Heaven…why did He ascend to Heaven? Well, one reason He went away from us is so that He might be with us. If He had stayed with us, He couldn’t have been with us. Sometimes we say, “Oh, I wish I’d been alive during the days when Jesus was on the earth.” Well, I’m sure that would have been fascinating, but it would have been limiting. Because you see if Jesus is with His disciples in the upper room, He can’t be with you in the hospital. If Jesus is with us here today in the flesh, He can’t be with missing missionaries thousands of miles away…He can’t do it. But when He went away from us He was able to stay with us. So He indwells us by His Holy Spirit.
He’s with me and He’s with you! Not part of Him, but all of Him. We need to understand this, you see. God being in us is not like spreading butter on a piece of bread…you know a little bit of butter gets here and a little bit of butter gets there…No, it’s not that you’ve got a little bit of God in you and you’ve got a little bit of God in you and I’ve got a little bit of God in me. NO! You’ve got all of God in you and you’ve got all of God in you and I’ve got all of God in me! The smallest flower growing out in the weeds needs the entire sun in order to survive. Half a sun would not do it, no matter if it’s just a small flower, it still requires the entire sun in order to survive.
And you and I require the entire Son in order to survive. It has always amazed me…television and radio. I’m fascinated by that. You know, I can sit in a motel room or in my home and I can watch a program from New York City and watch it from the other side of the world…well, I even watched it from the moon, once. Didn’t you get to watch that live show from the moon back in the late sixties? It’s not like up in New York at the studio they say, “You know, we can’t get everybody the whole program…we’ve got to spread it around…so we’ve got to give these people over here in this part of the country a little bit, and then we’ll have to give some to these and some to these. No, I get the whole program and you get the whole program. I get every note of the concert…you get every note of the concert even though it’s coming from one spot on the face of the earth…we all get the whole thing. And that’s the way it is and I know that’s a clumsy illustration, but that’s the way it is with having Him with us. He stays with us. I have all of Him within me. All of Him is there. He stays with us.
That’s why God said, “You shall call His name Emmanuel…God with us.” Making us into a people, continually setting us free, continually indwelling us.
I bought a book two or three years ago. I was intrigued by its title. The title of the book was THE MANGER IS EMPTY. It is! At one time it wasn’t. When Jesus came to this earth, He was born in a manger. But the manger is empty. He’s long since left that manger. He’s no longer a baby. I tell you something else that’s also empty. The Cross is empty! He died once to put away sin and He dies no more. Now, I know there are some religions that in their churches they have crosses with Jesus still on them, but that’s a travesty of the truth. The Cross is empty! I tell you something that’s empty, too. The tomb is empty!
I had a friend several years that visited the Holy Land. He had never been. He got over there and he said, “You know, I found out something. There are three tombs over that are supposed to be the tomb that Jesus was buried in.” “But,” he said, “no one can say for certain which of those tombs was the real one so just to be sure I visited all three.” “And,” he said, “all three were empty.” The tomb is empty! The manger is empty! The Cross is empty! The tomb is empty! But Heaven is filled with His presence and His glory and so are you filled with His presence and glory.
God’s battering ram! God sent Him to set us free and to gather us together and to make us a people. Would you bow your heads with me for just a moment as we pray together.
Our Heavenly Father, how true it is that we often do
not know what is happening and that is what is hap-
pening. Sometimes we miss the most significant things
in our lives because it doesn’t look like anything signi-
ficant is happening. Oh, we get caught up with the
sensational things and the greatest mistake we can
ever make is just because it’s sensational, it’s also
significant. Help us to understand and to know that the
most significant thing in our life is our relationship with
Jesus Christ, for He has come to do what He is doing,
and we’ll thank you for doing this in our own hearts,
for we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005