Text: Micah 1:1-9
I want us to see what God has to say to us through His prophet, Micah. Micah’s name means “who is like God?” And in the course of this prophecy, Micah gives a number of glimpses of what God is really like. And so, I want us tonight to read in our Bibles from chapter 1 of Micah. Beginning with verse 1 on down through 9:
“The word of the LORD which came to Micah of Moresheth
in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah,
which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains,
and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from
His holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming forth from
His place. He will come down and tread on the high places
of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him, and the
valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured
down a steep place. All this is for the rebellion of the house of
Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What
is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
(Let me just stop here for a moment…Samaria was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Jerusalem was the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Judah, or sometimes called Jacob. And so this is a message directed or concerning those two capital cities, and the message is one of judgment and it’s coming because of what happened in these two cities.
So, he says in verse 6…
For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country,
planting places for a vineyard. I will pour her stones down
into the valley, and will lay bare her foundations. All of her
idols will be smashed, with fire, and all her earnings will
be burned with fire, and all of her images I will make
desolate, for she collected them from a harlot’s earnings,
and to the earnings of a harlot they will return.
Because of this I must lament and wail, I must go
barefoot and naked; I must make a lament like
the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable, for it has come to Judah;
it has reached the gate of My people, even to Jerusalem.”
I want to give you a parable of life. There is a man running down the road and he’s being chased by a bear. Now as he runs to escape this bear, the bear keeps gaining on him. And so as this man is fleeing, he notices a well and so in a desperate attempt to escape the bear, he leaps into that well. As he leaps into that well, he sees at the bottom of that well is a rattlesnake coiled to strike. So, he frantically grabs hold of the edges of that well and catches hold of a branch and hangs there by that branch. Now, he notices as he hangs there by that branch the bear up there ready to devour him and the snake down there ready to bite him, and he is suspended between those two simply by that branch. Now, he notices that on that branch there are two mice…a black one and a white one. And they’re nibbling at that branch and every bite they take of that branch weakens it more and more. As he hangs there in that predicament, he notices on one of the leaves of that branch there are two drops of honey and so he reaches over and with his tongue he licks those two drops of honey.
Now, would you care for an interpretation? The person running is you or me. The bear pursuing him is our sins. Our sins are chasing all of us. The well that he leaps into is reality…that’s life as it really is. The rattlesnake coiled at the bottom of that well is the judgment of God, waiting for all of us. The branch by which this man hangs is the number of days that we have left to live. The black mouse is night and the white mouse is day. And each time night and day takes a bite of that branch your life grows shorter and you’re that much closer to the judgment of God. The two drops of honey hanging on that leaf represent everything else in this world…they represent all the pleasures and possessions…they represent occupations and vocations…they represent football games and everything.
Now anybody in that position who says that all there is to life is a couple of drops of honey is a fool. And yet, that is the way that most people live…as though there were no sin in their past…as though there were no judgment in their future…as though their life were not growing shorter day by day and all that amounted to life is simply a couple of drops of honey.
The Bible says that it is appointed unto man once to die but after that the judgment. There is nothing more certain in this life than judgment…nothing more certain than judgment! There is nothing more certain than the fact that God is the Author of human history and that He created time and that time will come to a conclusion at God’s appointed moment…that things will not stay as they are now forever. This world will not go on and on and on forever. Just as it had a beginning…it will have an ending. And at that ending there will be a judgment.
And Peter in his second epistle said that people who live as though things have always been this way and they’re never going to change, those men are fools. There is nothing more certain than judgment.
And that is basically the theme or a great part of the theme of Micah. Now, you’ll notice at the very beginning he is talking about a vision he’s had concerning God’s people…Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, the capital of the Southern Kingdom, Judah. And he says in verse 2:
“Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains,
and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from
His holy temple.”
Now, what Micah is doing is giving an invitation to all the nations, all the pagan nations, the unbelieving nations and he’s inviting them to take a front row seat to see a preview of a coming attraction. And that coming attraction is God’s judgment upon His own people. What Micah is saying is, “God’s judgment is coming upon His own people and I want all the nations of the earth to take a front row seat and I want you to get a good look at this because this is what is going to happen to you also if you do not repent.” Actually this passage of Scripture is a wakeup call to God’s people for them to start taking things seriously and consider what God is going to do. It is God coming in judgment.
Now as you go on in that first chapter, he shows us a very terrible picture. Look in verse 3:
“For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He
will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The
mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will be split,
like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place.”
Now, Micah is saying that there is nothing more certain than that judgment is coming but his burden is that judgment is already in progress…that judgment is already going on. The word he uses there “behold” is a word of explanation…it’s “man, you’ve got to see this…this is something that you’ve never seen before…this is something that is so unlike anything…look God is coming down from His holy temple” and the word “coming down” means He is constantly coming down. He’s not sitting down until the last day and then rising off that place to judge.
Micah is saying and this is the message he’s trying to get across to the people is that there is going to be a final day of judgment, but that’s just the last session of the court…judgment is going on right now…that God is active right now in the affairs of people and nations and that He is always in judgment and right now, He’s coming in judgment and we need to wake up to the fact that right now God is a God of judgment.
But the interesting thing is that he says, “His place” or “His dwelling place” (KJV) and “His holy temple”. Now in the Bible, in the Old Testament in particular, the “dwelling place” always signifies “the place of mercy…the seat of mercy.” Now, I want you to watch this. Micah is saying that there is something terrible happening and it is this…that God who is a God of mercy just can’t take it anymore and is getting up off His seat and is coming down and Micah uses a military word when he says “tread”…it’s the idea of stomping and walking…He is going to come and tread and stomp upon the mountains that the Bible uses as symbols of most immoveable objects that God ever made and the mountains are going to melt just like water. This is a terrible picture, and that’s why Micah says, “Behold, look what’s happening…” He wants everybody to see it, because this God that we seem to believe is simply a God of mercy…yet His patience comes to an end and He is the kind of God who is not going to sit around while all this sin goes on…He’s going to rise off of that seat of mercy and He’s going to come down to earth and He’s going to walk in judgment.
I want to share with you tonight three things that I think Micah is saying to us…three things that I think God is saying to us…three things that I believe you and I need to know…
We need to start taking God seriously.
Now, I want you to notice also the different names he uses for God. Notice in verse 1 he says, “The word of the LORD…” Do you see that the word, LORD is all capitals? In the NIV it’s a big capital and little caps…you got that? Now, if you come down in other places in the Bible where the word Lord appears, it’s capital L with little letters “ord”. Now, that means those are two different words…they’re both translated lord, but they’re two different words. The word that Micah uses here…LORD…all in caps is the word Jehovah or Yahweh, which is God’s covenant name. In other words, He is a God of grace. This God that Micah is talking about…this God who is going to come in judgment is first of all a God of grace.
That’s the way we know Him and that’s the way we want to know Him. And what Micah is trying to get us to wake up to and take seriously is that our sin is serious…that a God who is a God of mercy and of grace is going to act in an act of judgment. In another place in the Bible judgment is called “the strange work of the Lord.” That means that’s the work that He doesn’t like to do. That’s the work that’s almost a contradiction of His character and He’s slow to wrath. That’s not really what God likes to do. What God delights in is grace and mercy and blessing, but man’s sin can become so great and so insidious that it takes a God of grace and causes Him to act in judgment.
You know, as I was reading the Bible the other day…well, you come across phrases in the Bible that you’ve read a lot of times and then you read them again and suddenly you see something in them that you’ve never seen before. Remember the phrases especially in Revelation where it talks about the wrath of the Lamb? Now, let me ask you, can you think of two more contradictory terms than “wrath” and “Lamb”? When you think of “Lamb”, you don’t think of “wrath”, do you? You think of gentleness and meekness and stupidity, I mean, you know…when God describes men and women as sheep, that’s not a compliment. He’s saying, “You’re dumb and you need somebody to tell you what to do or you’re going to walk off a cliff.”
So, when you think of a lamb, you don’t think of wrath. A lamb is the most defenseless creature God ever made. It can’t run fast. It can’t hear good. It can’t see good. It can’t bite. It can’t fight. It really has no weapons. It’s not like an eagle that can fly. It’s not like a bear that has claws. It’s not like a tiger that has teeth. It is defenseless, you see, and yet He talks about the wrath of the Lamb. In other words, He’s saying that man’s sin becomes so great that it would make even a Lamb turn to wrath. He’s saying, “You better take God seriously.”
I think one of the troubles with our generation is that we think that grace eliminates judgment. But folks, grace doesn’t eliminate judgment, grace enlarges judgment. You see, man’s sin and his punishment in hell would not have been nearly as great as it will be now since Jesus has died. That’s why Jesus said, “Had I not come they would not have known of sin, but when I came they knew their sin,” you see. The very fact that God made provision for man’s sin and man still does not take advantage of that just makes his sin that much greater. Grace does not eliminate judgment…it increases it…it enlarges it.
You cannot take refuge in the fact that God is a God of love and a God of grace and a God of mercy. He is that…He is a Lamb, but He’s a Lamb that can be stirred to wrath.
Another thing that Micah tells us about God and we ought to take seriously is that God is also a sovereign God. In my translation that I’m reading from tonight, in the NIV, in verse 2, he says, “Hear O peoples, all of you, listen O earth, and all who are in it that the sovereign Lord”…I think other translations read “Lord God” and the phrase, “Lord God” always refers to the sovereignty of God…the fact that God has control over all creation…the fact that everything that happens in the affairs of men and women and nations is under His control. He is a sovereign God.
My theology professor in seminary told us one day what the sovereignty of God meant. He said, “That means that God is able to do as He pleases and He does it right well.” He is sovereign! He hasn’t relinquished any of His control.
But there’s a third thing, and all of these things tie together…He is also a God of holiness. You’ll notice that it says in the latter part of that second verse that the LORD is coming from His holy temple. Now, as LORD, the God of grace, He has the right to judge. As sovereign God, He has the power to judge. And as a holy God, He has the reason to judge. And Micah is saying it is time we take God seriously and treat Him with the reverence and awe that He expects and demands.
But not only are we to take God seriously,
We’re to take judgment seriously.
Now, you know…people today in this society…they don’t believe in judgment…they just really don’t. They laugh about it as an old fashioned idea. I mean, you know, they just do. And I tell you…it’s hard…Kaye and I were talking about this the other day…and I said, “You know, it is hard for me…I used to be a bigger believer in eternal hellfire than I am now. The reason is because it gets hard for me to imagine that God would really do that. But, the Bible plainly speaks about eternal punishment. The Bible plainly speaks about a lake of fire. The Bible plainly speaks about everlasting destruction, but you see, that is incomprehensible to me…I just can’t comprehend that…I can’t conceive of that.” And most of us cannot! And so, we discount judgment…we don’t want to talk about it.
Kaye and I visited a church a Sunday or two before Christmas and this pastor was giving a series on messages on the Advent…on Christmas. And the day we were there, he was talking about John the Baptist saying, “This is the Lamb of God” and he was saying, “there comes One after me whose shoes I’m not worth to unbutton, and he said, ‘I baptize you with water, but He shall baptize you with fire.’” The preacher went to great lengths to tell the people (and he’s right) that the fire there does not mean judgment… “When he said, ‘He shall baptize you with fire,’ he’s not talking about judgment…he’s not talking about hell…he’s not talking about that.” The preacher was right in my humble and accurate opinion. Then, he went to great lengths to tell us that God is not that kind of God and that we ought not to read into that that God is a vindictive God. The only thing that bothered me is that he neglected to deal with what John said first of all. John said to those heretics, “Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” He left that out entirely. Well, I think he’s simply reflecting the attitude of the modern mind. It’s hard for us to believe in judgment. But, God says, “You better take judgment seriously.”
One reason we better take judgment seriously is because God is going to judge us for our transgressions. You notice there that He says, “…for the transgressions of My people.” The word “transgression” literally means “rebellion” or “stepping out of bounds”. Actually it’s the meanest thing a person can do. It is God’s saying, “You must…” and it is man’s saying, “I won’t…” Do you know what transgression is? Transgression is a little boy saying to his mommy and daddy when they tell him to do something… “I’m not gonna do it!” It’s just plain old rebellion…mean rebellion…rebellion against the will and the law of God…intentional rebellion.
God does not take that lightly, folks. And so we ought not to take that lightly. But there’s another reason we ought not to take judgment lightly and that’s because He’s judging us not only because of our transgression, but also because of our sin. Now the word “sin” is a different word. It means to miss the mark and it means to miss the mark deliberately. To illustrate…the other day we were in Greenwood, Arkansas and we used to have a farm there and we sold part of it and I’ll not get into all that. But, anyway we went out to spend some time there. That’s where I used to shoot. My hobby was shooting and reloading. I mean reloading…not the gun…reloading the ammunition…you know…reloading. Since we no longer have the farm, I haven’t shot at anybody in five years. So, we decided that while we were out there we would just do some shooting. So I went to the store and I bought some targets. I want to tell you something…I used to be a pretty good shot…I’m not bragging…I really used to be a pretty good shot. I hadn’t shot a gun in five years and I was shooting a little 380 Walter automatic short barrel. I couldn’t have hit that target if I’d thrown the gun at it!
First of all, I thought I’d do it, you know, free standing. Then, I leaned across the pickup and braced, you know…at first I was 25 yards. My friend said, “How far do you want the target out?” Well, I said, “Twenty-five yards…no problem. I used to hit that all the time.” Then, I got up to about 10 yards and braced myself against a tree and I got one in the black…that’s all! I shot 50 rounds. I bought a whole box and shot it up and I got one in the black. You know what I did? I sinned! I missed the mark…but I did not do it intentionally.
Now, God has set a mark for us…a standard for us and He says, “The reason that I’m coming in judgment is because you have missed the mark and you’ve done it deliberately, intentionally.” As a matter of fact, you know that very familiar verse in Romans 3:23 where Paul says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”…the word “sinned” is the Greek word for “missed the mark.” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” but the tense of that verb is and as a result “are” living deficient of God’s glory. In other words, because we have deliberately missed the mark that God set for us, we have by our choice decided not to measure up to God’s level…as a result of that we are deficient of the glory of God which God intended for us to share at the beginning. God doesn’t take that lightly.
But there’s another reason God judges us and we need to take it seriously and it is because…look in verse 7…
“All her idols will be smashed, all of her earnings will
be burned with fire, and all of her images I will make
desolate, for she collected them from a harlot’s earnings,
and to the earnings of a harlot they will return.”
Now, God’s judgment needs to be taken seriously not only because of our transgressions and our sins and because of our spiritual prostitution…our spiritual harlotry. You know, there are many places in the Bible that speak of the sin of a believer as adultery or fornication. James 4 talks about that. You see, we have been wedded to Christ. We who are Christians have been married to Christ and so, when I am unfaithful to Christ and I get wrapped up in the world, that is spiritual adultery…because I’m being unfaithful to the one whom I’ve been joined to. But, this is worse than that. Why? Because adultery is committed out of passion…but, a prostitute commits her sin for profit.
You know what God is saying? God is saying, “I’m judging you because you’ve been unfaithful to Me…and not just because you’ve been unfaithful to Me and got carried away with the world and in an act of passion you were unfaithful to Me…but because you felt that you would have greater advantage in life and business if you would join yourself to the world.” That’s what He’s saying.
You see, many times you and I are unfaithful to Christ because we feel like it would be to our advantage to be unfaithful to Him. He mentions idolatry there in connection with that. Now let me show you something. The reason that he mentions idolatry in connection with harlotry is this…when the Israelites…when God’s people came into a new land, they came as foreigners. And when they got in this new land the inhabitants of that new land said, “Hey, the God that served you well in your hometown is of no use here. You need to take up our gods. If you’re going to get anywhere in this land and be successful in this land, you need to take up our gods.” And so the reason that they abandoned their God for idols and were unfaithful to their God was because they felt their old God wouldn’t bring them through in this new life and this new land.
And so because they wanted profit, they wanted popularity, they wanted acceptance, they wanted to be one with the world…they thought, “Well, it would be better if I do this than if I stay with the old God” and so they became spiritual prostitutes, not out of passion, but out of profit for their own advantage. Are you still with me on this?
Now, you’ll notice that he’s condemning the cities on this…Samaria and Jerusalem. Now why is he condemning the cities and they are the nations’ capitals. They are the capital cities. Again, if you study the Bible, and in particular the Old Testament, when these prophets talk about judgment, do you know what they do? They almost make the cities synonymous with sin. Because it is a well known fact that the more people that congregate together the more sin grows. It’s the old story of the girl who won the Miss Peach Festival out in “Noplace,” Oklahoma and went to New York and no longer became a pure girl, because she got up there in that big city and enthralled in that big city up there where nobody knew her and she could hide in that big city…so why not let go of all her inhibitions and let go and sin all she wanted to.
That’s what he’s saying. There is something about cities that make it more difficult for people to be faithful to the Lord. And I’m going to tell you something, I do about forty to forty-five meetings a year and the hardest meetings I have are in big cities. They are! The less commitment…I go to these country churches and the same people that are there Sunday morning are mostly back there on Sunday night and Monday night and all through the week. There’s a greater sense of commitment. But, you come to the big cities and I want to tell you something…if you get anybody out, you’re doing a good job. There is a lack of commitment. Why? When you get to the big city, there is so much else to preoccupy your mind. There are so many lights…there is so much to do…there is so much to get involved in that if you’re not careful…see, you want to be accepted in the city…you want to make it good…you want to make mom and dad proud…when you go back home for a visit at Christmas, you want to be thought of as a big success and so the God that served you well back yonder in the hometown… “oh, this God’s not gonna do here in the big city”…so you abandon that God. Why? Because you’re a prostitute. You do that for profit. You do that for gain.
How many times is it that you and I compromise our faith for gain…for personal advantage? Well, we need to take God seriously. We need to take His judgments seriously.
I want to tell you the last thing…
We need to take this message seriously.
Now look at verse 8…hear the words of the prophet…
“Because of this (because of what’s going to happen)
I will lament and wail (literally I will beat my breasts)”
Those words indicate a funeral dirge. It’s mourning for the dead. It’s a song of grief. The prophet said, “because I see what is going to happen to my people my heart is broken and my heart is burdened and there’s no song of joy and the only song that I can sing is a song of mourning as though I were at the funeral of my best friend.
And then the next phrase he uses…
“I must go barefoot and naked;”
and again, that is the symbol of mourning and the symbol of a prisoner. When you were in mourning you went barefoot and when you were a prisoner they stripped you of all of your clothes.
“I must make a lament like the jackals and a mourning
like the ostriches.”
Actually this means to peep like a baby bird. Notice he starts out howling like a jackal and he goes hoarse and loses his voice until he can just peep like a little bird. Micah is broken and burdened. He’s taking this seriously.
And in chapter 3 when he says, “Hear now, heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel”, the word “hear” means a pleading with a teardrop in it. It’s a pleading entreaty. One of the great statements that I heard someone make a long time ago is that you have no right to preach on hell if you’re happy about it. You know there’s a bumper sticker that I see every once in a while that I don’t like… “Don’t blame Jesus if you go to hell.” I don’t know…to me it conveys a guy who is driving that car and he says, “Hey, I’m saved and I’m going to heaven, and don’t blame Jesus if you’re going to hell.” There doesn’t seem to be ounce of compassion in it.
A person doesn’t have the right to preach on hell if he enjoys doing it. Micah took this message seriously and you and I ought to take it seriously, too. I’ll never forget hearing Vance Havner make this statement and it sums it up pretty well. He says, “The problem today is the situation is desperate, but we are not.”
Would you bow your heads with me as we pray?
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005