Text: Micah 7:18-20
The meaning of Micah is “who is like Jehovah?” and he plays on that in this last passage. We’re going to read Micah 7:18-20…
“Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes
over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights
in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, Thou wilt cast
all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt give truth
to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which Thou
didst swear to our forefathers from the days of old.”
Who is like Jehovah? Who is a God like unto Thee? Let’s compare Gods and see if there is a God like our God.
One of the most helpful books that I have ever read and I highly recommend it to you…I’ve read it more than once and I keep it in my study because it is a book that I have gone back to time and time again…is a book by the title KNOWING GOD by J. I. Packer. If you have never read that book, let me urge you to read that book. It is one of the best books that I have ever read. If I had to list ten books throughout my whole ministry that have blessed me and influenced me, that book would be one of them and near the top…KNOWING GOD…because there is nothing more important than knowing God.
But it is not only important to know God, but to also know what kind of God we know. And that’s the burden of Micah. What is God like? You see, there is God as He is and then there is God as you and I conceive Him to be. Now, when we come into this place to worship we’re not necessarily worshiping God as He is…we are worshiping God as we conceive Him to be. And if our concept of God is wrong, then our worship of God is going to be wrong, you see. That’s why there have been religions through the ages in which the worshipers would sacrifice the firstborn. Well, what made them worship in that way? That’s the kind of god they had. Their god demanded that kind of sacrifice and that was their concept of God and their concept of God determined how they worshiped.
You see, it is important for us to understand what God is really like. If you don’t, you may be worshiping Him in the wrong way. Augustine said, “Teach me O Lord, which is first…to know Thee or to praise Thee…or to know Thee or ask of Thee…for if I know Thee not I may ask of Thee other than Thou art.” Now, Augustine is saying is “If I don’t have the right conception of God in my praise and in my praying I may be asking God to do something that’s contrary to His nature.” So, it is important for us to have right concept of God.
You remember Jesus talking to the woman at the well in John 4, the conversation drifted around to worship and she revealed her ignorance of true worship…she said, “Oh I know you Jews. You believe you have to worship in a certain place…in a certain mountain.” Her concept of God was that He was a geographical God…limited to a geographical location. But Jesus corrected that when He said, “God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth,” you see. God is not a geographical God. He is not limited to one physical location. He is a Spirit and you worship Him according to His nature. Your concept of God will determine how you worship.
It will also determine how you walk. That’s why John says that God is a God of light. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all and if we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness we lie and have not the truth.” When the Bible describes God as light, it describes Him not only in His moral perfection but also in His high holiness. Now, you know, if I don’t have a high concept of the holiness of God that’s going to affect the way I live…for if I don’t think God is all that concerned about sin and holiness then why should I be concerned about it? That’s why we must take God seriously.
Peter said, “Be ye holy…” WHY? “Because God is holy.” Why should you and I live a life of holiness? Because God is holy. You see, everything in the Christian life…how I pray, how I live, how I respond to tragedy, how I respond to difficulty…everything in the Christian life is going to be determined by my idea, my concept of God, you see.
It’s always been interesting to me that when God said, “Be ye holy,” and if you go back and read then rabbinical health laws, He doesn’t say, “If you eat like this, you’ll live longer.” He never says that! He doesn’t say, “If you’ll not eat this kind of meat and if you’ll not put together this kind of meat and if you’ll live like this, you’re going to be healthier and you won’t have indigestion and you won’t have ulcers and you’ll live longer…” He never says that! The only reason He gives those laws is “because I am the LORD and I am holy.” So, my concept of God…what I believe about Him determines how I live my life.
Now, as Micah comes to the end of this book, he has said a lot of things about God. Most of the things he has said about God have been things concerning judgment and wrath and retribution, but as Micah brings his prophecy to a close, he signifies that he’s coming to a summary of the whole business. When he plays on his own name – “who is like Jehovah?” – he says, “Who is a God like unto Thee?” And then in the next three verses, he describes to us what kind of God we have.
So, let’s just look at these three verses tonight… Verses 18, 19 and 20 give us three different points concerning our God and so they make up the points of the message.
Micah tells us our God is a God of forgiving love…He is a God of pardon.
Look at the 18th verse.
“Who is a God like Thee, who pardons
iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the
remnant of His possession? He does not retain
His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”
Micah’s message has been largely one of judgment…one of condemnation…but the last word is this… “I want you to know something, this is what God is like…He is a God who delights in mercy. He is a God of forgiving love.” What is so incomparable about our God? He said, “Let’s compare Gods.” What is so special about our God? And you know, if you have ever done a study about the gods of history…the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Greeks and the gods of the pagans…all the way through, there is one glaring, one noticeable incomparable difference between pagan gods and the God of the Christian. You know what that is? Our God forgives sin. Ours is a God who delights in mercy. You cannot say that about any pagan god…that he delighted in mercy. This was a whole, new revelation to the people of that day because the only gods they had known were gods of judgment and of wrath, gods of capriciousness and gods who just threw the dice and a person’s fate depended upon a roll of the dice, but Micah said, “I want you to know what makes our God so incomparable is He is a God of forgiving love. He forgives sin.” And that’s the one thing that you and I need more than anything else in all this life…we need to be forgiven of our sin.
I was talking to a person the other day and he said, “You know, I’ve kind of gotten into Zen, and I’m getting more into it and I like it.” And so as we talked, I said, “Let me ask you one question…is there any place in Zen or any other religion like that as a matter of fact, where there is forgiveness of past sin?” You see, the appeal of these false religions, Zen and some of the other Eastern religions and the New Age, which many are into, even Christians are into without knowing it, is that they promise a better life here and now, they promise a healthier life, they promise a richer and fuller life, but one thing they never ever promise is they never promise forgiveness of past sin. They never do!
See, that is the problem. Let’s just suppose that I have a charge account at your grocery store and I’ve run up about a thousand dollar grocery bill, and I haven’t made a payment in six months. I come into your store one day and I say, “Listen, I want to apologize to you because I owe you money and I haven’t paid and I want you to know from now on I’m going to pay everything in cash. I’m not going to charge anything else. From now on, everything will be paid in cash. How about that?” You know what you’d say? You’d say, “Well, that’s all well and good…but what about that old debt? Your simply making a new resolution to charge no more and to pay everything in cash…that’s fine…that’s good…but that doesn’t take care of the past debt that you owe. You’ve got to take of that past debt.”
Now, I might turn over a new leaf and try to live a good life, but friend, what about that past debt of sin that is against God that I must face some day in the Judgment? Only the Christian religion does anything about that. He is a God who pardons our iniquities. The word “pardon” means “to lift up” or “to relieve a burden”. The idea is that this iniquity was basically a word that means “crooked”. It refers to our nature. We have a crooked nature. And that sin is a burden upon us that’s weighing us down. And Micah says, “Our God is the kind of God who in pardoning us lifts an intolerable burden.”
I want you to go over to Psalm 32 for just a moment, and you will see a wonderful description of the burden of sin. Psalm 32 is referring to David’s sin with Bathsheba as does Psalm 51, but Psalm 32 describes the condition before Nathan faced him and he repented of that sin. He begins in Psalm 32 with these words:
“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin in covered! How blessed is the man to whom
the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit
there is no deceit!”
Now, why is David saying that…why is he saying “Blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven”? Well, he tells us in verses 3 and 4…
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long. For day and night
Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained
away as with the fever-heat of summer.”
This is very graphic language. He said, “When I kept silent about my sin and before I confessed my sin my bones waxed cold” (NIV) that is they began to turn to dust…they began to crumble and were crushed under the load… “and I was roaring all day long, day and night Your hand was heavy upon me…” (NIV) A burden! An intolerable burden! The guilt! Actually, and some scholars believe this…that David was describing physical maladies…physical illness…because of his un-confessed sin. You don’t need me to tell you that it is a proven fact that anger and bitterness and hatred can make you sick…distress and the tension.
I remember I was in a doctor’s office several years ago…he was a fine Christian doctor and he’s been a friend of mine for a number of years and just one of the finest Christians that I know. I was waiting in one room and he had been counseling a woman and was finished with her and he was out in the hall and I couldn’t help but overhear what he said to her. He said, “You can come to me”…she was having stomach problems… “you can come to me and I can give you medicine, but I want to tell you something…your stomach problems are not going to clear up until you get things right with your sister.” I thought that was interesting. Un-confessed sin creates a burden, a brokenness. It’s like a heavy hand pressing down upon us and he says, “Our God is a God who pardons or lifts that iniquity.” And notice then, he says, “…and He passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession.” This is so descriptive. He is saying that when God delights in mercy and He pardons our sin, He just passes over our transgressions…He doesn’t even stop to deal with them. They’re not worth considering. They’re not worth dealing with. And He passes by those things. He is a God of forgiving love.
Micah tells us God is a God of redeeming power…verse 19
“He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot and will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Now there are two things there that are noteworthy. First of all, it says that He will tread our iniquities underfoot. That is a very violent picture. It means literally to trample underfoot. You could almost translate it “to stomp”. And it indicates a violent trampling. What does He do when He pardons our iniquities, our transgressions? Well, then He brings them under submission. The word “iniquity” there is chosen for a reason. It doesn’t say that He subdues our transgressions. It says He subdues our iniquities. Why? Because remember the word “iniquity” refers to our old nature…the old nature. In other words, when God does His work of grace in my heart, He brings under submission this old crooked nature of mine.
And God is the only one who can do it. You know, you can make changes in your behavior, but there’s one thing you cannot do and that is you cannot subdue your old nature. You just cannot do it. Remember the Ten Commandments. Well, Paul over in Romans 7 was talking about those commandments. Now, Paul said, “I kept all those commandments…I never murdered anybody…never committed adultery…never stole…never dishonored my mother and dad…but there’s one commandment that slew me,” he says…one commandment…do you remember what it was? The last one…Thou shalt not covet. You see all the others have to do with actions, this has to do with inner attitude.
I’ve never killed anybody. Sometimes I’ve wanted to. I’ve never, oh my, I started to say that I’ve never stolen anything…maybe I need to think about this for a minute. Let’s see, I’m sure when I was a kid…but let’s just for the sake of argument say I didn’t. I’m not a thief! I don’t steal things! But, I sure have coveted other people’s stuff! You say you’ve never committed adultery, but hey, have you ever wanted to? You see, that’s why James said that you can keep the whole law but if you offend in one point you’re guilty of all of them. Why? Because the same covetousness that makes you break one law makes you break all of them.
See, I may be able to honor my father and mother and I may be able to have no other gods before me and not commit adultery and not commit murder, but there’s one thing I cannot subdue…I cannot subdue this old crooked nature that covets, and wants to do some of those things. Paul said, “That’s the commandment that slew me…I was doing alright until I came to number ten.” It’s like the man who fell from a ten story building and as he passed by each story he said, “so far, so good,” but when he came to the last one, that’s what killed him. It’s the last one that kills you.
And what does this say? It says, “He treads under His feet…He brings into submission our old crooked nature.” You know, Christians have the power to act contrary to the old fallen nature. That’s why they’re different from everybody else. Why? Because God has enabled them, has subdued, has brought into submission that old crooked nature.
But, then he says that He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. Isn’t that a beautiful phrase? He takes our sin and He casts them into the depths of the sea. Now what does that signify? That signifies that God hides them! Through the Bible, if you want to get rid of something, you cast it into the sea. There are other passages where God says, “I cast their sin behind My back where I can’t see them” and “I will remember their sins against them no more forever” and when it says, “He casts them into the sea” it means God takes our sins and He hides them from His face so that He cannot see them. I’m working on a sermon called “What We Remember That God Forgets.” You know what we remember? We remember our sins. But, God forgets them. And when you confess a sin that God’s already forgiven, I sometimes feel like God says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
You see, that’s what the devil likes to do. Now, let me tell you something. There is such a thing as the conviction of the Spirit and the condemnation of the devil. I’ll tell you what the difference is. A lot of us confuse it and we think we’re being convicted by God when we’re really just being condemned by the devil. The Holy Spirit will never convict you of a sin that you’ve already confessed to God and been forgiven for. He never will! And when there is brought up to you sins of the past that you’ve already dealt with and already confessed and God has already forgiven, that is not the Holy Spirit! That is the condemnation of the devil. But, I want you to think a minute how many of us when we pray or in certain other spiritual exercises, how many of us have those old past sins brought before our eyes, and we feel guilty for them all over again! Anybody here like that? What is that? That’s not God, folks! Why? He’s forgotten about them! He doesn’t know what you’re talking about. That’s the devil! God casts them behind His back!
So, He is a God of forgiving love…a God of pardon. He is a God of redeeming power and finally…
Micah tells us He is a God of perpetual faithfulness…a God of promise…verse 20
“Thou wilt give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which Thou didst swear to our forefathers from the days of old.”
Now, “days of old” is a phrase that depicts eternity. This God’s faithfulness and God’s promise is perpetual. See, Abraham may die, but God’s promise doesn’t die. Moses may die, but God’s promise doesn’t die. Because His promise is perpetual. What he’s saying is “God will keep His word. Everything God promised to the fathers of old concerning their redemption and concerning His grace He is going to keep!
See, this is so important because he’s been talking judgment. He’s been talking about condemnation. He’s been talking about captivity. And so it is easy for the people of God to look at their surroundings and see everything falling apart and wonder, “Has God failed and has God forgotten His promise?” and Micah says, “Listen, regardless of the present situation, even though there is corruption and destruction in the land, I want you to know something…our God is a God who never forgets His promise and He will perform His truth…He’ll keep His word!”
Now, there are two things I want to say about this in closing. Number one…it means the future belongs to God’s people. The future belongs to God, and God’s people! Sometimes it’s hard to believe that, isn’t it? I sometimes get discouraged because we see the world getting worse and worse and even see in many aspects the church getting worse and worse, and you begin to think, “Man, we’ve had it! We’re done for!” “Will the church survive the twentieth century” was one of the common themes a few years ago. Listen, I have news for you…the future belongs to God and to His people.
But, there’s a second thing that Micah says. Not only does the future belong to God, but the last word is a word of grace. I think it is so significant that in this prophecy in which there is so much talk of destruction and judgment Micah comes and the last word that he has to say is a word of grace!
God’s last word to man is not a word of condemnation and judgment and destruction…His last word to man is of love and mercy and grace. Let’s think about that for just a moment. He will perform what He’s promised. Whatever God promises, He will perform. What God promises, He will perform.
It is not what God promises you must perform. Nor is it you must promise and then you must perform. When in Romans 4, Paul is talking about Abraham’s faith in relation to the birth of Isaac, he was saying that even though Abraham examined the impossibility of the birth of a son from him and Sarah, yet looking at the promises of God, he did not waver in unbelief, knowing that what God had promised He was able also to perform.
You see, our trouble is that we make all these promises to God, don’t we? We make all these promises to God… “God, I’m going to do better…God I promise not to this anymore…” I want to tell you something, if you promise it, you’ve got to perform it. But, you see, if God promised it, He will perform it.
See, I never promised God that all my needs will be met according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. God promised that! And what God promised He will perform. I never promised God that sin shall not reign over my mortal body. I never made that promise to God! God made that promise to me! And what God promises, He Himself will perform! I never promised God that His grace will be sufficient for me during times of trial. God made that promise to me! And what He promises, He will perform! He is a God of promise! He is a God of performance!
Who is a God like our God?
Let me close by asking you to turn to Isaiah 46. Israel is in captivity in Babylon. And God is getting ready to deliver them. In Isaiah 45, God tells how that’s going to be done. Cyrus, a pagan king, had been raised by God and he is going to come and deliver them. Now, in chapter 46, you have a description of what’s going to happen when Cyrus moves in. Let’s look at verse 1…
“Baal has bowed down, Nebo stoops over;”
(now who in the world are Baal and Nebo? They are the gods of Babylon. They are the primary gods of Babylon…Baal and Nebo.)
“Baal has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are
consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that
you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast.
They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves
gone into captivity.”
This is Isaiah almost poking fun at the Babylonian gods. Now, here comes Cyrus invading Babylon and what’s the first thing you have to do? You have to save your gods! We’ve got to save our gods! We don’t want our gods to be captured by the enemy. So, they get Bel and Nebo and they load them on these donkeys. But Bel and Nebo are so heavy, they’re such a burden that the donkeys can’t move! As a matter of fact, they just sort of bend down and stoop and they are captured and taken away into captivity.
See, he’s comparing gods. Look at verse 3…
“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the
remnant of the house of Israel, you who have
been borne by Me from birth, and have been
carried from the womb; even to your old age
I shall be the same, and even to your graying
years I shall bear you ! I have done it, and
I shall carry you; and I shall bear you, and I shall
deliver you. To whom would you liken Me, and
make Me equal and compare Me, that we should
be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse
and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and
he makes it into a god; they bow down, indeed they
worship it. They lift it upon the shoulder and carry
it; they set it in its place and it stands there. It does
not move from its place. Though one may cry to it,
it cannot answer; it cannot deliver him from his distress.”
Now you know the difference between a false god and our God? A false god, you have to carry. The true God carries you. A false god can only go as far as you can carry it…but the true God carries you. You have to save a false god, but the true God saves you. Here’s the picture. He says, “Let’s compare Gods…the gods of Babylon…Baal and Nebo? I mean they made them out of all this gold and silver…they took it to a blacksmith and they turned it into these gods and you set them in their place and wherever you set them that’s where they stay…they can’t move on their own and you cry out to them and they cannot answer and then when the enemy comes in you load them on these donkeys and they’re so heavy the donkeys can’t get out of town and so they’re captured by the enemy…” but he says, “our God carries us…even from the womb to the gray hairs…He carries us.”
When I was pastor of MacArthur Boulevard in Irving, Texas, our church was going through a difficult time. It was a critical time. And it looked like…well, I’d done everything I knew to do…all my seminary training…all my wisdom…I’d try to solve this problem. What it was was we had several families in the church who were causing a great division. And you know, I was so tired of fighting it…and everything I tried just wouldn’t work and I remember, oh my…do I remember it…in my office one day, falling on my knees and burying my head in my chest and here’s what I said to God… “Dear God, if You’re going to solve this problem You’re going to have to do it without any help from me.” Have you ever noticed that things in your mind sound so sensible until you express them and then they sound stupid?
You know when I said those words, I almost heard a sigh from heaven. It was as though God was saying, “Oooh, finally, now I can do something.” Folks, our God performs. He carries us.
Some of you may be weary to the point of exhaustion and maybe because you’ve been trying to carry your God with you. That’s not the way it works. God will carry you and what He has promised, He will perform!
Will you bow your heads with me?
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005
Text: Micah 3:12-4:4
I want you to open your Bibles to the Book of Micah, chapter 3. I’m going to read beginning in the last verse…verse 12 of that third chapter and we’ll read through the fourth verse of the fourth chapter. Micah 3:12:
Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill
a mound overgrown with thickets. In the last days the
mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as
chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the
hills, and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us
go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house
of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so
that we may walk in His paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD
from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their
spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword
against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own
vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them
afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
Welcome to Utopia. They will beat their swords into plowshares and they will study war no more. Every man will sit under his own vine, under his own fig tree and no one shall be afraid of anything.
That’s what everybody is hoping for. When they have these meetings of the heads of state, the summit conferences…that’s what they’re all aiming for…for the day when nation will no longer war against nation, and when the weapons of war will be turned into weapons of commerce or agriculture as Micah says they will be beaten into plowshares. When every man will have security…he shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree…and there will be peace…they shall not be afraid of anything.
That’s what we all hope for, isn’t it? It is the hope of that kind of world that keeps people going. I don’t see how a man can live without hope. It seems to me that hope…the expectation…the anticipation that in the future things are going to be right, or things are going to be better. Hope is the spark that keeps the human spirit alive. One of the saddest statements the Bible makes is found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, where he is describing those who do not have Christ… He says, “…they are without God and without hope in the world.”
One of my dearest friends in the ministry told me about his first wife who was in a very serious automobile accident and he was called to the hospital. When he got there they were working on her in the emergency room and he spoke of standing outside the emergency room door, which were doors where he could watch through the windows, and he said that he watched in fascination as half a dozen or so medical personnel worked in a frenzied manner over the body of his wife and they were running here and there…getting this instrument and getting this hypodermic and there was a frenzy of activity as he watched that going on. And it was that frenzy of activity that let him know she was still alive. But, he said, “Suddenly all that activity ceased…just like that. And everybody stopped moving around and running around and they began to remove their masks and they just stood there and did nothing…” and he said he knew that she was dead. And he said, “To me that has always been the picture of the despair that comes when all hope is gone. I’ve never forgotten that scene. While there was all that activity, they were hoping to keep her alive, but when it ceased and everybody stopped doing what they were doing, I knew then that there was no hope.”
It is hope that keeps us going, isn’t it? Hope that things will get better…hope that God perhaps will heal us…hope perhaps that finances will straighten out…hope for the children…hope for your own life…that things will get better. It’s hope that keeps us going. It seems to be that it’s only when a person has lost all hope that he comes to the point where he would take his own life. The airman that was shot down a few days ago over Bosnia…what do you think kept him going for six days? Hope! Hope of survival…hope of being rescued…hope of seeing his family again. That’s what keeps a man going in the jungles and when they picked up his survival signal there was hope given to the rescuers and his rescue has done what? It means that any others who perhaps are shot down, there is hope for them. Most of us had given him up. We said, “Well, he’s gone, he’s dead.” But, when he came back and stepped down from that plane, why was everybody cheering so much? It was because that meant that there was hope that even in the worse conditions a person can survive.
And as Christians we are on a journey of hope. That’s what Micah is talking about. We set out in our lives, especially in the Christian life…it is a journey of hope that ends in fulfillment. But as Micah describes this journey, and as our own experience teaches…this journey is an up and down affair. There are those times when you’re riding high on the crest of hope and you have no doubt that that hope will turn to reality and suddenly around the bend you’re plunged down to the deepest pits of despair because it seems that hope has gone into an eclipse and you can barely make out that it is there.
And as Micah begins this fourth chapter and tailing off in the third chapter and moving into that fourth chapter…he is dealing with our journey of hope. You know, there is a glaring contradiction between verse 12 of chapter 3 and verse 1 of chapter 4. Did you notice it? In verse 12 of chapter 3, he is describing the desolation of God’s judgment. He says, “Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” It’s as though he has taken away all hope from these people and I’ve had the feeling that sometimes after we’ve been going through the Book of Micah, we might say, “My goodness, this is the most depressing book I’ve read,” because all he’s been talking about so far is the sins of God’s people and God’s judgment upon them. And so, that third chapter ends with this terrible picture of desolation! And he said it’s like it’s overgrown with thickets!
But notice verse 1 of chapter 4… “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.” What a contrast! What a contrast! That same mountain which is destroyed in one moment is going to be raised up in another moment and chapter 4 will go on and chapter 5 and others…and you’ll see that it all ends in great expectation and great hope.
So, I want to talk to you this morning about this journey that all of us are on…this journey of hope. And there are several things that I think we need to be aware of. It’s always good to know what to look for on a trip…not to be surprised…not to be taken unawares…so there are some things along the way on this journey of hope that I think it would be helpful for us to know.
God destroys in order to build up. God Himself will destroy that which He has created, that which He has built in order to build it up again.
In that twelfth verse he is saying that it is God who is going to reduce Zion to rubble. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah the prophet, in his Lamentations, describes this same situation and in Lamentations 5:18, he says, “Mt. Zion lies desolate and jackals prowl around it.” And it reminds me as I’ve seen through the years as you drive through the countryside, you sometimes will come to one of those little off roads and you’ll come across a burned out house or a house that’s still standing, but it has long since been abandoned. It’s always fascinated me. And when I see one of those homes…maybe just a little clapboard home, and the chimney perhaps is hardly standing, and the porch has collapsed and the windows are all broken out and there are thickets and brush growing up around it and field mice and animals are living in it…I always wonder about the day that house was built. I wonder what great expectations the people had who built that house…and with what hope they entered that house. And I wonder about the times of joy that were there and the times of sorrow that were there…the children that were born in that house and grew up in that house and that house came to mean home to them and a place of joy. I think about those things! And I wonder what happened. I look how sad it is now…this house falling down…long since abandoned…the echoes of any laughter long since lost. It’s a sad spectacle to me.
And that is the way the Bible portrays Zion…marvelous place of God’s presence…marvelous temple…but now it lies in ruins and it’s overgrown with thickets and the foxes and the jackals prowl around it. Who has done this? God! We make a big mistake if we think Christian institutions and organizations and such as that are run by history or run by rules and regulations! Their fate lies in the hands of God! And sometimes He tears down in order that He might build up. For instance, I quoted Jeremiah a moment ago, but let me quote him again and this is when God is commissioning and calling Jeremiah in chapter 1:9…
Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Now that’s strange isn’t it? In the same sentence God is saying, “I’m uprooting, I’m tearing down, I’m destroying, I’m overthrowing, I’m building, I’m planting.” That’s one of the characteristics of God. In Hosea, where He’s talking about the revival among the people, he says,
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces
but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up
And in chapter 10, verse 12, He says,
…break up the fallow ground and sow among yourselves…”
You see, before God can bring a harvest, He has to break up the fallow ground of our hearts.
We talk about revival and how we pray that God will bring revival to our nation and how God will bring revival to the church and how God will suddenly break through into the presence of this world and manifest Himself, but my dear friends, let me tell you that before God can ever sow seeds of righteousness He must break up the fallow ground of our hearts and brokenness always precedes renewal and revival.
Of course, what we want is the revival…what we want is the renewal…what we want is the great harvest! We’re not necessarily interested in God breaking up the cold and unplowed ground of our hearts. So, on our journey of hope we encounter such things that may contradict hope, but we must remember that it is God’s way and nothing is out of the normal. God is not acting unnatural, because God oftentimes destroys that which He Himself has built in order that He may build something better.
There’s a second observation that I think we need to make, and it is this:
The place of disaster and the place of victory are identical. They are the same.
Now, look at this. This is what thrills me about this whole thing. In chapter 3, verse 12 a mountain has been reduced to rubble, but in chapter 4, verse 1, that same place, that same mountain he says “will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and people will stream to it.” Isn’t that amazing? That same place where disaster struck…that same place where catastrophe fell…it is that same place that one day is overrun with rubble and grows with thickets and jackals run over it and that same place one day will tower again and become the chief peak and the most attractive point on the face of the earth and all the nations will rush like rivers to it. It is another principle of God…another characteristic of the ways of God that He always brings victory out of defeat and that the places of defeat are the same places of victory…they are identical! And some of God’s greatest victories in your life have come out of the greatest catastrophes in your life. That’s the way God works. And God works that way to the confusion of the nations! And the confusion of us!
Of course, the great example of this is Christ on the Cross! There He is hanging on that Cross and the Pharisees go back and forth and they waggle their heads and they shake their fingers at Him and they say, “Ha…look at Him…others He could save but Himself He cannot save…” and they cry, “Come down from the Cross and then we will believe…we’re not going to believe as long as You’re hanging on a Cross because You’re a failure up there…that’s a catastrophe up there…that’s disaster up there…we’ll never put our trust in that kind of situation, but if you come down from the Cross and do something miraculous and sensational, then we will believe!” Of course, the devil and all his minions thought that they had conquered because Paul that if the devil really knew what was going to happen he wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but you can just see him as he gleefully say, “Yes sir, I’ve won the battle…I’ve crucified the Son of glory!” And His disciples…they thought also that Jesus Christ had lost the battle and to them the Cross was the place of defeat and humiliation and frustration!
Do you know what I believe was the most disappointing day in the life of Jesus? I believe it was the Day of Resurrection. Because when He arose there was nobody there to meet Him. I told my wife the other morning when I got up and she was gone somewhere, and I said, “I feel like Jesus on the Resurrection. I got up and there was nobody here.” But can you imagine what that must have felt like to Jesus? These disciples whom He loved and who professed to love Him and whom He had tried to pound into their heads, “Listen, I’m going to rise on the third day! I’m going to rise on the third day!” And you would have thought that those disciples would have been waiting there outside the tomb for the appearance of Jesus, but when Jesus arose on that Sunday, that Easter morning, there was no one there to meet Him. WHY? Because they thought He’d failed!
All was lost! And yet out of the place of disaster and catastrophe comes a fountain that flows from the veins of our Lord and washes us white as snow. The place of defeat and the place of victory are identical!
Now, there’s another thing as we travel this journey that we need to keep in mind. And here we go through the roller coaster business again. Look at verse 5…he’s just been describing this glorious Utopia that He’s going to bring about and in verse 5, He comes back from the future to the present reality and He says,
“All nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will
walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.”
First of all, you see He is talking about what is going to happen in the destruction of Jerusalem, then He talks about that glorious future, building up our hope and then He switches and comes back to the gloomy present and He says, “All the nations will walk in the names of their gods…” Right now, we have to face reality…what we’ve been talking about is in the future, in the last days when God says it’s time, but right now, in the every day, we have to understand that all the nations will walk in the names of their gods but what must we do? We must in our journey of hope cling to our trust in God no matter what else anybody does. But we will trust in the Lord forever. Because the only thing, you see, that is going to carry us through to the moment of hope is our faith.
You know, it’s interesting. Paul says, “Faith, hope and love…there abideth these three…but the greatest of these love.” You know why that is? Because some day faith will give way to sight, and hope will give way to reality, but there’s nothing for love to give way to because there’s nothing beyond that is greater than that. But faith and hope go together and I know that one of these days my hope is going to turn into reality but in the meantime, it is that hope that enables me to trust in the name of the Lord and to walk in His name. So, if I take my eyes off the future…if I take my eyes off what God is going to do, then I am liable to succumb to the gods of this world. You see, that’s always been one of Israel’s main problems. That was always the problem of God’s people…they were always coming to the idols wherever they lived. When they moved into the Promised Land God told them the to drive out all the Canaanites and the Hittites…to drive out all the pagans, but they didn’t do it. They left a few of them around and that’s always a mistake because the few pollute the whole lot. So, the people would say, “Listen, you Jews, listen…your God, Jehovah, was a good God in that other land, but you’re not back home now. You’ve come to the big city and that God may have served you well back yonder, but no, He won’t work here…you’ve got to have our gods in order to succeed here. That God may have worked well when you were a child, but now that you are a grownup, you’re going to have walk in the names of other gods to succeed.
Now, we hear that all the time…not put in those words, of course, but isn’t that the way it works with us? Oh yes, when we’re young, I see this happening so much. It is so discouraging! I see it happen with children. They love the Lord and they memorize verses and they just thrill in the things of the Lord but as they grow older and older and they get into the teenage years and older years, sometimes…so many times…too many times…their hearts grow cold toward the things of God and they begin to walk in the names of other gods. Why? Because they become persuaded that the God of their childhood is not going to serve them well in their adulthood. They have to take up other gods…walk in other ways…and serve other gods if they’re going to succeed, you see.
This is why when God was giving the people the Ten Commandments, He said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me…” Now, He didn’t mean, “I’m to be the number one god.” He didn’t mean that at all. What usually happened is that every home had its shelf or mantle of gods and there was the god of fertility, the god of the moon, the god of the sun, the god of stars, the god of rain, the god of fire and the God of Jehovah. Oh, they didn’t completely forget about God, but I mean, after all, you have to have all these other gods. So, when He says, “Thou shalt have no gods before Me…” literally He’s saying, “Thou shall have no other gods to My face.” That means when God looks into our lives He doesn’t want to see Himself number one…He wants to see Himself the only God…period!
It’s not enough to say, “Well, I put God first. But, you know I’ve got these other gods that I serve.” He says, “Absolutely not! When I look on your shelf I don’t want to see any other god except Me!” Being first is not enough! It’s being only that is sufficient. And on our journey of hope you and I must walk in the name of the Lord regardless of how everybody else walks…we must cling to our trust in Him.
But, there’s another thing that we need to understand as we walk on our journey of faith and hope and it is this:
Don’t despise the weakness of God. Remember that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Don’t despise things that are weak and remote. Would you look at verse 6? He says,
“In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will gather the
lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have
brought to grief, I will make the lame a remnant, those
driven away a strong nation.”
There’s no mention here of the priests and the leaders and the rulers of Israel…the elite…the big boys…the big shots. But, He says, “I’m going to work through a limping remnant.” And He says, “I will be doing a new thing…this new beginning that I’m going to make…the old paradigm has been destroyed…Israel…the mountain of the Lord lies in ruins. I’m going to do a new work. I’m going to do a new work. I’m going to restore the glory of God to the church.” But He said, “I’m going to do it in a different way…I’m not going to do it through strength and displays of power…” He says, “I’m going to do it through those that are weak. I’m not going to do it through the rulers of Jacob and the leaders of Israel and through all of the priests and the high and mighty,” but He says, “I’m going to take those who limp, those who’ve been in exile, those pitiful creatures who have been brought to grief and I will make them My remnant.”
And you know, the remnant, as we’ve already discussed it is that part of God’s people that He always works through. The remnant, oh the remnant…that’s the church within the church…that’s that small bunch that’s scattered around sometime…but those are the ones who really love the Lord…those are the ones who reckon upon His Word and those are the ones who seek His face and pray…and God says, “I’m doing a new work and I’m doing a new way, and you had better watch out on your journey of hope and you have better not despise the weak and those who appear to be nothing.” He says, “That’s where I’m working.”
The Southern Baptist Convention meets next week and I have to tell you that I do not believe that God will bring revival next week through that great convocation. I don’t know how many people are expected there. It starts today, as a matter of fact…I don’t know…16,000 or 18,000 people. I tell you, you know, that’s not where God’s going to do it. It never has been in the history of the church. You know where God always does it? Some little old woman over here, a little old woman that nobody knows anything about and she seeks the Lord’s face and prays…a group of people meeting over here…nobody knows anything about…they’re kind of called “the fringe of the church”, you know…but they meet together and they love and have a hunger for God and they’re seeking God and their hearts have been broken and they’ve shed tears…that’s where God’s going to work.
Don’t despise that which is weak and that which is small. We like to glory in the bigness of our church and we sometimes despise the small, out-of-the-way work. Oh, friends, you make a great mistake if you do that. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. What God uses today is weakness. What the world and most of the time we cannot understand that is with God weakness is synonymous with power. It is said of Uzziah that when he was weak then he was strong, but when he was lifted up he became weak. So, we need to remember that on our journey.
There’s one last thing that I’d call your attention to and remember this is a roller coaster type of journey…it goes up and then goes down…and up and down…and along the way we’re going to be encountering a lot of circumstances that contradict everything that God has said. And there are going to be times when our own emotions abandon us and we keep saying in our head that God has said this and God has said this, but everything we feel makes that a lie. You’ve been there, haven’t you? When your whole life has been surrounded by circumstances that say, “God is lying…the Bible is not true!”
So, the last thing that Micah suggests we remember on this journey of hope is this…
Do not let contradicting circumstances discourage you or dissuade you.
I guess the most effective weapon the devil has ever forged against the believer is the weapon of discouragement. I tell you, folks, when I’m discouraged, I just don’t care about anything. You don’t have any heart…there’s just no heart to go on! And yet, amazingly, Paul said this in 2 Corinthians while he’s describing all of his trials, “…and yet, we faint not…” We don’t lose heart! We don’t get discouraged! Why is that, Paul? He goes on to tell us, “…because we look not things that are seen, they’re too discouraging…but we look upon things that are not seen, because the things that are seen are temporal but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
Now look at what Micah says in verse 9:
“Why do you now cry aloud – have you no king? Has
your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that
of a woman in labor?
Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in
labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the
open field. You will go to Babylon; there the LORD
will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.”
Do you see what he’s saying? He’s saying that they can get their eyes off that Utopia that they’ve been glorying in and he’s saying, “Listen, I know how it is…right now you’re packing your bags to get on the boxcar to go to Babylon and you’re having to leave your home. Here I’ve been telling you about all the good things that are going to happen to you and in the midst of hearing this on the radio, it’s like a weather forecast…you’re watching TV and while he’s predicting sunny weather it’s pouring rain outside.” I remember watching the TV weather in Dallas one night and it had rained cats and dogs all day at our house, but they don’t take the weather out at our house, they take it out at the airport. It hadn’t rained out at the airport, and so the report said that there had been no precipitation in Dallas and we were soaking.
Sometimes while you’re reading the Word of God and it talks about the fact that nothing can harm you and all the time people are beating up on you…and it’s talking about the peace of God keeping your hearts and minds and your mind is confused and frustrated and bewildered and everything you feel and see and know says to you that it’s not true…it’s not true…but he says that you can’t afford to let contradicting circumstances dissuade you and discourage you… Look at verse 11…
“But now many nations are gathered against you. They
say, “Let her be defiled, let our eyes gloat over Zion.”
Now, in the beginning of chapter 4 he said all the nations are going to stream to her. Well, it’s going to happen one of these days, but now at this present time, many nations are gathered against her and they said, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gloat over Zion.” But, look at verse 12…
“But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they
do not understand His plan, He who gathers them like
sheaves to the threshing floor.
Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion, for I will give you
horns of iron. I will give you hoofs of bronze and you
will break to pieces many nations.
You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their
wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”
Do you see how Micah goes back and forth. He’s not denying the present…he’s not saying, “Oh well, what we’re seeing now is just the symptoms…that’s not real…you just need to confess that and it will go away.” He’s not saying that. He’s saying, “It’s real right now! It is happening! But there are those around about that are walking in the names of their gods and are trying to persuade you to walk with them and right now, your bags are being packed so you can get on the boxcar and go to that terrible place of captivity. But, these people that are mocking and laughing, they do not know the thoughts of the Lord or His plans.” He said, “Don’t let contradicting circumstances discourage you or dissuade you from trusting the Lord.
I don’t see how a person can survive without hope. I heard about a fellow once who was taking a cruise. He was seasick all the time and he spent all his time leaning over the rail. One of the sailors came up to him and trying to encourage him, patted him on the back and said, “Don’t worry, brother, nobody’s ever died of seasickness.” He said, “Oh, don’t tell me that. It’s the hope of dying that keeps me going.” You can’t live without hope…hope of some kind…hope in something! I have the hope that I’ll see my loved ones again. I have the hope that I’ll see my son again. I have the hope that one day, well, one day the earth is going to be filled with the glory of God, as waters cover the sea. I know that one of these days my hope will turn into reality and my faith will be sight. A man can’t live without hope!
But there are those in this world without hope and without God! For true hope comes with God! So I’m wondering this morning…do you have hope? I mean, hope with a firm foundation…hope that is firmly based on the Word of God…hope that one day God will cleanse your life and make you the person He wants you to be…the hope that perhaps those that have gone before…the hope that you will see them again one day…the hope that the circle that is broken today will not remain broken, it will be a rejoining in the future! What a hope! For we look not upon things that are seen but we look beyond them to the things that are unseen.
Would you bow your heads with me now for a moment as we pray.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005