Mic 3:12-4:4 | The Journey of Hope

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
our wounds.”

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

Mic 3:12 | Why Our Civilization Is Collapsing

Text: Micah 3:12

“Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.”

When Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, the President of the United States assured us that America was not a sick nation. He then appointed a ten-man commission to find out what’s wrong in America. That’s treating the symptoms but denying the illness.

As you study the history of every civilization and nation, you will feud three unalterable characteristics. The first one is: every nation, no matter how pure its conception, has always gone corrupt. Second characteristic: When this spiritual decay sets in, the majority of the people are unaware of it. And, those who are aware of it, are indifferent to it. Third characteristic: The causes for the collapse of every nation have been similar. The same forces that worked the downfall of the Roman Empire are responsible for the downfall of present day empires.

Our text is a message from God through Micah to Israel. Israel’s conception as a nation was the purest, its beginning the holiest of all the peoples of the earth. It produced the most ethical religion ever known to man. And yet no other nation fell so low. If it can happen to Israel it can happen to anyone. I challenge you to read history -to study the fall and rise of nations and you will discover that no nation has ever gone the way America is going and survived.

Acts chapter 17 verse 26 says “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” This verse means that God foreordained the rise and fall of nations: He determines the boundaries of their existence. God is sovereign over the nation’s of the earth. He defeated the Spanish Armada with the wind, Napoleon in Russia with the snowflakes, and saved England at Dunkirk with a fog. All nations are in the hands of God, and I repeat: No nation has ever gone the way America is going and survived.

America is in a sense a modern Israel. Her conception was pure, her beginning magnificent. A more glorious page has never been written in the history of nations. Likewise, America has been the fertile soil for the greatest religious revival in modern history; Christianity has blossomed and spread around the world from America. With the exception of Israel, no other country has ever been elevated to such towering heights – and no country has ever plummeted to such low depths. And the tragedy is, most of us are unaware of it. And those of us, who are aware of it, are indifferent to it. Read your history, study the Word of God, and you will see the same forces that caused Rome to fall, and Greece, and Israel, are the same forces operating in our country.

Micah is preaching at a crisis time in Israel and he mentions three groups of people who are responsible for the coming destruction of their country. Verse 12: “Therefore shall Zion for your sake (because of you) be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.”

I. Polluted Politicians

Notice in verse 1, Micah addresses his message to the “heads of Jacob” and the “princes”. Again in verses 9 and 11 he speaks to the leaders of the nation.

An emergency had arisen in Israel. The Assyrians were threatening and doom was imminent. The leaders knew they could not withstand the onslaught of the Assyrian army and so they called for a summit conference. All the leaders got together and began trying to find a way out. I don’t know how Micah got there-I doubt if they invited him. He must have crashed the party. But God’s prophet had a chance to speak. After Senator Kennedy was assassinated, the TV featured psychologists, sociologists, politicians, and newsmen, trying to analyze the situation and offer a solution. But I watched in vain for a prophet of God to appear on one of those panel shows saying “Thus saith the Lord.”

When Micah gets a chance to speak to the leaders he begins at the top! When God saves a nation he always starts at the top. When you clean out a fishpond you start at the tap, because the dead fish always rise to the top. And when a country goes sour it starts at the top and dribbles down to the bottom. Micah told the leaders that the Assyrians were not their enemy. He laid the blame for the decline and destruction at their own feet. You are the cause of this, he said, you are the real enemy of this country.

God always begins at the top. When Israel fell into abominable idolatry and God sought to save them, He sent Elijah. And to whom did Elijah go first? He started at the top, he went to King Ahab, and Ahab met him in the way. Ahab did what a lot of people are doing today: blame the church for everything that has gone wrong. Ahab said, “Elijah, you have caused all this trouble, you have brought all these things upon us.” Elijah pointed his finger at Ahab and said, “You are the one who is troubling Israel!” And while our political leaders are meeting in conference rooms trying to find out what is wrong with this country, we need another Elijah or another Nathan to stand before the king, and cry out, “thou art the man!” When God sought to bring about revival under King Hezekiah He started with King Hezekiah. And the revival in Nineveh started when the king repented in sackcloth and ashes.

You understand I am not talking politics: I am not talking about Democrats or Republicans. I don’t think any party has the real answer – not the Democratic Party, nor the Republican Party, nor the cocktail party. I am not talking just about the president or the governor – I am talking about the leaders of our nation, our state, our city, and our community.

Did you know that in Romans 13:1 God calls the political leaders his ministers? The word “minister” is the Greek word for deacon. The president is God’s deacon, and the governor is God’s deacon, and the mayor is God’s deacon. They are primarily God’s servants, and as such are primarily responsible to God.

But here is the tragedy: In verse 3 of Micah 3 the prophet says that the leaders are shepherds who instead of defending the sheep devour them. And this seems to be the place we have come to in our country. They have thrown the Bible out of the schools and left it in the motels. They handcuff the policemen and let the criminals go free. The Supreme Court can’t come to a satisfactory decision concerning pornographic literature in the malls but they have no difficulty in ruling on prayer in schools.

You ask, “Why is it so necessary for the leaders of our country to be spiritually and morally right with God?” For this reason: any decision made outside the will of God is a dangerous one.

When Ahab and Jehosaphat were counseling together whether or not to go to war against Assyria, Jehosaphat insisted on calling in the prophet of God to see what the Lord would have them to do. Would to God we had leaders who before launching into war, would seek the counsel of Almighty God. During this election year we will have a lot of people running for everything and standing for nothing. And some of them who are running ought to be hiding, and if what they say about each other is true, some of them ought to be in jail.

In 1867 the British historian, McCauley, made this statement in writing to a friend in America. “Your republic will be fearfully ravaged and laid waste in the 20th century, as was the Roman Empire in the 5th century with this difference – that the Hum and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire in the 5th century came from without, your Huns and Vandals will be engendered from within your own country and by your own institutions.”

What can I as a Christian do about all this? First, BE INTOLERANT. There is the sin of an individual and there is the sin of society, and the sin of society is worse. For example, the sin of Jimmy Hoffa is terrible, but the sin of society is greater for allowing such a condition to exist. Have you noticed that when God brought destruction to Israel, he brought it upon everybody, not just the corrupt leaders? The same doom that comes to the leaders of our country will come to those who tolerate such corrupt conditions.

We have become too tolerant. We don’t care about the moral and spiritual purity of the man running – all we want to know is, can he raise wages or lower taxes, can he put more money in our pockets. R. G. Lee said that you could take an old goat, tie a bottle of whiskey to his tail, and write democrat across him, and a lot of people would vote for him. Let the liquor and gambling crowd promise to save us a dollar in taxes and lots of so-called Christians will vote their way! Patrick Henry gained fame by saying, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The 20th century American has shortened that statement to just plain “gimmie”.

Not long ago in Dallas a Baptist church answered a plea to help a needy family in their neighborhood. The family was living on welfare; things were so bad, the church was told, that the baby had to sleep in a cardboard box. When several from the church visited the home, they found it to be true. The baby was sleeping in a cardboard box – the box in which the color TV had been delivered.

Second, we ought to PRAY for our leaders. In I Timothy chapter 2, verse 1 and 2, “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

First Peter chapter 2 verse 17 says, “Honour the king”. Do you know who that king was? He was the Roman emperor who at that very time was persecuting the church; he was their dreaded enemy. Yet, Peter said, “Honour the king.”

If we were as quick to pray for our leaders as we are to criticize them, our country might not be in the mess it’s in today. Beginning with this pastor first and all the way down to the youngest member of this church, we need to confess our sin of not praying for our national leaders. It’s just as wrong not to pray for these leaders as it is not to pray for lost souls – the same Bible that commands one commands the other.

They tell me, I don’t know if it is true, that there is a member of our church who no longer attends because I don’t preach against Communism. Listen, when Micah stood before the people of Israel he didn’t blame the Assyrians for the crisis; he blamed the individuals within that nation. And the greatest danger our country is facing is not the Communists – it’s the citizens who have forsaken the true and living God. If America dies, it will not be homicide, it will be suicide.

II. Pacifying Preachers

In verse 5 Micah turns to the preachers and says, “Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.” The Assyrians are camped around Jerusalem, their swords are sharpened and drawn, they are ready to fight. And the preacher not wanting to alarm anybody constantly cries, “Peace, peace. There is nothing to worry about.” But God says, “You are leading my people astray.”

Much of the spiritual decay and moral perversion in our country must be laid at the feet of American preachers. There was a time when the pulpit was our nation’s conscience, but today it is largely ignored. At best, many pulpits are merely supplements to the Sunday newspaper. The American pulpit has become a mockery: preachers openly from their pulpit condone extra-marital sex, churches abandoning the gospel of Jesus Christ and in its place scheduling dances that are supposed to interpret an “Adult Only” movie. God deliver us from that kind of religion.

A pastor friend has been looking for a music and youth director. His committee has visited dozens of Baptist churches and they have come back disgusted. Disgusted, not at the men they were interviewing but at the preaching they had to listen to. This pastor said that in all the churches his committee visited they did not hear one biblical sermon.

What were the preachers doing in Micah’s day that brought about the denunciation of God? The very same thing preachers are doing in our day: preaching what the people want to hear.

There is a very marvelous story in I Kings 22. Godless Ahab went to visit King Jehosaphat and he said, “It’s been three years since we have had a war – we can’t let this go on. We’ve got to have a war. Let’s go up to Ramoth-gilead. We can defeat them.”

Jehosaphat, that godly king, said “inquire at the word of the Lord first.” And so Ahab called in his 400 preachers and they all said that the Lord would be with them if they went to battle against Ramoth-gilead. You know, people can tell when preachers are phonies. Jehosaphat turned to Ahab and said, “Is there one prophet of the Lord in this place?” And Ahab said, “Well, there is one, but I hate him. He never says anything good about me.” And Jehosaphat asked that he be called to give his advice. When the messenger went to seek out the prophet of the Lord, his name was Micaiah, he said, “Micaiah, you have been chosen to preach the convention sermon. I want you to go in there and make a good impression. You talk as one that likes the king; you say good things about the king.”

And so Micaiah went in and told Jehosaphat that the Lord would be with them if they went up to battle against Ramoth-gilead. When Jehosaphat heard that he got angry and told Micaiah to tell the truth. And Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd.” And when the prophet said that Ahab turned to Jehosaphat and said, “Didn’t I tell you that he wouldn’t say anything good about me.” God give us preachers like Micaiah who will not preach what the people want to hear but what they need to hear.

III. Presumptuous People

Verse 11 says “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.” The third destructive force in that society as in ours is a presumptuous people. All of this corruption and pollution permeating the country and yet the people leaned upon the Lord and said, “Is not the Lord among us? None evil can happen to us. Micah, you talk about all this corruption and this immorality, why the Lord is with us. We are trusting in God, we believe in God.” Look, it’s on our half dollars, In God We Trust. We say it in our pledge of allegiance to the flag, One nation under God. “God is with us, none evil can come upon us. Nothing can happen to us.” We are a presumptuous people, presuming upon God’s blessings. As long as we call ourselves a Christian nation we think we can live as we please and God will turn a blind eye and deaf ear to our sin. But He will not. Go to Greece, to Rome, to Germany, talk to the ashes of their leaders and their people and if those ashes could preach, they would preach of divine retribution and judgment upon presumptuous people.

The very thing that brought about the downfall of Israel was the rank and file of the citizens were living in open ungodliness and immorality, then going to the temple on the Lord’s Day and performing their religious ceremonies, thinking that this hour spent in God’s house would obliterate all the evil they had done the week before. The greatest tragedy in our country is that there is no consistency with the way we live during the week and what we profess on Sunday when we come to church. Someone said, “Well, God’s on our side.” God doesn’t take sides, God takes over! And God is not obligated to deliver any nation that forsakes His law and rejects His standard of holiness.

Several years ago there was in Chicago a group of policemen who became bandits. They would go out and rob a store, then return to their hiding places, put on their uniforms, and investigate their own crime. In Jeremiah chapter 7, God says that this is what we do. He says that during the week we commit adultery, we lie, we steal, we bear false witness against our neighbor, and then we come to the temple of the Lord and say, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, we are delivered.” And He says, you have made the house of God a den of thieves. He said the house of God has become a hideout because through the week His people are living like the devil and then return to church thinking that by going through the religious ceremony the Lord will overlook and excuse everything they have done. The church has become a hideout for multitudes of Baptists and other Christians, who during the week are living Christ less, godless lives and then think because they come to church on Sunday morning, God is going to overlook it all. He will not do it.

If Israel would have confessed and repented of its sin, God would have delivered it; but it turned blind eyes to its own sin and said nothing can happen to us, the Lord is with us.

One night, years ago, Daniel Webster, the great Christian statesman, was having dinner with 20 of his friends at the Astor House in New York City. One of his friends asked him this questions, “Mr. Webster, what is the most important thought that has ever occupied your mind?” Daniel Webster passed his hand over his forehead and spoke in a very loud voice, “The most important thought that has ever occupied my mind is my individual responsibility towards God.”

Has that thought ever occupied your mind – your individual responsibility towards God? How many of us are guilty of this presumptuous piety? How many of us this last week have played the hypocrite, not praying until we came into church, not reading our Bible until we got in Sunday School, not mentioning the name of Jesus until we came to worship?

There are enough Christians, enough Baptists in American, to turn the tide and change the direction of our country’s destiny. And if we can do it God will hold us responsible if we don’t do it.

©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2002

Mic 2:12, 13 | God’s Battering Ram

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

Mic 2:01-10 | Living Up to That Name

Text: Micah 2:1-10

I want you to open your Bibles to the Book of Micah. As I mentioned last Sunday, for the few weeks that I’m going to be preaching, part of that time we’re going to be going through that great prophet, the Book of Micah. Today, we’re reading from chapter 2. In the beginning, let me just read verses 6 and 7:
“Do not prophesy,” their prophets say. “Do not prophesy
about these things; disgrace will not overtake us. Should
it be said, O house of Jacob: Is the Spirit of the Lord angry?
Does He do such things? Do not my words do good to
him whose ways are upright?”

The other day, as Kaye and I were driving up, I came up behind a semi that was carrying caskets. It was a certain casket company that I had heard of. I sort of like what they had on the back. They said, “Drive carefully, heaven can wait.” I sort of like that, but when I pulled around in the front of that truck, I looked on the side and they had their advertising slogan. Their advertising slogan was, “Committed to the Dignity of Life.” Now, folks, it takes a mighty imagination to put caskets and life in the same situation. What they are committed to is not the “dignity of life”, but what they are committed to is the “dignity of death.” Of course, you don’t want to use “death” in your advertising slogan…that’d be the “death of your advertising slogan” right there, because death is not one of those words we want to hear nor one of those experiences we want to contemplate. But, as we passed by that truck, a verse of Scripture came to mind… Jesus said, “Thou hast a name that thou livest but are dead.”

A lot of times the name that we have contradicts what we’re about. And I think that part of Micah’s word in this seventh verse is a word of sarcasm, really. Now, the Hebrew language is not as precise as the Greek language, and the Old Testament texts are much older and much rarer than the New Testament, so you’ll find a variety of translations of these sixth and seventh verses. For instance, the King James reads like this, “Thou art named O house of Jacob…” He’s rebuking him because of their sin and he’s just been rebuked because of his preaching against their sin, so he comes back and says, “O you who are named house of Jacob…” It’s the same thing as if you and I were to say to someone, “…and you call yourself a Christian…” It’s a word of sarcasm. What he’s saying is, “You people are named or called ‘the house of Jacob’, but your whole life betrays that.” It’s a terrible thing when we claim a name and that name is no longer appropriate…when we cling to a title or the name of something and the thing for which that name stands no longer exists.

What Micah is saying and I think what he is saying to us, and that’s one of the reasons I love these minor prophets…they are, I think, the most contemporary part of the Bible you’ll find. For they spoke to their generation. They spoke to their contemporary scene. We often when we hear the word “prophecy” or “prophets”, we normally and most usually think of “foretelling the future”, but actually that’s only a part of their ministry. You have the word “foretelling”, but then you have the word “forth-telling”. Prophetic preaching is not necessarily predicting the future, but it is crying out against the inconsistencies of the present life of God’s people. That is prophetic preaching.

That’s exactly what Micah is doing. In chapter 1 Micah cries out against the sins the people are committing against God. In the chapter 2 he’s talking about the sins they are committing against each other. I think it would be helpful to kind of get the outline of this chapter. In the first five verses Micah is preaching his sermon and an unpleasant sermon it is. In verse 6 he is interrupted. I mean, somebody out there just can’t stand that kind of preaching and so they say, “Do not prophesy!” There is a play on words here. Literally, they’re saying, “Do not preach!” And so they preach…they started to preaching to Micah and telling Micah not to preach. “Do not preach about these things…Disgrace will not overtake us…We don’t like what you’re saying…We don’t like your message,” and so they interrupt and they tell him to stop preaching and in verse 7, we have a rejoinder from Micah. He comes back and he says, “Should it be said O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord restrained? Does He do such things? Do not my words do good to them whose ways are upright?” And then in verse 8 he takes up the message again and closes it in verse 10 and verse 11 is sort of a “by the way” that he adds at the end.

So, as Micah preaches, he’s interrupted and they say, “Don’t preach like this” but he comes back and he says to them, “Shouldn’t these things not be said O house of Jacob? You who are called the people of God…you’re not living up to that name, and because of that judgment is going to come.”

Now, I would like to talk to you this morning about living up to that name. Just as they had been given the name “the house of Jacob”, which stood for the promises of God, for the faithfulness of God, for the people of God, so you and I have been given the name “Christian”. We are supposedly followers of “the Way” and disciples of Christ, but do we live up to that name? If we fail to live up to that name, I believe God will judge us and disgrace will overtake us. So, let me make four suggestions…suggestions that Micah offers on living up to that name…

I think if you and I are going to live worthy of the name “Christian”, the first thing is that we should be willing to face the truth, whatever that truth is, however unpleasant or pleasant it may be…of all people, we, God’s people…we need to be able to face the truth…to hear the truth and receive the truth.

Now, as I said, there are various readings here and some translations read like this, “Should it be said” or one says “Should not these things be said?” In other words, I think he is referring to the things he’s been saying in chapter 1 and 2 and these people cry out and say, “Don’t say these things!” and he comes back and he says, “But shouldn’t these things be said?…Should not these things be spoken of? They’re there. They’re real and they need to be spoken.” And of course you can understand why they interrupt this because in verse 1 you’ll see Micah is crying out against their sins against one another…against the way they treat each other…their unethical behavior…their selfish ambition…their desire to gain what they want no matter who they hurt simply because they can get by with it:
Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil
on their beds! (Their sin is premeditated, you see. They
sit around and lie around thinking about what they can do
in the morning to gain advantage, to make more money,
to get my way, to fulfill my own ambition.

At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their
power to do it.

Why do they do it? They do it because they can get by with it! This is important to remember because we’re going to be coming back to this in a moment…As long as they can get by with it, they will do it!
They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take
them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of
his inheritance. Therefore, the LORD says:
“I am planning disaster against this people,
from which you cannot save yourselves. You
will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a
time of calamity. In that day men will ridicule
you; they will taunt you with this mournful
song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s
possession is divided up. He takes it from me!
He assigns our fields to traitors.’
Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the
LORD to divide the land by lot.”

Finally, God says, “I’m going to take away not just your possessions, but I’m going to take away your privileges…there’ll be no one in the congregation to watch over you and to divide your lot.” And at this moment somebody stands up and says, “Stop that kind of preaching! That’s upsetting to us. Now, preacher, we’re all happy here and we’re all contented and things are just going fine and we don’t need you coming along and upsetting everybody. Look, you’re making some of these people kind of nervous.”

Micah was definitely not a “seeker-friendly” preacher. And that’s what these people wanted. As a matter of fact, verse 11, as I mentioned earlier, is sort of a little “Columbo touch”. He ends the message in verse 10 and then as he walks away, he says, “Oh, by the way…
If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy
for you plenty of wine and beer, he would be just the
prophet for this people.’”

He says, “You attack me for preaching what I preach, but before I leave and I’m sure this will be the last time I’m invited to this august convention, but before I leave, just let me say that if somebody comes along…some liar and deceiver…some blowhard full of hot air and tells you that you’re going to have everything you want…life’s going to be pleasant and everything’s just hunky dory…boy that is about the job description for the kind of preacher you want. Thank you very much. Good-bye.”

And what he’s saying is, “Should not these things be said? Shouldn’t we of all people be willing to face the truth even though at times that truth is hard?” When I was a pastor, and this may be why I’m no longer a pastor, I don’t know…but when I was a pastor we had two or three occasions in our church when there was a problem and everybody was thinking about it. I mean, it was on the mind of everybody. But, nobody was saying anything about it, you know…act like it’s not there…act like it hasn’t happened… And I can’t stand that. I can’t operate under those conditions, so on two or three occasions, when that was true and that was happening, I just stopped in my sermon and said, “Alright, folks, none of you are listening to what I’m saying because your mind is somewhere else. We all know we’re all thinking about. Alright, let’s talk about it. Let’s get this thing settled.” I believe that’s the way it ought to be done. Like I say, you know, maybe that’s why I’m no longer a pastor. But, some of these things should be said! We, of all people, should not be afraid of the truth.

So, the first thing if I’m going to be worthy of that name is I need to be willing to hear the truth, whatever that truth is. The second thing is this…I need to understand that the Spirit of the Lord is not limited nor restricted. He says, “Is the Spirit of the Lord restricted? Has the Spirit of the Lord boundaries over which He cannot cross? Has that power that resides in the Holy Spirit somehow been limited?” Now, I think primarily in Micah’s case he’s talking about a couple of things here. I think he’s saying the Spirit of God can’t be restricted in what He inspires the prophet to preach. Micah is saying, “You’re telling me not to prophesy like this, assuming that this is not what God would want, but I’m telling you that you cannot restrict the Spirit of the Lord and He inspires me.” And in another place in this book, he talks about the fact that he is filled with the Spirit of the Lord and that’s what motivates him to bring this message. But he’s also talking about the judgment that’s going to come upon the people of God, because they insist that no disgrace can overtake them. They insist that nothing can happen to them, and so he says, “Is the Spirit of the Lord limited in what He can do? He can inspire certain kinds of preaching. He can bring judgment. He can empower His people to be what they ought to be. He can give them the strength to endure whatever they need to endure. Is the Spirit of the Lord limited?”

You know, that’s a pretty good question for our day. I do think we try to restrict the Spirit. I want to live where the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants to do and not to restrict Him and not to build boundaries around what He can say and what He can do. We do have a tendency to do that, you know. Theologically, experientially, we have a tendency to limit Him. And I don’t know but what one of the great needs of the church today is for us to give the Holy Spirit freedom in our lives to do what only He can do and that is to empower us to live Christ-like lives.

How in the world can I live up to the name Christian? “Preacher, you’re talking about being worthy of that name!” Is the Spirit of the Lord limited? Is He constrained? Is He boxed in? Oh, one of the dire essentials is this: that I understand in my Christian life that the Spirit of God holds the same promise for us today that He did on the Day of Pentecost when He first descended and indwelt the church. And all that Jesus would do for us, were He physically present, the Holy Spirit is doing for us and wants to do for us because He indwells us, and we must not limit the Holy Spirit.

There’s third thing I think that is essential: You and I must learn to discern between what God does and what God does not do. We need discernment to determine what is of God and what is not of God. Notice the prophet says, “Does He do such things?” Now, the implication is that simply because God has allowed this intolerable situation to continue for so long doesn’t mean He approves of it. Now, see they think that He does. They say, “No disgrace will overtake us so don’t preach like this.” Actually, the Hebrew word can be translated “don’t prattle on and on”. The word means “to drip.” They call his preaching “just drivel.” “You’re just prattling on…that’s all your preaching is…no substance to it…nothing of importance to it…nothing serious about it…you’re just prattling on and on…you’re just like a dripping faucet…driving everybody crazy…making no sense…why the Lord is with us. Why look how we’ve been doing. The Lord hasn’t done anything so far. We’ve increased and we’ve grown and God hasn’t done anything. God approves of all of this. He must! Look how successful we are.”

Now, you know, you take success and add a dash of self-righteousness to it and that makes a powerful argument in any situation. I mean, after all if you’re highly successful in what you’re doing…money’s rolling in…business is going great…it has to be God’s blessings…it has to be God. And then you’re a little bit self-righteous…you know the Lord…you’ve been to church lo these many years and you have the various translations…you’ve been to the seminars and that sort of thing, and you add a touch of self-righteousness to that and then here’s all this great success and to you that equals God’s approval.

One of the most glaring needs of the church today is the need of discernment…to be able to discern that which is of God and that which is not of God. Now, if we simply say if something is successful or if it’s allowed to continue and go on and on and on then it must be God’s will, then we are falling into the same folly that the people did in Micah’s day. Micah is saying, “Just because God has allowed you to prosper in your crooked ways…don’t make the mistake of saying that God approves of that.” We need discernment!

I read a lot. I like to read. I read across the board. I read everything practically…everything religious, and secular and in between. I don’t read science fiction…I don’t care for it. I love history. I love philosophy. I like good novels…I read just a little bit of everything. I’ve noticed something, though…that when you go into a bookstore and you’re trying to find a good novel…and you’re looking for a novel and here’s a title that you’re unfamiliar with and you open it and on the back it says that this book was “critically acclaimed.” Do you know what that means? That means it didn’t sell much. It didn’t sell well at all! It was critically acclaimed. I mean the critics liked it…they had high praise for it. You know, this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner…I forget the author’s name…the book is THE STONE DIARIES. Nobody had heard of that book until she won the Pulitzer Prize and now it’s finally on the Best Seller List, and if it had not won the Pulitzer Prize, it would still have been as good a book as it is, but it would never have appeared anywhere and nobody would have ever heard of it.

Now, simply because something hits the Best Seller List, folks, doesn’t mean that it’s great literature. Let’s face it, some of the books on the Best Seller List are not great literature. I mean, some of these guys are not writing “Shakespeare” you understand. And they’re usually not critically acclaimed, either. I’ve noticed through the years if something is critically acclaimed it usually doesn’t sell well, but if it sells well it usually is not critically acclaimed.

Now the point, you may be wondering, do I have one…yes, I do, if I haven’t forgotten what it was. It’s been quite awhile since I started out on this. The point is just because something hits the top of the Best Seller List doesn’t mean it’s great literature and worth of your reading. And just because something in the church or something in the life “hits the top of the Best Seller List” doesn’t mean that the great critic of all, the Word of God, approves of it. You and I, if we’re to live worthy of the name, must be able to discern what is of God and what is not of God.

Then finally, if we are going to live worthy of the name, we need to receive, respect and appreciate the Word of God. He says in the latter part of verse 7, “Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?” It’s a question asked of these protesters who say, “Stop giving us that word,” but the answer is, “If you’re right, all these words will benefit you…those who are upright never need to fear the truth…never need to hide from the truth. God’s Word is always beneficial to those who are upright.” Every time we read it and every time we hear it…it does us good. It brings benefit into our lives if we are upright.

I remember when I was a teenager and I had just shortly before come to the Lord and I had gotten serious about this business of living for Christ. We had a very great church and every service was just “super charged”. The pastor was a very dynamic pastor and you know, to tell you the truth, I was afraid to go into those services unless I knew I was clean inside and out. And I remember on many occasions standing on the front steps of that church and before I’d ever go in…standing there confessing every sin I could think and guessing at a few others, you know. And then when I went in I didn’t worry about what he was going to preach. I got a blessing and it was beneficial to me. But there have been those times when I’ve gone in when things were not right in my heart and I sat there and I was tense and I was resisting and I wasn’t enjoying it because I felt maybe the next word he speaks he’s going to look at me and point out my sin. But those who are upright do not need to fear the truth of God…the Word of God…it only blesses them…it only does them good. And that’s why I ought to love and study it and devour it and to live by it. How in the world can I expect God to bless my life and how in the world can I expect God to approve of my bearing His name is I do not love and live His own Word?

Now Micah has a conclusion to his sermon and so do I. It’s found in the tenth verse. He says,
“Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place,
because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy.”

I want to call your attention to those first few words… “Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place…” Now, primarily he’s referring here to the captivity that’s going to come and he’s saying basically that this land that you thought was going to be your “resting place” isn’t going to be that so pack your bags and get ready to travel. Why? Because you’ve defiled it by the way you live…not only your sins against God, but your sins against one another…your selfish ambition…your petty interests…your haughty spirit. This is not you resting place.

And I think that that gives us leave to say that those of us who are not living up to the name and we’re not willing to face the truth and not willing to repent of our sins, not willing to let the Spirit of God bring about conviction and purification in our lives…this is not of place of rest for us. You’ve come to the wrong place. If that’s your kind of religion, this is not your kind of church. If your kind of religion is the kind of religions that says, “Well, as long as I’m prospering then that must be God’s blessings and everything must be okay and I don’t want to hear any of this discouraging word and as long as I can get by with what I’m doing and the way I want to do it and if I have to hurt somebody else…if I have to trample over somebody else to get what I need…” If this is your kind of religion, then this is not your religion place…you’re not going to find any rest here. You’re not going to find any peace here. That’s what he’s saying.

Living up to the name! It seems an impossible thing to do, but He would never have given us that name in the first place had it not been possible by His grace and by His power to live a life worthy of that holy name.

Would you bow your heads with me now for a moment as we pray together?
I wonder if God has spoken to you today from His Word. I wonder if the Lord hasn’t appointed out some things in your life that really contradict the name that you bear as Christian. There’s some misuse that makes it impossible for you to live up to that name. Perhaps some of you do not have that name because you’ve never been saved…you’ve never come to know Christ as your Lord and Savior. Today, we want to give you that opportunity to open your heart to Him. Jesus says that if you come to Him He will in no wise cast you out. That’s the marvelous thing about our Lord. And we’ll see that as we go through the prophet of Micah. It ends on a note of hope and deliverance…that’s how this book will end. Sometimes it seems as though God may be harsh in His judgment upon our lives, but that’s never the final word with God…that’s never the last word. The last word is always mercy and grace and deliverance and peace. So, perhaps today, you need to partake of that. Maybe there are other needs in your life, perhaps you believe that God is leading you to place your life and letter into the fellowship of this church…whatever it is…let’s not restrict the Holy Spirit this morning. Rather allow Him to do whatever He wants to do.
Father, we pray in Jesus’ name now that the Holy Spirit will
not be restricted or limited during this time, but that we will
give Him full control of our hearts and lives. May Your will
be done. All we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Mic 1:01-09 | God’s Wake-up Call

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.
He said,
“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