Text: Micah 3:12-4:4
I want you to open your Bibles to the Book of Micah, chapter 3. I’m going to read beginning in the last verse…verse 12 of that third chapter and we’ll read through the fourth verse of the fourth chapter. Micah 3:12:
Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill
a mound overgrown with thickets. In the last days the
mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as
chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the
hills, and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us
go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house
of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so
that we may walk in His paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD
from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their
spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword
against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own
vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them
afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
Welcome to Utopia. They will beat their swords into plowshares and they will study war no more. Every man will sit under his own vine, under his own fig tree and no one shall be afraid of anything.
That’s what everybody is hoping for. When they have these meetings of the heads of state, the summit conferences…that’s what they’re all aiming for…for the day when nation will no longer war against nation, and when the weapons of war will be turned into weapons of commerce or agriculture as Micah says they will be beaten into plowshares. When every man will have security…he shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree…and there will be peace…they shall not be afraid of anything.
That’s what we all hope for, isn’t it? It is the hope of that kind of world that keeps people going. I don’t see how a man can live without hope. It seems to me that hope…the expectation…the anticipation that in the future things are going to be right, or things are going to be better. Hope is the spark that keeps the human spirit alive. One of the saddest statements the Bible makes is found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, where he is describing those who do not have Christ… He says, “…they are without God and without hope in the world.”
One of my dearest friends in the ministry told me about his first wife who was in a very serious automobile accident and he was called to the hospital. When he got there they were working on her in the emergency room and he spoke of standing outside the emergency room door, which were doors where he could watch through the windows, and he said that he watched in fascination as half a dozen or so medical personnel worked in a frenzied manner over the body of his wife and they were running here and there…getting this instrument and getting this hypodermic and there was a frenzy of activity as he watched that going on. And it was that frenzy of activity that let him know she was still alive. But, he said, “Suddenly all that activity ceased…just like that. And everybody stopped moving around and running around and they began to remove their masks and they just stood there and did nothing…” and he said he knew that she was dead. And he said, “To me that has always been the picture of the despair that comes when all hope is gone. I’ve never forgotten that scene. While there was all that activity, they were hoping to keep her alive, but when it ceased and everybody stopped doing what they were doing, I knew then that there was no hope.”
It is hope that keeps us going, isn’t it? Hope that things will get better…hope that God perhaps will heal us…hope perhaps that finances will straighten out…hope for the children…hope for your own life…that things will get better. It’s hope that keeps us going. It seems to be that it’s only when a person has lost all hope that he comes to the point where he would take his own life. The airman that was shot down a few days ago over Bosnia…what do you think kept him going for six days? Hope! Hope of survival…hope of being rescued…hope of seeing his family again. That’s what keeps a man going in the jungles and when they picked up his survival signal there was hope given to the rescuers and his rescue has done what? It means that any others who perhaps are shot down, there is hope for them. Most of us had given him up. We said, “Well, he’s gone, he’s dead.” But, when he came back and stepped down from that plane, why was everybody cheering so much? It was because that meant that there was hope that even in the worse conditions a person can survive.
And as Christians we are on a journey of hope. That’s what Micah is talking about. We set out in our lives, especially in the Christian life…it is a journey of hope that ends in fulfillment. But as Micah describes this journey, and as our own experience teaches…this journey is an up and down affair. There are those times when you’re riding high on the crest of hope and you have no doubt that that hope will turn to reality and suddenly around the bend you’re plunged down to the deepest pits of despair because it seems that hope has gone into an eclipse and you can barely make out that it is there.
And as Micah begins this fourth chapter and tailing off in the third chapter and moving into that fourth chapter…he is dealing with our journey of hope. You know, there is a glaring contradiction between verse 12 of chapter 3 and verse 1 of chapter 4. Did you notice it? In verse 12 of chapter 3, he is describing the desolation of God’s judgment. He says, “Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” It’s as though he has taken away all hope from these people and I’ve had the feeling that sometimes after we’ve been going through the Book of Micah, we might say, “My goodness, this is the most depressing book I’ve read,” because all he’s been talking about so far is the sins of God’s people and God’s judgment upon them. And so, that third chapter ends with this terrible picture of desolation! And he said it’s like it’s overgrown with thickets!
But notice verse 1 of chapter 4… “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.” What a contrast! What a contrast! That same mountain which is destroyed in one moment is going to be raised up in another moment and chapter 4 will go on and chapter 5 and others…and you’ll see that it all ends in great expectation and great hope.
So, I want to talk to you this morning about this journey that all of us are on…this journey of hope. And there are several things that I think we need to be aware of. It’s always good to know what to look for on a trip…not to be surprised…not to be taken unawares…so there are some things along the way on this journey of hope that I think it would be helpful for us to know.
God destroys in order to build up. God Himself will destroy that which He has created, that which He has built in order to build it up again.
In that twelfth verse he is saying that it is God who is going to reduce Zion to rubble. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah the prophet, in his Lamentations, describes this same situation and in Lamentations 5:18, he says, “Mt. Zion lies desolate and jackals prowl around it.” And it reminds me as I’ve seen through the years as you drive through the countryside, you sometimes will come to one of those little off roads and you’ll come across a burned out house or a house that’s still standing, but it has long since been abandoned. It’s always fascinated me. And when I see one of those homes…maybe just a little clapboard home, and the chimney perhaps is hardly standing, and the porch has collapsed and the windows are all broken out and there are thickets and brush growing up around it and field mice and animals are living in it…I always wonder about the day that house was built. I wonder what great expectations the people had who built that house…and with what hope they entered that house. And I wonder about the times of joy that were there and the times of sorrow that were there…the children that were born in that house and grew up in that house and that house came to mean home to them and a place of joy. I think about those things! And I wonder what happened. I look how sad it is now…this house falling down…long since abandoned…the echoes of any laughter long since lost. It’s a sad spectacle to me.
And that is the way the Bible portrays Zion…marvelous place of God’s presence…marvelous temple…but now it lies in ruins and it’s overgrown with thickets and the foxes and the jackals prowl around it. Who has done this? God! We make a big mistake if we think Christian institutions and organizations and such as that are run by history or run by rules and regulations! Their fate lies in the hands of God! And sometimes He tears down in order that He might build up. For instance, I quoted Jeremiah a moment ago, but let me quote him again and this is when God is commissioning and calling Jeremiah in chapter 1:9…
Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Now that’s strange isn’t it? In the same sentence God is saying, “I’m uprooting, I’m tearing down, I’m destroying, I’m overthrowing, I’m building, I’m planting.” That’s one of the characteristics of God. In Hosea, where He’s talking about the revival among the people, he says,
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces
but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up
And in chapter 10, verse 12, He says,
…break up the fallow ground and sow among yourselves…”
You see, before God can bring a harvest, He has to break up the fallow ground of our hearts.
We talk about revival and how we pray that God will bring revival to our nation and how God will bring revival to the church and how God will suddenly break through into the presence of this world and manifest Himself, but my dear friends, let me tell you that before God can ever sow seeds of righteousness He must break up the fallow ground of our hearts and brokenness always precedes renewal and revival.
Of course, what we want is the revival…what we want is the renewal…what we want is the great harvest! We’re not necessarily interested in God breaking up the cold and unplowed ground of our hearts. So, on our journey of hope we encounter such things that may contradict hope, but we must remember that it is God’s way and nothing is out of the normal. God is not acting unnatural, because God oftentimes destroys that which He Himself has built in order that He may build something better.
There’s a second observation that I think we need to make, and it is this:
The place of disaster and the place of victory are identical. They are the same.
Now, look at this. This is what thrills me about this whole thing. In chapter 3, verse 12 a mountain has been reduced to rubble, but in chapter 4, verse 1, that same place, that same mountain he says “will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and people will stream to it.” Isn’t that amazing? That same place where disaster struck…that same place where catastrophe fell…it is that same place that one day is overrun with rubble and grows with thickets and jackals run over it and that same place one day will tower again and become the chief peak and the most attractive point on the face of the earth and all the nations will rush like rivers to it. It is another principle of God…another characteristic of the ways of God that He always brings victory out of defeat and that the places of defeat are the same places of victory…they are identical! And some of God’s greatest victories in your life have come out of the greatest catastrophes in your life. That’s the way God works. And God works that way to the confusion of the nations! And the confusion of us!
Of course, the great example of this is Christ on the Cross! There He is hanging on that Cross and the Pharisees go back and forth and they waggle their heads and they shake their fingers at Him and they say, “Ha…look at Him…others He could save but Himself He cannot save…” and they cry, “Come down from the Cross and then we will believe…we’re not going to believe as long as You’re hanging on a Cross because You’re a failure up there…that’s a catastrophe up there…that’s disaster up there…we’ll never put our trust in that kind of situation, but if you come down from the Cross and do something miraculous and sensational, then we will believe!” Of course, the devil and all his minions thought that they had conquered because Paul that if the devil really knew what was going to happen he wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but you can just see him as he gleefully say, “Yes sir, I’ve won the battle…I’ve crucified the Son of glory!” And His disciples…they thought also that Jesus Christ had lost the battle and to them the Cross was the place of defeat and humiliation and frustration!
Do you know what I believe was the most disappointing day in the life of Jesus? I believe it was the Day of Resurrection. Because when He arose there was nobody there to meet Him. I told my wife the other morning when I got up and she was gone somewhere, and I said, “I feel like Jesus on the Resurrection. I got up and there was nobody here.” But can you imagine what that must have felt like to Jesus? These disciples whom He loved and who professed to love Him and whom He had tried to pound into their heads, “Listen, I’m going to rise on the third day! I’m going to rise on the third day!” And you would have thought that those disciples would have been waiting there outside the tomb for the appearance of Jesus, but when Jesus arose on that Sunday, that Easter morning, there was no one there to meet Him. WHY? Because they thought He’d failed!
All was lost! And yet out of the place of disaster and catastrophe comes a fountain that flows from the veins of our Lord and washes us white as snow. The place of defeat and the place of victory are identical!
Now, there’s another thing as we travel this journey that we need to keep in mind. And here we go through the roller coaster business again. Look at verse 5…he’s just been describing this glorious Utopia that He’s going to bring about and in verse 5, He comes back from the future to the present reality and He says,
“All nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will
walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.”
First of all, you see He is talking about what is going to happen in the destruction of Jerusalem, then He talks about that glorious future, building up our hope and then He switches and comes back to the gloomy present and He says, “All the nations will walk in the names of their gods…” Right now, we have to face reality…what we’ve been talking about is in the future, in the last days when God says it’s time, but right now, in the every day, we have to understand that all the nations will walk in the names of their gods but what must we do? We must in our journey of hope cling to our trust in God no matter what else anybody does. But we will trust in the Lord forever. Because the only thing, you see, that is going to carry us through to the moment of hope is our faith.
You know, it’s interesting. Paul says, “Faith, hope and love…there abideth these three…but the greatest of these love.” You know why that is? Because some day faith will give way to sight, and hope will give way to reality, but there’s nothing for love to give way to because there’s nothing beyond that is greater than that. But faith and hope go together and I know that one of these days my hope is going to turn into reality but in the meantime, it is that hope that enables me to trust in the name of the Lord and to walk in His name. So, if I take my eyes off the future…if I take my eyes off what God is going to do, then I am liable to succumb to the gods of this world. You see, that’s always been one of Israel’s main problems. That was always the problem of God’s people…they were always coming to the idols wherever they lived. When they moved into the Promised Land God told them the to drive out all the Canaanites and the Hittites…to drive out all the pagans, but they didn’t do it. They left a few of them around and that’s always a mistake because the few pollute the whole lot. So, the people would say, “Listen, you Jews, listen…your God, Jehovah, was a good God in that other land, but you’re not back home now. You’ve come to the big city and that God may have served you well back yonder, but no, He won’t work here…you’ve got to have our gods in order to succeed here. That God may have worked well when you were a child, but now that you are a grownup, you’re going to have walk in the names of other gods to succeed.
Now, we hear that all the time…not put in those words, of course, but isn’t that the way it works with us? Oh yes, when we’re young, I see this happening so much. It is so discouraging! I see it happen with children. They love the Lord and they memorize verses and they just thrill in the things of the Lord but as they grow older and older and they get into the teenage years and older years, sometimes…so many times…too many times…their hearts grow cold toward the things of God and they begin to walk in the names of other gods. Why? Because they become persuaded that the God of their childhood is not going to serve them well in their adulthood. They have to take up other gods…walk in other ways…and serve other gods if they’re going to succeed, you see.
This is why when God was giving the people the Ten Commandments, He said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me…” Now, He didn’t mean, “I’m to be the number one god.” He didn’t mean that at all. What usually happened is that every home had its shelf or mantle of gods and there was the god of fertility, the god of the moon, the god of the sun, the god of stars, the god of rain, the god of fire and the God of Jehovah. Oh, they didn’t completely forget about God, but I mean, after all, you have to have all these other gods. So, when He says, “Thou shalt have no gods before Me…” literally He’s saying, “Thou shall have no other gods to My face.” That means when God looks into our lives He doesn’t want to see Himself number one…He wants to see Himself the only God…period!
It’s not enough to say, “Well, I put God first. But, you know I’ve got these other gods that I serve.” He says, “Absolutely not! When I look on your shelf I don’t want to see any other god except Me!” Being first is not enough! It’s being only that is sufficient. And on our journey of hope you and I must walk in the name of the Lord regardless of how everybody else walks…we must cling to our trust in Him.
But, there’s another thing that we need to understand as we walk on our journey of faith and hope and it is this:
Don’t despise the weakness of God. Remember that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Don’t despise things that are weak and remote. Would you look at verse 6? He says,
“In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will gather the
lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have
brought to grief, I will make the lame a remnant, those
driven away a strong nation.”
There’s no mention here of the priests and the leaders and the rulers of Israel…the elite…the big boys…the big shots. But, He says, “I’m going to work through a limping remnant.” And He says, “I will be doing a new thing…this new beginning that I’m going to make…the old paradigm has been destroyed…Israel…the mountain of the Lord lies in ruins. I’m going to do a new work. I’m going to do a new work. I’m going to restore the glory of God to the church.” But He said, “I’m going to do it in a different way…I’m not going to do it through strength and displays of power…” He says, “I’m going to do it through those that are weak. I’m not going to do it through the rulers of Jacob and the leaders of Israel and through all of the priests and the high and mighty,” but He says, “I’m going to take those who limp, those who’ve been in exile, those pitiful creatures who have been brought to grief and I will make them My remnant.”
And you know, the remnant, as we’ve already discussed it is that part of God’s people that He always works through. The remnant, oh the remnant…that’s the church within the church…that’s that small bunch that’s scattered around sometime…but those are the ones who really love the Lord…those are the ones who reckon upon His Word and those are the ones who seek His face and pray…and God says, “I’m doing a new work and I’m doing a new way, and you had better watch out on your journey of hope and you have better not despise the weak and those who appear to be nothing.” He says, “That’s where I’m working.”
The Southern Baptist Convention meets next week and I have to tell you that I do not believe that God will bring revival next week through that great convocation. I don’t know how many people are expected there. It starts today, as a matter of fact…I don’t know…16,000 or 18,000 people. I tell you, you know, that’s not where God’s going to do it. It never has been in the history of the church. You know where God always does it? Some little old woman over here, a little old woman that nobody knows anything about and she seeks the Lord’s face and prays…a group of people meeting over here…nobody knows anything about…they’re kind of called “the fringe of the church”, you know…but they meet together and they love and have a hunger for God and they’re seeking God and their hearts have been broken and they’ve shed tears…that’s where God’s going to work.
Don’t despise that which is weak and that which is small. We like to glory in the bigness of our church and we sometimes despise the small, out-of-the-way work. Oh, friends, you make a great mistake if you do that. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. What God uses today is weakness. What the world and most of the time we cannot understand that is with God weakness is synonymous with power. It is said of Uzziah that when he was weak then he was strong, but when he was lifted up he became weak. So, we need to remember that on our journey.
There’s one last thing that I’d call your attention to and remember this is a roller coaster type of journey…it goes up and then goes down…and up and down…and along the way we’re going to be encountering a lot of circumstances that contradict everything that God has said. And there are going to be times when our own emotions abandon us and we keep saying in our head that God has said this and God has said this, but everything we feel makes that a lie. You’ve been there, haven’t you? When your whole life has been surrounded by circumstances that say, “God is lying…the Bible is not true!”
So, the last thing that Micah suggests we remember on this journey of hope is this…
Do not let contradicting circumstances discourage you or dissuade you.
I guess the most effective weapon the devil has ever forged against the believer is the weapon of discouragement. I tell you, folks, when I’m discouraged, I just don’t care about anything. You don’t have any heart…there’s just no heart to go on! And yet, amazingly, Paul said this in 2 Corinthians while he’s describing all of his trials, “…and yet, we faint not…” We don’t lose heart! We don’t get discouraged! Why is that, Paul? He goes on to tell us, “…because we look not things that are seen, they’re too discouraging…but we look upon things that are not seen, because the things that are seen are temporal but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
Now look at what Micah says in verse 9:
“Why do you now cry aloud – have you no king? Has
your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that
of a woman in labor?
Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in
labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the
open field. You will go to Babylon; there the LORD
will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.”
Do you see what he’s saying? He’s saying that they can get their eyes off that Utopia that they’ve been glorying in and he’s saying, “Listen, I know how it is…right now you’re packing your bags to get on the boxcar to go to Babylon and you’re having to leave your home. Here I’ve been telling you about all the good things that are going to happen to you and in the midst of hearing this on the radio, it’s like a weather forecast…you’re watching TV and while he’s predicting sunny weather it’s pouring rain outside.” I remember watching the TV weather in Dallas one night and it had rained cats and dogs all day at our house, but they don’t take the weather out at our house, they take it out at the airport. It hadn’t rained out at the airport, and so the report said that there had been no precipitation in Dallas and we were soaking.
Sometimes while you’re reading the Word of God and it talks about the fact that nothing can harm you and all the time people are beating up on you…and it’s talking about the peace of God keeping your hearts and minds and your mind is confused and frustrated and bewildered and everything you feel and see and know says to you that it’s not true…it’s not true…but he says that you can’t afford to let contradicting circumstances dissuade you and discourage you… Look at verse 11…
“But now many nations are gathered against you. They
say, “Let her be defiled, let our eyes gloat over Zion.”
Now, in the beginning of chapter 4 he said all the nations are going to stream to her. Well, it’s going to happen one of these days, but now at this present time, many nations are gathered against her and they said, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gloat over Zion.” But, look at verse 12…
“But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they
do not understand His plan, He who gathers them like
sheaves to the threshing floor.
Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion, for I will give you
horns of iron. I will give you hoofs of bronze and you
will break to pieces many nations.
You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their
wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”
Do you see how Micah goes back and forth. He’s not denying the present…he’s not saying, “Oh well, what we’re seeing now is just the symptoms…that’s not real…you just need to confess that and it will go away.” He’s not saying that. He’s saying, “It’s real right now! It is happening! But there are those around about that are walking in the names of their gods and are trying to persuade you to walk with them and right now, your bags are being packed so you can get on the boxcar and go to that terrible place of captivity. But, these people that are mocking and laughing, they do not know the thoughts of the Lord or His plans.” He said, “Don’t let contradicting circumstances discourage you or dissuade you from trusting the Lord.
I don’t see how a person can survive without hope. I heard about a fellow once who was taking a cruise. He was seasick all the time and he spent all his time leaning over the rail. One of the sailors came up to him and trying to encourage him, patted him on the back and said, “Don’t worry, brother, nobody’s ever died of seasickness.” He said, “Oh, don’t tell me that. It’s the hope of dying that keeps me going.” You can’t live without hope…hope of some kind…hope in something! I have the hope that I’ll see my loved ones again. I have the hope that I’ll see my son again. I have the hope that one day, well, one day the earth is going to be filled with the glory of God, as waters cover the sea. I know that one of these days my hope will turn into reality and my faith will be sight. A man can’t live without hope!
But there are those in this world without hope and without God! For true hope comes with God! So I’m wondering this morning…do you have hope? I mean, hope with a firm foundation…hope that is firmly based on the Word of God…hope that one day God will cleanse your life and make you the person He wants you to be…the hope that perhaps those that have gone before…the hope that you will see them again one day…the hope that the circle that is broken today will not remain broken, it will be a rejoining in the future! What a hope! For we look not upon things that are seen but we look beyond them to the things that are unseen.
Would you bow your heads with me now for a moment as we pray.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005