What do we continue in sin when it destroys? Sin is disorienting, deceiving, and destructive. But, we have hope in Christ. Jesus is our great rescuer, forgiver, purifier, and protector. In this message on Micah 1–7, Pastor Bart Box helps Christians to understand how Christ protects and rescues us.
- Reading from Micah
- Hearing from Micah
- Questions from Micah
Well, good morning to you. Will you take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Micah. This morning we continue as we work our way through the Minor Prophets. A lot of churches take kind of a lighter approach in the summer, and you might see like a series on family or a series on relationships or something like that, but here at Brook Hills, we do the judgment of God. It’s kind of what we’re after.
So, just to give you a little bit of perspective, and some of you are probably more enterprising, and you’ve taken that daily Bible reading plan, and you’ve kind of looked at it and said, “We’re going to be here in August and September.” You’ve calculated, and you’ve seen that it is not until October that we will come to the Gospels. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the “dog days of summer”, doesn’t it?
However, Dave and I were talking. It’s probably been a couple of weeks, I guess, and we were talking about that very fact; that it won’t be until October that we get to the Gospels. We were talking, though, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? I mean, we obviously have our Old Testament. It’s almost three-quarters of our Bible, and so all of it…all of the Old Testament, as we talk about the New Testament points back…the Old Testament points forward to Christ. So, there is this longing all throughout the Old Testament of expectation and desiring and praying for the Messiah to come.
So, in a sense, we are experiencing that all year long as we are working our way through the Word of God and seeing how they, the people of God, longed for, and they prayed for, and they sang about, and they looked for the coming of the Messiah. It’s one of those promises that we come to this morning in the book. In fact, there’s a host of those promises that we come to of the Messiah as we look into God’s Word this morning.
An Initial Question…
As we begin, I want to begin with an initial question, “What is it that you fear?” If you could name…if you could think through your life, and even as you search, sort of, into your soul, what is it that you fear? If you’re honest about all the things that sort of rise up against you, what is it that you perceive as some of the greatest dangers, the greatest threats to your soul, to your peace? If you can name just some of the greatest fears that you have, what would those be? I know that if we took…just, if we had time to really let everyone voice or to vocalize their fears…if we went all the way across the room and said, “What do you fear? What do you fear? What do you fear and what do you fear?”, that we would no doubt see that there are all kinds of things, things that I would not think about, and things that you would not think about. There are a variety of answers that would be given to that particular question; that all of us see different things that we perceive as the greatest threat to our soul, to our security, to our joy. However, I want to propose at least one answer, may not be the only answer, but I want to propose at least one answer from the Bible, and also that will point us to the book of Micah. I want to propose one answer for us all, something that all of us should fear.
If you recall, as we were working our way months ago through the book of Deuteronomy, one of the things that you see when you read the book of Deuteronomy, the setting of it, is Israel is about to go into the Promised Land. So, they are gathered there, kind of on the banks of the Jordan, as it were, and Moses, as you know, is not allowed. Because he’s disobeyed God in the past, he’s not allowed to go into the Promised Land with them. So, he is kind of giving them the final charge. He’s kind of giving them a last will and testimony
from all that he knows.
So, he’s talking to the people of God there as they are about to go into the Promised Land. They spent forty years in the wilderness, and they’re about to realize the promises of God. One of the things that you see as we read through the book of Deuteronomy, you’ll see promise after promise. There are literally hundreds of promises in the book of Deuteronomy that, if they will do the Word of God, if they will obey God, then God will bless them. However, what’s interesting to me is, as I’ve read through it before and thought about it, that what is interesting to me as you read through the book of Deuteronomy, you realize that there are twice as many warnings as there are blessings.
There are twice as many warnings, threats, dangers as there are promises of God. What’s interesting is when you read those threats, and you read all of those warnings, there is not one instance in all the book of Deuteronomy where the people of God are warned about any enemy that they will face. They are never ever warned about the Philistines. They are never warned about the Canaanites. They are never warned about the Edomites. In fact, they are repeatedly told, “Do not fear them.” Yet, over 20 times in that same book, they are warned…they are told to fear the Lord. Why?
Well, I think the answer lies simply in this: That the greatest danger to Israel…and I would say to us…the greatest danger to Israel was not any foreign power outside of them; the greatest danger before Israel was the sin that lied within them, and so it is with us. We could name all sorts of fears, and we can pause and say, “I’m scared of this. I’m terrified of this. I’m really concerned about this. I have great anxiety about this.” We could lay all kinds of things before us, but I would submit to you that the greatest dangers that all of us face are not those exterior threats, but rather, it is the interior threat, the interior danger of our very own sin. It is that reality that Micah points us to this morning.
So, what I want to do as we look at another really hard word from God, I want to let it be hard. I want to let it be weighty. I want to let it really confront us, and I want to let it even offend us because I want us to see, really, the ugliness of sin. I want us to see, above all, as we look into Micah, I want us to see the effects of sin. I want us to see the way that it rages in our lives, the way that it rages in our families, the way that it rages in our society, the way that it tears down and destroys every single thing that it touches, but I don’t want to leave it there. I want us to see that. I want us to see the way that sin destroys, but I also want us to see…because Micah points us to Him…side-by-side the effects of our sin, I want us to see the glory of our shepherd. I want us to see the glory of our king, Jesus Christ, who overcomes, who deals with, who defeats our very own sin. So, I want you to walk away from here this morning not saying, “That was a great sermon on sin,” but rather to say, “We have a great Savior, Jesus Christ.” To say, “Yes” that we have sin, but I want every one of us…I want us to be encouraged. I want us to be freshly reminded of our Savior. I want us to be strengthened, and I want us to walk away glorying in a Savior who triumphs over sin, death, hell and the grave. You with me?
Let’s look at the book of Micah, all right? Let’s just begin sort of with just a very brief section on how do we understand the book of Micah. Then, how do we hear? What does Micah say to us? Hearing the message of Micah and then close with just a few questions drawn from our reading together this morning.
Reading from Micah…
We need to understand the structures of Micah.
Notice, first, reading from Micah, we need to understand the structure of the book. We need to understand the structure of Micah. In other words, how do we read it? Do we read it straight forward? Is there a pattern? What we find is this: that the book is not chronological, but rather, it is cyclical; that Micah is not chronological but it is cyclical. In other words, it kind of goes over and over and over. We’ll see in a minute, it goes over three times; that Micah doesn’t tell a story in the same ways that we preached a couple of weeks ago from Jonah.
It doesn’t tell it from Micah 1 all the way to Micah 7 in, sort of, a linear fashion, so there’s kind of units to the book of Micah. In fact, most scholars believe that what we have in the book of Micah, we really have kind of Micah’s sermon file. We know that Micah prophesied to the Southern kingdom, somewhat to the north as well, but mostly to the Southern kingdom. We know that Micah prophesied over a range of almost 40 or 50 years, and so what we have more than likely have in the book of Micah is we have, kind of, his sermon clips. So, this is something he preached at the beginning. This is something 10 years later and 20 years later and 30 years later.
You can imagine. If we just took four years of David’s sermons, you know, and say, “I’m going to take a little bit of ‘Lifeblood.’ I’m going to take a little bit of ‘Radical.’ I’m going to take a little bit of ‘Covenant Community,’ a little bit of ‘Ruth,’ and I’m just going to kind of mix it together, you know?” I mean, it’ll be good, right? It’d be good, but it would probably have a little bit of a disjointed feel and that’s somewhat what we have when we come to the book of Micah. We see that it’s not chronological, but rather, it kind of tells the same story over and over.
Also, you see that Micah presents three visions of judgment and hope. When we talk about the structure of the book of Micah, we know that he presents three visions of judgment and hope. In Micah 1 and 2, you see the judgment of God. So, it begins out being really strong, really hard, and so it leads into the end of Micah 2 where there’s just a brief note of hope: a shepherd who is coming, who will gather the sheep. Then, it goes right back in Micah 3 into the judgment of God. Then it, in Micah 4, it’s really four and five you want to kind of circle that. That’s the center. That’s in the center of the book. It’s kind of the main passages of hope that we see in the book of Micah. Then, it goes right back into Micah 6, and we have the judgment of God again, until we finally get to the very end, particularly verses 18 through 20 in Micah 7, where we have, again, the hope of God.
Really, it’s the same thing, right, that we saw last week. We looked at Amos and Hosea. We saw the judgment of God upon sin, and we saw the hope of God, and we see them side-by side, and it’s the very same thing. In fact, chapter after chapter, we see judgment of God, hope of God, judgment of God and the hope of God.
We need to understand the features of prophecy in Micah
So, we need to understand kind of the structure, just how do we read it, and then also we need to understand just a few features of prophecy. Understand some features of prophecy. What I mean by “features of prophecy,”…there are a lot of things, obviously, that make prophecy different, so you have to read…obviously, when we come to a book like Amos, Hosea and Micah, Jonah even, when we read a book like that, we have to realize that there are some features that make it a little bit different than reading 1 Kings, 2 Kings or 1 and 2 Chronicles or Judges.
There are two related features that I want to communicate to you, and we’ll do them together. We have to see, first, that prophets do not always give us precise timelines. That the prophets do not always give us precise timelines, but they do always give us precise truths. So, notice that prophets do not always give us precise timelines, or at least it wasn’t precise to them, and it may not be always precise to us. They didn’t always give us precise timelines, but they do always give us precise truths. When we hear the word “prophet” or we hear the word “prophecy”, most of us in our minds, we kind of jump ahead. We think, “Well, that’s probably something to do with the future; probably something dealing with out there,” and so, we begin to ask all sorts of questions like, “Well, what happened or when did this happen?”
When he’s talking about in Micah 4 that the mountain of the house of the Lord, in the latter days, shall be established above all the other mountains, and the nations shall flow to it; that the word of God will flow from it; that nation shall not lift up sword against nation; that there will be no more war and everybody will be sitting under their fig and vine and all this kind of stuff. We often ask, “Well, when is he talking about? Is that in our lifetime or is that the cross? Is that Jesus? Is that something later on?”
I want to remind us as we move into the book of Micah…I would remind us that it’s not that those questions are unimportant. In fact, they are important, and they do have answers, but I would remind us, at least for our purposes this morning, that, far more important than the timing of the events is the truth of the events. That over and over, really, what we have in the prophets…we have kind of the same song, one hundredth verse, right? That over and over again, that we see in the prophets. When I read this summer, what do I need to come away with? What we need to come way with is this: that our sin is great, but our Savior is greater; that our sin is great before God, and it merits His judgment and, in Christ, God has performed that judgment, and He has set us free.
So, we see when we come to the book of Micah what we should walk away with is not that we are looking for random predictions about the future. Rather, we need to see, “Well, how does this…when we read the story of Israel, how does that point us, one, to ourselves and to our failure before God?” So, in other words, we don’t read Micah and say, “Well, darn, Israel was a bunch of idiots, weren’t they? Glad we’re not like that. It’s a good thing that I don’t fall under that rubric, right?” No. We see the failure of Israel, and we see it in the mirror. We see it in the mirror of His word that, yes, they failed, and it is a type even, a shadow…it is a figure of every single one of us apart from the grace and mercy of Christ. That all of us have fallen short of the glory of God in the very same way as Israel. So, we see it’s not random predictions but rather it is pointing to our sin, and then it points us on, as we said, it points us to Christ. That’s what we have really this morning.
Hearing from Micah…
We could talk about a lot of different truths from the book of Micah, and certainly, we could preach a series out of the book of Micah, but what I want us to do in the time that we have this morning is I just want to look at one passage in particular, and I want to show us by the grace of God that He gives us this morning, I want us to see…I want you to see not just the failure of Israel; I want you to see your own failure apart from Christ, to see your sin. Would you ask God to do that right now even as we listen to the Word of God? Say, “God, would you show me? Would you show me how I fall short of your glory, how I fall prey to the very same sins that we see in the life of Israel?” Then, having done that, would you then let us go on to Christ?
In Israel, we see the ravages of our sin.
I want you to hear from Micah. First, in Israel, we see…there in your notes…that in Israel we see the ravages of sin. We hear from the book of Micah that we see the ravages of sin. If you recall last week, we looked at Amos and Hosea, and we talked about how in Amos and Hosea’s day was a time where the kingdom had already divided, and so there was a Northern kingdom and there was a Southern kingdom, and so Amos and Hosea prophesied, mainly, to that Northern kingdom. So, it was a time before they had gone into exile, before the Northern kingdom had been destroyed, and so that was kind of their lot. Amos and Hosea prophesied to that Northern kingdom.
It was a time of idolatry. It was a time of great spiritual indifference. It was a time of great spiritual activity, but it was a time also of really oppressing the poor and perverting justice. So, there were all kinds of…really, a cluster of sins that they attacked. So, here comes Micah probably a little bit…maybe a generation after them…and so, he’s prophesying, yes, to the Northern kingdom as well, but mainly to the Southern kingdom, because the Southern kingdom, as all men do, has fallen into the very same sins as the Northern kingdom.
So, they are committing idolatry. They are committing spiritual adultery. They are perverting justice. They are, as we talked about that image Amos gave us last week, they are grinding the heads of the poor into the dust. It’s into that darkness that Micah steps from the country into the city. He steps into Jerusalem, and he delivers the Word of God, hot and heavy, all right?
So, look at Micah 3. I want you to see…really, we could look at a lot of different passages, and we could see what they’re doing, and we could see the judgment of God. So, we could see Micah 2, Micah 7, a lot of different places. However, I want to just show you in one particular passage, because I think we can see a lot of different aspects of their sin here in Micah 3. So, if you would, read with me. This is again, remember Micah 1 and 2, judgment and hope. Now, we’re starting a new cycle, and so we’re back again to the judgment of God.
“And I said: hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?” The rulers, the heads, those that were in political leadership. Verse 2, “You who hate the good and love the evil…” Mark that particular phrase. “You hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh off their bones…” This is just the gruesome nature of sin. “…who eat the flesh off my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron. Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. Thus says the Lord
concerning the prophets…” Now, not just the rulers but the prophets. “…who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who put nothing into their mouths. Therefore, it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets…” Now, it’s the prophets. “…and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.”
Then, Micah says,
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion [or Jerusalem] with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money.
Notice prophet, priest and king all fall. Yet, they lean on the Lord and say, “‘Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.’ Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”
I want to point out for you…as we move through this passage, I want to point out for you three aspects of our sin. First, we see that sin is disorienting. We see that sin is disorienting. We see that it causes us to approve the bad and condemn the good, or it leads us to approve the bad and condemn the good. Look at verse 2. He says…condemnation of the judges…he says, “You who hate the good and love the evil…” These were the judges in Israel. They knew right from wrong at least in their heads. They knew that the Word of God said to love your neighbor as yourself, to love the poor, to take care of the poor, to take care of the needy, to uphold justice.
However, as we see, we could go back. We’ll read it actually in just a minute, but if you look, for example, in Micah 2, and he asks the question, “Well, how did the judges get to that point?” How did they get to the point where they were chopping people up and putting them into stew as though they were meat? We see in Micah 2 that they so desired the fields of the poor, they so coveted their homes that slowly but surely, they began to justify their own behavior, so that eventually…notice this…that eventually, what they actually did became the standard of right and wrong. So that what they did in their sin eventually became the standard of right and wrong. Their desires so overwhelmed them, it so drove them, that suddenly, God’s Word was wrong and their actions were right.
You say, “Well, glad we’re not like that. Glad we would never fall prey to calling good evil and evil good.” However, just think broadly in our culture. Do we not live in a day where greed is good and contentment is bad? Do we not live in a day where arrogance, particularly in athletic endeavors, where arrogance is considered a virtue and not a vice? Do we not live in a day where lust is glorified and not shamed, or in a day where revenge is esteemed and not eschewed? You say, “Well, those are just attitudes and those are just sort of things that we value. It doesn’t really turn into anything.”
However, do we not also live in a day, in a culture, where abortion is considered the empowerment of choice and the essence of self-determination rather than the murder of a child? Eventually, that’s what sin does. Eventually, sin so roots itself in our hearts that our desires and our wishes and our wants become the standard, and we begin to call what is evil good and what is good, we call it evil.
Then, it works its way from our hearts in the same way that it worked its way from the hearts of the people in Micah 2, where they coveted the fields, and they coveted the houses. It eventually worked its way. They were devising it on their beds. They were thinking about it in their hearts, and eventually, it worked its way out into practice, and the very same thing, very same threat, happens to all of us as well. We devise it in our hearts. We esteem it in our hearts, and eventually, it works its way out into our lives, so that our lives, our family, our society, everything is ravaged by sin.
You see that one sin is disorienting. We also see in this passage that sin is deceiving. That sin is deceiving. That we act as if God will never judge. You see it there in your notes, and you know that sin is deceiving. That we act as if God will never judge. Look at Micah 3:11. It is the heads. “It’s heads give judgment for a bribe.” Judges give judgment for a bribe. “Priests teach for a price…prophets practice divination for money.” Yet, in the midst of that, as they are executing their offices, these are people that are supposedly anointed by God to perform their task. In the midst of that, they say they lean on the Lord, and they say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come on us.”
“God loves us. Nothing is going to happen to us.” As Paul says in Romans 2, “They presume upon the riches and the kindness of God.” One of the things that we see in Micah, and one of the things I want you to see, is that the judgment of God, one, it will surely fall, but two, when it falls, it will be absolutely meticulous and precise. God will do exactly right. “So, what do you mean by that?” Look at Micah 2. There are four or five illustrations of this in the book of Micah, because I think Micah, by bringing it up over and over, I think he wants us to see that. I want you to see it as well.
Look at Micah 2:1, “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds!” So, before they even get up in the morning, they have that temptation before them and they give in to it, and so before it is daybreak, they are devising on their beds evil. It says, “When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.” So, they are devising and they are proud. Notice, there those two things: they are devising and they are proud. So, what happens? “They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”
So, we see three things that they do. They devise, right? They are proud, and number three, they take homes. However, that’s not the end of the story because God is answering in verse 3. Look at what God says, “Therefore thus says the Lord: behold, against this family…” Guess what He’s doing? They are devising, and so is God. He says, “I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks…” They are proud, and so what will God do? “You shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.” Verse 4, “In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you and moan bitterly, and say, ‘We are utterly ruined; he changes to the portion of my people; how he removes it from me!’” Remember, they coveted houses. They coveted fields, and they took them, and so what does the Lord do? “To an apostate he allots our fields.”
Spurgeon said it this way. He said, “When men invent sins, God will not be slow to invent punishments.” When men invent sins, God will not be slow to invent punishments; the judgment of God is meticulous, and it is precise. However, you know we don’t have that perspective, do we, when we are in the midst of sin. We’re not reminded. The power of sin is not going to remind us that, “Oh, my, you need to think, Bart, that the judgments of God are meticulous, and that they are precise.”
We don’t really think about texts like…you can jot them down. We don’t think about texts like Romans 2:16 which says that “God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” All men. Romans 14:12 that “to each of us we will give an account of ourselves to God.” Or 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Brothers and sisters, know this: God will judge every single man and every single woman, and there will come a day when we will stand before God, and we will either be in Christ or outside of Him, and on that day, we will see, and we will say that the judgment of God is meticulous, and it is precise. It is accurate, and it is true.
Sin deceives us and says, “We lean on the Lord. Nothing will happen to us.” It’s disorienting. It’s deceiving. We also see that sin is destructive. Sin is destructive. I want you to notice it. Look at…again, there are multiple places in the book of Micah that we could see this, but look at Micah 3:12. We see that sin is destructive; we ask disaster into our lives
when we sin, and we see that in verse 12.
Look with me if you would in verse 12, “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” We know from our Bible that this is exactly what happened. That what Micah said, roughly in the early 700’s, came precisely true in 586 B.C. A Babylonian army came and surrounded Jerusalem and broke the walls down and destroyed the nation. They sent them off and so on that day in 586 B.C., there were thousands of Israelites that were killed. There were women that were beaten and abused and raped. There were children that were led into exile into a foreign country. There was a wall that was broken down. There was a temple that was destroyed. The mountain of the house of the Lord was leveled, and Zion was plowed as a field.
The question is why? Why did that happen? The prophet gives the answer in verse 12. Not because the Babylonian army is great. The answer is “Therefore,” verse 12, “because of you…” He says, “Therefore because of you…” Because of your sins. It wasn’t the power of the Assyrians. It wasn’t the power of the Babylonians. It was their own sin. It wasn’t the greatness of their enemies that brought about their destruction. It was the greatness of their sin that brought about their destruction, and it is the very same thing that destroys us as well.
When we come away from the book of Micah, again, it’s not, “Oh, Israel has sinned.”, but we see in ourselves that, yes, we, too, replace the good with the bad. That we esteem what we desire not what God decrees. That we also are deceived. That we push the holiness and the justice and the judgment of God into the recesses of our mind, and in the very same way that Israel invited destruction into their lives, when we sin, we do the very same thing. That apart from Christ, this is who we are, and this is what we bring about.
We could go all the way across this room this morning, and we could hear testimony after testimony after testimony and say, “I want to tell you how sin ruined my life. I want to tell you about the devastation. I want to tell you about the ruin. I want to tell you about the shame. I want to tell you about the chaos.” Well, here’s what I would say to that. That we could do that this morning, and we ought to do that even in our own spirits. We ought to contemplate that. We ought to consider the weight of sin, but we don’t leave it there.
Yes, we see all of those things, but Micah would have us to remember that, yes, we see shame. Yes, we see guilt. Yes, we see condemnation. Yes, we see judgment. We see chaos. We see deception, but what we ultimately see is a Savior who comes in the form and person and the work of Jesus Christ. That we are led, yes, to see all of the chaos in the same way. Remember when we looked at the book of Ecclesiastes, and we saw in the book of Ecclesiastes all of those empty pursuits, all the ways in which all the things the world offers that do not satisfy, and they bring ultimately chaos into our lives.
However, one of the things that we saw there, and one of the things that we see here, and one of the things that we see all throughout the Minor Prophets is that the chaos, the shame, the guilt is not ultimate. That all of these things, by the grace of God, are meant, not to lead us just back upon ourselves, but rather, they are meant to lead us to the gospel and to Christ.
One of the things that we see in the whole Bible, and one of the things that we see in Micah, is that the answer to our sin that this text alerts us to; that the answer to our sin is not found in more money. It’s not in more education. It’s not in more effort. Believe it or not, it’s not in more government. The answer to our sin…it will never, ever come from within this world. It will never come from within this preacher.
The truth is that we need a word from without. We need a gospel. We need a Christ. We need a Messiah from without to come and to deliver us from the ravages of sin, and that is precisely what we see in Jesus Christ; that He has come. He has taken our sin. He has taken our shame. He has taken out guilt, our wrath, our punishment, and He has laid them upon Himself, and He has gone to the cross, and He has died for every single bit of it. Then, not only has He died for it. He has been raised from the dead victorious over it.
In Christ, we see the reign of our Shepherd.
So, He is victor over sin, death, hell and the grave. Yes, we see. We see the ravages of sin, but we also…brother and sister, as we look to Micah, we also see the reign of our Shepherd. We see that promise crystal clear in Micah 5. So, I want us to spend the remainder of the balance of our time seeing the reign of our Shepherd. To not leave it there, the ravages of our sin, but to point us to Christ in Micah 5 where He says…in verse 1, he says,
Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. [In other words, there is judgment coming.] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth from me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth…”
There’s going to be a time of trial, a time of testing. “Then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.” Then, notice what the Shepherd does. “[And] he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” I want you to keep that in mind what we’ve looked at already. We’ve looked at the ravages of sin. I want us to keep that fresh in our mind because it’s only as we see…notice, it’s only as we see clearly the ravages of our sin that we will see clearly the reign of our Shepherd, the glory of our Shepherd.
So, what I want to do is just look at four different passages where we see the reign of our Shepherd. Think about your sin and let that lead us to Christ. So, we see, number one, that we have a Shepherd who rescues His sheep; that in Christ, He rescues His sheep. Look at Micah 4:6–7. We’re not going to spend long in each of these but just look at Micah 4, where you see that promise again. We have the judgment of God, but side-by-side, we have the promise of God. In Micah 5:6–7, He says, “In that day, declares the Lord…” In other words, when the Messiah comes. It’s not in some distant future. “When the Messiah comes…” declares the Lord, “I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who are cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.”
The promise that we have in the Shepherd, and you see it there in your notes, is that we will not be forsaken. Why? Because of His saving grace. He rescues the sheep, and so we will not be forsaken. Why? Because of His saving grace.
You see that word “remnant” there in Micah 4:6. The word “remnant” is used five different times: once in Micah 2, a couple times here in Micah 4. Also, we’ll see it in a moment in Micah 7. The word “remnant” is used five different times in the book of Micah. The idea is this. “Well, what is a remnant? I don’t understand. Are we a remnant? What is a remnant?”
God was going to judge Israel. God did judge Israel, and He promised…He said, “I’m going to judge you and a foreign nation is going to come. They’re going to cart you off.” That’s exactly what we mentioned a minute ago. In 586 B.C., the Babylonians came, and they did precisely that. They tore down the temple. They tore down the walls, and they took away the people of God, and for all intents and purposes, if you just looked at that from a human perspective, that should have been, by all intents, the end of Israel. That should have been it for Judah.
However, He said, “I’m going to save a remnant. They’re going to go into exile, but I’m going to save some of them; not all of them, but I’m going to save some of them, and as I do, you will know that it is all of mercy.” It is not that there were some lame that went away, and they were faithful. He says, “No, the ones that I have afflicted.” In other words, “The very ones that I have punished,” He says, “I will redeem. I will bring back.” It will be by the mercy of God that some will be saved, and so it is with us.
It is all mercy. It is all grace that we are saved. I think about in my own life. I think about my own salvation that, just like Israel, even as a little boy…that, even as a little boy, that I, too, was afflicted by sin. That I was, in the words of Micah 4:6, “that I was lame before God.” That I could not pick myself up; that I could not take myself to God, but rather, God had to come to me, and in His grace and in His mercy, He, in the person and work of Christ, has come to me, and He has taken me out of exile. He has taken me out of the far country, and He has brought me by His grace and by His power into the Father’s house, and it is all of mercy. Every bit of it is the mercy of God.
You say, “How do you know? Are you sure there’s not some other reason?” What other reason could there be? What other way could we ascribe the mercy of God? Is it that God looked at me and said, “Well, you know, Bart’s going to be really faithful, and I think I’m going to save him.” Well, I’ll tell you I haven’t been. Well, maybe God says, “Well, I can really use that person. So, I could use Bart, so I’m going to save him because he’ll be useful to me, whereas others wouldn’t be useful.”
I’m reminded…every time that I preach, I usually get a text message a few minutes…few hours before I preach that tells me that to, “Go and to speak for God, but just remember God used a donkey in the Old Testament to speak. So, speak, brother, preach.” It’s a good reminder. It’s a good reminder that God doesn’t need me, and that God didn’t save me because He saw my faithfulness, because He saw that He would need me. God saved me by sheer and absolute mercy and grace. So, as you ask yourself that question, “Why is it that God has saved me? Why have I been shown mercy, and I see others who are not in Christ?”
You ever ask yourself that question: “Why? Why am I saved?” Because I was smarter than my neighbor. No. As we ask that question, we dare not…we dare not try to find any reason within ourselves why God would show mercy to us. We will not find it there. The only thing that we will find is a reason that God should have judged us, a reason that God should have condemned us forever in hell. When we ask that question, “Why did God save us?”, it ought to lead us not inward but upward to God, to His mercy, His grace shown supremely in Christ. So, give God praise. As we see the ravages of sin, how can we not praise God that He has, in His grace and in His mercy, not consigned every single one of us to hell, but He has saved, He has rescued the sheep?
Notice also, He has forgiven the sheep. He has forgiven the sheep. Look in Micah 7, the very end, verses 18–20, “Who is a God like you?” The very end of the book.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love through Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
I don’t know very many more encouraging passages than this one for those that are weighted down by sin. Anybody coming here this morning discouraged at the sin that you see in your life? As I reflect on mine, I think about all the sin, all the guilt and all the shame, and I picture it before God, and according to these verses, it is as if God has taken all that, and He’s just scooped it up, and He’s taken it and kind of just pressed it into a ball, into a stone, as it were. He has, in the very same words that you find in the account of the exodus, where God hurls the Pharaoh and his horse into the heart of the sea, the very same language is used here. That God takes those sins, and as it were, He casts them into the heart of the sea, and they sink like a stone.
This is what Spurgeon said. “Listen,” he said, “all our sins, ye, the whole host of them that will cast into the depths of the sea, not into the shallows out of which they might be washed up again by the tide.” You hear that? He said He cast them way out there, not into the shallows where they might be washed up; they might be dredged up again by the tide, but rather, into the depths of the sea our sins are hurled. “They are all gone,” Spurgeon said. “They sank into the bottom like a stone. Hallelujah!”
So, how can we not be encouraged? Sin ravaged? Yes, but how can we not be encouraged, brothers, that we…in your notes…that we will not be condemned? We will not be condemned. Why? Because of our goodness? No. Because of His steadfast love. We have to ascribe our change and our forgiveness wholly to the grace of God, so be praising God that He rescued you out of sin and be encouraged, brothers and sisters, that there is not one ounce…do you hear that? There is not one ounce of condemnation reserved for you if you have trusted in Christ. All of it has been paid for by Jesus.
He has rescued us. He has forgiven us. Number three, He purifies His sheep. Purifies His sheep. Micah 5, you can follow along. I want to read Micah 5:10–11, and as I read, I just want you to notice one thing as we’re going through it. I want you to see all the “I wills.” In other words, I want you to see the activity of God. What is God doing for His sheep? Listen to all the “I wills”:
And in that day, declares the Lord, I will cut off your horses from among you and will destroy your chariots; and I will cut off the cities of your land, and [I will] throw down all your strongholds; and I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes; and I will cut off your carved images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands; and [I love verse 14] I will root out [God roots it out.] your Asherah images from among you and destroy your cities.
We see from these verses there in your notes that we will not be unchanged. Why? Because of the Spirit’s power; we will not be unchanged because of His Spirit’s power. It’s encouraging to me. It’s vastly encouraging to me to know that God is more committed to my sanctification than I am; that He will see it through. We will echo that truth that “he who began a good work in us will…” do what? He will finish it. He rescues us. Praise God. He forgives us. Be encouraged.
He purifies us, and then last, He protects His sheep. He protects His sheep. Micah 5:4 we read just a minute ago. Verse 4, “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” Micah sees the day for Israel, and for us by extension, when they will never be driven away. That nothing more shall ever harm them. Why? “For he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”
So, we know this: that we will not be overcome; we will not be overcome. Why? Because of our great resolve? No, because of His sovereign rule. We will not be overcome. What assurance do you have? What assurance do I have that sin will not overcome us in this life? That we will indeed “make it”? That we will not turn aside? That the ravages of sin will not eventually overtake us? Here is the assurance; here is the confidence that we have: we have a Shepherd, who, by virtue of His death and His resurrection, has been exalted to the right hand of the Father on high. As He is exalted, He now lives forever to make intercession for you and for me, so that He will never, ever lose one single sheep. He ever lives; He ever lives. Do you believe? Do you believe that or do you believe that the Father would not answer the prayer of the Son backed up by His own blood? That’s a good gospel promise that we will make it; that nothing will ever overcome us because of His sovereign rule.
We see over and over that, yes, sin scatters us. In all of its power, that sin has scattered us, but what we hear from the book of Micah, and what we see as we read through the rest of our New Testament, is not only has sin scattered us, but the Shepherd in all of His sovereignty has gathered us.
Questions from Micah…
Why do we continue in sin when it destroys?
So, as we close, let me just ask you three questions. Number one, if that is so…if that is so that we have been scattered by sin, but we have a sovereign Shepherd who gathers…if that is so, number one, why do we continue in sin when it destroys? In other words, we understand why the world would continue in sin. They don’t know any better, but by the grace and the mercy of God, He has opened our eyes to see the nature, to see the depths of our sin, not just in the way that it ruins our lives, but supremely, we have seen the horror of sin in the cross of Jesus Christ. Seeing that, I would ask you take stock of your life even now. Why is it then, if we know that that is where sin leads…if that is what God believes about sin…if that’s what God thinks about sin is the cross of Jesus Christ, how then could we continue in it? How can you continue in it? How can I continue in it? Why do we continue in sin when it destroys?
Why do we continue in self-justification when Jesus’ blood atones?
Number two, why do we continue…why do we continue in self-justification when Jesus’ blood atones? The most natural thing in the world is to hear this message and say, “You know what? I know there’s a lot of bad stuff there. I know they did a lot of bad stuff, but I’m not quite that bad. I’m not doing the things that we see in Israel.” However, I would point you away from your own evaluation of yourself to Titus 3. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” No wonder Luther says, “Let your sins be strong. Feel the weight of them. Feel the depth of your sin.” I think if we do that, if we spend some time considering our sin…I know in fact, as a child of God, that that will lead us certainly to see the depths of our sin, but it will lead us to see the glory of our Savior.
Having seen the glory of our Savior, I don’t think that we would dare want to say that anything that is good in my life is attributable in any way whatsoever to me, but it is all attributable to God. That it would lead to not self-justification but continual and effusive praise unto Jesus who has died for our sins.
Why do we continue in fear when the Shepherd protects?
Number three, as we close, why do we continue in fear…Why would we continue in fear when the shepherd protects? We have an image of a shepherd, drawn from children’s books mainly, on a nice green hillside with a nice white flowing robe. I would want to eradicate that image of a shepherd from your mind this morning. You remember David was a shepherd, and he fought what? He fought the lion, and he fought the bear with a staff and a rod. Jesus, when speaking in John 10 of the nature of a shepherd…the life and ministry of a shepherd…he said, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” If that is the case that shepherding is a bloody business and it is a fight, why, then, would we dare, knowing our own insufficiency, knowing that we have no power over sin apart from Christ, why would we dare fight sin apart from Him?
So, when we wake up every morning, and we know we’re going to be faced with this temptation, and we’re going to be faced with that temptation, and then, we’re going to be faced with a hundred others that we know not of at that time, why would we dare start our day, even, without an appeal to the Great Shepherd for His protection, His victory, His power over sin. We have a Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for the sheep. By God’s grace, would you this week to go forward…would you by His grace…would you cling to Him? Would you express your utter dependence upon the Shepherd?