A Witness Against Us
Scripture Text: Micah 1:1-16
Today we are starting a new sermon series. We recently looked at two of Paul’s letters and spent some time reviewing what the church is and what God requires of His people. Now, we are now going to look a little further back in time, a few hundred years before the birth of Christ, at what the prophet Micah wrote. Micah prophesied during the reigns of three kings of Judah with a time span that roughly corresponds to other eighth-century prophets, such as Hosea and Isaiah. Prophets had been a part of God’s people since the days of Moses. The politics, society and culture of Israel’s divided monarchy, the period of time after King David and King Solomon, made a prophet’s role of communicating God’s message to His people even more prominent.
Unlike priests, prophets did not inherit their role by birth and often were not part of the religious establishment. They were not the ones who performed the sacrifices in the Temple nor were they the ones who officiated the ceremonies of the Jewish people. Prophets were called by God to speak His message to His people. Basically, a prophet was a mouthpiece of God for a particular time or a particular situation. While Micah is never explicitly referred to as a prophet, the source of his message and the power of it were explicitly attributed to the “Spirit of the Lord.” (Mic. 3:8) In verse one of this book, we read the source of Micah’s message was “the word of the Lord.” That is why Micah can declare with full divine authority, “This is what God says.”
One question that Micah asked in this book was, “Who is like our God?” Indeed, who God is or what His character is like, is of great significance. People tend to describe God as something that either appeals to them or in a way that is familiar to them. Some people focus on one or more characteristics of God, while leaving out other just as important descriptions of Him. In fact, I heard an interesting quote regarding this:
A few folks have a Bible which consists of only two verses: God so loved the World (John 3:16) and Judge not that ye be not judged (Matt.7:1), which [makes for] a really thin Bible!
Some folks do not want to hear about judgment or sin. Some people want to only hear a feel-good message, something that sounds good and does not offend them. In fact, some folks want to remove certain portions of the Bible because they do not agree with what it says. I do not believe that. As the psalmist said, I believe “the sum of His words is truth,” whether we agree with it or not. In order to appreciate the “Good News” of God, we have to understand the bad news that makes the Gospel so good. We see both in the book of Micah. We see both God’s judgment and God’s forgiveness. We see the Lord who scatters His people for their sins is also the Shepherd-King who faithfully gathers, protects, and forgives them. Because Micah presents both the judgment of God and the forgiveness from God, I titled this sermon series, “The Gospel in Micah.”
God’s Righteous Judgment Against His People
In chapter one of Micah, we read about God’s righteous judgment against His people. God had good reason to be angry with His people. They had turned from Him. In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read of the rebellion of God’s people against God. The leaders did what was evil in the sight of God. They worshipped false gods and made the people sin against God. And as children well know, when we disobey our parents, we face consequences for it. So it is with our Heavenly Father. Micah provided God’s perspective on the events that were going to occur in the latter eighth century B.C. when the nation of Assyria invaded Israel and Judah. Micah wrote that the Lord was coming, but He was not coming to save Israel from her enemies. God was coming to deal with Israel as an enemy. The Assyrian invasion was God’s punishment on Israel for years of disobedience and rebellion.
Micah described what might be called a lawsuit against God’s people, or at least a “legal procedure.” There was some sort of legal process involved because God’s testimony is given, charges are brought against His people, and a divine sentence is pronounced against them. It is interesting to note, however, that the peoples of the world are summoned to hear what God will testify against them:
Micah 1:2 Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
So, it was not just Israel, but everyone who was involved in this legal procedure. Everyone is accountable to God.
Micah began this section of the prophecy with the command “Hear.” This meant more than just hear what is being said. It meant to listen, to understand what God is about to say, and respond to it appropriately. Men can probably relate to this. How many times have husbands been accused of not listening to their wives? Surely, I am not the only one. Micah’s readers were to listen and to respond to God. In His court, God was the Plaintiff, the Witness, and the Royal Judge, and we are summoned to listen to Him. Micah described God as leaving His heavenly temple to descend to the earth and tread on the mountains. God was coming to the earth because the people have sinned. He is a witness against you. He created us. He gave us life. He gave us His Law. We are obligated to follow Him, but we have not. So, the Lord of the universe will testify against you. In verse five, Micah raised and answered two rhetorical questions.
Micah 1:5 What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
Basically, Micah was saying, “Who is to blame for the wrong things Jacob has done? It is Samaria! Who is to blame for the high places where Judah’s people worship other gods? It is Jerusalem!” Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem was the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Micah was not saying these cities themselves were responsible for the sins of those two nations. The cities represent the leadership of those nations. Samaria and Jerusalem represent the corrupt leadership of those two nations that had infected the whole land. The kings of Israel and Judah had led the people to break covenant with God and to sin against Him and worship false gods. As a result, God will use another nation, the Assyrians, to bring about the destruction of His people.
Grieving the Consequence of Sin
Micah’s heart, which reflected the heart of God, was broken as he prophesied the fate of God’s people. Micah was filled with compassion as he considered what would happen to Samaria, as well as to Judah and Jerusalem. Assyria was coming to capture Samaria, and Micah perceived that Judah and Jerusalem would also suffer at the hands of the Assyrians. Therefore, Micah lamented. He grieved the fate of His people.
Micah 1:8 For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches.
Like Isaiah, Micah grieved for his people and walked barefoot through Jerusalem while wearing only a loincloth. The sadness for his people was so great that he howled like a jackal and moaned like an owl or ostrich. It might be difficult to understand what this is like, but basically Micah was trying to convey that he mourned the punishment of His people. The punishment of the people of Samaria was pictured as wounds that cannot heal. Micah described God’s judgment on Samaria as “incurable.” God was going to punish His people for their wrongdoing, for their rebellion, and the destruction was going to be complete. It was also not isolated to only Samaria, but “it has come to Judah.” Judah was about to suffer in the same way.
In verses ten through thirteen, Micah described several cities in Judah that would face this punishment – that would be captured by the coming invasion. It was almost as if Micah was trying to warn them, to give them a chance to repent and turn back to God, except for one. In verse ten, Micah wrote that the city of Gath should not be told. Gath is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, perhaps because it was the Philistine city nearest to Judah. Micah saying to not tell the enemies in Gath was a reference to David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan, who were killed in battle against the Philistines. Micah did not want Israel’s other enemies to hear (or gloat) about their imminent destruction.
We can probably understand this. What child wants to advertise his or her punishment to others? I remember a time when I felt that way – and it wasn’t just one time either. When I was about ten years old, my mom, dad and I went to Disneyworld for vacation. I was so excited about the trip because I would get to see Mickey Mouse. And I did see him, but for a price. There was a parade at the Magic Kingdom and there he was, Mickey Mouse. I saw Mickey in the parade and ran after him, leaving my mom and dad behind. I was not thinking about all the strangers around, or the crowd of people or the fact that I might be lost and not find my parents. But my parents did! So, when my mom saw me coming around the corner, she took me and punished me right there in front of everyone. I thought to myself, “I wish these people would quit looking at me.” It was very embarrassing. So, I get it. Don’t tell others about your punishment.
And for the prophet of God, who is part of God’s people, we can understand this. Israel was God’s chosen people. He created the nation, and gave them the Divine Law. They had a special relationship with Him. But now, because of their sin and rebellion, God was punishing them through works of a pagan and wicked people. So, Micah grieved the fate of his people. We see what might be described as a mourning rite in verse sixteen. The people were to shave their heads to symbolize their grief. Certainly, the destruction of God’s people should cause us to grieve. In fact, that probably comes easy. We tend to grieve the consequences of sin – the pain and the destruction it causes. But, sin itself ought to grieve us and bring us to our knees. Sin breaks God’s heart and it ought to break our heart as well.
As Micah prophesied, Israel’s sins were going to bring God’s stern discipline. This is a warning for us today. Sin brings judgment. People reap what they sow. The Apostle Paul wrote the following:
Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Yes, sin is serious and brings consequences, sometimes very painful consequences, as the nation of Israel discovered. But we serve a compassionate God. A loving God Who desires to bring us back into fellowship with Him. Even Jonah knew that if he preached God’s message to the Ninevites that there was a chance they would repent, and God would forgive the repentant sinner. God sends us His word of judgment and consequences so that we will truly feel sorry for turning away from Him and so we will turn back to Him. God gives us the bad news about our condition, our rebellion to Him and the consequences of that rebellion so that we will respond to Him, turn to Him, and appreciate the Good News.
God stands as a witness against us – against our breaking His Law. The Good News, though, is that our Heavenly Father sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our debt of sin. Our sinfulness and rebellion to God was so serious that it cost the life of His very own Son. It should have been us facing God’s wrath, punished for breaking God’s Law, but Jesus took our place. Sin is serious. The consequences are great. But the grace of God is real and available to anyone who accepts it. Won’t you come to Him today? Won’t you turn from doing it your way and turn to the one and only Savior who offers forgiveness and reconciliation to God. His name is Jesus Christ. That is Good News. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.