God’s Passion for Our Holiness
Scripture Text: Micah 5:7-15
What does God want most of all for you? What is He most passionate about when it comes to your life? Does He want you to be happy? Does He want you to feel loved? Does He want you to be safe and secure? Yes, I believe God wants all these things for you, but not in the way you may think. God wants you to desire Him most of all, to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to be His holy people, set apart for Him, and unstained by sin and evil. God is passionate about this. You might say this is so because it is what is good and best for us – and it is. But God does what He does and is passionate for what He is because He is concerned primarily about His glory. God is passionate about His glory and He should be. God is the only Being in the entire universe Who deserves to be praised – it is not us or anything else in this universe. God is passionate about having a holy people who will worship Him and give Him glory. He is holy and He desires holiness.
God hates anything that distorts the goodness of His creation and breaks the fellowship He desires to have with us. He wants nothing less than pure, holy, love and worship. God wants a people who will desire Him more than anything else. Unfortunately, in our “natural” state, we do not desire God; in fact, we try as best as we can to run in the opposite direction. We want things our way and not God’s way. That secret sin you think God does not know about. That thing you want most of all that you know is contrary to what you should have or do. We are all like children who want what we want and we want it now and we do not want God or anyone else to tell us we cannot have it. Our lives are messy with sin. It is true that God loves us and He wants us to come to Him as we are; but He loves us too much to leave us that way. He is passionate about making us a holy people – a people set apart for Him. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to save us. He is so passionate about our holiness that He sent the Holy Spirit to make us be holy.
The Israelites at the time of Micah were struggling with holiness and had turned from God. They had worshipped false gods and had exploited the poor and weak. For years of disobedience, God was going to punish them and exile them from the land He had given them. Micah pronounced God’s judgment on His people and they were going to be punished. But not all was lost – there was hope. With God’s judgment was also God’s mercy. God was going to send a Shepherd-King from a little town of Bethlehem to restore His people one day. Micah prophesied that this Shepherd-King would gather His people one day and would lead them to victory. Then Micah prophesied what was going to happen to God’s people as a result of this, which brings us to three ideas we see in this text:
- God Will Save a Remnant as His People
- God Will Make His Remnant a Blessing and Victorious
- God Will Work Within His People to Make Them Holy
I will briefly mention the first two and spend most of the time on the third point.
God Will Save a Remnant as His People
Micah began this passage speaking about the remnant of God’s people. He mentioned the remnant earlier in chapters two and four. In chapter two, God said the following:
Micah 2:12 I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture…
In chapter four, Micah prophesied much the same thing, except he acknowledged that the remnant of God’s people would be from those who were lame and afflicted but would be gathered together to make a strong nation with God as King. Here in chapter five, Micah mentioned the remnant again and reminded the Israelites that though judgment and trouble were coming, a remnant of survivors that represent all twelve tribes of Jacob will be saved. The nation of Israel has survived, even to this day, yet there is no king among them. The nature of God’s people has evolved with the presence of a new covenant. From the Israelites, God sent His one and only Son to redeem a people for God – both Jew and Gentile. From God’s own Son, He is gathering a remnant, a people set apart for Him from all people around the world.
God’s Will Make His People a Blessing and Victorious
Not only will God gather His people, but He will also make them a blessing and victorious. The readers of Micah’s prophesy would have understood the remnant of God’s people to be the Israelites who survived God’s judgment and exile to a foreign land. Micah pronounced two things about the remnant in relation to the other peoples of the world. In this passage, the remnant of God’s people was to be both a blessing to the nations as well as a source of divine judgment. In verse seven, Micah mentioned that the remnant of God’s people will be “like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass,” which speaks of life, renewal and refreshment. This sounds similar to the covenant God made with Abraham, that his descendants would be a blessing to the other nations. Indeed, Jesus Christ, one of Abraham’s descendants, is the Savior of the world and draws all people to Himself.
But the remnant was not only to be a blessing, but also a source of divine judgment on the nations. Micah wrote that the remnant would be strong and victorious over her enemies. No one would be able to withstand them for, “All your enemies shall be cut off.” Just as a lion dominates the beasts of the forest, the remnant who live among the nations will be in a position of great strength, even though they are greatly outnumbered. The Shepherd-King’s kingdom will triumph over all opposition. If we view the remnant of God’s people as more than just the Israelites, all those who faithfully come to God and trust in Jesus, this would include the Church. In fact, Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hell itself would not prevail against the Church. In regards to divine judgment, the nations to which Micah is referring are those that did not obey Him – those that rejected God. We see this in the last verse of the chapter:
Micah 5:15 And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey.
God Will Work Within His People to Make Them Holy
This brings us to the third main idea of the passage. Micah prophesied about a remnant of God’s people who God would gather for Himself. The remnant would be both a blessing and a source of divine judgment on the nations. God then explained in detail His plan to make His people holy. Remember, this is something God is passionate about – the holiness of His people! In explaining God’s plan to make them holy, Micah revealed several things for which the Israelites had wrongly relied upon: military confidence, sorceries, and idolatry. In the ancient world, armies and strong fortified cities were often relied on as security against external enemies. As Micah prophesied, when the Shepherd-King comes, fortified cities and strongholds will no longer be needed because the nation will experience a time of peace.
What do we rely on for security? What things compromise our holiness and our trust in God? Do we rely on the government or our leaders to make us feel safe? Do we rely on IRAs, savings accounts and retirement accounts for financial security? Do we rely on a certain standard of living, a certain amount of money or a certain job to make us feel secure? Do we look to false standards of success to justify our faithfulness to God? For instance, do we look for the three “B”s to indicate growth in the church – buildings, budgets, and butts in the seats? Are you relying on these things to give you some sense of accomplishment or some sense of spiritual significance? Well, I encourage you to not do that. People must not rely on human strength for their future or their sense of purpose. We must instead remain faithful, trust in God’s power and wait for Him to act. He can make a weak remnant become like a young lion in midst of great challenges. Trust God and no one else.
An interesting thing to note in this passage about God’s remnant becoming a people who rely upon God alone is how that happened. In verses ten through fourteen, God declared several things He was going to do to make His people holy. Each of those verses begins with God saying, “I will do something.”
- God will cut off their reliance on military might;
- God will cut off their protection from cities and strongholds;
- God will cut off sorceries and tellers of fortunes;
- God will cut off their carved images and idols.
God will do these things to make His people dependent upon Him and to make them holy and set apart for Him. They will be the people God desires for them to be because He will make them so.
What does this mean for us today? How shall we understand this passage in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This is an important concept because many folks have a tendency to think that they can make themselves holy. Many folks think they can earn favor with God by virtue of their good behavior. I know this is true because I grew up in a church tradition that advocated such a view. I was taught that I had it within myself to be “perfect” and “holy,” just as scripture said I should be. Matt Chandler put it this way, “Some…think that the cross saves us from past sin, but after we are saved, we have to take over and clean ourselves up.” I am not saying that we have no choice in making good decisions regarding our behavior, but when it comes to being holy and righteous, being right before God, we have no power within ourselves to do it. If we did, then we would not need Jesus. We could just follow a set of rules God has decreed and that would be sufficient to get us into heaven.
God does not save those who are holy. God saves a people to make them holy – and He is the One who does the work. It is wrong to think that once you are declared right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that you can rely upon yourselves and your good works to keep you saved or to make you holy. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. It is also important to realize that “good works” apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ is meaningless. Think about that: all your church attendance, all your religious activities, your Sunday school attendance, your “quiet time,” reading the Scriptures – it’s all in vain if you do not have Christ. Paul took up this issue in the letter to the church in Ephesus:
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Notice, our good works do not make us right before God, they do not make us holy before Him, we are saved by grace, adopted into God’s family, drawn into a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that we can do good works. Paul said that “we are His workmanship,” a reminder that God not only created us, not only saves us through His Son, but He also works in us, molding us, to be holy, to be in the image of His Son. From Micah we learn that God does the work of ridding His people of the things that once caused them to stumble. God’s people will not depend on earthly things, but they will depend upon Him. They will trust in him alone for success.
What do you rely upon today? Is it yourself, your work, your reputation, your good deeds? Are you trusting in yourself to be righteous, to be declared right with God, to earn God’s grace? If so, I encourage you to not waste your time. The reason Jesus Christ came was to free us from the futile efforts of trying to do something we could not do – work our way into heaven! God loves us enough to accept us as we are, but He also loves us enough to not leave us that way. He gave us His Son to make it possible for us to have forgiveness and to be adopted into His family. He also gave us the Holy Spirit so that we would eventually conform to the image of Jesus Christ – becoming the holy people God called us to be. We must trust in God and completely rely upon Him for our relationship and right standing with Him. It is good news because the Shepherd-King has come to gather His remnant, to make them a holy people set apart for Him, and now works in each of us to conform us into the image of the Son. God is passionate about this and will make it happen. Do you trust Him to do it? Have you trusted in Him? Do you completely rely upon Jesus Christ? May it be so!
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.