Amongst Woe, There is Hope
Scripture Text: Micah 6:9-7:7
As you read many of the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, you will probably realize something very quickly: They do not write like we would and sometimes what they write may not make much sense. We have been going through the book of Micah for several weeks now and we have seen two main ideas discussed: the justice of God and the mercy of God. We have seen both the judgment of God against His people for their sin as well as the mercy from the same God in saving His people from their sin.
In this section of Micah’s prophesy, God resumed a covenant lawsuit against His people, where He indicted His people for specific crimes, delivered a divine sentence on them, and spelled out the consequences for their sin. The theme of this section is similar to that of the first portion of chapter three, where in very graphic terms, Micah spoke out against the leaders of Israel who abused their authority and oppressed God’s people. Micah wrote in today’s passage about the injustice that was common in his time, the very opposite of what God requires of us – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Remember, the whole duty of man is to do this, and God’s people had not been doing it.
The people no longer feared God. Micah wrote that it was wise to fear God, but the people had not. As a result, they fell into an immoral abyss. Another pastor put it this way: “Whenever the God of love is no longer the object of worship, the law of love will no longer be the rule of the culture.” When a people no longer fear God, when they no longer love Him, when they no longer worship Him, wickedness will abound. Our vertical relationship with God directly impacts our horizontal relationship with each other. When we lack love for God, when we lose fellowship with Him, when we turn from Him and seek our own desires, we sink further into our human depravity – selfishness, divisions, deceit, etc.
- Sin brings certain and painful judgment
- The righteous suffer when the wicked prevail
- Salvation awaits those who turn to Jesus Christ
Sin Brings Certain and Painful Judgment
The passage began, as it did last week, with a common attention-getter: “Hear! Hear what I am saying to you!” Do you get the sense as we go through the book of Micah that God has something to say and we should listen to it? God is saying here, “Listen to what I am about to tell you because it is important.” God’s people ought to be an example of godliness to the world; however, they had fallen into wickedness like the nations around them. God had formed the nation of Israel to be His covenant people and to be a witness to the world. That is not unlike the mission of the church. God has called us into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ to be His people and to be His witness to the world. When the Church falls into ungodly behavior unbecoming of disciples of Christ, we destroy that witness.
In Micah, God charged the people with dishonest business practices, with lying, and with acts of violence. During Micah’s time, the Israelites were gaining wealth by unjust business practices. Merchants and traders were using weights that weighed things heavier or lighter than they actually were depending on whether they were buying or selling. This is not hard to imagine. People perform unfair business practices now – stealing from customers, embezzling business funds, and stealing from the church. Greed is a powerful motivator. And if people will steal from God, they will certainly steal from you. Micah denounced the people for their evil, for their oppressive attitudes and wicked actions. God cannot tolerate His people being ungodly, therefore, God pronounced judgment on His people who were doing these evil things.
In the last half of verse sixteen, God announced that because the leaders and people of Jerusalem and Judah were so much like their northern neighbors, Samaria and Israel – they too must suffer ruin. The Israelites of Micah’s day had followed the bad example of Kings Omri and Ahab from the Northern Kingdom. Scripture declares that Omri did more evil than all the kings before him. Omri’s son, Ahab, had killed the Lord’s prophets and stolen Naboth’s family inheritance through greed, lying, and murder. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, attempted to make Baal worship the official religion in Israel. Because they had followed the example of these wicked kings, God would make Jerusalem a desolate place and its inhabitants an object of contempt. The same sins which led to the demise of the Northern Kingdom would bring an end to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God’s sentence is a life of futility, frustration, destruction, and scorn.
Micah told them that they would eat but not be satisfied. They would sow but not reap. They would tread grapes but not drink wine. This is not just some Old Testament concept. We see this principle in the New Testament, too. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, will reap eternal life. One thing to note here is the effect that this has on the whole body of God’s people. They would be subject to contempt. Micah declared that the Israelites would bear the scorn of the nations. Such scorn is perhaps the same reaction that the secular world has to the Church when God’s people today, who are supposed to be the Body of Christ, fail to live up to what God has called them to be. What does the world see in the Church?
The Righteous Suffer when the Wicked Prevail
The demise and destruction of Jerusalem was certain. Evil had prevailed long enough and God was going to punish His people for their evil deeds. Surely, though, there were innocent people in Jerusalem at this time. Certainly, Micah would have been one of them. Unfortunately, even the righteous will suffer when men act wickedly. The whole nation would suffer. There is no guarantee of a painless and easy life. In fact, we are told to expect the exact opposite. Micah lamented that he saw no godly or upright people left in the land. He saw bloodshed, evil, and wicked plots. The leaders were corrupt and exchanging bribes for “false justice.” It was a time of crisis and panic. Homes and family relationships had disintegrated to the point that no man could trust a friend or even his wife. Children dishonored and rebelled against their parents, making family members their enemies. Sadly, many within our own society today have broken and hostile families that seem bent on self-destruction.
The first seven verses of chapter seven are Micah’s psalm of lament. As Micah’s society fell further into moral decay he responded with tears. He cried out to God saying, “Woe to me.” Another way to say this is, “How miserable I am.” Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have been to a low point in your life when all hope seemed lost. Micah was there. He experienced it and was crying out to God. He likened himself to someone who craves refreshing fruit and goes to a vineyard at the time for gleaning, only to find not even one cluster of grapes left. Even the early figs had been stripped. Gena and I have experienced that. We have tried to gather figs from our fig tree each year but have been disappointed to not find them. We either get there too late or some nefarious creatures have picked them.
Micah may have also felt alone. He mentioned that there was no one godly. There was no one right. He may have felt that he was amongst heathens and beating his head against a wall. Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt that as hard as you try to do what is right and what God expects you to do that you meet resistance? That may have been Micah’s situation. These feelings are very real. In fact, it is most like the situation we have or will face. Jesus told his disciples that members of one’s family would be against one another. While the Gospel brings peace, joy and hope, it also brings division between those who choose to follow Christ and those who resist following Christ. We should be encouraged that if the world hated Jesus Christ, it will hate His followers. We are in good company!
Salvation Awaits for Those Who Turn to Jesus Christ
This brings us to the third point of the passage: salvation awaits those who turn to Christ and wait on Him. In response to God’s indictment and his own lament about the situation, Micah brings some relief to those dark times. He revealed his trust and hope in God in spite of those terrible circumstances.
Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
Micah declared that he would look to the LORD and wait for the God of his salvation, stating confidently that his God will hear him. Micah makes three specific statements in this verse:
- He will look to God
- He will wait for God to save Him
- God will hear him
The first statement was that Micah would look to, or watch for, the Lord. This saying contrasts with verse four earlier, where the watchman of the city would look for calamity. In that verse, the watching was for judgment; here it is for salvation. The righteous run to God and look to Him for salvation. To look to God means that Micah would watch expectantly for Him. Secondly, Micah said that he would wait for God to save Him. Micah expressed no confidence in when God would act, but he knew that God would act. That should give us hope when times seem bleak or uncertain. God’s timing is always perfect, even when it is not when we want. We should wait on Him and know that He will provide for us.
The third statement that Micah made was that God will hear him. Micah knew that God heard his prayers and would respond by saving him. We should notice the intimacy by which Micah refers to God here. Micah called Him “the God of MY salvation.” He called Him “MY God.” This shows the personal relationship Micah had with God and Micah’s trust and commitment to Him. That is the same trust and commitment each person who believes in Jesus Christ has. The Church is called into fellowship with Christ and adopted into God’s family as His own children. We also have the promise of Scripture that if we come humbly before God, confess our sin to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. We find that a whole community of God’s people can be healed by praying together:
2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Chapter seven began with Micah’s cry of mourning; it ends with his confidence that God will act and will save him. When the rest of the world follows their own wicked desire, the people of God can declare as Micah did, “As for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation and He will hear me.”
What does this mean for the church? How shall we respond? I think there are a couple of things to consider from Israel’s history and Micah’s prophecy to them. Remember, whenever the God of love is no longer the object of worship, the law of love will no longer be the rule of the culture. When our love for God has waned and our relationship with Him is broken, we will be like the Israelites to whom Micah was prophesying: a destructive, unloving, unmerciful, and unforgiving people. Our horizontal relationship with one another is directly impacted by the vertical relationship we have with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we should be to each other. We must kindle our first love.
I suspect there are at least two types of people to whom this passage is speaking: Those who have acted unjustly and those who have been treated unfairly. The truth is, however, that we all can fit in both of those categories. We have each been unloving and unfair to one another at times in our lives. No doubt, we have also been the victims of unjust acts from others who have treated us unfairly. These two types are not unique to anyone. We are each born with the same capacity to sin, to turn from God, and to treat one another unfairly. If you think that does not apply to you, then maybe you think God’s Word got it wrong: but I do not think so.
The response for both of these, though, is the same: turn to Jesus. Turn from self and turn to Him Who not only forgives, but also saves and heals. If you are unrepentant about some sin you have done, then you should turn to God, which is what repent means by the way. You should ask for God’s forgiveness and pray God make you more like His Son Jesus. God is faithful and will do it. If you, however, are of the kind who has been hurt by others, then turn to Jesus. He can heal your hurt and give you peace. Harboring unforgiveness for being treated wrongly only hurts you more and fractures your relationship with God. C. S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Just as we all need God’s grace and mercy, we ought to also extend grace and mercy to one another. Pray for forgiveness and for the courage and strength to forgive. And pray that God will give you peace and joy in the midst of “woe.” This is good news. Thanks be to God. 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.