Sunday, April 18, 2021 Brad’s manuscript
Minor Prophets: Micah
Who is Like the Lord?
More than 3000 years ago, the Lord performed one of the greatest miracles in history: the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the parting of the Red Sea. He opened up the Sea, sent his people through, then closed the sea back up on the murderous Egyptian army. After this extraordinary moment, Moses and Israel sang a song to celebrate and worship.
One of the lines of that song says this:
Exodus 15:11 NIV Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
I memorized this verse 30+ years ago, and it still comes to my mind often when I’m praying. Moses asked this glorious question: Who is like you, Lord? Is there anyone who can compare to You?
Moses is really singing, “There is no one is majestic in holiness like you, Lord. No one is awesome in glory. No one works wonders. There is no one….no man, no woman, no so-called god…who can compare to You.”
Fast forward 700 years later a prophet from Israel appeared on the scene. His name was Micah, which means, “Who is like Lord?” Who is like the Lord? Just like in Moses’ song.
As part of our series going through the 12 Minor Prophets, we are looking at Micah and his words.
Micah’s book of 7 chapters reveals a God who is like no other.
A few details on Micah:
- His name (as I said mean, “Who is like the Lord?”)
- Lived in 700’s B.C.
- Spoke to both the southern kingdom of Judah or Jerusalem (the capital city), and also to the north, called Israel or Samaria (the capital city). (Israel had split in two about 200 years earlier.)
- Was a contemporary of two other prophets, Isaiah and Hosea.
The book is nicely formed into three sections.
Micah likely wrote pieces of this book at different times and compiled them later. So it’s not easy to pinpoint the timeframe of some events or statements.
Each section begins with the call for Israel to “Listen” to the Lord. “Hear” what he has to say.
For example, in the first section, Micah starts with this.
Micah 1:2 ESV
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.
In keeping with the theme of, “Who is like the Lord?”, we can examine just this one verse and ask, “Who else is like the Lord with the power and authority to command the attention of the entire planet?”
One thing the prophets bring out is the highest level of seriousness toward the Lord.
Micah says, “Listen, you peoples, all of you. Pay attention, O earth.” Don’t ignore the Lord, people all over the earth. Listening to God is not some casual option that God gives to us, like deciding if we will listen to the professor in our class at Iowa State tomorrow morning.
Micah, along with all the prophets, tells us that our God is not to be trifled with. There is no one like him.
One way to know if we are earnest or casual about God?? We can examine how seriously or casually do we take the Scriptures.
This is the very WORD of the living God.
How frequently and sincerely do we open this book to read it and hear from it? This reflects our seriousness or casualness about God himself.
Do we pay more attention to God and his Word than to social media?
Do we pay more attention to this book than to other people’s opinions of us?
Do we pay more attention to the Scriptures than to video games and entertainment?
Why should we take God and his Word seriously? Because there is no one like him.
Micah calls out to the people of Israel: “Listen to the Lord.” We do well to do the same.
So now we are ready to dive farther in to the text.
What I will do this morning is look at the general message of each of the three sections. Then we will zoom in on a passage or two from each section. And we’ll talk about how it relates to our lives today.
We’ll begin with the first section in the book.
These two chapters flow with this theme:
- Warning of judgment
- Lament for what will happen
- A brief glimmer of Hope in a coming salvation
Let’s read the Lord’s own testimony against the people of Israel. Think of it like hearing a judge in a courtroom.
Micah 1:2–7 (ESV)
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.
3 For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4 And the mountains will melt under him,
and the valleys will split open,
like wax before the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
6 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,
a place for planting vineyards,
and I will pour down her stones into the valley
and uncover her foundations.
7 All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.
What a description of judgment.
Vs. 3 The holy God is coming down out of heaven to bring judgment. With graphic imagery, Micah says in vs. 4 the mountains will melt before the Lord like wax in a fire. Who else is like that?
Vs. 6 says the city of Samaria will be consumed by God’s severe judgment. Both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel had rampant corruption and idolatry, spurning the love God had for them, becoming spiritual adulterers.
As Matt mentioned on Easter Sunday, the prophets are full of warnings. “Sin. Judgment. Fire. Gloom. Doom.”
It can get heavy. And we wonder… why is the Bible filled with so much “negativity”? It seems like such a “downer” message. Where is the optimism? Where is hopefulness? Where is positive thinking?
Let me offer two points:
- We tend to underestimate mankind’s brokenness.
We may get annoyed at God’s judgment simply because we underestimate the evil of Micah’s world.
Go and read the book of 2 Kings, beginning in Chapter 15, and you will see the sin of the nation and the kings.
Evil was rampant. Worshiping false gods. Violence. Immorality. Oppression. Greed. Some were even offering their own children as burnt offerings to their gods. That is what brought God’s judgment.
In addition to underestimating the sin of Micah’s world, some of us may also underestimate the evil of OUR world.
I propose that individually we are more like the people Israel than we would ever care to admit.
And I propose that even nations today—including us in the United States—are more like Israel and the nations than we might care to admit.
A few years ago I had a moment where the Lord confronted me on some nationalistic pride I had. Arrogance might be a better word. Our nation, while it has its bright spots, is actually not much different from other nations.
It’s tempting to think, “Oh, those people OUT THERE are so bad. Those non-Christians out there. Those other nations are evil.” We become critical and harsh and arrogant toward others.
But didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 7, “Take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye?”
Even within the church, we can have dark sin.
One well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, died a year ago, and after his death all sorts of reports of immorality in his life came out. The people he hurt and the damage he created is devastating. Unspeakable.
Such things speak as a warning to me and to each one of us… of our potential to sin in extraordinary ways.
We ALL need a Savior. And his name is Jesus. When we meet him, then we can sing,
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.”
So first, when we consider the severity of God’s judgment, we must first humbly admit our own brokenness.
Second, from these judgments against Israel—these judgments that might annoy or disturb us— we also need to realize that…
- God’s warnings to Israel are actually acts of grace.
God had the right to judge them instantly at the moment of their first sins. But he patiently and graciously often warns Israel in the hopes they would repent.
God gets no sadistic thrills out of judgment. Out of people dying.
The Lord spoke to Israel in Ezekiel’s day, 100 years later than Micah:
Ezekiel 18:31–32 ESV “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
God’s warnings are beautiful acts of grace. He longs for people to turn to him and live.
Even in the giving of the Law through Moses, the Lord yearned for Israel to follow him always.
Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
Can you see God’s heart here?? You may feel like God and his Word are burdensome. But his heart longs for us to walk with him and love him.
We can so quickly forget such things, forgetting God’s grace. And when we forget, all we see is severity.
Because we so easily forget, we need the Word of God through the Spirit of God within the Church of God. We need all this to teach each other and remind each other of his remarkable grace even in the warnings of the prophets.
Now we begin the second major section of Micah’s book.
As with the other two sections, this one begins with an appeal for Israel to “Listen.” To “hear” what the Lord is saying.
These three chapters flow with these themes:
- Rebuke of Israel’s leaders. They were evil men, not godly.
- A glorious look at the coming of the Messiah as we look forward to paradise and the kingdom of God.
I want to look at this latter theme. We will look at two key passages that point to Jesus Christ.
Micah 4:1-5 The Mountain of the Lord
1 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
2 and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.
Micah prophesies of a future day. A glorious day. A day when people from all the nations will be gathered to the Lord. He will teach them and they will walk with him.
He will judge all, settle disputes, and there will be an unprecedented peace over the world.
Weapons of war (vs. 3) will turn into implements of farming. No more war. No more fighting. No more fear.
This truly is the Coming Kingdom of God. His glorious Paradise.
And vs. 5 is sweet, seemingly giving a picture of “Before and After.” Though many have followed other gods, we will walk in the name of the Lord forever and ever. Micah says we plant our flag for the Lord. And that flag will never falter or fall.
Doesn’t this prophecy of the Messiah’s rule strike us as fulfilling the deepest longings of our hearts?
To be in a place of complete calm and peace. A place without fear.
Passages like this ought to calm us if we know Jesus Christ. His first coming has set in motion a series of future events that will bring about a glorious, eternal, heavenly paradise on earth.
This is the hope of the Christian.
Then in Chapter 5, it gets even better.
Micah 5:1-5 The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem
1 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.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
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.
5 And he shall be their peace…
First, you may recognize vs. 2: Bethlehem. This is quoted in Matthew chapter 2, when the Magi from the east came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn king of the Jews. Then King Herod asked the Jewish leaders where the Messiah was to come from. They stated from Bethlehem.
This is one of many prophecies Jesus has already fulfilled.
Vs. 4 This ruler will stand among his people with the strength of God and in majesty. His people will be secure, for he will be great.
And I especially love vs. 5: He shall be their peace. This has already been fulfilled. Yet more is to come.
Romans 5:1 ESV Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is so refreshing. Our sins have been washed away, and we have been justified….declared righteous in the sight of God through this Messiah. We more than all people ought to be filled with joy, knowing we have peace with Almighty God.
Yet don’t we still feel the chaos of this world?
Jesus said this:
John 16:33 ESV I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
We have peace with God, but we still experience the chaos and turmoil in this world.
But Micah’s prophecies in Chapters 4 and 5 tell that something even better is coming.
When Jesus Christ comes the Second Time to earth, the peace he brings then will be radical and complete. No more anxiety or fear. Complete peace in this world. All warring and fighting and disputing and rioting and chaos will be gone.
Oh my! What a glorious day when the PRINCE of PEACE comes to rule with completeness and finality.
If you have never met Jesus Christ….never believed in him…may I bluntly say….you do NOT have peace with God. Your sin has created an enmity with God. Your future is grim.
But through faith in Jesus Christ, who died in your place to pay for sins, you can find peace with God forever and ever. Jesus is your only true hope and peace. Call on him.
For the rest of you who know Christ:
First, every morning when you get up, you should remember passages like these. Read them. Memorize them. Talk about them, beginning at lunch today.
God is at peace with you through the work of his Son. What a privilege and joy.
Second, your greatest longing and hope, especially during trials, should be for this future day when Jesus comes back. This won’t take away all the present pain you are experiencing, but it will give you strength to keep going in faith until that last day.
Micah’s last section is chapters 6-7.
Similar to the other two sections, Micah gives us messages of:
- Warning of judgment
- Lamenting over sin
- Hope in a coming salvation
There are some beautiful words in Chapter 6, but for sake of time, I want to skip to the last three verses in Micah’s book.
On God’s mercy:
Micah 7:18–20 (ESV) God’s Steadfast Love and Compassion
18 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.
19 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.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.
First, look at the first phrase of vs. 18: “Who is a God like you?”
Remember that Micah’s name in Hebrew means, “Who is like the Lord.”
- Who is like the Lord in righteous judgment?
- Who is like the Lord to offer such grace when punishment is deserved?
- Who is like the Lord to promise a Savior centuries ago, and to bring it all to fulfillment?
I love this passage. I memorized vs. 18-19 years ago, and I think about it often still.
In vs. 18, He delights…he find great joy… in showing mercy. God is never reluctant to show mercy. It pleases him to be merciful.
At your worst moment when you are wondering if you are too hopeless….if you have sinned one too many times…remember the joy and delight and pleasure God takes in showing mercy.
Then in vs. 19, I especially love Micah’s imagery of God casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.
This gives me a picture of being out in the middle of the vast ocean with the Lord. He gathers up all my sins into his hands, and he hurls them overboard to sink into the depths. Never to be found again.
Through Jesus Christ our forgiveness is radical and complete.
Hebrews 10:17 ESV I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.
If we know Jesus, why do we dwell so much on our sins? Why do we consistently remember and mull over our sins when God does not? Why do we say, “I just can’t seem to forgive myself?” We don’t need to forgive ourselves. We need the forgiveness of an Almighty and Holy God who has given his Son.
Why do you think Jesus was in such agony in the Garden just hours before the crucifixion??
Because He was about to have the weight of guilt and shame of all your sins placed upon his back.
Who is like the Lord, Micah cries out? Who is like the Lord?
We Christians should rejoice every day in the astonishing forgiveness given to us through Jesus.
Here’s what we should do.
We should dwell on the greatness of God.
Who is like him? Who is like him in power? In forgiveness? In mercy? In faithfulness? Who else tramples our sins under his feet? Who else hurls them over the side of the ship to sink into the depths of the sea? Who else separates our sins from us as far as the easts is from the west, so Psalm 103 tells us?
Dwell on the beautiful promises of the greatness of God.
Also, we should spend more time thinking about God’s promises of forgiveness and mercy.
Promises like here in Micah 7. Memorize it. Post it on the wall by your desk and on the refrigerator.
Promises like Romans 5:1, we have peace with God.
Promises like Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
Promises like Hebrews 10:17, There sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.
God promised to Micah that someday he would hurl all our sins into the depths of the ocean. Why are we going on a deep sea dive to retrieve them?
These words from the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, summarizes it so well.
1 John 2:1–2 ESV My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John wrote to the church so that the people wouldn’t sin.
Sinning simply leads to harm and profits us nothing.
But I love what else he says: “If anyone does sin…I don’t want you to sin, but if you do…we have an advocate before the Father: Jesus Christ who is the Righteous One.
He…Jesus…is the propitiation for our sins. We have an advocate. Jesus stands before the Father defending us. He has offered his own blood in the heavenly places as proof of the payment for our sins.
And is he our propitiation. That means he has taken the Father’s wrath upon himself so that we could go free.
Study these words. Memorize them. If you’re musically inclined, write a song to it.
Who is like the Lord, who pardons sin and forgives his people.?
Let me close with this.
Micah, as do the other prophets, proclaims the judgment of God against sin.
It is serious and very weighty message.
Yet it is a message of hope.
Micah proclaims words of hope of a coming glorious day of a Shepherd and Ruler from Bethlehem who is from ancient days.
Like Micah asks, “Who is like the Lord?” Who is like him in justice and wisdom and power. Who is like him in mercy and forgiveness and faithfulness.
Micah points us to this Ruler who has come. This Ruler who is coming again. A Ruler who would bring security and peace to the earth at last.