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Today I was going to start a series on the book of Jonah, but I have decided instead to delay this by one more week, because I want to share with you one of my devotions from a couple of weeks ago. I am currently reading through the minor prophets. In fact, that is what has inspired the Jonah series as well, and boy do these little books pack a punch. They are one part of the Bible that people are usually least familiar with, but they are a vital part of the Scriptures that we should study deeply and regularly, just like any other part of the Bible.
The reasons they are so powerful are many. But one of them is how they give voice to how many ordinary people felt about the wickedness of the nations around them, and why they want to see God bring his justice and rescue them from evil. Some of the many consistent themes in these books are, “Why are you taking so long to punish the wicked, O Lord?” “Why are the evil continuing to prosper?” “Why is true corruption going unpunished.” These are calls that you can probably relate to.
But if you look really take a look at our society today how bad is it really?
Well, the answer is pretty bad. The state of morality is bad. When drag queens are doing story-time hour for kids, and one the highest rated shows on T.V. is a show like MAFS which makes a mockery of marriage, then you can only say bad. The state of western civilisation is currently bad, in every metric of health, whether economic, social or physical, the west is declining, and economically Aussies are in so much collective debt it is crushing families left, right and centre. The state of higher education is bad, degrees now cost more and are worth less than ever before. The state of the collected wisdom of the leaders of the West is bad, they lurch from one international disaster to another. The state of the average person’s understanding of what is right is bad, up is down and down is up. It reminds me of where Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” So, in many ways the state of our society, is in really bad shape.
But there is an aspect in all of this in which I find encouragement. Which you may not have expected me to say.
What is it you may ask? Well, Micah 7 is going to help us out with that. So, let’s look at what Micah has to say in his concluding chapter of his book, and see what we can learn for our own day. How bad are things really?
Woe Is Me (v.1) - Micah begins, “1 Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” Some people debate over whether it is the prophet crying out here, or the city itself. But I think that is an odd debate, this whole lament fits with the theme of the prophet in his little book, and it is a terribly relatable message.
“Woe is me!” Why does the prophet cry out like this? Because he is in misery. He is tormented within. Like a famer who goes out to their field to reap their harvest, he goes and finds the trees barren, the vines bare. The fruit is non-existent. He does not have even a cluster of grapes to eat, or a ripe fig to satisfy his hunger.
He has been ministering, working hard, trying to lead this people Judah back to righteousness, to warn them about the danger that their sins will bring. But it is not working. In fact, we see in chapter 2 that they were telling him, “‘Do not preach’ – they preach – ‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’” (Micah 2:6).
He’s warning them about the dangers of their way of life, and they are complaining back to him that he is being too negative. “Thus they preach” implying that religious leaders, like priests and false prophets, are preaching against him. They are contradicting his message, helping people feel ok about their destructive way of life.
The context – The context of Micah’s ministry gives us a bit of insight into the kind of society he was dealing with. We read in Micah 1:1 that the context which Micah preached in was this, “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” This means that Micah lived and prophesied during the final days of the kingdom of Samaria and during the ramping up of the decline of Judah. You can read this history in 2 Kings 15-20.
Jotham was the son of Uzziah, and he is said to have been a good king. The book of 2 Kings tells us, 15:34 - “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done.” So Jotham was a decent leader, however he failed to deal with the high places, “35 Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the Lord.”
So though Jotham was good, he allowed the rot of popular idolatry to go on untouched in his land. This allowed the idolatry of the high places to foster. In the groves of these high places all sorts of abominable practices were tolerated.
Ahaz, reflects this, because he was a wicked king, and a truly evil man, 2 Kings 16:1-4 –
“16 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, 3 but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.”
Jotham may have done what was right, but wickedness was allowed to grow around the nation, and it overcame his son when it became his turn to rule. In fact, Ahaz gave himself over to the evil.
Ahaz burned his son in the fire as an offering. This is the height of evil. The Israelites learned this practice from the evil spirits of the Canaanites, Baal and Asherah. Demons that are still active in this world today.
But there was a ray of hope in this darkness.
Hezekiah turned this around to some degree. Because of this he is famous for being one of the best kings of Judah. 2 Kings 18:1-6,
“18 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). 5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.”
Hezekiah was so righteous that he is compared favourably to all the kings before him and all the kings after him.
But even this righteous man was not enough to save this flagging nation. His son, Manasseh, would be even worse than Ahaz. Manasseh was a man of deep wickedness and evil, and though he was forgiven for his sins, the abominations committed in his day sealed the destruction of Israel.
Samaria - Remember Micah is also addressing the northern nation of Israel/Samaria in his message and in this day and age when he lived, all the kings of Israel were evil. In fact, Israel was so evil that during Ahaz’s day God had had enough and Israel was defeated by Assyria and dragged off into exile. Those tribes are still unaccounted for today, and likely were spread amongst the populations that became part of the European and Middle Eastern peoples.
The declining state of the nation of Israel would have had a moral effect on the nation of Judah as well. In fact 2 Kings 16:3 tells us this, “but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel.” Israel was the larger, more powerful and more influential country. A nation’s more powerful allies often have a dominant effect on a countries culture. So, the declining state of the nation of Israel would have had a very bad effect on Judah. It is just the way of things.
So, Micah lived through the declining stages of his beloved nation. A nation he preached to, ministered to, and even saw some faint rays of hope in its leadership. Some commentators even think that he must have lived to see the beginning of Manasseh’s reign. But even if that is not the case, what he says here applies to Israel and also to much of Judah. In Hezekiah’s day Judah was mostly overcome by Assyria.
So, what was the situation like from the inside?
A Broken Nation (vv.2-6) – The situation in Israel and Judah in Micah’s day is pretty desperate. This is a seriously broken nation, and Micah gives us an on the ground take on what it was like. And his summary here makes it incredibly clear that at every level society was falling apart,
“2 The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. 3 Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. 4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. 5 Put no trust in a neighbour; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; 6 for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.”
This is a description of a people in serious moral decline. In fact, Micah gives us a picture of real tragedy among his people.
“The godly have perished from the earth and there is no one upright among mankind;” “Where have all the good men gone?” Is pretty much what he cries. Imagine the shock to everyone in Israel and Judah when they saw the northern kingdom of Samaria wiped from the face of the earth. Not everyone in those nations was wicked, but the righteous and the wicked perished alike in Israel’s destruction.
Because the society is fracturing, corruption is increasing. The righteous were being pushed out of influence in the temple, in the synagogues, in the marketplace, in the palace, and everywhere. Evil was taking hold, and the moderate reforms of Hezekiah were not even enough to turn it all around.
“they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. 3 Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;” People are so wicked, and so overcome by evil that they are seeking to tear each other down. People lie in wait for an opportunity to destroy their opponent or enemy or their neighbour. They hatch plans to do evil, and they are diligent about it.
The evil ways the Israelites and Judeans treated each other was legendary. Here is a couple of examples from Micah 2:2, 9, “They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance…The women of my people you drive out from their delightful houses; from their young children you take away my splendor forever.” They are hoarding up all the land and driving the people to homelessness.
Rather than seeking to be neighbours they seek to take control over their neighbour’s property. This sounds like a very modern issue doesn’t it? In fact, many people are doing this today in Australia.
This scheming, plotting and attacking is the plot device of so many of the modern shows on T.V.. The old day time soaps were all about this. Different families and business opponents seeking to take each other down. But the soap opera method seems to have taken over many shows on T.V. now. They are filled with morally ambiguous people, no real good guys, everyone is a professional at doing evil.
This culture is effecting our society as well. Bonds are breaking among humanity.
“ the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. 4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand.”
These nations had become so corrupt that all their best leaders were bought and paid for by the powerful moneyed interests.
The prince, that means the rulers, from the king to the nobles to local tribal chiefs, ask for a bribe to do their job. So does the judge. “they weave it together” means they conspire behind closed doors to do this evil and to profit from it. They make intricate plots, like a web to catch people in evil. Publicly they say they are for justice, behind closed doors they meet in secret rooms to hatch evil plans, they weave a web like spiders.
We also know this because he compares them to briers and thorn hedges. They catch people up in their nets as he said in verse 2.
These people are not just imperfect leaders seeking to do their best. They are generally evil leaders who are intentionally seeking to do evil. How do you tell the difference between an evil leader and a flawed leader?
Simply by judging the fruit of their governance. You don’t need to know all of the details of their life, just what fruit they bare.
Are people getting poorer? Are the poorer being left further and further behind. Do they support evil policies like child sacrifice, a.k.a abortion, Asherah worship, a.k.a. feminism or transgenderism. Do they turn the nation towards evil or good?
It was not just the leaders of Israel and Judah that were bad though.
“5 Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; 6 for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.”
Relationships all across the nation are fracturing and falling apart.
Neighbour against neighbour. Friend against friend. Everyone’s words are being used against them. The son treats the father poorly. The daughter treats the mother poorly. There is no safe harbour for many people across the nation.
There is no loyalty in the nation, at least it is rare.
We see this increasing in our own day in this nation.
I sometimes watch some men’s rights activists on YouTube because I think it is important to understand what is happening in the world of secular relationships. I don’t listen all the time, because I find they can sometimes be very winey, and negative. But one thing I do see, is how quickly women out there will turn on their husbands, or how quickly husbands will turn on their wives. Or girlfriends on boyfriends, or boyfriends on girlfriends.
- The state of dating and relationships today is fraught with dangers and betrayals.
- It really makes me thankful for the wife and family I have.
- It really makes me thankful for the friends and church I have.
- It really makes me thankful for the kind of people around me.
There is a real dog-eat-dog battle going on out there for people, and our nation is not much different to Judah or Israel in the day of Micah.
Micah is describing a nation in a really bad place, a really bad place. It is actually a little bit depressing to think about a nation in such an evil place. And just that little bit more because we can read how he talks about his nation and see so many parallels with our own.
Right on down to the increasing corruption, injustice and homelessness. Young people between ages 24-34 are being driven into homelessness at increasing rates. Your life might be ok right now, but it is getting expensive isn’t it. Just for the basics. How do you think the battlers are doing?
Being a Christian is becoming less and less popular and harder in some contexts.
There is good in our nation still, lots of good, but also lots of real evil.
Much of the evil that Micah was seeing in his day, we are seeing in our day, and it is growing, not decreasing. But I said at the beginning that this was supposed to be an encouraging sermon, because I see something encouraging in this, so what on earth can that be? There’s two things.
Micah Never Gave Up Hope (vv.7-17) –
“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. 8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. 10 Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets. 11 A day for the building of your walls! In that day the boundary shall be far extended. 12 In that day they will come to you, from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the River, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. 13 But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds. 14 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. 15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them marvelous things. 16 The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; 17 they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall be in fear of you.”
No matter how bad it got, and man it did get really bad in Micah’s day, he never gave up his hope in the faithfulness of God.
He knew that he himself was not perfect, and he knew that in some ways God was disciplining him for his sin, “9 I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.” He knew he hadn’t got everything right, but because his heart was set on God, he knew God would vindicate him.
He knew also that God would deal with his enemies, “10 Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.” Some woman, we do not know who, had mocked him, and he knew that when God vindicated his word, she would realize she was wrong. God was on the prophet’s side.
He also knew that God would lift up his people again. He had seen the future and had seen that Zion would be lifted up above the nations.
“15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them marvelous things. 16 The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; 17 they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall be in fear of you.”
We see this fulfilled in the visions of Zion in Hebrews and Revelation where all who believe in Jesus are a part of the victorious people of God. Micah saw that day.
Micah remained stalwart in a day and age when everything for his people was breaking apart, from their kingdom to their households. He saw the bonds of family, friendship and more breaking apart, and he stayed firm in his principles and beliefs, trusting in God, knowing he was not perfect.
I take encouragement from this, because that is really all we can do too. It is all God requires of us. The rest is on his shoulders not ours. We just need to stand firm, no matter what breaks down around us.
Fear God, and obey his commandments. It is that simple for us.
We Are Reading This Today (vv.18-20) – But what also inspires me from this passage is that we are reading it today. Look what he says in verse 18-20,
“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.”
Think about how bad things were in Micah’s day. Think about how bad most of the kings were. Most of the prophets were. Most of the priests were. Think about how bad the people were. How every bond felt like it was being shattered, family bonds, national bonds, religious bonds, all of it.
And yet here we are today, reading this account of Micah’s. Because he handed it down to the next generation. And they also handed it down, and so it has continued since it was recorded by him. In an unbroken chain.
It is not as if we just found this in a cave one day and it was recovered. Micah’s testimony was never lost, because it was preserved in the faithful community until this day.
So, no matter how bad it got, it did not get bad enough to expunge the righteous line from this world. And it will continue beyond us as well. And if we remain faithful, we will be a part of that continuance.
And Micah knew this would happen. He trusted God to forgive the sin of his people, and he did. He trusted God to have compassion of his people, and he did. He trusted God to fulfil his promises to the descendants of Abraham and he did, as he has always done, and continues to do till this day,
Micah trusted that God would produce a way for their sins to be forgiven, “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.” The Bible does not preach judgement because God wants to condemn people. The Bible preaches judgement so people can be warned, repent and be saved by God. God does not desire that anyone should perish, but that all should repent and be saved.
But the Old Covenant does not have any means of salvation from our sins. The bloods of bulls and goats is not enough. It is only a shadow.
But God made a way. He did not find a way, he had it pre-planned. He planned that a righteous child would be born by a godly mother, and that child would be both God and man, live a perfect life and then die to take the punishment we deserved.
This boy was Jesus, his mother was Mary and through him God saved the world.
This is not a mother’s day sermon, by any means, as I have already noted. But there is probably few other days as good as this one in the year to remember that God chose a righteous and godly woman to be the cradle through which to bring his saviour into this world. So that this prophecy of Micah could be fulfilled.
Our Lord was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and then died a cruel and painful death, so that you and I could be saved.
Micah saw this day coming. He looked forward to it, we look back at it, and together with him, through Jesus, we are part of the righteous family of God. How can this not encourage your faith?
Application – My application to you today is very simple.
- Don’t get discouraged. Some get to be St Patrick and see a whole nation saved from paganism and are remembered as a hero for that. Some get to be Jeremiah, who see their whole nation destroyed by paganism. Some get to be Paul who used the roads of Rome to bring Rome to Christ. Some get to be St Augustine who saw the collapse around him. The lot is not yours to choose, it is yours to choose to be faithful with your lot.
- Don’t give up. No matter how tough things get around you, don’t give up on your faith, your family, and your fellowship. Praise God that you are surrounded by other who will stand firm in the Lord and make the best of this. But don’t give up.
Conclusion – Micah passed his message on because he was faithful and continued in hope. Let’s pray that we too would be faithful, that we would pass this message on, and that we too would continue in hope.