I will be honest with you this morning. I found myself struggling with this text. It is not because it is complicated or unclear. On the contrary, it is straight forward and easy to understand.
My struggle with this text was that it again returns to talking about sin and the judgment that is to follow. I found myself resisting this text and wishing that I did not have to preach it today. I found myself asking the question, “Is there any other text I could preach today?” I will also admit to you that it is precisely because of how I felt this week that as a church we value going systematically through a book. It would be far too easy to skip portions of scriptures if this were not a commitment of ours.
The voice of the Lord cries to the city—
and it is sound wisdom to fear your name:
“Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!
10 Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,
and the scant measure that is accursed?
11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales
and with a bag of deceitful weights?
12 Your rich men are full of violence;
your inhabitants speak lies,
and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
13 Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow,
making you desolate because of your sins.
14 You shall eat, but not be satisfied,
and there shall be hunger within you;
you shall put away, but not preserve,
and what you preserve I will give to the sword.
15 You shall sow, but not reap;
you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;
you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.
16 For you have kept the statutes of Omri,
and all the works of the house of Ahab;
and you have walked in their counsels,
that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;
so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”
As I read this text I wondered if I could skip ahead to chapter 7 and preach it? But I looked ahead and chapter seven begins in a similar fashion. In fact, consider what the prophet says in Micah 7:13, “But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds.”
I could skip all the way to Micah 7:18-20 and preach upon these amazing words, “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. 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. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”
Let me give you a couple reasons why it continues to be a good thing for us to consider our text today.
First, we will not appreciate gospel texts like Micah 7:18-20 if we do not see the need for them because of our sin, transgressions, and iniquities. Jesus said in Luke 7:47, “But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
The second reason that passages such of these are worth our time and attention is because God knows the depth of our sin more than we will ever be aware of it. As such, He has provided the cure and the remedy for our sin.
He is able to heal us of our sin completely, fully, totally, utterly and wholly.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15-17, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”
Why are we still having to deal with entire passages about sin and judgment at this point in Micah? 1
Timothy 1:15-17 gave us a few reasons.
Because God is a God of mercy and we are saved not on our own merits but by the Lord’s mercy and grace (Micah 6:8; Ephesians 2:1-10).
Because this displays God’s great patience. He could judge them right now and give them no further opportunities to repent.
Sinclair Ferguson discusses in his book “The Christian Life” the process by which men are saved saying, “Effectual calling is seen to be something which often extends over a period of time. It is also true that in the history of the church effectual calling has at times been regarded as synonymous with regeneration. Consequently it has been thought of as a sudden work of God. Perhaps this where the old idea of ‘awakening’ helps us to grasp the picture more clearly. Someone rouses us out of a deep slumber, and their voice penetrates our subconsciousness. We stir within, and then become aware of a distant disturbance. We fight against it, seeking the tranquility of sleep – but it has penetrated our senses. Gradually we become aware of ourselves, of our circumstances, and eventually of the identity of the one who has called us. For many people a religious ‘awakening’ is exactly like this. It can be a profoundly disturbing experience.”
Thirdly, Paul says that these things become an example for us for our benefit. What is something that we can learn? Is it not contained in Paul’s final words, “...who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” As sinners we have one hope and one faith. Eternal life is only found in Jesus Christ and we are granted eternal life only through faith and belief in Him and His work. We place no confidence in the flesh.
I had mentioned earlier that Micah 6:9-16 is not complicated. The structure of this passage is straightforward and clear. Scholars all agree that it breaks down in the following manner.
v.9 is the address
vv. 10-12 is the accusation
vv. 13-15 is the sentence of condemnation
v.16 recapitulates the accusation (16a) and the condemnation (16b)
I will not spend a lot of time discussing the specifics of each of these verses. I would simply like to focus in upon one aspect of this text. It has been the most noticeable (eye-catching, remarkable and striking) aspect of this text for me this week as I have looked at this text.
It is found in Micah 6: 9, “The voice of the LORD cries to the city – and it is sound wisdom to fear your name: ‘Hear the rod and of him who appointed it!’”
Here in the sixth chapter of Micah the prophet steps aside and the LORD speaks to the people!
Micah has been a faithful, passionate, clear, fearless voice for the LORD to this generation. He has not backed down from addressing any sin; nor has he failed to address any person or authority concerning their iniquity. For example,
Micah 3:1 says, “And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice? - You who hate the good and love the evil...”
Micah 3:5 says, “Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray...”
Micah has proclaimed powerful message and he has had a long consistent message for this people. But now in our text today we see God Himself thundering down from heaven His words to this people, “The voice of the LORD cries to this city”.
This week I was watching the news and something happened that reminded me of what seems to be going on in this text. It was a news story concerning Putin and Russia so they played a clip of Putin giving a speech. I could hear his voice speaking words in Russian. And as the leader of that nation Putin is always portrayed as an ex-KGB agent who is stronger than his stature. As a result, that is the mindset I had of him as I listened.
But then something happened that I did not expect. When the translator began to speak I heard a deep powerful voice speaking in words that I could understand. I saw Putin with my eyes but the voice of the translator captured my attention. Similarly, we have heard Micah, and he has been no ordinary speaker. He has faithfully and passionately proclaiming truth; but today it is the LORD who is speaking and it is ”...sound wisdom to fear His name: to hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!”
Sinclair Ferguson, who I quoted earlier, says, “There is a call which comes to all men from God through the many evidences he has left of his presence in the world. But there are also times when God sends notices of demand as it were, rather than reminders: when he comes personally, knocking at the door, rather than by circular letter!” (p.30)
Our text today is a vivid example of how God is doing just that to this generation. They have heard two powerful prophets in Micah and Isaiah. These two men have spoken for the LORD consistently and faithfully.
But now Micah steps aside and the LORD’s voice speaks to the people. He speaks of their sin and the judgment to come but it is also an great expression of the compassion and mercy of God? He sends prophets, but now He comes Himself and says, “Hear”.
Of these words Dr. Bruce Waltke says, “’To cry out’ means to proclaim with a clear voice and full lungs to be heard far and wide in order to attract attention and to bring the audience into contact with the speaker...I AM Himself speaks, introducing His prophecy with an imperative ‘Listen!’ thereby calling to a decision to obey. If I AM prophesies judgment and the people repent, I AM will relent.” (408)
What is this voice of God like? David speaks of the voice of God in Psalm 29 saying,
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
In our text today, the LORD speaks to the city of Jerusalem as one who has seen clearly the wickedness which is in their homes, “Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked.” (10)
He speaks as One who knows their business practices when He says, “Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights? The rich are full of violence...” (11-12a)
He speaks as the One who knows their language and how they have been speaking lies, “...your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.” (12)
He speaks as One who knows their past and the wicked practices that they have adopted and incorporated into their lives, “For you have kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels.” (16)
The LORD has sent to them many prophets like Isaiah and Micah.
He now speaks to them directly and if they fail to repent of such things they will be made a desolation, their inhabitants a hissing; and they will bear the scorn of His people. (v.16)
Yet, there is hope if they will but hear His Word and turn to the LORD.
As I have considered out text today I have thought of Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:33-41. In this parable there is a master of a house who
After the master had done all of this he left and went to another country. When the season for fruit drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. The stewards saw the servants and they beat one, killed another, and stoned another.
Again, the master sent his servants to the tenants. This time he sent more of his servants to the tenants but they again did the same thing to them.
Finally he sent his own son to them, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir. Let us kill him and have his inheritance.” And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Then Jesus asked this question, “What will he do to those servants?”
The people answer, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
In this parable Jesus speaks of the landowner sending many messengers to his people. Yet they did not hear them; rather they mistreated them. He then sends his son and they do the same. Just as God, in Christ, sent to the world the living WORD. Those who rejected the Son will not have eternal life. But those who believe He has granted to them eternal life. (John 1:12-13)
Similarly, Micah’s generation has been sent the prophets to speak. Now they have been spoken too directly from the LORD. If they would repent they would find mercy. If they do not hear and repent they are like the miserable wretches who will face judgment.
This week I struggled to appreciate this text. I wanted to preach something else. But is there not grace, mercy, and peace to be found in this text?
We have heard the prophets voice
we have heard the Lord’s voice
will we not hear and respond
We have come face to face with the LORD today.
As we come to this portion of Micah may we say along with the Master of the feast today in John 2:10, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
With the words of the Lord today we have the opportunity to drink of the good wine.
Adam and Eve ran and hid from God in the garden after they sinned. Ar e you running away from God’s voice today? Like Adam, are you going to say to God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10