Micah 4:9-13 Blessed though suffering

Last week we saw that God’s people are safe in Christ.  This week Micah asks the remnant, what does this mean for your present experience? If your future is secure, if the promise of God to his elect lame, to his remnant, is eternal and unchangeable, which it is, then Micah asks those in Jerusalem: Why do you now cry aloud, have you no king?  Has your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor?  (Micah 4:9).Let me rephrase the questions Micah is asking: Do we not understand that all struggle and all difficulty is orchestrated by God to work for the good of those he calls?  Do we understand that punishment is God’s way of refining and redeeming his people?  (Romans 8:28 tells us And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

God has promised us good and a future (Jer 29:11), that is what we saw at the beginning of Micah 4 with the promise of a golden age inaugurated in Christ, but we must still live in the present here and now.  And that present is punctuated by Babylons, great forces intent on bringing hardship and pain to many in the world, including the remnant of God.

 

There are some strong misconceptions afoot among Christians that life in Christ is easy and devoid of hardship and that suffering and pain are not part of the victorious life of Christ.  But this is plain false.  Hardship abounds, even to the Christian, and often we have brought those hardships upon ourselves because of our sin, just as Judah invited the invasion by failing to worship God.  But sometimes hardship is just part of living in the world.  That was true of Jesus.  Pain and hardship, persecution and difficulty followed him.  Can we expect anything different? No, Jesus tells us, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).  In fact, fourteen times the New Testament speaks about the reality of persecutions following the faithful.  Difficulty and hardship are part of life.

 

Micah is telling his people, the remnant of God a tough message: The promised people must live in the present even though they have the promises of a glorious future.  And that present involves hardship and difficulty, persecutions if you will.  They will be exiled, but in the future they will have the hope of the great and glorious day of the Lord.  But now they must suffer under the weight of pain, struggle, death and sin, but then they will be glorious.  They must have hope.  They are not hopeless people; they are hopeful because they await the day when Christ’s kingdom will be inaugurated and fully realized forevermore.

 

We too share in that same struggle, we know the kingdom has come, but we pray for its complete dominion.  We await the second coming of Jesus when all the vestiges of sin and denial of the Son are removed and the church fills the earth to completion.

 

We await the future while we live in the trials of the present.  For trials are certain to come upon God’s people.  There will be times that appear dismal and without hope for the people of God will face untold hardships and persecutions.  Just consider the invasion of Assyria into the Promised Land when hundreds of thousands were taken into captivity.

 

Consider the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes into the temple when pigs were slaughtered on the altar of the temple and sacramental defilement appeared to be reigning over holiness and purity.  Consider the persecutions believers faced where [some] were tortured and refused to be released… 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground (Heb. 11:35b-38).

 

These were hard times where the nations and powers, the rulers and authorities seemed to be gathered against the remnant seeking to destroy and defile her.  Babylon was going to cheer at Jerusalem’s fall.  And Micah is reminding them of the present struggles they are going to face.  The nations will try to oppress you and overpower you, but because we know God is in control and that he has a plan to prosper us and give us a future because we know that he works all things for our good, then we can take hope in these words of God as well: But they [the nations] do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor (Mic. 4:12).

 

The nations do not understand God’s plans, nor can they. When they think they are winning and the church is at its most vulnerable point, on the brink of extinction, then God promises, “I will have the final word, and it will be a word of judgment upon all who oppose my people.”

 

God promises that he has gathered these persecutors in order to destroy them, to beat them and thresh them and allow them to be blown away.  They will take a pounding so violent that nothing will remain.  Just at the point where God’s people feel the battle has been lost, he reminds them that the battle belongs to the Lord, and he promises to empower his people to rise up and rule the world and allow it all to be set apart for God.  That is the promise of Micah 4:13 to Rise and thresh…and break to pieces the many nations.  It is the promise that all will be devoted to the Lord for his rule never ends.

 

And that rule began before creation and reached its zenith at the cross where Satan was overthrown, the captives were released, and God was glorified.  So in the midst of our struggle and hardships, let us pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  For even in the darkest times, the gates of hell cannot ultimately prevail against the members of the church for Christ is victorious. So, you and I are secure with a hope worth trusting in forever. We are assured God will not abandon us nor let his witness be totally destroyed even though we may loose our lives in the trials and tribulations that come.

 

In fact, at the end of the book, after untold hardships and difficulties, Revelation promises that there will always be a remnant who survives, a great multitude in white robes who…have come out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:9-14).  God always has the last word, so trust in him, even when you are in dark times.

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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