On this day after Christmas, we come to one of the best passages in Micah, which can best be summed up by saying, “Because God is with us salvation is assured.” This advent we have explored the promise of the messiah and the judgment he will bring upon those who are sinful and unrepentant. We have listened as Micah has talked about the violence that is prevalent in the world. He has told us where sin reigns, how families are torn apart and faith has been lost. In many respects Micah has painted a very grim picture of his world, much like listening to a heavy metal band like Metallica or a folksy singer like Bob Dylan or a countryman like Johnny Cash. But in the midst of that situation Micah has brought us glimpses of hope, the hope of the land being led by God again (2:13), the hope of an ancient King coming forth from Bethlehem (5:2) and just a few days ago, he told us of the hope he has in waiting for God. But as for me, he says, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).Ultimately Micah understood that the only hope one has to see lasting relief from sin is in God. God is the only hope for salvation from a vile and sick society; he alone has the power to judge and he alone has the power to heal. God alone can resuscitate the dead and make them alive and that is what Micah goes on to pronounce in our passage today. Micah wrote looking forward to the day of God’s appearance in Jesus Christ.
Micah’s life can be viewed as a microcosm for the lives of all the people of God. Micah says to his enemies, Don’t gloat over me, thought I have fallen, I will rise (Micah 7:8). To those who were his enemies inside the city, the false prophets, the wealthy businessmen who concoct evil, the rulers who carry it out (those are his antagonists in the opening chapters), he says, don’t be glad that I have sinned, that I have fallen down and appear to be lost. For I have hope, God will lift me up. We don’t know what sin Micah believes he has committed against God, but he recognizes that he is a sinner in the eyes of God and that he too is under God’s wrath and anger. He is being chastened, just as all of Jerusalem. But Micah has hope; his sin will be forgiven, and so he speaks to all believers caught in the web of their own sin.
We have appealed to his concluding words many times in our study of the book, and today will be no different, for Micah knows, Micah 7:18-20 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? His answer, There is no other God like you Lord. This is the foundation of Micah’s hope. Why does Micah believe there is no God like The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The answer, because You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago. This is Micah’s hope and confession, just as it is our hope and confession.
I believe in Jesus Christ, our lord who was crucified, died and buried…and in the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting…
As we gather this morning after Christmas, I can’t help but look forward to Easter when Micah’s words could have easily described Jesus’ suffering. As Jesus hung on the cross, the crowds taunted and jeered him saying, Luke 23:35 “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” Or as the guards mocked him and divided his robe and tunic, he watched helpless as one condemned to die. Though the world mocked Christ and his suffering and the rulers gloated over the removal of one difficult man from the nation, Jesus repeatedly called his believers to trust in God almighty and to trust also in me (John 14:1).
Though Christ died, we know that Jesus also rose from the dead. As Micah claimed he and the nation sinned, so Christ becomes that sin for the believer and takes the wrath of God. And as Micah and Jerusalem sat in darkness, Jesus says I too will sit in the ultimate darkness. These are his own words Matt. 12:40 “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (I will be in even greater darkness) but the power of God will not abandon his holy one to grave and it will raise him up so that truly he was, and is and will be the light of the Lord for all the nations. For Jesus says, John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Though Micah said he suffered the wrath of God legitimately for his own sin, Jesus suffers the wrath of God not for the sin he committed, for he had no sin, but he suffered God’s wrath because of our sin for 2Cor. 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
And it is that truth which causes the Christian to rejoice at the incarnation, to rejoice at the crucifixion, to rejoice at the resurrection and to rejoice at the ascension. For if the Son is the hope that Micah had, then the Son can plead our cause and establish our right; the Son can bring us into light and not only will we see his righteousness (Micah 7:9), but we will be made righteous because God is with us in order to redeem his chosen people.
Micah’s enemies were not just those inside Israel who saw his sin, and whose sin he condemned, but they were also the political enemies of the land who called people to turn away from trusting in God. Micah is assured that he will see the defeat and the shame of these enemies too. And it happened, one morning he awoke after the Angel of God went through the Assyrian Army and forced their withdrawal by a humiliating loss.
Listen, 2Kings 19:35-36 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning — there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
As Micah recalled the taunting jeers of the Assyrians and waited in hope for the deliverance of God, one morning he awoke to find the Assyrians gone and defeated. In the same way Jesus, the Emmanuel, God with us brings ultimate shame and judgment against all who refuse to trust in him. It happened one Sunday morning as the disciples wondered and worried, while 3 of their women went to a tomb to prepare the body of Jesus for a final burial. But what did they find, they found a Lord who had gone through the camp of death and defeated it. What a gift! What jubilation! What a reason to rejoice, just as Micah and all Jerusalem rejoiced at the defeat of Assyria, so the Christian rejoices at the victory of Christ and the defeat of death because God is with us.
What hope does this message bring for the Christian who experiences persecution in this world? Those who torture the Christian, who are enemies of the Gospel and who cry out, “what good is your God to you now,” all of these are going to awake one day and the Christian will stand in awe and be justified before every taunting power. The disciples of Jesus, ancient and modern alike, from the smallest child to the greatest prophets and apostles will one day see all the enemies of the cross shamed and judged.
Believers will see and watch in exultation as everyone acknowledges Christ’s authority as he takes his seat upon the great white throne of judgment. As the disciples of Jesus stand on one side of the throne and everyone else stands on the opposite side, the Christian will see sin, evil and all forms of lawlessness and debauchery, both moral, intellectual and physical, judged along with all those who practice them cast into the lake of fire. For the Scriptures tell us, Rev. 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Rev. 20:15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Our safety and security from this judgment comes because God is with us pleading ourcase and establishing our right to eternal life!
That message is hard for us to accept with joy. It is hard for us to view the ultimate judgment to hell of any as a point of hope, for we all inevitable know some who are going to suffer the wrath of God and this should be one of our greatest impetus’ for sharing the gospel message, giving them every opportunity to repent and believe the good news. But truly there is good news for us in the final judgment and it is this: nothing impure or unclean will exist any longer. Our hearts will finally be purified and we will see all people as God sees them, either as enemies of the gospel or as friends of God. The black and white of the cross will become clear and the ramifications of opposition to it will be fully understood.
From this hope, Micah turns to a vision for the city of Jerusalem. After God vindicates his people they will again build the city walls and extend the boundaries of Jerusalem. There are some who see this as having been fulfilled during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. But it is not until the Pentecost that we see people from various lands present in Jerusalem but then it isn’t as expansive as Micah envisions. Micah has more in sight here than just a national restoration. I believe Micah is picturing for us the end of time when the God who is with us has called people from every tribe and nation and people and language and united them together in worship at the foot of the Lamb of God. Sure that begins in the evangelistic mission of the church, but it isn’t complete until the very end of history. At the end of time the great city, the New Jerusalem, the church of God will be composed of people who formerly were enemies, but now have been reconciled in Christ and that city will expand across the entire face of the earth and cover the entire renewed creation and all God’s people will stream to the presence of God in that place.
At that time Micah’s final words will come true as well, the earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds (Micah 7:13). The picture Micah paints and that the prophecies of the end of time lead us to imagine a city of God so broad and encompassing that there is not a place left outside in the world where sin and evil reigns. So the earth, all that is removed from God’s reign and rule now will no longer be an inhabitable region. It will have been destroyed and abandoned and only God’s glorious rule will exist in the new creation. This is his hope, and John paints the same picture with these words,
Rev. 21:2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, … 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God…10 the Holy City, Jerusalem, … 11 shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel…12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates… 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb…22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
So on this first Sunday after Christmas, after we have celebrated the coming of God and as we await his return, our hope for salvation and redemption, like Micah’s exists in the simple affirmation that truly, Jesus is God with us pleading our case and establishing our right to walk in the light as he himself is in the light. Rejoice, God has come and of his kingdom there is no end! Amen.