Micah 2) The Lord's Message

2) The Lord’s Message

Text: Micah 2:1-13

 

Last week we looked at the fact that the Lord sees our sin and the Lord judges our sin. But last week it was pretty general stuff, but in chapter 2 Micah gets really specific. God doesn’t just see sin in general he sees specific sins. This morning we’re going to look at the Lord’s Message, not just to God’s people in Micah’s day, but his message to you and me this morning.

 

1) A Message of Woe

Firstly, it’s a message of Woe. The very first word of chapter 2 is ‘1 Woe… (Mic 2:1a)’ Micah cries out in warning, because God’s people are in mortal peril. So what’s the issue? How have God’s people gone wrong?

a) To those who plan iniquity/evil

Well firstly, Micah talks about their sin in very general terms. He says, ‘1 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. (Mic 2:1)’ The problem is that God’s people plan iniquity, they plot evil. The words iniquity and evil are very general terms for sin, they can pretty much be used to describe any and every thing. So firstly, it’s just sin in general. But while it’s general that doesn’t imply that’s unplanned. Micah says they plan it, they plot to do evil. It’s intentional, deliberate, calculated, premeditated. Sometimes we do stuff that’s wrong by accident, but sometimes we deliberately make the decision to do what’s wrong. Thirdly, Micah says that this planning and plotting happens ‘on their beds.’ When the rest of us are sleeping these people stay awake all night wracking their brains on how they can do the wrong thing. This evil consumes their thoughts. Fourthly, Micah says ‘at first light they carry it out.’ Not only do they stay up all night thinking this stuff but they put their plans into action. This stuff isn’t just going on in their heads it’s a part of their lifestyle, it’s what they do. Finally, they do it ‘because it’s in their power to do it.’ Micah gives us the first glimpse at who these people are, they are the powerful, they are the people who do it because they can get away with it. It’s a pretty ugly picture. But the truth is that is where sin takes us. If God leaves us to our natural tendencies that’s who we become, people who are consumed by getting what we want without a care for how it hurts others.

b) To those who covet/defraud

Sin in general is ugly, but then Micah get’s very specific. Verse 2, ‘2 They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. (Mic 1:2)’ The specific issue here is the sin of coveting. The Ten Commandments says, ‘17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Ex 20:17)’ These people coveted their neighbours fields and their homes. They weren’t satisfied with what God had given them, instead they wanted what God had given their neighbours. And they were willing to defraud their neighbours to get what they wanted. Now it’s important to note that neither Micah nor the Bible condemns honestly acquiring wealth. In fact, wealth was seen as a blessing from God. Rather, Micah is condemning people who were acquiring wealth though dishonest means. There is nothing positive or above board in what these people were doing. They coveted something, so they devised a way to get it, then they put their plan into action and took what they wanted. Micah had probably witnessed this very thing happening in his home town of Moresheth, the rich defrauding the poor of their inheritance. And that’s another important concept. God had given the land to these people, it was their inheritance from the Lord. These people weren’t content with what God had given the, so they stole what God had given to others.

I want to ask you this morning: what sins do you struggle with? What choices to you deliberately make in life that are contrary to God’s will? And specifically how do you struggle with coveting? The truth is that our whole economy is based on coveting what other people have. The advertising industry pretty much relies on the insatiable coveting of consumers. We call it keeping up with the Jones’. Instead of being satisfied with what God has given us, we want what God has given someone else. Even Paul admits that he was convicted by the Tenth Commandment (Rom 7:7-8). Micah reminds us that we must strive against a covetous spirit. Those who covet what other people have are enslaved by their possessions and dominated by greed. That’s why Paul writes, ‘6 …godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6:6)’ and why he warned that ‘10 …the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:10a)’ When we talk about sin in general we often find it difficult to apply to our own lives, but God gets real specific here: Woe to those who covet what other people have? I want to encourage you to examine your hearts and see if there is even a hint of coveting in your life.

 

2) The Lord’s Message – Disaster

You see these people are making one crucial mistake, they assumed that while they were up scheming everyone else was asleep! But everyone else was not asleep. God was fully awake and watching. And the Lord has a message for them. Verse 3, ‘3 Therefore, the Lord says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity. (Mic 2:3)’ The Lord’s message is a message of disaster. Micah tells us five things about this disaster that God promises.

a) It is planned

Firstly, like God’s people planned iniquity, so God is planning disaster. Just as these people were calculated and cunning in working out their schemes, so also the Lord works out his judgments with deliberate care. God bides his time, he issues warnings, and when his judgment finally comes it won’t be the result of worldly forces, even though it may seem that way, it will be the result of God’s careful planning. While they plan iniquity God plans disaster.

b) It fits the crime

Secondly, this disaster fits the crime. You can’t see it in the NIV, but in the Hebrew God uses the exact same words. Just as they plan evil, so God plans evil. Of course what God does is never evil, which is why the NIV translates it as disaster, or calamity, but the point is that God’s judgment fits the crime. God pays back evil for evil. They were so proud of their accomplishments, but once God is finished with them they will be proud no longer.

c) It is unavoidable

Thirdly, this disaster is unavoidable. They will not be able to save themselves from God’s righteous anger. The Hebrew actually refers to being unable to remove your neck from a yoke. Just as an animal can’t remove it’s neck from a yoke, so God’s people will not escape God’s judgment.

d) It is personal

Fourthly, God’s judgment is personal. God hasn’t put some cause and effect process in place, where you do the wrong thing, certain things happen, rather God judges sin personally. And God judges sin personally, because he is personally offended by sin. Our sins against others are an affront to our holy God. David writes, ‘4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Ps 51:4)’

If we plan evil then God plans disaster, and we can be assured that what God plans will be just, it will fit our crimes, it will be unavoidable, because God himself gets involved. And in one way that’s a comfort for us as believers. God doesn’t ignore it when people sin against us. When people mistreat you, they aren’t getting away with it, rather they are storing up wrath for the day of God’s judgment (Rom 2:5).

e) God’s blessing is re-distributed

But like in our first point Micah’s message goes from something general to something specific. Just as their specific sin was coveting, so God gets specific with his plan for disaster. Verse 4, ‘4 In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’ (Mic 2:4)’ We just said that God’s judgment fits the crime. Just as they took the fields and homes of others away, so God will assign their fields to others. They took away the land that was God’s inheritance to others, so God will take away their land, their inheritance. God’s blessing is re-distributed, it’s given to others. And that’s a sobering thought. God’s gifts in this life are provisional. He gave his people Canaan, the Promised Land, but when they broke his covenant, he took the land away and gave it to someone else. God gives and God can take away. And the same is true of us as individual Christians and of us as a church. Jesus tells a parable about a master giving gifts to different servants. But the one who didn’t use what he had been given, had it taken away, and it was given to the servant who was faithful with what God had given him (Mt 25:14-30). The point is, if we are not faithful with what God has given us, God may take it away. And just as that is true of us as individuals, so it’s also true of us as a church. Jesus says to the church in Ephesus, ‘5 …If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev 2:5b)’ If we are not faithful as a church God will remove his blessing from our church. There is nothing more disastrous than to have God’s gifts taken away because of unfaithfulness.

I want to ask you: are you faithful with what God has given you? Do you use what you have, your time, your talents and your treasure, to serve God, to bring glory to his name? Because if you aren’t God may take those things away. We ignore God at our own peril, because God won’t ignore us.

 

3) The False Message

So what do you think so far of the Lord’s message? Woe to you who plan evil and covet what others have, for God is planning disaster for you, he will take away everything that he has given you! Not a very uplifting message is it, not very encouraging, not exactly affirming. That’s exactly what these powerful land grabbers thought as well. They didn’t like Micah’s message, and so they paid false prophets to proclaim a false message. Verse 6, ‘6 “Do not prophesy,” their prophets say. “Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us.” (Mic 2:6)’ The false prophets wanted Micah to stop prophesying. Unlike Micah they preached that ‘disgrace would not overtake God’s people,’ that God wouldn’t judge the rich and powerful. And the truth is that false preaching is pretty common. All through Scripture God’s true prophets were opposed by false prophets. Moses had to contend with Korah (Num 16), Amos had to contend with Amaziah (Amos 7:17), Jeremiah had to contend with Hananiah (Jer 28:1-4), and Jesus had to contend with the Pharisees. When King Jehoshaphat asked King Ahab if there were any prophets not in his employ, Ahab replied, ‘8 …There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. (1 Kgs 22:8)’ That’s exactly how these wealthy people felt about Micah’s message. False teaching is still an issue today. The truth is that most people don’t like God’s message that we are sinners who need to repent, and so many people water down God’s message to make it palatable to the masses. In place of the Bible’s teaching on sin and the cross, false preaching emphasizes our general goodness, moralistic works, and health, wealth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the result of false teaching is that it gives people a false sense of security. Micah came preaching that because of sin God’s people would be lead away to Babylon in disgrace, but the false prophets preached that disgrace would not overtake God’s people. And so often we see the same thing today. Today many churches preach that God doesn’t care if we practise homosexuality, or abort babies, or get divorced, or ignore the plight of the poor, whereas the Bible says, ‘9 …Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9b-10)’ So how do these false teaches get away with their false message?

a) They preach half the message

Firstly, they only preach half the message. They focus on one facet of God’s character, without painting the whole portrait. In verse 7 they say, ‘7 …Is the Spirit of the Lord angry? (Mic 1:7b)’ In the Hebrew it’s ‘Has the Lord grown impatient?’ These false teachers were reminding people of God’s long-suffering grace, the fact that God was slow to become angry. God doesn’t get angry! And they would go straight to Exodus 34 and quote, ‘6 …The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin… (Ex 34:6-7a)’ That’s the sort of God we have, a God who is compassionate and gracious, a God who is slow to anger, a God who forgives our sins. What’s Micah on about, he’s got God all wrong. The problem is not with the truth that they taught, but with the truths they left out. What they left out was the rest of verse 7, which says, ‘7 …Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. (Ex 34:7b)’ The God of grace is also a holy God of justice who punishes sin. Today one of the most common false teachings is that because God is love, he would never send anyone to hell. And they quote verse like John 3:16, ‘16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)’ but they forget to quote verse 18, which says, 18 …but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (Jn 3:18)’ False teachers often preach only half the message, the bit that they know everyone will like. And that’s why they’re called false teachers, because they manipulate and pervert what God and the Bible have said. Everything difficult or confronting is taken out.

b) They cheapen grace

What they actually do is cheapen grace. According to the Bible true grace produces holiness and peace, but cheap grace covers over sin and makes light of evil. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who coined the term, ‘cheap grace’ writes, ‘Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, and communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus.’ In reality cheap grace is not grace at all. If we treat grace cheaply, as a license to sin, such grace won’t save us. In fact cheap grace produces enemies of God. Verse 8, ‘8 Lately my people have risen up like an enemy. (Mic 1:8a)’ The more we water down God’s message the more our hearts become hardened to hear God’s message. The more closed we are to the truth, the more open we are to half-truths, and even outright lies. And the more we base our lives on half-truths and lies, the more we live as enemies of God, preferring the ways of this world, over God’s way.

So I want to ask you this morning: What kind of preaching do you prefer? How open are you to hearing God’s message? How open are you to hearing God’s message to you this morning? Maybe you are like the people in Micah’s day, as we read in verse 11, ‘11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people! (Mic 2:6-11)’ Is that the message you prefer, that God is so impressed with you that he will make sure you’ll never run out of wine or beer? Is that what you would prefer I preach about, how God wants to make you all rich, that if you have enough faith you’ll never get sick again, that you don’t have to change a thing in your life, you’re perfect just as you are? Such preaching sounds great doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it all lies, it’s deceptive, you think you’re right with God but you’re not. I think I’d prefer the other kind. It might be a lot harder to listen to, but Jesus tells us that the truth sets us free. The truth is that God judges sin, but God also forgives our sins through faith in Jesus and his death on the cross. I’m not going to water down God’s message. God hates sin and God won’t let it go unpunished, so confess it and get ride of it. Because that’s the other half of God’s message. God forgives our sin in Jesus Christ. Once we were children of darkness, but in Jesus we become children of light.

 

4) The Lord’s Message - Deliverance (v12-13)

And that leads us into the final part of the Lord’s message, that the Lord will not only bring disaster on his people, but that he will also bring deliverance.

a) God gathers the remnant

The first thing that God promises to do is gather the remnant. Verse 12, ‘12 I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. (Mic 2:12a)’ Firstly, what is a remnant? Basically, it means the left over bit. The Bible uses it to refer to those who remained faithful to God, those who God was preserving so that his plans would be fulfilled. God tells Elijah about the ‘18 …seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal… (1 Kgs 19:18a)’ The remnant are those who have been set apart by God. The truth is that sometimes there is only a remnant left who are true followers of the Lord. So when is God gathering this remnant of the faithful? It’s possible that Micah is referring to the invasion of the Assyrian army in Hezekiah’s day, in which case God would gather the remnant inside Jerusalem. Or it could refer to the return from exile nearly 200 years later, when God would bring the remnant of his people back from Babylon. Or it could be talking about the last days, when God will gather all his people and bring them to heaven. Micah probably has all three events in mind. The point is that God never gives up on his people, he always preserves enough to continue fulfilling his purposes. The rest of verse 12 says, ‘12 …I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture… (Mic 2:12b)’ Micah tells us three things about this remnant.

i) God be their shepherd

Firstly, God will be their shepherd. They are like sheep and God is like their shepherd. The whole point about sheep is that they are incredibly needy. Sheep can’t defend themselves. They are notorious for wandering off into trouble. If left to their own devices they eat all the grass, and they place themselves in irretrievable situations. Which is pretty much how the Bible defines our spiritual state. We are like sheep, we need a shepherd who supplies our needs, binds up our wounds, and brings us back when we wander away. It’s no accident that Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. Jesus says, ‘11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11)’ Jesus died for us. The truth is that you only belong to God if Jesus died for you, if Jesus becomes your shepherd.

ii) God will protect them

Secondly, God promises to protect his people. According to Micah God gathers his sheep and places then in a pen. And the point is not that we are imprisoned, but that we are protected. Jesus says about his sheep, ‘28 …they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (Jn 10:28b)’ The point is that once you belong to Jesus, once Jesus is your shepherd he will protect you, he will keep your eternal destiny safe.

iii) God will provide for them

Thirdly God promises to provide for the remnant. God’s finds his sheep pasture. The Psalmist writes, ‘2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. (Ps 23:2-3a)’ Just as God provided for Hezekiah during Sennacherib’s siege, and just as God provided for his people during the exile, so God provides for us. In fact, Jesus says, ‘9 …whoever enters through me will be saved. He will …find pasture. 10 …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jn 10:9,10b)’ The key to God’s deliverance is believing that Jesus is the only true Saviour, that he is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, who protects us and provides for us, as we listen to his voice.

b) God goes before us

And it’s only in Jesus that we can have confidence in the future. It’s only as we find our refuge in Jesus that we find victory in life. Micah puts it like this in verse 13, ‘13 One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the Lord at their head. (Mic 2:12-13)’ God’s people are trapped in Jerusalem, but God will come and rescue them. God goes before his people. Micah paints a picture of God bursting out through the gates and breaking through the surrounding army. And that’s exactly what happened. Isaiah writes, ‘36 Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. (Isa 37:36)’ God went out, he burst out through the gates and defeated the Assyrians. In much the same way Jesus goes before us. Jesus has burst out of the grave and in so doing he defeated death. We can face the future, only because Jesus won the victory over sin and death.

 

The Lord’s Message to us this morning is one of woe. If you refuse to repent of your sin, then God has planned disaster, and it will fit the crime and it will be unavoidable, because sin is a personal affront to a holy God. If you don’t repent God will take away the things that he has given you, and you may even realize that you are outside his kingdom, that you don’t have an inheritance amongst God’s people. Don’t listen to false teachers, who tell you that sin doesn’t matter, or that you can make up your own truth, don’t cheapen God’s grace. Instead put your trust in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for you. It’s only in Jesus that you will find the protection you need. It’s only in Jesus that you will find life to the full. It’s only in Jesus that you will find the victory over sin and death. The Lord’s Message to you today is only Jesus can save you from your sin. Amen.

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