7) The Lord is My Light
Text: Micah 7:1-9
The concepts of light and darkness are often used as metaphors for life. We all go through periods in life where things seem bleak, we describe them as a dark patch, or dark times. Douglas Adams coined the phrase ‘The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul,’ describing the tediousness of life. Darkness is that time when you tread on the sharp pointy toys strategically placed by your kids between the bedroom and the toilet. Darkness isn’t good. But maybe most serious of all is spiritual darkness. The Bible uses darkness as a metaphor for sin, and death, and God’s judgment. Isaiah talks about ‘2 …people walking in darkness… (Isa 9:2a)’ Paul talks about putting aside ‘12 …the deeds of darkness… (Rom 13:12b cf. Eph 5:11)’ And he talks about ‘12 …the powers of this dark world. (Eph 6:12b)’ And ‘13 …the dominion of darkness… (Col 1:13b)’ And that’s what Micah sees as he looks around himself, he sees darkness, he sees sin, and death and God’s judgment. And to be honest it can all look a bit bleak. But the amazing thing about Micah is that in the midst of all the darkness he can say, ‘The Lord is my light.’ This morning I want to use verse 8 as a lens to understand the whole of Micah 7. Verse 8 says, ‘8 …Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Mic 7:8b)’ My prayer is that this morning, if you are experiencing the long dark tea-time of the soul, that the Lord will be your light.
1) A Light in Emotional Darkness
So firstly, the Lord can be a light in emotional darkness.
a) A cry of misery
Micah begins chapter 7 with a cry of absolute misery. He starts, ‘1 What misery is mine! (Mic 7:1a)’ In the Hebrew it’s literally ‘Woe is me!’ It’s an expression of depression. Micah is intensely unhappy with the state of God’s people. He is distressed over their sin and their rejection of God. He laments over the spiritual darkness he sees all around him. He describes this feeling of misery in four ways.
i) I am uncared for
Firstly, Firstly, he is miserable because he is uncared for.’ He says, ‘1 …I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. (Mic 7:1b)’ God had commanded his people to not go over their fields a second time but to leave the leftover fruit, or grain, for the poor. And Micah compares himself to a poor and hungry man, who looks for the fruit that was meant to be leftover only to find nothing. God’s people were meant to provide basic care, but no one cared about Micah. Maybe you’re here this morning and you feel the same way, that no one cares about you, that no one cares about your needs, or what you’re going through. Maybe you can identify with Micah this morning.
ii) I am alone in my faith
Secondly, Micah considers himself alone in his faith. He says, ‘2 The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. (Mic 7:2a)’ Godly people had become an endangered specifies. In fact, Micah couldn’t remember the last time he’d met a godly person, he felt completely alone. He may have identified with the Prophet Elijah who told God, ‘14 …The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too. (1 Kgs 19:14b)’ Maybe like Micah and Elijah, you feel alone in what you’re going through as well. No one emails, no one rings, no one visits, no one talks to you. Maybe you even feel alone sitting here this morning.
iii) I am surrounded by the ungodly
Thirdly, Micah is miserable because he is surrounded by the ungodly. There are plenty of people around but he describes them as people who ‘2 …lie in wait to shed blood… (Mic 7:2b)’ He describes them as being ‘3 …skilled in doing evil… (Mic 7:3a)’ He talks about leaders who demand gifts, and judges who accept bribes, and how the powerful dictate what they desire, and how they all conspire together. He is surrounded by violent, evil and corrupt people. And just so that you get his point he writes, ‘4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. (Mic 7:4a)’ They are just hurtful, painful people. Maybe that’s how you feel sometimes, that you’re surrounded by people who just want to hurt you and make your life miserable. On another level Micah is describing the human condition, we are all ungodly. The Bible says, ‘3 …there is no one who does good, not even one. (Ps 14:3b)’ And ‘6 …all our righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Isa 64:6)’ In fact, we ‘23 …all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)’ The truth is that we can all be a bit prickly and painful to live with. So much of the misery in this world is caused by people who are uncaring, unloving and ungodly.
iv) I can trust no one
Finally, Micah is miserable because he can trust no one. He says, ‘5 Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. 6 For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household. (Mic 7:5-6)’ Now that isn’t a pretty picture. Can you imagine not being able to trust those closest to you? And yet that’s how Micah felt, his own family had turned against him. Maybe you know what that feels like, to have your own family turn against you. Jesus actually tells us this is what we’ll experience when we become Christians, even our own families will turn against us.
b) A cry of hope
It’s a bleak picture, no wonder Micah is miserable. Where do you find hope in such a situation? Where do you find light in such dark circumstances? The amazing thing is that Micah turns from a cry of misery to exactly that a cry of hope. Verse 7, ‘7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Mic 7:7)’ No one cares, everyone else has walked away, everyone else makes my life miserable, I can’t trust anyone, but… But there is someone who cares, there is someone who is there for me, there is someone who brings hope, there is someone I can trust, and that’s the Lord, the Lord is my light in the dark places, in the dark times. In the midst of misery the Lord is our hope. So how do we find hope in the Lord?
i) I watch for the Lord
Firstly, Micah says ‘I will watch for the Lord!’ When Micah looks anywhere else he gets depressed, because the world around him is a mess. But when he looked to the Lord his hope is renewed. When he looked to the Lord he was reminded that God was in control. When he looked to the Lord he was reminded of God’s love and grace. When he looked to the Lord he was reminded of God’s promises. It’s like when Peter decided to get out of the boat and walk on the water. While his eyes were fixed on Jesus he didn’t falter, but as soon as he looked at the dark waters beneath him and the crashing waves around him he fell. I don’t know what dark times you may be experiencing in your life right now, but I encourage you to keep your eyes on the Lord. As the writer to the Hebrews says, ‘2 …fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith… (Heb 12:2a)’
ii) I wait for God my Saviour
Secondly, Micah says ‘I will wait for God my Saviour!’ Micah will wait for God to fulfil his promises, particularly the promise to send the Messiah, or the Saviour, who would rule in righteousness, and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord (Mic 5:4). The Good News is that we don’t have to wait any longer. Jesus has come, and he has died on the cross for our sins, he has given us the Holy Spirit, he has given us eternal life. What we wait for now, is for our Saviour to return, and dry all our tears, and make all things new, and take us home to be with him forever. That’s what gives us hope in the darkest of times. We need to trust that Jesus will bring to completion the good work he started (Phil 1:6). That he will fulfil his promises, that he won’t abandon us or forsake us, that he will come in our time of need.
iii) My God will hear me
Finally, Micah says, ‘My God will hear me!’ What Micah does in the dark times is turn to God in prayer, because God will hear him and answer his prayers. Peter writes, ‘7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Pet 5:7)’ You might think that no one cares about what you’re going through, but God does, God cares. Over and over the Psalmist declares, ‘17 You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Ps 10:17)’ And ‘17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:17-18)’ I encourage you to turn to God in prayer, to cast all your anxieties on him, knowing that he will hear.
In the midst of the dark times, even in the midst of misery, are you able to look to the Lord and find hope? Are you willing to wait on the Lord to deliver you from desperation and despair? Are you able to turn to God in prayer and find peace? When nothing seems to be going right, when you feel all alone, when you seem surrounded by people who want to hurt you, when there’s no one else to trust, the Lord will be your light. In the midst of emotional darkness the Lord is our light.
2) A Light in Spiritual Darkness
Next Micah tells us how God can be our light in spiritual darkness.
a) Sitting in the darkness
Micah begins this next section by talking about how he sits in darkness. Can you see it? He’s all alone, he’s been abandoned, forsaken. It’s all dark, there is no light, and there he sits! But this is a different darkness then before. Before we looked at darkness caused by others, people who were uncaring, people who abandoned you, people who hurt you, people you couldn’t trust. But here the darkness is caused by yourself, it’s a spiritual darkness that comes from within.
i) I have fallen
Micah talks about how he has fallen. Verse 8, ‘8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy! [Even] though I have fallen… (Mic 7:8a)’ Micah has fallen, God’s people have fallen, and the truth is that we fall all the time. The Bible talks about us falling into temptation and sin (1 Tim 6:9). Jesus tells Peter that he will fall away on account of him (Mt 26:31). Paul warns us ‘12 …be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor 1);12b)’ The truth is we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard (Rom 3:23). In fact, theologians describe humanity’s rejection of God in Genesis 3 as ‘the fall.’ All too often we fall into a deep pit of spiritual darkness. Maybe you have fallen into spiritual darkness.
ii) I have sinned
But Micah continues, he has fallen because he has sinned. Verse 9, he says ‘9 …I have sinned against him… (Mic 7:9a)’ Micah is sitting in darkness because of his sin. This isn’t someone else’s fault, this is his fault, he has sinned against the Lord. The darkness in his life is the result of the darkness in his heart. And how often is that true for us as well? The darkness we experience is the result of our sin, when we chose to do life our way instead of God’s way. James talks about how ‘14 …by [our] own evil desires, [we are] dragged away and enticed. (Jam 1:14b)’ Sin leads us further away from God. Sin leads us further into darkness and depression and destruction and ultimately to death. Maybe you are sitting in darkness because of your sins, because you are uncaring, unloving, ungodly, and untrustworthy, because you are one of those painful, prickly people that Micah mentioned earlier.
iii) I will bear the Lord’s wrath
Thirdly, Micah admits that because he has fallen into sin he will bear the Lord’s wrath. He has done the crime so he will do the time. He knows he deserves God’s condemnation, that he deserves God’s punishment. He recognizes that the dark place in which he finds himself is where he deserves to be. And that was true of God’s people as well. Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians because of their sin. And Jerusalem was facing destruction because of their sins. And Jesus says exactly the same thing to us. He says, ‘5 …unless you repent, you too will all perish. (Lk 13:2-5)’ Sin results in God’s judgment.
I don’t know, but maybe the darkness you’re experiencing is because you have fallen into sin in some way, and you are facing the consequences of that sin. If you’re not a Christian you might be facing God’s judgment, and if you are a Christian you may be facing God’s discipline. According to Hebrews 12 God allows his children to go through dark times in order to purify our hearts, to confront some sinful attitude or behaviour in our lives in order to bring healing and make us holy. Maybe this morning you’re in a dark place of your own making.
b) The Lord will be my light
Micah sits in darkness because he has fallen into sin and is being disciplined by God, but even in that dark place he can say, the Lord will be my light. Even in the darkness of his own sin, Micah has hope. He says, ‘8 …Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. 9 Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (Mic 7:8b-9)’ And that’s the hope that he holds out for God’s people as well. Even though Jerusalem will be destroyed and its people carried off into exile, they will return and Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Micah talks about this hope using four phrases.
i) The Lord will lift me up
Firstly, Micah says the Lord will lift me up. I might have fallen but I won’t stay fallen, I will rise once again. Micah’s contemporary Isaiah writes, ‘31 those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles... (Isa 40:31a)’ God lifts up those who trust in him. James writes, ‘10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (Jam 4:10)’ If you are willing to confess your sin before God he will lift you up out of the darkness. If you are willing to repent then you will be forgiven. Peter says, ‘19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Act 3:19)’ That’s what it feels like to be lifted up out of the darkness, to be refreshed, or renewed, to be made clean. That’s what God promises us in Jesus Christ, to be lifted up out of the darkness of our sin.
ii) The Lord will plead my case
Secondly, Micah says that the Lord will plead my case. Micah has fallen into sin, he deserves God’s wrath, but he looks forward to the day when God will suddenly show himself to be on his side. And that’s what we experience in Jesus Christ. Paul writes, ‘5 …there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men… (1 Tim 2:5-6a)’ When we put our faith in Jesus suddenly we no longer have to justify ourselves before a holy God, we have Jesus who justifies us, we have Jesus pleading on our behalf. The Bible says, ‘25 …[Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7:25)’ The point is that we can’t justify ourselves, we are sinners who deserve to be punished, but when we put our faith in Jesus he intercedes for us, he reminds God that he died in our place, that he paid the penalty for our sins.
iii) The Lord will establish my right
Thirdly, Micah says that the Lord will establish my right. He’s already made it crystal clear that he is in the wrong, why would God ever say that he is right? Well that’s the heart of the Gospel, that people who are wrong are declared right through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes, ‘5 …the man who… trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom 4:5b)’ That’s what it means to be justified, not that we are right, but that God declares us right, that God establishes our rightness with him through faith in Jesus. It’s only Jesus who makes us right with God.
iv) I will see his righteousness
Finally, Micah says I will see God’s righteousness. In Jesus we see God’s justice as Jesus pays the penalty for our sin. We don’t get away with our sin, our sin get’s paid for, it just gets paid for by Jesus. Jesus gets the punishment instead of us. God doesn’t ignore it every time you do something wrong, he put that sin on Jesus, and Jesus was punished for it. But we also see God’s mercy as we are freely forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus’ death sets us free from the consequences of our sin. Jesus’ death brings us life. Paul writes, ‘22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Rom 3:22-24)’ In Jesus we see God’s righteousness, we see his justice in punishing our sin and his mercy in forgiving our sin.
When Micah says, ‘Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light,’ he is showing us what our God is like. He is the God who rescues people from darkness and brings them into the light. That’s the mission that God gave Paul, ‘18 …to turn [people] from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God… (Acts 26:18a)’ God is a God who 13 …has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. (Col 1:13)’ What Paul calls ‘12 …the kingdom of light. (Col 1:12c)’ And Peter talks about how we are to ‘9 …declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9b)’ And Jesus says, ‘12 …I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (Jn 8:12)’ And later he says, ‘46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (Jn 12:46)’ Jesus came to rescue people from their sin, to bring them out of the darkness into the light.
I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now. I don’t know if you’re facing a dark patch in your life. I don’t know if you feel uncared for, or alone, or if you feel hurt, or if you feel there is no one you can trust. But I do know that in the midst of the most miserable circumstances, the Lord can be your light. I do know that if you look to the Lord he will lift you up, that if you wait for the Lord he will come through for you, that if you pray to the Lord he will hear your prayers and answer you. And I don’t know if what you’re going through is because you have fallen into sin. But I do know that if you humble yourself before the Lord he will forgive your sins, if you put your faith in Jesus he will plead your case, if you trust Jesus he will make you right with God, if you look to Jesus you will see God’s righteousness. This morning I want you to know that in the midst of the most dark and difficult times, the Lord can be your light. Amen.