Micah 8) The Lord is the Light

8) The Lord is the Light

Text: Micah 7:11-20

 

In today’s text Micah asks the question ‘18 Who is a God like you…? (Mic 7:18a)’ Micah has been building up to that question the whole book, that’s the question that his own parents were thinking about when they named him Micah, ‘Who is Like the Lord.’ And that’s the question that Micah answers in our text this morning, the Lord is the light. When Micah says in verse 8 that the Lord is my light, he could say that with confidence because he knew what God was light, that God was the light. The Lord is a light to his people, the Lord is a light to the nations, and the Lord is the light of salvation. That’s the God that Micah knew, and that’s the God we can know also.

 

1) A Light to His people

So let’s start with the Lord is a light to his people. Micah has been talking about how God’s people are walking in darkness, how they are uncaring, unloving, ungodly, and untrustworthy. Earlier in chapter 7 Micah says, ‘2 …not one upright man remains. (Mic 7:2b)’ They ‘3 …are skilled in doing evil… (Mic 7:3b)’ And ‘4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. (Mic 7:4)’ And Micah uses how he sits in darkness, how he has fallen into sin and God’s judgment as a picture of what would happen to God’s people. Just like the Lord would lift up Micah, so the Lord would lift up his people. Just like the Lord would be Micah’s light, so the Lord would be a light for his people. Micah paints a picture of how God would be a blessing to his people. 

a) The Lord will bring growth

Firstly, the Lord will bring growth. Micah says, ‘11 The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. 12 In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. (Mic 7:11-12)’ Micah talks about this growth in three ways.

i) Jerusalem’s Walls

Firstly, in terms of Jerusalem’s walls. Earlier Micah had prophesied that ‘12 …Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble… (Mic 4:12b)’ And that’s exactly what happened. Just over 100 years later we’re told, ‘10 The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. (2 Kgs 25:10)’ The Babylonians turned the walls, in fact the whole city of Jerusalem into a heap of rubble. But God, through Micah, promises that the day for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem will come. God will take a ruined city and bring it back to life. God will take what has been broken and fix it. He will take what has been destroyed and remake it.

ii) The Nations Boundaries

But God won’t only rebuild their walls he will also extend their boundaries. After the Assyrian invasion the boundaries of the nation of Israel were serious reduced, in fact only the Southern Kingdom of Judah remained and that wasn’t even very impressive anymore. But after the invasion of Babylon even Judah ceased to exist as a nation, it became just a vassal state. But God promises to not only restore their boundaries, but to extend them. 

iii) Foreign People

Thirdly, Micah talks about this growth from the Lord in terms of foreign people. People will come from Assyria and Egypt and Babylon, from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain. basically people will come from everywhere. God takes a tiny remnant of people, just a few thousand, and he growths them. And that’s exactly what we see in the church as well. God takes just a 120 people, about the same number of people as in our church here at Westside and he grows them into thousands, and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and since then God has brought billions of people into his Kingdom.

Do we believe that God can rebuild what has been broken down? Do we believe that God can extend the boundaries of our influence? That our impact will be more than just within these four walls, but beyond them in our community? Do we believe that God will grow our church, that God will bring people into our church? And what about you personally, do you believe that God can fix the issues that you face in life, that God can rebuild what is broken and restore what is lost?

b) The Lord will shepherd his people

Secondly, the Lord is a light to his people because he is their shepherd. Micah prays, ‘14 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance… (Mic 7:14a)’ That’s how Micah wants God to bless his people, by personally leading them. And again Micah uses the most surprising phrase, he calls God’s people, the flock of your inheritance. These are the people who back in chapter 2 were ‘2 …defrauding a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. (Mic 2:2b)’ God had given them their inheritance, the Promised Land, and they were stealing it from each other, but despite their sin, God had not forgotten his promises to them, they were still his people. And he was still their shepherd, and one day he would again care for them. And as we saw in chapter 5 Micah’s desire is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11). God blesses his people by sending Jesus to lay down his life in order to save them from their sin. If Jesus is your shepherd then you know God’s blessing. If Jesus is your shepherd then you know what it’s like to have the Lord’s light shining on you. But if Jesus’ isn’t your shepherd you won’t know the blessing of the Lord, or experience the light of his grace. God’s blessing is only found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light.

c) The Lord will feed his people

Thirdly, the Lord will feed his people. Micah talks about God’s people as ‘14 …living by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. [and he says] Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago. (Mic 7:14b)’ Sounds a little random doesn’t it. But Micah is painting a picture of a flock living in the best of lands, a rich forest, and fertile pastures, and they are by themselves, there are no predators, they are safe. And that’s where the places Bashan and Gilead come in. They were two regions on the east side of the Jordan and were the best pasture lands in all of Israel. Bashan was famous for its forests and mighty oaks, and Gilead for its pasture lands and its flocks. The point is that God will once again provide for his people. Jesus says, ‘9 …whoever enters through me will be saved. He will …find pasture. (Jn 10:9)’ Once again God’s greatest blessing is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus provides for our greatest need, salvation from our sins. In Jesus God doesn’t just give us food for our stomachs, but food for our soul. That’s what we’re going to celebrate in the Lord’s Supper later this morning, how God nourishes our souls through the body and blood of Jesus shed on the cross. God still provides for our needs, but if we want food for eternal life it is only found through faith in Jesus.

Micah’s point in all of this is summed up in verse 15, ‘15 As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders. (Mic 7:15)’ Just as God saved his people from Egypt with a mighty hand, so God would again save his people. And on the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and said, ‘22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him… (Act 2:22)’ God shines the light of his salvation on his people, and that light is Jesus Christ. I want to ask you: Have you experienced the light of God’s grace shining in your life? I’m not saying you won’t experience dark times or difficult circumstances, but in those times, do you know God’s blessing, do you experience God’s favour? Is God a light for you?

 

2) A Light to the nations

But if you think God only cares about us, and wants to bless us then you’re in for a surprise. According to Micah God is not only a light to his people, he’s also a light to the nations. In fact, what happens to God’s people is meant to act as a beacon to attract other people. God will bless his people: he will bring growth, he will rebuild their walls, he will expand their boundaries, he will bring in foreign people; he will shepherd his people; and he will feed his people.

a) The nations will see

And he will do all this so the nations will see. The point of God blessing his people according to Micah is that the ‘16 Nations will see… (Mic 7:16a)’ it! And that’s exactly the point of God blessing you and me, that others may see. Jesus says, ‘16 …let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:16)’ And Peter writes, ‘12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… (1 Pet 2:12)’ The idea is that as God pours his light into our lives we will shine into the lives of others. Micah’s contemporary told God’s people that God ‘6 …will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isa 49:6)’ And in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas take that very same command and make it the mission of the church. God is a light to the nations through us. Jesus says, ‘14 You are the light of the world. (Mt 5:14a)’ And the whole point of light is that it is meant to be seen, it is meant to penetrate the darkness. Our lives are meant to be seen by others, and what they see is meant to turn them to God, so they will praise and glorify his name. When people look at your life what do they see? Does what they see bring honour to God? Are you a light to others?

b) The nations will be ashamed

And according to Micah when God shines his light to the nations they will be ashamed. Micah says the, 16 Nations will see and be ashamed… (Mic 7:16a)’ When God shines his light into people’s lives their human pride and sinfulness is exposed in all its ugliness and depravity. The closer we get to the light the further our shadow is cast behind us. And the same is true of God, the closer we get to God, the more aware we become of our own sinfulness. People who once boasted in their power, and their knowledge, will suddenly see that before Almighty God they have no power, that before God they have no excuses, that all their knowledge is useless. Micah says they will be ‘16 …deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf. (Mic 7:16b)’ They have nothing to offer God. They will be humbled before the light of the glory of God. People who once strutted with pride, ‘17 …will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens… (Mic 7:17a)’ That image of licking dust is often used to describe how a defeated king pays homage to the conquering king (Ps 72:9; Isa 49:23). But Micah is probably also thinking of God’s judgment on Satan in the Garden of Eden. Satan, who was once so high and mighty, was brought low by his pride, and the same will happen to all those who come face to face with God in all his glory. People who once considered themselves prowling lions, will become mewling kittens with their tails between their legs. We look at powerful nations like America, or powerful religions like Islam, but their power is an illusion, before God they are as nothing, and one day they will realize it, one day they will see God’s glory and be ashamed. And that’s what needs to happen in our lives as well. We need to be confronted by our sin. We need to be ashamed – not a worldly sorrow that leads to death as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 7:10, but a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life.

c) The nations will turn to the Lord

And that’s exactly the effect God’s light has on the nations – they will turn to the Lord. Not only will they see the light of the Lord, not only will they be ashamed and humbled, Micah says, ‘17 …they will turn in fear to the Lord our God. (Mic 7:17c)’ God’s desire was that the nations would turn to him. In fact he told Abraham that ‘3 …all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen 12:3b)’ That prophesy is fulfilled in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross, when he destroyed the dividing wall between all of humanity and God. According to Paul Jesus came to ‘23 …proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles. (Act 26:23c)’ And that’s what we see in the Church, the nations coming to the Lord. In fact, even here at Westside we see evidence of that, we represent the nations, maybe not many, but we are gentiles who have seen the light of God’s glory, who have been confronted by our sin, and have turned to Jesus Christ in faith. And our mission is be a light to others. We want people to see the light of God’s glory, we want people to be confronted by their sin, to experience the shame of their rebellion against God, and we want people to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and turn to Jesus in faith so they might give God praise and bring him glory. We have to ask ourselves: is God is revealing himself to the nations through us? Are we a light in our community? Do we shine our light in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, or wherever we happen to find ourselves. If Jesus is shining in our hearts through the Spirit do we allow that light to shine into the lives of others?

 

3) A Light of Salvation

So firstly, the Lord is a light to his people, in Christ we have received every spiritual blessing; secondly, the Lord is a light to the nations, and our mission is to proclaim the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ; thirdly, the Lord is a light of salvation. Micah suddenly turns form what God does, how he shines his light on us and through us on others, to what God is like. He asks, ‘18 Who is a God like you…? (Mic 7:18a)’ In the last three verses of his book Micah turns to the character of God, and he outlines six character traits that make God so amazing.

a) The Lord pardons sin

Firstly, the Lord pardons sins. According to verse 18 our God is a God ‘18 …who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? (Mic 7:18b)’ The word ‘sin’ refers to our guilt, the fact that we have broken God’s law, and as a result we have incurred a debt that must be paid. But our God is a God who pardons our debt. That word ‘pardon’ means to lift up, or take away. We are guilty before a holy God, but our God takes away our guilt. And he does that through Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul writes, ‘13 …[God] forgave us all our sins. 14 …he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Col 2:13d,14c)’ That’s why God sent Jesus into our world in order to take away our sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, ‘29 …Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29b)’ That’s what Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah said as well, ‘6 …the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6b)’ The Good News is that our God is a God who takes away our sin.

b) The Lord forgives transgression

Secondly, the Lord forgives transgression. The word ‘transgression’ refers to the fact that we have rebelled against God’s authority. Whenever we disobey God’s law we are in effect saying, ‘I prefer to do things my way instead of your way.’ As traitors we deserve the death penalty, but again God in his grace ‘forgives’ our rebellion against him. The word ‘forgiveness’ here basically means to pass over something. It’s the same word that’s used in Genesis 12, when God says, ‘12 …I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn… (Gen 12:12a)’ It’s conveys a very similar idea as the word Passover. The point is that God passes over our sin, he overlooks it. And he can only do that because of what Jesus has done on the cross. God cannot let sin go unnoticed. The Good News is that he puts it on his own Son, Jesus Christ, and Jesus takes the punishment. The only way God can overlook our sin is if it has been placed on Jesus and dealt with on the cross. Only in Jesus can our rebellion against God be forgiven.

c) The Lord delights to show mercy

Thirdly, the Lord delights to show mercy. Micah says about God, ‘18 …You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. (Mic 7:18c)’ God isn’t just merciful, he delights to show mercy, it pleases him, he wants to do it. God doesn’t forgive begrudgingly, or resentfully, or halfheartedly, but with great delight. Micah describes God’s mercy using the Hebrew word ‘chesed,’ which describes God’s tender, loving, kindness towards his people. Last week we saw how God’s people were uncaring, unloving, ungodly, and untrustworthy. Micah described them as skilled in doing evil, as totally corrupt, as briers and thorns, how could such depraved people be spared by a holy God? The answer is because ‘he delights to show mercy.’ God wants to lift away your guilt, he wants to pass over your sins, because he delights to show mercy.

d) The Lord is compassionate

Fourth, the Lord is compassionate. Micah says about God, ‘19 You will again have compassion on us… (Mic 7:19a)’ Why does God delight to show mercy? Because God loves his people like a parent loves their child. The Psalmist writes ‘13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (Ps 103:13)’ Micah looks ta God and he sees a loving father. And that’s exactly how Jesus wants us to see God as well, as our Father in Heaven who gives good gifts to his children. The Lord is our Abba, our dad.

e) The Lord removes our sin

And God loves us so much that Micah says he removes our sins. God responds to our sins like apparent responds to a snake in their kid’s bedroom. Micah says the Lord ‘19 …will tread our sins underfoot... (Mic 7:19b)’ God crushes our sin, like a parent would crush a snake’s head. In fact, that’s what God promised Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, that he would send someone who would crush Satan’s head, and that person was Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus defeated our sin and he defeated Satan. Satan no longer has any power over us. In fact, James says that if we resist Satan he will flee from us (Jam 4:7). And not only does God tread on our sins he will ‘19 …hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Mic 7:19c)’ Just as the Egyptians were hurled into the Red Sea, so our sins will be swept away. No wonder Micah echoes Moses’ song at the Red Sea, ‘11 Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Ex 15:11)’ And the most wonderful thing about God’s wonders is that he works them for us. In Christ, he takes away our guilt, he passes over our rebellion, and he removes our sin.

f) The Lord is faithful

Finally, Micah reminds us of the Lord’s faithfulness. He says, ‘20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago. (Mic 7:20)’ We’ve already seen how God delights to show mercy, but here Micah is really focusing on how God is true to his people, how he is faithful to the promises he made in the past. God had promised that through Abraham’s descendant all nations would be blessed. How could he fulfil that promise if he destroyed his people? The answer is that God would not destroy them, but he would preserve a remnant, that he would fulfil his promise, that he would send his own Son to die for their sins. God’s light would not go out, rather it would shine all the more brightly in Jesus Christ.  And God is still faithful. Paul writes, ‘13 if we are faithless, [God] will remain faithful for he cannot disown himself. (2 Tim 2:13)’ God cannot be anything but faithful because that is who he is. I want to ask you this morning: Do you know the light of God’s salvation? Do you know what it feels like to have the heavy burden of your sin lifted off your shoulders? Do you know what it feels like to have God pass over your rebellion? Do you know what it feels like to have God crush your sins underfoot and hurl them into the depths of the sea? Have you experienced God’s mercy and his compassion and his faithfulness in Jesus Christ? If not then I encourage you to put your faith in Jesus and know the light of God’s grace shining onto you.

 

Micah asks the question, ‘Who is like our God?’ And his answer is no one. There is no one like our God, He is a light to his people – God restores his people, God expands their boundaries, God increases their numbers. God has given us every spiritual blessing we need in Christ. There is no one like our God, He is a light to the nations – God reveals himself to the world, God puts them to shame, and God turns them to himself. And God has called us to do the same to be a light to the nations, that other people may see, and be convicted of their sin, and be brought into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. There is no one like our God, He is the light of salvation – He pardons sin, he forgives transgressions, he delights to show mercy, he has compassion on us, he removes our sin, he is faithful. Do you know God’s blessings in Jesus Christ? Are you a light to others? Do you know the light of salvation, God’s mercy and compassion and faithfulness in Jesus, your guilt lifted away, your rebellion passed over, your sin crushed underfoot and hurled into the depths of the sea? Like the Psalmist can you say, ‘1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? (Ps 27:1a)’ Amen.

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