Micah was a prophet in the 8th century B.C. By this point in their history God's people, the Israelites, had split into two different kingdoms. Israel in the North, with its capital Samaria. And Judah in the South with its capital Jerusalem.
So the first question we have to ask is…Why are we still reading the book of Micah today? Why are we going to spend the next three weeks looking at what some guy called Micah, who came from a place called Moresheth, said to two groups of people living 1000s of years ago and 100s of miles from here? Why should we care today about what God's judgment was on those people back then?
Well… let me ask you another question. What's your favourite film? Have a think for a minute…What's your favourite film of all time? If, over tea after the service, you told me what your favourite film is, well then, I would learn something about that film. Your judgment on that film tells me that (in your opinion) it's a wonderful film. But it also tells me something about you, doesn't it?
And that's why we're going to be looking at the book of Micah over the next few weeks. God's judgment on the people living in Israel and Judah, 1000s of years ago and 100s of miles away, tells us something about what those people were like back then. But more than that it tells us something about God. The judge. And that's why Micah is so important, because God is not only the judge of those people back then. One day he will be the judge of me and you.
The Lord is so powerful that when he comes down even the mountains will melt away. It's an amazing picture of how great and powerful God is. But it's also a terrifying picture, because God has come to judge. And in v6 we're told what will happen to the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and her capital city, Samaria. God is going to completely destroy the Northern kingdom, and in v7 we're told why. It's because of her idolatry.
The people in the Northern kingdom worshipped idols.They had built temples to pagan gods, where they brought their gifts and even use prostitutes in their acts of worship. And so God says, he is going to come and destroy them.
And things aren't going to be much better for the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God wasn't just going to wipe out Israel in the North, he was also going to punish Judah in the South. And to make his point, in vv 10-15, Micah takes the names of some of the cites in Judah, and uses them to describe what will happen to them in God's judgment. The name 'Gath' (if you look at the footnote) sounds like the Hebrew for 'Tell', and the name 'Beth Ophrah' means 'house of dust'. So in v10 Micah says something like this…
There'll be nothing to shout about, in Shout town (Gath)…The people living in the House of Dust (Beth Ophrah) will be kicked in the dust…
There'll be nothing pleasant in Pleasantville (Shaphir)…You guys living in Come out (Zaanan), you won't be able to get out!
The pain will taste bad, for those living in Bitter,
that's Maroth in v12.
The inhabitants of Deception will find themselves deceived,
that's Aczib in v14.
It all sounds a bit strange to us today, but it would be like Micah saying…
"People in Low Fell, will come to know Hell."
"There will be Bedlam, for those living in Bensham"
"Residents of Windy Nook will be blown away."
"Judgment is falling on the people of Felling."
It is a terrifying message that Micah is bringing to the people in the Northern and Southern kingdoms isn't it?
He's warning them that judgment was coming. He's telling them that they are in…
1) Real Danger
These were the Jews, the descendants of Abraham.
They were God's chosen people, who could trace their families all the way back to when God had given Moses the Law on Mt Sinai. The problem was, they didn't keep that law anymore. Now God's law and the ten commandments, well… They were just something people used to believe in. Maybe a few grandparents still took all that stuff seriously. But no-one really believed it, not in modern Israel and cosmopolitan Judah. Maybe they still went through the motions of religion… Maybe the boys were still circumcised… Perhaps they kept some of the traditions and went to the temple once or twice a year… But there was no real meaning behind it all. And all that talk of obeying the law and judgment for disobedience, no-one really believed that did they?
(Is this starting to sound familiar?)
And into that world Micah the prophet came and he said to the people, 'Judgment is coming, and there is Real Danger.' And just a few years later judgment did come…just as Micah said it would. Late in the 8th century B.C. the Assyrian army invaded. And between 727 B.C. and 722 B.C. they wiped out the entire nation of Israel in the North. And then they turned on the South. And Gath and Beth Ophrah and Shaphir and Zaanan and all those other cities were wiped out.
The Assyrians swept through Judah just as they had swept through Israel, all the way up to the gates of the city of Jerusalem. Just as Micah had said they would in v9 and v12. God was punishing these nations and these cities. But he was also punishing individual men and women.
God had seen the people as they planned their evil deeds on their beds. He knew what was is in their hearts.
And so he comes up with a plan of his own, v3, God says, "I am planning disaster against this people." And if the people who first listened to Micah were tempted to think that he was talking about other people, and not them, well then Micah had some bad news for them.
Micah's message was that God's judgment and his punishment were coming. The people in Israel and in Judah were in real danger. And just like your favourite film tells us something about that film, and something about you; So God's judgment of Israel and Judah tells us not only that the people were wicked and rebellious, it also tells us something about God. It tells us that he hates sin, and that he will punish those who reject him.
And that's important… Because we still commit the same sins today as the people did back then. In many ways our world is a lot like Israel and Judah 3000 years ago. Our cities are still full of idols. We worship the gods of money and sex and power and image and popularity…Every advertisement, every magazine, every TV program is full of them, aren't they? And if we're honest it's not just the world out there that is full of idolatry and that stands against God. Our own hearts are just the same.
And just like God's people back then, so often we dismiss the Bible, and right it off as something that maybe our parents or our grandparents believed, but that no-one really takes seriously these days. We don't long to please God, or strive to obey his laws. Instead, just like the individuals back then we covet, we long for the things that other people have.
Our thoughts and our dreams are full of jealousy and envy and anger and lust and all sorts of evil desires.
Micah may have lived 3000 years ago and 100s of miles from here, but his message is just as relevant today as it was back then. And that means that the danger that we face is just as real as well. One day God will come and he will judge each one of our lives.
One day people in Low Fell will know Hell. One day residents of Windy Nook will be blown away. One day judgment will fall on the people of Felling.
And what is our response? Well unfortunately like those living in Israel and Judah, very often we respond to the Real Danger by giving ourselves…
False Hope, 2.6-11. One response to the message of the Bible is just to try to ignore not, deny it, try to forget it. And so some of the people back in Micah's day simply tried to get him to stop prophesying. 'Shut up!' they said, 'we don't want to hear it.' Like little children who imagine that if they close their eyes and can't see what is scary, then it is no longer there. Some people give themselves false hope through denial.
The second way people give themselves false hope is in v7. These people listen to the Bible's message of judgment and punishment, and say 'Surely God won't do that!' 'Surely God will forgive me, that's his job, isn't it?' God is a God of love. "Does he do such things?"
Surely not.'I'm a Christian,' they say. 'I believe in the God of the Bible. I like Jesus, and I like what he said…'But I don't believe in Hell or judgment or all of that stuff.'Well, let me say if that's you, well then the truth is…you don't believe in the God of the Bible. And I can only assume that you've never actually read the Bible, because if you had, you'd know that Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else. Yes God is a God of love. But it's because he is a God is love that he can't just ignore sin. He can't just say to every rapist and murderer and paedophile,'That's ok, you can come into heaven anyway.'He can't ignore those things, and we wouldn't want him to. But it's not just rapists and murderers and paedophiles who have done wrong things that deserve punishment, we all do. We're all guilty of ignoring God, and running after the gods of money and career and popularity and all sorts of those things.Some people give themselves false hope by saying that judgment won't come because God is a God of love, and he wouldn't do that.But it's because God is a God of love that he must do that.
And the last bit of false hope that people often cling onto is found in v11.Micah knows that if someone came prophesying the good life, a life full of comfort and luxury, wine and beer, well then the people would love that. They would listen to that prophet and follow him. And that's the other way people give themselves false hope. We don't like what the Bible says, so we find a church, or a preacher on TV or read a book that doesn't worry too much about what the Bible actually says, but instead tells us just good things, things that make us feel good and let us go on living life our own way now.
It's easy to give yourself false hope. By refusing to listen, or by just picking the bits of the Bible we like and ignoring the rest, or by finding a church that doesn't talk about things like Hell or judgment.
We could do all of those things and give ourselves hope. But it would be false hope. Because Micah says the truth is, there is Real Danger, and False Hope won't save you when it comes. False hope is really…hope-less.
This is a hard book, isn't it? Micah shows us the reality of judgment and the danger that we're in. And he tears down all the false reasons we have for hope in the future.
This is a hard book and a hard message. And yet, just when Micah has brought us to the very lowest point, he shows us the Real Shock of Judgment, and it's this…That despite all that he has said…There is still hope.
Do you see? The real shock of judgment, is that we can be saved from it by…The Lavish love of the Lord, v. 12-13
Despite all that he has said in chapter 1 and 2 so far, now Micah tells us that there will be some who are saved. There will be some who, like sheep in a pen or like a flock in its pasture, will be kept safe. When judgment comes, some will be saved. And not just one or two, look at the end of v12, "the place will throng with people." There is Real Hope, Micah says, because someone is coming, as it says in v13, who will break through God's judgment. A king, the Lord, who will lead his people to safety. And that someone has come. And his name is Jesus.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
That's been the main message of Micah 1 and 2, but Ephesians 2 goes on...
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
And that's the message of v. 12-13.
Judgment is coming, the Danger is Real. But so is the lavish love of the Lord. We can be saved now and not fear that day on the future. Not by ignoring the Bible, or pretending that God wouldn't do such a thing, or by finding someone who says we're nice just the way we are and don't need to worry. But by trusting in Jesus and putting our faith in him.
That is the real shock of judgment.
A little while ago I was driving my car, when an orange light started shining on the dashboard. So I look up the little symbol in the manual and it said, 'When warning light shine, take your car to the garage for maintenance.'
So do you know what I did? I decided to ignore it.
A little while later my wife Gayles drove the car and when she came back she said, 'Dim have you noticed that the warning light has come on?' And I said, 'Yes, but don't worry I'm sure we can ignore it.' And as the days and weeks went by I got used to the little light, and it became easier to ignore. Sometimes I drove the car at night, and the light go annoying, I would find something to put in front of it and cover it up, so that I didn't have to look at it anymore. Then I got a letter in the post from Renault saying that they had discovered a fault in all the cars that were like ours and that I needed to have it seen to immediately. And for four weeks I ignored that letter too.
The question Micah asks us this is morning is, 'Are you doing the same thing with God's warning?' One day, judgment will come. There is real danger. It's as real now as it was back then. But the real shock of judgment, is that God still loves us, and that we can still be saved.
Despite everything we have done, the lavish love of the Lord still offers us a way to be saved. But if you keep ignoring it, then one day, it will be too late.