Who Is a God Like You?
Unfortunately, we had technical difficulties and we were unable to record this sermon. Alternatively, you can reference the notes below. Enjoy!
“Who Is a God Like You?”
The prophet Micah wrote to the people of God during very hard days—they were awaiting foreign invasion.
If people agree on anything today, it’s that these are hard days—foreign invasion has many faces. Like Judah and Israel back then, we need a word from on High that turns our attention to where it needs to be in days like these. Micah does just this in amazingly relevant ways. Let’s see how.
What we’ve seen so far in Micah is that, in his first oracle (cc.1-2), just as Israel will be sent into exile in Assyria for their established pattern of failure to live according to their covenant relationship with God, so will Judah eventually be sent off to Babylon. But God promises to send a Shepherd/ King, Who is also the Lord, to lead a remnant of the faithful into a wholly new life under His reign.
In his second oracle (cc.3-5), Israel’s leaders are addressed by God for leading His people astray. But then He promises that Jerusalem will be lifted up high among the nations, and people will flood in from everywhere to learn what it means to walk with God. And though they are now troubled by threats of siege and invasion, this Shepherd/King/Lord, Who will come from Bethlehem, will rule them in peace and safety, delivering them from enemy nations, but also enemies that reside in their own hearts.
Today we turn our attention to Micah’s third oracle (cc.6-7), where God accuses His people in court, asking why they have chosen not to honor the covenant. He assures them of coming judgment, and Micah grieves the evil state of God’s people. But the Lord again promises to restore a remnant and establish them as great among the nations. So Micah finishes by marveling at the steadfast love and faithfulness and forgiveness of God, even in hard days. Let’s walk through cc.6-7 in three steps.
God Moves Against His People – 6:1-16
C.6 opens with God Himself accusing His people in court, calling creation to bear witness against them. It’s been there all along, watching. (1) Hear what the Lord says: Micah writes. Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. (2) Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.
So, what will He say? (3) O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? This sounds like Malachi (1:13) where God is (weary) of His people (2:17) and they are (weary) of Him. Here He’s asking: What burden have I placed on you? Answer me. (4) For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, good and faithful leaders. 5 O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.
Near the end of Israel’s forty years of wandering in the desert after their deliverance from Egypt, as they were camping at Shittim on the plains of Moab, Balak king of Moab tried to commission Balaam the son of Beor, a sort of free-agent prophet, to put a curse on Israel. Balak was terrified of them not only because of the hurt they had just put on Sihon the king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashaan (Num.21:21-35), but also because they were so many. Num.22:5 … They cover the face of the earth, Balak said, and they are dwelling opposite me.
God is reminding His people here that He was faithful to them and protected them through that whole journey, from their deliverance out of Egypt to their entering the Promise Land. Shittim to Gilgal takes them from their protection against Balak and Balaam, through their crossing of the Jordan, and their conquest of Jericho, which was launched from Gilgal (McComiskey 539). God is reminding them of these things so (5) … that (they) may know/remember the righteous acts of the Lord.
But they respond with a disturbing tone of self-assured annoyance. (6) With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? A single voice speaking for the nation, Israel is essentially asking: God, what more do you want from me? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Do you want more sacrifices? (7) Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? It’s like God is cutting in on their possessions! How many of our rams are you going to require, God? How much of our oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Do you want me to sacrifice my children? This is despicable. God’s Law forbids child sacrifice. (Lev.18:21) What do you want from me, God?
And God replies. He answers their dramatic hyperbole with simple, gracious clarity. (8) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? I want you to live according to the covenant you promised to obey. I want you to honor Me by honoring My Word. I want you to love Me with your whole heart such that you can’t help but love your neighbor as yourself. I want you to act like the covenant people of God you claim to be.
And it’s important to note that this whole courtroom dialogue doesn’t aim at conviction and incarceration. It doesn’t aim at punishment. It aims at restoration. (Waltke 210) God is not interested zapping His people. He loves them and is pursuing genuine relationship with them.
Judgment must fall. But it doesn’t fall with vindictive fury. It falls as discipline from a loving Father who continually poses the question: Can I let this go unaddressed? (10) Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? (11) Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights—a merchant who is cheating his needy customers? No, I can’t, says the Lord. (12) Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. (13)Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. A just and loving God must punish sin! And the remainder of c.6 (14-16) describes how He’ll do it.
Micah Laments God’s People – 7:1-7
But the prophet still grieves the whole situation. Micah laments the broken state of God’s people (7:1-7). He feels like a grape farmer who goes out to his vines when they should be ripe and hanging with fruit (1) only to find that the grapes have been stolen by vandals, and also the figs from his trees.
That’s what it’s like when (2) the godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. This world thinks they would be better off without the righteous man, in all his narrow-minded bigotry. And righteous ones often tire of the opposition they feel in this world, so they just fold in with it, choosing to live lives barely distinguishable from their thoroughly secular neighbors. But that is not the way it’s supposed to be. Thus, Micah laments. (4) The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge, he says. … And look how bad it gets: (5) Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; be careful what you say even to your wife! God’s people are so far away from a lifestyle of covenant faithfulness that those who are seeking to be faithful can’t even trust their own family. And here Jesus Himself references Micah (Luk.12:53) as He illustrates how the gospel will divide families—those who believe from those who don’t: (6) for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. This is a tragic development, but unavoidable.
So, what should Micah do? He does the only thing faithful believers in God can do in hard days. 7 But as for me, he writes, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Do you hear that? In days when wickedness abounds, and it often seems like you can’t even tell the difference between the unrighteous and those who profess to be righteous, what do we do? We look to the Lord. We wait for the God of (our) salvation. We call out to Him, confident that He will hear (us). And thus we also know that He will answer (cf. 1Jo.5:14-15).
A Hymn of Praise to a Forgiving God – 7:8-20
When Micah does this, he lands right where he should. He breaks out into a hymn of praise, with four stanzas (Waltke 221). First (8-10), he speaks in first person as Lady Jerusalem. She admits her sin and receives God’s discipline as His just response: (9) I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him…. But He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. I will receive God’s discipline. But then He’ll deliver me.
Second (11-13), restored to covenant obedience, Jerusalem will be the place where the righteous remnant gathers from around the world—(12) … from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the River, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. (13) But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds.
Third (14-17), Micah opens with prayer, seeking God to (14) shepherd (His) people with (His) staff…, just as He did when He brought them up out of the land of Egypt (15). Then, again, as we saw back in vv.8-10, God will judge their enemies (16-17a), and they will fear Him (17b).
Fourth, Micah’s name means who is like Yahweh? And he artfully employs his name as his praise as his prophecy reaches a climax (18-20). (18) Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? Do we realize how amazing it is to discover that a just God also (pardons) iniquity and (passes) over transgression? That just seems impossible! You can’t be just if you (pass) over sin! But this God (pardons) sin yet remains just! How? (18) … He does not retain his anger forever, so we know sin matters to Him. But He still (pardons). Why? Because he delights in steadfast love! That’s who He is! (cf. Exo.34:6-7) (19) He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. And to God: You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (20) You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. Micah is saying that God will keep His promise to Abraham even though His people are headed into some very hard days.
And that is precisely why we continue looking to the Lord our God when the days grow hard. It’s because the greatest hardship in our day does not come out of Washington DC, or the struggle to know whom we should send there. The hardness of the day is not primarily a result of the economy—either global recession, or too much month left at the end of our money personally. The hardness of the days is not first and foremost determined by poor health or job dissatisfaction or personal struggles with others or with self. The hardness of our days comes pretty much from the same source it did in Micah’s day, which is what makes his prophecy so relevant. It flows from the sinfulness of our own hearts—our unceasing desire to do what we want to do in this world, then hold God accountable for whatever goes wrong. Whether we outright accuse Him of holding out on us, or just wander away from Him because we don’t sense that He cares about what happens to us, or answers when we ask for things.
Three Reminders from Micah, even for the hardest days: first, obey God (6:8). (8) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? The word behind kindness (sometimes mercy) is hesed—God’s steadfast love. Love His steadfast love!
Second, trust God (7:7). (7) But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. So, look to the Lord. Wait for Him. And know He will answer (7:7).
Third, remember God (7:18-20). Remember that he (has) not (retained) his anger forever. Remember that he (has delighted) in steadfast love. Remember how he (has had) compassion on us, and tread our iniquities underfoot and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Remember how (he has shown) his faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham by blessing all the nations of the earth through Jesus, Abraham’s Seed. Don’t ever forget!
Micah points us to Jesus, God’s promised Shepherd/King/Lord, to carry us through the very hardest of days.