Archive for the ‘Micah’ Category

The Prophet Micah’s Lament: Hermits Can Never Please the Lord

July 18, 2011 Comments off

Continuing in the study through Micah with S. Lewis Johnson, the beginning of Micah 7 contains a lament:  verses 1 through 6.

About 1/3 of the Psalms are laments, as also shown in the Psalms chart in the MacArthur Bible Commentary, which lists 49 Psalms in this category.

From the text in Micah, we can learn the following.  A lament has two purposes:

  1. It functions as a prayer: the one who writes the lament unfolds his own heart’s burden in his role as a mediator.
  2. It makes plain the divine view of their corruption, of what God thinks about the condition of the land — which     was not at all good towards this apostate nation.

Micah 7:2 tells us that “​​The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind.”  In this terrible society, honest and upright men don’t exist: men who meet the requirements of the things that the Lord required (reference Micah 6:6-8).  Another observation to make here, is that hermits can never please the Lord, hermits can never do the will of God.  In S. Lewis Johnson’s words:

By the way, this lets us know that hermits never can do the will of God.  Isolation never would produce moral and social concern in fruit.  So the hermit is a kind of picture of a spiritual man that the Bible condemns.  The Bible expects a spiritual man not to be a man of isolation, but a man of biblical separation.  That is a holy man in the midst of unholy people doing the will of God, such as our Lord.  Hermits, therefore, are individuals who cannot, by virtue of their very manner of life, cannot please the Lord.

Verse 6 is a passage that became popular among Jews in the apocalyptic literature during the inter-testamental time.  Jesus also quotes this verse, in Matthew 10:35-36

(Micah 7:6)  ​​​​​​​​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 description of families will be true in the Tribulation era, the main focus of this passage.  Yet it has application to some past time periods as well, of people living in particularly harsh situations:  for instance the Communist Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Germany, societies where people could not openly speak their beliefs even in their own home, with their own family.  I think of a scene from an old movie, The Counterfeit Traitor, that portrays such at least politically: a father living in Nazi Germany is having secret meetings with William Holden’s character (an Ally spy pretending to be a Nazi), but the young son is committed to the Nazi cause and stirs up trouble.  To a certain extent even believers married to unbelievers, or married to professed believers who nonetheless oppose certain truths set forth in scripture, experience this too, and often to keep peace in the house must follow the words of Micah 7:5, “guard the doors of your mouth from her (or him) who lies in your arms.”

In verse 7 the tone changes, from pessimism to optimism, as Micah affirms his hope, that he looks to the Lord, the God of his salvation, the God who will hear him.  Micah’s response is how we all should end our laments, in looking to our God, in eagerly awaiting His coming and His Messianic Kingdom.

The Prophet Micah and The Remnant

July 14, 2011 Comments off

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Micah series, a look at Micah 5 and the description of the remnant.

The very word “remnant” suggests the tragedy of apostasy. So many are gone, only a few left.  Yet after apostasy, the very fact of a remnant also suggests the hope of a return.  God’s electing purpose continues.  In Micah 5 it is further called “the remnant of Jacob” and so we think of the weakness of the man Jacob, but also of the great covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The book of Micah contains three prophecies concerning the remnant:

  • Micah 2:12-13 — a prophecy of being taken into exile
  • Micah 4:6-7 — rescued and transformed, safe from attacks,  and
  • Micah 5:7-9  — the remnant a blessing to the nations

In Micah 5:7-8, the remnant “in the midst of many peoples” is described in two comparisons that may not mean much to us in modern city life, yet which had great meaning to the people of Micah’s day.  In verse 7, the remnant will be “like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass.”  In verse 8 the remnant is “like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep.”

We don’t especially think of dew as all that important, but it turns out to be very significant for Israel, a rather dry and arid place.  Israel has a rainy season and a dry season, and the dry season lasts from spring until fall.  The crops can only grow there because of the night-time breezes that come in from the Mediterranean Sea, which comes over and pours a very thick dew onto the land during the night, when the land is cool and thus benefits from dew.

Dew is also mentioned a few other places in the Old Testament.  The story of Gideon and the fleece is the best known one, in which Gideon gains assurance from the Lord through signs from God:  dew on all the ground except the fleece, and then dew only on the fleece and not the ground.  Even earlier, though, comes Genesis 27:28 — Isaac’s blessing to Jacob includes the line “​​​May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.”

Showers further remind us of God’s providence and blessing.  We cannot make it rain.  The dew and the showers have their source in the Lord and His sovereign grace.

Now to verse 8, the lion and young lion:  whereas dew is a silent blessing of the Lord God, a lion suggests irresistible power.  Israel will be the aggressor among the nations, and the other nations like the weak beasts of the forest.  For the lion theme we can also look back to Genesis 49:9, Jacob’s final words to his sons:

​​​​​Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?

Numbers 23 and 24, Baalam’s prophecies, also speak of God’s people Israel as a lion.

  • Numbers 23:24  ​​​​​​​​Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself;
  • Numbers 24:9 — ​​​​​​​​He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.”

Within the lion theme, and this “blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” statement in Numbers, we again find reference to the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Micah 5:8 concludes with “none to deliver” and here we see the power of the remnant of Jacob, as the representative of the Lord God upon the earth.  Verse 9 concludes with a command, “Thy hand be lifted up over your adversaries, thy enemies be cut off.”

In the prophecy of Micah we again see the recurring theme of God’s covenant with Abraham and His covenant people Israel, and we eagerly await the day when this prophecy, part of all the prophetic word, comes to fulfillment in our Lord’s Second Coming and the restoration of Israel.

Insights From The Prophet Micah

July 4, 2011 Comments off

From my recent study through Micah with S. Lewis Johnson, here are some highlights from Micah chapters 4 and 5.

Three Prophecies of Judgment Followed By Great Blessing
In Micah 4:9-10, then Micah 4:11-13 and Micah 5:1-6 we see a set of three prophecies, all of which begin with judgment, but end with a promise of future blessing.  Each of these sets begins with the word “now”:

  • 1st prophecy:  ​​​​​​​Now why do you cry aloud? ….   There you shall be rescued;  there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
  • 2nd prophecy:  ​​​​​​​​Now many nations are assembled against you …  you shall beat in pieces many peoples; and shall devote their gain to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.
  •  3rd prophecy:  Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; … and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.

As with all Bible study, looking at different translations shows some of the variations in the possible meaning.  Micah 5:1 could refer to gathering troops (the translation in KJV and ESV), but could mean “gash yourselves” (HCSB: you slash yourself in grief) or “now you are gashing yourselves, O daughter of troops,” in which gashing is a reference to mourning practices for the dead, in the manner of the heathens (reference 1 Kings 18: the Baal worshippers were slashing themselves while Elijah mocked).

The Preciseness of Bible Prophecies
The background setting for Micah 5:1 is the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians in Hezekiah’s day.  Then verse 2 shows a great contrast, with the well-known prophecy concerning Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

The Bible is so precise in its prophecies, so very unlike human prophets.  Even the mention of Bethlehem leaves no room for doubt.  Micah could have simply said “Bethlehem” and left open the possible interpretation to include the other Bethlehem in Israel: one in the north, in Zebulun’s inheritance (reference Joshua 19:15).  Instead, we know that it can only mean Bethlehem Ephrathah, the Bethlehem in the south near Jerusalem.

The Only Person Who Was Born A King
Also from this text and its citation in Matthew 2:  where is He who was born king of the Jews?  Human kings are never born as such.  They may be born a prince, such as the Prince of Wales, but never a king.  In some interesting trivia from actual history, I recall that a few have been declared kings from a very early age.  In Judah’s history, Joash and Josiah became kings as children of only seven and eight years of age.  From secular history, Henry VI of England was a king at only 8 months of age when his father Henry V died.  One human king in history was declared a king at birth, Alfonso XIII of Spain, whose father died before he was born.  But such is clearly not the norm for human rulers — our Lord Jesus Christ alone is the only one who was truly born a king.

Finding the Road to Christ: A Sermon Example

June 6, 2011 Comments off

As a follow-up to my last post, The Proper Way to “Find Christ in the Text,” consider the following instance where a preacher demonstrates a sermon technique he had previously mentioned.

I noticed this in S. Lewis Johnson’s message on Micah 4:1-5.  As we’re reading along in Micah, chapter 3 ends on a very rough note:  wickedness from Israel’s rulers, and then pronouncement of judgment at the very end:  Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Then Micah 4 starts on a very positive note, with great blessings to come upon Zion, and the Lord ruling from Jerusalem.  Herein is the “road to Christ”:  Johnson asks how it can be, that judgment comes in Micah 3 but that blessings will come upon them in the latter days?  The answer is found in the redemptive work of the cross, Christ’s crucifixion still hundreds of years future from Micah’s day.  We could also refer to it as God’s working out of the New Covenant, that third great covenant (after the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants) which provided the means for forgiveness and atonement.  The road to Christ is there, not explicitly but as the answer to that very real question of how God can forgive sinners who deserve judgment, and put guilty sinners in heaven.  The next few verses of Micah go on to describe what Christ will do at His Second Coming, when He rules from Jerusalem as the true judge — again in contrast with the wicked men who judged Israel in Micah’s day.

How much more satisfying, and true to the word of God, is this “road to Christ” than the amillennialist’s spiritualizing attempt at “finding Christ” in Micah 4.  The typical approach there is to ignore the context of Micah 3 and Micah 4, then jump into the great words in Micah 4 and simply say that it refers to the wonderful church age we live in, a picture of the gospel going forth triumphantly and bringing people into the kingdom.  Sure that’s a way to “find Christ” — but by deceitful twisting of God’s word, not dealing with the details of the text — in both Micah 3 and 4 — and the meanings of words.