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Micah 1: Reasons to Lament and Wail Print E-mail
Sunday, 19 November 2006

Although some might say that the Church in America is enjoying a time of great prosperity, others, including myself, would be inclined to disagree.  Let me offer just two examples of why I would disagree.

First, many of you have heard by now of the scandal surrounding the ministry of Ted Haggard.  Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a 14,000 member mega-church, and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.  Recently, Haggard admitted to having sexual relations with a male escort and to struggling with homosexuality for years.  Although he wrote an honest letter of repentance to his Church and is seemingly committed to his wife and family, his sin has resulted in open critiques of the Church and of Christianity in general.

Second, this week I was directed to an article written by Bart Campolo, son of Tony Campolo, entitled ďThe Limits of Godís Grace.Ē  In trying to respond to difficult situations that he has faced in ministry Campolo writes:

Perhaps, as many believe, all who die without confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior go to Hell to suffer forever.  Most important of all, perhaps Godís sovereignty is such that although God could indeed prevent little girls from being raped, God is no less just or merciful when they are raped, and those children and we who love them should  uncritically give God our thanks and praise in any case.  My response is simple: I refuse to believe any of that.  For me to do otherwise would be to despair.

Later in the article he goes on to say:

I donít hate God because I donít believe God is fully in control of this world yet.  Heck,  God is not fully in control of me yet, even when I want God to be óso how could I  possibly believe that God is making all the bad stuff happen out there in the streets?  I  donít hate God because I believe God is always doing the best God can within the limits of human freedom, which even God cannot escape.1

Although these are two totally separate examples, nevertheless, it is hard for me to conclude that all is well in the Church today.  Without even mentioning so many other issues facing the Church, we are forced to address this question: How are we to respond?  How do we respond to open sin among our leaders and professing Christians who deny the necessity to believe in Christ to be saved from Hell?  Needless to say, this question cannot be fully answered in one sermon (especially one sermon by the current preacher).  Yet, it should be said that the book of Micah (and the other prophets as well) are a good place to start. 

Background to Micah: the situation in Judah (and Israel) (v. 1).

Look again at verse 1.  Micah begins his book by telling us that he is ministering during the reign of three different Kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  The reign of these kings is recorded for us in 2 Kings 15:32-20:21.  We see in this material that Jotham and Hezekiah both try to follow the Lord during their reigns, while Ahaz did not.  We also see that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was defeated during the ministry of Micah around 722 b.c. (see 2 Kings 17:6-23), an event that is alluded to in our passage this morning (v. 2-7).  We are also told that during Hezekiahís reign, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, captured many cities in Judah and even threatened Jerusalem but was defeated by the Lord (2 Kings 18-19), another event which is foretold in our passage this morning (v. 10-16).

Yet, on the surface, the days of Micahís ministry were filled with great prosperity in Judah.  Things seemed to be going well.  Many in Judah were enjoying great wealth and before the rise of Assyria, both Kingdoms were doing well.  It is into this situation of health and wealth that Micah prophesies.  He criticizes the leaders and the wealthy in Judah and warns of the coming judgment of God.  As with the other prophets, he calls Judah to repent for breaking the covenant and worshipping false gods.  Although things seem good on the surface, Micah knows that God will judge His people if they fail to repent.  He writes of this coming judgment in chapter 1.  As we look at this chapter (and this book) together, we cannot help but see the similarities in our own day.  We continue to struggle with open rebellion.  We continue to worship other gods.  We continue to think that everything is ok.  So, how does Micah teach us to respond?

First, we must remember that God never takes sin (particularly idolatry) lightly (v. 2-7).

Micah calls the nations to witness Godís judgment against his people.  Look at verses 2-5.  The Lord is coming from His holy Temple to judge His people.  Why is doing this?  Verse 5 tells us that God is coming to judge because of the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel.  Samaria, which is the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, is filled with transgressions as is Jerusalem, which is the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  In verses 6-7 we read of what God will do in Israel.  Look at those verses with me. 

In verse 7 we see that Samariaís carved images shall be beaten to pieces.  Since the time of their first King, Jeroboam, Israel had been filled with idolatry (see 2 Kings 17:21-23).  They had set up false gods to worship and practiced prostitution in their worship of these gods.  They had abandoned the God who had saved them out of Egypt, who delivered them into the Promised Land, and who had covenanted with them through their forefathers.  Sure they acknowledged Him and probably even referred to Him as God.  But they did not keep the covenant.  They did not worship Him alone or in the ways that He prescribed.  Thus, they became idolaters.

We too, as New Testament believers in Christ, must be careful lest we fall into the sin of idolatry.  You may respond: ĎOh, William, I will never bow down to a little idol.í  And to some degree I agree with you, you will probably never worship at a wooden statue.  Yet, although different in form, idolatry is still alive and well today.  Just consider again what Bart Campolo said.  He is committed to a god that he is comfortable with, a god of compassion, a god of forgiveness, and a god who would not send someone to Hell for simply rejecting Christ.  The problem is that such a god does not exist, he even confesses as much in the article.  Here is what I mean: do you believe what the Bible says about God or have you formed God after your own image.  If you have rejected what the Bible says about God, then you have fallen into idolatry.  We must do all that we can to avoid such sin in our lives and doctrine.

Second, we must be burdened by sin (especially among Godís people) (v. 8-16).

It was very convicting to me this week to notice that Micah preaches of Godís judgment against His people while weeping.  Look at verses 8-9.  Micah knows that the Northern Kingdom is not the only Kingdom guilty of idolatry and transgression against the covenant.  He knows that Judah will face judgment for her sins as well (see v. 10-16).  Yet, his response is very humbling.  He is broken over the coming judgment.  He mourns the fact that they have forsaken God.  As a minister, his words are convicting.  How often do I lament and wail over the sins of Godís people?  How often do I lament and wail for my own sins, my own lack of faithful leadership?

Going on in verses 10-16, Micah describes different cities of Judah using language of lamentation and mourning.  Look at those verses with me.  This whole section is a call for Judah to mourn over their sins.  Although it is difficult to see in English, Micah uses a number of plays on words when describing the cities.  For example, in verse 10 he writes of the city of Beth-le-aphrah, which translated means ĎHouse of dust,í and tells them to roll yourselves in the dust.  It is not exact with each city, but Micah continues to do this as he calls Judah to mourn.  Also, Micah begins by stating: Tell it not in Gath, which is a reference to Davidís instruction to lament when Saul and his sons were defeated (see 2 Samuel 1:20).  Micah also mentions the city of Adullam in verse 15, which is the place where David hid himself when hiding from his enemies, a fate that now the leaders of Israel would share.  All this is meant to grab the attention of the original readers, or listeners, and call them to mourn over the sins of Judah.

With Micah, we need to be burdened by sin.  The two examples that we mentioned to begin the sermon should burden us.  We should come before God with lamenting and wailing.  We should pray that these brothers would truly repent and follow after Christ.  In fact, we should respond this way whenever we see a brother or a sister (or one who claims to be) struggling with sin and idolatry.  We should be burdened enough to speak the truth in love to them.  Not only that, but as we recognize sin in our lives, we should humbled by the fact that it was our sin that made the cross necessary.  To take our sin lightly is to take Jesusí death and resurrection lightly, a mistake we dare not make.  Rather, we should be burdened by the sin of others and our own.

We began by asking the question of how do we respond to the current difficulties facing Godís people.  As he will continue to do, Micah gives us some important lessons in this first chapter.  First, we must avoid idolatry.  We must believe in the God who has revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture.  We must believe in His Son, who was sent to die on a cross for our sins and redeem us from the folly of self-exaltation.  We cannot make God into our image and pretend that He will not judge all of those outside of Christ. 

Hell, eternal punishment under the wrath of God, is not a Ďcomfortableí doctrine.  It was never meant to be.  Rather, it shows us the glorious holiness of our God and the horrible rebellion of humanity.  Yes, we should be burdened by such a truth.  We should be burdened by the sin and rebellion we see all around us, even the sin we see in ourselves, which is our second response.  We should be so burdened that we cannot help but proclaim the Good News, namely that God will judge all sin, but has already judged the sins of those who have repented and believed in Christ, by pouring out His judgment on His Son.  May we respond to the difficulties we face with faithfulness to the Good News of Christ.  Amen.

1 Both Campolo quotes taken from the article found here

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 02 December 2006 )

User Comments

Wow, they took the Compolo article off of their website! Click on the link again to read why they did it.

Posted by Isaac, on 12/15/2006 at 15:12

Hey, Isaac. I noticed that. I thought it was a responsible move on the part of Youth Specialties.

Posted by Barry, whose homepage is here on 12/15/2006 at 18:07

They had gotten so much trouble for posting it that they decided to remove it, I agree with Barry, responsible move on their part.

Posted by William, on 12/18/2006 at 12:08

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