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Micah 4:1-5: Living in Light of the Future Reign of God Print E-mail
Micah
Sunday, 10 December 2006

When I was growing up (and even now on occasion), I used to love trying to swim as far as I could in one breath.  There was a particular public pool at the Paris Landing State Park that we always went to.  It was a rather large pool with a high dive and all the works.  Every time I went swimming there, I would start on one side of the pool and try to swim to the other side.  This story might be more impressive if I knew the exact distance, but all I remember is that it seemed like a long way for me.  Before I started I would take in a number of deep breaths and prepare my mind for resisting the temptation to come up for air.  Then I would get one final breath and struggle for the best kick off the wall I could get.  At first it seemed easy, but slowly and surely my body would begin to whisper: we need air.  Soon the whisper would turn into a scream and just about the time I was about to give in, I would catch a glimpse of the other side.  This was my second wind, if you will.  I would block out everything and just focus on that wall.  Seeing my goal was enough to get me through the last part of the swim.

Seeing the goal is so often a good motivation for us to continue a hard task in our everyday lives.  The same can be said, on a much larger scale, of the entire Christian life.  We fight and struggle and battle on this side of heaven, but the regular glimpses of what is to come often serve as encouragement when the war gets difficult.  Again and again, the biblical writers remind us of the future victory and reign of our God to encourage us in our current struggles.  They call us to fix our eyes on the prize and to run the race with endurance, knowing that our present struggles are not worthy of even comparing to the future glory (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and Philippians 3:12-16). 

Last week, we looked at Micah’s difficult message of condemnation towards the current leadership in Judah, a message that ended with the plowing of Zion and Jerusalem as a heap of ruins (see Micah 3:11-12).  We know that this message brought repentance in Judah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19), but we also know that future leaders would not repent and that Judah would indeed be judged and taken into exile by the Babylonians.  Yet, in Micah 4, the prophet changes the focus from judgment in Judah to the exaltation of Mt. Zion.  Micah reminds his readers of the hope that we have in the future reign of God.  As we look at this passage together this morning, I want to ask and answer 3 questions that arise from the text:

First, when are the ‘latter days’ to which Micah refers (v. 1a)?

In order to understand this passage, we have to try and understand when what is promised will take place.  Look at verse 1a with me.  Of course, the ‘when question’ is always difficult in the prophetic writings.  There are a number of options as to when this prophecy will come true.  First, it could simply be a reference to Israel’s return from the Exile, which we read of in Ezra and Nehemiah.  Second, it could refer to the time of Christ and the current age, or what some call the ‘Messianic Age’ that we are currently living in.  Another option could be the age to come, or the Future Age.  Of course, the question is to which one is Micah referring in verse 1a?

Needless to say, this is not all that easy to answer, but I think the most faithful answer is to see it as a reference to a combination of options two and three above.  Granted, it could be a reference to Israel’s return from exile, but as we will see, the description does not really fit this time.  Rather, the time of Christ, or the Messianic Age, seems to fit the context better.  It is Christ who will reign from heavenly Mt. Zion (see Hebrews 12:18-29) and who will draw all the nations to Himself (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Revelation 7:9-10).  Thus, the fulfillment of this prophecy began with the coming of Christ and will ultimately be realized at His return, even as we are celebrating this time of year.  The ‘latter days’ refer to the Messianic Age that Christ ushered in at His first Advent and will bring to completion at His second Advent.1   We will see this more clearly as we answer our second question this morning.

Second, what will characterize these days (v. 1b-4)?

Micah goes on to describe these ‘latter days’ in this passage.  Of course, it is from his description of these latter days that we are better able to discern when they will actually take place.  Micah’s description of these days can be summarized by two statements:

First, these days will be characterized by the obedience of the nations.  Look at verses 1b-2.  The nations will be drawn to the heavenly Mt. Zion and will long to be obedient to the Word of God.  When Christ tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations, I believe we are seeing the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.  The nations will be drawn to Mt. Zion by the glorious good news of Christ, revealed through the very Word of God.  Micah foresees a time with the nations will be obedient to Yahweh and even now that is coming true as the gospel proceeds to the nations.  When Christ returns and men are gathered from every tongue, tribe, and nation around the throne of God to worship, then this passage will be ultimately fulfilled (see Revelation 7:9-10).

Second, these days will be characterized by peace and prosperity under God’s reign.  Look at verses 3 and 4.  In contrast to the horrible leadership in Judah, Micah speaks of a time when the Lord will rule with justice and equity.  His rule will be so great that there will no longer be a need for weapons of warfare.  Rather, these weapons can be used to sow and reap.  The instruments that were once used to kill and destroy will then be used to live and prosper.  This is not Micah advocating the health/wealth gospel as much as it is his looking forward to the time will God’s reign will not be rebelled against on the earth.  This day of rest is yet to come.  However, we know from the teaching of the New Testament that this day will come at the return of Christ.  Christ will gather the nations and will reign over them with justice as they enjoy peace and prosperity under His reign.

At this point, you may be thinking: ‘Well that sounds great, obedience of the nations and peace and prosperity, but what good did that do the faithful living in Judah when Micah was writing?’  Or even, ‘What good does that do us?’  These thoughts lead to our third questions this morning.

Third, what should our present response be (v. 5)?

After writing of these ‘latter days’ in verses 1-4, he returns his attention to his current readers in verse 5.  Look at that verse with me.  Micah recognizes that the nations are not walking in obedience to the Lord at the time of his writing.  He knows that they will continue in rebellion until the set time.  Thus, they will continue to walk each in the name of its god. 

Yet, what about the faithful in Judah?  How are they to walk?  Likewise, what about those who long to be faithful to God in our day?  How are they to walk?  Micah answers in the second part of verse 5.  He writes: but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.  Thus, Micah continues to call his readers, including us, to walk in obedience to the Lord and to bring Him glory with all that we do.  What is our hope and motivation in such obedience?  It is nothing short of the coming reign of God.  Because we know that God will reign in the end, then we should joyfully submit our lives in obedience to Him now, no matter what it may cost us.  The future reign of God should motivate us to obedience even now.

When I was finishing seminary, I remember the struggle of the last semester.  I was somewhat tired of taking classes, tired of reading books, tired of writing papers, and tired of studying for tests.  Yet, just when I was about as exhausted as I could get, I would remember one thing: graduation.  As I contemplated the upcoming graduation, planning the trip, making sure everything was in order, it had a great impact even on the way I approached my classes.  There was more purpose and more enjoyment.  Thus, the thought of graduation had a positive impact on my day to day activities.  This should be how the future reign of God impacts our day to day living.  As we consider all that Micah has told us, and all that the New Testament teaches us about Christ’s return, we should approach our obedience to God with great hope and motivation.

To use a more biblical analogy, I often think of my engagement to Glenna.  When we set the date for our wedding, I must say that I walked with more confidence and hope.  One of the biggest questions of my life at that point, namely who will I marry, was now answered.  Granted, it was not always easy, but we did all we could to keep our eyes focused on the coming day.  As Christians, as those who believe that Christ will return to reign, we should keep our eyes focused on the Coming Day.  It is easy to get distracted by all that is going on around us, to be discouraged by the triumph of evil and injustice, to be depressed by our current circumstances.  But Micah writes to encourage us, to remind us of the hope we have, to give us a glimpse of the future as a motivation for the present.

It is appropriate for us to look at such a passage during our current celebration of Advent.  As we said before, our celebration of the first Advent of Christ is a celebration of the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Likewise, as we look to the second Advent of Christ, we are looking to the future fulfillment.  What Micah saw from a distance, we now, living after the life of Christ, see more clearly.  Not only do we know that God is going to reign, we have seen the defeat of all His enemies at Calvary.  Not only do we know that all the nations will come to Mt. Zion to worship, we have heard and believed in the message that will draw them in, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, through belief in Christ, we are a part of the ingathering of the nations.  All of this should serve to motivate us in our present obedience to God.  His future reign should encourage us as we labor to live in obedience to Him today.  May we indeed walk in the name of the Lord our God until that Day.  Amen.

1 Bruce Waltke in The Minor Prophets, vol. 2, ed. by Thomas Edward McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 679.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 17 December 2006 )

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