Saturday, November 26, 2016

1st Sunday of Advent - Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent - Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 27, 2016

Some families keep an advent calendar and countdown the days until Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. How much we would lose if we were to wake up one day to the unexpected announcement: “Christmas in 10 minutes!” The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth until it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, “In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) It is always darkest before the dawn and we discover that…

I. The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

  1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses. Yet few in our day notice the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The veil is torn in two! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!” Noticed again that Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”! John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!” (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be “enlarged” and their “joy” increased. They would rejoice again! The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!

  EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn’t it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness “instead of light because their deeds” are evil. And, in fact, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with sin. Jesus reminded us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us…

II. The Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

  1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God “as in the day of Midian's defeat” who “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor.” He did it through the One whom he will send. This would be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending his Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that he might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by his power and might the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

  EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. Each citizen’s share of this debt is horrendous. And it increases every day by $3 billion! It is a huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as his promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when Jesus remarked, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesied thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

  1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God’s government would be placed squarely on his tiny shoulders! Do you understand the significance of these words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God’s messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn’t it? But more than that, “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” Four beautiful names describe him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during his first advent, but it will come about that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” God’s promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through his Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God’s promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah’s promise that the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus related, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48 NIV) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 NIV) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The Messiah will be born both God and man!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Micah 7 - Where to put your hope!

Micah 7 - Where to put your hope!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 20, 2016

The famous line in George Lucas’ movie, A New Hope, is now a classic. Princess Leia pleas for General Kenobi’s help in their struggle against the evil Empire in a holographic message and she utters the line, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!” In the face of unspeakable evil people often cry out for a savior, someone who will come and rescue them. In Micah’s prophecy we discover that while the nation of Israel was going to be judged, there was hope.

Micah’s pronouncement of Israel’s fate was not well received by the people it was addressed to; bad news usually isn’t well received by anyone. Yet in the midst of his prophetic discourse there is hope. There was hope for Israel and for future followers of the Lord. God will rescue his people but it will not be in the way they imagined it. Let’s discover where we are to place our hope this morning.

READ: Micah 7

It is truly sad that so many people are unhappy concerning the election. It makes one wonder where in the world some folks place their hope. Perhaps their hope was misplaced. Micah teaches us that…

I. We find hope for our future! (Vv. 1-7)

What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire-- they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man’s enemies are the members of his own household. But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

  1. When Micah looked at Israel he saw corruption. He cries, “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.” His distress is like that of someone who is hungry, goes out to his fields at harvest, and finds nothing! It would be like going to the fridge and finding nothing inside! Micah realizes that “The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains.” All Micah could see was Israel’s utter corruption. There was no Godly fruit. In fact, in Israel “All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire-- they all conspire together.” Sound familiar? In fact, it seems as if Micah’s words were meant for this generation because even “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.” There was no godly leadership for Israel; they only cared for their own selfish selves. Micah reminded them that judgment was at hand: “The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion.” Things were so bad that one could not trust their friends, their spouse or family! “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” Yet no matter how awful things may seem there is hope: “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” In him we find hope for our future!

  EXAMPLE: The recent election was seen by some as a miracle. Not that the winner is necessarily godly but that the loser is so corrupt. People did not want more of the same disregard and disrespect they have experienced for the past eight years. Just like many are tired of their leaders today the leadership of Micah’s day also misused their positions of power. It was so bad that no one could trust their families or friends to do the right thing. In the midst of the past eight years many like the people of Israel have been praying for an answer and they think they found one. In reality the only hope that is sure and secure is that which we find in God. In him we find hope for our future!

People who feel they have been ignored, abused, and disrespected by their leaders often cry out for someone to save them. God knows that people are often like sheep in need of a shepherd they can trust. In Micah…

II. We find hope in our Shepherd! (Vv. 8-14)

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets. The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds. Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago.

  1. In Micah’s warning we find him telling Israel’s enemies “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise.” God’s people are not dependent upon the people and things of this world. And, when we are in sin, if we “confess our sin he is faithful and just.” So Micah relates, “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” Micah knew that whenever God’s people are in distress the world delights in our discomfort. However the world should not gloat. Micah related, “Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, ‘Where is the LORD your God?’ My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets.” Micah knew that God’s enemies always think that they can gloat and boast over his people’s downfall. Yet the “The day for building [Israel’s and thereby God’s people’s] walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.” God would build a wall around his vineyard. In fact God promised that “In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.” God’s people would be completely restored yet the sinful world will be judged and “The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.” Ungodly stewards will reap what they have sown. And yet here in a beautiful revelation Micah or perhaps the Lord relates that his Messiah would heal their land forever. “Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago.” God’s people will be completely restored because we find hope in our Shepherd!

  EXAMPLE: From the time Jacob blessed his sons and called God his “shepherd” to Jesus who called himself “the Good Shepherd” the Jews knew and saw God as their shepherd. In fact, we as Christians believe that “the Lamb” Jesus who is “at the center of the throne will be [our] shepherd; he will lead [us] to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes”! (Revelation 7:17 NIV) The wording here for shepherd in Micah is often translated “feed” or “pasture” as in to graze a flock; Micah therefore was asking that God care for and tend them again like a compassionate shepherd he knew God to be! We find hope in our Shepherd!

When God finally judges there will be winners and losers. And unlike the political correctness that is so rampant today God will not care about your social status, race, or gender. Micah relates that…

III. We find hope in God’s mercy! (Vv. 15-20)

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.” Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of you. Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.

  1. God therefore promises Israel that “As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.” Micah reminds Israel who God was in the past to them and that this same God would be their God again and in their midst! He would be the God of miracles! This was the same God who parted the Red Sea and kept them safe, the same God who reined fire down on Jezebel’s false priests, and the same God who promised them a Messiah to come. In fact God promises that “Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf.” What could the pagan nations do but be ashamed. They would be so overwhelmed and humbled that Micah predicts “They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of” God’s people again. This wonderful promise makes Micah wonder, “Who is a God like you”? But this is who God truly is. Today orthodox Jews read these verses in their synagogues on the Day of Atonement, after they read the Book of Jonah. They long for what believers now freely enjoy and ask themselves who is this God? He is the same One who “pardons sin and forgives the transgression”, he does “not stay angry forever but delight(s) to show mercy”, he “will again have compassion on us” and he “will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea”!  What Micah could not have guessed is how God would ultimately do these things through Jesus. However, Micah knew these things about God to be true and that ultimately he would “be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as [he] pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.” God had made his promise to be merciful to those who humbled themselves and God’s promise always comes true! Micah knew we find hope in God’s mercy!

  EXAMPLE: It has mystified the pundits and the media why the election turned out the way it did. In fact the liberal √©lite are in shock and many are throwing temper tantrums that things did not go the way they wanted or thought it should. It reminds me of the legend that the English ballad “The World Turned Upside Down” was the tune played by the British military band when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 during the American War of Independence. The Hebrews could not believe the words of Micah and yet they could find hope in God’s mercy!

Conclusion:

We find hope for our future! We find hope in our Shepherd! We find hope in God’s mercy!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Micah 6 – What God requires!

Micah 6 – What God requires!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 13, 2016

There hasn’t been a single person when faced with a difficult situation, choice, or hardship who hasn’t at some point asked what either God or life requires from them. This is a normal reaction when faced with life’s difficulties. And when faced with difficult choices how one responds speaks volumes as to what they believe and in what they place their trust.

Micah asks this question and answers it for Israel and for us today and in fact gives to his listeners exactly why they are experiencing the difficulties they were. God was going to judge them as a nation and the people began to understand the outcome of their life choices. So here in Micah he asks and answers for us what God requires. Let’s discover what that means for us in our day and age…

READ: Micah 6

When you think that your life is going nowhere and it seems as if your prayers are not getting through it is good to take a moment and ask, “What does God require?” We discover that…

I. God requires that we listen to him! (Vv. 1-5)

Listen to what the LORD says: “Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”

  1. When we are faced with difficulties we do not understand I have learned to listen to what God has to say. Here we discover Micah telling the Jews, “Listen to what the Lord says”. This is good advice. Far too often we would rather babble on than listen to what God has to tell us. God relates that the Israelites were to “Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.” I am reminded of what Paul related in Romans that he considered “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” and that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” because of our sin and salvation through Jesus! Now creation would judge Israel: “For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.”In bringing his case God asks, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you?” And he demands, “Answer me.” The Hebrews often complained over and over to God about their condition, that it was burdensome to follow all of his commands, but few of them ever truly listened to what he said! If they had listened to God they would have done what he told them to do! He reminds them, “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.” In fact he also reminds them that “I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.” But did they listen to them either? Nope. God then asks them if they remembered “what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered.” If a pagan king could listen to a false prophet who listened to a talking donkey, certainly they should now listen to God! And didn’t they remember their “journey from Shittim to Gilgal”? They should have, after all it was their first journey into the Promised Land! God did all of this so they would “know the righteous acts of the LORD”! But again, they had not listened and now they would have to listen to the one who had rescued them! God requires that we listen to him!

  EXAMPLE: Far too often when we pray we are not really listening to what God has to say to us but rather how we can plead our case before him hoping against hope that he will ignore our sinful lives and miraculously do what we ask! We forget that good listening skills take time and preparation. God had tried over and over to prepare the Israelites to listen and obey him but they did not. What about you this morning? What does God have to do to you in order to get you to listen to him? God requires that we listen to him!

I have heard over and over in the decades I have pastored people asking what the will of God is for their lives. Not only do they not listen well they do not learn well either. God has made it abundantly clear what requires of us, we just refuse to do it! What does God require? We discover that…

II. God requires that we respond to him! (Vv. 6-8)

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

  1. Answering for the Israelites Micah now asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” Micah is now speaking as a righteous person who understood his people’s guilt. He was not like the many leaders who had refused to shepherd the people properly. How then should Micah or the Israelites come before a righteous and exalted God? Micah asks, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” These are the guilt offerings God had required of his people when they had sinned; is this now what God asked them to do? Micah knew that these sacrifices were meant to be outward expressions of their inner trust in God’s mercy and grace. If they sacrificed their best for their sins he would forgive them. This is why Micah continued by asking rhetorically “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?” Things have not changed much; they thought that more is better, kind of like we often do. But of course bringing more offerings was not the answer so Micah continued by sarcastically referring to the Israelite’s ungodly proclivity to mix the paganistic practice of child sacrifice with their worship, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah knew this was not the answer either and God finally gives them the answer to what they should do by first making the statement: “He has showed you, O man, what is good”, and then by asking them: “And what does the LORD require of you?” The Israelites did not know the answer or they would have done it all along. God tells them that they were “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God’s asks his people to be “good” (beneficial), which involves three things: that they “act justly” (be fair), “love mercy” (hesed – grace), and to “walk humbly with… God” “Humbly” translates the verb ṣāna‛ (which occurs only here in the OT); it means to be modest. God requires that we respond to him!

  EXAMPLE: We have heard this as believers over and over but few follow the advice of God. It has not changed from Micah’s day. What does God require of you? He has already shown you what is good and beneficial for your life! So why do you continually refuse to do it? You are to act fairly with others in your actions and words. Never cheat, steal, or desire that which is not your own earned by your own hands. You are to love mercy, which is God’s grace because he gave it to you through his Son Jesus! You are to be therefore gracious to others around you because of God’s grace extended to you! And you are to do that toughest thing in many of your lives; you are to walk humbly with God! Being modest in your words, actions, and in what you wear or do to you bodies, in what you read, watch, or listen to and how you behave daily. God requires that we respond to him!

We have forgotten that what we have in this life we owe to the Lord. Every blessing is from God who causes the rain to fall on the both the sinner and the saint. Especially with what occurred with this recent election we need to ask anew, “What does God require?” Micah related that…

III. God requires we act with integrity! (Vv. 9-16)

Listen! The LORD is calling to the city-- and to fear your name is wisdom-- “Heed the rod and the One who appointed it. Am I still to forget, O wicked house, your ill-gotten treasures and the short ephah, which is accursed? Shall I acquit a man with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? Her rich men are violent; her people are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully. Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins. You will eat but not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty. You will store up but save nothing, because what you save I will give to the sword. You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine. You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab’s house, and you have followed their traditions. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations.”

  1. Again Micah tells them to “Listen! The LORD is calling to the city-- and to fear your name is wisdom”! We are told over and over that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 7:1 NIV)  So, they were to “Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.” Israel was going to be disciplined by the Lord for their sin. God sarcastically asks them, “Am I still to forget, O wicked house, your ill-gotten treasures and the short ephah, which is accursed?” They were a wicked house full of ill-gotten gains through illegal and ungodly measurement. So God demands, “Shall I acquit a man with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?” The Law of God taught them, “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.” (Leviticus 19:35 NIV) God knew without a doubt that Israel’s “rich men are violent; her people are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully”. Since they had gotten rich through dishonest scales, God tells them, “Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins. You will eat but not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty. You will store up but save nothing, because what you save I will give to the sword. You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine.” God had warned them, “A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days.” (Deuteronomy 28:33 NIV) Instead of following the Lord, the people “observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab’s house”. These were considered two of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom. “Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations.” They would now know poverty and starvation! God requires we act with integrity!

  EXAMPLE: As sad and awful as I have felt after some Presidential elections in past years I have never ever in my entire life thought about rioting, shouting vulgarities, or asking others to shoot the person who won. It shows me and many of us in the mature middle class that far too many of our children are way too pampered and ill-prepared to handle any kind of loss. In everything in life there are always not only winners and losers, but there is always another day. It is how one handles the losses in life that true character is displayed. Perhaps sparing the rod has actually spoiled the child? It had with Israel. Micah relates that they would now know the outcome of their pampered ill-gotten lives. God requires that we act with integrity!

Conclusion:

God requires that we listen to him! God requires that we respond to him! God requires we act with integrity!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Micah 5 – The Ruler of Nations will come!

Micah 5 – The Ruler of Nations will come!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 6, 2016

In the early 1930’s financially strapped Germany was ripe for a charismatic and forceful ruler who seemed to know all the answers and understand the nation’s problems. This is how Hitler and his Brown Shirt movement rose to power; that and he used force, corruption and racism. Some think that America could be ready for such an ungodly ruler if we keep heading in the wrong direction socially, morally, and financially.

Most people want leaders who will lead with integrity, devotion, and wisdom. Israel had not had very many leaders with these qualities. There is truth to the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is part of a quotation by the historian and moralist Lord Acton (1834–1902). His actual quote was: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Of course this is not always the case and Micah’s words tell us of someone who would be a fantastic ruler. He would be the Ruler of Nations. Let’s discover what Micah prophesied…

READ: Micah 5

When Jesus came he taught his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) Here in Micah he prophesied that…

I. The Ruler of Nations will bring God’s peace! (Vv. 1-5a)

Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel's ruler on the cheek with a rod. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.

  1. These verses were quoted when Jesus was born, they foretold of a Messiah, a ruler and spiritual leader who would be born to rule Israel like no other ruler had. But first, God tells the Hebrews to “Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.” Jerusalem would not be able to rely on her human protection again and her enemy was already at her gates and she did not notice! And even her king could not save her and prophetically Micah relates that “They will strike Israel's ruler on the cheek with a rod.” This meant he would be humiliated, just as King Zedekiah was. Then Micah’s pronouncement shifts gears and begins to make even more of a futuristic prophecy: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This was an older name for Bethlehem and the area around it and this ruler was special and from God. He was “from of old” foretold by God. However, “Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” Israel would suffer the consequences of her sin (abandoned) but God promised she would be reborn and the dispersed would be returned! Micah explains that the Messiah God promised “will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.” The promised Messiah would do that which the corrupt leaders of Micah’s day could never do, he would shepherd God’s people in God. And because of the Messiah “they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.” The Ruler of Nations will bring God’s peace!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who chant “No justice! No peace!” Perhaps they would do well to remember the biblical truth that if you know the Prince of Peace you will have justice! While in this world we will never experience real peace we know that only in Jesus do we have peace with God. This is why the angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) Micah teaches us that the Ruler of Nations will bring God’s peace!

II. The Ruler of Nations destroys all boundaries! (Vv. 5b-8)

When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword. He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders. The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for man or linger for mankind. The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.

  1. How would God bring about his peace when all Israel had ever known was war and strife? God tells Micah, “When the Assyrian (God’s enemies) invades our land and marches through our fortresses; we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.” This is more than mere braggadocio that God would provide through the Messiah the means to defeat every enemy; Micah meant that God would raise up who he wanted to rescue Israel yet it would not be as Israel thought. The one God would rise up would “rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.” The sword God would provide would be “the word of God” which is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) It would be God who would “deliver (Israel) from the Assyrian when (the enemy) invades our land and marches into our borders.” What armies and the machines of war could never do, the Word of God would! In fact even though the Israelites would be dispersed throughout the world, “The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for man or linger for mankind.” Their dispersion was part of the promise of God and all believers are the assurance of God realized through his Word! We are the dew of the Lord! We are the “remnant” of Israel “in the midst of many people” and “like the showers on the grass” we do not “wait for man or linger for any man”. Therefore believers are the “remnant of Jacob (who) will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.” This is how God’s promise to Israel has been fulfilled! The gospel message destroys all borders, all boundaries, all armies, and all nations because it is the kingdom of God! The Ruler of Nations destroys all boundaries!

  EXAMPLE: God does not have a problem with nationalism or patriotism, unless it thwarts his purpose. Nations and their leaders are ordained of God. “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15 NIV) Daniel saw the promised Messiah as one “like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” approach the throne of God and “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV) The Ruler of Nations destroys all boundaries!

III. The Ruler of Nations demolishes spiritual strongholds! (Vv. 9-15)

Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed. "In that day," declares the LORD, "I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots. I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds. I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells. I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles and demolish your cities. I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me."

  1. When God’s promise to Israel had been fully realized then her “hand will be lifted up in triumph over (her) enemies, and all (her) foes will be destroyed.” Again, not by human effort but by the promise of God’s Messiah and in fact he states, “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots.” The things they had relied on to save them. The Messiah would not only purge Israel of all her power that she relied on but he promised, “I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds.” Any manmade protection Israel had relied on in the past would be demolished. Besides destroying enemies from outside Israel, the Messiah would purge the nation of every trace of ungodly spiritual practices such as “witchcraft” and she would “no longer cast spells.” The wording here suggests the use of demonic powers to manipulate or influence others. When the Messiah would come God continues and promises that “I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.” When people abandon God and neglect his ways they begin to rely on ungodly things instead; again when the Messiah comes God promised, “I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles and demolish your cities.” When people rely on images, sacred relics, or things made by human hands they are no longer relying on God. Faith in God’s Messiah destroys such nonsense. He “uproots” and “demolishes” such things. In fact it is God who “will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me.” The Ruler of Nations demolishes spiritual strongholds!

  EXAMPLE: David, a boyhood shepherd and later Israel’s king sang, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalms 20:7 NIV) What David sang about he understood that the followers of the Lord need only trust in him alone. Micah therefore reminds us that we are not to trust in manmade things to save us nor are we to trust in superstitions to protect us. Again David would sing, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.” (Psalms 28:7-8 NIV) Micah teaches us that the Ruler of Nations demolishes spiritual strongholds!

Conclusion:

The Ruler of Nations will bring God’s peace! The Ruler of Nations destroys all boundaries! The Ruler of Nations demolishes spiritual strongholds!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.