New Year's Message
THAT MAGNIFICENT MERCY Micah 7:11-20
With this New Year's message, as for the year
you will have to wait for it: but it will surely come!
Happy is the person whose God is the Lord! Look at Israel.
For millenia its history has sulked in the rebelliousness of perpetual skirmishes, and its friendship with ruin. Its slaughter of the Christ, slowly, a sort of spiritual aversion made palpable on the Cross, is so like that of the Liberal establishment, which played havoc with the PC of Australia for decades in its virulence, its lack of concern, its remoteness from compassion, its animus against the biblical teaching, that it is awesome to see similar spiritual dynamic over so long a period.
Jew and Gentile have slaughtered spirituality as they could; except that it is not all of either, but in the national form, much of both.
I The Sure Word of God and the Startling Faithfulness of God 7:11-13
In the midst of this we find suddenly in the book of Micah, predicting in Ch. 3 the devastation of Jerusalem, that in the day when "your walls are to be built" there is to be a decree bringing back many Jews to their land. What a change! Is that now, with the wall of Sharon at last engineered into being, and approaching its terminus! There is such a drawing of Israel to its God-appointed land, that it is to be a mark of the times.
For all that, this (then) coming restoration of vast numbers of Jews to their land, is not to be dissociated from the continuing judgment (as in Leviticus 26), on their national unbelief. Thus they have not yet altered their complicated continuance in sin, far from the word of the living God in their very own Messiah, who as predicted in Isaiah 49:6, found it too little to deal with the chosen ones in Israel, but thrust far into the Gentiles to give them the light of truth, also, while Israel as shown in the next verse, did not find it too much to abhor Him!.
As to that crucial episode, it is in Micah 5:1-3 that we learn of Bethlehem as the site for the splendour of the Messiah, eternally active, locally incarnate; for in what other way is an eternal person in human form to come to Bethlehem for His terrestrial institution!
Yet says Micah there, He, the Judge of Israel will be smitten on the cheek: no mere degradation, but a formal abuse to the uttermost, one identified by Isaiah in 42, 59-55 in the Messianic matrix, as deeper even than that (cf. With Heart and Soul ... Chs. 4ff., SMR Ch. 9). It is then that the Almighty God (as in Hosea 13:14) will HIMSELF, bringing in salvation in the epochal wonder of coming as a child (Isaiah 9:1-7), and going as a sacrifice (Isaiah 52-53), delete sin. The deletion is sought on His own life, which being eternal, breaches death, so that as in Psalm 22, after the crucifixion, He will declare the name of God among the brethren. Just so was Psalm 16, that His flesh would not suffer corruption.
What however of that nation which given such bounty, turned its face from the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) ?
Small wonder then, having so treated this one and only Messiah in this one and only action of salvation from sin, final and effectual, for of His kingdom there is no end (Daniel 7:14,25-27, Isaiah 9:7), that the time of suffering would continue while unbelief did so, like the parallel lines of a railway track (as indicated in solemn drama, in Isaiah 65:13-15). Of this, then, Micah is careful to make mention in his prophetic account, in 7:13. Desolation upon desolation has been the lot of this so viciously persecuted land and people. Indeed, in Micah 7:8ff., there is an eminently poignant but not pathetic acknowledgement of this, seen as an enduring feature of the national life, as the coming deliverance is solemnly looked for.
In fact, even since their predicted return to their land (Ezekiel 36-39 cf. SMR
It Bubbles ... Ch. 10), what travail! what murder, what disregard for children, what protoplasmic bombs in the intifada! what agonies of mutilation were inflicted by mutant nations or undisciplined parts of them which, as political units, seem to show an immutable hatred!
Even in their triumphant wars, at their return (1948, a miracle among miracles, 1967, 1973), even when their exterminative enemies, bent on their moving into the sea altogether! even when these failed utterly and were humiliated as predicted in Zechariah 12, even with Jerusalem restored to them as in Luke 21:24, first by the half as in Zechariah 14:1-2 and 1948: yet in victory there has been travail for Israel.
II The Sure Judgments of God 7:13
Desolations have indeed come to Israel even as the "desert" has been enabled to "blossom like the rose" (prediction of Isaiah 35, fulfilled in detail since 1948 in Israel world floral market, amongst the greatest on the globe). The "Fruit of their Deeds" remains until the pardon which has been proclaimed proclaimed (Isaiah 52:7ff.), is received by faith (as on massive scale, it is to be - Zechariah 12:10-13:1).
Thus does the grievous blood-letting continue in the Middle East, as those who have forsaken the Lord mix with those who have done the same in other ways, in other nations. Thus it was to be, thus spoke Micah, and thus it has been. The picture, like many an oil painting of historic events, has many features, many foci; and all to the last detail, since this was a prophetic picture, has been fulfilled. It is as that self-same, eternally focussed Saviour, of eternal life, declared: not a jot or a tittle will fail till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-20).
III The Goodly Shepherding from the Lord 7:14
Amidst such developments, pregnant with emergence into the end of the action, the Lord is seen challenging those concerned to "shepherd your people with your staff", restoring to them the abundance of old. Here we are past the striking of the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7 cf. Matthew 26:41), and looking to the times of His return, suffering past (Hebrews 9:28, Acts 1:7ff.). Is the charge to shepherd the sheep to missionaries, or converted Jews, or is this another intra-trinitarian exposition (as in Isaiah 48:16) ?
It seems both sorts of charge are here given, for the majesty of the style suggests the action of the Lord, depicting His zeal indirectly in this way; but as this may be before the eventual return TO THE LORD in Israel, it may here also refer to the power of the Holy Spirit in His people, to help bring the blessing to Israel, now about to turn back to God, as earlier many of them did return to their land. It is a matter of the Ezekiel 37 SECOND command, to give life to the restored bones, once so scattered, of the nation (37:9ff.).
IV The Godly Assault on the Assailants 7:15-17
Also as in the days of old, there is another feature. Not only is this shepherding called for, but this delivering dynamic from God on which Micah now focusses! (7:15ff.).
The divine action, we learn, is to be parallel to that in the Exodus from Pharaoh, who, one recalls, was among the most powerful of rulers of his time. Did he not suffer an infamous failure, and was not his seemingly all-encompassing power made to look rather ridiculous in the sea! What then is to come, parallel to such an historic event ? It is this.
Whole nations will come to resemble snakes in their holes, for whole nations have dared to invade, assault and attack Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 32, Zechariah 14:1), as if they had unlimited licence to attack what after all has done much the same as they themselves in spirit have now done! That is the finale of the tragedy of Israel, this is the efflorescence, the flowering of another phase, the faithfulness of God fulfilled (Micah 7:20).
The Lord is never attracted to this victimisation (cf. Isaiah 51:22-23, Jeremiah 50:29-32, 51:24,49, Genesis 12:2). It is a vain courage which disregards its Maker (cf. Ezekiel 38). If God is against you, in the end, you need not consider who is for you!
The assault on Israel is equally an assault on His word which having shown their discipline, shines on their restoration. Hence what is to come in this time, it is indeed as in Pharaoh's day; but whereas then, he would not let them LEAVE his land, so now many will seek to prevent their COMING, and CONTINUANCE in their land. The ancient and the contemporary: both fail.
The issues are drawn, the results are similar in awesome exposure of the hatreds both of God and man involved in this assault (cf. Micah 7:15-17). It is not at all a question of preferences (Ezekiel 36:22), of laurels; it is one of divine faithfulness, for He has 'pity' on His name! He will do as He said, grace His girding, truth His zeal, covenant His flame, though they have broken it, inveterate sanctity of His word, this magnified beyond all His name (Psalm 138:2). So is there an action so vast and so awesome (as in Isaiah 66, Joel 3, Habakkuk 3, Deuteronomy 32); and so comes the Divine Deliverer as foretold.
What then ? is Israel forever to be butt to many nations, exploited the Jew ?
Enough is enough in any discipline, and when nations seek to perpetuate it, and do it themselves, they too shall find that the power of God on those who overreach themselves is one, to Jew or to Gentile alike! When He acts, as in Isaiah 66, Micah 7, Joel 3, there is no doubt concerning it! Unleashed from the Lord is an answer to those who re-write the Bible, and would review the very existence of Israel.
V The Magnificence of the Mercy of the Lord 7:18-19
Into their holes crawl the nations (7:17), and they lick the dust. Their crusade becomes Pharaoh Mach II.
Thus, while the nations thus proceed to "be afraid of the Lord", an activity in which they have long become rusty, being afraid instead of one another, and so supine in spirit, ready for collision, collusion and contempt, Israel becomes one more example of divine faithfulness, compassion and peace. This is substantial at the national level (cf. Zechariah 12:10-13:1), as faith surges into the hearts of many like a flood. Now it becomes an illustration of the Lord's munificent mercy to those who come to the pardon which Isaiah predicted ("though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow" -1:18).
It is not to be, by being Jew, or even a nation, that this comes. It is exclusively by the Gospel; yet in the divine modality, the moulding of history, MANY Jews, many in Israel, despising their former folly in being at enmity with the Prince of Peace, and inheriting almost ceaseless war of one kind or another as a consequence (Zechariah 12:10ff.), will in fact receive the Gospel and so find peace, peace as a nation, as individuals. This does not depart but is rather peace forever, when this earth banished (Revelation 20:1-4, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3), the lesson to the nations of this world and to all the higher principalities and powers observing (cf. Ezekiel 37:28, 39:28, Ephesians 6, cf. 3:10), made complete, the wonderful wisdom of God is certified into history (Romans 11:26ff.). Likewise then, the structure of divine exposition is consummated, and not only is folly consumed in its erratic passions and vaunting parade, but understanding vindicated.
Such is one episode in the one great faith, that in the Messiah who came at the time appointed (Daniel 9:24ff. cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), for the task prophetically defined, and thus instituted by ransom the Gospel as Isaiah predicted it, while Israel rejected it, as Isaiah also foretold.
Yet now at last in a swath of spiritual peace, in multitudes they receive it, as Zechariah 12 so glowingly added. Here at the national level is a very illustration, a kernel, an essence of the love of the Lord in that one Messiah, that one Gospel, that invariant truth, that deliverance foretold from the first (Genesis 3:15), and performed to the last (Isaiah 9:7). Here is that same Gospel, for long moving with vast outcomes among the Gentiles (Romans 11, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, Jeremiah 16:19), now coming home in the land of the Jew.
Where first it was paid for by the ransoming Redeemer, now its cheques of free pardon surge at last. What wisdom! exults Paul, in the Almighty so to act.
With this magnificence of mercy in view, what does Micah declare ? It is this.
“WHO IS A GOD LIKE YOU!” Micah is moved to exclaim. There is none, either in power as just seen, or in mercy, as now to be seen. He is incomparable, sheer is His wonder, glorious is His name.
Not only has He restored them, but now pardons their iniquity, loving to pass over sin, when it is that of those who avail themselves of His sin cover, which was His own life exposure to its ravages. If God is wrathful against the follies of impertinent sin, of ruining life and spoiling peace, ravaging spirituality and giving the run to godliness, yet "He does not retain His anger forever." There is a reason for this, as deep as the depth: It is "because He delights in mercy." As rest is a delight after a hard day's vexing labour, so to show mercy is to God a delight after His love moves Him to deliver those caught.
Not only so, but "He will subdue our iniquities" and this work more vital and profound than overcoming attacking nations, merges into the fact that "You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." This is as in Psalm 103:12-13, in the aura of divine mercy in its limitless depths, heights and scope, available to faith in the Messiah of Micah 5:1-3, the everlasting Saviour.
VI The Holiness of Happiness in the Lord 7:19-20
In so doing, God is in His entire reliability and faithfulness fulfilling the covenant to Abraham, for now is the descendant according to the flesh, Christ, bringing blessing to all nations as well as to Israel; and this is part of the "truth to Jacob" promulgated by David in the Psalms (cf. Psalm 67), by Isaiah in Chs. 42, 49 and Jeremiah in 16:19.
HERE is your New Year Message: God does in the NEW YEAR precisely what He has promised for ANY YEAR in the history of the faithful, to delight in mercy, to cast their sins into the depths of the sea, not to stay angry forever and to subdue their iniquities.
It is one for the terrorist, foolishly contriving to vex Israel with hatred, instead of arriving with repentance before the Messiah murdered by Jew and Gentile alike, by High Priest and Roman Governor, each one contributing differently but effectively.
It is one for the Jew, seeking solicitously to preserve a nation obstructively circled by foes who resent its small parcel of land, as if God did not own all real estate (cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4). He is right about the land, which God specified near the first, but wrong about the Lord, from whom, as a nation, Israel severed with the Cross, abhorring the Saviour as foretold by their own prophet, Isaiah (49:7).
It is one for the idealist, building dreams without substantial basis or logical ground, for the atheist, building knowledge on vacuity, and understanding to declare, on nothing, being nothing worth in all the self-contradictory fulminations (cf. SMR Ch. 10, The Face of God ... Ch. 10).
For any one, caught in this or that fateful mesh of sin, asserting human or tribal, or national, or ideational, or political basis, and ignoring the basis of thought itself, life itself and wisdom and understanding, as if nothing made logic and logic made everything by inadvertence, while in a trance, there is the magnificent mercy in which man seems to be growing more and more bankrupt.
There is still the cardinal devotion to mercy and divine delight in it, so that whatever finds Jesus Christ, the Son of sacrifice, finds the heart of the love of God (cf. Romans 5:1-11); and there is the banishment of sin as lord and guilt as governor, through the blood of the atonement (cf. Ephesians 1:1-11,
There is the entry into grace sufficient, efficient and eternal (cf. Ephesians 2:5-8, 1:11).
From Him then comes the vision, the victory, the understanding, the peace, the propulsion and the grace; and by abiding in Him, as a bird in a nest, so you find the conditions of spiritual growth as in II Peter 3:18, and the power to move mountains. As to that, it is not our own; it is best to consult with the Maker of the 'geology' of life's opportunities and obstructions: it is His power that moves.
There is the power to mount up with wings as an eagle, though even the young men should faint (Isaiah 40).
There is the eternity to which human life belongs, brought back because bought back at Calvary. It is no careless gift, however; but it is one freely available and in the heart of God to give (John 3:15-19).
Let this be your call to both victory and to praise, as we await for joyful expectation the return of this our Lord (Hebrews 9:28, Acts 1:11).