AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH May 19 - June 2 ... 2013
A Presbyterian Church following
the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ
without Compromise by Faith
IN ACCORD WITH THE ORIGINAL THRUST OF THE CONSTITUTION
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA 1901
THE PULSATIONS OF PITY AND POIGNANCY
AMID THE PROVOCATIONS FOR JUDGMENT
IN MICAH 4-7
Spanning the Centuries, like Pages of a Book
Micah is the prophet of absolute confrontation, militant, decisive, dramatic, arresting, like a vast flight of birds flying overhead, a whoosh in the air. You KNOW they have passed, and there is no room for debate. It has happened.
CONFRONTATION AND EXULTATION (not exaltation)
So in Micah 3:5-8, we see the flight in its onrush.
"Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err,
that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace;
and He who does not put into their mouths, they even prepare war against Him.
Therefore night shall be to you, that you will not have a vision;
and it shall be dark to you, that you will not divine;
and the sun will go down over the prophets,
and the day will be dark over them.
Then will the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded:
yes, they will all cover their lips; for there is no answer from God.
"But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD,
and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression,
and to Israel his sin.
"Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Jacob,
and princes of the house of Israel, who abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.
Its heads judge for reward, and its priests teach for hire,
and its prophets divine for money:
yet will they lean upon the LORD,
and say, Is not the LORD among us? no evil can come upon us.
"Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field,
and Jerusalem shall become heaps,
and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest."
That done, Micah is led of the Lord to depict the time, in flagrant contrast, in the depths of the Lord's mercy, when
"the mountain of the LORD's house will be established on the top of the mountains ...
Many nations will say,
Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob."
Widespread as in Isaiah 11, Psalm 73, Isaiah 32, 65, will be the blessedness then upon the earth. As in Isaiah 2, however, the Lord ALONE will be exalted in that day of judgment leading on to blessedness before the earth is removed and the throne of judgment set, the end of it becoming the finale for this universe, with no standing left but in the Lord. By then, the heaven and earth will have "fled away" and there will be "no place found for them," as in Revelation 20:11.
Not yet however is this depicted in Micah 3, but rather the blessed prelude when God is vindicated ON this earth and IN Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 12), as the forces of devastation are devastated, and the onset of human godless power is cancelled as by the stroke of a pen. That is a topic in Micah 7 also, as in Isaiah 66.
As in Psalm 72, so in Micah 4:6-8, there is a sense of tenderness and concern. Indeed, then as in Psalm 72, gracious indeed is the "Tower of the flock," taken as the Messiah because HE and HE alone is the place for the "stronghold of the daughter of Zion", which is equated to the Tower. It is He uniquely, sovereignly, majestically and as a refuge, so acts for Zion, when its trust is in Him; and this we have seen emphatically in discussing from biblical bases, the ROCK of Israel in Ch. 2 above. Empathetically, Israel is "Thy land, O Immanuel," (Isaiah 8:8), though all earth is His.
The returned Messiah (deity Himself as in Ezekiel 34, the Good Shepherd as also in John 10), will then minister, and the proper domain of Israel will be functional Micah 4:7). Indeed in this period, all the nations will be ruled by Him (cf. Micah 4:3), while many nations will seek to come up to the Lord, to seek Him, while peace comes like Autumn rain (Micah 4:2,4)
As to Israel, RELIANT on the Lord ALONE and not at all on itself, and giving praise and glory to God, not at all to itself (as in Isaiah 2 and 19), their land will be given them and the proper domain for His manifestation cardinally will be the Lord's in that very place where He was crucified and judged and dismissed. There in particular will He be glorified, the city of the Lord's salvation, that grand act of deity, as wrought in one sacrifice, once made in one place! (Hebrews 9).
Where He was voided, He cannot be avoided; so will it be, in that blessed time traced in Micah 4. He rejected before, will be back.
Thus from Micah 3 to 4 we have moved from absolute confrontation to absolute glory in the Lord when He surges in majesty to the rule on this earth as in Habakkuk 2:14 and Isaiah 11. It is a maximal change, a contrast like light and shade, a movement from the abysmal leading to wreckage for Israel, to restoration IN and FOR the Lord in HIS time.
SUFFERING AND SAVIOUR
Immediately following this, as in Micah 4:9, we come to the situation in Micah's day, contemporary for Israel, that facing judgment, a sad phase, long before ultimate the blessings shown with the Messiah. Then the ear of Israel is confronted by the prophet, in marked contrast to the irenic end.
"Now why do you cry aloud ? Is there no king in your midst ? Has your counsellor perished ?" So does the Lord apostrophise them, verbally castigate them in the midst of their spiritual sloth, as if they were scarcely awake. Nations are to gather against Israel, her lesson severe; but this is not the end. Israel will yet arise and "thresh" the angry invaders (Micah 11-13, as in the day of the Maccabees).
While these pangs and movements in history to come proceed, the glory here, the gory there, the hope here, the shame there, we come in Micah 5, to the Messiah in the most obvious of fashions. He is shown as a babe, with His birth-place to be, in Bethlehem. Yet in short order He is found on reaching adult-hood, head-lashed by those to whom He came, amid an angry rejection by His nation.
That rejection, however, and its violence, its assault against the Judge of Israel, has results; and here they figure directly. The Lord will give them up for a time. How they have been hurt in this exposure which, after all they secured by killing the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Kill life and is it surprising that death arrives with some luxuriance!
Indeed, these verses, Micah 5:1-3, are very compressed: the babe, the birth-place, the rejection and to what that led for the nation. These are set out in three simply amazing verses. These have massive correlation of course with Isaiah 49-53, for example, in theme and some detail, and so mutually is the position made eminently clear.
REJECTION AND RETURN
In a sweep past the buffeting of their King, and the result, we read, "Therefore He shall give them up," (Micah 5:3). So comes to light a swift review of history, in its sequence. This 'giving up' of the errant and now erratic nation is only for a time. It is UNTIL something else happens. That is spelled out in Isaiah 32:17, UNTIL the SPIRIT is poured out from on high (as it was for example notoriously in Pentecost, as foretold in Joel). This, with emphasis on the Good Shepherd, as on the Tower of the Flock earlier in Micah, lets us see the picture. "He" - the babe, grown to manhood, rejected, smitten - will be here in action, in this finale on earth, this millenium (Revelation 20:2). Arisen from the death whose menace He broke by both bearing and breaking it, as Saviour, for all who come and call upon Him by faith, He cares for His people (Micah 5:4).
"He shall sand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God,
and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth,
and this One shall be peace."
In Micah 5, the time of giving up of Israel is quite particular. It is "until the time that she who is in labour has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return," as in Micah 5:3, with a close parallel in the language of Isaiah 66:8-9. This return, as we find in Micah 7, will even be from such sites as Assyria (Iraq has seen such returns already).
The time of Israel's labour, indeed when IN ONE DAY, notably unique, when the nation is to be born once more into history, as in May 1948 in dramatic announcement, made by Ben Gurion (Isaiah 66:7-8): it was to come, has come and is notorious. This amazing development, seen in my own life-time, this restoration is singularly focussed in the word of God.
"Before she was in labour, she gave birth;
before her pain came, she delivered a male child.
Who has heard such a thing ?
Who has seen such things ?"
Who indeed ? It amazed the world.
Moving now in this situation, the restored Israel as a nation, the thing done suddenly, though they are not yet converted in the massive manner shown in Zechariah 12:10 - 13:1 (as also exhibited in Ezekiel 37), we find a time when Assyria will come into the land, aggressive, but "seven shepherds and eight princely men shall lay waste with the sword the land of Assyria." Still back in the time before salvation for Israel en bloc or in bulk rather, we find this matches, so soon after 1948, the activities of Iraq in its insistence until its dismantling, that it had been at war with Israel since 1948, indeed engaged in firing rockets.
Here it is of interest to read a report from the Council of Foreign Relations, dated February 22,2007. It reads as follows.
Council of Foreign Relations, February 22, 2007
Britain fields the largest force (7,100 troops) behind the United States. After Britain, the biggest forces belong to South Korea (2,300), Poland (900), Australia and Georgia (800 each), and Romania (600). Prior to its withdrawal, Italy boasted the third-largest coalition force in Iraq.
This selection of data by the Council is of interest, since the number cited is 8 prior to Italy's withdrawal, and then seven.
Micah 5:7ff. then moves on, in this tautly brief coverage in Micah 4-6, esp. 5-6, to the "remnant of Jacob" which will be "in the midst of many peoples, like dews from the LORD." With this impassioned evangelisation from the restored and now regenerated in Israel, the remnant to be like showers on the grass " that tarry for no man" (5:7), we now come to a time of peace ensured by the power of the Lord as in Psalm 73, as with the Tower of the Flock, the Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34 and John 10. False prophets will simply be excluded in that day, Satan as in Revelation 20 simply being bound.
FRAUD AND FAITH, OBSERVANCES AND SERVITUDE
Micah 6 takes Israel to task on the foundations of things. The Messiah is not to remove righteousness, but to confirm and meet its demands. What is the point of the false liberties morally taken, like fairy floss till the stomach vomits! What is the point of clowning with the evidence and being crowned with burning straw, obtainable from the Lord as you exit!
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself
before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves of a year old?
"Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
shall I give 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 doth the LORD require of you,
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Sacrifice has its point, but not as a bargaining chip. As in Isaiah 66:3, in fact, it can be repulsive. It had a message of horror about the horrid; and it thrust home the tyranny of sin and its results, depicting the coming of the Saviour who would bruise His 'heel' in stomping on the power of evil. But there is no merit in multiplying its occurrences. It is not in repetition that its point is made, but in its existence. Indeed, the time comes when only ONE, the Messiah as in Isaiah 49-55, covers the case, and HE makes it HIMSELF, for His people, none touching Him (John 10), in this free and singular action (as foretold in Psalm 40 and 22, with Psalm16, the aftermath in the resurrection).
Sacrifice is not an act of man, because you have the beast killed, but of God, who authorised the actions as a testimony that it is not of oneself that the answer comes, but as ordained by God, who Himself will act (as in Ezekiel 34, Hosea 13:14), without any aid from anyone, and His deity alone will be the basis in His action of this sublime result, that it is free (Isaiah 55). That, it has happened, and with the resurrection of the body of the Lord, it is the crux of history, the antidote in mercy and the payment in blood for the faithlessness and follies of man, each one who receives Him who has done it.
Turning from the depiction of false reliance on observances, and refocus on the salvation of God, Micah 6:9 ff. shows the depravities which are contrary to godliness, the passions which mock any talk of pure religion and undefiled. in 6:13-16, deep is the mire for Israel as it deceives itself. "You shall eat, but not be satisfied," says Micah 6:14, amid a litany of frustrations because of no faith, misdirected faith, fantasies to turn religion into a mish-mash of immorality and trust in observances! THIS will not do, nor will it endure forever.
THE MAGNIFICENT POIGNANCY OF MICAH 7
THE MARVELS OF MERCY AND THE EPITOME OF GRACE
It is then that the magnificently poignant and utterly penetrating Micah 7 comes on scene.
Israel's seekers are epitomised, personalised by a voice crying " Woe is me!" He is like one gleaning from the summer fruit. How appalling is the lonely spiritual situation he finds. "The faithful man has perished from the earth." The self-seeking violence is rife. "Every man hunts his brother with a net." Why ?
It is "that they may successfully do evil with both hands - the prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, and the great man utters his evil desire; so they scheme together."
If Israel at that time is seen in the turmoil of untruth and moral decline, how like current Gentile corruption it seems, and both for the same reason: forsaking the Lord. "Do not trust in a friend," comes the sad disclosure of unfaithfulness spreading wide (Micah 7:3), In 7:6 we have a prophecy used by Jesus Christ as in Matthew 10:36, for a man's enemies shall be of his own household. Indeed, precisely was this to come when the bright light of Christ shamed the shams living in the darkness. This is all a part of the sad and intensively poignant account as the remnant looks for deliverance, awaiting the time when the nation will be awakened (as in Romans 11:25), a thing for which Paul the apostle is concerned, lest the Gentiles be not aware of it. It is, he proclaims, an event to come. It is like life from the dead!
Alas as in Micah 5:3, having smitten the Judge of Israel on the head, a supreme dismissal of light on the part of darkness, it is no wonder that as in Isaiah 59:9 (reviewing the moral position prior to the return in power of the Messiah as in Isaiah 59:20, cited in Romans 11:26), they look for light, but find obscurity, darkness. WITHOUT that same Messiah, and without His return seen later, in 59:20, there IS no light.
"Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us:
we wait for light, but behold obscurity;
for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
"We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes:
we stumble at noonday as in the night;
we are in desolate places as dead men."
The personalised or personified remnant then is heard in hope awaiting the Lord's work (Micah 7:7):
"Therefore I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."
Now the voice of the remnant who look for the Lord is heard remonstrating with those who still despise Israel. At least they are well aware that the Lord is going to clear up the matter, and despitre all their sins, act, for He is the God who acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:5).
" Do not rejoice over me, my enemy;
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness,
The LORD will be a light to me."
This is no light utterance; for he continues:
"I will bear the indignation of the LORD,
Because I have sinned against Him," Micah 7:9.
Once more as in Micah 5:3, the UNTIL arises. He will bear the indignation of the Lord UNTIL ... It is here
"until He pleads my case,
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me forth to the light."
So there is admission of sin, even of just deserts; but hope also is there, willingness to bear judgment. In this way, we see the presence of conviction of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16); for the Lord has done right, and the remnant of Israel looks for a judicial dismissal of genuine sin by the Lord, when He pleads for these (as in Isaiah 53, Hosea 13:14, and in terms of Micah 5:1)! Now he personified remnant exults, "I will see His righteousness." This now is the crux: man's sin met by divine pleading through the Messiah's own sacrifice, in terms of which He pleads the cause and cases of those of Israel who return to Him (cf. I John 2:1-2). In view is real and divine righteousness: not aspirations of wonderful sinners' performance, but declarations and works which God like a master physician, achieved for man, as many as received His gift. These then SEE HIS righteousness, infinite in purity, wonderful in kind, without clouds.
Thus cleared by divine intervention, not of sin but its penalties, having suffered and repented, there lies open for those who so receive Him, the former communion with the Lord, whose greatness the remnant now sees. "Shame," he muses, " will cover her who said to me, 'Where is the LORD your God?' " The baiters of the past become those exposed in the present. Those who profiteered out of Israel's plight will now be exposed for their love of the darkness out of which many in Israel are here seen to arise, rejoicing through divine mercy at last, once more, in the light.
This great day of restoration thus comes, as in Isaiah 66 where, so here, Israel in both, abundantly and uniquely defined, the people of animal sacrifice formerly, those once out, not knowing the Lord, and then in, finding His treasured company, but then out again, like an unfaithful wife, for sin against the Lord.
It comes like a new house. It in this day that " your walls are to be built," and that is something in Israel which is beginning now, and proceeding in contemporary history. Many, we read, will then come to Israel from surrounding nations (as has already happened, from Africa to the Middle East and beyond). This immigration will be from sea to sea (many from the USA in fact); and it is from mountain to mountain that they come. Despite this, there must be that categorical spiritual return of which Zechariah 12:10ff. speaks, and not just a religious zest. It must become not mere re-focus, but faith in the objective Messiah (Micah 5), Jesus Christ Himself.
The flock must be shepherded intensely in this critical period (Micah 7:14), because here comes a dénouement so crucial that it resembles in scope and force the very historically famed events of the Exodus from Egypt. In other words, the day of Israel's historic deliverance from Egypt with its then imperial power, is parallel to this in her restoration from the belligerence of an unbelieving world, as it largely is. There is an overcoming of forces, not without some valour!
How great is the humbling of the nations (cf. Isaiah 2)! for they "shall see and be ashamed of all their might." From nuclear waste to nuclear bombs to cyber-warfare in all its sophistication, to aircraft rising to the billion mark, they move in proud power, which like proud flesh, does not do much but become a burden. Such response by the Lord, now that the spiritual decks are cleared with Israel, when she actually comes in as Zechariah, will not only "be ashamed of all their might," 7:16, and "lick the dust like a serpent." .
This is very fitting; though Israel will not have the glory, but the Lord who delivers it, and fulfils His word which in His various parts of the entire plan of salvation, has elected various items in the scenario (Isaiah 2:10-11). There is no exclusion from this abasement of flesh; and the only relief is to trust IN the Lord as your Rock (cf. Ch. 2 above).
Leaving the power of man to crawl into its holes (Micah 7:17), we come to the impassioned, grand and majestic utterance in which mercy gleams in its loving abundance, pardon comes in peace in its rightful place, and even victory over besetting sin comes with it. WHO is like this, our God! He pardons iniquity, passes by residual sins, not seeking a Nuremburg on it, but rather "will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Not only so, but as there were two parts in the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12), He will also fulfil that oath, which of course gives Israel its place.
By that time, the intensive and calamitous clashes between one way of error
(that of Israel in rejecting its Messiah and even crucifying Him -
together, never forget with Rome in that case!),
and that of the others (cf. Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 16:18-20),
ceases. Indeed, this constant confrontation loses its place. BOTH Jew and Gentile by this time have suffered openly, publicly, monumentally. Their deaths are like a huge towering adornment over a tomb for the fallen. No glory in flesh is left.
"He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities."
So does there come the phase of regress, always through sin, and repeated, but this yields at last to that of progress in two regards, first moving towards the giant glory of the Lord's restoration of many in Israel in one vast sweep (as in Romans 11:25), which is categorically composed, and secondly finding direct, the eminence which it composes. The emphasis is on the Tower of the Flock, He whose goings have been from everlasting (Micah 5:2), the One who said, "Before Abraham, I am," (John 8:58), the very Messiah; and the perfection of mercy is broadcast in Micah 7:8-20, where glory and discipline, pardon and power, delight and solemnity merge like the breakers of the same, some arising to heave and raise as if for a hammer blow, only to soften and play about their tips, till they merge and making majesty sublime, crash in a riotously abandoned, yet disciplined and beautiful composition.
WHO indeed IS a God like this! who creates creativity and just desire for what is good ? WHO ELSE can pardon iniquity, sin against the Maker, but the Maker! When therefore ANYONE sins, be it Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, majestic in style or impoverished in spirit, fading in heart or boisterous, through dimness of heart or splash of ubridled energy, there is one God, Gospel, goodness at its source, which being pure, suffers no replacement (Jeremiah 2:11-13, 18:12-14).
The message of Micah to Israel in terms of the tunnel of truth whereby they come from the underground of exclusion, albeit it wilfully, to the light of spiritual common day (Galatians 3:26-29), to put it in another image, is to one as to all. With Israel, it is specialised in background and in the midst of particular promises about their lot, history and vicissitudes; but spiritually it is one result in one way by one Redeemer, into one body of one Lord who made one excursion personally, as author of the heavens and the earth and man within them. And why ? it was to show personally to all the cast, the fulness of truth and the glory of mercy, the means for it and to it, and to accomplish those means for man, in the one Gospel of glory. There is one Lord of glory, who having sent His eternal word, has done all (I John 4:7-11, 1:1- 7-9).
What each person on this earth needs to do, when awake, is to call on this same Lord through this same Gospel, given once by chronological (The Christian Prescription Ch. 2) appointment, one sacrificial exposure for one cumulative and culminating result, that in His pardon man might have peace (Mark 2:1-10), and each one, separately, might be re-united to the God who made him, or her, old or young (John 4:14, 7:37-38).
It is the same love which sent Him, was in Him, for one as for the other (John 3:15-18, Colossians 1:19ff., Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42, Titus 2:11, 3:4), in fulfilment of this phase of background or that, in a people or person. Sins are many; salvation is one. When the Truth (John 14:6) can weep as shown in Matthew and in Luke, it is time to find remedy for the tears, and that, it is in forsaking breach and returning to the Lord who having made, provides also in this, the fulfilment of His love in a redemption both express and eternal: it is He who has fulfilled the conditions (Hosea 13:14, II Corinthians 5:17-21), providing free salvation (Isaiah 55, Romans 3:23ff., Titus 3:4-7).
Be sure then that you have taken it, and are not musing in the background, like one musing when an express train will come, while lying on the tracks. Thus, the wisdom and salvation of God declares: "All those who hate Me, love death" (Proverbs 8:36), and "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked!" (Ezekiel 33:11) and His mercy is towards one as towards another (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). Therefore, make sure your receipt of His redemption, of Himself the Saviour and Lord of glory, repenting for not having known Him sooner, and all that went with that, that being regenerated you too may be one of the children of God.
For an exposition in more detail on Micah 7:18-20, see Sinners Only and refer also to Galloping Events Ch. 8, which also assesses Amillenialism, Postmillenialism and Dispensationalism relative to some crucial elements in biblical exegesis. It is important not to be hung up to dry in some of the isms here, since various groupings of ideas tend to become popular as such, without reference to biblical necessity for EACH item in them. Groupings of ideas for this or that polemical purpose must not be allowed to become immutable, for some may be exposed as wrong, some right, the association unfortunate, though perhaps initially stimulating.
While these ideas are rejected as here or there, where in collision with the Bible, the actuality is often in this way or that, brought to light, when no longer obscured by these additives or subtractions (cf. I Corinthians 11:19). Textual fidelity must be entire, not just in general in line with this or that. ALL scripture must be read assiduously when a matter arises, for relevance and light. In this, the Westminster Confession is absolutely right. This approach is here termed TEXTUAL FIDELITY. Not only should we all
1) avoid groupings and clusters of ideas as some ism or other, as mandatory (though there may eventually come some grouping here or there, warranted by due care with all related biblical passages); but it is good to
2) research each point separately and with total candour, willing to evacuate errant elements, as also to
3) weigh and discern each related context in scripture, in the entire Bible, not using force to subvert or pervert or distort or reduce or expand its intent and evidence in the text. With this care, then all may be considered together, none subverted by careless generalisations in which some point becoming clear or prominent, everything which touches it is to be made like it, even if that manifestly ruptures the context.