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WALKING ON THE MOUNTAINS OF GRACE
Micah instruct us on perspective, in breadth, in practicalities in the world of
suffering and significance, wisdom and work,
life and humility, the knowledge of God by grace and the impudence to His face
It is good now to see the scope of holiness and suffering, pain and delight, radiance and the dynamics of the dispirited in a broader, indeed historical setting, and to conceive the covenantal glory in its practical impact on man. For this, what better than a review of elements of Deuteronomy and Micah, the one largely in prospect, but also with a serious element of retrospect, the other largely looking to the Messiah and the things to come, but likewise not omitting the ground on which they stand, and have stood.
In this way, any tendency to abstract will be fortified by the practical and any effort to neglect the divine initiatives and the resultants in man, will be strengthened by seeing a broader, historical perspective.
I CONDITIONS AND CONSEQUENCES Deuteronomy 28-32
In Deuteronomy 29-32, you see the two aspects of the Covenant, in cursing and blessing. The Lord frankly disavows any thought of ACTUAL continuing obedience on the part of the nation, from then on, with rather a flat statement that they will depart from the Lord and reach something so close to doom as to be all but indistinguishable.
In fact, in Deuteronomy 29, starting at verse 18, you see a hypothetical case of someone seemingly involved in the covenant but actually merely a pretender, and then God traces the whole scope of results if such a thing were to become epidemic. In Deuteronomy 31, however, vv. 14ff., there is a stark prediction that the
"people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of this land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured."
WHY ? some will ask, all this ? This song (of Moses), the Lord told that leader, would then testify against them.
In Deuteronomy 32, we see, as in Romans 11, the end of the matter. Arousing their minds to the wonders the Lord has already done for them, and the follies they have already performed, the tenderness He has shown, and for all that, to the fact that they had "scornfully esteemed the Rock" of their salvation, the Lord proceeds to itemise the results to come, to exhort them to face the facts of investigation. There were the inordinate triumphs and amazing feats they had been enabled to perform under His tutelage and with His help; and in the end, there is the eventual arising of the Lord for their deliverance from consuming neighbours and avaricious contenders with them, out of His pure mercy and grace, overflowing with abundance.
The Historical and the Foretold
In the midst of these things, in fact in Deuteronomy 30, after the hypothetical case and before the direct prediction of Israel's coming, sustained rebellion, before eventual mercy and triumph through grace, when the Gentiles will rejoice with them (32:43), there is another prediction. It is that there will be an awakening in the Jews, a zealous seeking in the realm of religion, and that they will return to their land (from which they will have been exiled as in Leviticus 26:32-33).
It is after that return to their land, that He will circumcise their hearts, that is, bring them to the living knowledge of the living God, past all mere religious aspects and actions, ones perhaps worthwhile in themselves, but short of repentance, redemption and pardon. This last phase, the radical and real application of redemption, is found after the initial return, in Deuteronomy 30:6, just as the parallel coverage has that self-same sequence, in Ezekiel 37:7 and 12, the physical and later the spiritual restoration of Israel.
We find this suddenly depicted in Micah 4 in a consummate form, where, just as in Isaiah 2, the God of Israel, who is the God of the whole earth rules alone (Jeremiah 16:19, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, Psalm 67:5, 96:5), all other gods being but
v idols of the heart,
specifications by powers human or spiritual, malign and misled
(Ezekiel 14:7, 39:21-39, Deuteronomy 32:15-19,39),
v participants in self-vaunting pollution (Jeremiah 16:19-21, 10:11),
v who will "perish from the earth and from under the heavens",
v even all of them,
v gods who made neither the heaven nor the earth (cf. Isaiah 44:24, 45:12,18).
It is this the God of creation and truth who will "judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off" - Micah 4:3, as at last in His rule on this same earth, the ways of peace will follow from the acknowledgement of truth! There is of course no other way; for in other choice, there is merely collision with reality, with God, and with one another, as if taking a book of the road other than that one which is ... operative!
At last the earthly Zion of the ONE GOSPEL, as we shortly see, becomes the heavenly Jerusalem of Revelation 21:2; but before that time, Micah indicates, there is to be a vast change, for Israel. This is to be found in Micah 5.
II FULFILMENTS AND FEATURES - MICAH 5-7
First, however, In Micah 5, following the glory of the Lord shown over all the earth, as in Micah 4, immediately, in stark contrast to the glory in Micah 4, we find what it costs the Lord to produce such a result from such an earth as this, so polluted, so defaming Him, so impudent before His holiness.
At once, as Micah 5 opens, we see the prediction of the Messiah. There is exposed to view that staggering mistreatment of the Judge of Israel by Israel the nation, which is there foretold. It is indeed even He who is of His eternal nature, that very everlasting Being (Micah 5:2), the Lord Himself who is shown, smitten on the face. And by whom ? It is by a recalcitrant and ungrateful Israel, lightly esteeming the God of their salvation, as Moses foretold in Deuteronomy 32.
With this exposure, we read also of the predicted birth-place of the Messiah in Bethlehem, and the not unexpected fact concerning those who smote Him, the Judge of Israel, “on the face,” that nation: that "He shall give them up" (as in Leviticus 26:33ff, an alienation which would not be short!). It is not however for ever. This is followed by the parallel intimation to that in Deuteronomy, that this will be "until the time that she who is in labour has given birth. Then the remnant of the brethren shall return to the children of Israel" (Micah 5:3).
Thus a desolatory period of divine judgment for the gross treatment of the Prince of Peace (as in Isaiah 9, 52-53), will be followed by a restoration.
Indeed, in Micah 5-7, you have, as in Deuteronomy, a vast coverage. Just as in the latter, so in the former, there is the combination of a encompassing love, a vital grace, a repudiation of faithlessness, a fearful exposure of the realities of judgment.
Thus, we find as we proceed into Micah 5, that with Israel restored to its place at the last, there will be a provision of deliverance from what is now Iraq, and as "Assyria" may include eventually Iran and such places. The predicted devastation of Iraq has occurred in the Gulf war, and its successor, in which that molesting nation has very nearly been dismantled (Micah 5:5-6). Meanwhile, the "remnant of Israel" are seen as providing a testimony to truth throughout the earth (Micah 5:7). Some may be surprised at this.
Is it then forgotten ? that it was people of Israel, not the nation but individuals in their thousands, who were the commencement exercise for the founding of the Christian Church, that the apostles were Jewish, through whom came the Gospels, that Paul was such, who was used to present 13 books of the New Testament! Indeed, as a remnant, those who founded in Christ the Christian Church and their later contributions stand in massive significance: for it was Jews, who were first used as followers of Christ exhibiting the foundations (Galatians 1-6), and many remain as a remnant of grace to this day.
In this post-Messianic period, after the smiting of the Christ, many are those of Israel who will perform and continue to perform this function, and the words of grace of the Lord which many of them wrote, have indeed blessed, and do now, scatter themselves like Autumn leaves, blood-red with beauty, across the surface of the earth most speedily! More is to come when the vast explosion of grace and faith comes to Israel itself as in Zechariah 12:10ff..
Thus later in this Chapter, we see that there is to be a purging of idols (Micah 5:12ff.).
The Lord also indicates a power for Israel to deal with their enemies at this point (Micah 5:9), the sheer divine power of which is seen variously in Ezekiel 38ff., Micah 7:15 in its wrapping up of the whole movement; as indeed, also in Isaiah 66 and Habakkuk 3:13, where we see the Lord at work for "salvation with Your Messiah". He acts WITH Your 'anointed one' as the AV correctly renders the exact words of the text cf. Psalm 110, 2).
This vast power is seen, along with a movement towards a direct reliance on the Lord, where human weapons will be replaced by divine presence (Micah 7:18ff.). As Keil correctly notes, this term for 'anointed' or 'Messiah' is never used of Israel; and in fact, the true Servant of the Lord is shown in contrast to them as in Isaiah 41:28-42:1). Indeed, the One whom He anoints as Saviour gives to one as to all who believe in Him, comfort, consolation and beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:1ff.). It is this Saviour who rules (Psalm 2), fearless as always in the presence of His enemies, the spiritually scurrilous and the religiously reprobate.
Both the comfort and the power to purge is found in this Isaiah 61, as so often in the Bible. Indeed, it is THAT chapter which Jesus publicly acknowledged as concerning Himself! (Luke 4); and it is thus that He, God the sent (Isaiah 48:16, Philippians 2), comes to man, deity on mission, for than God: there IS no other Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11). It is He who saves. When He came once, it was to show, to suffer and to save (John 3:17); but when He comes again, it is to rule in righteousness, so that the earth will be filled with the glory of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11, Habakkuk 2).
Unrighteousness has had long enough (II Peter 3:9), to show its polluted face; now the face of the Lord shines radiant, the righteous One who for us and our sins, endured the Cross and bestowed eternal life, even on EVERY ONE who believes in Him. How beautiful the power to redeem and of resurrection; and it is this same power which removes the renegade. God is both Saviour and Judge, and how wonderful that He offers the salvation, before there comes the judgment!
Thus God acts with His Messiah, and the people are saved. It is this same abused and suffering Messiah who, having paid all, is to rule on the earth (Micah 4, Isaiah 11, Psalm 2); and it is He who will not turn from the pursuit and manifestation of that divine glory which to be shown on a stricken earth, at last brought to book (Psalm 110, Habakkuk 2:14, Micah 2); and this, it will come.
Look with expectation then, for His return Hebrews 9:29. Acts 1:7ff., Matthew 24:26-31
III - WALKING ON THE MOUNTAINS OF GRACE - MICAH 6-7
The Ways of Grace
The great themes of Micah pulse like piston strokes: Sin, righteousness, judgment, the millenium, all accentuated first in the revulsion of the nation from the Messiah and then in the penalty paid.
Meanwhile, as this approach to the millenium is seen in Micah 4, with the power to instal it in Micah 5:9 as in Habakkuk 3, so in Micah 6 is seen the overall appeal to the fundamentals of grace.
What then ? The power comes with purpose, the eternal purpose of God that truth should rule, by grace, through salvation in the Messiah. What IS this grace, so expensively granted as the very Judge of Israel is foretold in His saving work (Micah 6:6-8):
what does God require, asks the prophet,
but that they should do justly,
love mercy and walk humbly with their God ?
Did Israel keep this ? Far from it (Micah 6:9ff.). In view of their perennial failure as a nation, despite periods of vast grace and prosperity in the Lord, we then find a review of the results of not attending to the simple requirements of godliness: "Therefore I will also make you sick by striking you, by making you desolate,” as Israel indeed was for generations (Micah 6:13).
"You shall sow but not reap." This was the lot of the expropriated, exiled, purged, pogrommed, persecuted, milked, harassed nation. Indeed, in Micah 7, we find what appears a personification, a voice of the believing Jews who are opening their eyes, to their lot, and beginning to seek the Lord. First however, we see the corruption then growing and foreseen in the land (Micah 7:3):
" ...the prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, and the great man utters his evil desire: so they scheme together. The best of them is like a briar",
and then the warning of betrayal during their seedy season (Micah 7:5-6). While therefore the power of God brings at length deliverance, it is not for the purposes of sin; nor does He deliver indulgence in sin as signal or sign for glory. Rather, gloriously does He deliver FROM the rule of sin in one's life, BY the grace of the gift of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who fulfilled all the prophesied specifications as Lord and Saviour, and granted grace from His own grace, and life that is connected to His own, so that from HIM our fruit is found.
John 15 shows the contrast between the merely nominal, the formal, and the truly functional, between faith and fiction, as does Hosea 14:1-8; for in Him, the tree of life, the branches CANNOT fail to bear fruit (Matthew 7:15ff.). Indeed, His dynamic is no less intense in the heart than in the battle-field. Liberty to love has long been given its scope, and though hatred and folly have sought to flourish and take over this earth, yet the Lord both stands by His GIFT by GRACE to life; and by His judgment in the end.
In the annals of eternity there are written the follies of man's foibles, his plans, his ideologies of power and corruption, presumption and arrogance, and their RESULTS! Also written are the annals of grace (Hebrews 1, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.).
NOTHING has been denied to man of liberty to implement; but ALL has failed. Even the current endeavour by the USA to export democracy is misconceived! expensively so.
It is not a CULTURAL matter than freedom is found in this or that series of events. Indeed, it is a SPIRITUAL matter that freedom cannot live in the absence of God, and God is not to be found except in Christ, from whom comes tolerance in grace, and judgment in truth. You cannot invent God. You follow Him or you do not, and giving out RESULTS of Christian grace to those who do not HAVE it, is as foolish as giving out fruit to a nation which needs fruit trees to grow their own! Here is an expensive and extensive trap!
It is to this judgment that this world now approaches, with the spiritual fiasco of unplanted 'forests' (cf. Matthew 15:13, 24:24). Without Christ, it is groundless, it has no hope, only dope, the delectable words of folly governing hearts that were made for wisdom, with results so foul, whether in Mao or Stalin or Hitler or militant Islam, that the world reeks with them, and the smell is hard to remove (cf. Aviary of Idolatry, Divine Agenda Chs. 6, 3 News 98, News 37).
The Arrival of Grace
Whether in personal or political follies, man needs to repent and seek the Lord, with that same passion that is to be found in Hosea 14 as in Micah 7:8,18-19.
The domineering dynamic of sin is not given a place; and thus before the wonderful end of the account of these things, there is in Micah 7:2-7 this great upbraiding, scolding given to those of Micah's generation, that may apply to many more, for their hard-hearted corruption.
Arising from all this, we see in Micah 7:8ff. a marvellous sense of empathy.
It is here that is heard the voice of the personified spiritual seekers, those of the Jews who realising their predicament and its cause, are looking to the Lord. Before the glory is the shame, and before the millenium is the misery, for until Israel repents of what it did to the Judge of Israel, and finds in Him its Saviour, there is woe.
"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.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against Him,
until He pleads my case, and executes justice for me.
"He will bring me forth to the light. I will see His
Then she who is my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me,
'Where is the LORD your God ?'
My eyes will see her. Now she will be trampled down like mud in the streets."
Here is hope! Fascinatingly, we find that "in the day when your walls are to be built" (as now – 7:11), the decree will go, and many will be the returnees of Israel to the land (7:12 cf. Isaiah 49:19-21, a similar post-Messianic prediction for Israel (Isaiah 49:1-6,14-18, 66:5-18).
This is simply one more of the marvels of precise predictive prophecy in the Bible. Let us review a little first, these international affairs.
We have already seen how Assyria would seek to subdue Israel, even after she is brought back to her land, following the Messiah's advent, at Bethlehem and her disastrous treatment of Him. That Assyria with its Nineveh capital by the Tigris River, in the very midst of the Tigris-Euphrates system, its conquests in its heyday reaching out to the West, what is it today ? It is very much in the field of modern Iraq, with that same river system in it. It is this very country which was rebuked by a multi-national force in our own day, precisely as the prophecy foretold (Micah 5:5ff.), and such have we seen in the Gulf Wars. Indeed, from the prophecy (Micah 5:5-6), we gain the impression of a continuation of action in this sphere, just as has been the case in our own life-time, with Iraq.
Nor is this all the wonder of it. We have noted the declaration from the Lord that "in the day when your walls are to be built", THEN there will be a coming of many back to their land, from many nations. Thus NOW that the famous wall about much of Israel is being built, started by Prime Minister Sharon, there is indeed a drawing of more and more back to their land, which has swelled to such an extent, though the space is small, that just as Isaiah predicted would be the case after the sudden BIRTH of the nation of Israel once more, so the land seems too small! (Isaiah 66:8-9, 49:19-21) as its new millions mount. Mourning the loss of her 'children', Israel will be astonished at the sheer numbers who now come back to her (cf. SMR Appendix A).
It was to be, happened and is happening; so is it ever with the written word of the living God. This is now, in our own time, abounding in fulfilments as the time for Christ's return comes near! (Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
Small wonder indeed that the land seems so small, as Isaiah 49 foretold, since for so many years, so many have sought so often to gain it, as they still seek so much to possess it, while constantly desiring to reduce it still further!
We move now towards the return of the Lord, but let us follow Micah further. The outcome is as in Micah 7:15ff., but also as in Zechariah 12:10ff., the restoration of many in that land, suddenly to the Lord, and His action on their multiply arrant neighbours, who would walk on her and over her.
The Return to Grace
All of this is in the realm of divine power; but grace does not alter. Micah 6:8, with its eloquent dismissal of rivers of blood from sacrificial substitutes for faith, makes that clear. What is required is FAITH in the Lord who so grants the gift of grace! and what is to be seen is the GRACE of life which flows from it, like a river from a mountain source.
Thus Micah 6:6-7 throbs with a different power, that of eternal life, the way of God for man. It removes the cloak and shows and appeals to the heart! Micah 7:8-9 follows it up, acknowledging that there is because of sin, no hope until the Lord "pleads my cause", ready with sin acknowledged (stressed in Hosea 14), to "bring me forth to the light" where "I will see His righteousness." It is HIS ONLY, His righteousness that is seen (as in Psalm 71:14-16).
It is then that God indicates the power of the finale, to be used to deliver Israel as the drama comes towards its end (Micah 7:15ff.). It is parallel to the GRACE to be lived (Micah 6:8), the MERCY to be found and the WONDER of the love of the Lord (Micah 7:19ff.).
Thus, there is to come a deliverance for Israel comparable with that which came from the Pharaoh of Egypt (Micah 7:15); "As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders." The phenomena of the Exodus from Egypt are one of the marvels of history, the power explicit, the action amazing, the deliverance total, the miracles multiplied (cf. the divine action in Ezekiel 38-39). That is the staggering extent of the power to be shown for Israel at the climax, as the end rushes forward, in this enormous reclamation project, the land a site and a symbol, the hearts the prize and the ultimate purpose, though the land itself speaks like a preacher!
Then the powerful and intimidatory nations will find that they have indeed been taking on themselves the function of God, who alone is the disciplinarian. Then these Gentile adversaries will be "ashamed of all their might". In fact they will "crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the LORD our God."
The UN and the Madrid Quartet are ignominiously acting as if God in the very midst of these topics of His own word, very much like Egypt in the day of its reckless Pharaoh (Micah7:15), amid the very people whom He appointed to bear the message of salvation at the first. Even though Israel failed, as He foretold it would (Isaiah 49:7), when the Messiah came and so brought on this whole period of what are now nearly two millenia of persecution, yet God has by no means forgotten them (Isaiah 49:14-15, 66:5-6,12-15).
Instead, He has already, as predicted in Isaiah 66:8ff., SUDDENLY brought back the people to nationhood, amid a turmoil of enemies whom He repays. Wonderfully has He granted to them major victories against immensely more numerous foes (as foretold in Zechariah 12), even to those who as a nation crucified the Christ: so that the weak shall become as the mighty, in their defence, power poured forth on them, from God - as happened in 1948, 1967, 1973. This is His grace and His faithfulness (cf. Ezekiel 36:22).
In the end, it is the power of God to deliver ALL His people (Isaiah 49:6, 42:6), Israel then having returned to the Lord (Zechariah 12:10, Ezekiel 36-37), that counts; but the very land of Israel is a testimony as surely as was the Exodus: and what God plans, in vain does man seek to deny (Psalm 2!). With these pulses of politics, arms, invasions, repulses, victories, deliverances, there remains the necessity for any and for each, in this land and in that, to receive the Messiah, the very same one that Israel rejected, and which many in it are yet to receive (Romans 11:25ff., Zechariah 12:10-13:1). It is even that same Messiah whom once they despised (Isaiah 53), whose same Gospel is preached (Galatians 1:6-9), as was foretold (Isaiah 49-55), who is yet to return (Acts 1:7ff.)!
What He, the Lord Jesus Christ, bought and taught in weakness and vulnerability (cf. I Corinthians 1:20-25, Isaiah 50:4-6, 52:13-53:12, Matthew 20:28), now is wrought in power and purity, a Gospel grant to the earth before it is burnt up (II Peter 3) and removed (Revelation 20:11, Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35). So the Lord fulfils all His counsel and offers His grace to warring man.
Let us fold to our hearts the wonders of the glorious God of all comfort, knowing that the very mountains of history show the outline of His grace; and how much more His word, which foretelling all (cf. Amos 3:7), does all, for God who speaks, speaks His mind, and His mind, it is that which was in Christ, who being in the form of God did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross. It is not in human power that life rests, but in that of God. It was from the first in the creation of liberty and love, and it will be to the last in the recreation through regeneration of man; for if any one is in Christ Jesus, that person is a new creation, old things have passed away.
Life then is in the mercy and in the very presence of God. In Him, this close spiritual relationship, filled with grace and goodness, becomes not only normal and functional, but essential and beautiful. It rests not on human plans, but divine wisdom.
How wonderful is the word of God in Hosea 14 and Micah 7, how blessed its grace, how personal His peace, how dominant its loveliness, how glorious its grace!
WALKING ON THE MOUNTAINS OF GRACE -
WALKING ON THE MOUNTAINS OF GRACE -
The Relish of Grace
Last time we saw that Micah 7 ends with the praise of the God of Abraham, because despite all, He has been faithful to His covenant, which you will remember was not only of a place for Israel, but of a grace for ALL NATIONS! (Genesis 12, 15). It showers us with the wonder of the grace of God, just as Zechariah 12 shows us explicitly the returning of masses of people in Israel to the Lord, looking on "Me whom they have pierced", going off family by family in shame, in repentance, and finding (Zechariah 13) a fountain for cleansing as they receive at last the Saviour whom the nation killed and crucified.
What was held in thrall, to sin (John 8:30-31), now finds, every one who believes, Jew or Gentile, the very salvation of God. How vast is His wisdom and great His counsel, magnificent His patience and profound His power (cf. Romans 11:26-36).
the prophet declaims, “is a God like You, pardoning
and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage.
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.”
Thus the time of grace comes for them. Nor is there any to whom it is not offered.
Neither does iniquity lasso the escapee, nor does divine anger engulf him; for God DELIGHTS in mercy. It is exquisite joy to Him to show it, even for Him whose goodness is exuberant, whose love is marvellously kind. To SUBDUE iniquity He acts within us who believe, to pardon it. He moves by His Spirit to overcome it (Romans 8:11-13), drawing us with cords of love (Romans 8:14-17).
Again, He acts in Himself, to show compassion; for it is His very name and nature, and He shows it to all His children (Isaiah 49:6), just as the promise to Abraham was for all peoples through the coming seed, the Messiah (Genesis 12:3, 22:18). Nor are these, His children, aristocrats of the spirit, but rather foundlings found by His mercy and grace.
These having been bought, they are ready to be taught (cf. Isaiah 54:11-13, I Peter 2:2-12, James 1:20-21). Rejoice therefore, for in Him is both righteousness and justice, both mercy and profundity, both pardon and peace. Co-operate with Him and fulfil His word with relish, for this is the Royalty which never fades, the reality which never dims, the Lord who leads in the paths of righteousness, whose grace is always sufficient, whose goodness is more effulgent than the sun, to whom faith relates as the flower through its stem to its root in the ground (II Corinthians 12, Psalm 23, Malachi 3:17,4:2), while its face absorbs the radiance of light from above.
From this great declamation in Micah 7, we find that it is He, this God, who to one and to all (Galatians 3:28ff., Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 66), offers salvation through faith by grace (Ephesians 2). This He DELIGHTS to do, and He has no equal, no competitor in heaven or on earth (Psalm 89:6, 73:25-28), the God of creation and salvation alike, munificent in mercy, glorious in praise, blessed in faithfulness.
It is HE who has offered it likewise to the Gentiles (Isaiah 11:10), who find its exquisite beauty no less (cf. Hosea 14, John 6:68). The world finds it insufferable; but long has it suffered, as did Israel suffer, for its eruption of self-will, self-salvation and selfishness, in oblivion of the work of the Lord. Now it makes so much dust in selfish and vain contests and conflicts that it is a wonder it still endures at all! But its time will come, and the due date of judgment hastens.
The Plan of Grace for the Race
In all of this you see the vastness of the Lord's planning (as in Romans 11 at the end of that chapter rehearsing the same theme), and the fact that in the end NO ONE will glory, there is none who will be exalted but the LORD Himself (Isaiah 2:12-18). It is He who has both blessed and punished Israel, who both chastened her and delivers her. Yet this deliverance is ONLY in terms of that ONE GOSPEL which, in crucifying Christ, they as a nation rejected, while nevertheless, marvellously, SOME OF THEM even became leaders in the newly-founded Christian Church. NOW at last it is to come, that all in one, One in all, at last the people of the Lord, Jew or Gentile will become one (as in Isaiah 49:6, 66:18-20), and the vast panorama of history in this phase, is thus finished. All who are going to be plucked out, will be taken, and be placed together.
Already and for so long we have seen the mixing of many, Jew and Gentile in Christ; but then it will come to a potent culmination. If not all of Israel are to come, yet great is to be the outpouring of saving grace to that people; and many will they be who find Him when their eyes are at last suddenly opened as Paul makes so clear in Romans 11:25ff., in harmony with Zechariah 12.
God has His drama planned, His grace sufficient at every level, for one, for all. There is no other; has never been; never will be (Ephesians 1:10, Daniel 7:25). We Gentiles in significant numbers have been grafted back into the Lord's olive tree (Romans 11). In Israel, cut out through failure in faith as a NATION, many individuals will also be suddenly GRAFTED BACK!
What is that, exclaims Paul, but life from the dead! (Romans 11:15). And does not the Christian find his/her own life, back from death, into a divinely installed liberty (II Corinthians 5:17, Isaiah 51:11).
Fellowship and Fury
As we move now to Micah:15-17, that mighty lead to the grand theme of 7:18-20 at which we have looked, so seeing all in setting, let us amplify the scope of our view, seeing different elements in perspective, moving from unity to action to the peace in pardon.
As Paul states in Ephesians 3:3-7, it was not known in former times as it is now known, this degree and depth of the fellowship thus to be shared between Jew and Gentile in their ways. It was indeed indicated in Isaiah 66:18ff., Isaiah 42:6, 59:6, as here in Deuteronomy 32:43; but its full extent comes finally to be shown in all its wonder; and this has been published in the Gospel, its ways shown in Romans 11 in particular.
Blindness, says Paul, has in part happened to Israel, UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come. They had their innings long ago; we have had ours; then there is this precious regrafting, this major national awakening in Israel, as indeed there has been in countries like the USA and Wales, Scotland and England, in the 18th and 19th centuries, now here now there. THAT was part of the Gospel glory to the Gentiles; but this is the residue of the opening to Israel, so that “all Israel shall be saved” – Romans 11:;26.
In this way, what had become a channel of division, becomes an overflowing grace. Just as in the Exodus, there was a channel for Israel to pass over, before the waters covered the Egyptians, as they resurged, killing those in hot pursuit, now a more mellow scenario appears, a more ample channel for a broader people whose rescue the Lord fulfils, even for all who receive Him according to His own Gospel of grace, by faith. This time it is a multi-national channel.
Just as in more recent times, a way of divisions came because of Israel's unbelief, and as a folly of self-aggrandisement came to Gentile nations seeking to interfere with and acting to oppress Israel, so do the waters of blessing surround and sway out from the path of those who act through faith in the Lord, revealing a highway to encompass more as more receive from this and that nation, this same Lord in this same Gospel.
Yet at last these same waters overflowing from the channel, to bare it, become a snare; for the time is not unlimited for man’s passage on that clearly-defined path for which Christ has both given description and invitation (Matthew 7:15ff.). Then these waters do indeed obliterate all pursuit. It was literal then, is metaphorical now; but it is still destruction which awaits what disdains mercy and discards opportunity (II Thessalonians 1, Matthew 22:1-10, Mark 9).
It is now, as faith arises and resorts where it belongs, taking its journey as it may, while the way is still open, that the people of its domain are safe, whatever their source, race or place: grace is sufficient where the way of God is taken while open.
As before, the time is not unlimited, either now for the response to the Lord on the part of individuals, or of those from propelled from any nation or culture, to come and join the multi-national new ‘Israel of God’ (Galatians 6:16), in its Exodus from unbelief into the land of faith.
Thus there still remains the same exclusion zone of calamity for the people or peoples who refuse this inclusive grace, offered to all, rejected by many for their pride, their nationality, their false dream, for their false gods as in Egypt in its day - some with imperialistic overtones as they had - yes and pride in their culture, just as Egypt had in its own, in its day. Indeed, the opportunity is discarded for the sake of their arrogant invasive designs for this or that prize, national, political, racial, or pseudo-religious, while they seek to engage in harassment of the word of God, of the will of God, which being impregnable, is merely the prelude to their needless ruin.
There is, in short, a new Exodus not in mere body but in spirit, and a new 'drowning' in the floods of shame; for than this very Gospel, this same Gospel, this prophesied Gospel, this fulfilled Gospel, this operative Gospel, this insistent Gospel of grace, this immutable Gospel of God, there is no other (Galatians 1:6-9, Ephesians 1:10); nor will the Lord change His ways, His word or His will.
It has been secure from before our time began (Ephesians 1:4), and remains past its little day. His word and will, His Gospel and glory come to all nations. It is received by many from many; it is rejected by a host, however, by still more, just as was mercy rejected by the pursuing hosts of Pharaoh’s army, who drowned in their inveterate passion, and failed in their domineering surge. False prophets and false religions, whether focussed on myths, like organic evolution now, or vain deities, as then and now, whether or not as with militant Islam, they stir up inveterate hatreds and invasive assaults: these have but one course to follow, one place to be swept aside. Error has its come-uppance in one judgment, by the truth; and it varies not at all throughout all millennia.
There is ONE operation from ONE Saviour who in ONE act has in ONE way brought to faith and repentance, ONE result, which is eternal life by grace as a gift, the very righteousness of God the grant (Romans 5:17, Ephesians 2), irrevocable (I John 3:9, 5:24, John 10:9,27-29, I Peter 1:3-8), and joyous.
Thus, all of His people at last stand safe by the oceans of His grace in admiration and delight, in fellowship in Christ. To be sure, the Lord will again devastate the proud hosts seeking to take over the promised land (Micah 7:15, Is. 66, Ezek. 38-39, Habakkuk 3), as His people seek Him; but past geography is grace; and the believing remnant of Jew and Gentile become as one.
As Israel is one of the pivots in which God expresses His divine wisdom and power, so many are the prizes which men seek in violation of His word and will; and to all there is but one result. Long is the battle, short is its end. Grace is abundant; judgment is its heir, where its passage is not taken.
It is no new Bible that anyone needs, in which to find these things. KINDNESS is not another name for rebellion; and COMPASSION is not another word for rapacity; nor is MERCY another word for recklessness. For in what God has said, lies wisdom; and in His plans, both to provide, to symbolise, to secure and to establish, there is a WAY. It has been so from the first ; it remains to the last. In this, there are specifications and rules, there is a road and there is a reason.
When arguing with God, man needs to remember one thing, that He who made us has resolved on His OWN way of showing truth, grace, pardon, peace and mercy; and He has used this and that means and symbol, this land, that victory, this history to exhibit these things. He does not turn because men spurn. He also requires us to SHOW mercy, saying, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5); for those who LIVE by mercy, cannot fail to show it! It is their coin in trade.
Indeed, He is not to be moved to my or your ideas of a better way. For to Him and from Him and for Him are all things (Romans 11:33). Fighting with God, so far from being faith, is rebellion; and no UN can deliver from such a war of folly, whether it is to secure this or that variation of His plan, alteration of His program, where grace prevails, sovereignty of God in His compassions rules, and safety is to be found.
As Keil puts it in his rendering of Hosea 13:9, You have flung yourselves to destruction, but in ME is your fruit found! Alas for them, as Micah 7:16 declares,
“the nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might”,
for it is God who calls, who acts, whose mercies are sure,
“who does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”
It is HE who “
will subdue our iniquities”,
and who owning the whole earth, and all upon it, disposes it as He will, and invites, calling to mankind, even looking under the hedges and in the byways. COME! (Matthew 22:8ff.), He calls.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’. And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’
And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” – Revelation 22:17.
Nothing ever changes here. He calls, He is willing, He seeks, and would have all come to repentance and to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1); but the way into it does not alter, and His ways do not change (Habakkuk 3:6, Malachi 3:6). The cost is considerable as in all cleanliness; but the cure is godly, and as to entry, it is all paid for. All who come, act; any who do not act, have not yet come. Yet He is not harsh, except to the hypocrite (Matthew 23), and the bruised reed, this He will not break (Isaiah 42:1-6).
WALKING ON THE MOUNTAINS OF GRACE -
The Symphony of Seeking
Micah, then, has shown us the unchanging grace of God and the simple requirements of man, the power of God and the place in history of His vast and epochal actions. Let us return to Micah in 7:9ff.. What is here to be found ? It is this.
Again, we find that personification of the seeking of the Jewish remnant, telling us not to rejoice over them, for they will arise. While there are specific matters for Israel as we have seen, it is not only in Jewish sinners, as to type, that this seeking thrust arises, but in all for whom this light has come and found its mark (cf. Is. 11:10, 60:1-3).
The Gentile, cast down with sin and avoiding salvation, seeking and yearning, seeing the foolish errors which have invited evil into his or her life, noting its impact, may look for the Lord: SO many of the Gentiles also begin to believe. Looking up, each one finds assurance increasingly that not only is God there, but active and seeking with the love that knows no bounds, He receives freely (Romans 3:23-27), every soul who comes. Then when faith comes, the Lord arises for deliverance.
Israel, in its historical realities, has typified much in individual sinners' lives, and this seeking phase not least. It has been made a concrete example, both of the power and blessing to be found in the service in sincerity of the Lord, and of the rushing foundering which is the spiritual and personal lot of those who flit about in pseudo-faith, with other gods, new gods, newly risen up (Deut. 32:15-18), and make fools of the flesh of man with the blinking of their spiritual eyes, afraid of the light. Indeed, the land of Israel is a secular speech, a dramatic illustration of spiritual things, in an objective and visible manner; and how the world hates it, never able to contain itself until it has grabbed more and more.
Yet it will not prevail, however much it hates the God of truth WHO ACTS (Isaiah 64:5), both in the resurrection of the body of Christ, and in the restoration of His fallen people. The world wants a pet tabby-cat god who will do what he is told, and not interfere with man's rifling of divinely made resources, of body or mind or spirit - including the nation of Israel. At other times, it seeks a ruthless, domineering braggart after whom to swagger.
None such is available! As He said nearer to the first, so is it now to the last, "I am who I am" (EXODUS 3:14), the underived, eternal, omnipotent God who declares Himself, whether man listens or not; and who acts!
He also declared, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).
The invitation is not to cultural creations but to the Creator of man, the Saviour from defilement, and the Regenerator of the fallen image of God in man. He, the Lord, does not vary; nor does the invitation.
God is not mocked, and having already fulfilled the return of Israel to its land, to the administration of Jerusalem, and to the triumphant wars amid trying tensions, which were predicted, He proceeds to the end which He has for so long announced.
This then we find, that the arousals in the Middle East have constantly exhibited His glorious power and precision; and the end of the matter will come, not only in the judgment on the assailants, when Israel returns to Him, but in the judgment of the earth. Israel is ONE of the MANY items on the divine agenda, and the humbling of the Gentile powers, still seeking the height of their pride, is another! (cf. II Thessalonians 1, Isaiah 2, Micah 7:15ff.)
The practical reality is this: SEEK THE LORD and FIND HIM by faith, so that you do NOW arise, and NOW walk in the Spirit, as all must, so that not in the example of unbelief do you wander, but in the channels of peace. Walk then in the paths of holiness, as you wait upon your God. Then what will be the lot of heirs, whether found in the sudden surge of faith to come to many in Israel, or secured amid the failing Gentiles, this grace and eternal life, this inheritance and knowledge of the living God: it becomes yours also.
The Contours of History and the Conviction of Heart
The contours of history are important; the conviction of the heart is even more so. What in the end is more important, seeing at a distance the mountains of grace, or BEING ON THEM! They are both important, but to see them and not walk on them ? As to that, Israel has provided a standing act, a dire drama, forever to show to mankind both the love and the discipline of the Lord (Romans 11:22). There is no peace for the wicked, but the just will live by their faith. Trying to live without spiritual oxygen is a futile proceed: as with a new-born babe, you have to pen your lungs, on arrival. For the new-born babe in Christ, this is on regeneration!
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God: it is for one, it is for all. To humble oneself before the Lord, repent of sin, acknowledge its disaster, receive the Lord who took this very disaster, and be acquitted through His vicarious death and suffering: this is required. That is a thrust of Micah 6:8.
It is the very work of the Messiah foretold in Micah 5, whose ways are so drastically exhibited in Micah 6-7, of the Lord whose faithfulness Micah glories in, to the last (7:19ff.), the God who pardons iniquity, and passes over the transgression of those who are His, who does not retain His wrath for ever, because He DELIGHTS IN MERCY, who keeps covenant. This ONE GOD with His ONE GRACE gives life that nothing can smash any more, conducting us who receive Him, to our appointed destiny with Him, invariable, victorious, merciful, faithful.
In this, He acts to one as to all; His grace is for one as available to all; His heart yearns for one and for all, for though in His predestination, He has measured all things; in His foreknowledge of heart, beyond all works, He has found His own, some of Israel the nation, some outside it as in Revelation 7: one multitudinous, human massif of redemption. It is one with His grace shining distinctively on its summit, a place of purification where the snow can now lie untainted, while the sunshine of His righteousness beats down unmolested, and His truth beams in its wholeness and its beauty. There they stand, and having withstood evil, yet stand fast (Ephesians 6:10-20).
The Relish of Justice and Mercy
Let meanwhile the word of Micah 6:8-9 ring in our ears!
To DO JUSTLY, how valid that is! Some wish to promulgate a comic social gospel, in which inter-personal relations are all, as if the basis for it were not necessary for its performance, nor God for man. So do they act like children preferring the absence of the teacher. Others wish, quite rightly, to stress the Cross of Christ, but act as if He had not become a man, and ignore the results in life which follow, as if the beauty of a sunrise were a matter for waxing poetical, but its physical presence was ignored. Faith without works is dead, a violation of reality, a dream misspent.
In fact, to LOVE mercy means to function with this like a bursting stream in flood, always hard to contain. Its thrust is a new inward dynamic: for indeed blessed are the merciful! To DO justly means to love justice. It means not to seek to expropriate, to intimidate, to sequester what is not yours, but to act impartially and with righteous eyes; and indeed, justice itself is to be loved (Proverbs 21;15). It is BECAUSE of it, that love having sent and mercy provided the atonement for sin, we have this grace. Confessing our sins to Christ, and trusting Him in His power and His wisdom, we find He is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins (I John 1).
Faithful certainly, but why just ? It is for this reason. SINCE justice is satisfied in HIS payment for us who believe, THEREFORE it is JUST for Him, having paid, to pardon.
Relish justice, then: do what it is. Love mercy. You live by it and through it and because of it: so show it. Remember the parable! (Matthew 18:21ff.).
Walk humbly with your God moreover, says Micah 6, in His name. Do not walk in subjection to man, his culture and pride; but WITH YOUR GOD. Do not become a rubbish tin for other people's ideas of truth or justice or love or profit. Be HUMBLE before your God. First make sure He is yours, by faith in Christ (Romans 10:9, 3:23ff.), and then seek in all things HIS WILL, HIS WORD and HIS WAY.
By no means play with the divine fire, or act as if to seek to rouse the divine ire: rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2), act with prudence BEFORE GOD, to please Him in all things (Colossians 1:10). As to your neighbour, love him/her as yourself. Work out before God what you would like, were the positions reversed, and then do that! Don't twiddle with the dials of truth: the station does not alter its message, meat or its meaning. God is the same, the Gospel is the same, the grace is the same, judgment is the same and its meeting for faith, it does not swerve.
Let not love be ‘’dissimulated”! In all its preciousness. Let it have its outcome, not in seedy sentiment, but in adoring delight, not in double-tongued pretence or pretension, but rather in active seeking of: so that decisively deliberate, you perform it. Let light penetrate selfishness, truth overwhelm rationalisation and joy nestle in its place amid sincerity of heart and purpose. Let longsuffering with perseverance (Colossians 1:11), truth with joy (John 16:22), faith with certainty (John 5:11-12), a clear conscience with relish in the atoning power of Christ, be your lot.
"Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness," Psalm 97:12.
Remember His word: "Be holy for I am holy!" ( I Peter 1:16, Revelation 22:11).