Reading : Micah 4:6-13
And what about the Jews?
As we look around the world we find that the church of Jesus Christ exists just about everywhere. There are national believers in our Lord in every nation on earth. More and more of the "unreached people groups" are being reached as the Bible, in part or in whole, is translated into ever more languages. Look a bit more closely and you’ll quickly discover that this international church (or Christian movement) is very largely made up of Gentiles. This fact is, in itself, a testimony to the truthfulness and accuracy of Micah’s prophecy proclaimed some 700 years BC because, as we considered last week, Micah prophesied just such a conversion of the nations.
The question arises then concerning the Jews: if the Gentile nations are converted what does that mean for the Jews? Are they set aside and excluded or what? Does Micah have anything to say on this subject and if so what? In answering these questions we must be careful to remind ourselves that this is not an academic matter. The answers to our questions will have relevance for us today and we must understand what that relevance is and take it onboard.
And so let us turn to our text.
"In that day" v.6
The first thing for us to understand is that Micah is about to tell us something else that will take place "at the end of the days" v.1 for his phrase "in that day" refers to the same period of time! If the latter days are to be characterised by the conversion of the nations they are also to be marked by what Micah describes in vv.6+7 as the establishment of a remnant people as a strong nation.
Micah has already told us about the tremendous blessings that would come to the Gentile nations through their conversion. They were to be totally transformed and no longer would they be strangers to all of the blessings of belonging to God’s kingdom; no longer would they be without hope and without God in the world. Now Micah turns to address those who had been God’s chosen people. Once so blessed these people might perhaps better be described in Micah’s estimation as God’s ruined people. Their capital city, Jerusalem, was soon going to suffer disaster and destruction something that Micah had already announced in 3:12. However this ruined people would not be eliminated – a remnant would survive and it would so specifically because God was at work!
This concept of the remnant is an important one in the Bible having particular significance in the prophetic writings. Micah has already referred to a remnant in 2:12 and he’ll do so again in ch.5 + ch.7. His contemporary, Isaiah, referred to God’s remnant people some 15 times.
So we must ask the question: What do they mean when they speak of a remnant?
Well, when God’s people proved to be unfaithful to his calling, he secured his own purpose in a remnant. The word is used to denote "a holy seed," or the spiritual kernel of the nation which would survive any impending judgment and fulfil their calling to be the people of God, being blessed of God and made a blessing to others. The judgments that the LORD declared he would carry out against his faithless people would be indeed be carried out. While, at the same time, his faithfulness to his covenant promises would also be demonstrated in the preservation and salvation of this remnant.
The idea, though not the actual word, is illustrated for us back in the days of Elijah. Do you remember how after winning a significant spiritual battle Elijah slumped into depression? It is often the case that after experiencing a spiritual high the believer is severely troubled in one way of another. Well Elijah in his depressed state looked out on his people and thought that things really couldn’t get any worse. Things were so bad that he thought he was the only faithful one left but he was wrong. The Lord gave Elijah a fresh set of instructions and then added these words:
2Kings 19:18 "I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
Paul refers to this very passage when he wrote about God’s faithfulness to his remnant people in Rom.11:1-6. Earlier in that letter Paul had made it clear that simply being born an Israelite was not enough:
Rom.9:6 "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,"
In ch.11 he went further to explain that grace was the necessary condition for truly belonging to belonging to this kingdom. Those Jews who received God’s grace were this important remnant. Grace had kept that remnant of 7,000 faithful believers in Elijah’s day and it was grace that had saved the apostle Paul and every other believing Jew too. Jews and Gentiles then can be, and are being, saved by the grace of God held out to all in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, for salvation does not depend upon racial origins but by grace operating through faith.
Now back to Micah’s message: it was solemn and realistic and yet full of promise concerning a blessed future. vv.6-8 provide us with something of an overview and then in the verses that follow Micah fills in the detail. So let’s look first at the overview.
The Remnant vv.6-8
Although Micah had some tremendously encouraging truths to hold out to his hearers his message was not an easy or popular one. His was not a message that was designed to gain the quick approval of his hearers. No, the message Micah proclaimed had to include the unwelcome news that a tremendously difficult and depressing future was coming. And it was a future that would have to be experienced before God would bring his plans for this his ruined people to fruition. The details follow in vv.9ff but even here there are indicators that Israel’s immediate future would be difficult. What are those pointers? Well look at how Micah describes the condition of those who will be the beneficiaries of God’s mercy in the future. They are:
those who have been cast out or driven away
According to Micah things would get worse before they would get better.
The first thing I want you to notice is that the remnant isn’t simply the natural coming together of those who are left over when all the others fall by the wayside. This remnant is deliberately assembled and established by the Lord himself and he it is who determines that this remnant will be and what it will become.
vv.6+7 "In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away... and the lame I will make the remnant... a strong nation;"
The ones who constitute this remnant have no grounds for being proud of their achievements. They could never say, for example, that they were the remnant because of what they had done. No, this is an example of is grace at work in the OT. The people that the Lord gathers together are in themselves a pretty hopeless bunch. These were people who had suffered in life but their suffering was not due to bad luck, they were not victim of circumstance either for the Lord insists that their suffering was part of the judgment he deliberately inflicted upon his people.
But their trials would come to an end as the Lord acted to form them into a "strong nation" and he declared that he would reign over them with a never-ending reign. What a wonderful comforting promise that was!
Micah 4:8 "And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem."
The description of the Lord’s reign is compared to the glory period of Israel’s past probably referring to the reigns of David and Solomon.
As I read v.8 I was reminded of the question the apostles put to the risen Lord Jesus immediately prior to his ascension:
Acts 1:6 "So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Jesus replied by saying:
Acts 1:7 "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority."
Perhaps this comes as a timely reminder to us not to get too bogged down over details concerning the exact timing of prophetic fulfilment. There are other lessons for us to learn which are more important than matters of timing and certainly more practical in helping us to live our own lives than simply knowing a few dates would ever be!
The times may have been bleak but the Lord had not forgotten his people and would not forget them. His promises would stand firm and they would be accomplished in his gracious treatment of the remnant.
We should be encouraged by this. If God so faithfully maintained his promises to his faithless OT people when they failed so dismally, we can be sure that he will not abandon us either, to whom so many wonderful promises have been made. Let me remind you of just three of them here:
Heb.13:5 "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Jn.6:54 "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Jn.14:3 "I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
Since God has proved himself so faithful in the past we have every reason to trust him to keep these promises too.
Dark Days Ahead vv.9-10
Micah knew that, before the Lord’s promises would be fulfilled in the establishment of the remnant, the nation would have to pass through some real difficulties. Indeed it would only be when it looked as though things could get no blacker that God would intervene and totally turn things around.
In warning of the dark days that lay immediately ahead Micah speaks about the misery and distress to be experienced by his hearers. And he speaks about the future as though it was already present.
He describes in v.9 the way in which the people respond to their developing troubles. They are in anguish – and Micah compares them to a pregnant woman crying out as she goes into labour, gripped by the pain of giving birth! But at the same time he challenges them: is theirs an appropriate response to the situation? Where has their confidence gone?
v.9 "Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counsellor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labour?"
Micah foresees a serious situation to which the reaction of the people will be akin to that of a panic attack. But why? Don’t they have a king to lead them? Don’t they have experts to advise them?
By asking his questions like this Micah is indicating that all human leadership will fail them. "Is there no king in you?" Yes, of course there is and they may well have been putting their trust in their king and his advisors but now they simply find that these are no help to them. They ought to have been listening to the Lord and trusting in him, but, no they had preferred to trust their king and Micah chides them for it. Micah was asking them if their anchor would hold and they were now finding out that it wouldn’t! Their trust in their earthly dignitaries proved to be empty as their leaders could do nothing for them.
The people were crying out in anguish and Micah now agrees that they were right to do so because their predicament was so serious that no human leader could be of any help to them. Their anguish really was totally justified because of what was about to happen – the nation was about to be carted off to exile in Babylon! Babylon! And what a dreadful experience that would be! "How could they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?"
Before we move on I want to highlight something for you. Micah was prophesying an exile for the people of God in Babylon. This was a prophecy that would be fulfilled some 130 years after Micah announced what would happen. What is more when Micah gave his prophecy Babylon was not the power that everyone was afraid of, Assyria was the superpower of Micah’s day.
Well you may be wondering what is the point I’m trying to make. This is it: Micah accurately declared what was going to happen far in the future and he was able to do so, not because he was good at statistics and knew how to plot a curve, but because he was the servant of the Lord God in heaven who reveals mysteries. The Bible can’t be reduced to a mere collection of writings by various human authors – God stands behind it and speaks through it. This God knows the future because he controls it along with everything else. You can and must trust this God and believe the things he reveals in his word. And, what’s more, when you do you won’t be disappointed.
So back again to Micah’s prophecy – the nation will suffer exile in Babylon. But, and it is an enormous but, that is not all he has to say. Yes, exile will happen and the experience of such an exile will be so serious as to justify all their anguish and groaning but the exile will not last forever and indeed the Lord promises to rescue them there in the blackest spot they could imagine. The Lord will bring an end to their anguish, for the bad news of Babylon will be trumped by the good news of redemption. The Lord promises to deliver his people from their enemies.
The lesson for us to learn from this is a simple one but a very important one for all that. Things may get worse before they get better! But just because things do get worse that is no reason for us to throw in our hand and give up – the Lord is in charge and he delights to deliver when deliverance looks the most unlikely of outcomes.
Just think for a moment about the salvation Jesus secured for his followers. Every force was united against Jesus. Death itself, the final enemy, seemed to have the final word as Jesus was nailed to a cross and hung up to die. The situation was so serious that there was even darkness over the whole land when the sun should have been shining in all its noon-day strength. And then Jesus died, yes he died! Could a blacker scenario ever have been imagined? Not in the opinion of Jesus’ disciples!
And yet... it was by the cross that victory came. The forces of evil appeared to triumph but it was just an appearance and on the third day it became clear that Jesus was the victor and not the victim as he was raised from the dead!
So when your circumstances take a turn for the worse and when everything seems to be going pear-shaped remember that God remains in charge and delights to prove that nothing is impossible with him; he certainly will keep his promises and you can bank on it!
But Not Everyone Sees It Like That vv.11-13
Micah brings ch.4 to a close by saying that the explanation he has just given will not be accepted by all. He has just finished explaining how God will save his people from even the blackest of spots but others interpret those "black spots" in a very different way.
The nations looking on and seeing the disarray that has come the way of God’s people instead of sympathising with them seek to exploit the situation and turn it to their own advantage. Looking on all they can think of doing is to mock and to despise God’s people. They think that they understand what is going on but they can’t read God’s providence and get it all wrong. When they see God’s people in trouble they are so glad and take it to be a sure and certain indication that God’s people are being severely judged and they gather together to rejoice over them.
"How wrong they are!" declares Micah, "they simply don’t get it at all and they couldn’t be more wrong." They imagine they have gathered themselves together to pour scorn on God’s people but in reality, Micah tells us, "they have been assembled in order to be judged themselves!" and God’s people will be the instrument in God’s hands whereby this judgment will be carried out.
The godless nations like to strut and to rage. They like to see themselves as important self-made men who can do what they like but how different the truth is – the nations are but a drop in the Lord’s bucket; it is the Lord who turns the king’s heart in whatever direction he chooses. Even the greatest and most impressive superpowers are mere lackeys who unwittingly carry out the Lord’s plan. We get a little glimpse behind the scenes as it were as we see this working out in the events that surrounded death of the Saviour. Do you remember how the disciples prayed when they were facing opposition to their preaching the resurrection of Jesus? This is what they said:
Acts 4:27-28 "for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."
God’s people today should take great encouragement from such teaching. Despite appearances and the opinions of so many it is the Lord who is on the throne and it is he who promises to intervene on behalf of his people. You might be tempted to think that the culture and society the world over has turned against the church and that the future of the church is a lost cause but this portion of Scripture tells us that that is just not the case. Jesus shall reign, reign where’r the sun does his successive journeys run.
Kings reign, it’s what they do, and with King Jesus this is true too. But, we may ask, just how does Jesus fill the office of a king? The famous Westminster Catechism gives us a clear and heart-warming answer for the believer to rejoice in:
"Christ fills the office of a king in making us his willing subjects, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. "
As we close this morning let me ask you is Jesus your King? Has he made you one of his willing subjects? If he has then you may rejoice in him at all times, you can remain at peace in even the most trying of circumstances for he is committed to you both now and for eternity.
But if you have not yet bowed the knee to King Jesus why not do that today. Don’t continue any longer to try to lead your life independent of him. Beware! He considers all those who are not for him to be against him and he will conquer his enemies, every last one of them. One day every knee shall bow to him – will yours bow willingly now in repentance as you ask him to take charge of your life or will you be forced into an unwilling submission when he comes to judge?
Today is the day of salvation – don’t let it pass you by!
May God bless his word to us all.