Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Thought for the Day 11/05/21 - Read (or listen!)

Click here for AUDIO


Let's face it, not everyone's a reader. If you are reading this, of course, that may not be something you fully appreciate, but this a fact we have to deal with nonetheless.

Of course, if you measure literacy rates by counting the number of people who can read a little, literacy rates in the UK are pretty high.

Nonetheless, according to the National Literacy Trust1 in 6 (16.4% / 7.1 million people) adults in England have very poor literacy skills compared with 1 in 4 in Scotland, 1 in 5 in Northern Ireland and 1 in 8 in Wales and the NHS reckons that 1 in 10 people in the UK has some level of dyslexia.


But illiteracy (can't read) and non-literacy (don't read) are different things, and levels of non-literacy are apparently quite significant too.

In fact, there seems to be a significant cadre of highly intelligent and educated people in responsible positions in their employment who avoid reading by choice and who filter out the overloading torrent of 'stuff' that demands attention by avoiding reading like the plague.

The trouble with all of this is that definite, knowable and binding communication does really need to be put in a format that is definitive and accessible ... and for many thousands of years that has involved reading and writing.

The need for the clearly-written word


Laws are very much a case in point, of course.

Good law is clear, definite, knowable and accessible ... and so when Wales was given (for example) the Laws of Hywel Dda, they were received as a blessing and a help. People now knew the score, they knew where they stood and how to stay out of trouble, apart from anything else!

Good law does that. It HELPS.

And of course, because it is based on clear, knowable, propositional truth, Christianity is known as 'a religion of the Book'.

It needs to be, to preserve the truths handed down accurately from generation to generation, so that everyone can know reliably what those truths are, and so that the public 'good' of enjoying those things can therefore be maintained.

The Psalmist, in our Verse for the Day, writes in appreciation of this:

"The law of the Lord is perfect and preserves one’s life.

The rules set down by the Lord are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. 

The Lord ’s precepts are fair and make one joyful.

The Lord ’s commands are pure and give insight for life"


                                                          Psalm 19:7-8



Now look, there are four characteristics of God's law listed there, and four benefits:

Four characteristics


God's Word to us is

  • Perfect

    Writing in Hebrew the Psalmist just uses the straightforward word here for 'perfect', but 'Spot on' means the same in any language!

  • Reliable

    His choice of the word 'reliable' points up the observable truth that (in line with what we've said about good laws) God’s covenant with His people contains a clear, reliable witness to his own moral character and the demands that makes of His people in this world.

    You know where you are, with Him.

  • Fair

    The idea is that they impart a knowledge of what is just and right, andfinally ...

  • Pure

    Oh here's a great one .... everyone wants pure when it comes to apple juice, but purity seems to be less popular when it comes to our own moral choices!

    But here God's words reflect God’s character ... his commands provide a code of moral and ethical purity for staying in the right with Him.

But hold on now, because here come the four benefits ...

Four benefits


  • preserves one’s life

    The hebrew says it 'restores the life' ... the point seems to be that the law preserves the life of the one who studies it by making known God’s will.

  • imparts wisdom to the inexperienced

    The word means “the [morally] naive,” that is, perhaps but not necessarily, the one who is young and still in the process of learning right from wrong and distinguishing wisdom from folly.

  • makes a person joyful

    It says 'makes happy the heart' - the point being that they bring a sense of joyful satisfaction to the one who knows and keeps them, for those who obey God’s law are richly rewarded

  • gives insight for life

    Well, we all don't know where to turn from time to time ...

    Literally, 'they enlighten the eyes'!

The Point

It's no accident at all that in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 31:11) and in the New Testament (1 Timothy 4:13) provision is explicitly made for Scripture to be read aloud to all the people so that the illiterate or non-literate people do not miss out on the good things that the reading of Scripture brings to those who hear it.

Chrstianity is a religion of propositional truth passed accurately from generation to generation and embraced in life, buit it's there for everyone - excluding no-one.

Embracing that teaching in life gives insight, joy, wisdom and life ... in spite of widespread (but not exclusive) dislike of reading!

Those who don't read well or find it challenging for whatever reason must not be shut out of its benefits, and those who read well must share that privilege around, as well as using their privileges as good stewards of a good thing.

The Takeaway

God has given us in His word propositional truth that, when embraced in life, give us four benefits that serve us well.

Refusing to listen sours any relationship, whatever the reason, and so it is with people's relationship with God.

As a side-dish, we need to make sure that literacy skills are not a barrier to learning and walking in God's ways.

Now, modern technology has given us means to read God's Word and have it read to us ... the You Version Bible App is free to download and use HERE for smartphones tablets and computers ... and it's free!

And if you download that app and select the New International Version (NIV) from the drop down options available, the app will read it for you or your non-literate friend ... out loud, whenever and wherever you or they wish.

So let's get reading or listening and embracing God's Word - enjoying its benefits - in OUR life!

Monday, 10 May 2021

Thought for the Day 10/05/21 - Forgiveness and the new Pharisaism

 Click here for AUDIO


Gareth Wyn Jones (in case you didn't know) is a farmer whose family have farmed in the Carneddau Hills in North Wales for generations.

His farm diversification mobilises his strong personality and passion for farming and the countryside to grace our television screens and social media feeds with his own brand of entertainment and interest.

He's a physically tall man and he cuts a strong figure, as he puts the other side of rural matters ... the side of the actual custodians of the countryside ... to the wider public.

But this week, Gareth has taken an absolute torrent of abuse from people of a contrary opinion, I mean ... REAL, wretched abuse. (If you're easily shocked, mebbe look away from it and carry on reading below?!)


What IS it that makes people respond like that to someone they've never known or met?

Why is there such a contentedness to pour out a tirade of abuse on social media these days when we hear things that don't line up with our own opinions?

Where does all this come from and why is it happening?

Might it be because ...

The newest (old) religion 

is Pharisaism

One of the leading features of what's come to be called 'Cancel Culture' is the passion to de-platform people we don't agree with.

People of contrary opinion to ours aren't reasoned with, debated or persuaded, they are condemned, demonised and made pariahs without their reasons or supporting arguments ever getting engaged with.


This is not new but the unleashing of something old

Blaming and shaming other people is not new, it goes back to the Garden of Eden after all when Adam was first challenged about eating apples and blamed Eve!

But the violence of hatred in humanity's heart is equally as old, it seems, as that.

The Apostle Paul describes the situation in his letter to Titus for the notoriously badly behaved people of Crete:

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 

to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."

That's how Paul describes the inner motivations of his heart when he lived as a very religious person ... a Pharisee!

But Paul doesn't stop there, he carries on:

"But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 

he saved us, 

not because of righteous things we had done, 

but because of his mercy."

Titus 3:1-4

You see, here's the thing ...

The 'politics' of Christ's Kingdom is different

The teaching of the Bible is not that God expects us to be perfect but that He knows we most certainly are not, so demanding absolute righteousness from humans (whether from 'them' or from 'us') is absolutely futile ... a hiding to nothing.

The Bible expects humans to do bad stuff (without excusing it) then sets about the remedies for the actual situation we have to deal with when they do, and it's not about virtual signalling or recriminations either!

The thing the Bible seeks to get God's people to work towards is coming together under the headship of Christ ... to converging views and to unity, not giving vent to the hatred and hating one another that belongs to what's wrong with humanity.

Which brings us to the Verse for the Day.

"‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."



Now THAT's interesting!

How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?

He welcomed them.

He went  to them and He called on them to turn from sin and to trust and follow Him, and  He added them to the group we call disciples!


The Point

The point is that if we allow our disagreement to channel into words our inner condemnation of others and our fury, we are trying to fight what we see as wrong by indulging what is wrong within ourselves.

Jesus teaches a very different way, a way that leads to correction of genuine wrong and forgiveness of the person committing it.

It is a radically different way, admittedly, but in its favour, it is a constructive way and not just a way to vent the anger our lower nature holds inside.


The Takeaway

Let's be careful not to nurture our self-righteous anger at others who really don't see things our way ... that's Pharisaism!

And let's examine the motivations for what we're feeling before we allow ourselves to lash out or alienate others on the basis of what we think of their opinions.

We need to be VERY wary of doing such a thing on social media.

A private message, one to one between the two of you may very well be a more useful, wiser move!


Saturday, 8 May 2021

Micah - Getting the Nations to Glory through Babylon

 Click here for AUDIO

I.        Introduction

In the last year and a bit we have seen churches banned from meeting, churches refusing to stop and getting raided by police, street preachers challenging the authorities in provocative ways and getting hauled off by the constabulary … and we’ve seen congregations of God’s people losing their places to meet or suffering losses that mean they may not be viable in future.

We are witnessing the RAPID decline of the Christian church in our land as our public services have become private recordings or amateur livestreams on the internet, and if the preacher blows a whistle to call a scrum now … it remains to be seen how many will turn up.

The church in the UK has been getting winnowed.

What are we all supposed to make of it?

Let me introduce you to a prophet called Micah.


Micah's message addresses the people of Israel and Judah, especially the oppressive land-grabbers who supported Israel’s corrupt political and religious leaders, and he alternates between prophecies of doom and prophecies of hope.

The overall theme is divine judgment and deliverance, and Micah moves, pretty seamlessly, between the two.


The prophet Micah reminds us that even when God seems distant and uninvolved, he still cares and offers hope to those who choose to remain faithful to him.

So, Micah speaks to the people of Judah to warn them that God’s judgment was approaching because they had rejected God and His law - particularly in the realm of exploitation of the poor and corruption of worship.

But Micah also encouraged the godly few, assuring them that judgment would not permanently destroy Israel.

The nation would eventually be restored.

So this book balances God’s divine attributes of justice and mercy, and Micah skilfully uses poetry to make his points, deploying a lot of picture language and many figures of speech to make his messages really vivid and to create a profound emotional impact.

Well, so much by way of introduction ...

II.       Who is he and what's he about?

A.        Name

Micah's name means ‘who is like Yahweh’?

The name , as it were, highlights the wonder of the God Who can work out His plans and purposes behind the calamities that are coming upon God’s people.

B.        Identification: Moresheth

Most prophets are identified by their parentage.

Joel is identified as the son of Pethuel.

Hosea is identified as the son of Beeri.

Micah is identified as coming from a small town in Southern Judah called Moresheth

Scholars say maybe his family weren’t very prominent, so he wasn’t identified as the son of a known father.

But what you have here is a man whose ministry came during the reign of these Judean Kings, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, but there’s no reference to the Kings of Israel … only of Judah, which is where he came from.

And then at end of v. 1 it says Micah saw his vision concerning Jerusalem (capital of the Southern Kingdom) and Samaria (capital of the Northern Kingdom) but he is from a region called Moresheth which is about 25 miles south-west of Jerusalem.

Micah is a witness of events in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but he is very much a man of the southern Kingdom of Judah.

When diod he happen?

C.        Time

Micah 1:1 tells us that Micah prophesied "during the time of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah"

That puts him as being active around the same time as Isaiah, a little before Jeremiah ... same sort of time as Amos.

The northern kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 BC and the southern kingdom fell to Babylon in 546 BC so Micah is ministering about a time when the Assyrians were in power in the North about a similar fate befalling the southern kingdom for similar sins to those that had brought calamity to the north.

D.        Setting

So, as Micah writes, the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judah had split LONG ago, and both had been violating their covenant with their God, so Micah warned that God would bring the evil empire of Assyria to take out the Northern Kingdom and to savage the southern Kingdom's capital of Jerusalem.

It seemed like calamity.

And he also warned that after Assyria, Babylon would bring a more thorough destruction.

E.         Mission, 3:8

Like all the prophets Micah spoke on God's behalf and at first sight it looks as if he is just there to accuse Israel ... but hold that thought.

Micah himself describes his mission for us pretty well in 3:8 where he says:

"But as for me, I am filled with power,

    with the Spirit of the Lord,

    and with justice and might,

to declare to Jacob his transgression,

    to Israel his sin."

It’s almost like they’re in a court room (Micah 1:2)

Hear, you peoples, all of you,
    listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you,
    
the Lord from his holy temple.”

They are being summoned to answer a charge before the presence of God, but God is the One Who is going to bear witness against them.

You get this theme picked up again in Chapter six … the first few verses there:

 

‘Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
    let the hills hear what you have to say.

 ‘Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation;
    listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
    he is lodging a charge against Israel.”

                                           Micah 6:1-2

 

The substance of the charge takes root in an allegation of idolatry and pagan worship, and then secondarily the social and economic sins and the sins against integrity flow out from that:


Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling-place;
    he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
The mountains melt beneath him
    and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
    like water rushing down a slope.
All this is because of Jacob’s transgression,
    because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression?
    Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place?
    Is it not Jerusalem?

‘Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble,
    a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour her stones into the valley
    and lay bare her foundations.
All her idols will be broken to pieces;
    all her temple gifts will be burned with fire;
    I will destroy all her images.
Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes,
    as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.’”

 

                                                             Micah 1:5-9


For all her apparently holding to the Jerusalem Temple and the teaching of the Law (which were openly stepped away from by the Samaritans and people of the separated Northern Kingdom of Israel) the Southern Kingdom is now being accused of an idolatry as shocking and as dreadful as the north.


They’ve looked as if they were faithful … but beneath the appearance of religion they are apostates and idolaters.

Weeping and mourning will be the result


"Because of this I will weep and wail;
    I will go about barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
    and moan like an owl.
 For Samaria’s plague is incurable;
    it has spread to Judah.
It has reached the very gate of my people,
    even to Jerusalem itself.”

                       

                                Micah 1:3-9


But notice that it is not as if Judah has ABANDONED God completely.

It is rare that such a thing happens.

It’s rare that people say ‘I’m going to stop believing in Jesus’.

What happens is not atheism but adultery … syncretism – they’d go on making their sacrifices and doing their rituals up at the Temple, but alongside that they are also following other pagan ways.

Eighty per cent, perhaps, of Micah is judgement – BUT … it’s a lament on judgement we hear from the Lord, not sheer vengeance.

vv. 8-9 are a lament about the unfaithfulness of Israel uttered by the One who has been spurned.

III.     Structure of the Book

A.        Accusations, warnings and hope 1:1 - 2

1.         God appears over Israel

There's quite a dramatic picture painted of God appearing over Israel JUST as He did at Mount Sinai when Israel received in the first place the covenant they've broken.

(See Exodus 19-20)

There's fire and smoke and earthquake just as there had been on Mt. Sinai.

But God hasn't come to make a covenant this time.

Instead He's come to bring judgement on Israel for over 500 years of rebellion against the covenant they already have.

And the judgement proclamation is specific, naming a list of towns in Israel and proclaiming that God is coming for them, by name.

2.        Who is He coming for & why?

a.         Leaders

Micah picks a fight with Israel's leaders ... and this is interesting to us ... he say that they have become wealthy through using their position to give free reign to their acquisitiveness and greed.

That theme obviously comes up in our politics but it's going to come u again ... that theme recurs in Micah: the double-headed monster of theft and greed.

Micah alludes to the story of Naboth's vineyard which was stolen from him and his family by bad King Ahab in 1 Kings 2.

But it's not just Israel's leaders Micah exposes.

It's also Israel's prophets.

b.        Prophets

It seems these prophets were quite happy to give promises of God's protection to anyone who could afford to PAY them.

These are the preachers of smooth things.

Now, our times are no different.

We don’t want a preacher who challenges our behaviour, we just want a preacher who says nice things to us and who will accommodate and leave us to do the things we want to do.

“If a liar and deceiver comes and says,

“I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,”
    that would be just the prophet for this people!

                                                                       (Micah 2:11)

They want to hear a preacher who is going to commend the way they want to live their lives and not disturb them in their violation of God’s covenant of blessings AND woes.

So, says Micah, you are NOT doing OK.

In fact, it is on account of these things which violate His covenant but that your prophets soothe your consciences about without calling for repentance, God has withdrawn His covenant protection from Israel.

And yet … and this is characteristic of Micah … the prophecies of judgement keep getting interspersed with prophesied grounds for hope as the covenant keeping God holds out the fruit of His faithfulness to His people, fruit that the faithful remnant of His wayward people will ultimately see.

You've had in those first parts of chapters 1 and 2 the judgement ... but then hope breaks out.

3.        Hope, 2:12-13

The Shepherd Who will gather His flock

Now, that's a very stiff warning, but it is not the final word ... and this is true for each judgement section in this book.


First in Micah 2:12-13 we read:


"‘I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;

    I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.

I will bring them together like sheep in a sheepfold,

    like a flock in its pasture;

    the place will throng with people.

The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;

    they will break through the gate and go out.

Their King will pass through before them,

    the Lord at their head.’"


God is pictured in the role of a shepherd king who will break through the wall of the fortress and open the gates to lead His people out to freedom.

How God operates as a shepherd comes up numerous times in Micah, and in the prophets and ultimately takes us to John 10 where Jesus is supremely revealed to us as the Good Shepherd.

This book is clearly about Jesus and redemption ... it is NOT here to be understood in a merely moralistic way!

He will rescue, gather and shepherd the faithful remnant of His people, bring them back to good pasture and become their King once again … and Jesus is his Name!


Now in the second section of accusations in Micah 3-4, Micah describes in more detail how the sins of Israel's leaders and prophets have given rise to grave injustice.

B.      Unjust economic practices of the leaders and hope, vv.  3-4

They run the land by bribery, they bend justice to favour the wealthy and the poor are deprived of their land, their security and their hope.

Please notice that Micah started out in chapter 1 spelling out the sins of the people as being unfaithfulness to God but that immediately by ch. 2 leads into the exploitation of the poor, failure to maintain justice and so on.

This book is about apostasy – spiritual adultery – mixing paganism with your Bible faith, not a social or political morality primer.

The spiritual adultery has social and financial implications, but it is the spiritual adultery that Micah is really on about.

What flows from that spiritual adultery?


1.        Selling off the land of the poor

Repossessing things that belonged to debtors was totally lawful.

But Micah is getting at those who used the system to benefit themselves, using their power for their own economic gain not to help people who are in need.

It’s characterised as oppressing a man in his home and in his inheritance.

And this violates the covenant settlement.

2.        Violates the Covenant settlement

This is not just simply unjust, it violates the Torah which made it illegal to sell land that belongs to families even if they are poor.

(See Leviticus 25:23 and Numbers 36:7).

3.        The consequence

On account of all of this disaster is coming.


Her leaders judge for a bribe,
    her priests teach for a price,
    and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
    ‘Is not the Lord among us?
    No disaster will come upon us.’
Therefore because of you,
    Zion will be ploughed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
    the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”


                                                               Micah 3:11-12

 

An enemy from the north is coming to conquer the Northern Kingdom and to devastate Jerusalem AND its Temple, reducing it to ruins.


Both.


But it’s worse than that.


Then they will cry out to the Lord,
    but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
    because of the evil they have done.”


                                              Micah 3:4

 You know, when relationshpis break down, we need to  talk.

When relationships are in trouble turning away, refusing to talk, is a no-win situation.

And God is saying,'Look at what they have done. I am NOT listening, and I am not answering.

Now, those people who make social justice the point of their Christianity and just embrace this world’s idea of social justice … they need to reckon with the fact that: in THAT, there is no possible forgiveness.

Not so here where Divine Justice is concerned, because even in that situation God turns again from accusation to restoring hope.

4.        Hope: there'll be a New Jerusalem, 4:1-7

One day God is going to restore His broken Temple, He's going to restore the ruined city and fill it with the remnant of His people.

And what that amounts to is that God's purpose is tp make His temple the meeting place of Heaven and Earth once more.

And because of THAT, because of His presence, all nations will stream to Jerusalem where God will become the King of all the nations bringing peace to the earth beneath His reign.

That vision introduced briefly at the end of each of these two judgement sections now gets expanded upon in 4:8 - 5.

So here comes a beautiful poetic section on ...

C.        The future hope of Israel and the Nations, 4:8 - 5

1.         Assyria - Babylonian Exile - Restoration

We learn that after the Assyrian attack, Israel will be conquered thoroughly and exiled to Babylon.

But we also learn that from Babylon God will restore His people and bring them back to the Land.

But it gets better, because in the New Jerusalem a new Messianic King from the line of David will come after their Exile, to be born in Bethlehem and then rule in Jerusalem over the restored people of God.

Nobody’d think anything good would possibly come from Bethlehem … too small to be numbered amongst the clans of Judah.

But – hey – His origin is 'from of old.'

Term used only twice elsewhere in the Old Testament – once in Habakkuk 1 and Deuteronomy 33 ... it has this meaning of being eternal.

Mary had a son that was older than she was.

But it says in 5:3 that He’d be born physically by the normal means.

And He’d be the Shepherd King

He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.”


                                              Micah 5:4


Now if you can’t see Jesus in the pages of Micah, you’ll need more than a visit to Specsavers to help you!

The future hope of Israel and the Nations must take these people by Assyrian and Babylonian exile to the Messianic King from Bethlehem and the new people of God.

2.         Messianic King from Bethlehem to rule in Jerusalem over the restored people of God, 5:7-14

There will be trouble ahead, but finally, in this new Messianic Kingdom of God, the restored people of God will become the blessing to the remnant of the Nations ...


But at the same time, God will bring His FINAL justice and remove evil from His world.

3.         The new people of God is the source of blessing to the Nations

The final section of the book in chapters 6-7 returns to warning, and we’re back at the indictment in a legal case, followed again by hope ... the third cycle.

D.      Warning and hope (again): Unjust economic practices of the Leaders, (again),  chs. 6-7

Here we go:

 

“‘Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
    let the hills hear what you have to say.

‘Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation;
    listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
    he is lodging a charge against Israel.

                               Micah 6:1-2

In the firing once again are …

1.        Unjust economic practices of the leaders

Micah exposes how this behaviour is destroying the Land and its people and violating the covenant of God.

 

2. Ritualistic religion instead of concrete lived faith

            6:8 sums it up

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

    And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God."


That is EXACTLY what they have NOT been doing ... and so they are going to come to ruin.


Now, you need to start at v. 6 so you understand this in context.


Taken in cintext Micah is saying that you can do all this religious stuff but if you neglect the love and help of your neighbour … it amounts to nothing.

But … then we can move to reading v. 8.

That ‘to act rightly’ is the opposite of what they were doing.

Justice is not simply about judgement … punishing wrongs.

But justice is much broader than that in the Bible.

It’s not just giving wrong doers their due … it’s giving those who can’t stand up for themselves their due as well. And that arises from a walk with God that is faithful and true.

But again, alongside the prophecies of judgement come the powerful notes of messianic hope.

3.        Powerful note of hope, 7:18-20

 

Here really we now come to the main message of the book.

A.              Plea for restoration and mercy

Israel is pictured as a suffering, defeated individual whose circumstances have brought them to their knees pleading with God for restoration and renewal.

But after all that’s gone on, why would God grant that heart-felt plea?

Fundamentally, the individual says, for two reasons:

Firstly …

1.               God's character,7:18

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?”

The praying person seems to know that God’s wrath remembers mercy.

And the second reason God should hear this prayer for mercy is found in God’s promises.

2.         God's Promises, 7:20

You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago.”

These are consistently across Scripture the clear, known things about the Lord that faithful people going through trials and testing plead with God.

His character … which He will not change.

His promises … on which He will not renege.

We are faithless, but He is faithful and will be consistent with His revealed character and unchanging in respect to His promises, His given word.

These, not our wants, perceived needs or (far less) the merits of OUR case, our deserts ... those are the things we may resort to as we try to sway the hand of God.

B.        The Message: Israel will bless the Nations, but needs purifying first

This prayerful reflection in v. 20 all reflects on and alludes to God’s covenant promises to Abraham way back in Genesis 12, 15 and 17 that all nations will be blessed through him … and then through Abraham’s family.

But in the current situation, to be that blessing to the Nations, Israel must return to being faithful to her God.

And THAT’s what explains this going back and forth between judgement and hope in the book of Micah.

For God to bless the Nations through them, God must confront and judge the evil that had taken root in His people.

The judgement LEADS TO hope, because God’s love and His promise weigh more heavily in His heart and motivations than the affront of Israel’s sin and covenant unfaithfulness so his ultimate purpose is NOT to destroy, His will is to save and redeem.

That is NOT to say His people’s violations of His gracious covenant with them are small matters to Him.

On the contrary.

They break His heart and rouse His righteous anger.

But His mercy works out greater than His wrath.

As the concluding lines of the book express this:

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry for ever
    but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
 You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago.”

He delights in covenant love, so He will again show compassion.

He WILL trample on His people’s evil.

And He will toss their sins into the depths of the sea.

Both things.

Conclusion

The people of God in Micah’s time had not abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac ad Jacob so much as tried to mix the faith with a seasoning of what was actually idolatry and ritual from the culture around them.

This came laced with things that appealed to their carnal nature, and once they had shifted across their centre of decision-making gravity to focusing on self-pleasing … the rot was truly setting in.

From that point the leaders had no problem using their office to distort and disrupt proper legal processes to make themselves rich, and their prophets saw no problem in saying what people wanted to hear rather than what God wanted them to say to the people, because that’s the way their bread was buttered … because that’s where the money and the ‘prospects’ lay for those so-called prophets.

Well, eventually rotten structures fall, and so must Israel-Judah, and be carried into Exile.

They were given the land to be the faithful covenant people of God in it and a light to the Nations.

They had abandoned the covenant so they would lose the Land, because there was no chance that their purpose of being a light to the Gentiles would be fulfilled the way things were with them.

But God REMAINS faithful to His promise and His purpose.

He will have His way and His glorious plans to rescue humanity will be fulfilled once judgement and Exile have purified a faithful remnant that will return to God, to His covenant, to the Temple and the King Messiah.

Now, we know from the Gospels that this was fulfilled in Christ – the Good Shepherd prophesied by Micah – through the New Jerusalem (His Church) and the New Temple (the gathering of believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit) … but from Micah’s setting in time and space, this was as yet a long way off.

The principles to be drawn out from this book for us seem pretty plain.

If people shift their motivational centre just a short distance from the heart-felt desire to be faithful to God regardless of their cultural and carnal pressures to self-pleasing, they will in no time create situations of great seriousness where leaders exploit the led, and prophets tell people what their itching ears want to hear not what their souls need to know … all for personal betterment and financial gain.

God MUST judge that.

God must purify that out of His people. 

And He must do so precisely BECAUSE His eternal purpose, faithfully and consistently worked out, is to redeem … and He cannot do that through an unfaithful church.

Thought for the Day 11/05/21 - Read (or listen!)

Click here for AUDIO Let's face it, not everyone's a reader. If you are reading this, of course, that may not be something you fully...