What do Christians do when the world around them seems to be coming apart? We wait on God, our salvation, and we think and live in light of His promises. And in particular, we think and live in light of His promises to forgive our sins and the sins of the world.
The prophet Micah ministered in the southern kingdom of Judah towards the end of the 8th Century B.C. He ministered during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Mic. 1:1) when the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC (2 Kings 17). In other words, Micah was watching the disintegration of his nation. Despite the deep darkness in his day, his prophecy is full of light and hope for us.
“Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net… He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea…” (Mic. 1-9, 18-20)
Summary of the Text
Our passage opens with Micah’s cry of woe. The previous chapter has just finished God’s declaration of severe judgment (6:10-16), and here Micah cries out for the sin of his people (7:1). All the good men are gone, and everyone hunts one another with nets and takes bribes (7:2-3). The best men are briars and thorn hedges, and no one can trust anyone, not even friends, spouses, or family (7:4-6). But Micah’s response is a striking confidence: “Therefore, I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me” (7:7). Micah warns his enemy not to rejoice when he falls because he will surely rise, and even in the darkness God will be his light (7:8). Micah acknowledges that there will be consequences for his personal sin, but God will plead for him and deliver him and bring him back out into the light (7:9). Micah goes on to describe how God will judge the nations and care for his people through all the turmoil (7:10-17). The prophet closes asking who is like our God, and it’s striking that he is particularly astonished by His mercy, the way He pardons sin and passes by the transgression of His people (7:18). Despite all the turmoil, Micah is sure that God will turn again and have compassion on His people; He will defeat our sin and cast it into the depths of the sea (7:19). This is certain because God promised this mercy to Abraham (7:20).
Is There A God?
Is Micah’s response to the evil of his day reasonable? Is it reasonable and rational to respond to such pervasive corruption by saying you will wait on God (Mic. 7:7)? The answer to these questions illustrates why the existence of God really is a watershed issue. If there is no God, then eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. If there is no God, then morality is just a construct, and might makes right. Everything is survival of the fittest, grab what you can get. And morals are just temporary, utilitarian tactics for the cowardly. If there is such a thing as justice, then there must of necessity be a standard of justice. And for it to be real justice, that standard must be fixed from day to day, from generation to generation, and apply to everyone the same. Whenever anyone says something is “wrong,” they are making a claim to morality. This is why we must be constantly asking a most crucial question: By what standard? Why? You cannot claim that something is good, right, wrong, evil, or unjust if you have banished all absolute standards. If there is a God, there is a fixed standard. If not, to Hell with morality.
The Real Problem
The reason we don’t want a standard, an eternal, fixed law is because every man knows that the same law that will condemn evil out there in the world will also ultimately point its sharp end back at us. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). This is what Micah acknowledges having rehearsed the wickedness of his nation: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me” (7:9). So what will it be? Do we want justice or not?
The Politics of the Accuser
The city of man functions on the power of accusation. The best peace and community man can muster on his own is the “fellowship” of the standoff. We take hostages in the form of dirt on one another, and have guns pointed at one another with silent agreements (or not so silent) not to fire, if the others won’t. This happens in families, marriages, businesses, and nations. But this isn’t peace, this isn’t fellowship, this is a cold war, with every move scrutinized and studied. But the power of accusation is guilt and fear. People know they are guilty, they know they have dirt, and they are paralyzed by the fear of exposure, blame, and shame, so they play along. Satan is the Accuser, and this is the power he uses over the guilty (Heb. 2:14-15).
This is why when Jesus began His healing ministry He identified the deeper, more fundamental problem as sin. When the men let down their paralyzed friend through the roof, the first thing Jesus said was, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5, Lk. 5:20), which may have seemed a bit anticlimactic at first. And when Jesus finally did heal the man, it was to prove that He had the authority to forgive sins (Mk. 2:10-11, Lk. 5:24). To the extent that individuals, families, and nations are paralyzed with fear, violence, hatred, the answer is the same. They need their sins forgiven. If our sins are forgiven then the Satanic hostage game of accusation is over.
And what is the one thing our God is known for? Despite all the cries of misogyny and injustice and cruelty, everyone knows that our God is known for His mercy. From the beginning, He has covered the sins of people with grace. He pardons iniquity; He passes by our transgressions. He delights in mercy. So this is the message that we need to hear, the message proclaimed to our families and neighbors and nation: Jesus Christ the Righteous is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:1-2). He has defeated our sins, trampling them underfoot, by the blood of His cross, and they have been cast to the bottom of the sea (Mic. 7:19). This is the only path to peace in our lives or in our land. This is our light even when we sit in darkness, and it is our sure hope that the Lord will bring us out into the light.