Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, July 24, 2022

Text: Micah 3:8-4:5

Watch Service Video

“Justice” is a word that seems to mean different things to different people in a variety of situations. Every so often you might hear of someone who is “calling out for justice” and we need to hear more to know what they mean. It might be a claim that a business hasn’t treated a customer fairly. It might be an instance where a crime has clearly been committed, but no one at all has been arrested yet. These days, we hear about “social justice,” and the whole idea is based on the judgment that entire groups of people are being oppressed, and it’s time to make some big sweeping changes and do something about it.

Micah was a prophet whom God called to speak about justice to the people of Judah. Like many of the prophets, we don’t know much about his background or his upbringing, other than the fact that he was from the town of Moresheth, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. We know when he preached, because the opening verses of the book tell us that he ministered during the reigns of “Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah” (1:2). It was a turbulent time for God’s people, and we know that at least two other prophets served at the same time: both Hosea and Isaiah served during the reigns of the same kings. Why so many? Well, despite their unfaithfulness to him, God loved his people enough that he didn’t want them to abandon him and go their own way. So he sent these prophets to call the people to repent and to place their trust in him and his faithful promises once again. God also saw to it that these words of the prophets would be preserved for us, too, and today we see timely and relevant messages for us in the words of Micah.

Let’s look at the end of chapter 3, and let’s notice especially what God inspired Micah to say about justice in his day. 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.

Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; 10 who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.

11 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.”

12 Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,

the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

Any of us who have paid attention to world history aren’t surprised by what we hear about in Micah’s day. A corrupt class of leaders leads to a corrupt society. How could it not? When the people who are supposed to teach and enforce the rules don’t follow the rules themselves, why should anyone else? Ultimately, the population figures out that to get ahead in life, they need to play the same game that everyone else is playing and compete for what they want—every man for himself, as they say. So among the people of Micah’s day, their version of justice was taking what they could get by any means necessary…and it started at the top. 11 Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

Can you imagine living in a society where the political leaders often care more about themselves than they do about their citizens? How about a culture where religion is based more on what is popular and palatable than on what is Biblical and true? I’m sure you can, because Judah around 725 BC wasn’t much different than America today, or for that matter, most societies that have ever existed. We shouldn’t be surprised that every culture of every generation has the same temptation as we do today, to make life more about “me” than it is about God and his will. Every sinful human being (including each one of us) has a heart that wants to come up with our own form of justice, one that asks what is right for me right now rather than asking what is right—period. And so we are tempted to ignore our neighbor, or even trample on our neighbor or take advantage of them, to go after whatever we desire. It happens so naturally, whether we are kids, or teens, or adults, but that will never make it right.

Why not? Because all the while, God’s idea of justice remains unchanged. God’s justice says that every deviation from his holy law is sin, and every sin must be paid for. For all who go their own way, stubbornly refusing to submit to God and his will, only punishment and judgment awaits. Micah revealed to God’s people what they could expect if they persisted in their stubborn and selfish ways. 12 Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. This was the message Micah courageously preached to a people who needed to hear it.

And what happened? How was it received? One of the interesting facts about Micah is that like many of the other prophets, Micah’s words are quoted in the New Testament. You might recall that Micah was the prophet through whom God revealed that the promised Savior would be born in Bethlehem. So when the wise men came to visit, the bible scholars knew exactly where to send them to find Jesus. What’s more unique, though, is that Micah is one of the few prophets who is quoted in the Old Testament. About 100 years after Micah wrote and preached, the prophet Jeremiah mentions this very warning that Micah brought, God’s threat of destruction to Jerusalem…and the people listened! Under King Hezekiah, Jerusalem enjoyed a time of spiritual renewal and therefore experienced God’s continued grace and protection. God used Micah to bring about repentance back then, and he has been calling people to repentance through this same message ever since.

For all who repent and turn to the Lord in humble trust, God gives words of comfort and hope as well. His justice and might don’t just mean punishment; his justice and might will also lead to an everlasting reign of peace over God’s people. We hear about it in chapter 4. 4:1 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

Isn’t it striking how the tone of prophecy changes from such bad news to such good news so quickly, and without any words that serve as a transition in between? Here we are blessed to see how God’s judgment is not his final word, especially for those who repent. Instead of languishing in a corrupt earthly kingdom led by corrupt leaders, when God sits on the throne, there is restoration and peace for all, for Jew and Gentile alike.

And we see the fulfillment of these words in the Christian Church. God’s plan is so much bigger and so much better than rescuing any one city or one nation. Through the Savior he promised, God was determined to save people from every nation, and God’s justice was carried out. Remember how that works? Well, we have a Savior Jesus who never deviated even once from God’s Holy Law, and then he gave his perfect life on the cross to pay for all the guilt of all the sins of all sinners of all time. We see God’s might in conquering death as his Son rises from the grave on Easter Sunday, and all who believe in him have the confidence of knowing that our graves won’t hold us, either. And finally, once Jesus comes back and rescues all of us, our everyday and eternal reality will be perfect peace in every sense of the word. It’s hard to imagine in our world right now, but do we have any reason to doubt? The LORD Almighty has spoken, and by God’s grace we believe him.

Why is Micah still important? The constant challenge we face remains the same as it has ever been. It’s the pull of the corrupt world to live only for ourselves, like so many of the people around us. It’s also a temptation that comes from within our naturally sinful hearts, to forget about God’s promises and go after our own selfish desires. When we live in repentance, however, we treasure God’s grace and appreciate his forgiveness above everything the world can offer. We love hearing about God took corrupted people like us and clothed us in Christ. Our peace with God moves us to live lives of contentment as we wait for his kingdom to be revealed to all. Until then, we need not be surprised at the corruption of society all around us, but we don’t have to join in. In Jesus Christ, we are citizens of a higher kingdom. As Micah prophesied, our king was born in Bethlehem and completed his mission of salvation; he satisfied divine justice and showed his might in his victorious resurrection; we can be sure that he will reign forever. And so we close with the words of Micah: All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. AMEN.