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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Do not resist the pure preaching of the Word of God.
Text:Micah 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Justice
 
Preached:2013-11-03
Added:2014-03-20
Updated:2014-03-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

 

Psalm 46:1,5

Psalm 7:1,4

Hymn 12:1,2,6

Psalm 35:4

Hymn 12:14

Read: Micah 2; Hebrews 4:1-13.

Text:  Micah 2.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In 2001 Keith Getty and Stuart Townend composed the hymn “In Christ alone.”  It is a beautiful hymn, well loved and sung by many.  But not everybody likes the song “In Christ Alone.”  In 2013 year the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the 800 or so songs in their new hymnal.  The problem they had with this song was that it speaks about “the wrath of God”.  This is what it says in the second verse:

In Christ alone, who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless babe!

This gift of love and righteousness,

Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied;

For every sin on Him was laid –

Here in the death of Christ I live.

With the words “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” this song is describing the doctrine of propitiation, the doctrine that through the cross we could escape the God’s judgment and be received again into His favour.  That’s a very biblical and Reformed understanding of what the sacrifice and death of Christ was all about. 

  But the hymn book committee of the Presbyterian Church of the United States were uncomfortable with such language.  They did not like such talk about the wrath of God, and so they wanted to change the words “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified”.  But the authors of the song did not permit them to make the change.  And rightly so!  For the Cross was more than just a display of God’s love: it was also a display of His wrath!  Our Form for the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, for example, spells this out very clearly when it says that true self examination first means that everyone must

“. . . consider his sins and accursedness, so that he, detesting himself may humble himself before God.  For the wrath of God against sin is so great that He could not leave it unpunished, but has punished it in His beloved Son Jesus Christ by the bitter and shameful death on the cross.”

And later in that same form,

“From the beginning of his incarnation to the end of his life on earth, he bore for us the wrath of God, under which we should have perished eternally.”

But to speak of God’s wrath is no longer done in many churches today. While the puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards could preach a sermon with the title “Sinners at the hand of an angry God” the message that many like to preach today is a gospel of no wrath, no judgment, no consequences and no real change. 

And that was the situation also in the days of the prophet Micah. In Micah chapter 2 the people of Judah and Jerusalem did not want to hear of the justice and the wrath of God.  They did not want to hear that God was angry against sin, their sin, and that judgment was coming.  They wanted some positive preaching, to hear that all was well, that God loved them and that He had a wonderful plan for their life.  That He would give them wine and drink and all good things and that the good times would roll on forever.

But what about us?  What is the preaching that you want to hear?  In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul already warned Timothy that the time would come when people will not endure sound doctrine but would heap up for themselves preachers to scratch their itching ears, to say the things that they want to hear and we see that those days are upon us.  But what is the message that you would like to be told?  We need to hear the full counsel of God.  We need to be told of both deliverance and judgment, mercy and wrath, forgiveness and repentance.  For if we do not know of the wrath of God against sin, we will not flee to the One on whom that wrath was poured.  And then we would die in our sins. 

I preach to you the Word of the LORD as we have read it in Micah chapter 2 under the following theme:

Do not resist the pure preaching of the Word of God.

  1. The problem with partial preaching.
  2. The power of pure preaching.

1. The problem with partial preaching.

If a church wants to sing “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified” there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself.  Indeed, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us is that He sent us His Son.  The problem, however, is that it is only a part of the story and when a church teaches that the cross magnifies Gods love but refuses to teach that it demonstrates His wrath, the gospel becomes distorted and it is no longer the pure gospel which is being preached.   It is it important to realize, therefore, that when we confess the  importance of the pure preaching of the Word of God, this is more than simply a distinction between what is true and what is false.  True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word, and when He gave His disciples the missionary command, our Lord Jesus Christ instructed them to teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  In every day and age and in every church there are some things from God’s Word that will be warmly embraced, but other things that are not.  Our natural inclination is to go after the things that we want to hear but not the things that we need to hear.  And that, in part, is what was happening in Micah chapter 2.

Micah came to the people Judah and Jerusalem with a heavy message of wrath and of judgment.  He told the people that their days were numbered, that disaster was coming.  Micah 2:3,4

3           Therefore thus says the Lord:

“Behold, against this family I am devising disaster,

From which you cannot remove your necks;

Nor shall you walk haughtily,

For this is an evil time.

4           In that day one shall take up a proverb against you,

And lament with a bitter lamentation, saying:

‘We are utterly destroyed!

He has changed the heritage of my people;

How He has removed it from me!

To a turncoat He has divided our fields.’ ”

 

And verse 10,

10         “Arise and depart,

For this is not your rest;

Because it is defiled, it shall destroy,

Yes, with utter destruction.

Micah did not mince his words:  Because of the sin of God’s people, judgment would come.  And it was the LORD Himself who would be behind the judgment when it did come. 

The reason for this disaster, this judgment, was clear.  It was because the people of God had, to use the words that come later in the book of Micah, chapter 6:8, they had failed to do what was just and right, they had failed to love mercy and they had failed to walk humbly with their God.  And specifically, Micah 2:2,

“They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses , and seize them.  So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”

Life in Israel was characterized as one of selfish greed.  During the night men would lie awake scheming how they might get richer, how they could get more land, more houses, more wealth. 

  The prophet Amos had said the same things concerning the 10 Tribes in the north.  The people of Samaria had grown rich at the expense of others, building winter and summer houses, even houses of hewn stone, filling their homes with ivory and ornate furniture, planting lush vineyards, eating the best food and drinking wine in abundance.  But this had all been acquired by geed and violence, oppression and corruption.  And now Micah was pointing out that these same things were happening in Judah and Jerusalem.  The people were treating their fellow Israelites as enemies, using whatever means they had to take their homes and lands and livelihood from them.  Verse 8,9

“You pull off the robe with the garment from those who trust you, as they pass by, like men returned from war.  The women of My people you cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children you have taken away My glory forever.”

This was terrible behavior – and even more so because the LORD Himself had given the land as an inheritance to His people.  The people should have respected the property of one another because it was the Lord’s inheritance.  If a person lost his fields, he would immediately end up on the fringes of society.  At best he would become a day laborer; at worst he would become a slave.  In either case he would lose his independence, he would lose his freedom before God, and he would be at the mercy of the merciless rich.  And not only him, but also his wife and his children.  And so they would lose their place in the covenant community of the Lord.

  And this was deliberate of those who oppressed their fellow Israelites.  Consumed with a spirit of greed and covetousness they would scheme a way to take that which belonged to another as they lay on their beds, and when morning came they would put their plans into practice.  And if you were to ask why they did it, they would say, “Because I can!  It is in my power to do so.”  (Verse 2) 

And therefore the LORD said, “No.  You might be working out evil on your beds, and you might think that no one knows, no one is there to call you to account.  But I, the LORD, I do know, and I will call you to account.” 

But the message that Micah preached was not popular.  Micah 2:6 says,

“Do not prattle,” you say to those who prophesy.

Or, as the ESV translation of the Bible translate this verse (and the NIV is similar),

“Do not preach” – thus they preach – “one should not preach of such things.”

What the people who heard Micah’s message appear to have been saying is, “Do not preach these things, Micah!  It is not helpful.  You should not be preaching such a negative message.”

  And in this context a number of Bible Commentators understand verse 7 to be a continuation of the words of those who were unhappy with what Micah had to say.  And then the meaning would be, as other translations have it,

Should it be said, O house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the LORD angry?  Does he do such things?”  (NIV)

“That is not what God is like!” the people appear to have been saying.  “We are God’s covenant people, the apple of His eye!  Our God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Don’t you remember what it says in Psalm 103:8,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.”?

“Have you forgotten that beautiful psalm of David, Psalm 23 where it says,

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”?

“Do not preach these things, Micah!  You will make people feel bad about themselves.  You are giving them the wrong idea about who the LORD is.  You will turn them off and they will not want to come back to Jerusalem next year.”

But that is the problem with partial preaching.  That is the problem when the pure preaching of the Word of God is resisted and people do not want to change, nor do they want to face the consequences of their sinful lifestyle.  And so they reject the message and attack the messenger.  They do not want this sort of preaching and they do not want to be confronted with the God of the Bible.  Instead they will find the preachers who will say the things they want to hear.  Verse 11,

If a man should walk in a false spirit and speak a lie, saying, “I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,” even he would be the prattler of this people.

Yes, that is to say “If someone showed up with a good smile and a smooth tongue and told lies from morning to night, saying, ‘I will preach things that will make you happy, that will make you feel good, that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: more money, the best wine, the tastiest beer, then you would want him for your prophet, you would hire him on the spot.”  For this was the kind of prophet, the kind of preacher that the people wanted to hear.  No more of this talk about God’s wrath and judgment.

But don’t we all face the danger of this?  Isn’t it true that we love to hear the Word of God . . . but so long as we don’t have to change?  The prophet Micah was called to point the sin of God’s people and tell them what would happen if they did not repent, if they did not change.  But the people did not want to be told to repent, they did not want to change.  Life was good, things were on the up and up for those in high places.  “Who is this Micah who dares to preach such things?  His preaching is not helpful, his words are not good.”  Preacher, you can preach what you like so long as you don’t upset things too much, so long as you don’t call me to change.

But the LORD told His people through Micah that He can not wink at sin, that He can leave their wickedness unpunished.  The day would come when the land and the houses they had amassed for themselves would taken from them by force, and they would be utterly destroyed.  And Micah said in verse 5,

“Therefore you will have no one to determine boundaries by lot in the assembly of the LORD.”

The land would be taken from them, the people would go into exile, but one day a remnant would return and the land given back to them.  But not for the rich.  Not for the oppressors.  They would not be there.  Just as they have driven the poor and the helpless from their homes and fields, so the LORD would drive them out.  Micah 2:10,

“Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled it shall destroy, yes, with utter destruction.”

The covetous rich, the oppressors, would be ruined.  They would lose not just their lands, but their place in the assembly of the LORD.  Their exile would be an eternal one.  They would be evicted not just from the land of their fathers, but from the blessed presence of the LORD. 

 

You see, that is the terrible truth of those who refuse to acknowledge the wrath of God, His just judgment on sin.  Our sin, your sin and my sin, must be punished with a just judgment.  And either that punishment has been poured out on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, or else it will be poured out on us.  Make no mistake, the day of judgment will come.  Revelation 6:15-17 says,

15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

And Hebrews 4:1,2

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

And Hebrews 4:11,12

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

So what are you thinking as you lay on your bed?  What are you living for and who do you wish to serve?  How do you receive the Word that is preach to you?  Do you see your sin for what it really is?  Do you believe that the wrath of God against sin, against your sin and my sin, is so great that He could not leave it unpunished, but has punished it in His beloved Son Jesus Christ by the bitter and shameful death on the cross?  Can you sing the words,

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied;

For every sin on Him was laid –

Here in the death of Christ I live.”?

2. The power of pure preaching.

If you do not understand the perfect holiness of God and if you are not convicted of your own sin, of the depth of your depraved nature, then you will not understand the need for, nor the wonder of the cross of Christ.  It is only when we begin to plumb the depths of our own sinfulness and of God’s holy indignation, His wrath against this sin, that we will find our shelter in the cross of Jesus Christ. 

  And the same applied to the people in the days of Micah.  At that time, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ had not yet come, but they needed Him, they looked forward to His coming, and they lived in the hope, in the promise that one day the Messiah would come to redeem His people from their sins.  And for this reason, against the dark backdrop of the judgment of God upon the sins of His unrepentant people was a message of hope, a message of forgiveness in the One who was to come.

And so Micah 2 suddenly changes to a shout of hope and of restoration for the remnant of God’s people who would come out of the exile that was to come.  Micah 2:12,13.

12   “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob,

I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;

I will put them together like sheep of the fold,

Like a flock in the midst of their pasture;

They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.

13   The one who breaks open will come up before them;

They will break out,

Pass through the gate,

And go out by it;

Their king will pass before them,

With the Lord at their head.”

The LORD God is true to His Word!  Just as you can be sure that sin will be punished, so you can be sure that those who are forgiven will most certainly be gathered together in the manner that a shepherd gathers His sheep.  “Make no mistake about it” the LORD says.  “My covenant promises still stand to those to turn to Me in repentance.  I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob.  I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.”

The Lord will always have His Church, He will always have a people for Himself.  No, not all Israel will be saved; in fact, only a remnant will return from exile.  But the remnant is not insignificant.

“They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.”  (verse 12.)

All this will surely come to pass because, as verse 13 says, One who breaks open will come up before them, and “Their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head.”  So on the one hand you will have a Breaker, One who smashes through the wall of opposition who will go before His people, and on the other hand you will have their King passing before them with the LORD, their covenant God at the front.  There is, then, a unity between the One who breaks open, Israel’s King and the LORD God Himself.  So who then is this One who will gather the remnant of God’s people together?  Ultimately these words must be seen to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ who is true God and true man.  For He is the One who would come to gather in the remnant of His people.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Breaker!  He is the Smasher!  He is unstoppable and He will surely gather His people to Himself.  And nothing can stand in His way!

And that is the message that we must hear and believe!  Because our God is righteous and holy, His wrath against sin must be appeased, His justice must be satisfied.  Our sin declares us all guilty in His sight and our holy and righteous god can not leave this sin unpunished.  But it was on the cross that Jesus died and it was there that the wrath of God was satisfied!  And so each one of us who not only sees the horror of our sins but turns for the forgiveness of those sins and a new life in Christ will surely be counted as a part of that remnant, of the redeemed people of God!  As our Lord Jesus Christ said in John 5:24,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

That is the power of the  true preaching of the Word of God!  Do not resist it, but turn to the Lord in faith and repentance, looking to the One who has broken open the way to bring you to the Father.  For then you may take your rightful place as a part of the remnant, a part of that happy , noisy throng that will always be before the Lord.  And there you may praise Him for His salvation!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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