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Who is Like Our God? | Micah 1-7

As preached by Zach Thompson.

"Micah as a book is not a call to mere social justice, but an exposition of who God is."

  • In chapters 1-2, God proclaims a furious judgment for Israel, but he promises a divine shepherd for his remnant.

  • In chapters 3-5, God condemns the wicked leaders of Israel, but he promises a righteous ruler for his remnant.

  • In chapters 6-7, God demonstrates that Israel deserves judgment, but he promises victory and compassion for his remnant.

Who is Like Our God?

6 of 12 through the Minor Prophets

Good morning! We will be in the book of Micah this morning. If you are using one of our provided black Bibles, that is on page 728.

Our public reading today will be from Micah 7:18–20. Let’s stand together in honor of the reading of God’s word.

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

19 He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

Let’s Pray.

What God do you worship? Is it the God of the Bible? Or a God you have created to suit your comforts?

When you consider who God is, what comes to the forefront of your mind?

The world seeks to define God in ways that are palatable. A God of tolerance. A God who accepts me for who I am. A God of love.

These sound good. Don’t they? In fact, they have a type of foundation in the Bible.

But if we dwell on them and the way they are used, we find that the claims our culture makes about God is like a ball of frozen mud coated in candy. You may think that it tastes good at first, but in time, you will find that it is bitter.

In time, we find that the so called god of tolerance is actually a god who either doesn’t care or is powerless. We find that this so called god who isn’t concerned with sin is also unconcerned with my pain. We find that the god who doesn’t punish sin is actually an unjust god.

The God of the Bible is a God of justice. He is himself perfect and holy and just. He isn’t subject to some external moral force that tells him what justice is. He is justice. He is patient, but he hates sin. He forgives, but that sin isn’t merely ignored —it meets wrath. He loves, but not at the expense of his justice.

Who is like our God?

This is the question at the heart of the book of Micah. Who is like our God? It’s actually what Micah’s name means. And the rhetorical answer is, “No one.”

The book of Micah is often thought about as a social justice book. Probably every Christian school of social work in the country has had Micah 6:8 as some type slogan.

But if our only take away from the book of Micah is that we should get more involved at the local soup kitchen, then we’ve missed something.

Micah is addressing generations of stubborn rebellion against God. Judges would only give judgement if they got paid. Prophets who would only prophesy in line with the wishes of those who lined their pockets. The powerful feasted on the gleanings of the hungry poor. Rich men, full of violence. Hedonistic immorality and drunkenness. Sacrificing their own children to assuage their guilty conscience.

God revealed himself to them in a way that he hadn’t to any other people, and for generations they lived in open rebellion against him.

The book of Micah isn’t just a call to social justice. It’s an exhibition of God’s character. It’s a call to know God and walk with him.

He does this by following the same rough pattern in three different sections of the book. In each section, God gives judgment to Israel, then he gives hope to his remnant. The three sections are 1-2, 3-5, and 6-7.

In our time today, we are just going to summarize each section and walk through it together as we seek to understand and respond to the text.

A couple of notes on this:

1. The prophet Micah preached to both the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah. For our purposes today, unless I specify otherwise, I will use the term “Israel” to refer to both.

2. Let’s talk about the word remnant. This is a word straight from our text today. It’s used in every section of the book of Micah to refer to the group of people who will ultimately receive God’s promises. This is something God does over and over. At every turn in the Bible, there is a small group that God sets aside for himself. In 1 Kings 19, God keeps a remnant of 7,000 people for himself who had not worshipped Baal. We’ll see the language of remnant show up a lot as we continue to walk through the minor prophets.

Okay let’s get into it. Each of our points today will reflect the general pattern of God’s pronouncement against Israel then his promise to his remnant.

This is the beginning of our first point.

In chapters 1-2, God proclaims a furious judgment for Israel

In chapter 1, Micah takes up his discourse from a place of hot anger.

Look in 1:2-7,

“Hear, you peoples, all of you;

pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,

and let the Lord God be a witness against you,

the Lord from his holy temple.

3 For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place,

and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.

4 And the mountains will melt under him,

and the valleys will split open,

like wax before the fire,

like waters poured down a steep place.

5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob

and for the sins of the house of Israel.

What is the transgression of Jacob?

Is it not Samaria?

And what is the high place of Judah?

Is it not Jerusalem?

6 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,

a place for planting vineyards,

and I will pour down her stones into the valley

and uncover her foundations.

7 All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,

all her wages shall be burned with fire,

and all her idols I will lay waste,

for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,

and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.”

This is some powerful imagery isn’t it? Verse 3, The Lord is coming out of his place to tread upon the high places of the earth? This isn’t just God going for a stroll on the mountain tops. This it like the way someone might stomp on an anthill. The God of the universe is looking at them, and there is destruction in his eyes.

The mountains will melt, the valleys will split open like wax before a fire.

When we speak of God being personal, it is often in the context of knowing him. And this is right, but God is also personal in his judgment. Do you see that in how God is talking about it here? Sin is a personal offense against God.

Look down in 2:1-3, he gives more detail for his fury.

“Woe to those who devise wickedness

and work evil on their beds!

When the morning dawns, they perform it,

because it is in the power of their hand.

2 They covet fields and seize them,

and houses, and take them away;

they oppress a man and his house,

a man and his inheritance.

3 Therefore thus says the Lord:

behold, against this family I am devising disaster,

from which you cannot remove your necks,

and you shall not walk haughtily,

for it will be a time of disaster.”

And if all of this evil weren’t enough, they are in denial. Look in 2:6, “‘Do not preach’ —thus they preach— ‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’”

They wouldn’t put up with anyone preaching any kind of negativity. Does that sound familiar?

In fact, he goes on to say what kind of preaching they prefer. Look down in 2:11, “If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,’ he would be the preacher for this people!”

They didn’t want to hear the sober preaching of God’s word. They want to hear preaching about how the harvest would be plentiful and pleasure would be abundant.

Let’s take a moment to dwell on this.

The Israelites ignored the preaching of the prophets because they thought their sin wasn’t a big deal.

They belittle God’s sin and they thought little of God’s holiness, so they thought they could ignore the warnings of God.

We could talk about the culture around us on this point, but let’s do some searching for the log in our own eye before we look elsewhere.

Pretty much every week, we talk about how we want to read the word of God and respond to it.

Has God been pricking your heart through the preaching of his word? Don’t be like the Israelites were. Don’t ignore his leading. Respond.

Is there a sin he would have you confess? Is there a consequence he would have you embrace? Is there some clear matter of obedience you have been meaning to get to, but things keep coming up? Or maybe you just keep forgetting about it, because the moment the sermon is over your mind jumps to other things.

Right now, write it down. Text someone. Resolve now how you can move to obedience as soon as possible.

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

And God hates disobedience. That’s clear in these verses. But he also makes a promise here.

This is our next point.

In chapters 1-2, God proclaims a furious judgment for Israel, but he promises a divine shepherd for his remnant

We see this is 2:12-13. Look there.

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

I will gather the remnant of Israel;

I will set them together

like sheep in a fold,

like a flock in its pasture,

a noisy multitude of men.

13 He who opens the breach goes up before them;

they break through and pass the gate,

going out by it.

Their king passes on before them,

the Lord at their head”

Even in the midst of this horrible judgment, there was a remnant. And God’s promise here is that where they were scattered in judgment, they will be gathered again. The Lord will himself gather them and be their shepherd. In verse 12, he says, “I will gather.” Then in verse 13, he identifies himself as their king. Did you notice that? Who is at their head? Look at verse 13 again. “Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.”

This is a divine shepherd-king. I think this has a shorter term fulfillment in their eventual return from exile, but the greater fulfillment is Christ. The good shepherd who speaks and his sheep hear his voice (Jn 10:1-18).

Do you see the perfect fulfillment here? The shepherd who gathers his people. The king who makes a way for them to be delivered from destruction.

This is the shepherd king who would provide the safety and security of the shepherd for his sheep while having the power of a king.

We’ll dwell on this more in a bit. But let’s move to the next section.

In chapters 3-5, God condemns the wicked leaders of Israel

In these chapters, he is specifically calling out the rulers and the prophets.

Look in 3:1 This is what he says to the rulers,

“Hear, you heads of Jacob

and rulers of the house of Israel!

Is it not for you to know justice?—

2 you who hate the good and love the evil,”

The ruler is the one called to judge. The one who is supposed to settle disputes with justice. And these men are the exact opposite of just. They hate the good, and they love the evil.

What God calls good, they call evil. What God calls evil, they call good. Why? Because it benefits them. The bribe benefits the corrupt and harms the helpless. Abortion benefits the doctors who promote it but it ends the life of a helpless child and it leaves women to wonder what might have been for the rest of their life. Racism elevates the egos of one skin color while seeking to oppress a different skin color. An unjust business model sees profits as good, even at the expense of actual slaves producing the goods.

Just like in the book of Micah, injustice is promoted by leaders all around us. And God promises a consequence. Look in verse 4

“Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.”

Then after addressing the rulers, he addresses the prophets. Look in verse 5.

“Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets

who lead my people astray,

who cry “Peace”

when they have something to eat,

but declare war against him

who puts nothing into their mouths.

6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,

and darkness to you, without divination.

The sun shall go down on the prophets,

and the day shall be black over them;

7 the seers shall be disgraced,

and the diviners put to shame;

they shall all cover their lips,

for there is no answer from God.”

In both cases, what Is the punishment? God removes his presence from them. When the king cries to the Lord, the Lord won’t listen. When the prophets seeks to prophesy, no message will come.

Years ago, Courtney needed to run on an errand and Lana and Hope were taking a nap. I was working in my office with the door closed, and about 30 minutes after Courtney left, I heard tiny footsteps pattering through the house and terrified screams saying, “Mommy!” I opened my office door and rushed upstairs to find Hope wide eyed and weeping because she thought her Mommy was gone.

Obviously, Courtney came back. But Hope’s scream was unsettling. She really thought that Courtney was gone without a trace because when she called her mommy’s name, mommy didn’t answer.

This is the punishment against these men. Consider how needy we are for God. The terror in Hope’s eyes would be totally appropriate for them. Where there had been a sovereign and personal God, there was now silence.

Do you realize the gift that God has given you in hearing you? When you cry to him, he answers. Because we are adopted as sons through Christ, the God who has power over every circumstance turns his face to you and says, “I’m here. I hear your crying.”

It’s a gift we too often take for granted.

But the removal of God’s presence from these men wasn’t the only consequence of their faithlessness.

Look in 3:12.

“Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”

When God looks at the state of Israel, he holds the leaders to account. Because of you, all of this will be destroyed.

This dynamic isn’t strange to scripture. God holds special accountability for those who are in leadership.

But there is a special note here that is worth making. 3:12 is the specific verse that summarizes how king Hezekiah was driven to repentance. That’s what was referenced in our middle reading. Micah’s preaching had effect. King Hezekiah actually responded to it with repentance, and he tore down the high places and lived in accord with God’s law.

But you know what? Micah was ministering during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. That’s what it says in 1:1. All of these were kings of Judah and they reigned one after the other. Do you know how long the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz were? Roughly 31 years between the two of them. That’s 31 years where Micah was preaching this message without response from the ruler of Judah. But when the ruler finally responded, it caused the entire nation to be spared. You can read about that later in 2 Kings 17-20.

31 years. Just because there isn’t an immediate wave of repentance when you preach doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. The Lord works salvation on his timeline. It may be that we all live in Utah our entire life without visible traction for the kingdom of God here, but when those come whom God has prepared, it may be like a dam that has broken without enough capacity in the river channel to control it.

God used a proclamation of judgment to bring Hezekiah to repentance.

And don’t think it strange that there would be room for mercy with Hezekiah. Why else would Micah be preaching? Why would he bother with the proclamation if it was mere inevitability. God was beckoning them to turn to him, just as he beckons to those around us as we preach the gospel, even when we think there isn’t real response.

And I don’t think we should skip over the principle here. If you have authority, God will hold you to account for that authority. Many of us have children under our authority. Husbands, you are the authority in your household. Maybe you are a manager at your work. Wherever you may have authority, know that God sees how we use it, and we will give an account for it.

But as God was condemning the wicked rulers, he was setting himself up for a promise. He was holding up the failed rulers so that he could hold up the perfect ruler.

In chapters 3-5, God condemns the wicked leaders of Israel, but he promises a righteous ruler for his remnant.

There is so much here. Of all of the minor prophets we have worked through thus far, Micah is definitely the most messianic. We already saw Christ in 2:12-13, but in 4-5, he is all over the place.

Look in 4:1-7.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

2 and many nations shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3 He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore;

4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

5 For all the peoples walk

each in the name of its god,

but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God

forever and ever.

6 In that day, declares the Lord,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

7 and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.

People will seek out the Lord. Nations will be at peace. Each man will have security and plenty of harvest. Those who have been afflicted cast off will be brought in, and the Lord will reign.

Then there is the famous passage that is usually reserved for Christmas services, 5:2-5

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old,

from ancient days.

3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has given birth;

then the rest of his brothers shall return

to the people of Israel.

4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth.

5 And he shall be their peace.”

Jesus is the promised righteous leader. Jesus is our peace. And he reigns at the right hand of God.

We live in a time called the already-not yet. Christ has already come. He has inaugurated all of the messianic promises. But we await their consummation. Everyone who is part of the New Covenant has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. In Him, we have a foretaste of the New Heavens and New Earth. We are waiting for a place where righteousness dwells—Where Jesus will be the undisputed King.

We are like a soldier whose sweetheart gave him a kiss and a promise to wait for him while he is at war. He’ll think about that promise every day.

We are like a banker who has received a downpayment but who eagerly waits for the final installment.

It’s right and good for us to read passages like this and long for them. It’s right for us to desire to be in the full presence of God. And I think our next point will continue to illustrate this.

In chapters 6-7, God demonstrates that Israel deserves judgment

Chapter 6 starts with a legal accusation from God. In verses 1-5, he is calling them to remember all that he has done for them—how he consistently sustained them, even in their faithlessness.

Then comes one of the most famous passages in Micah. Look in 6:6,

“With what shall I come before the Lord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

God doesn’t want our sacrifice. He wants our heart. He wants a heart that delights in him rather despising him.

And a heart that delights in God will do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God.

He has made his desires clear, but they have continually ignored him. And God can’t delay judgment any longer. Look in verse 10, “Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?”

He is speaking of their wickedness as if they have been spending on credit without making payments, and the bill has come due.

Sin merits judgment. Where there is sin, God’s wrath must be poured out because God is just.

If we think that this is unjust, it’s because we don’t understand what sin is. Or we don’t understand who God is.

And in chapter 7, the prophet looks around him and sees only wickedness. He can’t find anyone who is righteous. In verses 1-2, he says it’s like going out to pick grapes when he was hoping there would be some to eat, but he goes on in his hunger because he finds empty vines. Look in the first half of verse 4, “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge.” Then in verses 5-6, he makes the point that he can’t trust anyone, even those whom you would think to be most trustworthy.

He sees this and he despairs. Because he knows the judgement of God. He knows that God’s severe hand of judgment will come.

In chapters 6-7, God demonstrates that Israel deserves judgment, but he promises victory and compassion for his remnant.

But what does he say after he realizes this? Look in 7:7. “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”

There is so much here for us to follow. It’s a loaded gun, and he is staring down the barrel of consequence, and he says “I will wait for the God of my salvation.”

Our God is the God who works salvation. And he hears us! “My God will hear me.” At the beginning of every proclamation of judgment in the book of Micah, it starts with the command to “hear.” “Hear you peoples.” “Hear you heads of Jacob.” “Hear what the Lord say.” The God who commands the unjust to listen to his proclamation of judgment is the same God who will quietly take us to the side and listen to us in our pain. The same God who would deny his attention to those in rebellion will patiently listen to his children.

And don’t hear me wrong today. We live in a broken world filled with the consequences of sin.

Think of the song “It Is Well” that we sang earlier. We will have pain. Our own sin. The sins of others. The general fallen state of our broken world.

There are so many things we could point to. But the point is this. In this life, we are going to be caught up in the consequences of sin. Whether it’s our own sin or someone else’s, we are going to be embroiled in various kinds of consequences.

Think of the woman who lives in constant guilt because 20 years ago, her boyfriend convinced her to have an abortion. Think of the adulterous man whose ex-wife will never trust him again and whose kids wish they had Mom and Dad together on Christmas instead of more presents. Think of the daughter who will always think she is unloveable because her dad left and never came back.

Sin has consequences, and they spread to people around us.

All of us are swimming in a web of consequences. And they can feel suffocating.

But even in the midst of consequences, we can look to victory. That’s what Micah does. After he proclaims that he will wait on the Lord, this is what he says.

Look in 7:8-9.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be a light to me.

9 I will bear the indignation of the Lord

because I have sinned against him,

until he pleads my cause

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall look upon his vindication.”

Friends, Micah is looking to Christ! He says, yes, I have sinned. Yes, I will bear the indignation of the Lord. But I share in victory. Because he will plead my cause. He will execute judgment for me. . . I shall look upon his vindication.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we are doing every week as we take of the Lord’s supper. We are remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ has plead our cause, and we have seen his vindication. When Christ was raised on the third day, he was vindicated. And with with him, we received vindication.

Sin merits judgment. Where there is sin, God’s wrath must be poured out because God is just.

And praise be to God, that for all who will simply trust in him, God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus.

By faith, we die to our sins with Christ. By faith, we are made righteous and alive with him. By faith, we are counted as one of the remnant and all of these promises are for us because we become children of Abraham according to faith. We are grafted in because His remnant is made up of all those who would repent and entrust themselves to his mercy!

And having been convinced of our own sin, we see that we only deserve God’s judgment, but we can look to our God in wonder and say with Micah in 7:18, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”


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