Watch, Wait and Wail

It was a heavy burden to be the Lord’s prophet. He was privy not only to the difficulties that lie ahead, but the direct exposure to God exposed cracks in his own spiritual life.

Not only was Micah aware of the ominous fate of his country, all the corruption from within, the collusion even of loved ones, looming conquest by vile enemies, and future captivity in foreign lands, but his own complicitness.


I will bear the indignation of the Lord
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.
He will bring me out to the light,
And I will see His righteousness.

Micah 7:9

Because of this I must lament and wail,
I must go barefoot and naked;
I must make a lament like the jackals
And a mourning like the ostriches.

Micah 1:8

While much of what Micah predicted did occur, there’s much that remains to unfold. Certainly, the patterns of degradation are on clear display today, and they appear to be escalating. As was the case with the prophet, our response should be the same. We watch and wait and wail, trusting that God will hear us.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

In the end, we will conclude like the prophet…

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in unchanging love.

Micah 7:18

Proximity to God is both illuminating and purifying.

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Better than Angels

You’ll hear people say when attempting to sound spiritual, we’re “appealing to the better angels of our nature.” This poetic phrase was uttered by Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address. Biblically, it’s nonsense. One can appeal only to God through Jesus who is higher than the angels, so says the author of Hebrews. The parentheticals below are mine.

3And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His (God’s) nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 1:3-4

Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s nature, if you care to know. Such a statement these days would be “fact checked” and likely found patently false, since the person of Jesus has been reduced to an historical figure at best or to a vulgar expression of exasperation at the worst. Read Wikipedia.

The writer goes on to describe the status and role of angels, that they are “winds” and “flames of fire” and “ministering spirits” to the saved. Jesus in fact was made a little lower than the angels for the express purpose of rendering Satan powerless and creating for man a route to salvation.

9But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

Hebrews 1:9-10

So, we’re not looking for better angels, and they’re certainly not to be found in our better natures! If we appeal to anyone it’s the God of the Universe via his son Jesus. You can’t top that.

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Watch Me

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

We are to do justice. We are to love kindness. And we are to walk humbly with God. The Hebrew word for humbly is tsana. You’ll find it translated humbly only here in the Old Testament. It means to be circumspect or careful and prudent.

Here’s a vain attempt to analogize the synthesis of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly. A musician plays all the right notes, and does so with passion, but he or she must yield to all the notations and Italian words above the staff as to tempo and dynamics. To ignore these instructions is to resist the will of the composer.

Interpreting all these notations is the conductor. In this case though, the composer and conductor are one.

Only God knows how he wants us to play out our lives. We need to defer to Him as an orchestra would a conductor.

I’ve played music under the direction of many conductors, but recently sat under a world-renowned director who happens to attend my church. We performed Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. He was so good he was aware of every part played, but he was also there in person among us despite his lofty status! Similarly, the same God who can exact a pound of flesh wipes our brow when we’re weary and tired and guides us by the hand through life’s difficult passages.


For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

“But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

Isaiah 57:15, 66:2

We are to humbly do the will of God, and that requires walking step by step with him, or in the context of music, following every movement of his arms, his gestures, and expressions on his face.

Otherwise, we’ll favor justice over kindness, or vice versa, or worse, improvise.

The most common admonition you’ll get from a musical director is “watch me.” Same goes…

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Have a Heart

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Thankfully, there’s more to Micah’s admonition in 6:8 than “do justice.” If not, there’d be no hugs after the administration of corporal punishment, if that’s even applied anymore. No reassurance. No discretion. No warning tickets. No pardons. Only blind enforcement.

Behind Micah’s word “love” in 6:8 and preceding “love” in 7:18 and 7:20 is “unchanging.” It’s one of the few Hebrew words I know, hesed, meaning loyal. It’s often translated “lovingkindness.” You can see the balance that “love kindness” brings to “do justice” below.

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.

Micah 7:18

We’re to do justice as God does justice, always with the goal to bring about righteousness and restoration. Without lovingkindness there’d be no remorse and no repentance. You won’t turn to God because you got caught, but because of his fierce and loyal love for you in your conviction, because there’s an embrace at the end of the road not a curse.

We’re all prodigals!

Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil.

Joel 2:13

Our God demands justice but hears us on appeal.

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Do it—Justice

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

The term justice is used a lot these days. In God’s word—the Hebrew word mispat—does not come with a modifier or qualifier for a reason. Justice is justice. It must be true.

It does come with instructions though.

Justice must be done, administered, brought forth, established, practiced, spoken, and executed.

Justice should be sought, desired, loved (because God loves it), understood, and hoped for.

Justice must be taken hold of, guarded, preserved, kept, and upheld.

Justice must not be hated, turned back, distorted, perverted, replaced, mocked, or denied.

If it is paired with another word it should be righteousness. If absent there is only wickedness. When administered it is an act of courage.

Its denial does not go unnoticed by God (Isaiah 40:27).

Where there is justice there is light (Isaiah 51:4).

God is justice (Malachi 2:17).

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Study War No More

1 That the mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains.
It will be raised above the hills,
And the peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.

Micah 4:1-3

There are so many distractions these days in the Western world that we are totally unaware of the burning caldron that is the Middle East. In the midst of all the warring factions is the tiny nation of Israel. While other countries melt in the streets without electricity, comparatively, the Jewish nation is an oasis. Obviously, there is still much tension there—political, cultural, religious, territorial, etc.—and constant vigilance is necessary to retain its sovereignty. Nevertheless, the contrast with neighboring countries is stark.

There will be a day in the future, hopefully soon, when no longer will the country have to rely on its Iron Dome for protection. Micah foretells of the day all roads will lead up Mount Zion to the Holy city of Jerusalem from which the Lord will rule over all the earth. In that day, they will “study war no more.”

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Full of It*

On the other hand I am filled with power—
With the Spirit of the Lord—
And with justice and courage
To make known to Jacob his rebellious act,
Even to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

Micah stood in vivid contrast with the rulers and false prophets of his day. While they abhorred justice, oppressed the poor, twisted the truth, had blood on their hands, and were corrupt to the core, the prophet was fully filled with power, that is the Spirit of the Lord, but also possessed the justice and courage to use it.

Stephen was also filled with the same power (and faith), and courageously delivered a scathing indictment to the rulers of his day, going peacefully to his martyr’s death as if in the arms of the Lord. (Acts 6:5-7:60)

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Acts 6:55

Jesus promised his disciples to leave with them that same Spirit when he left this earth, and predicted that they would do things far greater than him because of this endowment.

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.

John 15:26

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

John 14:12

As Christians, we all have “from the factory,” the power of God within us. What may be lacking is Micah’s sense of justice and courage, and the faith of Stephen to use it. We do not need to pray for power—it is under the hood—but for the boldness to turn the key and step on the accelerator. This is our–my–greatest struggle.

*Actually, Him.

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Following the Playbook

Micah 2:1-2 is the playbook of evil doers, of diabolic administrations time immemorial. If leaders head down this path, they are obviously evil. It will be plainly evident in their leadership and legislation. Here a spokesman of God (Micah) calls it like it is. He’s no talking head on cable news.

Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
Who work out evil on their beds!
When morning comes, they do it,
For it is in the power of their hands.

Micah 2:1

These people scheme.

As for a rogue, his weapons are evil; he devises wicked schemes to destroy the afflicted with slander, even though the needy one speaks what is right.

Isaiah 32:7

They plan perpetually to do harm, even in their sleep.

He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not despise evil.

Psalm 36:4

They act quickly as soon as power is in their hands. Their actions may be subtle at first, but depending on the power they wield, bold and daring.

For their hearts are like an oven as they approach their plotting; their anger smolders all night, in the morning it burns like a flaming fire.

Hosea 7:6

They covet fields and then seize them,
And houses, and take them away.
They rob a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance.

Micah 2:2

Watch carefully for anything that involves taking away the land of the people, and their houses, even indirectly through legal acquisitions.

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!

Isaiah 5:8

To own property and quietly enjoy it is essential to freedom.

Watch carefully for the implementation of any means by which to rob a person of one’s income, i.e., taxes, and eventually one’s inheritance. In their eyes, the people must not be self-sufficient, but dependent and destitute.

The story of Naboth’s vineyard illustrates how this is worked out. (1 Kings 21:1-15) Ahab coveted Nahum’s nearby vineyard. The king started with a classic approach negotiating an exchange or sale, but Nahum refused. Hear his reason.

“The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

1 Kings 21:3

Ahab’s conniving wife Jezebel took matters into her own hands and plotted Naboth’s death, using the king’s position and power (“Do you now reign over Israel?” v. 7) and was successful. And just like that, Ahab had his vineyard.

On the other hand, a ruler who increases the capacity of the people to enjoy their lives and thrive in freedom is good by contrast alone.

Micah’s message is that God will judge the evil rulers and ultimately set up a Kingdom established on a righteous foundation.

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Repurposed

5 ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’
6 “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.

Haggai 2:5–6 (NAS)

Just a simple thought about an amazing truth. The same Spirit that rescued God’s chosen people from Egypt was “repurposed” to guide and direct me!

Sometimes, perhaps often, I feel powerless to act, at someone’s or something’s mercy, way out on a limb. Why? I need to sense and know that the power of God resides within me!

At the proper time, he’ll act to cause all things to work together for good. (Romans 8:28) Here’s a God capable of shaking the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land for me!

Selah.

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Credit to Whom Credit is Due

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

1 Corinthians 9:24

Ever since I could remember, I’ve been engrossed in the Olympic Games, more so the Summer Games because I was a sprinter and can relate to all that goes through the mind once set in the blocks.

These days we get to see and hear all the ins and outs, the ups and downs in up-close and personals. We get a glimpse of what has gone on behind the scenes, all the disadvantages, all the hurdles along the way, the dreams cast in the mind milking cows or pounding endless miles of inner-city pavement.

As a believer I always hope that the victorious give credit and glory to God for his sovereign role in all of this, but only a few do, and you can tell when an athlete is genuinely empowered by the Lord, in glorious victory and the in agony and bitter disappointment of defeat. It can’t be contained.

Those who run or jump on their own power make sure you know how hard they worked, what a great plan they had, and how proud of themselves they are when they win. In reality, it’s by the grace of God that they safely ran the gauntlet. Case in point. In the course of the games you’ll see things happen that destroy the dreams of the most dedicated athlete. The heel of a shoe comes off, a bump from a shoulder causes a stumble, a dropped baton, a false start, a bad landing causing injury, and the list goes on. Only the believer can even attempt to put all this into perspective.

You see, on such a world stage, the Lord cares far more about using athletics to declare his glory in victory and defeat. A full declaration of the glory due him and the true victory in his son Jesus is what he expects.

The proud and self-confident have not won anything. Worse, those who squander the opportunity to give credit where credit is due, or obfuscate his role with common platitudes risk disqualification, not by the judges, but by the Judge.

Most of us possess little athletic ability, but we all should be athletes. We all run! As such, we need to run in such a way that we may win. We need to leave it all, with God’s strength, on the track called life.

Image: Abbey D’Agostino Cooper, Rio Olympics, 2016. Cooper and a fellow runner fell in the 5k run. Her first reaction was to help the other runner. Turns out she was severely injured in the fall but amazingly finished the race. Her recent comeback attempt fell short with a fourth place finish in the 5k Olympics trials, after a glorious breakaway run in her heat to gain a qualifiying time under the Olympic standard. A devout Christian, Abbey first fell to her knees to pray, then later gave the glory to God in her post-race interview.

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