Many have misunderstood the character of God as revealed in the OT as being wrathful without love and in the NT as being full of love without wrath.
Some people today emphasize God’s love to the neglect of God’s holiness or judgment. The idea is that they have a god who is more palatable – whom is never offended or angry, one who has no need to warn of his holiness or his hot hell; one whom there is never a need to shudder in fear; hide from in shame, or cover up any guilt or bow down to in reverence. This god is only kind and loving; he is friend and never foe. It is the god of this age who is deceiving and damning multitudes, even in religious institutions.
Recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) sought to update its denominational hymnal set to be released this Fall (2013). One of the songs they wanted to include was “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. However, the PCUSA contacted the hymn authors seeking permission to alter the lyrics from “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”. Getty & Townend denied permission to change the lyrics and the PCUSA declined to publish the song in their hymnbook with the essential statement that God’s wrath is unworthy to sing about.
This is in contrast to what takes place in Revelation 19:1-5 “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
Further, Russell Moore says, When Christians sing about the wrath of God, we are singing about ourselves. Our consciences point us to the truth that, left to ourselves, we are undone. We’re not smarter or more moral than anyone else. And God would be just to turn us over to the path we would want to go—a path that leads to death. It is only because Jesus lived a life for us, and underwent the curse we deserve, that we stand before God. The grace of God we sing about is amazing precisely because God is just, and won’t, like a renegade judge, simply overlook evil.
The OT & NT portrays a God of both love and wrath with grace, mercy and justice. The God of the Bible punishes sin and disobedience while at the same time pardoning iniquity and forgiving sin. Ultimately, we have seen this at the cross of Jesus Christ. God the Father sent the Son to pay the penalty for sin:
Isaiah 53:5-6 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
God’s love is not mere sentimental, squishy feelings. God’s love comes to us through sacrifice and suffering. Jesus died in my place, for my sin so that I may escape the sentence of hell and experience salvation in heaven. Therefore, Jesus becomes our Savior and our highest treasure for all of life.
This message will help you to see God for who He is and what He requires of us.
The contexts of Micah’s audience were the nations Israel & Judah, whom had recently experienced times of economic prosperity but moral decline. God had blessed in previous years but being taken for granted as people treasured the blessings more than the Blesser – therefore, God’ judgment was forthcoming.
Israel (Samaria – Northern Kingdom) was conquered by Assyria in 722BC. Judah (Southern Kingdom) would be conquered by Babylon in 586 BC.
Their cities would be invaded and destroyed, their children would be taken from them (Mic 1:16) and placed into exile slavery; God would avoid hearing their prayers and turn away from them (Mic 3:4, 5:3). They would be the ridicule of all the nations for their God would not save or protect them.
In other words, the nations were in troubled times.
Micah calls Israel to hear (cf. 1:2, 3:1) the Lord’s words. This is the role of the prophet – to speak God’s message. Micah was a prophet who received the “word of the Lord”. “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 and to Israel his sin” (Mic 3:8). The Lord commanded the people to arise and plead their case (stand up in defense). The Lord has a rightful judgment against his people, and He is contending against them.
The Lord asks two questions: What have I done to you? and How have I wearied you? These questions were intended to provoke Israel to evaluate their history. Further, God follows up the questions with His own defense of gracious redemption and saving acts in the exodus from Egypt.
God and His laws do not burden or weigh down but instead he liberates and lifts up.
Illus: When a driver is speeding down the highway and notices a police car parked in the median, they immediately slow down. In fact, it becomes a series of actions: swallow a lump in throat, heart beats faster, foot pulls off accelerator without slamming on the brakes and once you pass by your eyes look in rearview mirror to see if you have been caught. A driver may not like the police officers authority but they respect it and respond appropriately. Those who do not pay the price.
Likewise, when we realize God is both Lord and Judge we must listen with attention to God’s laws. In the book of Micah we see God standing as a witness against sinners who overlook God’s holiness. The sins of the people included idol worship (Mic 1:7), fraud (Mic 2:2), theft (Mic 2:8), greed (Mic 2:9), debauchery (Mic 2:11), oppression (Mic 3:3), hypocrisy (Mic 3:4), heresy (Mic 3:5), presumption (Mic 3:4,11), injustice (Mic 3:9), extortion and lying (Mic 6:12), murder (Mic 7:2). These can be summed up in two categories – failure to properly love and worship God and failure to properly love and care for others.
Psalm 11:4 “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.”
Proverbs 15:3 “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
ð What are the idols of your heart? What are you treasuring with affections and prioritizing in decisions above your relationship with God?
ð Is there hypocrisy between what your lips say and what your life shows?
ð How are you not just treating God but people made in God’s image? Do you look down or oppress others? Do you share with those in need or comfort the hurting or have you lost compassion?
These questions are not meant just to bring about guilt but to call you to repentance of sin and receiving the grace of God through faith.
God requires us to love with authenticity (Micah 6:6-8)
As the people recognize God as Lord and Judge they ask what they shall offer to earn His favor. “With what shall I come before you… and bow myself before you… with what will you be pleased? (vv.6-7). The first proposal was burn offerings with calves a year old. Burnt offerings were sacrifices where the entire animal was offered and burned up to express full devotion. 1-year old calves were considered worthy sacrifices (Leviticus 9:3). There is also the increased offer of thousands of rams and ten-thousands of rivers of oil and not to mention giving of a firstborn. Unfortunately, child sacrifice was common in these days as King Ahaz did (2Kings 16:3).
Religious activity does not equal relational authenticity or spiritual sincerity.
Micah relays what the Lord requires:
“to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
– Do Justice (mishpat) refers to action of doing what is right toward people.
Deuteronomy 10:18 “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”
Psalm 68:5 God is “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows”
Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Isaiah 1:17 “learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widows cause”
Jeremiah 22:3 “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
Zechariah 7:10 “do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor”
Tim Keller says, “In premodern, agrarian societies, these four groups had no social power. They lived at subsistence level and were only days from starvation if there was any famine, invasion, or even minor social unrest. Today this quartet would be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless, and many single parents and elderly people. evaluated by how it treats these groups. Any neglect shown to the needs of the members of this quartet is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity, but a violation of justice, of mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”
In ancient cultures, the power of the gods was identified with the elites of society – kings and military, not to outcasts or lowly. Yet, the God of the Bible distinguished himself from other religions by showing His power and provision to the lowly.
– Love Kindness (chesed) refers to attitude or motivation behind the action of mercy, love, kindness.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Mercy did not ask: What is this going to cost me? What did this person do to deserve this?
Justice & Mercy requires messy hands and dirty feet, stepping beyond comfort zones.
Justice & Mercy for fatherless: adopt, volunteer at pregnancy center, care for single mom’s
▪ Justice & Mercy for elderly: adopt grandparents and listen to stories, help and serve needs
▪ Justice & Mercy for sojourner: build friendships, share languages, provide resources
▪ Justice & Mercy for poor: provide support with physical needs
▪ Justice & Mercy for all: love people and lead generations in the gospel
– Walk humbly with God
We are called to be in right relationship with others and with God. This is an authentic relationship with God by grace through faith. It is not one you can earn proudly but receive humbly.
Our relationship with God is described as a walk… a journey with God as we learn to trust Him through every twist and turn.
Micah calls us to sincerely know God.
The other day we took our daughters to DownsMemorial Park. They were on the playground and interacting with some of the other children. One of my daughters was talking to another girl who was saying some things to her and so my daughter decided to say, “I hate you”. Of course when I heard that, I called her over to instruct her that was inappropriate and she needed to apologize. She went to the girl and told her she was sorry. The very next minute they were friends and wanting to play together.
A child’s friendship is very forgiving. God’s grace is greater than all your sin.
Begin your walk with God by trusting in Jesus.
God sent His Son as a full offering sacrifice that you cannot do on your own.
God’s work of justice & mercy can never be earned but simply received.