Disaster is coming.
Likely how European countries felt as Hitler’s armies advanced, or as the plague entered villages in medieval times. Perhaps also how we felt watching a global map fill with red dots…dots that grew larger and larger.
I think we have begun to understand, in a very small way, that feeling of impending doom.
This is the setting we find the Israelites, as Assyrian armies ravage neighboring Samaria, their sights set on Jerusalem. Years of sinful injustice, oppression and idolatry under the leadership of Israel, it was time for judgment to come; God had upheld His end of the covenant, while Israel abandoned theirs.
God called a prophet named Micah to speak His words to the people, declaring their sin, and proclaiming judgement, “all this will happen because of Jacob’s rebellion and the sins of the house of Israel” (Mic 1:5). It wasn’t an unjust warning, Israel had turned their back on God and His commandments, knowing well how they were called to live, as His people.
It’s like that with us too. There are times when we know what we should do, the attitude we are called to have, the words of encouragement we are admonished to use. Yet, we slip up, time and again, as if climbing a hill on a muddy day.
Micah is on the scene before the unspeakable happens, urgently proclaiming to Israel the impending destruction God has promised, as the army against them draws near. He faithfully, and persistently spoke to the people about their sin, about the coming judgement, and also God’s promises for their future.
What would they do?
There was a choice to be made. Their crimes had been laid before them, with God as a witness against them. Like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they could choose a posture of repentance, or a stance of rebellion.
We read in 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37 that King Hezekiah led the people in confession and repentance, he “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord” (Isaiah 37:1). A humbling of his heart, the confession and repentance of the people, led to a miraculous deliverance.
Seventy years later, the prophet Jeremiah stands boldly in Jerusalem bringing the same message of judgement to the people of Israel, again. It seems the earlier revival was short-lived, the old habits dug in deep. The prophet faced a greater challenge, however, captured in chains on the brink of death row.
As the elders pled his case before the leaders, they reminded all of a piece of their not so recent history. “Did [King Hezekiah] not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them. But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves” (Jer 26:19). A commanding call to remember the faithfulness of the prophet Micah, the response of a humble king and the deliverance from the enemy.
The Tale of Two Choices
We see the contrast between two prophets, in two different periods of time speaking to the same people of God, but in the midst of different seasons. The first chose humility, the other chose rebellion.
The glory of the gospel is that in our sinful state, God reached out to us. The graciousness of God, to make a way for us when we didn’t deserve it, is utterly amazing. As a parent, when your child has sinned against you, or someone else, our first thought is not to give them something good. We don’t wrap up a gift to give them, or make them their favourite dessert. We don't offer a reward, we want them to understand the consequences of their actions, the hurt they have caused someone else.
In contrast, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He doesn't remove His salvation from us, He continues to show us grace. The continued struggle with sin is not yet vanquished, it lingers on, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we gain traction toward making new choices and growing a deeper love and knowledge of God.
The choice remains before us, whether we will submit in humility when we are confronted with our sin, or stand in defiance. Sin usually satisfies a longing or an unmet need we have, but instead of looking to Christ, we look to the world.
Jerusalem was eventually destroyed, the people were taken into captivity, God carried out the judgement he had warned them of. Continuing a life of idolatry and rebellion against the very leadership of the Lord, scattered them like a bin of legos dumped on the floor.
Today, we will make choices, not always good ones. There will be other times where we find ourselves confronted with our own sin.
What will we choose?