A preacher arises and gains national attention as he begins to speak out about the capital city—Washington D.C. will be no more. He lets it be known that God is on His way and when He arrives Pennsylvania Avenue will be like a plowed field. God is on His way because rather than meting out justice the Justices are unjust in their dealings with those who need it most. His words are aimed straight at the law makers and power brokers who are twisting and perverting justice to line their own pockets and defraud the common every day citizens of what is rightfully theirs. He takes a breath and turns his attention to the wealthy citizens who are building their own private kingdoms by taking advantage of the poor and powerless. He takes another breath and points a long finger of condemnation at the religious leaders who hobnob with the powerful and wealthy while they devise the demise of the righteous for their own benefit. He condemns the false prophets for spending their time trying to please the aristocracy and immoral authorities rather than seeking to please God.
I dare say that a preacher like the one I’ve just described wouldn’t stand a chance in our day. You wouldn’t find his books prominently displayed on the shelves at Mardel’s. He wouldn’t be a guest on Nightline at Easter. He certainly wouldn’t be part of the President’s inner circle of “spiritual advisers.” Yet, this is exactly what happened long ago as a man named Micah spoke with boldness against the capital city of Samaria, the capital of Israel, and Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.
Micah was a prophet who ministered during the reigns of Jotham (742-735 BC), Ahaz (735-715 BC), and Hezekiah (715-686 BC). Each of these three kings reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah. In the north, the nation of Israel had their own kings, but these kings were considered illegitimate because of the way they broke off from Jerusalem and built their own idolatrous shrines at Dan and at Bethel.
Micah tells us that he was from the small country town of Moresheth which was located in the rolling hills of Judah, in the southern kingdom, about 21 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Since we only have this morning to take a look at Micah, and therefore can’t examine every verse, it might help us if we outlined the book. There are several different outlines we could use, but for the sake of simplicity we will divide the book like this:
• In Micah 1:1 we have the introduction of the prophet.
• In Micah 1:2-2:13 we have the “Warning of God’s coming judgment and the promise of a future deliverance.” Judgment is coming, but once God’s people have suffered the consequences of their rebellion, God will raise up a deliverer. Take a look at Micah 2:12-13 with me.
12 “Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left. I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture. Yes, your land will again be filled with noisy crowds! 13Your leader will break out and lead you out of exile, out through the gates of the enemy cities, back to your own land. Your king will lead you; the LORD himself will guide you.” (Micah 2:12-13 NLT)
• In Micah 3:1-5:15 we have a second cycle of “Coming judgment and a future restoration.” In this section is one of the most well-known verses of Scripture for most Christians. Hardly a Christmas can go by without us hearing,
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. (Micah 5:2 NLT)
God would scatter His people, they would go into exile, but one day God would bring them back and they would resettle their land. This verse, from Micah 5:2, points beyond any human leader that Israel could ever hope to have. God’s promise to the people was to one day raise up His Messiah who would reign over His people with righteousness and justice. What a blessing it is to know that God’s promise is fulfilled in Jesus our Savior!
• In Micah 6:1-7:20 we have the last cycle of “Judgment and hope.” The opening of Micah 6 reads like a courtroom drama as the Lord calls His people to “stand up and state your case” against Him. The mountains and hills are called in as witnesses and the courtroom drama unfolds. The people are found guilty as charged and yet they are not without hope. Their hope rests in the One who has found them guilty. As Micah 7 comes to a close the prophet stands astonished at God’s merciful and forgiving ways. Read along with me from Micah 7:18-20.
18 Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19 Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! 20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. (Micah 7:18-20 NLT)
Micah’s message was not an easy one to deliver. It broke Micah’s heart to know the things that were coming because of the sins of God’s people. In the very first chapter of Micah, after he announces that God is coming to judge His people, Micah says,
8 Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl. 9 For her wound is incurable; it has come to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself. (Micah 1:8-9 NIV)
Micah doesn’t gloat over the soon coming judgment of God—he is heartbroken and yet he knows that God’s people will be held accountable for their actions. Micah lets us know that Israel’s sins have spread like an infection, running from Israel in the north all the way south to the gates of Jerusalem, the holy city. In the first chapter of Micah, the prophet announces the root problem of the sin of the people—it is the capital cities themselves. In Micah 1:5-6, Micah says,
5 And why is this happening? Because of the rebellion of Israel– yes, the sins of the whole nation. Who is to blame for Israel’s rebellion? Samaria, its capital city! Where is the center of idolatry in Judah? In Jerusalem, its capital! 6 “So I, the LORD, will make the city of Samaria a heap of ruins. Her streets will be plowed up for planting vineyards. I will roll the stones of her walls into the valley below, exposing her foundations. (Micah 1:5-6 NLT)
The nation is guilty, but it is the leaders, religious, political, and business leaders, those who hold the positions of authority and power in the capital cities who are mostly to blame. Isn’t it ironic? Micah says that the center of idolatry, not the center of godly worship, but the center of idolatry is in Jerusalem, the holy city of God.
In the north, in Israel, the situation was incurable. If you read 2 Kings 15 you can read about the last six kings of Israel—Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea, the last king of Israel. As you read their stories you will quickly discover that each and every one of them were scoundrels. They assassinated the king who served before them, they extorted money from the citizens of Israel, and the writer of 2 Kings says of each one—“they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Before Hezekiah ever comes to the throne in Judah, in the south, the nation of Israel, in the north, is overtaken by the Assyrians and the people are led away into captivity.
There are differences of opinion as to whether or not Micah actually saw the fall of Samaria, the capital city of Israel, but there is no doubt that he witnessed the final few years as the nation was unraveling under its ungodly leadership.
Micah was a southern boy. If you will remember, he was from Moresheth. I learned something really interesting this week as I was studying Micah. If you will take a look at Micah 1:10-15 you will notice that there are the names of fourteen towns listed. “Moresheth-Gath” is mentioned in verse 14. The Hebrew for “Moresheth-Gath” means “possession of Gath.” Micah’s hometown of Moresheth was probably much smaller than the once important Philistine city of Gath. Back in the old days, just outside of Gath, as you drove in on the main highway, there was a sign that said, “Welcome to Gath! Home of Goliath.” That’s right, the same Goliath that David took down with his sling and pocket full of rocks almost three hundred years before Micah steped onto the scene.
What is interesting about this list of towns in Micah 1 is that they form about an eight mile circle around Micah’s hometown of Moresheth. Just reading the list of towns in these verses really doesn’t move any you does it? Sure it doesn’t. They are just towns with strange names, but let me let you in on a little secret. These towns were conquered by King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, as he was on his way to conquer Jerusalem in 701 B.C. In 2 Kings 18:13-14 we read,
13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 14So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. (2 Kings 18:13-14 NIV)
Sennacherib conquered the fortified cities of Judah. We not only know that from reading 2 Kings, but we also know it from Sennacherib. In 1830 a man named Colonel Taylor discovered what is today called, “The Taylor Prism,” in Nineveh, the site of Sennacherib’s palace. The Prism details the account of King Sennacherib’s siege on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. during the reign of Hezekiah. Let me read you an excerpt from the Taylor Prism. Sennacherib writes,
Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape… Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty… All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government. (Taylor Prism)
King Sennacherib took Lachish. 2 Kings 18:14 tells us that king Hezekiah sent his messenger to Sennacherib who was at Lachish. Evidently Sennacherib took a lot of pride in his capture and conquest of Lachish. When the ruins of Sennacherib’s palace were discovered archeologists found the most amazing structure. Sennacherib had named his home, “The Palace without rival” and it was that. The palace had more than eighty rooms and most of them were lined with alabaster slabs. After the fall of Nineveh the palace was lost and forgotten for almost 2,500 years. You might wonder, “What does Sennacherib’s palace have to do with Lachish?” Well, I’m so glad you asked.
In what archeologists call “Room XXVI” there is a relief; it is actually a carving that lines the walls of the room. The carving is 8 feet tall and 80 feet long, wrapping around all four walls. Every inch of the limestone carving is depicting one event in the life of King Sennacherib—the defeat of Lachish. Just by studying the carving we can learn all about the battle at Lachish. You can see what the soldiers were wearing, what the women had on, you can see some of the people of Lachish impaled on long spears, you can see wheeled, armored battering rams, and the people being led into captivity by the Assyrian soldiers. There is even a picture of Sennacherib sitting on a throne receiving the official surrender from an official. It is an amazing piece of evidence, indisputable evidence, of the truth and accuracy of God’s Word.
Sennacherib conquered Lachish and he made his way to Jerusalem. Hezekiah had tried to pay him off. He emptied the treasury of Judah and even went so far as to give Sennacherib all of the silver stored in the Temple of the Lord as well as the gold stripped from the doors of the Lord’s Temple. Hezekiah did all of this to try and appease the king of Assyria, but it didn’t work. Sennacherib continued his march to Jerusalem.
Sennacherib didn’t just plan to take Jerusalem; he wanted to humiliate King Hezekiah by mocking his inability to protect the people. Sennacherib took it to another level when he began to try and get the people to doubt that God would protect them. In 2 Kings 18:30 we read.
30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ (2 Kings 18:30 NIV)
Again, just two verses later, we read.
…”Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:32-35 NIV)
The men who delivered the report to Hezekiah tore their clothes and were overwhelmed with despair. They thought they were all doomed. When they made it to Hezekiah the king tore his clothes, put on burlap (a sign of repentance and mourning), sent for Isaiah the prophet, and went into the Temple of the Lord. Hezekiah poured his heart out to God in prayer. Listen to this.
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. 17 “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. 19 Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19 NIV)
God consoled Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah and promised to defend the city Himself. All of the fortified cities of Judah had already been destroyed by Sennacherib and now God was asking Hezekiah to trust Him? You got it. Regardless of what you have seen—trust God! Regardless of what Sennacherib has said—trust God! At the end of 2 Kings 19, while Sennacherib and his men were camped outside the gates of Jerusalem, we read,
35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning–there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. (2 Kings 19:35-36 NIV)
What was it that led Hezekiah to trust in God? Well, it wasn’t because he had been raised in church. His father, Ahaz, did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Ahaz led the people of Judah astray. He worshipped pagan gods, but here we find his son, Hezekiah, trusting God in a tough, tough situation. How do we explain the faith of Hezekiah? Well, turn with me to Jeremiah 26:17-19. Let me give you a little background on the Scripture before we read it. As the chapter unfolds the people want to kill Jeremiah for speaking out against Jerusalem and the Lord’s Temple. Jeremiah was adamant that it was God who had called him to speak out about the sins of the people. Finally, in verse 17, some of the “wise old men” stood up and spoke to the enraged people. Listen to this.
17 Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ” ‘Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’ 19 “Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the LORD and seek his favor? And did not the LORD relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves. (Jeremiah 26:17-19 NIV)
Evidently Hezekiah heard the news that “Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” Instead of turning away like the false prophets who would not believe that God would do something like that—Hezekiah heard the message and sought God.
Did you hear that line from the wise old men who spoke to those who wanted to kill Jeremiah? This took place about 100 years after Micah was speaking out for God. After they pointed out that Hezekiah heard the message of doom, “feared the Lord,” and sought God’s favor. They said, “And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them?” That is exactly what God did. Is it any wonder that Micah closes out his message in Micah 7 with these words,
18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago. (Micah 7:18-20 NIV)
What a great lesson that is for you and me! Have you messed up? Have you turned your heart away from God for years and years? There is no way that you can live in the United States and not know who God is. There is no way that you can say, “I’ve never heard the about the Good News of Jesus dying for my sins.” We are bombarded with that message from the time we are little kids. But, maybe you have neglected that message because you want to live life on your terms. You want to live it up, you want to party, and you want to grab all you can get for as long as you can. My friend, you may be getting away with it now, but make no mistake…God is on His way. He will hold you accountable for your decisions. He wants to turn you around, to keep you from destroying yourself, and turn you back into His arms of grace and mercy.
If you will hear that message and, like Hezekiah, turn to Him rather than continue to turn away from Him, then He will “relent” just like He did in the days of Hezekiah. Don’t waste another day living your life with your back to the King. Fall before Him and praise Him for His mercy. Won’t you do that today?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 12, 2010