But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light…
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.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago. (Micah 7:7-8, 18-20)
This is the third in a series of reflections for Lent, in which we are going through the Old Testament Prophets and unpacking the promises of God given to his people.
2 weeks ago we looked at Jeremiah who brought a promise of a new covenant; a new way of interacting with God in which we know him, and have his word written on our hearts and minds.
Last week, we looked at Hosea, who became a living parable, demonstrating God’s plan for redemption, buying back his people and taking on our debt.
This week we look at Micah, a contemporary of Hosea, called to bring a difficult message to God’s people; a critique of the behaviour of the people who were living in opposition to God’s commands; injustice, exploitation of the poor, backstabbing, greed. Judges are taking bribes, people are selling products using rigged scales, people are seizing property illegally and cheating their neighbours- anything to get ahead.
Israel is in a whole world trouble- breakdown of social structures, and God is now really upset.
Micah’s basic message, God is fed up of the way his people are living. There are certain things that set God off. Some things seem to upset him more than others. Idolatry and rebellion obviously, but cheating and exploiting others, especially the vulnerable is particularly intolerable in God’s eyes. And God’s chosen people were perpetrating grave injustices.
But in the midst of this, there is a promise: God will vindicate those who are victims of injustice, and will forgive those who seek him. In other words, God will set right his relationships with mankind.
Micah presents 3 important lessons to us:
1. Look to God in the midst of darkness.
God will act. Wait on it. Micah declares (7:7) his intention to wait on God. God will hear his pleas for help. He echoes the Psalmists, “How long O Lord.” This isn’t right, but I know God will do something about it.
God’s people may experience times of spiritual or physical or emotional suffering. There will be times you sit in darkness. We will experience what St. John of the Cross called the “Dark Night of the Soul”- a time of despair and suffering, when we grope around not knowing, but this is also a time in which we encounter God in deeper and more incredible ways.
Wait for God your saviour. In spite of a fall, God will lift you up. He will call you out of that back to himself. He is the God who reconciles. He comes to us to make reconciliation happen. He does not wait for us. He does not hope to be found. He reveals himself to us. He calls out to us. He draws near to us in the midst of darkness. In the midst of our sin and wretchedness, God determined he could be found there, in that dark place, he would offer himself there, in a place of despair.
It is then in the midst of turmoil and darkness that we give up striving on our own, when we give up any illusion of self-sufficiency, and cry out, and cut off from the other voices, we finally hear the whisper, the lover of his beloved, speaking softly to us and leading us out of darkness into his beautiful light. God becomes the light in the darkness (Mic. 7:8, see also John 1:4-5, 9).
That’s just who God is. Which brings us to the second lesson:
2. Remember who God is.
Micah 7:18-19a uses the vocabulary of Exodus 34:6-7 (God description of himself to Moses). If you are wondering where God is in the dark night of the soul; he is there with you. He is gracious and compassionate, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is faithful. Though you sit in darkness, God will bring his light. “Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope” declares Lamentations 3:21- his mercies are new in the morning- he is the light which breaks apart the darkness.
We are called to be people who remember who God is. Have you had a memory lapse? We often lament and wail in the darkness, asking where is God in this, forgetting for a time that God has promised to shed light in our darkness, and be near us in our dark places.
During Lent we reflect on this dark time- the journey of suffering and darkness and death. But in it there is this hope, because in this time is the revelation of grace which lifts us up, and reestablishes us as God’s beloved.
Karl Barth states that reconciliation is first and foremost possible because God is with us- we have an Immanuel. Redemption and reconciliation is something which we do not possess and cannot attain but which comes to us, and is given to us (Church Dogmatics IV.I § 57.1.3). “God does not occupy a position of neutrality.” Because of who he is,
“He cannot tolerate that this covenant should be broken. The work of atonement in Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the communion of Himself with man and of man with Himself which He willed and created at the very first. Even in the face of man’s transgression He cannot allow it to be broken. He does not permit that which He willed as Creator… should be perverted or arrested by the transgression of man” (CD IV.I § 57.2).
In other words God, by his very nature can’t not do all he can to reconcile his people. Because he is by nature faithful and compassionate, he cannot stand idly by while his people live in constant rebellion to him. He cannot allow the relationship of “I will be your God and you will be my people” to remain shattered.
Which brings us to our third point:
3. Your sin and guilt is gone.
Micah 7:19 proclaims that God has taken measures to trample down sin, and hurl it into the sea. He unilaterally acts to preserve his covenant promises, to reveal his character, and to provide an aggressive and all encompassing opposition to anything and everything that gets between him and his people. He has declared “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Yet we reject this promise, and God says, fine, I reject your rebellion against and I will stand in opposition of your attempts to forsake me. The omnipotent and all merciful creator of all says I will attack and defeat the sin which you purposefully and willfully committed against me. The Sovereign Lord freely chooses not to destroy us who live in opposition, but instead becomes one of us, God with us, and as a man does what we can’t do. He smashes sin and rebellion, and unites himself back to his adulterous spouse and says tenderly, “I will be your God again.”
He takes our rebellion and hurls it into the sea. Micah calls to mind the armies of Pharaoh, that power which sought to enslave God’s people, but which God opposed and threw into the Sea. Sin has no more power to threaten us than Pharaoh’s armies. Just as Jeremiah proclaimed, so too does Micah, “I will forgive their sins.” He does that to make covenant possible. In order to make reconciliation happen, God takes the initiative, and bears the burden of that process.
“God made him who knew no sin to be sin, so that we might be the righteousness of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21).
The magnitude of the Easter event should never be downplayed. Christ carries our sin to the cross, and we carry his righteousness in us now.
The way of the cross is the way to freedom. It the way to coastline where our sin is hurled into the depths.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
In conclusion, God is faithful. He will pursue his people. He will defend his covenant. He has declared promises. He told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3) and he will fulfill all that he promised, and has done so in Christ. Though we reject his grace, he pours out grace upon grace, to make things right. So we mourn our sin which made Christ’s sacrificial death necessary. But we rejoice because though he laid in the darkness of the tomb, he was raised again, a though we sat in darkness, the Lord has become our light, and there, right in the middle of our darkest times, God is with us.