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Waiting on the Lord

Date: Dec. 2, 2018

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Micah 7:1-7

Key Verse: Micah 7:7

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Waiting has a lot of negative connotations. Many times, it is frustrating to have to wait on something. People hate waiting in lines or, back in the old days, waiting for something to download. I remember clicking a download button on like a music file and hoping that it would be done by morning. It was a frustrating time. A number of years ago, I remember having to wait for a bus. We had only one car at the time and Viola’s dad was watching Ella for us. We had to drop her off at Viola’s parents’ house and I was going to take the bus from there to my work which was about 5 miles away or around 25 minutes by bus. Well, one day in the winter, I go to the bus stop and wait for the bus. I didn’t see it coming, so I pulled out my phone and opened up the bus tracker app to see how far away the bus was. When I looked, there wasn’t a single bus going in my direction on the app, which meant that it would be at least 30 minutes until a bus came. I decided to start walking in the direction I needed to go and to keep checking the app. When a bus came, I would stop and get on the bus. I walked many blocks up California Ave on the northside. I went from Albion, past Touhy to Howard and no bus came. I then continued on the road as it changed from California to Dodge when I entered Evanston. I continued walking on Dodge until Oakton, which was 1.7 miles. There still wasn’t a bus coming. I gave up waiting for that bus and turned down Oakton to Ridge, thinking that I might be able to catch a bus there. But there was no luck. I was getting tired. It was the dead of winter and most of the sidewalks weren’t shoveled. Finally, I chose to make it to the Main purple line stop and catch the train the rest of the way. I walked a total of 3.2 miles that morning and arrived about two hours late for work because I was waiting for a bus that never came. Many times, waiting feels like a futile effort. Sometimes, waiting feels like you are sitting around doing nothing. I didn’t want to wait for a bus that I had no idea when it would come. But advent is all about that anticipation of the coming of Jesus. Advent is all about waiting, waiting on the Lord, but waiting is not about sitting around doing nothing. We are not supposed to be sitting around on our hands waiting for a miracle. When we wait on the Lord, we wait in hope and anticipation of what he is going to do.

Today, we are in the book of Micah, which you might have had a little trouble finding in the Bible. Micah, as you might have realized, was one of the prophets of Judah. His ministry was during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah in Judah which was 750 – 686 BC. He was particularly focused on the social issues of the day, especially the issues that affected the rural areas of Judah. He lived at the same time of Isaiah and Hosea. Based on what is in the book, his ministry was most likely between 735 and 700. Micah predicted the fall of Samaria, which happened in 722 BC and his message reflect the social and religious conditions prior to Hezekiah’s religious reforms and the cleansing of the temple in 715. If we go back to our 2 Kings study from a few years ago, we might remember that just prior to Micah’s time, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were very prosperous economically. The kings did well for the nations, but it was also a time of political, social, moral and religious corruption. They ushered in new ways of doing evil that would be extended by later kings. Jotham was the first king during Micah’s time. The Bible says that Jotham did right in the eyes of the Lord, but he didn’t put an end to the pagan worship occurring throughout the kingdom. When his son Ahaz became king, the nation took a turn for the worse.

Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel invaded Judah but could not overpower Ahaz. They had hoped to remove Ahaz from office and replace him with a king that would support them in their resistance against Assyria. However, Ahaz sent the temple treasury to the king of Assyria and urged him to attack Aram and Israel. The Assyrians then conquered Damascus and Ahaz became a loyal servant of Assyria. When Ahaz went to visit the Assyrian king in Damascus, he saw an altar and made a sketch of it, which he brought back to Jerusalem. Uriah the priest had the altar built and it became where the daily offerings were made. Ahaz also disassembled much of the stands and articles which were used during the worship of the Lord. God had specified all the things in the temple, but Ahaz sought to do things his own way without thought of what he was doing. Ahaz thought that he knew better than God in how to worship. But beyond that, Ahaz worshipped other gods and even sacrificed his own son in the fire. Such depravity began at the top and the people were no better. Much like the kingdom, the people of the time seemed to be doing fine on the outside. They were doing well materially and economically, but emotionally, spiritually and morally, they were a mess. Which brings us to our passage today.

We start out with, “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.” (1-2) Micah begins this section with “What misery is mine!” This section is a lament and it begins exactly like that. In the book of Job, the same statement is translated, “Woe is me!” It is a statement of exasperation like, “It’s hopeless!” or “Nothing is working!” Micah was frustrated at the situation in Judah. He was a prophet, but no one seemed to care. Micah uses an example to show his exasperation. “I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.” (1) In Jewish society, at harvest time, God set up a law that the landowner would make the first pass in harvesting his crops, but he could not go back through to clean things up. Instead, the landowner had to leave some out in the field so that the poor could glean. After the poor were done with the field, there would be nothing less. Micah felt like the hungry poor person who went to the field in search for fruit, but it had already been picked clean. It was the time of year for the harvest, but it had already happened, and the fields were picked clean. It’s like going to a restaurant with your heart set on a certain dish, but when you order, you find out that they are all sold out. You are so disappointed and frustrated.

Micah felt the same way about the people of Judah. Judah was supposed to be a nation of God’s people, but he couldn’t find a single one. Not one upright person remains. This reminds me of something that King Solomon wrote many years earlier, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) It is echoed by Paul a thousand years later, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) The world was dark, and no one seemed interested in following God’s way at all. There were no godly people around. The prophet Elijah felt the same way years earlier in Israel. He was so afraid that he was the last godly person in Israel that he fled, thinking that his life was in danger. Sometimes, we might feel like the same thing is going on today. We hear of shootings and massacres on a regular basis, even close to here. The news is filled with selfishness and heartlessness, and sexual predators abound. The people in power have their own self interests in mind and not the good of the people. The internet, Facebook and nearly any comment section online is filled with vitriol and bile. Disagreements escalate at the drop of a hat.

Micah begins to describe these people and his times in the next verses, “Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together.” (3) Micah, here, refers to the people as being skilled in doing evil with both hands. This is meant to show the completeness of evil. They didn’t dabble in evil with just one hand, but they were wholeheartedly evil and did it convincingly with both hands. He goes on to describe the greed and corruption in society that began at the top. The rulers demanded gifts and the judges were bribed. The powerful dictated what the desired and they all worked together to get it all done. Again, it seems just like today. Many politicians are looking for a kickback and campaign contributions. Rich lobbyists pressure the government into doing what they want, all without care for the people in general. They care about a very narrow view of life, but so much of their work revolves around that narrow view. In Chicago, there have been 29 aldermen convicted of bribery since 1972 and just this past week, federal agents raided the offices of one of Chicago’s most powerful aldermen. Just another day in the life of the Chicago machine.

Micah continues, “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.” (4) Micah says that the best of them is like a brier. The best people in Micah’s time were not that good. The best people would entrap, wound and tear their victims, like a thorny bush. If the best people were like that, then how bad were the worst people? Micah, then pivots and talks about God visiting in judgement and people being in confusion about the judgement. The people thought that they were doing well, and they were confused because they thought that they did nothing wrong, just like any number of Chicago corrupted politicians.

Micah focus begins to narrow. “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” (5-6) Micah was previously talking about the leaders of Judah and Israel, but now he is referring to those who would be closest to you, your neighbors and family. Micah viewed the complete disintegration of society starting from the top and extending down into the family. In those days, neighbors were close. They watched out for each other and had each other’s best interest in mind, but they could no longer be trusted. In Micah’s time, even a person’s spouse could not be trusted. Family members would fight against each other, son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. That last one sounds very familiar nowadays. It is very common for a wife to not get along with her mother-in-law. It is heralded has a miracle when the do get along. There is even a movie called Monster in Lawthat deals with the animosity between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. Like Micah refers to, the people closest to you will become your enemies.

How many times have we heard something like that? How many times have we heard about a family becoming enemies? Or the closest people to you the most harm? Most child molestation cases are due to a close family member and domestic violence is definitely done by the people closest to you. In the news, we have heard about a number of people who have murdered their entire family. Money is also a cause of a lot of harm. The young misuse and abuse their rich elders in order to get a chunk of their wealth. Many people even manipulate their own parents to get a larger portion of their inheritance. It is despicable to see such depravity in society, but such is the breakdown of society.

What Micah is talking about seems like just like today in many situations. It seems like evil is everywhere and no one cares to do what is right anymore. Even people who claim to be Christian and filled with the same venom as the rest of the world. We see the sins of the world and readily point them out to anyone around us. We are hypercritical of all the sins, except the ones we have, like self-righteousness and a lack of grace towards others. We see a migrant caravan coming up from central America and are afraid something being taken away from us, instead of having compassion on peoples who are trying to escape from horrible situations. We need to be careful, but not at the expense of compassion. As Christians, we use the same method as the people who attack us, but that just proves that we are no different than the rest of the world.

Other times, when we hear about the corruption and evil that is rampant in the world, we can become paralyzed and filled with fear. We can lose hope and even a willingness to live. The stress of the world can lead to despair. The suicide rate in this country has been rising in the past twenty years. In 2016, there were nearly 45,000 suicides in this country, which averages out to 123 suicides per day. People are in pain in so many ways. The use of alcohol and drugs are on the rise, because people are just trying to cope in this world. We seek to escape and numb ourselves to the problems we have or see.

It is a cycle that occurs over and over again in history. It was hard to be a good person in Micah’s time, but hundreds of years earlier it was the same in Israel. The people forgot about God and didn’t care about being a good person. After Micah, around Jesus’ time, it was a very dark time. The Jews were under Roman rule and the Romans were considered the most pagan people to ever exist. The embraced all faiths and brought them under their pantheon of gods. Corruption was abounding throughout the empire and that disease was its downfall. Rome wasn’t conquered by an outside force, it crumbled from within. It is easy to see that the ills of this world are not unique to our own time. Our worldview is narrow, and society has been around for thousands of years. We keep making the same mistakes over and over. That seems like a constant in this universe. We should never be surprised at our propensity to do the same dumb thing again and again and find a new way to do the same dumb thing again and again.

Thankfully, there is another great constant in this universe: God. With all the doom and gloom, with all the misery around him, Micah still has hope. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (7) Finally, we get into the good part. Finally, we get to talk about advent. For all the horrible junk going on during Micah’s time, he did not lose hope. In fact, he watched in hope for the Lord. He waited for God his Savior. Micah was hoping and trusting in God. He knew that the Lord is charge of everything and nothing happened without his knowledge. He trusted in God’s plan of salvation and he knew that God’s plan would culminate in the coming of the Messiah, Christ the King that we heard about last week. Micah was the one who prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. He knew that the dark times that he was in would not last. He knew that there was a light that could not be stopped that was coming to change all things. Jesus was coming to usher in a new era and he was the answer to all of Micah’s prayers. He just needed to wait for Jesus’ coming.

Now, that waiting wasn’t Micah sitting idle. He had an expectant hope and was filled with a joyful anticipation, like a child waiting for their Christmas presents. They sit in hope, but no child sits idle. Micah had work to do to proclaim the message that God gave him. He didn’t need to fall in to the ills of the world. The world was crumbling around him, and there was nothing that Micah could do about it, except to choose to hope in the Lord, to choose to wait upon the Lord. He actively, chose not to be like the world. He chose not to give into fear and worry. He chose not to follow their example. He chose not to despair and let misery control him. He chose to look upon God and know that he heard him. As Israel was coming out of Egypt, God told them to abandon the idols the brought from the captivity and to worship him. Joshua, their leader at the time, urged them, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Joshua couldn’t force the people to worship the Lord, but he could lead his own family to do so, much like Micah here. Like both Joshua and Micah, we don’t have control over what other people believe and how they live, but we do have some ability to choose what to believe. We can choose to live in worry, fear and despair, or we can live in hope in the Lord. We can live in the hope of Jesus.

Micah looked forward to the coming of Jesus. Jesus hadn’t come into this world yet, but Micah held on to the hope that Jesus gives. The hymn that we sang earlier says, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt is worth. A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new a glorious day” A thrill of hope is what Micah felt when he looked forward to Jesus. It satisfied his soul has he rejoiced, because he saw that new and glorious day. It changed his outlook on the world. He wasn’t in misery because he was in hope and that hope gave him comfort and strength to get through it.

Micah and everyone in the Old Testament waited for the Lord to send Jesus. On the other hand, from our perspective, Jesus was born two thousand years ago. Where do we put our hope? Jesus had already come, and we are still in the cycle of misery and sin. Do we give up hope, then, or is there more to the story? Advent is the celebration of the arrival of Jesus. It deals with the anticipation of his coming as a baby in a manger, but it also deals with his second coming. Jesus fulfilled God’s plan to bring salvation to the whole world. He died on the cross for the sins of the world. He was buried and rose again. Jesus rose into heaven and we await his return when he will renew all things to their most perfect ways. Jesus has already done all the hard work to bring salvation, we only need to wait for him to come. Again, that waiting does not mean that we sit idle. It means that we trust in God. It means that we do not push our agenda on the world in order to change it. We trust that God will change it and has already done the hard work. We only need to tell other people of what Jesus has done. We don’t have to teach morality and righteousness, we tell people that their sins are forgiving. The burdens we carry because of our sins are already gone; we don’t have to carry them anymore. Jesus took them on the cross for us. We have to work in sharing the joy that that release gives us. We have to let other people know. We can’t force them to believe, but we can choose to believe.

When we believe and wait for Jesus, our lives are changed. We no longer have to be filled with fear, worry, despair, anger, hatred or stress. When we wait on the Lord, he gives us peace to calm our souls in the storm of life. When we wait on the Lord, he gives us strength to endure what is going on in the world around us. We don’t need to lament about loss, because we have the joy that hope brings. Not for a minute were we forsaken. Jesus is coming back, and we can bring others to have that hope too. If you hold on to that hope and gain peace and strength, through him, people will notice and want it too. One person becomes two and two become four. In this Christmastime, don’t think about debt, don’t worry about the state of the world. Put your focus on the Lord and wait on him who is your savior. He will hear you. He already has. There is no need to fret. There is no need to despair for Christ has come and he shall reign forevermore.

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Key Verse: 2:19b

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