Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mercy Me!

Scriptural Reading: Micah 7:14-20
Devotional Reading: Psalm 13

When I first reviewed the title of the lesson I thought of the song written by Marvin Gaye, Mercy Mercy Me. He recorded lyrics to focus the listener’s imagination on the conditions of the world stating, in part, “…things ain’t what they used to be, no no Where did all the blue skies go? Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east…Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas. Fish full of mercury…Radiation underground and in the sky Animals and birds who live nearby are dying…What about this overcrowded land…How much more abuse from man can she stand?...My sweet LORD My LORD, My sweet LORD”

I felt as if I were reading the first few verses of the 7th chapter of Micah. The Prophet was grieving from the things He had said on behalf of God against the children of Israel. They were to love justice, mercy, and walk humbly with God and had not got it right as yet. The wealthy were taking advantage of the poor, widows and children. To the same extent, the judges, rulers, priests, and false prophets were using their offices in their self-interest stating it was in the Name of the LORD. They were poisonous and God does not like ugly. He sent Micah to warn them of their impending judgment unless they changed their ways. Although Micah boldly operates through the work of the Holy Spirit to do what he was sent to do, he yet expresses his grief for his people. (Micah 7:1-6) But no matter what we go through we must have faith. Micah knew all he had to do was wait on the LORD. (Micah 7:7-9) My sweet LORD.

This quarter of study is entitled “God’s Prophets Demand Justice.” We are in Unit II – “Micah Calls for Justice Among Unjust People” of the three units of the quarter. An important question had to be answered before I could go further in the lesson. What is the difference between God’s mercy and His grace? First, God hands down a judgment. Mercy is God’s deliverance from the judgment. Mercy is His having compassion on us and not punishing us as our sins deserve to be punished. We have God’s “Get Out Of Jail” card after He put us in jail. Grace is the extended kindness by God to those who do not deserve it. Once we are rescued from the judgment by God’s mercy, His grace takes over with kindness in anything and everything beyond that mercy. Today we are only looking at His mercy. This is the last lesson of a four-lesson study focusing on how God dispenses mercy to restore justice.

Our lesson begins with the prophet Micah pleading to God in prayer to have mercy for Israel. He reminds God the remnant were His inheritance and a lost flock in need of their Shepherd at Micah 7:14, “Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.” (NKJV) God’s people were familiar with the terminology of Shepherd and flock. With God as the Shepherd, the flock would be protected. They dwell in the high mountain alone. So they were likely to be prey to other nations (beasts of the forests) or lost like a lamb from the flock. It is Micah’s prayer that God, as their Shepherd, use His rod to pull them in and keep them from being lost. He wants God to use His rod to fight off all the prey. He wants God to use His rod and staff to comfort them. (Ps 23:4) Micah’s prayer then seeks that God return them from the forest woodland to fertile land known for its abundance and productivity. In the days of old the Israelites had enjoyed glorious days in Bashan and Gilead when they were free from the threat of enemy invasion. The flock of God’s heritage want to be delivered to go home and be able to feed from their own land again.

As the saying goes, You never miss your water until your well runs dry. The well of the Israelites had run dry. They desired deliverance. Only God could issue that call of compassion. He responded to Micah’s prayer by declaring His merciful deliverance in Micah 7:15: “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders.” (NKJV) God is comparing his promise of new mercy with one of the greatest wonders and acts of mercy for the children of Israel. They surely remember their deliverance from Egypt, including the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. The wilderness journey was not a skip through the park. The LORD had sent manna and quail from the sky to feed them. (Ex 16) He had sent a pillar by cloud in the day to guide them and a pillar of fire at night to give them light. (Ex 13:21) He is promising them more than they can ask or think.

One day His greatest wonder will include the offer of His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life to redeem all believers for the opportunity of eternal life. God then raised Him from the dead that Christ might rule with Him on His right side in Heaven. No, we did not deserve it. We were forgiven of the judgment by God’s mercy and allowed to accept the eternal benefits of grace offered through Christ Jesus. God’s plan of salvation and reconciliation of man to Himself is recorded in John 3:16-18, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. God does not spare any wonders to aid His way-ward people.

When the nations see God’s power on display, they tremble as the LORD’s promised deliverance comes true. Verses 16 and 17 indicate their reaction, The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; They shall put their hand over their mouth; Their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of you. (NKJV) The nations will observe the Israelite deliverance from Babylon by their LORD and will feel totally inadequate and confused. They will be put to shame for they are no match for our God's matchless mercy. There is nothing to say. These enemies are speechless for it was their belief the Israelites would never come from under Babylonian captivity. They must now eat their words and cover their faces in shame. They no longer wish to hear of the deliverance. The ears of the surrounding nations are now deaf to the powerful consequence of God’s wonders. They are sentenced to lie on the ground and slither like snakes eating the dust of the Israelite’s feet. These proud oppressors will come trembling out of their holes because they are afraid of the LORD and Israel.

The prophet Micah thankfully acknowledges God’s mercy, with a believing dependence on His promise at Micah 7:18-20. He declared at verse 18, Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. (NKJV) None of the gods of the enemies would have pardoned the sins of Israel. While these nations were only amazed at the result of Israel’s deliverance from Babylonian captivity, Micah stood amazed at the very fact that God had forgiven the Israelites’ sin when they did not deserve it. Micah had previously prayed to God to remember His people the flock of Your heritage. He is now praising God for forgiving the remnant of His heritage who returned from captivity. They had offended God, repented, and were granted mercy. He is a God who shall not retain His anger. His mercy and willingness to forgive is stronger than His anger. He is delighted to show mercy and takes pleasure in the salvation of sinners. This leads to Micah’s question, Who is a God like You? First, this is the meaning of Micah’s name in Hebrew. Second the question is similar to that portion of the song that Moses and the Israelites sang following God’s deliverance at the Red Sea: “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Ex 15:11 NKJV) God has never seen His equal, but we see our equals every day. There is none like God.

Micah continued to thank God for His mercy, forgiveness, and compassion toward the remnant of His heritage in verses 19 and 20 of chapter 7. The prophet concludes his song of praise expressing God’s faithfulness stating, He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old. (NKJV) God will never leave His children. They may have to be punished, but His mercy endures forever. Our real threat has never been our enemies. Our real threat is always sin, but we must repent unto God. He will return to us when those chains of bondage are broken. He will have compassion which is new every morning. All of our sins and iniquities will be tread underfoot and conquered as powerless enemies. (Num 32:20-22; Joshua 18:1) These conquered sins and iniquities will be forgotten by God and hurled into the depths of the sea, not near the sea-shore. They all are cast there, without exception, never to be remembered by Him again.

Because the remnant of His heritage confessed their sins, God was faithful and just to forgive them and return them to the Promised Land. God promised that all the people on earth would be blessed through the seed of Abraham. (Gen 12:3). Abraham was known as the father of the Israelite nation. (Luke 1:73; John 8:53; Acts 7:2; Rom 4:12) His journey of faith brought him to Canaan, the Promised Land for his descendants. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel (Gen 32:28), was the father of sons whose names designated the tribes of Israel. God will perform with truth and mercy every promise that He made to Abraham and Jacob, even if it is only to a remnant of His heritage.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

No comments: