Online Text Sermon - Survey of Micah, Micah ch.7 vv.1-2
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Survey of Micah|
|Text||Micah ch.7 vv.1-2 |
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"Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net" (Micah 7, 1-2).
Let me, in a word, explain to any who are not familiar with what we are doing, that we have over these past Thursdays been studying, very briefly, each of these minor prophets. It has had to be brief but the function and the purpose of these studies is to perhaps give a window of understanding to books which are very often, sadly, neglected; and we have come now to Micah. I shall say a few things only about his background because I wish to consider the words at the beginning of chapter 7 which I have just announced as the text.
Sufficient to say that Micah lived in Judah, that is the southern country of the people of God - not Israel in the north, but in Judah in the south. He was contemporary with Isaiah. We know that because at the very beginning of his prophecy, if you would like just to turn to this one reference. The first verse of the prophecy in chapter 1 tells us "The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (Micah 1, 1). So, without any doubt, he lived and preached and prophesied in the reign of these three kings, as also did Isaiah. We know from the historical books something concerning those kings. What we particularly notice is that Jotham was a good man and Hezekiah an excellent man; but between them there was this man Ahaz whose reign was a disaster. He was a man who had no fear of God.You appreciate that the state of the cause of God inevitably declined markedly during his reign and during his lifetime. That is relevant to what we are to look at in chapter 7.
In chapter 7 then, where I study with you, we have his words at the beginning: "Woe is me!" The prophet here is expressing the state of his soul, and he is crying out with pain and with anguish - "Woe is me!" This expression of woe reflects the sorrow and the inward grief of mind which he feels. He then proceeds to explain what it is that is making him upset. He does this in two different ways. He first of all explains his sorrow and his grief by the use of an illustration to be found in these words: "I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit" (text). The illustration is that of a hungry man looking for fruit which he can eat on the vine, and he finds none, or almost none. The harvest is over, the grapes are gathered, and there is almost nothing left. That may not be immediately clear to us what he means, so the next way in which he explains his sense of grief is in verse 2 where he no longer uses the illustration but he states the matter plainly: "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net" (text).
The condition of soul, therefore, in which Micah is when he cries out "Woe is me!" is that he is longing for spiritual fellowship, he is looking for likeminded believers and he cannot find them. He longs to be able to share the things of God with others, men and women who like himself understand the Word of God. But he informs us sadly, that he cannot find such men and women. So we can define now what it is that upsets Micah and causes him to cry out "Woe is me!" It is his feeling of loneliness. He is a lonely prophet and a lonely man and his woe, as I say, is occasioned by the fact that he does not find any, or many, who can share his love for the things belonging to God and to Jesus Christ.
There are lonelinesses of different kinds. Even unconverted people can of course be lonely. To be lonely means that we do not feel that there is anyone with whom we can share our companionship; and of course, those who are not Christians at all may enter into that experience and often do. But that is not the same as what the prophet Micah is talking about. Micah is not saying that there are no people round about him with whom he may talk; he is not entering into the experience of loneliness such as a man of the world might feel. The loneliness of Micah arises from the fact that there are no spiritual people to talk to; there are no godly people with whom he may share his fellowship; there are none with whom he may hold conversation concerning God and his divine purpose; there are none to whom he can open his heart and tell them the things which most enter into his soul. He cannot open his mouth freely to speak to the men and women of his situation. He goes on to explain in this passage why it was so, that there was no one with whom he could have this spiritual fellowship. In a word, it is because there was a breakdown in society at that time. There was a loss of something which had been there before, but which he could find no longer, and that was the power of true religion in the lives of the men and women where he lived. There was a breakdown in trust between man and man, and between a man and his own family even. You see how he touches on this at verse 5: "Trust ye not in a friend." Well, it's a poor thing, isn't it, if you can't trust a friend? I mean, we would never trust an enemy; but a friend is one whom naturally you do turn to. But oh, he says, the state of this society is become so decrepit, so declined, so decayed, that you can't even trust a friend, let alone a stranger or an enemy. Then he says, "Put not confidence in a guide" (Micah 7, 5). A guide is somebody who is employed to lead you in the right path. In an educational sense it would be a teacher or in a moral sense it would be a tutor or a governor. Oh, don't trust in these people, he says; you can't take their word as reliable. Then, astonishingly, he says: "Keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom" (Micah 7, 5). What? He says society was so decayed, a man could not really even trust his own wife; nor the wife, by implication, trust her own husband.
That was the state of society. Where was he to go to find spiritual fellowship? He amplifies the theme by describing the way people were. He says "The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge" (Micah 7, 4), and so on. So here, my beloved friends, we are brought to a point of teaching and a point of doctrine that the Christian man or woman may, on occasion, at some times in the history of the church, find themselves spiritually lonely, so lonely that you scarcely know where to turn to, to have that kind of spiritual fellowship which you long for. He obviously was longing because he talks about "I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits" (text). He was like a man that was truly hungry, and that is how the heart of a Christian is. A Christian soul hungers, not indeed for earthly pleasures, but hungers for fellowship with likeminded believers. God has put an instinct within every Christian heart to desire to share the things of his soul with others. But spiritual loneliness is that sense, which a Christian has in the world, in which he feels he really cannot have fellowship with any, or at least not with many, but only with God. He brings us to that last point at verse 7, "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me" (Micah 7, 7). That is the comfort that he has of course: that though there are no human beings into whose ear he may pour his sorrows and share his fears and his hopes and his joys, yet God will listen. The teaching clearly is this: that spiritual loneliness drives the man and woman of God to the Lord himself; there is nowhere else to go, so you go to God. You cannot trust others, or many of them, so you are forced to go to God. That is how the prophet Micah felt. Well now, let's apply that to ourselves. Do not be surprised, beloved and faithful, upright Christian, do not be surprised if you feel at times great loneliness in this world; do not be surprised if sometimes you feel that even professing Christians round about you, or many of them at any rate, have come to such a weakness of understanding that you really couldn't trust them, you could not trust them with the spiritual secrets of your own soul.
I move on from there to ask this question: Why should Micah tell us of his feelings here? Why does he express himself in this way? Why doesn't he keep it to himself? The answer of course is that, under the impression of the Holy Spirit by whom he was being inspired, he was wanting to teach us lessons, and one of them must be this: that this spiritual loneliness, dearest friends, is the evidence, or one of the evidences, of being a regenerate Christian. Worldly people do have their own lonelinesses, but the loneliness of worldly people never ever takes on the form and shape and character that this godly man's loneliness has. A Christian will be courteous, and he will be kind to other people, even to his enemies. If he has opportunity to do good to his enemies, he will gladly do it. He will even show kindness to false Christians and hypocrites, those he knows really are nothing more than painted sepulchres. The Christian will try to be kind to them all. But... there is one thing a true Christian will never do, he will never open his soul to those he doesn't trust, and there are reasons for that. The Christian has been given an instinct from God, which is called in the Bible an 'unction', an unction from the Holy One, and a Christian feels and senses whether or not the person he is speaking to is sensitive to the things of the Spirit of God, and if he senses that the person he is speaking to, even though they profess to be Christian, that their attitude is not one of sympathy to the things that he wishes to share with them, then the Christian will close his mouth. He will close his mouth.
The Lord Jesus Christ expressed it in this marvellous way, "Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend you." It would only be foolish on the Christian's part to open up the secrets of his heart to a man or woman who had no sympathy whatever for what he is talking about. That text doesn't mean that we don't preach the Gospel to the unconverted; what it does mean is that when we have experiences of the grace of God which are very precious to us, we don't divulge them to men and women who would not appreciate them, but who rather would make a jest of what we have said to them.
That's the way the Christian is, and because he is like that he doesn't open out to those whom he knows to be lacking in spirituality. On the other hand, as soon as we meet somebody who has spiritual understanding, we pour ourselves out into their hearts and into their ears, and we tell them the things which are most precious to us. Such a person is worth his or her weight in gold. When we find somebody we can truly trust with the things of our heart, the things of Jesus Christ, then indeed we have found someone who is one of a thousand; but we cannot trust those of whom we have formed the instinctive feeling that they are not sympathetic to the things that we most cherish, love and espouse in Christ.
I'm not saying this as though it were a criticism of the Christian to keep his mouth shut when he cannot trust the other person. The Lord Jesus Christ was the same himself. Do you remember those words at the end of John's 2? Let me remind you of them. It's said about some of the people listening to Christ that they believed on him, and then it is said about Christ: "But he did not commit himself to them because he knew what was in man." Isn't that instructive? They claimed to be his disciples but he did not immediately trust them as disciples. He didn't commit himself to them. He didn't open up his whole soul to them; he was cautious with them because he knew what was in man. Now there's a word in 1 Corinthians 2 at the end which goes like this, "The spiritual man judgeth all things; yet he himself is judged of no man." That's a very important verse. Among other things it teaches is this: that the Christian knows more about the non-Christian than the non-Christian knows about himself. The non-Christian realises that, and he becomes embarrassed when he is in the presence of a Christian because, in a sense, he knows the Christian can see through him - and he can see through him! A spiritual person discerns when another person in his company is not spiritual. How does he do that? Well because he has the Spirit of God dwelling in him; and every Christian is spiritual, more or less.
So you see, when a man has the Spirit of God, as Micah did here, he has to be convinced that those to whom he opens his heart are also spiritual like himself. In other words, Micah's loneliness, dearest friends, is the loneliness which is peculiar to the people of God, here and now, in this life. It belongs to all who follow Christ in this life. We need to know that this was Micah's experience for this reason: that, you see, the devil would have us blame ourselves if we feel lonely in this world. The conscientious Christian who is in society and feels that there are very few he can open himself out to, well the devil will say to him, "It's your fault; if you were a better Christian you would be able to open yourself out to more people; you would be freer with those who are professing Christians, whom you don't seem to trust." But that would be not a word from God but a word contrary to the Word of God, because the Word of God shows us here that spiritual people inevitably have this sense of loneliness as long as they are in this world. The Lord Jesus Christ himself had it.
Did you ever weigh in your mind the words of Christ, to be found in one of the early verses in Mark 9? Let me remind you of the situation. Our Lord had been up the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John. He came down the mount to the valley, and there was the problem with the father whose son was demon-possessed, and then a situation arose concerning that. Then our Lord made this exclamation: "O faithless generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" He was lonely; our Lord was lonely in this world - not of course entirely. He had the fellowship of some, up to a point. And always of course the fellowship of his Father in heaven, as Micah refers to in verse 7: "I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." That's the comfort that our holy and gracious Saviour always had. He was never lacking in fellowship with the Father, but fellowship with men he did not always have.
Micah therefore tells us these things because he wants also to indicate not simply that the man of God can be lonely in this world, but that the man of God can find himself in a situation which is becoming progressively less spiritual, and a situation in which he becomes increasingly more lonely. The less spiritual society becomes, the more lonely the Christian becomes, obviously. He's telling us this, notice in verse 1: "Woe is me! for [giving the explanation] I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit" (text).
To explain this we might indulge in a very brief illustration. A young man, let us say, is hungry for apples and there's the farm, so he goes along the lane, knocks on the door, "Can I buy apples, I am hungry?" The farmer's wife says, "What a pity you didn't come last week. We have just stripped all the trees; there is nothing left apart from a mangy apple here and there. You can take those if you want but there is nothing left; they have all been sold to the shop, they have all been taken to the supermarket. There they are, you can buy them 10 miles away but there is nothing left in the farm." You see the vintage was over, not apples indeed but grapes in this case but the illustration is exactly the same. He came a week too late! That's what happened you see. In Micah's childhood no doubt, things were much better. There were many grapes upon the trees when he was a young man, but the older he got the fewer godly people there were in this world. It's not just that he was getting old and therefore depressed and a complainer - because traditionally they say old people tend to grumble and they always talk about the past, the good old days, there is something in that - but that's not Micah's complaint; his complaint is that things really had got worse. There used to be many, many wonderful godly people on the tree of the church when he was young and you could have fellowship with a dozen, two dozen, a hundred. But now that I am getting old, he said, it's as though the harvest is all finished and there's only one or two on the outermost fruitful branches of the church. That is what he is talking about. The true believer must be prepared for that situation; especially, the more godly you become, the more lonely you will be, usually, in this world; and there was none so lonely as Jesus Christ, because there was none so holy as he.
What factors led to the loss of this godliness? One of them is death, verse 2, "The good man is perished out of the earth" (text). There were many funerals you see, many funerals. Good old John who used to be such a wonderful example, he dropped like a ripe apple into his grave, he's gone. And dear old Jean with whom we had such fellowship, she's gone. And others have gone and oh, the loss! Well that's what he is talking about. Death had claimed these godly people, and the power of religion was weakening all the time. That's what he means in verse 3, "That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up" (Micah 7, 3). That was a picture of what was happening, and he means to tell us this: as soon as the power of the gospel grows weak in society, the flesh begins to assert itself. It only takes the Gospel to go down a little and human nature in all its proud cruelty springs to life again. That's what had happened: trust and frankness and honesty were almost gone at that time in the eighth century BC in which he lived. Family life had gone. Look at verse 6 - this might be written today over the whole of our country - "the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house" (Micah 7, 6). Micah is telling us these things in order, of course, to comfort God's children as they go through this vale of tears. Loneliness is a very real affliction to godly men and women.
I leave myself a minute or two, in closing, to give you comfort, my dear ones, as to how to face this situation as you go through life, because it is something that you know the meaning of, as well as Micah. It's written for our learning. How are we to cope with this and how are we to find comfort in spite of the loneliness? Five things very quickly:
1) All God's people in this life have known this experience; you are not going through something peculiar to yourself; Abraham had it, and Isaac, and David in the cave of Adullam, and all those who have lived godly in Christ Jesus have known this loneliness. It is a comfort for you to know that.
2) As I said earlier, Christ himself had the same experience. Our Lord was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Many a time he saw and heard things which made him very lonely and sigh to come back to his heavenly Father's throne.
3) Let's remind ourselves that, thank God, thank God, there are still some fruitful apples upon the tree; there are some good men living; there are some women living still. Things could be worse than they are. Thank God for the shining apples upon the tree; thank God for the sweet apples upon the tree, those with whom you can have fellowship and to whom you can open your heart.
4) The experience of loneliness is ordained by God to drive you to him, as I have said more than once already: verse 7, Therefore [notice the therefore, it is logical] therefore if I can't get fellowship here amongst men I will go to the LORD for it, I will fall on my knees before God. He will understand. And that is your great lesson, dear friends. Where men will not give you and cannot give you fellowship, you will get plenty of it there. The throne of grace is always open, the door is always open, Sabbath and weekday, night and day, he is always listening. Avail yourselves of his accessibility.
5) It will not be for long. Oh happy thought! Soon the heirs of grace will be the enjoyers of glory. Soon we shall see Micah and stand in heaven with him on streets paved with gold. Soon our companions will be Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, James, John. Oh, but better still, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and all the angels, they will be our companions; there will be no loneliness in heaven.
So what do we conclude with? What are the concluding lessons as we close? They are these. Dear friends, keep up fellowship, one with another. So many churches today, they are really just like places where you gather, shake hands, go home and do it again next time. Keep together in fellowships, stir one another up, talk often about the things of God. Come together frequently in homes and amongst the fellowships that are available to you. Above everything else cultivate sweet, Christian love. Let it never be said of you, "Oh he is such a thorn bush! Talk to him... you might as well sit on a thistle, he is so uncomfortable; his company is miserable. You say something to him, he contradicts you; you explain something, he denies it." Oh, don't be a thorn bush but be a person whose sweetness will feed the souls of others. Amen.
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