- Hair Coloring: Do not use as an ice cream topping.
- Manual for a microwave oven: "Do not use for drying pets."
- On a bottle of shampoo for dogs: "Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish."
- On a frozen dinner: "Serving suggestion: Defrost."
- On a kids superman costume: "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly."
- On a package for an iron: "Do not iron clothes on body."
- On a portable stroller: "Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage."
- On a shipment of hammers: "May be harmful if swallowed."
- On Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only."
God wants to spare us from driving off the fast approaching cliff. Just as street signs warn of potential danger ahead: proceed with cautian: slippery when wet, children at play, falling rocks, slow to 45 mph, construction ahead, so Micah warns the people danger is ahead. Proceed with caution. I like the way Max Lucado describes the message of Micah (thanks to Denny B for sharing this):
“Sometime ago….I listened to the airline attendant as she gave her warnings..,I usually bury my nose in a book or magazine and ignore her cautions. But this time I didn’t…because the day before a commercial plane had gone down. As I boarded this plane I realized that if this plane crashed I would not know what to do….So I listened. As she held up a seat belt I buckled mine…when she pointed to the exit doors, I turned to find them. That’s when I noticed what she notices on every flight. No one was listening!..I was shocked….I wondered what would happen if she used a more drastic means. What if she took a gasoline drenched doll and set in on fire?... What if she marched up and down the aisle yanking away the magazines, demanding the passengers listen…She would lose her job. But she would be doing us a favor. Love cautions the loved. The Book of Micah is a warning. God’s prophet warns of the terrible judgment which awaits all who ignore God. ‘Be Prepared,’ he pleads…I wonder if [Micah] noticed what I noticed on the plane. Most people don’t listen to warnings. Let’s be the exception.
I speak to a lot of people about the path they are walking, people who invite me into their life. Many don’t listen. On days of discouragement, I think MOST don’t listen. I do not present myself as the perfect example, but I do present myself as somebody who is doing my best to be faithful, somebody who desires to walk the path of Christ.
We are wired to ignore warnings. Many ignore pre-cautionary medical tests we know we should do… the food we eat… why in this day and age does any young person take up smoking? No excuse in terms of what we know about the harmful effects… Any warnings about the downside of legalizing recreational marijuana is silenced by a flood of how harmless and positive it is. Today, as society trends away from God, there are warnings: there are consequences of our choices. I imagine Micah is not popular in Jerusalem as he warns the people of the consequences of their decision to drift away from God. The bulk of today’s scripture is cities who will suffer from complacent attitudes towards God.
Micah has fun in today’s scripture. If you are fan of puns this is the scripture for you. Puns are packed into this scripture like sardines! Too bad the puns are lost in the translation from Hebrew to English. I like puns. If Sally and I were to move to Sumas I would want one of the homes by the new ball park. The houses on the Hovel road (long o), which in everyday talk is pronounced “hovel” means “a small, squalid, or simply constructed dwelling.” Dena pointed out a few months ago the irony of calling the development “Hovel Estates.” To me, that’s the greatest name ever….
Micah is punny, but he has serious warnings. Let’s be the exception and listen.
Micah lists city after city, playing on the meaning of the name of the city, or what the city sounds like, and then pronounces an ironic consequence of what is coming for those that live in those cities. It would be something like saying there will be rioting on the streets in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Listen to the way Eugene Peterson translates Micah 1:10-16 in The Message. If you follow along in the NIV or another translation, it will probably sound nothing like this translation ~ the Message is a paraphrase so Peterson translates the names of the cities into their English meaning so we can hear the puns. READ and comment along the way….
Don’t gossip about this in Telltown.
Don’t waste your tears.
roll in the dust.
the alarm is sounded.
The citizens of Exitburgh
will never get out alive.
Lament, Last-Stand City:
There’s nothing in you left standing.
The villagers of Bittertown
wait in vain for sweet peace.
Harsh judgment has come from God
and entered Peace City.
All you who live in Chariotville,
get in your chariots for flight.
You led the daughter of Zion
into trusting not God but chariots.
Similar sins in Israel
also got their start in you.
Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts
but disappointed Israel’s kings.
has lost its inheritance.
has seen its last of glory.
Shave your heads in mourning
over the loss of your precious towns.
Go bald as a goose egg—they’ve gone
into exile and aren’t coming back.
Micah is urging the people to take the warnings of God seriously and live for Him. There is danger ahead. There are consequences for our choices. Micah is speaking in Jerusalem. The towns he names are small towns in the vicinity of his hometown. Some towns they know where they are today, others are lost in history. He speaks out of his experience. One of the cities that comes under judgment is Micah’s hometown. The book begins in Mic. 1:1, “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth….” In the Message Meresheth is translated GoodbyVille. The pun: the name of the city means something like a woman who is married and says good-by to her family and joins her husbands family ~ the coming judgment is you will leave your home and find yourself under the authority of a new “husband” which we know to be Assyria….
This is important for Micah to use his hometown as a warning. “I am in the same boat as you” he is saying. Micah indicts his hometown and himself in the process of warning others about the coming judgment. Sumas is not the perfect place. The Sumas Advent Christian Church is not the model of perfection. You and I must must hear the warning of complacency; hear the warning of putting my trust in a false sense of security. Micah including his hometown is highly significant.
Other towns Micah uses as warning signs are set up as strongholds for the kings and soldiers to retreat so that if the enemy attacks refuge can be found in the outpost of what the Message calls “Chariotteville” (Lachish)…don’t put your trust in Chariotville because you’ll have to get in your chariots and flee. Anyone trust our government to protect us? I truly want our government to work for the people, but even if our government could function more responsibly, the government should never be the ultimate refuge to protect us. No stronghold is enough. Even if you have a house built with ten foot thick concrete dug 20 feet into the ground with a hundred impenetrable locks on the door, when we retreat to that fortress, we’ll still have to live with ourselves and our sinful ways. How do we protect ourselves from us?
Last stand city, there’s nothing in you left standing. Any human stronghold is not enough to save us, any human effort will come crashing down. It’s a good idea to have a stock pile of food and fresh water in case we get hit with an earthquake, but that will not be enough if the infrastructure completely crumbles. Save your money for retirement, make plans for tomorrow, but understand all of it can crumble. Only a relationship with God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ is enough. One of the cities is Miragetown ~ we fool ourselves into thinking everything is fine, but then when the unexpected happens our world collapses. Only God, only God is lasting, only God is all wise. Be warned…. Don’t bank your future on a coming inheritance, because you never know what may happen, and it’s not your money…
Holding onto your past, trying to recover what it used to be like, is not the answer. By using all these towns as warnings Micah is effectively saying you cannot go back to days of old, to places of safety…
The bottom line…..Micah is warning Jerusalem. Mic. 1:16 is a direct word to the people to whom he is speaking. READ. This verse is HOW you respond to the warning. If I warn you the gun is loaded, a responsible person will handle the gun very cautiously. If I warn you that you cannot ultimately trust your chariots, your strength will fails, When your plans are not the means of your salvation. When your money dries up. When your health breaks. When you find yourself distant from God. When people disappoint you…
HOW do you respond? You MOURN. When you hit the bottom, the way to begin to climb back up is to MOURN. You have heard it said, and I think it is true, nobody who goes into treatment for drug or alcohol abuse kicks the addiction unless they want to be in treatment. Until people hit the bottom. Denny and I have spent hours and hours talking about how frustrating it is when we think people cannot possibly keep going down, surely they are at the bottom, but then they keep going. I am convinced Micah is essentially saying to the people of Jerusalem, the people of Israel, to us ~~~~ Hit the bottom, can’t you see that you are falling: roll in the dust, the alarm is sounded, you’ll never get out alive, there’s nothing left in you standing, harsh judgment has come, don’t trust your chariots, say good by to your beautiful daughter, Glorytown has seen it’s last glory ~~~ these are metaphors trying to get the people to open their eyes that they have hit the bottom and it is time to look up and see God at the top. All human efforts are a dead end… When you hit the bottom, the way to begin to climb back up is to MOURN. READ Mic. 1:16a…Mourn for the children in whom you delight, i.e. all the towns that Micah just mentioned. Mourn for the misguided attempts to save yourself. Become vulnerable.
[In audio talk about Death, BURIAL and Resurrection of Christ, how we want to skip the burial and go straight to the resurrection, in the same way want to skip Mourning/grief and go straight to a new life]
The premise behind God’s prophetic word is that we have choices…. You are responsible for your choices. You are responsible for where you put your trust. Micah is warning the people because he wants them to CHOOSE the right way: God. Micah is declaring to the people of Jerusalem that they are responsible for their choices. Quit seeing yourself as a victim and take responsibility for your own choices. This is what makes us human: we have choices. God sends his prophets to remind us that we have choices and we suffer the consequences of our choices. My constant prayer for many people in this community and the Foothills is that they will finally hit the bottom. I ultimately want them to turn their life around and trust fully in God, but I know that until they hit the bottom, until they finally get to the place where they can go no deeper, until they are broken, they will not be able to climb back up. The first step for those who hit the bottom is to mourn, grieve over the loss, grieve over the brokenness.
Are you ready to take the journey back to God? Have you yet hit the bottom? Are you ready for your life to get back together? As I study the book of Micah (any of the prophetic books really), I have a funny way of looking at the text. On the one hand, I believe each sermon was originally set in a context and preached to specific people at a certain time in history, but, on the other hand, we have the book of Micah as a whole and it is the word of God with a message that was put together for a reason. The message of Micah is not condemnation for those who hear but rather a warning to turn back to God. First is the warning as he urges us to finally recognize we have hit the bottom and it’s time to make better choices. Mourn over our sins and our bad choices. Turn back to God. I want to end today by fast forwarding to the end of the book to take a glimpse of where Micah is taking us, a portion of a verse which makes a wonderful caption of the entire book, words from Micah 7:8:/// “Though I have fallen, I will rise.”
We have to fall and hit the bottom in order to rise. The message of Micah is a message of danger ahead and a message of hope. The message of Micah is that for those who hit the bottom and grieve over their loss, they can turn to God and rise. Are you ready to take the journey back to God? Have you yet hit the bottom? It’s time to grieve. It’s time to rise! Amen.