Sermon: Peace and Disruption

I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to Micah, chapter 5. Micah 5, beginning in verse 1. Micah is in the Old Testament – Obadiah and Jonah on the left and Nahum and Habakkuk on the right. Micah 5, beginning in verse 1.

As we listen to God’s word this morning, I want us to think together about two questions:

Where do you need peace?

Where do you need to be disrupted?

Where do you need peace?

Where do you need to be disrupted?

Before we hear God’s word this morning, please take a moment to pray with me:

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s Word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God.

Marshal your troops now, city of troops,

for a siege is laid against us.

They will strike Israel’s ruler

on the cheek with a rod.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.

Therefore Israel will be abandoned

until the time when she who is in labor bears a son

and the rest of his brothers return

to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock

in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

and they will live securely,

for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be our peace,

when the Assyrians invade our land,

and march through our fortresses.

We will raise against them seven shepherds,

even eight commanders,

who will rule the land of Assyria with the sword,

the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.

He will deliver us from the Assyrians,

when they invade our land,

and march across our borders.

The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples,

like dew from the Lord,

like showers on the grass,

which do not wait for anyone or depend on man.

The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations,

in the midst of many peoples,

like a lion among the beasts of the forest,

like a young lion among flocks of sheep,

which mauls and mangles as it goes

and no one can rescue.

Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies,

and all your foes will be destroyed.

“In that day,” declares to the Lord,

“I will destroy your horses from among you

and demolish your chariots.

I will destroy the cities of your land

and tear down all your strongholds.

I will destroy your witchcraft

and you will no longer cast spells.

I will destroy your idols

and your sacred stones from among you;

you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.

I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles

when I demolish your cities.

I will take vengeance in anger and wrath

on the nations that have not obeyed me.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God (You may be seated)

As we wrestle with God’s Word this morning, I would like us to keep two questions in front of us: Where do you need peace? and Where do you need to be disrupted?

These questions are significant because Micah reveals to us that Jesus brings both – he brings peace and disruption to the world and to our lives.

But let’s begin with verse 2:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins will be from of old,

from ancient times.

Some seven hundred years after the Spirit spoke these words through the Prophet Micah, a child was born in the little town of Bethlehem. This child was not like any other – born of a virgin mother, announced by angels and indicated by the very stars in the sky. This child would rule over Israel, he would be the true shepherd they had been looking for, who would stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. He would be the true king, who would rule not only Israel, but his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. This child is Jesus, God himself come in the flesh.

It is a story that is so familiar to many of us that we are tempted to forget just how awe-inspiring it is. Centuries and centuries before Jesus was born, before the people went into exile and the temple was destroyed, before they returned and rebuilt it, before they were conquered and won their freedom and then were conquered again, before centuries of hardship, pain, and difficulty, God promised a child in Bethlehem. And centuries later, God delivered on his promise. Jesus is the fulfillment of generations of promises from God and he delivers on them all. It should both stun and encourage us to know that God promised to send Jesus well over seven hundred years before he was born. God keeps his promises.

And Micah says this about Jesus in verse 5: and he will be our peace. So I ask, where do you need peace?

And he will be our peace,

when the Assyrians invade our land,

and march through our fortresses.

Micah promises that when the people of God face the might of the Assyrians, God’s messiah will be their peace. When they face a road they are not sure they can walk, not sure they will survive, he will be our peace. When they struggle and the news breaks bad again and again, he will be our peace.

Micah says this about Jesus and he will be our peace. So I ask, where do you need peace?

Verse 4 promises:

He will stand and shepherd his flock

in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

and they will live securely,

for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Christ guards and protects us. Armed with the strength of the Lord, he drives far away all sorts of hurtful things. There is so much pain, suffering, and difficulty we never experience and never even know was close to us, because Christ protects us. He restrains wickedness and evil so that it may hurt but does not destroy us.

Some of us are walking wounded this morning. We bear the marks of broken families that sit like so many pieces of pottery in our hands. We bear the marks of grief for futures that we had dreamed and hoped for, but have now died. We bear the marks of loss we are not sure we can even name aloud.

Micah says this about Jesus – and he will be our peace. So I ask, where do you need peace?

Jesus heals our wounds and he protects his own.

Micah promises that God’s Messiah – Jesus – would come and that he would be our peace. Micah points ahead to a day we have yet to see. A day when the redeemed would no longer experience persecution, where nations like Assyria and Babylon would no longer draw swords against the Lord’s people. A day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, where nation will no longer lift up sword against nation and they will not train for war anymore.

Micah points to a day we have yet to see. However, he proclaims that then and now, God’s messiah is our peace. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, when the Assyrians invaded and the world crumbled around the people of God, Jesus was their peace. How?

Because Jesus does not simply bring us peace in our present circumstances, he brings us peace with the Father. John Calvin put it this way:

“And what would it avail us to be safe from earthly annoyances, if we were not sure that God is reconciled to us? Except then our minds acquiesce in the paternal benevolence of God, we must necessarily tremble at all times, though no one were to cause us any trouble: nay, were all men our friends, and were all to applaud us, miserable still would be our condition, and we should toil with disquietude, except our consciences were pacified with the sure confidence that God is our Father. Christ then can be our peace in no other way that by reconciling us to God.”

To paraphrase: “What good would it do us to have all our suffering removed, to be loved by everyone, and be successful in all things, if we were not at peace with God?” What good would all of that do if we do not have peace with God?

Micah says this about Jesus – and he will be our peace. So I ask, where do you need peace?

Jesus is our peace with God. Micah promises seven hundred years before Jesus walked the earth that he would be our peace – our true peace, our everlasting peace. Not just that he would bring peace, but that he himself would be our peace. Jesus Christ himself, being fully God and fully human, through dying in our place on the cross and rising from the dead, would establish peace between humanity and God.

What would it matter if we have everything else, if we do not have peace with God? Or as Jesus himself put it, For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Micah says this about Jesus – and he will be our peace. So I ask, where do you need peace?

Wherever we need peace, Jesus is our peace. Peace in circumstances we cannot control and pain we cannot fathom. Peace. Peace in the great and glorious day when the wolf shall lay down with the lamb. Peace. And Jesus is our peace with God.

So I ask, where do you need peace? It is found in Jesus.

And our second question: Where do you need to be disrupted?

We have seen in Micah, chapter 5, that Jesus comes bring peace, but he also comes bringing disruption. Look at verse 9: Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed.

At first, this looks like a straight-forward promise of victory. God promises that when Christ comes, all enemies that hinder, threaten, and attack the people of God will be overcome. Yet, listen to what God says next:

“In that day,” declares to the Lord,

“I will destroy your horses from among you

and demolish your chariots.

I will destroy the cities of your land

and tear down all your strongholds.

I will destroy your witchcraft

and you will no longer cast spells.

I will destroy your idols

and your sacred stones from among you;

you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.

I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles

when I demolish your cities.

God has promised, in verse 9, to destroy all the foes of the redeemed people of God. But what does God destroy, what foes does he vanquish? Israel’s horses and chariots, Israel’s cities and strongholds, Israel’s witchcraft, idolatry, and Asherah poles. The repetition of ‘destroy, destroy, destroy,’ is telling us something. The foes that God will overthrow are in the very heart of the people of God. God’s process destroying these foes will be good but disruptive.

Imagine for a moment that I am sitting in the parsonage with Pastor Olga and the kids when it catches on fire. I let your imagination fill in how the fire started. Let’s also imagine that this is Hollywood so we won’t die of smoke inhalation while this whole thing is happening. The Fire Department gets called and Nolan, Brent, and Dave come racing to our house to rescue us. Nolan checks the front door, its unlocked, and he attempts to open it to get inside, but…there’s something in the way. For some reason, I love my books so much that I put them right in front of the front door. Best place in the house – all nice and in order, alphabetized by author and then by title within the author.

What is Nolan going to do? There is nothing wrong with my books themselves. In fact, it is a great thing that God has given me the ability to have and read these books. But they are in the way. I have put them in a place that is prevent him from reaching me, Olga, and the kids.

What are they going to do? They will push the books out of the way. They will clear a path so they can get in and out – so they can get to us. Next, imagine they get inside and Dave notices that I have assembled a jerrycans of gasoline and a few propane tanks in the living room, for some reason. Dave is going to get those out of the house before something drastic happens. Brent runs ahead and reaches me, sticks an IV in me because he’s a pro, and together they carry, drag, and assist us out of the house.

I exaggerated the analogy a bit, but our lives can be like that house. We can put good things, like my books, in the wrong places. For Israel, God had given them horses and chariots, he had given them cities and enabled them to fortify them, which were good gifts from God, good things. But they had begun to place their trust in their strength, in their ability to protect themselves. Trusting in the gifts instead of the giver was like putting them in front of the door, preventing God from entering into their lives to save, redeem, and bring peace. But God, like Nolan with my books, crashes through the door and pushes it aside.

God will remove even the good things he has given us when they serve as obstacles that separate us from God. Just like it is love and faithfulness and courage that would send Nolan crashing through my door and scattering my books, it is out of love that God disrupts our lives to open up a path for life with God. Calvin says, “Is it not a singular favour in God when he suffers us not to be thus separated from him, but prepares a way for himself to be connected with us, and has ever his hand extended to bring us help?”

It is for love that God disrupts our lives, so I ask, where do you need to be disrupted?

So God promises to destroy horses and chariots, cities and strongholds – good things – because they serve as obstacles in our relationship with him. But God also promises to remove all that poisons that relationship.

I will destroy your witchcraft

and you will no longer cast spells.

I will destroy your idols

and your sacred stones from among you;

you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.

I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles

when I demolish your cities.

Like the gasoline and propane that Dave will remove from my house, God promises to remove dangerous elements from our lives. The people of God were consulting witches and mediums – seeking wisdom apart from God, from sources other than the Lord of the universe. They were placing their trust in idols, in the work of their hands.

God disrupts, cleans house, and re-arranges their lives and ours. Micah does not indicate that this will be a comfortable experience. But it will be good. Where do you need to be disrupted?

Are there good things in your life that you putting in the wrong place? Places of trust that are obstacles to you growing in Christ?

Are there toxic things in your life that God needs to remove in order for you to be healthy in your life with God?

Long ago, Christ was promised through the words of Micah. Christ, who out of love, brings peace and disruption. Christ makes a way for himself through all the clutter and chaos of our lives in order that we might know the redemption of God. May God bring each of us peace this week where we need peace. And may God disrupt our lives wherever there are obstacles to his work in our lives.

May it be so, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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