Sermon: A Song of Hope

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to Micah, chapter 7. Micah 7, beginning in verse 1. For the last seven weeks, we have been listen to God’s Word through the prophet Micah, listening for the very heart of God. I invite you, one more time, to listen with me to the very words of God form the lips of the prophet Micah. But before we do, 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:

1What 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.

2The faithful have been swept from the land,

not one righteous person remains.

Everyone lies in wait to shed blood;

they hunt each other with nets.

3Both hands are skilled in doing evil,

the rulers demand gifts,

the judges accept bribes,

the powerful dictate what they desire –

they all conspire together.

4The 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.

5Do 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.

6For 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.

7But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.

I wait for God my Savior,

my God will answer me.

8Do not gloat over me, my enemy!

Though I have fallen, I will rise.

Though I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be my light.

9Because I have sinned against him,

I will bear the Lord’s wrath,

until he pleads my case

and upholds my cause.

He will bring me out into the light,

and I will see his righteousness.

10Then my enemy will see it

and will be covered with shame,

she who said to me,

“Where is the Lord your God?”

My eyes will see her downfall;

even now she will be trampled underfoot

like mire in the streets.

11The day for building your walls will come,

the day for extending your boundaries.

12In that day people will come to you

from Assyria and the cities of Egypt,

even from Egypt to the Euphrates,

and from sea to sea

and from mountain to mountain.

13The earth will become desolate

because of its inhabitants,

as the result of their deeds.

14Shepherd your people with your staff,

the flock of your inheritance,

which lives by itself in a forest,

in fertile pasturelands.

Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead

as in days long ago.

15As in the days when you came out of Egypt,

I will show them my wonders.

16The nations will see and be ashamed,

deprived of all their power.

They will put their hands over their mouths

and their ears will become deaf.

17They will lick dust like a snake,

like creatures that crawl on the ground.

They will come trembling out of their dens;

they will turn in fear to the Lord our God

and will be afraid of you.

18Who is a God like you,

who pardons sin and forgives the transgressions

of the remnant of his inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever,

but delight to show mercy.

19You will again have compassion on us;

you will tread our sins underfoot

and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

20You will be faithful to Jacob,

and show love to Abraham

as you pledged on oath to our ancestors

in days long ago.

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

I have been struggling this morning with the words of one of our songs. I just can’t seem to get the words right. I was wondering if you can help me. If I sing a couple lines, could you let me know if I have the words right? I’m doing this a capella, so be gracious.

“In Strength alone, my hope is found, it is my light, my strength, my song” Is that how it goes? (No) That’s right…here it is…

“In wealth alone, my hope is found, it is my light, my strength, my song, this cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm” A couple of you are shaking your heads. Did I get it wrong again? Oh man, maybe the third times the charm. Let’s see if I can get it right.

“In me alone, my hope is found, I am my light, my strength, my song. This…” No!? I just can’t get it. What are the right words? (‘In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light my strength, my song.’)

That’s right – in Christ alone. It is as Micah says, But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord. I wait for God my Savior, my God will answer me.

Later on this morning, we will be singing together ‘In Christ Alone’ – with the real words this time. My hope is that by the time we sing together, we will understand just how different, how counter-cultural, how life-changing this gospel confession is.

Because that is not the kind of song the people were singing in the time of Micah.

In verse 1, Micah compares himself to someone gathering fruit, but finding none. Micah, on behalf of the Lord, is looking for the men and women who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. Instead he says the faithful people have been swept out of the land and it is filled with people who lie in wait to shed blood and hunt each other with nets. This was a land that sang,

“In strength alone, my hope is found, it is my light, my strength, my song.”

There was little concern for human life. Unrestrained by the law or human decency, those who were strong enough took what they could from those weaker than them. The cost to others didn’t matter. The leaders of the people joined in eagerly, Micah tells us in verse 3:

Both hands are skilled in doing evil,

the rulers demand gifts,

the judges accept bribes,

the powerful dictate what they desire –

they all conspire together.

These leaders of Israel are compared to briers and thorn hedges, which rip and tear those who pass close to them. In their quest for power and wealth, they use whatever means are available to advance themselves. This was a people who sang,

“In wealth alone, my hope is found, it is my light, my strength, my song.”

This selfishness had begun to break down trust in even the most basic relationships. Because everyone was looking out for themselves, looking to their own interests above those of anyone else, families and communities began to come apart at the seams.

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.

God had said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” but in looking out for themselves, Israel had shaped a culture where neighbors couldn’t trust each other anymore, where homes and hearts were guarded, even in the most intimate relationship between husband and wife, trust was stretched thin.

God had said to honor your father and your mother, but in pursuing their own interests, children had begun to reject and dishonor their parents. This was a people who sang,

“In me alone, my hope is found, I am my light, my strength, my song.”

God describes this time in Micah as a period of confusion. It was a time where people put their trust in strength, in wealth, and in themselves. This misplaced hope and trust had consequences on every level of relationship.

These songs are still sung today. Our world still encourages us to sing, “In strength alone, my hope is found, it is my light, my strength, my song.” With every commercial, we are taught to envy the strong, to long for their life, and to believe that with more power – power to buy, power to choose, power to dictate what I desire – that there is more freedom.

Our world still encourages us to sing, “In wealth alone, my hope is found.” If we are taught that power means freedom, we are taught that money brings safety. Having enough money in the bank, enough land to farm, enough equipment, and enough put away for retirement we will be able to weather any storm, we are told. And “enough” is always a little more than what I have.

Our world still encourages us to sing, “In me alone, my hope is found.” One way of reading the turmoil and division we have experience as a country in the last year and a half is the steady shrinking of circles of trust. On all sides, we trust those who think like us, who have experiences like us, who are part of our tribe, and who will support what we believe. Those outside that ever-shrinking circle are met with suspicion and disdain. It is no wonder that Micah describes this as a time of confusion. These are the songs that were sung in the time of Micah and today.

But Micah sings a different song. Verse 7:

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.

I wait for God my Savior,

my God will answer me.

Micah points us to the only remedy in a world that does not honor God, that sings sad, selfish songs – to fix our eyes on God and believe he will be our deliverer.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.

The word ‘watch’ means to ‘look for’ or ‘wait expectantly.’ As Psalm 130 says, I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I hope. I wait for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

Like the night watchmen who strain their eyes peering at every shadow and turn their ear toward every sound, the godly are called to look eagerly and expectantly for God’s working.

In a world of confusion, we are invited to fix out eyes on Jesus. It is so tempting to get fixated on the world around us, to get caught up in despair, to retaliate in anger, or to give in to the pressure.

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

We are invited to watch – to look to the Lord in hope. And we are invited to wait – to trust God to act in his own timing. We are invited to pray, confident that God will answer.

We are invited to watch for God at work. We are to pay far more attention to the gracious acts of God than to the wicked acts of humans.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.

I wait for God my Savior,

my God will answer me.

What are we waiting for? What does God promise to do that gives us hope in the present?

First, He promises to lift up those who are fallen and give light in the darkness. Verse 8: Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.

God lifts up those who have fallen down. As the psalmist says: Who is like the Lord our God, the One who is enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people. He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord. Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance.

Though we face difficult experiences, we can watch in hope that God will pick us up, pick others up when we fall.

There are times in life and places in this world that are filled with darkness. We cannot see what is around us, cannot see the next step to take. God promises to be the light that helps us see. God’s presence in the darkness is a hope and a refuge.

Let me tell you a story:

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severly, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He at and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, ‘God out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.

I wait for God my savior,

My God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!

Though I have fallen, I will rise.

Though I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be my light.

In a world of confusion, where those around us are placing their hope and trust in strength, in wealth, or in themselves, we have one refuge and one hope – God himself. We are invited to sing a new song, a true song, “In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord. I wait for God my savior. My God will hear me.

Micah offers us firm hope that enables us to look eagerly and expectantly for the work of God. Hope that gives us eyes to see God at work in the present and courage to trust him to work in the future. This hope is founded on the promises of God – to lift up the downtrodden, to give light in the darkness, and to reveal his righteousness – and it is founded on the character of God himself. We can hope because we know this God – we know his work, his love, his grace. In a few moments, I will invite you to sing “In Christ Alone” as a confession of faith and trust in God in a world of confusion. But I want to close our time in Micah with the closing words of the book of Micah, which reveal the very heart of God.

18Who is a God like you,

who pardons sin and forgives the transgressions

of the remnant of his inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever,

but delight to show mercy.

19You will again have compassion on us;

you will tread our sins underfoot

and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

20You will be faithful to Jacob,

and show love to Abraham

as you pledged on oath to our ancestors

in days long ago.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s