2 Kings 16 gives us a little further look at Ahaz, king of Israel. He took the throne at age 20, and ruled for 16 years, and as we learned yesterday, “he did not do right in the eyes of the Lord”. He in fact did everything wrong. And he basically spit in God’s face and destroyed all that had been done previously to create a strong relationship with God by David. Oh how foolish this king was. “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel”. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen what was right, he deliberately chose to do wrong.
He was way off course. “He even burned his son as an offering”. It isn’t that he grew up void of knowing God. He chose not to follow. He got in a pinch leading his people when two other kings laid siege to Jerusalem. He lost some ground and was fearful of what might happen, so he reaches out to the king of Assyria for help, offering up all sorts of treasure. That worked as the king of Assyria came and defeated the armies that were laying siege to Jerusalem, but it also carried a heavy cost.
King Ahaz made a trip to thank the king of Assyria and deliver all sorts of treasure he robbed from God’s House. And while there, he viewed the altar and worshipped there. But he went further and sent plans to Uriah the priest to build one just like it in Jerusalem. And to tear out the altar of God and offer sacrifice to the gods of other lands. He gutted the House of the Lord of the altar and stopped the worship and sacrifice to the one true God so they could worship idols and false gods.
But he went further and “cut out the frames of the stands….and the covered way for the Sabbath….because of the king of Assyria”. Ahaz did all he could to remove anything that resembled the worship of God. He was not only caught up in the worship of false gods, he destroyed the temple so that there was no connection to the God of David. He was on a mission to not only change worship, but to run as fast and far from God as he could. The influence of the wrong people can truly cause us to make horrible mistakes in judgment and choices that lead us far from God. We must carefully choose who we will associate with, and even more carefully evaluate who we will follow.
2 Chronicles 28 has us learning about Ahaz who was king of Judah who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. Not only did he not do right, “he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord”. He was bad news and led the people away from the Lord. This is where leadership really shows poorly. King Ahaz was self absorbed and spent his time doing whatever he wanted and pushed his sinful ways onto his people. He worshipped idols and did all sorts of evil things.
God doesn’t take that stuff lightly. “Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus…..killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord”. God just turned the enemy loose on them, and they wiped out 120K in one day. They also captured 200K more and led them to their homeland, but that’s when wiser minds interceded.
A prophet names Oded confronted the group and suggested it was a bad idea to bring these 200K in as slaves. They were still God’s people, even though they had been estranged and living against God for years under Ahaz’s leadership. It was still a bad decision to make them slaves, and after Oded made that clear, a handful of other wise leaders stood behind him and suggested they not proceed. Rather they took the spoils and cared for these people and as Oded suggested they “send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken”. It was a wise choice as it prevented the wrath of God from coming upon them.
Ahaz gets even crazier and decides to try and shut down anything to do with God completely. “He shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem”. He went from dumb to dumber and really provoked the anger of the Lord. How is it that we can be so blind to the reality of our ways? Ahaz did many stupid things, all of which did not end well, and yet he continued to do even more evil and get further onto the bad side of God. Oh how shortsighted we can be. God doesn’t change. His righteousness and holiness does not adjust to our desires. We need to walk in His way doing things that He directs. It doesn’t happen the other way around!
Micah 7 paints the picture that sure seems to resemble what we live with today. “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net”. People focused on themselves, taking advantage of each other, totally consumed with self, and living without God. Does that seem familiar to you? It sure does to me. Some days it seems like there are no godly people left. There are none who walk humbly with God.
But there are, and we just need to seek them out. And we need to be that person ourself. Micah was. He said “as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me….when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me”. That is the sign of a true relationship with God – Micah is walking humbly with Him. He knows where the source of power is. He knows where to look for direction. He is tuned in to God and communicating with Him. They are in relationship – deep relationship and Micah gets his light from God.
It doesn’t mean that all is perfect. Why? Because of sin. Micah goes on to say: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me”. There is a price to pay for sin, even if we are walking with God. He can’t ignore it, but He has made provision for us. He has created a way to plead our case through the blood of Christ. We are covered in that blood as a Christ Follower and we will be able to deal with judgment as a result.
God wants us to be saved. Micah lets us know that when he says “who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love”. But God can’t pass over sin and set us free without some payment for that sin. He knew we couldn’t make it on our own, so He sent Christ to the cross to provide a way. That is where our pardon will come from. That is how our transgressions will be passed over and His anger will be set aside. Jesus is the way! Have you made that commitment? Today is the day!
Micah 6 has a couple key lessons for us. First Micah delivers God’s condemnation and reminds them that He has done great and amazing things for them, yet they forget. “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery….that you may know the saving acts of the Lord”. God has acted on the people’s behalf. We can look back and see it clearly through the pages of scripture. And we wonder how they could be so stupid and forget all that God has done. Right?
But here is the truth. God is stall at work doing things just like this for us today. And all the people from the last pages of scripture until today. He has been active and making things happen since time began. Yet we forget. We act like nothing has happened. We act like we are responsible for all that He has done. We are no different. We forget, and get consumed with self. We fail to see God’s hand at work around us and we fall prey to the idea that it all revolves around us. Nothing truly does, it is all God’s, but we convince ourselves somehow that we are key to the world around us.
We totally miss the boat in how we should live. God needs to come first. We need to obey and walk with Him. Scripture gives us a plan in a sentence. Check it out: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. It is obvious, or should be, that God has already told us what is required. He gave us the Book, the manual for life and living, and yet we fail to read it, study it, learn it, and live it. We mostly ignore it, and do what we want, and then wonder why things don’t go well.
Not only has God told us, but it is spelled out clearly. We are to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Three things that scripture tells us God requires of us. That is a pretty strong word, but it is accurate and true. These things are not optional. Obedience is not something we can choose if we like it and ignore it if we don’t. We have to live this way. We must walk in obedience, if we want to receive His blessing and not face His punishment. Bottom line is that it is about a personal relationship – Micah say “your God” – and we need to walk with Him in a personal relationship!
Micah 5 has a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. He calls out Bethlehem, small and insignificant as it was, as the place that Jesus would be born. “From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel”. God often uses the insignificant to change the course of history. He chooses the weak and the small to make the source of magnificence. That’s when God’s hand truly shines, when the unlikely become His instrument and change His Story. We can be His tools like that if we get into relationship and listen to His voice.
Micah talks about “she who is in labor has given birth” referring to Mary and the baby she will bear. He tells the story of what is to come, many years before the birth of Christ. God has had His plan for our salvation for a very long time. And He executed it completely, and sent Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem, a town you would not expect, to a mother names Mary who was merely a girl that He called to bear Him. It is an unlikely plan and story, yet it happened exactly as He planned it and had His prophets tell about it.
Micah also reminds us what happens when Christ would be born. “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace”. Jesus came to save us. God sent His only Son to be born in a manger in a dinky little town to an unlikely woman so He could raise Him up as our Savior. He lived among us before He began His three year ministry leading to the Cross. And in that, we have eternal security, if we choose to.
Micah paints a picture of what is to come. We often think of Jesus as a loving and kind man. But Jesus is Son of God, and holy and godly in every way. And He also has a part of Him that requires us to live God’s way. He is described in scripture as a lion that devours. God is not only a God of love. He also is a God of justice and righteousness. Micah calls that out here. He reminds us that while God provided us a way to be saved through a baby in Bethlehem, there is another side to the equation called obedience. “And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey”. Sin will cause us big problems. It won’t get lost in the action. Jesus is our solution, but we have to make Him Lord of our life!
Micah 4 has a look at the future. Micah talks about God’s plan to redeem and restore His people. He tells us that we will go into the house of the Lord “that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths”. Isn’t that what we need to be doing today? We need to be in God’s presence as we have our personal quiet time each day seeking His ways and clarity around His path. And that should be our motivation for attending church too. Far too many of us want to sit in the pew and be told how awesome we are, when in fact we need to hear God’s truth which means we will need to take action and likely change.
Society has become focused on hearing soft messages and things about how good we are rather than being willing to listen to God’s correction and training in righteousness. God has already written the Book. He has given us the manual for how we are to live. So we don’t have an issue with having the information, although to know what it says we actually have to open the Bible to read and study it. No, the issue is that we don’t want to hear things that require us to change how we live. We want to ignore those things that convict us, and the best way to do that is to not hear them in the first place, or not read them so we might be changed.
But the fact is that God isn’t giving up on His mission of making us like Jesus. He isn’t going to ignore the rules He wrote in His Book. And the goal remains, that “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever”. It’s about obedience my friend. And that is the measuring stick we will be compared to at judgment day. We can have every excuse ready under the sun, but when God asks us what we did with our sin and the grace of Christ, and then follows up with how we did in living our life in obedience to His direction, we better have answers.
If we do – if Christ has been made Lord of our life – we’ll enter heaven. And if we have been good stewards of what God has entrusted to us and lived a life pleasing to God – we’ll be rewarded. “You shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies”. God desires us to be set free from the burden of sin and rewarded for our walk with Him. That is why He sent Jesus, so that we could come into fellowship with Him and live a victorious life. But He also is not afraid to deal with those who don’t respond to Jesus. “But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor”. The day is coming. Are you ready?
Micah is railing on leaders and their pathetic leadership. He is speaking to the prophets and rulers of the house of Israel. These folks should be setting the standards and leading the way, but instead they are leading people the wrong way. Micah asks this question: “Is it not for you to know justice”? That is their role, their job, and they are not stepping up at all. He describes them as people who “hate the good and love the evil” and are destroying the people who are following them. Scripture is filled with leaders who fail, and here is yet another example.
Of course, when things go badly, then they decide to come back to the Lord. The poor people who have followed these bad leaders are being chopped up “like meat in a pot”. That isn’t what they expect as an outcome from following, so “then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil”. Did you catch that? Things are going badly because they follow leaders who are focused on evil, and when life falls apart, then they turn and run to God. But it doesn’t quite work that way. God isn’t just sitting there waiting to answer our SOS prayers because of the intentional bad choices we have made.
Micah has strong words for those “who lead my people astray”. There is a standard for leaders to adhere to. And the punishment is severe. These leaders will find “it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets….for there is no answer from God”. When leaders fail to walk with God and lead people His way, they are cut off from His vision and divination. And where there is no vision, the people perish. Leaders are no longer able to lead. And there is no answer.
Micah demonstrates what godly leadership looks like. “I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might”. It is about having a close and personal relationship with God and being filled with His Spirit. It isn’t about you or me. It is all about Him. It is knowing who the power source is and being plugged in. It is realizing that all justice and might comes from God, not us. It is putting Him on the throne, and us carrying His message, nor our own. The cost of bad leadership is severe, not just to the leader, but to those in their patch. “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height”. If you plan to lead, and every one of us does in some way, then we better learn how to lead well. And that means being connected to the only source of power, and wisdom and might – God Himself!