************ Sermon on Micah 4:1-5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 15, 2015
"The Last Veterans Day"
It was Veterans Day this past Wednesday. Veterans Day honors those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day which remembers the men and women who gave their lives while in the military service.
But whether we observe Veterans Day or Memorial Day, each year I am sad we have days like this and each year I am hopeful this is the last time they are observed. As the years go by, I keep wondering when we will have peace on earth and goodwill among men.
I always think of this true story when I hear talk of peace and goodwill among men.
A retired couple living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was alarmed by the threat of war, especially nuclear war. They undertook a serious study of all the inhabited places of the world. Their goal was to determine the safest spot in the world to live, the spot least likely to experience warfare or nuclear fallout. They wanted a peaceful place, a secure place. So they studied and traveled, traveled and studied. Finally they found the place they were looking for, a little known place most people had to look up in a world atlas. They moved and on Christmas 1981 they were able to send their pastor in Vancouver a card from their new home. Three months later all the world had heard of their paradise--the Falkland Islands--as it was turned into a war zone by Great Britain and Argentina.
A study and knowledge of world history and a deep respect for human sin tells us we have to be very careful in our talk about peace among nations and brotherhood among men.
Does this mean that hopes for peace and universal brotherhood are an impossible dream? Not at all. The prophet Micah tells us of a time when "nation will not take up sword against nation" (vs 3c) and when each man will sit peacefully "under his own vine ... and fig tree" (vs 4a).
I A Time of Peace and Shalom
A The prophet Micah foresees a glorious time when all men and nations will submit to God's judgment in their disputes and quarrels. Unlike today, all disputes and quarrels will be settled peacefully, without recourse to guns, hostage taking, and violence. The courts of the Lord will replace the battlefields of the world as the place to settle the hostilities and conflicts among men and nations. Warfare, no longer needed, will fade away. Weapons will be converted to tools for agriculture; people will use the scarce and valuable resources of the earth to cultivate life instead of craft death. Valuable metal wasted in military attack and defense will be turned into constructive instead of destructive use. The blacksmith will be kept busy: his fire will heat and melt the sword blade and his hammer will fashion it into a heavy hoe; the metal of the spear will be melted and fashioned into a pruning knife. Armaments, training camps, and military colleges will be no more.
(Micah 4:3) He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
It is hard for us to imagine an international court that actually works, a court whose decisions are listened to and considered binding by all. For, today nations ignore with impunity the judgments of the World Court in the Hague or the decisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
It is even harder for us to imagine a time when our tanks will be turned into tractors, when our missiles will be stripped of their engines and warheads and used as silos, when battle ships and aircraft carriers will become passenger liners or grain handlers, when fighter jets will be used for search and rescue missions or weather forecasting, when B-52 bombers will be used to spray crops and fight forest fires. It is hard to imagine a time when our guns and shell casings will be melted down and turned into plows, combines, and cultivators.
Micah's prophecy sees a Syria without civil war and without refugees. He see an Israel at peace with all her neighbors. He sees a Mexico without today's drug wars. He sees a Russia without the aggression of a Putin. He sees a day without the War Against Terror.
B That's not all that Micah sees. He doesn't just see peace among nations but he also sees peace, shalom, for each man:
(Micah 4:4) Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
God's Old Testament people fondly looked back to the reign of King Solomon as the fulfillment of this ideal. Scripture tells us that
(I K 4:25) During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.Each man "under his own vine and fig tree" spells freedom: freedom from hunger and oppression, the free right to one's own property, to be one's own master. What a lovely picture: the farmer living on his own property and peacefully enjoying the fruit of his own labor.
Can you imagine a time when everyone will have enough food?, a time when the walls of tyranny and oppression will come tumbling down?, a time when there will be no poverty, no unemployment, no inflation, no slums? That's what Micah foresees.
II Submission to God
A Can such hopes as these ever come true? Will war one day be abolished? Will there really come a time when there will be peace, shalom, for every man?
These are not the hopes of dreamers and woolly-eyed thinkers. This isn't the wistful thinking of some philosopher type. This is not a hankering for an unattainable utopia. Micah says, "The Lord Almighty has spoken" (vs 4b). In other words, this is a promise from the God Who is always true to His Word. This is a promise from the God Whose promises are sure and Whose Word is never broken. The God of Micah is not a little God. He is a God Who accomplishes His will and fulfills His purposes. The God of Micah is supremely the covenant God. He bears the covenant name of "Yahweh." He is the God Who loves us in Christ. This God never fails to keep His covenant promises.
B I am sure that many in Micah's day were skeptical about what Micah said. During Micah's time Assyria was on the move again -- campaigning and conquering. So Damascus fell to Assyria. Samaria, Israel's capital, fell in 722 B.C. and her citizens were deported. In 701 B.C. Judah too was overrun by Assyrian troops -- though Jerusalem itself was not taken -- and part of Judah's territory was given to the Philistines. It was a time of alliances and counter-alliances in order to keep the balance of power intact. It was a time of sword's loud clashing and the roll of stirring drums. It was a time of war and not of peace. It was also a time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, when great estates were formed and the little farmer got squeezed out, when every man looked after himself and no one cared for the poor and the disadvantaged. It is little wonder, then, that many doubted Micah's words.
Many today also have reason to be skeptical of what Micah says. The past and recent history of mankind seems to indicate that Micah's ideal future is unattainable. For example, World War I was fought in the belief that it was "The War to End All Wars." Some twenty million died in that war. Soon afterward the League of Nations was established. Brave talk was heard of the brotherhood of all men. But then came World War II, Hitler, and Stalin and another eighty million lost their life. More than 90 wars have been fought since World War II.
Many skeptics point out that there are at least thirty armed conflicts in the world right now. The worst is in Syria where 76,000 people lost their life in 2014 and 300,000 have been killed since the start of conflict in 2011. This is nothing compared to Afghanistan where it is estimated that the number of deaths is somewhere between 1.2 - 2 million people since conflict started. Worldwide, last year, some 214,000 people have been killed in battle. Think, too, of the War on Terror and of what happened in France this past week.
Think of all this conflict. Think of all the bloodshed. For the next 30 seconds bow your head and remember how broken our world is.
Now, what about the future? Skeptics tell us the Middle East remains a tinder box. Russia continues to dream of its former empire; it has annexed all of Crimea and is now involved in the Syrian war. China builds new islands in the South China Sea in order to claim new territory and drilling rights and dares its neighbors to stop her. North Korea has over a million in its army and constantly tests the security of South Korea. Fanatical Muslims hate the West and vow to destroy us.
Furthermore, in spite of breakthroughs in disease control, and giant strides in food production, more than a third of this planet's inhabitants continue to face a daily struggle against hunger and sickness.
C Yet, we have to put skepticism or pessimism aside. For "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Lk 18:27). What Micah foresees can be fulfilled. Its fulfillment depends, however, on one condition being met: submission to the Lord. The brotherhood of man remains a dead phrase until it comes alive under a universal submission to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is this submission to God and Christ that verses 1 & 2 have in mind:
(Micah 4:1-2) In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. (2) Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the one reality of Micah's world which he also sees in the future world. Micah's Jerusalem is threatened and beleaguered, at best a very unpretentious town on a very low hill. Yet, there will come a day when it will be the center of the earth and to it all men and all nations will stream.
People will stream to Jerusalem because that is where they can meet and worship God in Christ and come to know His will. In fact, they will call each other to go to the mountain of the Lord. They will urge one another to go to the house of the God of Jacob in pilgrimage.
When this happens, when people submit to the God of Israel, when every knee shall bow before Christ Jesus and every tongue confess that He is Lord, then Micah's prophecy will become a reality.
Do you hear the answer to the world's bloodshed and wars and rumors of wars? The answer is Jesus. The answer is submission to Jesus.
D In our sinful world, however, we know that all men will not submit themselves to Jesus until the Day when He triumphantly comes again. Peace and shalom will exist only when the Kingdom of God is fully established on this earth. Peace and shalom will be ours only on the Day the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. On that Day the reign of the Lord will inaugurate peace and shalom.
But what of the present? Should one simply wait with folded or even praying hands until man's dream and God's decree comes true? No. Micah's vision of what the Lord will do should encourage us to present activity. The future glory of the Kingdom of God should prompt action here and now. At the moment there certainly is no sign of all peoples and nations turning to the Lord Almighty. Regardless, our witness should shine all the brighter amidst the darkness. We need to urge people everywhere to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And, we as the covenant community need to live in the light of the future. Listen to verse 5 here:
(Micah 4:5) All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.Regardless of what the heathen and unbelieving may do, those who are God's people will live for God and Christ.
The Apostle Peter also urged God's people to live in the light of what God will do in the future. He says,
(2 Pet 3:10-11) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives ...As we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus, as we wait for Him to bring peace among the nations and shalom for each man, we are to "walk in his paths" (vs 2), we are to live holy and godly lives.
And, when the Lord Jesus finally does come again, then there will be peace and shalom. Then, finally, there will be no more need for Memorial Day or Veterans Day or Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. So, we pray for that day and work for that day.
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