A Refuge in the Moral Wilderness

The Prophesy of Micah

Study by Bob Burridge ©2019
Study 12: Micah 7:1-13

A Refuge in the Moral Wilderness

Lot lived in a moral wilderness at Sodom. He chose to move there because it was such a prosperous city, a place of opportunity. But he made a moral compromise to live there. The Bible calls the people in Sodom “wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13).

When the time came for God’s judgment to come against the city, Lot had been corrupted by the town’s attitudes. When a mob came to homosexually rape God’s messengers, he tried to stop them by offering them his two daughters as a deal to leave his guests alone for the night. By God’s grace alone Lot and his family escaped as the city was judged. All he had greedily worked for and compromised to gain, was destroyed when fire rained out of the skies and burned up the city.

His wife hadn’t learned to respect the LORD’s warnings while living there. In open defiance she looked back to the city and was reduced to what the Bible describes as a “pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). His daughters had not learned morality there either. They got their father to drink to excess so that they could seduce him and have children by him!

Sodom was a moral wilderness. It corrupted those who lived there. It eventually brought about its own downfall. It’s painful to live in a moral wasteland. Those who live there may refuse to see the problem or its cause, yet all suffer the consequences as crime, disease, economic collapse, and depression grow like weeds to choke and destroy them.

We live in a moral wilderness today. God’s law has been ignored. Lawlessness has become a way of life. The State of God’s Commandments in this era is pitiful.
1. Pluralism has been adopted as the official religion of today. It’s considered bigotry to believe that there is just one true God.
2. Images of God, particularly God as the Son, have become common even in church literature and films. This caricature of Jesus adds human artistic interpretations to his physical form and obscures his divine spiritual nature.
3. God’s name is used carelessly. This has become common place, and is usually just ignored.
4. The Creation Sabbath is largely forgotten in society and in the church.
5. Authority is demonized. Children sue parents. Riots and looting have been excused as rightful protest. Many accuse the Police of being corrupt when they try to enforce the law.
6. Human life is devalued by abortion, assisted suicide, release of murderers back into society, and the glorification of violence in films, games, music, and social media.
7. Sexual perversions are openly considered by many as normal in our culture. Adultery, homosexuality, sex without marriage, gender confusion, and pornography are accepted and defended.
8. Ownership and theft are redefined. Thieves are protected by the courts. Only a small amount of what you earn is left after taxes which are used to support a growing able but dependent class who don’t think they should have to work.
9. Truth has become relative to the situation and circumstances.
10. Covetousness has become the way of modern life. Many can’t figure out why they aren’t satisfied when their great quest is for self-gain, self-esteem, and self-glory.

With the fading of Christian teachings, and godly principles, there has been a rise in violent crime, social injustice, and confusion.

It’s painful to live in a moral wilderness.

Micah chapter 7 begins by helping us see the dangers, but then the prophet offers us hope in the promises of God.

1. Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.

The prophet Micah is speaking for the faithful among God’s people. His opening cry, “Woe is me!” translates the Hebrew expression “AL-lai” (אללי). It’s a wailing in grief. It’s like saying, “I am devastated!” He sees the condition of the nation that once loved God, but now judgment must come. He is emotionally overwhelmed with grief.

There is no satisfying nourishment left in the land. The nation resembles the fruit-gatherers in a barren field. Israel had not been good. Instead of doing justice, she had been unfair, unjust. Instead of loving kindness and mercy, she had been self-serving, greedy. Instead of walking humbly with her God, she had come to live like pagan people.

2. 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.

There is no security from greedy thieves. The wilderness around ancient Jerusalem was hostile. Wolves and lions attacked the flocks and those tending them. Thieves often hid in the caves and would attack travellers.

In a moral wilderness there are dangers too. The ungodly wait and attack like predators on the innocent. Violent crimes increase and injustice further victimizes the victims.

3. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.
4a. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge…

Evil people develop a network of evil. They have gotten very good at their wickedness and criminal skills. The great men weave their plots with the greedy king and judges. Even the best man in such a company is like the thorn-bush. The most upright among them isn’t much to brag on. He’s worse than the thorn-hedge.

4b. … The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand.

Though they might watch for the enemy, the attack still comes. Are they beginning to sense danger? Have they put up a guard tower? Well its too late for that. Judgment is about to burst in on them. Their punishments are on the way. In such wicked days the wildest confusion will come.

5. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms;
6. for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

When a society is corrupt, it breaks down respect in the home and family. The closest of blood-ties forget about love and faithfulness. In a society designed for selfish individuals, you can’t trust anybody. Self-love is a poison that lures the greedy into a trap of destruction. We can see the effects of this poison among us today as crime rates rise in many of our cities.

But Micah didn’t come to just expose what was wrong. He brought a message of encouragement and hope.

God provides a refuge
in the moral wilderness.

He plants an oasis to refresh and feed those who remain faithful to Him.

7. But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
8. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.
9. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

Speaking in the first person for the nation the prophet promises to watch, expecting salvation. Even in the midst of judgment for sin, the humble have hope. Instead of feeling defeated, or defensive, those who see the evil around them can respond in two ways:

1. It’s important to admit when God’s punishment is deserved.
There must be confession that the indignation of the LORD is deserved because of sin. As another prophet wrote in Isaiah 6:5, “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’ ” God will execute justice. Micah has already said that captivity and exile is inevitable.

2. When a deserved fall is inevitable, the enemy better not be too quick to rejoice.
God is not through with his people. The faithful are not driven from confidence in the Lord. They look to him for consoling even when being corrected. God will hear. He will rescue his people from utter destruction. In the darkness of a moral wilderness, and the judgment it brings, the Lord is light to the faithful. Israel will get up from her fall. God will cease his judgment when justice is satisfied.

We see this more clearly than did Micah. How can justice be satisfied when we have admittedly sinned? Can God remain just and simply ignore or forget about our crimes? Can a holy God make a wicked, corrupted race to be his family?

The answer if found in the promised Christ. He came to take our guilt and wickedness on himself. He became sin in the place of his people so they might have His innocence. This wouldn’t have been possible if he was just a good teacher, or a moving example, or a stirring martyr. It would only accomplish our salvation if God himself, the one offended, became part of the human race to pay an infinite debt.

In those brief moments on the cross, God, as Messiah, took the punishment for his people. He satisfied the demands of Divine Justice, and now lives to plead our case.

10. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.

The self-serving lawbreakers will be humbled. God will restore his nation, and her enemies will see it. Instead of realizing how they were being used as instruments in God’s hand to judge his own rebellious people, the nations thought their success against Israel proved their superiority. A tragic misunderstanding.

Pride foreshadows the coming fall. Bragging will be turned to shame. The heathen powers will be overthrown, trodden down. They will be mashed down like mud and muck in the streets.

11. A day for the building of your walls! In that day the boundary shall be far extended.
12. In that day they will come to you, from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the River, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.
13. But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds.

The church will become a refuge in the wilderness. The walls of God’s kingdom will be restored. They marked her out from the world and kept her inhabitants safe.

The boundary of Israel will expand until it’s far away. The word for “boundary” is not commonly used for a land boarder. It is a defining set of rules that mark out a group. Israel was to be marked out by trusting God’s promises, and obeying his principles.

As Messiah restores Israel, the way will become open to the gentiles too! The enemies will become repentant members of God’s covenant family! They will be included as the church grows widening the kingdom boarders.

Israel partly enjoyed these promises after the captivity when she returned to the land, rebuilt the temple, restored the sacrifices and rebuilt her walls. But until the Messiah came there was no streaming in of the gentiles in humble repentance. When he did come as Jesus the true Christ the nations that once hated the Jews, embraced the Jewish Messiah. The church age began and people of all nations began to connect themselves with the people of God streaming in to find refuge.

Why did they come? Their evil deeds made the earth desolate. In the midst of the moral debris, the Lord began turning hearts to himself.

When I was little I remember bringing toys out into the living room to spread them out on the floor to play. My mother said, “Why aren’t you playing in your room? You’re making a mess out here.” To me the answer was obvious: My room was a mess. So I came out there to play.

This fallen world has made a mess of things. It’s turning God’s planet into a moral wasteland. The church is to be the refuge, a God-prepared oasis in the desert. Here God’s principles should be loved and respected. Its our duty to keep the moral house in order, and invite in those tired of living in the confusion and depression out there.

But we’re not perfect. Our house isn’t all that well kept. How can we carry out our calling to be a refuge for those weary in sin? How can we help our wandering child come back to Christ? How can we help a discouraged co-worker, neighbor or church member? What can we do if we have not been good examples?

Israel hadn’t been good either. But she was called to repentance. We don’t become good witnesses to Christ by never sinning, or by being a perfect church. If our goal is to come across as perfectly holy, then we glorify ourselves, not the unearned grace and love of God. If our house is in order it’s not because we never mess things up. It’s not because no dust ever settles in our living room. It’s because our Savior comes in to humbly remove the dirt and stains.

We don’t call others to ourselves as perfect examples of holiness. We are to call them to Christ as the only perfect example of holiness. We present ourselves as fellow sinners who can show them how to admit failure as parents, neighbors, co-workers, and church members. Repent to Christ begging forgiveness and rejoicing in his grace. Trust in the promises of God and in his assurances of refuge. Love the revealed moral principles of our Creator out of gratitude and duty.

Lead the sinners into Christ’s kingdom. Let them know they are in the company of one who, though distressed like themselves, has found an oasis in the moral wilderness. Meanwhile, keep your own eyes fixed on that refuge.

When the moral mess around you gets you down, when the wilderness seems specially threatening and dry, remember the promises of God. He raises up his fallen people, and restores them in Christ. He makes them his sheep and promises to be their Shepherd. He sent the Messiah to be born at Bethlehem to mark a new beginning. His new Zion, the church, is a place of spiritual peace and blessing. There even the gentiles who repent and come, hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They exchange their former ways of violence, for the union we find together in Christ within his church.

This imperfect place is an island in a raging ocean of immorality. It’s a place where imperfect people find a perfect Savior and a perfect law. It’s a place of perfect assurance and hope when we stop centering our lives on self, and find the comfort we look for in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Index to the Studies in Micah

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