Friday, 19 December 2014

(354) December 20: Micah 4-5 & Revelation 10-11

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what God says about his future rule of Israel.

To ponder:
Chapter 4 jumps us forward to the “last days” when we are told the mountain on which the temple stands (ie. Mount Zion) will become chief in the sense of being the spiritual center of the world, to which peoples will stream, urging each other to go there in order for God to teach them his ways so they can walk in his paths and therefore honour him. So Micah pictures the law going out from Jerusalem. He continues, declaring how God will then reign over the entire earth, judging disputes between peoples and strong nations, and so establishing peace in which they transform their swords into ploughshares. This implies the whole world enjoying the sort of abundant Eden-like blessing God promised Israel in their land. So we are told nation will no longer fight nation, but every man will sit, fearless, under his own fig tree. And until this future is brought to pass, Micah declares that the nations may walk in the name of their own gods, but he and the faithful will walk in the name of the LORD their God forever, and so ensure they are part of what will be (4v1-5). Jesus implies this is fulfilled as the nations stream to him and his body, the church, which are now the temple, as began at Pentecost (Jn 7v37, 12v20-23, Acts 2v5-12). They come only because they have been taught by God (Jn 6v44-45). They come to Mount Zion as the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12v22). And they will one day enjoy peace, when God in Christ judges all nations.
            In “that day” – ie. the compacted time of the end encompassing Christ’s two comings, God promises to gather the exiles that he describes as lame because they will have been weakened by their hardships. He says he will make them a surviving remnant which at the same time will be a strong nation, implying total restoration. He will then rule them in Mount Zion forever – a hint to his ruling not just from heaven, but in person as a man (see 5v2).
            What follows addresses the city of Jerusalem itself as a watchtower of God’s flock – ie. the protector of his people, its inhabitants, who as one body are described as “the daughter of Zion” or “of Jerusalem.” God promises the former dominion or rule will be restored to the city and kingship to the people. 5v9-13 then jumps from Micah’s day in which Assyria threatened the city, to its fall under Babylon 135 years later, and then back to the time of Assyria again. Micah asks why the people cry in his day like a woman in labour as if their king and counsellor (ie. God himself) had perished. His point is that Israel need not feel such distress, as God lives to give her a future. Nevertheless, he still states that the people will have to writhe in agony, as “now” (compacting 135 years) they must go to Babylon from where God will redeem them. This is why the future restoration is noted. From the pain of the coming century and a half a new era will come to birth (see 5v3). And in the light of it Micah states how many nations are currently gathered against Zion (under the guise of the Assyrian Empire), wanting to see her defiled (by destroying her sacred places) and to gloat over her destruction. Yet, he adds, they do not know God’s plans, as he is gathering them as sheaves ready to be threshed (ie. beaten). Contextually, in then calling the people to thresh with the imagery of being a strong beast, Micah may be referring to how God himself would defeat Assyria (2 Kgs 19v35-36), how he would later overthrow Babylon (Dan 5v30-31), or how the faithful would share in the final judgement (Rev 2v26-27). Perhaps all are in mind. The key thing is that God’s people would end up supreme, plundering the nations and dedicating their wealth to God, as occurs when converted unbelievers bring their wealth into Christ’s service (4v6-13).
            Here Jerusalem is called to marshal its troops as it faces the Assyrian siege (5v1, 2 Kgs 18). They will strike Israel’s ruler (Hezekiah) on the cheek with a rod in the sense that they will challenge him to battle. But we are then immediately told of another ruler who will come from Bethlehem, David’s insignificant town, and whose origins are of old – implying ancient intent in God, but also perhaps ancient existence. Israel’s abandonment by God would be until “she” (the people, 4v9) who is currently in labour (under Assyria and Babylon) gives birth to this king, and the rest of his “brothers” (probably Israelites scattered throughout the world) would join the Israelites (probably those who were then living in Judah) – as at Pentecost. The sense is therefore of a reunited kingdom or flock, that the Christ would shepherd in the strength and majesty of the LORD. This is an astonishingly exalted picture of kingship because it implies the same glory as God. And so it is no surprise that we read that under this king the people will be secure, and his reign will bring peace to the entire earth (5v1-5, fulfilling Gen 12v3, 49v10). This is why we can be confident that the kingdom Christ promises us will be and remain just as he said.
            Because Micah, like other prophets, compacts the whole of Israel’s future history as if it would take place in the near future, what follows seems to use Assyria as a metaphor for the world in hostility to God’s people. It is evidently not literal because rather than specify an exact number of leaders in 5v5, we are told the people will raise up 7 (signifying completion) even 8 (signifying more than enough) leaders against the advancing enemy, who will rule them with the sword. The point is that Christ will do what is necessary to deliver the people and suppress their enemies. The surviving remnant will then be amongst the nations like dew or showers that bring life and fruitfulness – and like a lion that brings harm and cannot be escaped. We see this in the fact that Christians in carrying the gospel and displaying the life of the Spirit are a fragrance of life to some who are drawn to faith, and the stench of death to others who reject all they stand for, bringing judgement on themselves (2 Co 2v14-16). And so Micah reassures the people that their hand will eventually triumph over their foes, who will be destroyed. In the light of this 5v10-15 most likely addresses the nations: God declares he will destroy their war horses and chariots, with which they come against his people. He will destroy their cities and military strongholds, their witchcraft and idolatry, and take vengeance against them if they have not obeyed him. In other words, he will remove all that might threaten his people’s security or sanctity, so they can endure as a kingdom forever. It is therefore only because of the final judgement, that we will be able to enjoy the new creation without threat of its peace and perfection being destroyed.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for ensuring through Christ that our future hope is certain. Pray that you and other Christians would be strengthened by this to endure hardship now.

Thinking further:
None today.

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