HOW TO SAVE A CULTURE
1. People are concerned about the state of things in this nation and about the direction our culture is headed.
2. Our text was written by a man who felt the same way about the condition of his own country.
a. The fact that it sounds so much like the news on almost any day says all that needs to be said about its relevance.
b. The difference is that this writer could begin with realistic despair and still conclude with hope.
3. What can be done to save a culture that sometimes seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster?
1. Understand the real issues of life.
a. Micah was far more than just a fellow lamenting the circumstances or arguing a political point of view.
i. He was a man from the country who was sensitive to moral and social ills that impacted the common people in Judah. A younger contemporary of Isaiah, Micah is sometimes described as having Amos’ passion for justice and Hosea’s heart for love.
ii. He worked in a time of earth-shaking significance. While Micah was a prophet, the prosperity and ease his people had been enjoying was interrupted by turmoil. Israel teamed up with Syria to threaten Judah’s existence. A few years later the Northern Kingdom fell. The Assyrians invaded Judah, claimed forty-six of her towns, and shut Hezekiah up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage.
iii. In the midst of these unsteady days, Micah plainly declared the transgression of his people and the disaster it would bring (3:8), while patiently turning their gaze to the God of their salvation (7:18).
b. Micah’s faith was made for the real world. There was no make-believe to his hope. He saw very clearly the forces which were ruining his people.
i. 2:1-2. They devise ways to satisfy their greed by oppressing others.
ii. 2:6-11. A spirit of falsehood is welcomed and practiced.
iii. 3:1-2, 5, 9-11. They hate good, love evil, and sell everything.
iv. 5:10-13. They rely on their own power and worship their own work.
v. 6:10-12; 7:5-6. No standards are recognized, and not one among them can be trusted.
c. If a culture which has problems is to be saved, these are the kinds of issues which must be recognized and addressed. A nation cannot grow stronger while its people habitually think and behave in these ways.
2. Meet your own responsibility to the LORD.
a. In Micah 6:8, the prophet offered one of the all-encompassing statements of the entire Bible. It is a starting-point for re-injecting godliness into community life.
i. It’s part of the great courtroom scene in which all the hills and mountains and foundations of the earth are summoned to hear God’s controversy with his people.
ii. When they are called upon to explain their faithless response to his saving acts, they claim that they knew of no way to please him.
iii. But the prophet says, “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?”
b. The LORD requires each one of us “to do justice” – that is, to act toward God and man according to the divine standard of righteousness.
i. “The LORD is a God of justice” (Isa. 30:18). Since “all his ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4), he can be depended upon to be faithful and upright. “Blessed are those who wait for him,” Isaiah said, because he can be counted on to be waiting to be gracious.
ii. But that also means that “justice, and only justice, you shall follow” (Deut. 16:20).
iii. The prophets often spoke of what “doing justly” would look like.
(1) One advised, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isa. 1:16-17).
(2) Another insisted, “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressors him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jer. 22:3).
(3) And another said, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgements, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” (Zech. 7:9-10).
iv. Observe that there is both a negative and a positive side to doing justly. It is doing right personally. It is holding evil accountable. It is treating others fairly.
v. Justice belongs to a way of life which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (Js. 3:18).
c. The LORD requires each of us “to love kindness” – in other words, to show a compassionate warm-heartedness toward people.
i. God himself “does not retain his anger forever,” Micah said, “because he delights in steadfast love” (7:18).
ii. We, therefore, are not merely to be scrupulously fair and honest; we’re also to be merciful – and we’re to delight in doing so!
iii. Kindness is seeking to smooth someone else’s path through life.
iv. It is forgiveness toward the sinful, compassion toward the suffering, and considerate patience toward everyone.
v. It is having the heart Paul described: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:12-14).
d. The LORD requires each of us “to walk humbly with your God” – that is, to recognize his absolute holiness, to live in willing obedience to his desire, and to gladly depend on him for every good gift.
i. Notice carefully that humility is not a spirit of worthlessness or dread of rejection. It is recognizing our helplessness and our indebtedness to him while also appreciating his gracious willingness to walk with us.
ii. Isaiah described exactly this combination of thoughts: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite” (57:15). God will “look to” one who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at his word (66:2).
iii. Walking with God like this means desiring to do his will, having his law within your heart (Ps. 40:6-8). It means having a broken heart when you realize sin is in your life, and seeking cleansing from him (Ps. 51:16-17, 10). Humbling yourself before God means submitting to him, resisting the devil, and drawing near to the Lord with confidence that he will draw near to you (James 4:6-10).
iv. Peter’s wonderful advice to us is: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:5b-7).
e. Do justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God – as a way of life. You will have a presence within the culture which will have a leavening, transforming impact upon the culture.
i. This is a way of life upon which the scriptures consistently insist.
(1) Deut. 10:12-13 says it’s what God requires of his people because it is what’s good for them.
(2) Hos. 2:19-20 makes these qualities the mark of the Lord’s marriage with his people.
(3) Matt. 23:23 has Jesus identifying these as the weightier matters of the law.
ii. The reason they are so prominent – and necessary – is that they are the characteristics of God himself! (See Ex. 34:6-7)
iii. You can have a positive and powerful impact upon the culture by doing what the LORD has always told us is good.
3. Let hope shine brightly. Though Micah declared the transgressions of his people and warned of the disaster they would bring, he also let the light of hope in the LORD shine brightly. In his short book, three lines of thought establish the ground of hope for those who are willing to try to do what is good in the midst of a culture that may be headed in the opposite direction.
a. Micah 4:1-5 promised that in the latter days the word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem.
i. The Lord’s house would be established there, and peoples would flow into it to learn to Lord’s ways and to walk in his name.
ii. Remember that the risen Christ explained to the apostles that it was written “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47).
iii. They were instructed to wait in Jerusalem until they received power to be his witnesses, and when they preached him there as the Christ, those who received the word and were baptized were added to the church. The house of the Lord was established (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:32, 36, 41). It is still a beacon of hope!
b. Micah 5:2-5 looks to a ruler whose origin is from ancient days but who would come from Bethlehem to shepherd his flock.
i. He would be their peace; they would dwell secure in him; and he would be great to the ends of the earth.
ii. We know him as the good shepherd he laid down his life to give us life (Jn. 10:11); as the great shepherd who was brought again from the dead (Heb. 13:20); and as the chief shepherd who will yet appear (1 Pet. 5:4).
iii. His flock is his church which he purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). It hopes in him!
c. Micah 7:18-20 speaks of the time when God, because of his compassion and steadfast love, would “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
i. What a reassuring picture of forgiveness!
ii. He had to offer up his Son to do it, but when God deals with our sins they are gone forever (Heb. 10:12). He was able to do so with the sins of those who crucified Jesus, and with the sins of the one who described himself as “the chief of sinners” – and he can do it with your sins, too!
iii. When he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb. 9:28). That’s what it means to hope! It takes hope to save a culture, and hope must be well-placed. Micah was allowing the one hope that belongs to the call of the gospel to shine brightly (cf. Eph. 4:4).
1. Any observer can see that there is reason to be concerned about American culture.
a. But those who see things through the eyes of Micah will recognize that saving it will take something other than political solutions.
b. The problems that are present are the result of how we have been living.
c. Enough of us will have to make what the Lord requires our way of life to make what he says is good our predominant culture, and all of us will have to hope in the God who can cast our sins into the depths of the sea.
2. Micah said, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (7:7). Why not choose that same course for yourself today?