Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Many in the world think that they must make themselves right with God, or whatever their idea of “god” is. As Christians, we know there is nothing that we can bring to God or do for him that would make him love us anymore than he already does. He has sacrificed, for us! He has shown mercy, to us!

Micah 6:6-8 New International Version

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Promises Made; Promises Kept!

Christmas Eve

Genesis 12:1-3; 2 Samuel 7:4-5, 11b-13; Matthew 1:1 – Born a Descendant of Abraham and David

There are many things about our faith that are facts of history: Jesus was really born, Jesus really died in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus really rose from the dead. Those are facts of history, no question about it. But then there are other aspects of our faith which are just as true, but regarding which we have only God’s promises. For example, I can’t take your blood sample and prove to you that your sins are forgiven. I can’t scientifically do an experiment to prove to you that when you die, you’ll go to heaven. I can’t logically or scientifically analyze the Lord’s Supper or Baptism and prove that they are powerful acts of God. I can’t prove it; all I have is…God’s Word, His promises. So, how can we count on these things? We need to know that God keeps His promises!  We need to know that when God says something, it happens! So, let’s look at some of these promises…first as to Jesus’ lineage:

Over and over again in the OT and even when we get to the NT there are a bunch of genealogies with strange and hard to pronounce names. We hear things like: Boaz was the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David, etc. Sometimes we can kind of glaze over these things and wonder, “What’s the point of all these names?”

The point is actually hugely wonderful for our faith. God promised that the Savior would be born from a specific family line: Abraham’s, God further narrowed that promise to the family of David.  Why? So that when the Savior was born we’d be able to recognize Him as the One whom God promised. And what do we find out? “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” God’s promise is true! Jesus is the one, Jesus is the Savior. God’s Word is true!

Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, Luke 1:29-38 – Born of a Virgin

People who live in the world know how this world generally works. You throw a ball in the air and… it will come down, that’s the way it is. Water a plant and it will grow, don’t water it and it won’t.  A man and a woman, a male and a female are needed in order for babies to be conceived. That’s just how it works.  What’s obvious here is that Mary knew where babies came from. She knew the laws of nature well enough to know when they were broken. So she rightly asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And we can relate to her question too, can’t we? How often don’t we come up against situations in life which seem impossible? How often don’t we ask? “How will this work, God? How can I handle this? How will I make it through this? It seems impossible.”

And the angel reminded Mary and reminds us of a very important truth, “Nothing is impossible with God.” And perhaps we see another miracle here: Against all the odds, Mary believed it! And it happened just like God said and promised some 700 years earlier: the virgin became pregnant and had a baby! God’s promise prevailed! It’s true! And what about God’s other promises that go against nature? God’s promise that our sins are forgiven? True! God’s promise to work all things out for our good? True! God’s promise to be with you always? True! For nothing is impossible with God!

Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-5, Matthew 2:3-5 – Born in Bethlehem

Can you picture it? A Roman historian records for us: Caesar Augustus walks into the Roman Forum is pacing before the bachelors of Rome and then explodes: “You’re murdering our future!” In his view they aren’t “fathering their descendants.” So, he enacts laws to give certain advantages to those who settle down and have babies. And then later perhaps to find out whether or not his laws are working he begins a project that later he would label as 8th on his bucket list of his life’s 35 accomplishments: a census of the entire Roman world.

And what had God promised some 700 years earlier? That the Savior would be born in…Bethlehem. But, Mary and Joseph lived up in Nazareth. How will we get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem at just the right time so that Jesus will be born in the right place? Caesar’s census “forced” Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem at just the right time. Coincidence? Or, maybe, just maybe, might God be ruling all of history – including unbelieving world rulers – for the good of His people and to accomplish His promises?

You know, the world can often seem like a crazy place. We have world events that can trouble us, national events, things that happen in our own community or our own lives. We can easily get nervous, afraid, angry, frustrated.

But today our eyes turn to Bethlehem: we have a God who rules all of history. And He does so for the good of His people and to fulfill His promises. Which means, He rules history for your good! Hear that prophecy of Bethlehem and see its fulfillment and see God’s ruling hand!

Isaiah 53:2, Luke 2:6-7 – Born in Lowliness

This is really a wonder of wonders. This is God. This is God who stands in all majesty, might, and glory.  This is the One by whom and through whom and for whom all of this creation exists. Why should he care about us? Why should He be mindful of us? What do you care about that ant crawling on the floor?  And yet He came!  And He came into our world so ugly with sin, so full of problems and perversity.  And He didn’t just come, but He came so lowly.  The prophet said, “Like a tender shoot…like a root out of dry ground,” so tender, so frail, so lowly. Not in beauty or majesty that we should be wowed by his outward appearance in anyway. The King of all creation and where will we look for Him? If we look for him in palaces, in centers of power, in government offices, we won’t find him, a lowly maiden is His mother. If we look for him in large homes and magnificent mansions, we won’t find him there either, a manger, a feeding trough, is his first resting place and even that, even that he has to borrow from cattle!

Power? Majesty? Might? No, He comes so small, so gentle, so lowly. Martin Luther once said, “There’s nothing to be afraid of in a baby.” He didn’t have to, but he chose to come so lowly. He didn’t come just for the high and mighty, he didn’t come just for the wise and learned, rich and famous, no, He came for all, He came for you and me.  He came not to frighten us with His power and majesty and might, but so small, so gentle, so lowly to woo us, to win us, to draw us to Himself with his amazing compassion, awesome grace, and forgiving love. For He came for one purpose: to rescues us from our sins! That’s a wow! That’s a wonder!

Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:10-11 – Born For You!

But is it all for me?  Is this Savior really meant to be for me?  I mean, I know who I am, I know what I’ve done, I know what I’ve failed to do, I know the guilt of sins past that’s always ready to haunt me, I know my shame, the ugliness of my sin. Is it for me? Is it for you?

Isn’t it interesting to see the prophet’s words or to hear the angel’s announcement? Isaiah could have said, “A child is born; a son is given.” But he doesn’t. He says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”  The angel could have said, “I bring good news of great joy that will be for all the people” or in verse 11 “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born.” But it doesn’t say that! It says, “I bring YOU good news of great joy” “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you”!  Why?

It’s as if the angel so wants these shepherds to believe this that he just keeps on saying, “This is for you! This is for you! This is for you! And so it is with your God today! This isn’t just “religious talk.” This isn’t just for those “church-going folk.” This isn’t just theoretical. No.

Instead, it’s “for you!” God wants YOU to know that YOUR sins are forgiven. God wants YOU to know that there is a place in heaven for YOU! God wants YOU to know that He loves YOU! God wants YOU to know that this baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, is YOUR Savior! Why was Jesus born? He was born to save! He was born to save YOU!

Who is Like our God?

1st Sunday of End Time
Micah 7:18-20

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins with his own blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father- to him be glory forever and ever Amen!  In the name of Jesus, who has forgiven all our sins, dear friends in Christ, the followers of Islam believe in a god who will give them paradise in exchange for a life of submission adherence to the 5 pillars of Islam, which include: reciting a creed, giving a certain amount of their wealth, praying 5 times a day, fasting from dawn to dusk during the month of Rhamadan, and if they are able, making a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The followers of Hindu have 3 paths to bliss: the first is by self-awareness meditation becoming “one with god,” another is through gaining more and more knowledge, and the last is through works of service.  The followers of the god of prosperity believe that if they just trust in wealth, it’ll keep them wanting more and more, and eventually they’ll have a few comforts for this life, which expire in this life, or at least they’ll die trying to get them.  The followers of the substance abuse god are promised a short time of ease or thrill in exchange for a massive physical, emotional, or material cost.  The followers of Baal an Asherah are promised rain and other necessities of life in exchange for a life of prayer, acts of service and sacred prostitution.  None of those just don’t even come close to a comparison, do they?  It was this incomparableness that the prophet Micah was pointing out in our text for this morning.

Well, who was Micah?  Micah was a prophet of God from the southwestern part of Judah, that is, the southern kingdom.  He lived during the 700s BC (so about 700 years before Christ, same time as Isaiah).  What was going on in the world at this time?  Well, remember that back in about 930 BC the kingdom of Israel split in two with a northern kingdom that quickly became a spiritual mess and a southern kingdom that was kind of mix of good and bad.  The northern kingdom pretty much ditched God for earthly stuff, mixed worship to God with worship of false gods like Baal or Asherah.  Well, it happens that the location of Israel was right on a major trade route connecting the eastern world with Egypt.  Which was both good and bad.  Good in that it brought a lot of people and their wealth through Israel, bad in that every other nation wanted control over the land.  Well, first God used the Assyrians to invade the northern kingdom in order to wake them up from the spiritual laxity, the northern kingdom was then forced to pay Assyria tribute.  Then the northern kingdom wanted to ally itself with the southern kingdom in order to rebel against Assyria, but instead, the southern kingdom decided to ally itself with Assyria, which brought Assyria to their doorstep and resulted in them having to pay tribute to Assyria as well.

Along with all this political intrigue going on was the result of the few years of economic prosperity that Judah, the southern kingdom had experienced.  And what typically happens during a time of economic prosperity?  A selfish materialism set it – people were only concerned with getting more and more stuff, the people became complacent toward worship and religion, the religious leaders told the people what they wanted to hear in order to earn a salary – in fact Micah even says, “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, “I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer, he would be just the prophet for you people!”, and personal, social, and moral values declined.  We’re told about Ahaz, a king of Judah during Micah’s time, who sacrificed his children in the fire to false gods, he set up altars to false gods in the temple, let injustice prevail, when God sent a foreign nations to oppress them and wake them up, they turned not to God, but to a different foreign nation for help, which forced them to have to pay tribute to that other nation.  Just a mess!

So, Micah’s prophecy focused on all these abuses.  His message was consistent with Moses’ message in Deuteronomy: If you obey God and walk in His ways, you will live long in the land, if you disobey, you’ll go into exile.  And since they didn’t stay faithful to God, they would face a humiliating destruction.  Micah prophesied both the destruction of Samaria (the capital of the Northern kingdom) and the destruction of Jerusalem “Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble.”  He preached God’s righteous judgment on those who rebelled against Him.

So, you can imagine trying to live as a faithful Israelite in this mess.  God’s judgment through the oppression of foreign nations is not a big surprise to you.  After all you have seen, why should God spare anyone?  And sure it might be easy to point out the sins of your fellow Israelites, but you also recognize the sin and corruption that lives right inside of you!  You’re not exactly a model Israelite believer either!  How much has the corrupt society in which you live have an influence on you?  So, as Micah foretells, God’s judgment is coming, devastation and destruction are on their way and it would make perfect sense if God came and just decimated everyone for their sins and took back His promise of a Savior.

But perhaps we live in a world not too distant to Micah’s world.  Do religious leaders today tell people what they want to hear in order to make a salary?  Have people grown complacent to worshipping God?  Are people more focused on themselves than helping others?  Are false gods worshipped on every street corner?  And can we say that this hasn’t had an effect on us?  Are we children of our times?  Have we erected altars to ourselves in our own hearts?  Have we grown complacent toward God?  Do we trust in human things for our safety and security in an uncertain and tumultuous world instead of God?  Perhaps our world isn’t much better than the world of Micah.

But woe and destruction isn’t how God’s message through Micah ends.  Our text for this morning is the very last words from the prophet Micah.  And what does it say?  “Who is a God like you?”  God has the attribute of incomparability.  God does what no one else does or can do.  What is it that makes our God, the one true God, stunningly different from every false god of the human imagination?  Our God intervenes in human history as not a Judge or Law-giver, but a  forgiving God.  He “pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance.”  The word translated “sin” really means perversity or wrong-doing and the guilt associated with it- both the wrong deed committed and it’s resultant guilty conscience.  And “transgression” is really conscious rebellion against what is right and good.  And what does God do?  He literally lifts the burden off the guilty conscience and He literally passes over sin.  The verbs “pardon” and “forgive” are both participles describing someone in continuous activity.  He is the God who “daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers.”  Who is a God like ours?

And he goes on: He doesn’t stay angry, but delights in showing mercy.  It pleases God to love His people.  “You will again have compassion on us.”  Have pity, sympathy as a mother for her child.  Here the Hebrew verb stresses the recurrence of this, in other words, God will again and again and again have compassion again and again and again, just like the waves of a sea roll against the shore again and again, never stopping- that’s God’s recurring compassion!  “You will tread our sins underfoot.”  Here God is pictured as a warrior going to battle against our sins.  Think about all your sins that you have amassed your entire life – the thousands upon thousands, millions upon millions of sins that are standing up to accuse you, that make you doubt God’s full and free forgiveness for those sins, that pester your conscience.  Here God is pictured as a warrior taking all of those sins and hurling them to the ground and trampling them under his feet.  He will not let them accuse His forgiven children anymore.  And if we yet have any doubts, what does he say, “and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  Here is the picture of Pharoah’s army charging at God’s people and God washing them under the Red Sea.  They’re buried in depths of the sea!  God’s so determined to forgive us that He has wiped all of our sins from His memory and He doesn’t want us to even remember them!  Spurlos Versenkt is what German U-Boat commanders used to say when they sunk and enemy ship and it means “sunk without a trace” – that’s what God has done with your sins!  Who is a God like ours?

Why does God do all of this?  “You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.”  God is faithful, He cannot lie, when God promises something it is true no matter what.  What did God pledge to Jacob and Abraham?  Do you remember?  “All nations on earth will be blessed through you.”  In other words, He would send a Savior through Judah.  How has God given us such forgiveness?  By doing what no false god of the human imagination would or could ever do: God fulfilled His ancient promise by sending His Son Jesus.  For about 33 years Jesus lived perfectly, trusted in God perfectly, never once gave into sin’s temptation.  Why?  So that His perfection might be credited to your account.  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.  Jesus died on the cross becoming the lightning rod for all of God’s wrath and anger and judgment and punishment for all of your sins and mine.  And he did all this while we were still sinners!  While we couldn’t earn it or deserve it!  Why?  All so that your sins may be forgiven and you may live in heaven forever!  Who – is –  a – God – like  – ours?!?!

See what a forgiving God you have!!  So what do you do with news like this?  First, relish it.  Yes it’s true, the Lord could return at any moment as the Sovereign Judge of all the earth, but that’s no reason for you to be scared for you are forgiven and God wants you to know for sure that your sins have been forgiven in full- if you have any doubts, look at what God, who cannot lie, tells you here!  Second, reflect it.  Yes, we live in a world full of sin and corruption, maybe just as bad as Micah’s day, and yes, as faithful Christians we are a small remnant, as the faithful few at Micah’s time, and yes as such our lives won’t be a bed of roses, we will be wronged, we will be mistreated, we may be harmed, even fellow believers may do us wrong.  But remember, who is a God like ours?  Who has pardoned all your sins, forgiven all your iniquities, and cast them into the depths of the sea so they’re gone forever?  And it’s His amazing forgiveness that allows you and me to reflect it by forgiving and forgetting in our lives!  Amen.

Jesus is Your King!

Christmas Eve Sermonettes

2 Samuel 7:11-16

Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon…what do these rulers have in common?  Oh, they were great leaders according to human standards.  Yet, each one failed in this respect: they died and their kingdoms ended.  Even the Old Testament King David, oh he was great and was called “a man after God’s own heart,” but he too, died, and his kingdom came to an end.  Death seems like the unconquerable enemy, doesn’t it?  Even for us, Christmas time can be difficult when we think about family members who aren’t around anymore.  Death is a powerful enemy.

But a King has come.  God Himself has established His kingdom.  A kingdom whose King is God’s very own Son. A kingdom which will never end.  A kingdom whose enemies, including death, have all been defeated, completely.

This King has come for you.  You are part of Jesus’ eternal Kingdom.  Death no longer reigns.  Death no longer has its slimy grip on you.  Jesus has authority over death.  Jesus has conquered death for you.  For you physical death is only a sleep.  The King Jesus turned death into a door to heaven.  Yes, that newborn King is the greatest King of all because He came to give you life…life forever in His Kingdom in heaven!

Micah 5:2-5 A Peace-Bringing King

“Send out the troops!  Punish that man!  Increase taxes!  Invade that country!  Do this!  Do that!  Obey me!” When we think of king we might think he’d say things like that right?  But do we think of a King when we hear, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry and He who believes in me will never be thirsty…I am the resurrection and the life.”

There is a King who says these things.  He is the King.  He is not a brutal, commanding, and terrifying king.  He is not a harsh dictator or law giver.  Rather, He is the Good Shepherd who guards His people with the strength of the Lord. He is the King born to bring absolute peace and security.  He is the King born for you!

This King born in Bethlehem gives you peace.  He is the answer to all of life’s unsettling questions, questions like: How do we stand before God?  God loves us as His dear children.  What happens when we die?  We have an eternal home in heaven.  Will we have to endure any unbearable trial or trouble on this earth?  We rest securely in the arms of the Lord.  Is there anything we have done that God won’t forgive?  NOTHING will separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord.   If all of these questions have been answered, do we have peace?  Absolutely!  Because the King of peace has come for you!