How do we parent through family crisis? In today’s scenario, a husband and wife are at odds. Son is pitted against father. Daughter is pitted against her mother. Even the daughter-in-law sides with the daughter against mom. And all the compounded animosity toward the mother weighs heavy on the father, until it all appears that a man’s worst enemies are inside his own home. So when a family breaks apart like this, what is a man to do?
This scenario is what makes the seventh chapter of Micah so bleak. It’s the worst of times. The culture is fracturing apart due to sin. No one can trust anyone. Closer to home, families are falling into crisis. It is a time, warns Micah, to “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 [from a wife, that is]; 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” (Micah 7:5–6).
Considering the pain of such chaos in society and in the home, Micah models two things in verse 9. He honestly reckons with himself, and he lays hold of his hope in God. “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” (Micah 7:9).
Here’s Pastor John, in a 2010 sermon, explaining this text’s relevance for the broken family today.
What makes verse 9 at the beginning so stunning — “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned” — is because he says it in the vortex of being sinned against. You know that this is one of the hardest things in the world, don’t you — being sinned against by friends, family, coworkers? It is impossible without the Holy Spirit.
Own Your Offenses
So Micah knows he’s being sinned against. He knows some of the accusations against him are wrong. He is going to be vindicated in something, and he knows that God is for him and not against him. God will bring him out into the light, out of darkness. He will vindicate him. So Micah is bold in his confidence in his assertion — amazingly bold. Nevertheless, what he draws attention to, to explain the Lord’s indignation, is his own sin: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.”
“The posture of parenting with hope in the worst of times is the posture of brokenhearted boldness.”
I’m arguing that the posture for parenting with hope in the worst of times is a brokenhearted boldness, and I’m asking first, Why is Micah brokenhearted? And the center of the answer, the core of the answer, is not their sin against him, but his sin against God. That’s the core of his answer. And that’s the core of parenting. If it doesn’t happen, nothing else is going to go right — nothing. Wives and husbands, here is where it begins, or here it starts over. The posture of parenting with hope in the worst of times is the posture of brokenhearted boldness. And the brokenheartedness is first, centrally, because of his own sin.
That is a great battle that we face, and we can only find it by God’s grace. I pray for you. God grant that all of us would be given the miracle, by the Holy Spirit, of the kind of humility that, in the midst of being sinned against, we own our sin against God. That’s a healing miracle, the kind of thing that could give hope where you thought there was none.
When you stand before God on the judgment day to give an account, guess what? He will not give you one minute to itemize the sins against you — not one. For several reasons:
- He has a book; he doesn’t need your help.
- You’d get it wrong; your memory is not good enough.
- You’d use it for self-justification.
You don’t get one minute at the last day to talk about anybody else’s sin — none. It’s just your own.
So how do you parent in the worst of times with hope? How do you parent with hope when the family is divided two to three? You look to the Lord, you cry to the Lord (Micah 7:7), and then you cry to him with two deep, Spirit-wrought, word-informed convictions. Are you getting there? Only God can get you there. Preaching helps, but only God can get you there.
I’m trying to build into your life right now, as parents or parents to-be or single people, two deep convictions, governing convictions, emotionally effective convictions — two of them: brokenhearted boldness.
First conviction: my sin is my biggest problem. My sin is our marriage problem. My sin is my parenting problem. My sin is my work problem. My sin is the church’s problem. And I don’t deserve anything from God. We are not and never will be perfect parents. We have sinned. Call it anything you want to soften it.
We’re not foolish. We’re not naive. We know we’ve been sinned against. Wives have sinned against us. Children sin against us. Pastors sin against us. We know that. That’s just not the core of our issue. God will not call me to account for anybody’s sin against me — none. He will call me to account for one thing: How have I responded? Have I been a sinner? And I have. Only the Holy Spirit can make us feel this guilt as we should deep down. So that’s the first conviction I’m praying to God would work in our hearts.
Second conviction: there is no God like our God. I want you to be so deeply convinced that he pardons iniquity. He passes over transgression. He relents from anger. He delights in steadfast love. I want you to be just as deeply convinced of that as that you are a sinner.
Great Sinner, Glad Savior
Do you see how these work together? This is so important. You need to get the next sixty seconds. I have a deep, deep sense of conviction from my own sin in the midst of being sinned against. I’m emotionally governed here by my own failures, and I’m being humbled by that. That’s a miracle. And over here is a massive, strong, unshakable conviction: this God that rules the world pardons iniquity.
Do you see how they work together? The first one causes me to be more amazed at the pardon, but unless I’m confident in the pardon, I’m going to lie to myself. I’m going to short-circuit this conviction. I will not let it go to the bottom — I can’t because it’s devastating. It’s just too devastating, unless I got this fixed. Do you get how they work together? It won’t work. You can’t have a God that you’re super excited about because of his pardon if you don’t consider your own sinfulness. And you can’t go here unless you’ve got a God who’s super excited in his pardon.
And you might say that won’t work, but I’m saying it’s a miracle. It’s a miracle. I can’t explain the Christian life. I can’t explain the new birth. I can’t explain conviction of sin. I can’t explain how God shows up and does two things that depend on each other at the same time. But he does. Most of you have tasted it. You have. You need to go deeper. But almost all of you in this room, I would guess, have tasted what I’m talking about.
So those two deep convictions, brokenhearted boldness, are what I mean by parenting with hope in the worst of times. Usually, we don’t even know: “Was it mainly me, or mainly them? I can’t even figure this out.” We don’t even know. In that vortex, we own what we know: “I’m a sinner, and he’s a great Savior.”
Shaped by the Cross
So how do you close? You close by saying, “Okay, we’re Christians, and we know now that from this side of the cross, if I look at where God bought my pardon, both of these are intensified.” Aren’t they intensified, not lessened? You don’t really know how grievous your sin is until you watch Jesus die for it. You don’t. You can’t. You just can’t know how bad it is. You can’t feel how bad it is. The whole point of how gory the cross is is how gory my sin is. That’s the whole point. You just can’t know.
“You don’t really know how grievous your sin is until you watch Jesus die for it. You don’t. You can’t.”
Therefore, Christians have an edge on guilt. We’re better at it, hopefully. We should be the guiltiest people on the planet. We should be more devastated than anybody. We’ve seen the glory of the cross. And the confidence level in our hearts that he passes over this horror should rise with every scream from his mouth on the cross. So on this side of the cross, what changes is this: Now we see the price that was paid. It intensifies how wretched I am, and it intensifies how utterly committed our covenant God is to pay for it and draw us into his family in spite of it. It’s just incredible.
And for Micah, Jesus was just a prophecy. Do you remember it? I’ll read it to you.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days. . . .
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. (Micah 5:2, 4)
That shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, and now we see in that the greatest clarity of our sin and God’s commitment to rescue us from it. Christ took our judgment.