The message today is about bold brokenness. The main point of the message is that, since we sin against God every day, we should be broken; and, since the throne of God is a throne of grace, we should be bold.
Another way to describe the message of this text would be to say that the message is about confident contrition — contrite because we still sin, confident because we have a Savior.
Or we could say the text is about rugged remorse — remorse because we fall short of his glory, rugged because grace makes us bounce back like a tough leather ball.
Brokenness, Contrition, and Remorse
Do you see this in verse 9? This is an amazing verse from God’s word to us this morning!
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him.
There’s brokenness and contrition and remorse: “I have sinned against God! And I will not try to defend myself or in any way lessen my guilt. I will bear the indignation of the Lord. He has every right to be angry with me. I put my hand upon my mouth and my back to the rod. For I have sinned against the Lord of glory, and I am ashamed.” But then look at the next two lines of verse 9:
Until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
There’s boldness and confidence and ruggedness: “God will plead my cause. God will execute judgment for me.”
I have sinned against him, and so I am broken beneath his holy indignation. But this very God — this very same angry God — will soon plead my cause, he will take my side and vindicate me, and so I am bold in his grace. Broken under his indignation, but bold in his grace.
“God will plead my cause. God will execute judgment for me.”
What is so remarkable and helpful about this verse is that it keeps these two things so close together. Many of us feel that we can’t live this way — keeping these two things so close together. If we think of God as angry with us, we collapse in despair. If we think of God as gracious to us, then we feel there is no place for brokenness and remorse. And so today we tend to separate what the Bible keeps together.
The message today, then, is this: Let’s keep these things together. When we sin, let’s accept the indignation of God and not deny it or hide ourselves from it. And not only that, but when we sin, let’s be bold and believe that this very God will soon plead our cause and vindicate us in justice.
That’s today’s message: in your experience of God, keep together what God has joined — brokenness and boldness.
The Wider Picture in Micah
Now let’s step back for a moment and make sure that we see the wider picture in the book of Micah.
The Most Destructive Enemy of God’s People
Here is a prophet that is living and preaching in Judea during the reign of three kings: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). That was about 700 years before Christ and 2,700 years before us. The great political enemy of God’s people in those days was Assyria, and Micah sees the Assyrians destroy the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. But the most destructive enemy of God’s people was the same then as it is now, namely, sin.
The hordes of Assyria are a piece of cake to God Almighty. In fact during Hezekiah’s reign, God slew 185,000 soldiers in one night to save the Holy City. External threats are not the most dangerous enemies in our lives. What would bring Judea and Jerusalem to ruin was their sin. And so, God sent Micah to call the people to repent and to warn them of coming judgment.
Micah’s Warnings to a Wicked People
Their sins are very up to date. In 2:1–2 he says,
Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil upon their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields, and seize them;
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
In 6:11–12 he cries out for God against the dishonesty in business:
Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales
and with a bag of deceitful weights?
Your rich men are full of violence;
your inhabitants speak lies,
and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
But it’s not just the businessmen and women that are corrupt. The clergy are phony and driven by the love of money not God. Look at 3:5:
Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
In other words, they preach for hire — they say what the rich people in the congregation want to hear so the building gets built faster.
It was an evil day. Micah had the unpopular job of warning people that the corruption in business and commerce and religion and politics was going to bring terrible judgment from God if there was no repentance.
Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,
like a woman in travail;
for now you shall go forth from the city
and dwell in the open country;
you shall go to Babylon. (4:10)
The Response God Demands
Now how should the people of God respond to this kind of preaching — full of indictment and warning about the judgment of God? Before I show Micah’s answer, let’s be sure we realize that it’s a question for us too, not just them. The church today needs to hear the warnings of Micah.
I was reading a message last week on revival, called “Fire from Heaven.” In it the writer says he doubts that the church is yet in the throes of revival as some are saying. If we were he says,
Why is every form of moral impurity rampant in our evangelical, Bible-preaching churches? Why is the divorce rate as high in the church as it is in the world? Why do the vast majority of Christians never introduce anyone to Christ? Why do people laugh their way down the aisle to make “decisions”? Why are our churches loaded with people who want a part-time, convenient, weekend Christian experience and who show no serious interest in spiritual growth? Why do pastors have to twist people’s arms to give, to serve, to get involved in the work of the ministry? Why are church splits so common? Why are so many professing Christians barren, empty, hurting, confused, and in spiritual bondage? Why is the world so utterly disinterested in what we have to offer? (SPIRIT OF REVIVAL, “Fire from Heaven,” Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., 18:1, p. 7)
There are some Micah’s around today who see in the American church the same kind of weakness and corruption Micah saw 2,700 years ago in the people of Israel. So now when we ask how a person should respond to Micah’s preaching, the question is not just how they should have, but how we should now, today. We are sinners and the church is in great need of repentance and reform and cleansing.
Micah shows two kinds of response to his preaching. Both are based on grace, but one is right and the other is wrong.
The Wrong Way to Lean on Grace
First, let’s look at the wrong one — the wrong way to depend on grace in the face of Micah’s exposure of our sin. Look at 3:11. Micah speaks to the judges and the priests and the prophets of Jerusalem:
Its [Jerusalem’s] heads give judgment for a bribe,
its priests teach for hire,
its prophets divine for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
“Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No evil shall come upon us.”
What is this response to Micah’s preaching? They respond by saying, “We are secure!” Why do they think that they are secure? “We are secure because the Lord is in the midst of us! There is his temple! There is the ark of the covenant — the covenant! We are the covenant people! We have Abraham as our father (Matthew 3:9). We are leaning on the Lord! Leaning on the everlasting arms of grace! We have a God of grace! Turn your preaching of judgment to the nations, Micah, not to us. Look at 2:6. What do they say to Micah?
“Do not preach” — thus they preach —
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
Here is one way to lean on grace, brothers and sisters. And if we do, it will pierce our hand and kill us. There is a wrong way to depend on grace. There is a false security.
Bonhoeffer’s Attack on Cheap Grace
Do you remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young German theologian? He was hanged on April 9, 1945, by a special order of Himmler at the concentration camp in Buechenwald. He wrote a little book that was read by many in the radical days of the late sixties when I was in college. It is called The Cost of Discipleship.
“We are sinners and the church is in great need of repentance and reform and cleansing.”
I bought it when I was a senior in 1967 and it cost me $1.45. I thank God when I look at my underlining in this book as a 21-year-old student in search of a Cause worth living for.
What Bonhoeffer attacks in his first essay in this book is this response to Micah’s preaching. He calls it “cheap grace.” Listen and see if this doesn’t ring true to Scripture and nail the problem of these people.
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. (45)
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. (47)
Let the Christian rest content with his worldliness . . . Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of grace — for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace. (47)
The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. (55)
Cheap grace was rampant in Micah’s day. It was rampant in Bonhoeffer’s day in Germany.
We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ. (57)
And today it is rampant among evangelicals in America. And it is the wrong way to respond to the preaching of the prophet Micah. It is the wrong way to lean on grace. And if the church doesn’t change, there will be judgment — there was in Israel. And has there not been in the sterility of the European Protestant church? What the future holds for us and for the church in America is whether we learn the other way to respond to Micah’s preaching — the other way to lean on grace.
The Right Way: Bold Brokenness
That other way is what we were talking about at the beginning. It is the way of bold brokenness. In Micah 7:7–9 Israel has learned to respond the right way to the preaching of sin and judgment. It’s Israel talking in these verses (as we know from the feminine form of the pronoun “your” in verse 10 referring probably to the “daughter of Zion”).
Let me sum up the way of bold brokenness in four steps all taken from these verses.
1. Experience Unshakable Solidarity with God
The way of bold brokenness begins with an unshakable solidarity with God. I get this from the last phrase in verse 7, “My God will hear me.” The words “my God” show that the right way to lean on grace is based on a deep unshakable union with God. This is what happens when a person turns from depending on self and begins to depend on God.
It’s what a traitor does when he makes up his mind to surrender to his rightful sovereign. He lays down his weapons of opposition, he accepts the pardon of the king, and then takes an oath of allegiance. From that day on he is the king’s subject and the king is his king. So the way of bold brokenness begins with this unshakable solidarity with God — he is my God!
2. Accept Indignation When You Sin
The way of bold brokenness accepts the indignation when we sin against our King. We don’t minimize its ugliness. We don’t play down the terrible offense it is to God. We don’t say God can’t get angry at us. Instead we tremble at his displeasure. We are broken by our sin and contrite and remorseful.
“The way of bold brokenness begins with an unshakable solidarity with God.”
I get this from the first two lines of verse 9: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.” I think this is one of the greatly needed hours in the church today — the hour when we sit quietly and humbly in the ashes of our guilt under the cloud of God’s disfavor and bear the indignation of the Lord in patience. (See Hebrews 12:5–11, 28–29; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Revelation 3:19; 1 Peter 1:17; Romans 11:20; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; Philippians 2:12.)
3. Take Bold Confidence in the Grace of God
The way of bold brokenness never loses confidence in the grace of God but boldly believes that this very God of indignation will plead our cause and bring us from the darkness of judgment to the light of life. You can see this powerfully and boldly expressed in the next lines of verse 9.
I will bear his indignation
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me forth to the light, I shall behold his deliverance.
My darkness is the darkness of my sin and his indignation. But he himself will bring me forth to the light. He will be my deliverance. Look at the boldness of verse 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.
The difference between this and “cheap grace” is that sin is taken so seriously. There is a reprehensible fall. There is real and terrible indignation from God. There is a time in awful darkness. There is brokenness and contrition and remorse as we bear patiently the chastisement of our God. If this is missing from the Christian life, it becomes shallow and inauthentic.
“We scan the horizon constantly for his coming to help us.”
But in the ashes of our regret, the flame of boldness never goes out. It may flicker. But when Satan taunts us that we are finished, we lay hold on Micah’s sword and say, “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 . . . He will bring me forth to the light; I shall see his deliverance.”
4. Look to God for Deliverance
Which brings to the last step in the way of bold brokenness. Since we believe that our God is our only hope — even the God who is angry at our sin — we look to him for deliverance. We scan the horizon constantly for his coming to help us. I get this from verse 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.
Call on Your God
My closing exhortation this morning is that when you sin, you bear the indignation of the Lord in brokenness, and that in this brokenness you boldly believe that this very God will plead your cause, and that you look to him and wait for him with this confidence: “My God will hear me.”
Can you call God your God this morning? Is there an unshakable solidarity between you and him? This is not inherited. It is chosen by an act of forsaking all other gods and swearing allegiance to the one true God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Choose ye this day whom you shall serve, says the prophet (Joshua 24:15). Let him break you. Let him bless you. Let him make you bold.