Love Mercy: Micah 4:1-5
During the tragic civil war in
Lebanon, a young Christian training for the ministry was walking from one
village to the next when he was ambushed by an armed Druze militia.
The Druze ordered his captive down the mountain trail to a spot where he was to
be executed. But the Christian, who had also received military training,
surprised his captor and was able to disarm him. Now, the tables were turned,
and it was the Druze who was ordered down the trail. As they walked, however,
the Christian began to reflect on what was happening.
Recalling the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you," his anger softened and he found he could go no further. Throwing the gun into the bushes, he told the Druze he was free to go. He turned round and began climbing up the hill. Minutes later, he heard footsteps running behind him. "Is this the end?" he wondered, thinking his enemy had retrieved the gun and was about to finish him off. Ignoring the noise he carried on, never glancing back. Suddenly his enemy grab his arm and embraced him and in tears poured out thanks for sparing his life. Mercy is often dressed in the clothes of forgiveness.
Although it usually isn't an
enemy in uniform we are challenged to forgive, we have plenty of opportunities
to show mercy everyday. Family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours, even
strangers we meet, need mercy. How do we know? Because you and I do too.
During May, we are taking the Micah Challenge. “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). Last week we learnt what it means to ‘act justly’. Today we want to learn how to “love mercy”. To love mercy. To love mercy. Lets savor that expression. “Love mercy.”
Please turn with me to Micah 4:1-5 (page 932 in the Church Bibles) and lets see what we can learn about mercy this morning. By the way, can I encourage you to bring your personal Bible with you on Sundays? And if you don’t own a study Bible – one with cross references and explanatory notes, may I encourage you to sell your shirt to buy one? It is the most important purchase you will ever make in your life.
You may know that when the children graduate to Explorers we give them a Bible. We are trying to encourage the children and young people to bring their Bibles to Sunday Club. If you do, they will. I’ll do a deal with you. If you bring yours, I will bring mine. You’ll get more out of the sermon, if you follow with the preacher. And you’ll keep the preacher on his toes also.
In Micah 4, let us consider the source, the vision and the practice of God’s mercy.
1. The Source of God’s Mercy : In the Past
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)
The Bible tells us that the problems of our world will not be solved in New York at the United Nations. They will not be solved in the Hague at the International Court of Justice. They will not be solved in London as the centre of the business world. They will not even be solved in Geneva by the World Council of Churches. The answer lies in Jerusalem and specifically the Lord’s Temple.
Micah predicts that people from many nations of the world will stream into Jerusalem to encounter God. In the centre of the Temple, in the Holy of Holies lies the Mercy Seat – the lid or cover of the Ark of the Covenant was described as the footstool of God (Hebrews 9:5). This was where, once a year the High Priest could atone for the sins of the people. This was where mercy was received. Now when Micah speaks of “The last days” he is not referring to the end of time. He is not predicting, as some Christians believe, the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple to which the nations will come to worship God. Animal sacrifices? I don’t think so. No, Micah is referring to a much more important event – the turning point in history when God would accomplish his purposes for the world in Jerusalem. Notice Micah predicts two movements in 4:2. Centripetal and centrifugal.
1.1 The Centripetal Mercy of God
“Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2)
How would the nations stream to meet with the living God? How could the nations stream to encounter a terrifying, holy, unapproachable God? In John 12, Jesus explains when and how this was going to happen.
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:31-33)
When Jesus was lifted up on the cross he literally drew all peoples to himself. On another occasion he warned “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only mediator. As he stretched his arms open wide on Good Friday Jesus drew people of all nations back to the Father heart of God. Hebrews says,
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16).
The cross draws people back to God. The richness of God’s mercy is found supremely in Jesus Christ. Paul writes to the Ephesians,
“Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5)
How can a just and holy God, have mercy on those who deserve only his wrath and judgement? Only in the one who was God and man, the sinless one for sinners, who was pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). I want to commend to you a new book that explains this better than any other I know. It is destined to become one of the most significant books ever written.
It is called “Pierced for our Transgressions” The book is already causing a good deal of controversy because it explains the biblical doctrine of “Penal Substitution.” It exposes the shallowness of other attempts to explain away the cross. Jesus was indeed literally “pierced for our transgressions.” This is how the wrath of God and the love of God were both satisfied. We experience God’s mercy in the cross and no where else. This is the centripetal mercy of God.
1.2 The Centrifugal Mercy of God
“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:2)
When was this centrifugal work of God fulfilled? That’s right - at Pentecost, the risen Jesus sent out those who had received mercy, to proclaim the good news of God’s mercy to all nations. This is the continuing centrifugal work of Christ. This is how Paul describes the impact of God’s mercy in his life. “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Do you know the difference between grace and mercy? If grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. That is why the words so often go together. Paul writes to Timothy, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2. See also 2 Timothy 1:2 & 2 John 3). Grace is God’s free unmerited love. Mercy is the demonstration of that grace and the ground on which we stand. Peace is our experience of that grace and mercy. The source of God’s mercy - in history.
2. The Vision of God’s Mercy: In the Future
Imagine a world where mercy has become the common currency. Imagine a world where poverty is history. Imagine a world in which war is a distant memory. No armies, no weapons, no fear, no greed, no need. Imagine a world in which every infectious, every treatable, every curable disease was eradicated years ago. Imagine a world in which every child lives to old age. Imagine a world with no missing children. No child abuse. No domestic violence. No paedophiles. No bullies. No prisons. No detention centres. No torture. No death squads. No tyrants. No despots. No dictators. Imagine a world in which the rights of the weak and vulnerable are protected. Where justice is universal. Impartial, objective, compassionate, merciful. Imagine a world where peace reigns. Imagine living in such a world.
That was the vision behind the League of Nations, born out of the ravages of the 1st World War. Established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles, the aim was "to promote international cooperation and so achieve peace and security." The League of Nations was unable to avert a Second World War. But on January 1st, 1942, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought together representatives of 26 countries to affirm a “Declaration of the United Nations” pledging their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. Two years later, the United Nations Charter was drawn up by representatives of the eventual victors - China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by representatives of 50 nations and the United Nations officially came into existence three months later on 24 October 1945.
The vision behind the organisation is best expressed in a sculpture found in the UN garden. A gift of the Soviet Union and presented in 1959, the bronze statue is of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a ploughshare. It symbolizes the universal desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all humanity. Naïve? Idealistic? Fantasy?
Although the UN has not been able to deliver peace in the last 60 years, you better get used to it. Because one day, we will. For such a world is coming. But at God’s initiative. What will it look like? Micah tells us in verses 4:3-4.
judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and
wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into
pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they
train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their
own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has
spoken.” (Micah 4:3-4)
Lets examine this glorious vision of the future under four headings.
2.1 No more War (4:3)
“He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Micah 4:3)
What do the nations fight over? What are most disputes about? Territory. Raw materials. Assets. When Jesus returns there will be no need of armies, weapons or military training. Jesus will rule the nations with justice. No more war.
2.2 No more Poverty (4:4)
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree.” (Micah 4:4)
When Jesus returns there will be no more want. There is sufficient food in the world to feed everyone. All we lack is the will. When Jesus returns no one will lack for needs. No more war. No more poverty.
2.3 No more Fear (4:4)
“and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4)
When Jesus returns John says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
That is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. Hang on to it. Memorise it. Cherish it. Live it. No more war. No more poverty. No more fear. Let me ask you, do you believe such a world is coming? You better, because “the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4). Are you praying for such a world? If you are not sure, think about what you are praying in the Lord’s Prayer. By God’s grace, are you working to create such a world? The source of God’s mercy: in history. The vision of God’s mercy: in the future.
Practice of God’s Mercy: In the Present
“All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5)
Micah says, the rest of the
unsaved world may continue to walk in the name of their false gods, but we will
walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. Do you see how verse 5
encourages a response to the source of God’s mercy in the past and the vision
of God’s mercy in the future? Jude puts it like this,
“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 21-23. See also 2 Peter 3:11)
Notice how Jude uses the
word ‘mercy’ three times. As you wait to experience the vision of God’s mercy,
be merciful and show mercy. We must be merciful because God has shown us mercy
(Luke 6:36). God desires mercy not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6). Mercy
is an attribute of God and a sign therefore that we are his children. What
would a week of merciful acts look like? When someone at work says a harsh
word… when someone criticises you, humiliates you or denigrates you, what will
loving mercy look like? What will the effect be on work colleagues? On your
boss when you give mercy. And at home – this week when you are ignored, under
appreciated, taken for granted, or when voices are raised, what will showing
mercy look like? What will the effect be of showing mercy toward a spouse,
children, parents? Attractive? Winsome? This is your homework. To fill your
week with little acts of mercy. Loving mercy, giving mercy, showing mercy.
of mercy in history.
The vision of mercy in the future.
The practice of mercy in the present.
Is Micah’s vision sufficient to motivate you to give the rest of your life to loving mercy, giving mercy, showing mercy? Can I get an Amen? Then let us stand. In Micah 4:5 we read the response of the people to Micah’s challenge. Lets make it our own. Lets say the verse together as an act of dedication as we too take the Micah Challenge. “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” And they all said … “Amen”
 Hildegard Goss-Mayr of the "International Fellowship of Reconciliation"