But That’s Not The Kind of God I Worship!
“‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond. ‘Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way!'” – Micah 2:6 NLT
Too many today have a one-dimensional view of God. They want to see Him as loving and kind, gracious and forgiving. He is like the kindly old grandfather who excuses all the faults of his grandchildren and doles out gifts and words of exhortation. This perspective has caused many t0 reject the God of the Old Testament because He comes across as angry, violent, vindictive, judgmental, harsh, demanding, and somewhat bloodthirsty. They have a hard time reconciling the God pictured in the Old Testament with the kind, gracious and merciful God of the New Testament who sent His own Son to die on the cross as payment for the sins of all mankind. The Old Testament is full of prophesies of doom and gloom, while the New Testament is all about the Good News.
Yet in the book of Micah you find these two aspects of God’s personality revealed side by side. You clearly see the God of judgment, warning His people of the punishment He is about to bring on them for their sin and rebellion. “Look! The Lord is coming! He leaves His throne in heaven and tramples the heights of the earth” (Micah 1:3 NLT). He was coming to judge and to punish. Why? “Because of the rebellion of Israel – yes, the sins of the whole nation” (Micah 1:5 NLT). Then Micah spends seven chapters listing out their various sins: Fraud (2:2), theft (2:8), greed (2:9), debauchery (2:11), oppression (3:3), hypocrisy (3:4), heresy (3:5), injustice (3:9), extortion and lying (6:12), and murder (7:2). Just to name a few!
And just like today, the people of God didn’t want to hear what Micah had to say. At least not the negative part. “‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond. ‘Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way!'” (Micah 2:6 NLT). They were God’s chosen people. Their God loved them. He would never let anything like that happen to them. But Micah warns them, “Should you talk that way, O family of Israel? Will the Lord’s Spirit have patience with such behavior?” (Micah 2:7 NLT). These people only wanted to hear good news. They wanted their prophets and preachers to give them messages that were easy on the ears and less convicting to their spirits. Micah sarcastically accuses them: “Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you, ‘I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!’ That’s just the kind of prophet you would like!” (Micah 2:11 NLT). In other words, they would love to be told that their sinful actions and attitudes were perfectly fine, that God was pleased with them, that they didn’t need to change.
But God was not pleased. He was angry and had run out of patience. His holiness demanded that He mete out justice. He must do the right thing. He cannot leave sin unpunished. He cannot simply overlook it. So judgment was non-optional. But at the same time, Micah gives us a glimpse of the love and mercy of God at the very same time He is warning about the coming wrath and judgment of God. He reminds them of God’s promise. “Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left. I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture” (Micah 2:12 NLT). He tells them, “Your King will lead you; the Lord himself will guide you” (Micah 2:13b). God is both just and loving. He is holy and merciful. He is consistent in every way. Part of our problem is that we do not fully understand the nature of God. We gravitate to the more kind and loving version we find in the New Testament. But in doing so, we create a version of God that is incomplete and imperfect. Micah tries to show a comprehensive and complete image of God. Without His wrath, His love loses its power. Without His justice looming over us, demanding that right be done and sin be punished, His grace becomes cheap and disposable. We wrestle with some of the aspects of God’s character because they seem harsh and contradictory. But Micah reminds us, “…they do not know the Lord’s thoughts or understand his plan” (Micah 4:12 NLT). His punishment seems harsh and hard to understand. But if we only focus there we fail to understand that His punishment is coupled with mercy. He not only rebukes, He restores and redeems. He punishes, but then He prospers. He disciplines out of love. He rebukes because He has to. He redeems because He wants to. That is the kind of God I worship. He is not fickle, weak-willed, easy on sin, or harsh without a reason. God has a reason for everything He does – including bring punishment and blessing. Because He has a plan and a purpose behind it all.
Father, help us to grow in our understanding of you. Keep us from viewing You one-dimensionally and trying to paint a portrait of You that fits what we want from a god. May we grow to appreciate the fulness of Your character and understand more fully the richness of Your grace and mercy. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men