The Great Battle for Everlasting Peace

December 10, 2023 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Micah

Scripture: Micah 3:1– 5:15

According to Christian tradition, the theme of this second Sunday of Advent is peace. Peace. If the first Sunday of Advent has hope as its theme, the second Sunday of Advent tells us that it is peace we are hoping for, the end of conflict, war, and hostilities that make life so fearful, so burdensome, so stressful. We celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, the incarnation of the Son of God, because we see in him the arrival of everlasting peace. As we sang this morning:

‌Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.

‌Now, the peace we celebrate in Jesus is not only the peace he brings between God and the individual sinner. It is that, of course. “Since we have been justified by faith,” Paul says in Romans 5:1, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” But Jesus came to bring peace to the entire world. Real, objective peace, not just some sense of “inner peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace because he has conquered all opposition against his reign.

‌It is true, of course, that not everyone yet believes this, so war and conflict and hostilities continue. But Christians believe this. We have to. The prophets said that this is what the arrival of the Messiah would mean. Isaiah said

‌For to us a child is born,‌
to us a son is given;‌‌
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,‌‌
and his name shall be called‌‌
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,‌‌
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.‌‌
Of the increase of his government and of peace‌‌
there will be no end,‌‌
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,‌‌
to establish it and to uphold it‌‌
with justice and with righteousness‌‌
from this time forth and forevermore.‌‌
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7)

‌And so he has. And we Christians, of all people, ought to live in this reality.‌

This is what the prophet Micah tells us, in the second major section of his book, chapters 3–5. He speaks about the lack of peace and the cause of it, the promise of peace and the wait for it, and the arrival of peace and the influence of it.‌

The Lack of Peace

‌First, notice what Micah tells us about the lack of peace and the cause of it.

‌Chapter 3 can be broken down into three sections, addressed to three different groups. Verses 1-4 address the “heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel.” Verses 5-8 address “the prophets who lead my people astray.” And verses 9-12 return to speak to the “heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel.” In other words, this chapter contains words of judgment directed at the elite in Israel, calling them to account for failure of their responsibilities.

‌In other words, God lays the blame on his own people for the lack of peace. They are the cause of it. How so?

‌Abuse of Power

‌In the first section (vv. 1-4), these rulers in Israel are asked, “Is it not for you to know justice?” Those who are in charge ought to be the ones who make sure that justice is done. That should go without saying.

‌But in verses 2-3, Micah inveighs against these rulers. They have not been just. They have hated what is good and right and loved what is wrong and evil. They have, in fact, cannibalized the very people they were called to lead. What could be worse than that? Of course, this is always the temptation for those in power, the temptation to use that power to benefit themselves and to abuse those they are supposed to be leading.[1]

‌The same accusation is at play at the end of chapter 3, when again the “rulers of the house of Israel” are described as those “who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight” (v. 9).

‌So, what was the failure of Israel’s leaders? It was the abuse of their power, their failure to carry out justice, and so God proclaims that he will carry out his justice against them.

‌Complacent Luxury

‌From Micah’s words in verse 11, we discern that the leaders in Israel, basically the nation’s judges, priests, and prophets, have all turned to injustice because of their love of money.

‌Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
‌its priests teach for a price;‌
its prophets practice divination for money;‌

Greed, the love of money, is always near at hand where we see a lack of peace. Injustice is often fueled by the fact that those in power find that their position provides them with endless opportunities to increase their luxury, all while remaining blind to the poverty of others.

‌Just look at verse 5. This verse is directed specifically at Israel’s prophets who lead the people astray, crying out “Peace” so long as they “have something to eat” but declaring war against those who put “nothing into their mouths.” When things are going just fine for me, I tend to think “all is well” and get impatient with those who are unsettled. But, boy, if you don’t give me what I expect or what I think I am owed and, watch out!

‌Distrust in the Lord

‌What do we learn about God and his demands from these prophecies in Micah 3? Clearly, God cares about justice, and he demands that those who are in power see to it that justice is done, and he demands that those in power not abuse that power for their own benefit. Those who do so, God says he will judge. Those who abuse their power will find, according to verse 4, that God will not answer them when they cry out to him. Those who lead God’s people astray by proclaiming peace so long as they are provided for will find, in the words of verse 7, “no answer from God” when the sun goes down on them.

‌I know that it would be tempting to turn all of this into a weapon against your favorite political enemy. But let’s first acknowledge some of the more obvious points.‌

God cares about justice for all people. As Martin Luther King wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and he had solid biblical support for that. The people of God cannot be content just to have their own needs met, not if we believe that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

‌The question is, do we really believe that? Do we? Look again at verse 11. The leaders of Israel are here accused of abusing their power for their own gain, and yet, the verse says, “they lean on the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.'” Let’s put this all together to get the picture here. The leaders of Israel are pictured as having an appearance of piety. They say things like, “We trust in the Lord, so everything will be ok.” But underneath the appearance, the prophet is exposing them for their gross injustice and for their greed.

‌Religious signs and slogans are meaningless if they are not backed up with real moral conviction. Verse 11 teaches us that the presence of God is “contingent on ethical behaviour.”[2] I am concerned today for so many who make a religious claim of trusting in God, of believing in Jesus, but then act in ways that seem to indicate that Jesus has not actually achieved the peace we are hoping for. Could it be that underneath our religious claims we are actually afraid?

‌The Promise of Peace

‌As chapter three comes to an end, the lack of peace due to the injustices of Israel’s leaders will be answered, Micah says, by God’s judgment carried out on Jerusalem. But, strangely, this judgment of God is not simply his giving up on peace. It is his creating it. God promises peace to his people and urges them to wait for it. After all, the only peace that can last is the peace that God himself will bring to his world.

‌The Bomb Drops

‌Verse 12 of chapter 3 is a bombshell.[3] “Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins.” And all “because of you,” Micah says. Because Israel’s leaders have failed to execute justice and to maintain his peace, God will give up on his city. What happened to Samaria, described back in Micah 1:6, will happen to Jerusalem.

‌But here’s the thing. Micah did not live to see this prophecy come true. King Hezekiah humbled himself, we are told in 2 Chronicles 32:26, along with “the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” The averting of God’s wrath was then remembered, years later when Jeremiah warned of the coming judgment of God. Micah 3:12 is cited in Jeremiah 26:18, as “certain elders of the land” reminded the people how Hezekiah had listened to Micah’s prophecy and saw Yahweh “relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them.” They urged the same response in their day, but were ignored, so that the Psalmist would lament, in Psalm 79:1, how the nations had come into the land, “defiled” the temple, and “laid Jerusalem in ruins.”

‌So we can learn that it remains for each generation of God’s people to decide for themselves whether they will listen to God’s messengers or not. And this is not just a personal matter. The issue at hand is not whether any one individual will face God’s judgment after death or enter into paradise. The issue is whether the people of God as a whole will enjoy in their day a positive influence on the world or will be indicted as perpetrators of injustice.

‌The Lord of Hosts

‌Either way, friends, there is no threat to God or to his kingdom or to his sovereignty. The first five verses of chapter 4 promise that “in the latter days,” God will, in fact, be the indisputable King of the world. These verses, cited by Isaiah,[4] look forward to the hope of the faithful that, in the end, God will be triumphant. There will be world peace after all, as verse 3 envisions. God will be the judge, he will decide disputes, there will be no more war.

‌Yes, Lord, hasten the day! Verse 4 even speaks of God as with his military title, “the LORD of hosts.” He will put an end to all opposition. He will win the battle for everlasting peace.

‌But notice now verse 5. This verse takes us out of the dreamy future envisioned in Micah’s day in the first four verses and to the resolution of the faithful in the moment of hostilities. What are God’s people to do as they wait for the day of victory to arrive? They must pledge themselves to remain loyal to the LORD of hosts by letting him fight their battles rather than being just like everyone else who follows their own national deity. They are to remain faithful, to walk in the ways of the one true God rather than in the ways of the world. In every generation, the people of God are to demonstrate their trust in the Lord by living in a very distinct way, in a way that is simply not seen anywhere else. By doing so, they will “serve as the harbingers of the universal peace to come” at the end.[5]

‌People of Peace

‌This is what God expected of his people in Micah’s day, and it is what he expects of his people in our day. To be faithful to the God of peace is to commit ourselves to be people of peace, no matter the external realities of our day.

‌In Micah’s day, the expectation for God’s people was that they would show their trust in the LORD by doing what is just and right, no matter what it cost them. Even if they were taken advantage of by the corrupt leaders of Israel, God’s people must not comprise their integrity by doing anything that was unjust. Similarly, because they trusted in God’s sovereign rule, they could not become tainted with political compromise either. When Hezekiah, in spite of his piety and repentance, made an alliance with Babylon, he was denounced for this by the prophet Isaiah (see 2 Kings 20:12-19).

‌So, what about us? I am concerned that the church of the Lord Jesus not become tainted with the idolatrous ways of the world. The greatest fear I have for the church in our day is the temptation  to compromise with immorality, to lose our integrity, all in the name of preserving our own agenda or maintaining our own power or creating our own sense of peace.

‌The Lord of hosts does not need us to defend his kingdom with the weapons of our flesh. What if remaining faithful to God costs us our way of life? What if remaining faithful to God costs us an election, or an important piece of legislation, or our churches, our homes, or even our lives?

‌Then so be it! God’s promise, as we see in verse 6, is that he will “assemble the lame” and make them his remnant. God can take the weak and the powerless and turn them into “a strong nation.” (v. 7). In verse 10, he tells his people that they will “go to Babylon,” — not exactly an anticipate vacation—but it will be there that “the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.”

‌God does not need our weapons of mass destruction to go against the wicked powers of our day. He needs people who will remain faithful to him, waiting for him to bring the peace he has promised. If we want to be promoters of peace, that is how we must do it. We must refuse to compromise with some other “god of peace,” even if that means we will, in our own day, end up suffering the devastations of a society that is lacking his peace.

‌The Arrival of Peace

‌Chapter 4 ends with the prospect of a coming day when Israel’s fate would be positive, not negative. When they will no longer be under the thumb of wicked powers but will thrive again. That day will come, Micah’s prophecy says. But chapter 5 takes his original audience back to the present distress of 701 BC. The nation of Israel was under siege from the Assyrian king, Sennacherib (2 Chron 32:10). The present king, Hezekiah, was, as it were, being struck on the cheek. How will peace arrive, and how will it begin to influence the world?‌

A Future King‌

Verse 2 speaks of the arrival of peace in Israel’s future king. He will “come forth” from “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” The city would otherwise be insignificant, except for the fact that it was the birthplace of Israel’s greatest king, David. Ephrathah, by the way, is apparently the name of the district in which Bethlehem was identified.[6] The point that is being made here is that, in contrast to Israel’s humiliated king Hezekiah referenced in verse 1, a new king would emerge, a new David as it were, and one who would carry on the promises of the Davidic covenant.

‌Now we Christians know who this is, of course. Matthew 2:6 makes it plain that, from a Christian perspective, this prophecy was literally fulfilled when Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem. But this is not just a neat biblical prediction that came true due to the providence of Caesar Augustus’s decree that everyone had to be registered in his hometown. Micah’s prophecy is not so much about the important place of the Messiah’s birth but about the fact that his birth there marks a new beginning linked to the famous lineage of King David himself.[7]

‌A Strong Shepherd

‌In other words, if Jesus is in fact the fulfillment of Micah 5:2, as Matthew insists he is, then we should think of him as a king, very much like King David, in that he has come to bring peace to the world.

‌Just look at verse 4, which promises that he will “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD.” He will “be their peace,” verse 5 says, and precisely “When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces . . .” We do the Christian gospel a disservice when we think of Jesus as something less than the world rulers of our day. The promise here is that he will deliver his people whom he shepherds from any hostile foe, and he will do it with the strength of God himself.

‌As Christians, we must look to the New Testament to see how this all plays out. It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ that constitutes the people whom he shepherds and defends. The church is “the Israel of God” upon whom peace and mercy have come (Gal 6:16). All true believers in Jesus constitute the “holy nation” who proclaim the excellencies of our strong Shepherd who rules and defends us (1 Pet 2:9).

‌Included in Micah’s prophecy is the expectation that when the King shall come, verse 3 says, “then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.” With the arrival of this King, described in verse 4 as one who “shall be great to the ends of the earth,” Israel’s long exile would finally be over, and all God’s people would be gathered into one everlasting kingdom.

‌A Non-Anxious Presence

‌And when we come to the end of Micah 5, we see the prophet gazing farther into the future to see the influence that the people of God would then have on the weary world in which they live. Called “the remnant of Jacob” in verse 7, the suggestion is that they will “be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass.” The imagery always signifies “signs of divine benediction,” and this remnant is said to bring a heavenly, life-giving refreshment to the whole earth.[8]

At the same time, verse 8 says, that the renewed people of God, under the leadership of the renewed Davidic King, will be “like a lion among the beasts of the forest.” That’s a bit of a different imagery than refreshing dew on the grass! This lion can tear to pieces! Indeed—verse 9 says that all the enemies of God’s people will be cut off. No wonder, then, that Jesus promised that not even the gates of hell would be able to stand against his church.

But we must not let that great promise of our Lord incite us to promote his kingdom with the same strategies employed by all other nations. Read the rest of chapter 5 (verses 10-14 anyway), and we can see that the reason God’s new people will endure and prevail against all other enemies is precisely because God will see to it that they are not like all their enemies. He will cut off, cut off, cut off all our allegiances and political idolatries.

That is the way he brings his peace to the world. It is still through his people, but his people must be people of peace, a non-anxious presence in the face of an over-anxious world that tries in a million different ways to assert peace in human power and might.

We who know the Prince of Peace know a better way. So, we must walk in his way if we are eager to see his peace sweep over the world we live in today.


[1] Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 32, ed. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Books, 1984), 31.

[2] Bruce K. Waltke, “Micah,” Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 26, ed. Donald J. Wiseman (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 181.

[3] Smith, Micah–Malachi, 35.

[4] Most commentators believe that Isaiah (Isa 2:2-5) borrowed from Micah rather than the other way round.

[5] Waltke, “Micah,” 186.

[6] Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 342, note 22.

[7] Waltke, “Micah,” 199.

[8] Ibid., 204.

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