So we have now come to the conclusion of the second consolation section in the prophecy of Micah. As we continue to work through this passage, notice again that deliverances are hard. Why would we think that deliverance would be easy? To be saved through trials is not the same kind of thing as an afternoon at the park.
“And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: Who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver . . .” (Micah 5:7–15).
Summary of the Text
As Calvin points out, there are two great things promised here. The first is God will defend His Church apart from the help of men, and second, that the Church will grow to surpass all her enemies. So the first thing to note is that the people of God will be very much like a grassy meadow drenched in dew (v. 7). This is grass that just grows, and does not require cultivation (v. 7). Just shows up, and it will be dew from Jehovah. God will empower His people, and they will be like a lion in the midst of a flock of sheep (v. 8). The enemies of God will be cut off (v. 9). Then comes a curious comment. God will cut His own people off, taking away their horses, chariots, cities, and strongholds (vv. 10-11). They would not be delivered by their own might. In addition, God will also purify His people, granting them repentance. He will take away their witchcraft and soothsaying (v. 12), their graven images (v. 13), and their groves (v. 14). This then will culminate in God’s summary dispatching of the heathen. So then, God takes away things that are not sinful in themselves, but which we might use in order to take credit for our own deliverance, and He also takes away our corruptions.
Two Kinds of Idols
Idolatry occurs whenever we place any created thing in the place of our Creator. Idolatry is seeking to gain from a finite thing what only the infinite can provide. This can be done surreptitiously, in the realm of heart motives, but with the object of this false worship being innocent in itself. But idolatry can also be something gross, external, and explicit, as when men carve or paint objects to facilitate their devotion, veneration, or worship.
We can see the first kind implied in various places of the New Testament. For a clear example, Paul tells the Colossians that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). If you are looking over a catalog with a heart filled with avarice, then you are an idolater. But the catalog itself might be filled with items that are perfectly innocent, and not a snare to your next door neighbor. In this vein, a man might make an idol out of his job, or his family, or his church. When this happens, repentance is simply a heart matter. He doesn’t have to quit his job, or leave his family, or burn down his church. In fact, he cannot do so.
Bur this is not the same response that is required with explicit idolatry. In such a case, repentance looks like a demolition of the idol itself, a removal of the pieces, and then you sweep the floor.
Two Kinds of Idols in Our Text
This is an important thing to mention because we have this distinction in our passage this morning. What does God remove from His people first? He removes horses, and chariots, cities, and strongholds. None of these things are sinful in themselves. But if God had not removed them, He knew that Israel might be tempted to glory in the victory, as though they had accomplished it all by themselves. God sometimes removes instruments and means when we start to think that we are in charge of our own blessings, in charge of our own deliverance. But we are not. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: But we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
But God does not just deliver His people apart from visible means, He is also gracious enough to cleanse and restore His people. He cleanses us from those vices that brought on the judgment in the first place. So when He determines to grant reformation and revival what will He do? He will take away the witchcraft, and the fortunetellers, and the idols, and the groves that sanctify them.
Our Repentance, His Gift
It is absolutely true that we must repent of our sins, and we must believe in God. This is something we do. It is our responsibility. But it is also something we are enabled to do because it comes to us as a gift from God. And if God does not give this gift, we cannot obtain it on our own.
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
2 Timothy 2:25 (KJV)
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
Acts 5:31 (KJV)
“Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old.”
Lamentations 5:21 (KJV)
The Last and Only American Hope
We come then, to the point of application, and the point is fairly sharp. We cannot fully understand the intersection between God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s complete and foundational responsibility. But we can know this. If we are guilty of wickedness, we are guilty as true moral agents. We are not puppets. We are not automata. We are not just moist robots.
At the same time, if we have sinned our way into spiritual prison, we do not hold the key to that prison. The only one who can grant the repentance that will make the doors swing outward, gloriously outward, is the God of Heaven. If we are dead, we cannot raise ourselves. If we are slaves, we cannot free ourselves. The only thing we can do is cry out to the Lord.
And that means that if our nation does not repent, it is not because we have successfully gotten away from God. We have not outrun Him. No creature is ever out of His range. If we do not repent, then that is because God decided that we would not repent, and has determined to make us an object lesson. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Romans 9:22)?
And if God restores us, it will be the result of Him determining to grant us times of refreshing. The church will be restored, lush and luxuriant, a mountain meadow filled with grass—a meadow that nobody planted, that nobody watered, that nobody tended. It will be the result of a dew from Jehovah.
As we trust Him for this outcome, be diligent to remember that times of deliverance can be pretty bumpy. So do not forget what is actually going on. Some of the great idols of our age—higher education, public schools, the military, the media—have all sustained more serious damage in the last two years than in the century before that. Why would we react as though an increase of homeschoolers to the tune of 4 million was a bad thing?
So here it is. Repent your sins, look to Christ for everything, brace yourselves for some commotion, and roll with it.