Monday, May 13, 2013

"God's Special People (Micah)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 7: "God's Special People (Micah)"

Micah is a prophet to the remnant. The remnant which might have been of old has past its expiration date with ancient Israel, but God will have a repentant and revived people today to carry His message to the world.
Of course we know that the remnant are identified with those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. It's the sanctuary truth which is "justification by faith ... the third angel's message, in verity" [1] It was Christ from the sanctuary who inspired the prophet Micah [2], who was trying to get his fingertips on this precious truth of the remnant and so inspire people of his day to believe in the coming Messiah, who would tenderly lead them as a shepherd leads the flock and feeds them with this wonderful bread of life to give to the world.
We do indeed believe that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is the true remnant church of Bible prophecy (see Rev. 12:1714:12), which He is calling to repentance (3:14-21).
As the "remnant" church finally receives the "most precious message" which "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us in 1888, God intends that every Seventh-day Adventist church in the world will be transformed and acquire the reputation of being the place to go to hear Christ "lifted up" (John 12:32). It will be a new public image that replaces our old reputation of being the church where "we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa." [3]
Around the world in every nation and culture of people, the Holy Spirit is now preparing a "remnant" who have overcome the old egocentric motivation of self-righteousness, and received in their hearts joyfully the new motivation of grace.
Who are they? They are the people symbolized by the story of the "144,000" who by the grace of God are "without guile," and "follow the Lamb [the crucified Christ] whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:1-5).
In delivering this sanctuary truth message of the remnant in Micah's day there were genuine prophets such as Joel and Isaiah, and there were false prophets. In the only autobiographical sketch in the book, Micah states his commission and purpose: "But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin" (Micah 3:8). He is a judgment hour preacher to awaken a pathetic church to her true condition in order to turn her heart to God.
He compares Samaria to an unfaithful "harlot" (1:7, 8) that has turned from the Lord and gone awhoring after idols. In order to literally get in their face with a "loud" message echoing Heaven's voice, Micah "will wail and howl" like jackals and ostriches while walking up and down the streets "stripped and naked" (vs. 8). As far as God is concerned their infidelity of idol worship renders His people "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
Micah had to contend with false prophets who the people hired because they spoke words of peace and prosperity. These prognosticators rebuked Micah, putting lying words in God's mouth: "Don't preach such stuff. Nothing bad will happen to us" (Micah 2:6, Peterson). You can understand why God then describes them as "preach[ing] sermons that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: more money, the best wines ... you name it--you'd hire him on the spot as your preacher" (vs. 11). They picked their prophets as people might pick their psychics, but not as people pick their doctors. Can you imagine picking your doctor based on how cheery and optimistic his diagnoses are!
Micah tells the story of the remnant of God's people in the last days. "On that day, says the LORD, I will gather those who are lost; I will assemble the exiles and I will strengthen the weaklings. I will preserve the lost as a remnant and turn the derelict into a mighty nation" (Micah 4:6, 7, NEB). It is while the nations are crying peace when there is no peace, that the Lord will gather out His remnant people. Through Christ alone will the reign of universal peace be restored, and the kingdom of righteousness be given to His followers. Micah prophesies of the kingdom restored in Christ: "And Thou, O Tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto Thee shall it come, even the first dominion [the kingdom restored by the second Adam]; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8).
While the "remnant" have followed by faith their High Priest into the Holiest in receiving His messages of love, peace, and joy in reconciliation with God, they are thus "gathered" or called out from the worldly crowd. They uplift the cross of Christ. They have a warning message to the earth of the end and how to prepare for it.
But the "many nations" of the earth "come, and say" (Micah 4:2) assemble to "the mountain of the house of the LORD" (vs. 1). They speak "peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:3). "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3). Don't speak of coming destruction and the end.
In one of her most profound statements, Ellen White comments on how in 1844 when Jesus arose to enter the Most Holy Place "the careless multitude" who failed to follow Him by faith "were left in perfect darkness." She continues by portraying Satan as taking up the duties of the priest in the first apartment: "I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, 'Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace. Satan's object was to keep them deceived and to draw back and deceive God's children." [4]
And so God's people are promised a Good Shepherd. "Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:2). [5]
Jesus was born in Bethlehem (the house of bread) 700 years after Micah's prediction and He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). He "gives life unto the world" (vs. 33). "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (vs. 51). He is "the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). "Never one, saint or sinner eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary [being] stamped on every loaf." [6] Thus the "life" which the human race enjoys has come by eating "the flesh of the Son of man."
Micah concludes his prophecy with the heart-humbling words: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18). E. J. Waggoner observes, "This is the language of one who knows the joy of actual forgiveness. The prophet extolled the Lord as one who did actually forgive sin." [7]
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 372.
[2] "Hear all ye people; harken, O earth, and all that therein is: ... the Lord from His holy temple. For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of His place [the temple], and will come down. ..." (Micah 1:2, 3).
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 560.
[4] Early Writings, pp. 55, 56.
[5] Matthew provides an inspired commentary on Micah's prophecy indicating that the "Ruler" is one who will feed the flock. "Out of thee shall go a Prince who shall be My people Israel's Shepherd." (Matt. 2:6, Danish Version). The Governor "shall feed my people Israel" (Matt. 2:6, KJV, margin).
[6] The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
[7] "Forgiveness Real, Not Pretended," Signs of the Times (Aug. 3, 1888), p. 470.
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