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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The LORD sends His people into Babylon to deliver them there
Text:Micah 4:10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:2013-12-08
Added:2014-03-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise.

Bible translation used:  NKJV

Psalm 98:1,2

Psalm 98:3,4

Psalm 79:1,3,5

Hymn 19:1,3

Hymn 19:4

Read:  Micah 4:1 – 5:1.

Text: Micah 4:10.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Most of us know that as Christians we can expect to suffer, we can expect life to be hard.  The Bible tells us this in a number of places.  In Acts 14:22, for example, Paul and Barnabas went about

strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

And 1 Thessalonians 3:2,3 where it speaks of being encouraged in our faith

“so that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

But when suffering and affliction comes, it often hits us hard.  We all have a cross to bear and it is not for us to choose the cross we are called to carry.  Nor is it necessarily the biggest cross, the greatest sufferings that wear us down.  It can be the smaller things that add up and cause our hands to hang limp, our knees to feel weak, our zeal to flag.  And we all know what happens to us then:  we lose our focus, we no longer look ahead, but we slow down, we get depressed and we are in danger of falling out of the Race.

This can and does happen to almost every person in every church in every generation.  And I know that some of you are feeling like that right now, where there are troubles or disappointments for you at work, at home, or in the church community, where interpersonal relationships are not working out for you, where things are dragging you down, making you discouraged, in danger of causing you to lose sight of the Finishing Line, the end of life as we know it, the Great Day that we stand before the throne of God. 

And if that is true for us, you can imagine that this was true for the people of Jerusalem and Judah in the days of Micah and the years that followed.  The book of Micah contains some of the darkest, most frightening prophecies in the Bible.  Micah foretells the time when Jerusalem will be destroyed, when “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.”  (Micah 3:12)  But through Micah the LORD also spoke of something else: He spoke not only of the fact that judgment would come, that God’s people would suffer many things as they were taken away into exile, but he also spoke of a future glory that would come after that.  And in our text for today, Micah 4:10, the people of Jerusalem, the daughter of Zion, are not spared of the suffering that was to come.  But their suffering would be like that of a woman in labor.  The birth pangs would be excruciating, but from out of all this the Lord would bring deliverance, the Lord would redeem His people.

I preach to you the Word of the Lord from Micah 4 under the following theme:

The LORD sends His people into Babylon to deliver them there.

  1. Zion’s labor pains.
  2. Zion’s deliverance.

1. Zion’s labor pains.

Our text, Micah 4:10 is striking.

“Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in birth pangs.  For now you shall go forth from the city, you shall dwell in the field, there you shall be delivered; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.”

Our text is striking because it speaks of both judgment and blessing . . . and it speaks of the blessing coming out of the judgment!  Micah makes it very clear to the people of Jerusalem that their suffering is going to get worse!  Jerusalem would indeed become a heap of ruins and so the people would be taken from that city, they would end up living unprotected  in the field somewhere and from there they would end up in Babylon.  And if you thought you had problems, if you thought you had reason to be discouraged, think of what it would have been like for the faithful remnant, for those of God’s people who did want to walk in His ways.  In Hezekiah’s reign, the armies of Assyria had destroyed the Northern Kingdom and had swept down into Judah.  There they destroyed the fortified cities of Judah, and Hezekiah had been forced to give them all the silver that could be found in the house of the Lord, the temple, as well as much of the gold.  But the Assyrians were not even content with that, and they had marched on to Jerusalem itself.  Now Hezekiah, we know, was a king who feared the LORD and who looked to Him for help.  And the LORD heard the prayers of Hezekiah and the faithful ones in Jerusalem and He stopped the king of Assyria at Jerusalem’s gates.  The Angel of the LORD destroyed 185,000 of the Assyrian armies and so they retreated and went back home.  But that was not where it would all end: the day would still come when Jerusalem would be destroyed, her kings removed and the temple demolished.  And it was going to hurt.  Pangs would seize them like the pangs of a woman in labor.  It was going to be painful because the enemy that was coming would spare no mercy.  There was no Geneva Convention in those days, no concerns about the brutality of war.  The things the survivors would see, the trauma they would go through, would be horrific.  The words of Psalm 79 would come true before their very eyes:

“Your land, O God, the nations have invaded; by heathen hordes your heritage was raided.  Look how they have, without restraint or pity, defiled your temple and destroyed your city.”

And there would also be the nations, Micah 4:11 says, the nations round about saying,

“Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.”

Which is exactly what happened – Psalm 137 pictures the Edomites, descendants of Esau coming in glee to watch the destruction of Jerusalem, saying

“Raze it, tear it down to its very foundation!”

  But it was not just the horror of war that the Exile would bring: the exile would mean the end to the people of God, the nation of Israel as they knew it.  It is striking to read in our text just where the people of Jerusalem would end up. 

“For now you shall go forth from the city, you shall dwell in the field, and to Babylon you shall go.”

To Babylon!  We know from the Bible that the people of Jerusalem did indeed go into exile into Babylon – a hundred years later!  But when Micah gave this prophecy, the Babylonian people were the least of their concerns:  it was Assyria who was doing all the damage, not Babylon!  But there is a significance to the fact that Babylon specifically is mentioned. 

In the first place, it shows that God was not idly standing by as the nations fought and wrestled for control over the world of which Israel was a part.  No, the LORD had the present as well as the future in His hand.  He was the One who would cause nations to rise and fall, and He would do so for His own purposes.  And God’s people could take comfort from this.  On the one hand, of course, it meant they should fear the LORD even more, for He was both ready and able to carry out His threats against the people of the LORD.  He had warned them from the moment they were about to enter the Promised Land that the Land would spew them out, they would go into exile, if they rejected the Lord – and this would surely happen.  But on the other hand, Israel could be sure that they were not pawns being pushed to and fro by the super-powers muscling in from around them.  They were in the hand of their God, and even in the times of judgment they could take comfort from this fact.

In the second place it is significant that the people of Judah and Jerusalem would be sent into exile to Babylon.  Babylon was the region from which they had come.  Babylon was the land beyond the great river Euphrates.  It was where the tower of Babel had been built so many years ago, in Genesis 11.  And it was the land from which Abraham had been called.  Exile into Babylon was, therefore, being sent back to the place from whence they came. 

So if you thought that you had reason to be discouraged, that you had reason to give up on God, on His Church, to give up on whatever cross it is that you are to bear, then spare a thought for the Godly remnant of Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Micah and the years that followed his prophecies.  Their suffering was indeed like the pains of a woman in labor, but labor pains that went on for a hundred years!

And yet there is gospel, there is good news in the announcement of labor pains.  In Micah 4:9 the question is asked,

“Now why do you cry aloud?  Is there no king in your midst?  Has your counselor perished?  For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor.”

In this verse Micah observes the suffering cries of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the cries of a city that acted as though they had no king to guide them, no hope of deliverance.  And so pangs would seize them like a woman in labor.  In the prophecies of Jeremiah we read of Judah and Jerusalem’s suffering also described in this way.  We read this in Jeremiah 4:31 and also in Jeremiah 30:6,7a where it says,

6           Ask now, and see,

Whether a man is ever in labor with child?

So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins

Like a woman in labor,

And all faces turned pale?

7           Alas! For that day is great,

So that none is like it;

And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble . . .

But for all their agony, labor pains are not all bad!  When all goes well labor pains are not the gasping breaths of a dying person, but they bring about birth of someone new!  And so Micah immediately moves on in chapter 4:10 to instruct the “daughter of Zion” the covenant people of the LORD, to instruct her to “Be in pain, and labor to bring forth!”  This then is not simply a description of the pain that Jerusalem went through but an instruction, a command!  “Be in pain, and labor to bring forth!”  It is almost as if Micah takes on the role of a midwife and he is encouraging Jerusalem to persist in her pain, to keep going with her labor, and then to push for her labor will not be in vain!

And this is the good news, the gospel of our text!  The punishment upon Judah and Jerusalem was on account of her sins.  It was the LORD Himself who was in control here, and He was the One who was afflicting His people.  (You can see that in the last part of verse 6, “I will gather the outcast and those whom I have afflicted.”)  But the LORD had not given up on His promises.  The LORD had not given up on His plan to have a people for Himself.  The LORD had not given up on sending His own King to be over His people.  Babylon would not, therefore, be the end, but out of Babylon would come a new beginning! 

And that was the promise that Micah was to give to the faithful remnant of Judah and Jerusalem.  That was the promise that He was to give to them for them to hold on to in the hard times, the dark times, when it seemed that all was lost.  In Micah 4:11 the nations had come to gloat at the destruction of Jerusalem but, verse 12 says,

“But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, nor do the understand His counsel.”

For God had a plan not just for the punishment of the nations, but also for the remnant of His people!  Do you remember that I quoted to you from Jeremiah 30:6,7?  I quoted from those verses, but I left off the last line of verse 7.  Turn to me and let us read those verses again.

  Jeremiah 30:6–7

6           Ask now, and see,

Whether a man is ever in labor with child?

So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins

Like a woman in labor,

And all faces turned pale?

7           Alas! For that day is great,

So that none is like it;

And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,

But he shall be saved out of it.

And in the chapter before this, Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah was instructed by the LORD to send a letter to the people of Jerusalem who were in exile, in Babylon. And he wrote in verse 10-14,

10   For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

You see, the LORD has His plan and in His plan He chastises those whom He loves.  Babylon would not be the end but in Babylon God’s people, His remnant – and it would only be a remnant – would repent of their sin and God would take them back!  Micah 4:6-7

6           “In that day,” says the Lord,

“I will assemble the lame,

I will gather the outcast

And those whom I have afflicted;

7           I will make the lame a remnant,

And the outcast a strong nation;

So the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion

From now on, even forever.

The LORD would not gather the princes, the priests, the strong and the powerful but He would gather the lame, the outcast, the afflicted.  Whereas the people of Jerusalem in the days of Micah devoured the weak and did not show mercy, the LORD would show mercy to the lame and the outcast.  He would take those who had nothing to offer Him, who knew they were sinners, who repented of their sin, who had no future and no hope, and He would turn them in to a strong nation and He would rule over them. 

Zion’s labor pains would not be for nothing.  Zion’s labor pains would result in sorrow for sin, in repentance, in a turning back to the LORD . . . and  in deliverance!  And so what God’s people had lost in Jerusalem would be found in Babylon.  There would be deliverance, there would be a future and hope for the people of God.

And although we live in very different times, and although the suffering that we must endure is so very different, and although we can not conclude that all suffering that we go through is a result of personal sin or even the sin of God’s people, like the people of Jerusalem, we too must lift up our eyes and look beyond the momentary suffering that we endure to see the deliverance that is ours in Christ Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . .

And then verse 5,6

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

6           For whom the Lord loves He chastens,

And scourges every son whom He receives.”

And verse 10,11

10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

We need to keep focused.  We need to see ourselves in our sin and in our weakness.  We need to see Jesus, and the salvation that is ours in Him.  And we need to see where we are heading, the place that the Lord is preparing for each one of us His children.

2. Zion’s Deliverance.

The LORD had great plans to deliver His people, even at the time that He was sending them in to exile, into Babylon, even at the time that the daughter of Zion, the people of the LORD, cried out in pain like that of a woman in labor.  But Zion’s deliverance would be more than the salvation of a few.  Oh no, God’s children are not mere pawns on a chessboard, to be moved about and sacrificed for the sake of a greater good, a greater goal.  Not at all!  The LORD keeps each and every single child of His in the palm of His hand.  But at the same time God’s plans for Zion, plans for His people, are bigger than the redemption of a remnant.  For the LORD was working things together so that He Himself might reign as King in Zion!  The prophecy of Micah 4:6 and following is to be taken together with the prophecy of Micah 4:1-4 where the LORD told His people that even though Jerusalem would become a heap of ruins and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest (Micah 3:12), it would still come to pass “in the latter days”

“. . . that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it.”

People from all tribes and all tongues and all nations.  The New Jerusalem would be bigger, would be better, would be more glorious than the old!  But how would this happen?  How would this come to pass?  First there would be grief and trauma and suffering.  First God’s people would be sent into exile in Babylon.   First God’s people would be wounded by God’s judgment for their sin.  First they would be like a flock that is scattered, like the lame and the outcast who have no home, no hope, no future.  But then the LORD would bring them back!  For in Babylon they would repent of their sins, they would turn to Him in forgiveness.  And the LORD would hear their cries.  He would take heed to their pleas.  And so Jerusalem would be restored.  And not only that, but Micah 4:7,8 tell us that the LORD Himself would reign over them in Mount Zion “from now on and even forever.”

It is interesting to note that after the Exile, Jerusalem no longer had a king like they had before.  Do you remember how in 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel asked to have a king over them like the other nations, a king to judge them and to go before them in battle?  The LORD had given them a king, even though by asking for this type of king they were rejecting Him from being king over them.  First Saul, a king after the hearts of the people and then David, a king after God’s own heart.  But these kings, even those in the line of David, were not the answer to Israel’s need for a king.  At times Israel was blessed with a faithful king – such as was the case with Hezekiah.  But more often the kings led God’s people away from the LORD.  And so after the exile these kings were not placed over God’s people in the same way as before.  But what the LORD did continue to do was to prepare the way for the Great King, for the One who was Son of David and the Son of God.  The sending of the people of Judah and Jerusalem into exile in Babylon was not a detour, a side plan of God, but it was a part of the Great Plan, to prepare the way for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

  In Luke 1:31-33 the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary saying,

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

And today we look back at the King who came, at the King who was born in Bethlehem, the King who came riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, the King who died on a cross with the inscription over His head, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  Today we look back at that King who was laid in a tomb, but who then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Today we have a King who has been seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named.  And we know that God has put all things under this King’s feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:20-23.) 

  But concerning this King we also pray “Your kingdom come.”  We pray not that our King might come – for He has come – but we pray that we submit to our King, that the Church be preserved and increased and that the works of the devil might be destroyed.  And we pray that this might continue  until the fullness of God’s kingdom comes, wherein our King, Jesus Christ, shall be all in all.

And that is what we are living for, that is what we look forward to:  the return of our Saviour and our King, the final gathering of God’s elect when we will all be standing before His holy throne!  God’s people in Babylon were called to lift up their eyes and look forward to the restoration of Israel, a renewed Jerusalem, the birth of the King, Jesus Christ.  But we today may not only look back to see that Christ has come, that the King was exalted, but we may look forward to when He returns.

And so let us keep that perspective.  Let us keep on looking forward to that great and final day, to the Day when our King returns in glory and we shall be standing with the church of all ages and of all nations before the throne of our God!  For when we do that, then we shall not be moved, but we shall press on – together as God’s children – we shall press on to that glorious end and that new beginning.  Oh, may that day come soon!  Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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