Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reflections on Micah 7:8-10: Christians, the Indignation of God toward Sinners, and the Gospel of Victory

Micah 7:8-10:
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.

Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.

Concerning the Micah 7:8-9, I believe that we can relate to Micah in the seriousness of our sin, the judgment it incurs from God, and faith in God's character to vindicate the covenant people while judging the unrighteous.  Micah did not lose hope because he knew that God had indignation toward him but instead had faith that God would deal with it justly and also plead his case and vindicate him.  He took sin seriously before God and also reveled in his mercy that he would bring him from the darkness into the light.  God would raise him up and he would be victorious over his enemies.

John Piper explains it this way in relating it as a fight for joy,
In the battle for joy, the difference between Micah's gusty guilt and "cheap grace" is that Micah takes sin so seriously.  There was a reprehensible fall.  There is real and terrible indignation from God.  There is a time of awful darkness.  There is brokenness, contrition, and remorse as we bear patiently the chastisement of our God.  But in the ashes of our regret, the flame of boldness never goes out.  It may flicker.  But when self or Satan taunts us that we are finished, we lay hold on Micah's faith--indeed we lay hold on Christ and his righteousness--and say, 'Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me...He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.  He will bring me out to the light.' (When I Don't Desire God p.91)
I guess what I wanted to emphasize is that our sins really grieve God and he is righteously indignant toward us because of them (in the sense that we connect ourselves to sin and Satan instead of sitting under his gracious rule).  We have real, experiential guilt toward him, and we in our sin/disobedience are cut off from experiencing life with him.  In fact, he opposes the proud (and we are proud in our sin). Yet like Micah, we lay hold of his righteous character instead of running from it, knowing that he is faithful to his people and his promises to save them (culminating for Micah and us in Christ; his death, burial, and resurrection).  He will bring us out of the darkness into his light. He gives grace to the humble.

There is no room in Micah's theology for the thought that because we are justified by God's free grace and not works that sin isn't that serious.  Or even that because Christ bore the wrath of God for our sin (a wonderful truth) that our post-Christian sins are not serious before God (Yes, he still hates them).  This is taking God's grace for granted, "cheap grace".  Some Jews in Jesus’ time also presumed on God’s grace, believing that because they were related to Abraham they were in the covenant, therefore safe, instead of exercising faith, repentance, and obedience to their covenant God (Luke 3:8; John 8:31-46).  We can do the same when we say, "Oh, were in the New Covenant...don't worry about it, Christ paid for that sin", while we don't take it seriously in our lives.  God's promise never relinquishes us from obedience to his word.  Satan would have us believe that sin isn't that serious though, as he says, "You will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4).  But you will die...for God's word is so (Gen. 2:17).  Sin is that serious.  For Micah it is deadly serious, which is why he dwells in darkness (death) but God will bring him out to the light (life).

Yes, we are justified before God by faith alone in Christ alone (thank God because we are sinners), but using this as a half-truth to promote a view that sin/disobedience is not that serious because we are justified by faith is demonic.  Yes, were sin abounds grace abounds all the more (thank God again) but shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?  MAY IT NEVER BE! (Rom. 6:2) As Martin Luther said, "We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

Now, to be clear, I understand that objectively were are declared 'not guilty' before God based on Christ's work, but we cannot believe that from that we do not experience guilt that affects our fellowship with God when we continually give ourselves over to sin.  Our sin affects our experience of God's joy, grace, mercy, and peace.  I do not want to leave the impression that sin objectively condemns us at the same time (and in the same sense) God declares us right based on Christ's obedience.  But I did want to draw the tension feel that we desire to kill sin because God hates it and to marvel and be encouraged by his grace when we sin.

Let us take sin seriously and make war on it.  Let us say agree with Micah that we will bear the indignation and chastisement of God toward us in our sin and place our faith in his righteousness (ultimately in Christ).  God will rescue and restore his people from the clutches of sin (as I bear witness to you today).  He will raise us up, vindicate us, make us victorious over our enemies (sin and Satan), and make us to see his righteousness.

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