September 27, 2021 Marc Sims

In the Latter Days (Micah 4:1-7)

In the Latter Days (Micah 4:1-7)

Sermon Audio: https://qbc.org/sermons/812736--in-the-latter-days


Sermon Discussion Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from the sermon?
  2. Are we in the "last days"? (see 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 1:2) What does this mean for us as we look at passages like Micah 4:1-7? (The now and not yet)
  3. How is the church like an "embassy of heaven"? (see 2 Cor 5:20)
  4. Of the three characteristics of the "latter days" in Micah 4:1-7 (a place of multiethnic worship, delight in God's law, and peace), what would it look like for you to be an effective "ambassador of Christ"?
  5. What aspect of the "not yet" of Micah 4:1-7 are you looking forward to most?
  6. Why does God invite the lame, afflicted, and outcasts into His Kingdom?


Sermon Manuscript:



Sometimes the Bible speaks as if the Kingdom of God is something that arrives in the future:


Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” – Rev 11:15


Other times, the Bible speaks as if the Kingdom of God arrived when Jesus did:


“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21; cf. Mark 1:15)


There is a “now” aspect of the Kingdom that has come with the first coming of Jesus—Jesus has ascended to the Father and is now seated on His heavenly throne, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matt 28:18-20). But there is a “not yet” aspect of the kingdom; the “kingdom of the world” has not yet fully become the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:24-26). This tension between the “now” and “not yet” is all over the New Testament. The authors of the Bible will speak about the future “not yet” promises of salvation with such certainty that they “now” impact our lives. We could think of a couple of examples of this outside of the Bible that are familiar to us: when a mayor or governor or president wins an election in November, they still have several months before they are formally inaugurated, they are not yet president or governor or mayor, but their future has been determined. Or when the cowboy walks into the saloon and offends the outlaw and is told, “You’re a dead man walking.” The cowboy, of course, isn’t dead, but the outlaw is so confident about his future that he considers it a settled fact that the cowboy is “dead” already. But, for what we want to consider today, I think IKEA provides the best way to understand this.


There are two kinds of people in the world—those who love walking through IKEA and those who are married to people who love walking through IKEA. That’s it, no alternatives. You either cherish every minute of walking the IKEA labyrinth, or you pick up a smoking habit at the end just to deal with the stress. IKEA is such an interesting place because it isn’t only a furniture store but, as anyone who has been in IKEA knows, it projects itself almost as a kind of lifestyle. Before you get the place where you can actually buy anything you walk through all these showrooms where they have created these mock apartment rooms and patios and kitchens, all furnished and decorated with IKEA’s products. It is inviting you in to imagine: What could my living space look like if I lived the IKEA life? 


But once you pass through these shiny showrooms, you then transition to the less glamorous industrial looking warehouse where you grab these long flat boxes that somehow are going to become a couch when you get home. Then you get home to the even less glamorous event where you open the long flat box and you realize that they have magically packed six-thousand pieces of pressed particle-board into this box with two pages of instructions that have no words on it for assembly. They do give you a phone number or website to visit if you’re stuck, but naturally you ignore that and figure you can do it yourself. (If you don’t put your IKEA furniture together wrongly at first, have you even really experienced IKEA?)


But imagine: it is late at night, you’re hunkered over your pile of particle-boards, muttering to yourself, how odd would then be to say to yourself: This pile of boards looks nothing like the couch I want, or, even if I get this couch together my living room isn’t going to look as cool as the IKEA showroom, I think I’ll just give up. The showroom is supposed to inspire you, to show you what your living room could look like, and the pile of particle-boards will eventually be assembled into the couch. 


In our passage in Micah 4 today we are getting a proverbial walk through the showroom of what the world could be, of what the world one day will be when the Kingdom of God is established in its fullness—but rather than incentivize us to inaction, we will see that Micah 4 serves as a summons for us to labor faithfully to showcase as much of God’s Kingdom now as we wait for its “not yet” arrival.


It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

2 and many nations shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

3 He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore;

4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

5 For all the peoples walk

each in the name of its god,

but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God

forever and ever.

In that day, declares the LORD,

6 I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

7 and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.

-       Micah 4:1-7


Last Days / The Messiah Days / Now and Not Yet

What the World Could Be

Who is Invited?


What are the last days?


Last week we concluded with the harrowing words of Micah 3:12, a bleak promise of judgment: 


“Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” Micah 3:12


Micah has been detailing the sins of Israel at a time where they had grown complacent with their idolatry and indifferent towards injustice—but all the while they are confident that they will be spared, claiming: “Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us,” (Micah 3:11). So Micah prophesies that unless repentance happens, Jerusalem will be “plowed as a field” and left as a “heap of ruins,” and most alarmingly, the centerpiece of Israel’s worship, the temple, is going to be destroyed and transformed into a wooded desolation. The temple was where God’s presence dwelt with Israel, it was how they communed with God, how they worshipped. And it was likely the temple that the wicked leaders pointed to when claiming, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us?” So God says: You think because this temple is here you will be spared from judgment? Fine, I will destroy this temple.


But Micah then pivots and casts a prophetic vision even further into the future, beyond the desolation of the temple and explains:


It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

-       Micah 4:1

-       

So what does Micah mean by this phrase “the latter days” or “the last days”? “By the time of Micah this phrase had become a technical term for the age in which God’s kingdom would break into the historical realm and eventually end it (cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer. 48:47; 49:39; Dan. 10:14; Hos. 3:5),” (Dempster, ESVEC). What is God’s Kingdom? It is where God rules. Humanity threw off God’s rule over them when Adam and Eve rebelled. As God has sought to still maintain a relationship with His people after the Fall, there is some aspect in which He still rules over them, but nevertheless sin still persists in our fallen world. So, the “latter days” are the days in which sin is decisively dealt with so that God may rule and reign unhindered. Micah (and the other prophets) look forward to that day when everything that opposes God will be dealt with and God’s rule will march on without opposition—that is what comes in “the latter days.” 


This is what Jesus understands His arrival to usher in: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,’ (Mark 1:14-15). The author of Hebrews explains that it is, “in these last days [that God] has spoken to us by his Son,” (Heb 1:2) before later explaining that Jesus, “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb 9:26). I know that often when we hear “the last days” in the Bible, we immediately assume that it refers to the final years or moments before the destruction of the world, but according to the Bible that last days arrived with the coming of Jesus. So we have been in “the last days” for about two-thousand years. But when Micah speaks of these “last days” he looks into the future and simply sees all of it being fulfilled when Jesus arrives. What Micah doesn’t see is the gap of time between Jesus’ first coming and second coming, the “now” and “not yet.”


So, there are aspects of the “last days” in Micah 4 that we see fulfilled “now” and there are aspects that are “not yet.” For instance, when Micah explains that:


It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it, (Micah 4:1)


Micah is envisioning that after the temple is destroyed (Micah 3:12), the temple will be raised again; the mountaintop that the temple rests on will grow to this immense height and it functions almost like a magnet, causing peoples to “flow” (literally: “river”) up to it—if a river is flowing uphill that means something is drawing it. And it is not simply the people of Israel who are being drawn in, but all nations, all peoples. Jesus taught His disciples that His body was the true temple—where God dwells with man (John 1:14)—and explains that after the temple (His body) is destroyed, it will be raised again (John 2:119-22). Right before Jesus is betrayed and is about to be handed over to be crucified, He is told that some Greeks want to come speak to Him, and Jesus immediately explains that now is the time when He will be delivered over to die (John 12:20-26). He then explains, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” (John 12:32). 


Jesus is the temple that when raised up draws all peoples to Himself, all nations flow to Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection, He sends His disciples out to the world to proclaim the gospel and invites all people to become a part of His Kingdom. That is happening right now. But, one day, there will be a time where individuals from every tribe, tongue, and nation are gathered around Jesus’ throne worshipping Him (Rev 5:9-10), one day the Great Commission will be completed, one day all people will bow their knee and confess that Jesus is Lord. That has not yet happened. 


So as we read this description of what the “latter days” are like, we will find aspects that are fulfilled for us now, and some that are not yet. But even the “not yet” aspects are not given to us without reason. Like the showroom at IKEA, these final fulfillments provide for us a picture of what the world is supposed to look like, what the world will be when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” (Rev 11:15). But Paul describes Christians as “ambassadors of Christ” (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20). What is an ambassador? An ambassador is an individual of a foreign kingdom living in another kingdom as an official representative. The church is the embassy of heaven representing the Kingdom of God here on earth, providing a picture of what the heavenly Kingdom is like. So as we read descriptions of what the climactic consummation of the Kingdom of God is to look like, it is not merely a way to make us hopeful for the future (though it does!), but provides also a picture for how we are to conduct ourselves now as ambassadors of that kingdom.


What the World is Coming To


Multiethnic Worship of King Jesus


It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

2 and many nations shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

-       Micah 4:1-2a


Like iron filings are drawn to a magnet, so too will many peoples from many nations come to worship God. The “mountain of the LORD” is a euphemism for the temple, the place where God dwells, which we know is God the Son, Jesus Christ. More than that, we are told that when we put our faith in Jesus, when we become His disciples, then we become a part of His body, and so we now actually become the temple of God. This is true for us as individuals filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), and for us communally as the church (Eph 2:11-22; 1 Pet 2:5). So, as Jesus, the true temple, is lifted up He draws people to Himself and when they come to Him, they are incorporated into His body, and become a part of the temple themselves. And this is available to all kinds of people.


He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

-       Micah 4:3a


King Jesus rules and reigns over every nation—even strong nations, which I take to mean nations that do not appear like they would easily submit to Jesus. It may be tempting to think that weaker, impoverished nations would more easily see their need and so respond to Jesus. But even over wealthy, affluent, or cold, hard-hearted nations, Jesus will rule.


So, this tells us that one day we shall see every nation, every race, every ethnicity represented around the throne. There is no people group excluded. But this also informs us now—our church as a heavenly embassy should be a place where we do not overtly or subtly exclude anyone or make it appear as if God’s Kingdom is only for one kind of people group. This also means that we should take seriously the task to carry the gospel forward to the nations. And we today have a unique opportunity that we live at a place in the world that has the nations streaming into us—regardless of what your views on immigration is, friend, we cannot miss the profound opportunity we have now with a large immigrant population coming to our community. If King Jesus is will one day rule over every nation, that means that within each community there are those whom Jesus has already paid for, already chosen. 


A Place that Delights in God’s Law


“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

-       Micah 4:2b


When people are drawn in to Jesus, they are drawn in to a love for His Word, for His Law. One day, the world will be marked by a fascination and delight in God’s Law. Maybe you feel discouraged about how often God’s Law is disparaged in the wider world. Don’t be intimidated by the “wrong side of history” argument—the only side of history we want to be on is the side that matters for eternity, and here we see that eternity looks like every nation and every people group saying: “God’s ways are so wise.” Or maybe you feel discouraged because there are parts of your heart that struggle to delight in God’s Word or find certain parts of God’s Word personally troubling. There are many things we need to do in light of that, but all I want you to consider now is that in the fullness of the Kingdom, your heart will be thrilled with God’s commands. 


So now, what does our church do? We teach His ways. We walk in His paths. We obey His law and listen to His Word. So we read our Bibles regularly, we prioritize attending church to hear God’s Word taught.


A Place of Peace


He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore;

4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

-       Micah 4:3-4


Jesus will rule over the nations, He is the one who decides disputes, so there will be no reason for war. People will turn their weapons used to shed blood and transform them into farming tools used to cultivate life. Every person shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, a picture of abundant provision for all—every person has their own source of food. The farming imagery here should make us think of the Garden of Eden, where Adam was created to work as a gardener, working and tending to the ground to cultivate life (Gen 2:15). The New Creation will restore what was lost. Further, this will be a place where no one is afraid of anything; no panic attacks, no fear of missing out, no terminal diagnosis, no fear of being exposed as fake, nothing.


Now, Jesus promises blessing to those who cultivate peace, not strife, not violence, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” (Matt 5:9). Anger, violence, condescension, and division—these are hallmarks of the world, not of the Church. While we live in a fallen world that has so many things to fear, we know that with Jesus we have nothing to fear. Consider, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15). 


Who is Invited?


In that day, declares the LORD,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

7 and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.

-       Micah 4:6-7


Who is invited to this incredible new world that God is building? Who does Jesus turn to? The lame, the sinners, the afflicted. Here’s how Jesus explains it, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matt 11:28. That doesn’t say, “Come to me, all who succeed and are impressive, and I will give you rest,” nor, “Come to me, all who are beautiful and have nothing to be ashamed of, and I will give you rest.” What must you be too come to Jesus? Weary. Burdened. In need of rest. 


If we come to God and admit our need, we will find rest, we will find welcome into the new world that God is creating. 


Why does God do it that way? Why is it the weak, the afflicted, the lame, and the cast out that respond to Him?


Let’s say a very wealthy friend of yours says, “Hey, let’s get dinner sometime! I know of a great restaurant.” This friend is a good, dear friend; time with Him feels like you can really be yourself, let your guard down—there is no awkward silences or tense moments where you scramble for something to say. You love spending time with Him. But, you look up the restaurant and realize that this is not a place that you can even come close to affording—not even your credit cards would cover a meal. You aren’t even sure you own clothes nice enough to just walk into the restaurant, let alone actually order something. 


The poorer you are, the easier it will be for you to tell your friend, “I’m sorry, there’s just no way I could swing that.” But the richer you are, the more embarrassing and difficult that will be—you aren’t used to being put in this position, you aren’t used to having to admit you can’t afford something. Even when your friend slaps you on the back and says, “I’m paying, it’s my treat!” the wealthier you are, the more you will still be left scheming and plotting how you can pay for your own meal so you save face, or how you can just decline the offer entirely.


The world that Jesus is constructing is not a world we would ever qualify to be a part of, but Jesus has paid our fare. And it is those who are willing to admit that “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling” who will be willing to accept this free offer. But if we consider ourselves impressive, decent, upstanding citizens who don’t need to rely on someone else’s charity, don’t need to be forgiven, don’t need help—well, then we will be left outside, unable to share in the heavenly banquet.


Friend, Jesus’ death and resurrection are sufficient payment for you, trust Him with your sin, seek Him and find forgiveness. The new world He is creating is not one we would ever be worthy of participating in on our own merits—but Jesus’ merit is enough for you, for me, for us all.