December 07, 2021 Marc Sims

The Cost of Sin (Micah 6:9-7:7)

The Cost of Sin (Micah 6:9-7:7)

The Morphine's Girl by Santiago Rusiñol (1894)

Sermon Audio: The Cost of Sin (Micah 6:9-7:7)


Sermon Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Micah 6:9-7:7. Go around and recap briefly what the sermon was about and share what points stood out most to you.
  2. In CS Lewis' children's novel, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, what did the "Turkish Delight" represent?
  3. Of the three "costs" of sin (exhausting, dehumanizing, and isolating), which have you seen in others or experienced yourself most?
  4. In the sermon, Marc mentioned that "sin is always going somewhere, it isn't inert, but has a trajectory." What does that mean?
  5. What are the two ways to respond to God's warning?
  6. Did you sense the Lord convicting you about sin in your life that you have not been repenting of? What does repentance look like for you?


Sermon Manuscript:

I don’t know about you, but during the Christmas season one thing my family enjoys doing is watching Christmas movies. One of my favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Story, where we get to see the young Ralphie spend the weeks before Christmas trying to convince his mom and dad to get him the Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. I actually looked it up this morning, Ralphie asks 28 times for a Red Ryder BB gun in the movie. His mother repeatedly tells him that he can’t because he’ll shoot his eye out. Even Santa, before he uses his boot to shove Ralphie down the slide, tells him that he’ll shoot his eye out. To his great surprise, come Christmas morning, Ralphie’s dad (much to his mother’s dismay) gets a Red Ryder BB gun. When Ralphie goes outside to test it out, he takes aim and fires, and the BB ricochets right back at Ralphie, and (were it not for his glasses) he nearly shoots his eye out! What’s the moral of the story? Maybe that sons (or dads) should listen to moms’ warnings. Maybe that you shouldn’t shoot a BB gun at a metal sign. Or maybe it’s that sometimes the thing we want most will actually wind up hurting us.


Which makes me think of another Christmas story. And actually, what is so noteworthy about this Christmas story is the utter lack of Christmas. In CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch has put a curse over all of Narnia so that it is “always winter, but never Christmas.” There are no feasts, there is no jolly singing, no presents—only interminable cold. Edmund, a young boy, stumbles into this land through a magical wardrobe and immediately runs into the White Witch. Hoping to deceive Edmund into luring his other brother and sisters into the land to imprison them, the Witch acts friendly and welcoming to Edmund, inviting him up into her sleigh to warm himself under her fur blanket and then offers him enchanted Turkish Delight.


As Edmund eats the Turkish Delight, he suddenly realizes that he can’t stop himself from eating—he shovels the Turkish Delight in as fast as he can, rudely gorging himself on the conjured candy, “and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat,” till the box was empty. What Edmund didn’t realize was that this was cursed Turkish Delight, “that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.” This insatiable craving becomes the means by which Edmund is enslaved to the White Witch, and is what will eventually lead him to shivering alone in an icy prison with nothing but stale bread crusts to eat.  


Sometimes, the things we want most, the things that seem to give us such an instantaneous burst of pleasure, wind up sinking hooks deep within us and yanking us down to depths we never imagined. This was true for God’s people in Micah’s day. They had given themselves over to idolatry, greed, or injustice because it gave them short term pleasure, but, according to Micah, was sowing long term destruction. In our text today, Micah is wanting to expose for his people the severe cost of sin, where their unfettered desires were going to take them. Perhaps you, yourself, have felt the itch of desire for something you know is wrong; perhaps you are caught up in a spiral of addiction; maybe you are like Edmund, and the more you eat, the more you want to keep eating. Our text today is here to clang a loud bell of warning: this is where your sin wants to take you. 


The voice of the LORD cries to the city—

and it is sound wisdom to fear your name:

“Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!

Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,

and the scant measure that is accursed?

Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales

and with a bag of deceitful weights?

Your rich men are full of violence;

your inhabitants speak lies,

and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.

Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow,

making you desolate because of your sins.

You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not preserve,

and what you preserve I will give to the sword.

You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.

For you have kept the statutes of Omri,

and all the works of the house of Ahab;

and you have walked in their counsels,

that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”

Woe is me! For I have become

as when the summer fruit has been gathered,

as when the grapes have been gleaned:

there is no cluster to eat,

no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.

The godly has perished from the earth,

and there is no one upright among mankind;

they all lie in wait for blood,

and each hunts the other with a net.

Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;

the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,

and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;

thus they weave it together.

The best of them is like a brier,

the most upright of them a thorn hedge.

The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;

now their confusion is at hand.

Put no trust in a neighbor;

have no confidence in a friend;

guard the doors of your mouth

from her who lies in your arms;

for the son treats the father with contempt,

the daughter rises up against her mother,

the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

But as for me, I will look to the LORD;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.

-       Micah 6:9-7:7


Consider Sin’s Cost


Lord Byron, the poet and aristocrat, was the proverbial “bad boy” of 19th century England. He was wealthy, famous, talented, and knew no limits in regards to his sexual appetite. However, on his 36th birthday he wrote this poem:


My days are in the yellow leaf;

  The flowers and fruits of love are gone;

The worm, the canker, and the grief

      Are mine alone!


Basically: I feel like my life is ending; nothing makes me happy anymore; and the only companions and friends I have now are my grief and venereal diseases. Sin comes with a cost. 


What is Sin?

In the catechism my children use it describes sin as “rejecting or ignoring God in the world He created, not being or doing what is required in His law” (New City Catechism). How has Israel done this in Micah’s day? They have rejected and ignored God by treating Him like He is totally inconsequential. God is in the temple, and as long as we bring Him the right sacrifices, we can keep doing whatever we want. This was how other pagan religions viewed their gods. In fact, they had even begun to pay tribute and worship to other gods besides the One True God. And because they did this, they did not do or be what God required in His Law.


In our section we see Micah detail that they have used “scant measures,” “wicked scales,” and “deceitful weights,” (Micah 6:10-11) to fill their homes with “treasures of wickedness” (6:10). Even further, “the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together” (7:3). These are instances where Israel have twisted institutions or systems to become corrupt, whether those be in economics or the court system. This is the exact opposite of “doing justice” (Micah 6:8) that God requires. They are perverting justice to line their pockets.


Further, Israel is described as being a place where their “rich men are full of violence” and marked by dishonesty and deceit (Micah 6:12), where everyone is quick to stab each other in the back. Micah explains that Israel has “kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab,” (Micah 6:16). Omri and his son Ahab are not characters that anyone would want to be compared to. Here is what 1 Kings 16:25 says of Omri, “Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him.” Then, here is what the Bible says about Ahab, “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him,” (1 Kings 16:30)! Omri sets the Guinness world record for sinfulness, only to be quickly outdone by his own son. And now, in Micah’s day, instead of just having one Omri and one Ahab, now there is a whole nation of these guys. Micah finally explains Israel as a land where, “Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well,” (Micah 7:3). This means that Israel is using both of their hands to practice evil the way a tradesmen uses their hands to do a craft. They are excellent, skilled, refined in wickedness. They “make a practice of sin” as 1 John 3:8 explains. That is, they work with intention, effort, and industry to continue on in their sin.


As we look at what is going on here, we see three costs that sin exacts from us. 


My aim in these three points is to do what Thomas Watson encourages us to consider with our sin: “When you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment seat, sin shall be unmasked, and its dress and robes shall then be taken off, and then it shall appear more vile, filthy, and terrible than hell itself,” (Watson, Precious Remedies, p. 35).


Sin is exhausting


In verses 14-15 we read this judgment on Israel:

You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not preserve,

and what you preserve I will give to the sword.

You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.


Here, we see what is sometimes referred to as a “curse of futility.” Israel will labor, will work, but will enjoy none of the benefits. 


In the book of Galatians, Paul describes the work of God in a Christian’s life as the “fruit of the Spirit” and contrasts it with what he calls the “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:16-21). Why? Because sin is work. It is toil and labor. More accurately, it is pointless toil and labor. At least in the final analysis it is. It likely does not feel that way, it likely doesn’t feel fruitless, or hollow, at first. It isn’t till the box is empty and all the Turkish Delight are gone that Edmund begins to feel both sick to his stomach and profoundly unsatisfied, desperate for more. 


“You shall eat, but not be satisfied.” Satan’s great aim is for you to throw your life away for a trinket, to fritter it away in anxious toil for that which will never satisfy you. This week I read of a man who had been so caught in his addiction to pornography that he would stay up to 2 or 3 in the morning, searching for the perfect image, the perfect video, then wake up at 6 AM to go to work, he lost his job, lost his family, lost everything. That is an extreme example, but illustrates this principle perfectly? Why was the man spending hours searching every night? Because he was looking for something he would never find, he kept wanting to find something that would satiate his hunger, but never found it. Why? Because when you give yourself over to your sin, you shall eat, but won’t be satisfied. This is what our sin does to us. Give yourself over to your vanity, to your greed, to your anger, to your self-righteousness and watch: the more you eat of it, the more you’ll want to eat. You’ll never have enough.


In C.S. Lewis’ other great book, The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon is coaching a younger demon on how to tempt humans where he explains: “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”


Sin is dehumanizing


Woe is me! For I have become

as when the summer fruit has been gathered,

as when the grapes have been gleaned:

there is no cluster to eat,

no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.

The godly has perished from the earth,

and there is no one upright among mankind;

they all lie in wait for blood,

and each hunts the other with a net.

-       Micah 7:1-2


Here Micah laments Israel’s condition. He feels like a fruit picker who showed up to harvest, but there is nothing left on the vine, no “first-ripe fig” available. A “fig tree” is an image God uses to describe Israel in the Old Testament (Hos 9:10), but here there is no fig available. Jeremiah describes the nation of Israel like a basket of rotten figs (Jer 24:1-3), filled with injustice and sin. This is why Jesus curses the fig tree right before he curses the temple in Jerusalem (Mark 11:12-21)—Israel is like a barren fig tree, good for nothing. Here, Micah notes that Israel has no fruit, they are not what they are supposed to be. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations of God’s goodness and purity and holiness; that was her purpose. But instead, Micah says that there isn’t a single godly person left in Israel. They have become like animals who hunt each other down. Later Micah notes,


The best of them is like a brier,

the most upright of them a thorn hedge.

-       Micah 7:4


Instead of a fig tree producing fruit, they are a bramble of thorns, producing nothing but ugliness and pain. Sin warps us, twists us. We were designed for nobility, for grandeur. We were made to reflect God. We were not made to be bent inward, constantly searching for how to gratify ourselves, how to protect our self-image, our fragile egos, our silly ideas of self-importance. We were made to love God and love others; sin leads us to be centered on ourselves. Every act of sin is an assault on human dignity. 


Have you been alarmed at what you are capable of doing? Has your anger, your selfishness, your desperation for acceptance and approval shocked you by what lows you have been willing to sink to? This is the cost of giving our hearts over to our sin.


Sin is isolating


Micah warns us that within Israel the social fabric has completely unraveled:


Put no trust in a neighbor;

have no confidence in a friend;

guard the doors of your mouth

from her who lies in your arms;

for the son treats the father with contempt,

the daughter rises up against her mother,

the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

-       Micah 7:5-6


If sin is fundamentally a turning inward upon ourselves, then of course the natural consequence of it is that we become distrustful of other people. Selfishness is not a recipe to build a strong community on. 


These are the consequences of sin and like a bucket of cold water dumped over the head, we should let these consequences sober us. A mom was in the grocery store with her young son, standing in the checkout aisle. She noticed her son staring at the cover of a magazine with some provocative image on its cover. The mom told her son, “That’s gross, don’t look at that.” But, of course, it didn’t seem gross to the son. What the mom should have said was, “That will kill you.” Sin comes with a cost.


Friend, that grumbling attitude that wants to complain about everything, that laziness that wants to avoid self-denial, that dishonesty—all of that is going somewhere. Don’t think that you can plant the seeds of sin and not reap its fruit. Perhaps the thin wedge of compromise that you are making now is but the tip of a spike of wickedness that Satan is wanting to pound into your life bringing about consequences that you never imagined you would pay for. Friends, don’t let this sermon today be a moment that you look back on in regret saying, “I knew then that I should have given this up, I knew then, but I didn’t do anything, and now my life is left in shambles and ruin.” Today you don’t have to toil and labor for that which doesn’t satisfy, you don’t have to continue dehumanizing yourself, you don’t have to keep pushing other people away from you. 


Consider God’s Offer


Micah has been oscillating back and forth between warnings of judgment and promises of restoration, but this time he opens with trumpet blast of warning: “The voice of the Lord cries to the city—and it is sound wisdom to fear your name. Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!”” (6:9). What is God’s offer here? It is an offer to respond. It is an offer to consider that God is not indifferent towards our sin, and He will respond, so we must consider what we are going to do about it. Does God care about what you do with your life? If we are to take the Bible seriously, it would appear He cares a great deal. And here, by sending Micah to announce the danger, the judgment, the warnings of this section, he tells them to consider the “rod” of the Lord. The instrument of discipline. Here is what this means:


There are two ways to respond to the warning of God: (1) to recognize yourself in the warning and admit your fault, or (2) ignore it.


If Israel will but listen to what the Lord says through Micah and his warnings, He will relent. God is a God rich in mercy and abundant in steadfast love. He will assuredly pardon. But if Israel doesn’t respond? If they ignore God’s warning, then He will use the rod. He will strike them with a grievous blow. God is stronger than we are and the consequences of sin we experience now will be but a mere foretaste of the judgment that they will face in the life to come. If our sin is the experience of us moving away from God, ignoring Him, denying Him, and we reap these consequences that will leave our lives unraveled—what will all of eternity be when we are cast away from His presence wholly? Is your sin worth it?


But what if we recognize ourselves in the warning and continue to struggle? What if we are trapped in a cycle of sin it seems like we cannot escape from? What if the more we earnestly try to pursue and follow the Lord we seem to find more and more pockets of sin? You are not working “with both hands” to practice your sin, you are not making conscious plans of how to continue your sin, but there it is. You keep struggling, you keep wrestling. What do you do then? You look to the final verse:


But as for me, I will look to the LORD;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.

-       Micah 7:7


Next week we will look at Micah’s pattern of what true repentance looks like, how to turn from sin, but for now you can know that there is a God of salvation here for you. Jesus is a friend of foolish sinners like me. What does Micah do here? He looks, he waits, he trusts that God will hear him. Notice how simple that is, notice how all of that is a look outward and upward to God—not a look inward to his own resources, to his own strength, to his own goodness to deliver him from sin. Dear weary sinner, if you will be cast an upward glance towards heaven, there you will find an abundance of help, an eagerness for pardon, and an abounding love that will swallow up your sin, guilt, and condemnation. There you will find an understanding Savior who is no friend of your sin, but who is so filled with gentleness and compassion that He desires you to be rid of your sin even more than you do. 


Great sins do draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce, there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul, appears most high and mighty. 

- John Bunyan, "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners"