- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

The following are excerpts of a sermon yesterday by the Rev. Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District.

Today’s religion is typified by championing tolerance, change and mystery. Engaging, entertaining, not exactly demanding.

We’ve taught the rising generation to give the benefit of the doubt to the unknown. Since truth is personal — you know, truth for you or truth for me — we assume that tolerance is the least we can afford to those who have values different from us.

Change is another important component of modern religion. Change in moral standards, yes, change in religious practices, yes. One study a few years ago concluded that among Christians in America, church-shopping has become a way of life: One in seven adults changes churches each year; one in six regularly rotates among congregations. The process theologians even go so far as to suggest that God changes.

And surely the ultimate being is mysterious. Many people promote the idea today of a god who is so removed from us, so different from us, that he is more like a force than a father.

I’m sure I’ve told you before of the Christian clergyman I was meeting with regularly for a while who, when I asked him if he thought that God was personal, paused for a moment, said he’d never been asked that question, stared thoughtfully into the fire, and then concluded, that no, he didn’t think that God was personal.

Tolerant, changing and accommodating, ever tantalizingly mysterious and undefinable — is that your notion of Christianity? If so, then I think that you might be interested in the next of the minor prophets that we’re considering this morning. Today, we come to the prophet Micah, in our study of the minor prophets of the Old Testament.

Micah was writing in a day not too unlike our own. When we come to this book, we find that the nation of Israel is in deep trouble — and most of all, it seems — with God. If you turn to chapter seven, you see something of the situation in which Micah’s prophesy found the nation of Judah. Prophesying around the same time as Isaiah, in the eighth century B.C., Micah describes the terrible depths to which God’s people had fallen as her society dissolved and misery ensued.

Micah, speaking it seems as the people of God personified, speaking for all of them, was experiencing disappointment — no grapes, his cravings unfulfilled. With a powerful couplet there in verse two, he makes it clear that even though these may be supposed to be the people of God, the godly people are not to be found. Murder is widespread. Rulers are corrupt. Justice is perverted through bribery. It’s a rich man’s world.

Some, like Cambridge New Testament professor C.H. Dodd, have tried to redefine and depersonalize God’s wrath as merely “the inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe.”

But the picture here in Micah is clear — God wants wrong rebuked and He will do it. He will do it through His tools of Assyria and Babylon. He will do it directly to people as they live in a decaying culture.

We know from history that within a few years of Micah’s having given this prophesy, the Assyrians destroyed Samaria. The northern ten tribes of Israel disappeared from the pages of history. And the disaster which Micah prophesied for Jerusalem and the southern kingdom in rebuke for their sins came, too. It came decades after Micah’s prophesy.

So, all of the ferocious language of God’s wrath and judgment against His people’s sin shouldn’t leave you with the idea that that was all that the Lord spoke to His people through Micah. On the base of the promise of judgment, there was to be built a restoration of God’s rebuked, chastened people. The remnant was to inherit the promises of Israel as a whole. After all the trials and troubles, God would re-establish His people in righteousness and justice.

Oh, my friends, if I were here today as someone who were not a Christian, I would want more than anything else to become one of these people that God will save. Surely you know something of your own sins. You may well believe that there is a God. You may have some sense of your having to give an account to Him.

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