And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. And many nations will come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths." For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. And each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. Though all the peoples walk each in the name of his god, as for us, we will walk In the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. "In that day," declares the LORD, "I will assemble the lame, and gather the outcasts, even those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant, and the outcasts a strong nation, and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever."
Sermon for 2nd SIA 12/04/22
God's New Order
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Whenever I preach on the Old Testament, I am always impressed with how often the texts talk about ‘that day' which is coming. The lessons for the beginning of the Church Year always seem to focus on the end of time. That is because of the focus of Advent on the Lord Coming again, and the entire Old Testament is looking forward to something that is still in the future as the prophets write.
Our text today in Micah is the text that inspired the old, familiar song, "Down by the Riverside" about how "we ain't gonna study war no more", although the riverside is not mentioned in the passage. I suspect that the riverside is a reference to Baptism, or possibly the division between life and death. Either way, the spiritual recognizes that this prophecy is about God's new order, whether it is the order in the life of the child of God or the order in the new world which God is preparing for all those that believe. Our theme this morning is God's New Order.
As is true of many prophetic passages, the prophecy of Micah in these verses does not progress in a straight line chronologically. The prophecy speaks of a time in the future. Micah calls that time, "in the last days". He is looking forward to our time. We live in the last days, and have been living in the last days since the ascension of Jesus. The "last days" are the age of the Gospel. Hebrews 1:2 calls these days the "last days". In this prophecy, we are taken through the entire New Testament age, and the age of the Church, into heaven itself. It is in this age of the Gospel that the Mountain of the house of the Lord is raised up and is established as the chief of the mountains.
The Church, which is the place of the presence of God Himself among men, is Mount Zion. Here God is present in His Word and by means of the Sacrament, and He dwells within each one that believes. That is why the prophecy speaks of the Law going forth from Zion: For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. This, the Church, is from where the Word of God is to flow. You can see the Hebrew parallelism in the reference to the Law in one phrase and the Word of the Lord in the other. They are the same thing.
When Micah writes about the nations streaming to the mountain of the Lord, he is describing the power and effectiveness of the Gospel throughout these last days. Men and women from every nation on earth have been called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the Word of the Gospel. Viewed from the prophet's distance in time, it would surely seem like the nations are streaming to the mountain of the Lord. These are all the initial elements of God's New Order.
Then we have the Judgment. The prophet says that God will judge between peoples and render decisions. Following that comes the time of peace when men will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. The implements of war will be done away with in God's new order, and there will be a time of universal peace. This is the time and place where men will study war no more, in the words of the spiritual. Since this era begins following the judgment of God, this "era" is what we call heaven, or eternal life.
Not only is war gone, and all that went into the making of war is now converted into useful productivity, but people will know a time of security and peace, And each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. Since in all of recorded human history, there has been only twenty-eight years without war somewhere, this is clearly an image of something other-worldly. It is describing our peace and security in eternal life with the Lord.
You can notice that the prophecy draws no distinction between the age of the Gospel and the time when all this peace settles upon mankind. That is because there is no real difference, except as we perceive things. But this is a prophecy through Micah from God. With sins forgiven, and all those who trust in the Lord possessing eternal life, even our time in this world, under the Gospel, is part of God's new order. After all, those that believe never die. Their bodies do, but they will be raised again in the resurrection at the end, and their souls, which never did die, will be re-united with their bodies for that everlasting life which will know no sorrow, no sickness, no fears and no death.
In the plan of God, your Baptism was the only death that you will ever face, and you were born again in Baptism to a new and everlasting life. Even now, in a world filled with outward dangers, you have nothing to fear, for God is with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you, and He has promised to work all things – even the bad stuff – for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose. You are already in heaven, for heaven is where God rules. This is all part of God's new order.
But then the prophet moves on, in our text. Though all the peoples walk each in the name of his god, as for us, we will walk In the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. These words do not describe God's new order, but our response to the promise of God's new order. The vision of heaven in the prophecy ends with the words, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. This vision is all the promise of God, therefore, we will confess Him. Even though everyone else will go their own way, the prophet says, and will serve their own gods, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. Our confession of both our lips and our life will be the name of our God.
This is describing the reality of our world, now. Even though we live in God's new order, the rest of the world does not. They will challenge us, and persecute us, and expect us to walk with them in the values of our society. But we have heard the Word of God and we believe His Word, and therefore we will faithfully confess Him and His Word and live our lives – walk – in the confession of Him and His truth and His name. And what is His name? Jesus. Christ. That is why we are called "Christians". We are walking literally in His name! In His name we have forgiveness of sins. In His name we have salvation. In His name we shall rise from our graves to everlasting life in glory – in God's new order – so we treasure that name.
So, you can see that the prophet takes us to heaven in his prophecy, and then brings us back to now and to our present reality. He doesn't draw a neat line straight from his time to heaven and quit, but brings us back and sets us in our world and in our lives, which are lived in the Gospel. And then God speaks through the prophet and reminds us of His grace. "In that day," declares the LORD, "I will assemble the lame, and gather the outcasts, even those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant, and the outcasts a strong nation, and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever."
You ask, "How is that grace?" The answer is in the description of those saved. God assembles the lame, gathers the outcasts, and even those whom He has afflicted. These are the ones named in the parable of the feast that Jesus tells in Luke 14, where all those invited were too busy to come to the feast, and so the man giving the dinner told his servants to go out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in. Those who account themselves to be something are not here, but the undeserving, the unable, and the needy. Those people are us. We are the receivers of the grace of God.
God promises through the prophet to take those lame and those outcasts and turn them into a mighty nation. It is not our doing, but His that saves us, and we become the mighty nation of God's redeemed by His gracious choice. God speaks through Micah and says that He will turn the Lame into a remnant. That does not mean, in this place, that they will be limited in number. It means that they are the ones God preserves and chooses – the remnant of Israel. They, We are the elect, the chosen ones. And God has chosen us to be the ones over whom He will reign for eternity – forever and ever. He will reign over them in Mt. Zion – in the Church.
Here we have the prophecy of God's New Order. He is going to rescue those who do not deserve it and have no power and no right to ask for it – pure grace. He will be their strength and their success. They will be drawn from all the nations of the earth by the power of the Word, and they will know only love and joy and peace. God's New Order is the Gospel at work in time and throughout eternity – and we are part of it and living in it today!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
Sunday, December 04, 2022
God's New Order