Survey of the Book of Micah

The Domain for Truth

I imagine many Christians can increase their knowledge of the Minor Prophets.  Here’s a survey of the sixth book of the Minor Prophets: Micah.

Purpose: We will look at the authorship, purpose, structure and other aspects of the book of Micah so we would be more familiar with this part of the Bible and yearn to study it for ourselves.

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Two Sermons by John Howe on Yielding to God. The call to come

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Having explained the nature and need of yielding to God, Howe ends with the call. The last section of this sermon is quite lovely and encouraging. First, Howe calls upon all to “yield to God”:

Shall we then all agree upon this thing?

Shall we unite in one resolution, “We will be the Lord’s.”

Shall every one say in his own heart, “For my part, I will, and so will I, and so will I?”

Come now, one and all.

This is no unlawful confederacy, it is a blessed combination! “Come then, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, not to be forgotten,” Jer. 50:5.

With whatsoever after-solemnity you may renew this obligation and bond of God upon your souls, as I hope you will do it, every one apart, in your closets, or in any corner, and you cannot do it too fully, or too often;

 

yet let us now all resolve the thing; and this assembly make a joint-surrender,

and oblation of itself to

 

the great God our sovereign,

rightful Lord,

through our blessed Redeemer and Mediator,

by the eternal Spirit,

(which I hope is breathing and at work among us,) as one living sacrifice,

as all of us alive from the dead,

to be for ever sacred to him!

O blessed assembly!

O happy act and deed!

 

With how grateful and well-pleasing an odour will the kindness and dutifulness of this offering ascend, and be received above! God will accept, heaven will rejoice, angels will concur and gladly fall in with us. We hereby adjoin ourselves in relation, and in heart and spirit, “to the general assembly, to the church of the first-born ones written in heaven, to the innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” and within a little while shall be actually among them. Is it possible there should be now among us any dissenting vote?

He then gives reasons for why should come. He presses home the point of how foolish it would be to refuse this God who will be your Judge come Judgment Day; how insane it is to refuse the God who calls you.

He also holds the blessings of coming to this God, who is so full of mercy. This seventh reason he presses for us to yield was particularly sweet:

7.  But if you sincerely yield yourselves, the main controversy is at end between the great God and you. All your former sins are pardoned and done away at once. Those glad tidings you have often heard, that import nothing but “glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will towards men,” plainly show that the great God whom you had offended, hath no design to destroy you, but only to make you yield, and give him back his own. Though you have formerly lived a wandering life, and been as a vagabond on the earth from your true Owner, it will be all forgotten. How readily was the returning prodigal received! and so will you. How quiet rest will you have this night, when upon such terms there is a reconciliation between God and you! You have given him his own, and he is pleased, and most of all for this, that he hath you now to save you. You were his to destroy before, now you are his to save. He could easily destroy you against your will, but it is only with your will, he having made you willing, that he must save you. And his bidding you yield implies his willingness to do so. O how much of gospel is there in this invitation to you to yield yourselves to God! consider it as the voice of grace. Will he that bids a poor wretch yield itself, reject or destroy when it doth so?

And he ends with the promise of happiness. For what greater happiness can there be beyond be to reconciled to God so good and full of love and mercy:

8.  And how happily may you now live the rest of your days in this world. You will live under his care, for will he not take care of his own, those that are of his own house? An infidel would. You are now of his family, under his immediate government, and under his continual blessing. And were you now to give an account where you have been to-day, and what you have been doing; if you say, you have been engaged this day in a solemn treaty with the Lord of heaven and earth, about yielding yourselves to him; and it be further asked, “Well, and what was the issue? Have you agreed?” Must you, any of you, be obliged by the truth of the case to say, “No?” Astonishing answer! What! hast thou been treating with the great God, the God of thy life, and not agreed? What, man! did he demand of thee any unreasonable thing? “Only to yield myself.” Why that was in all the world the most reasonable thing. Wretched creature, whither now wilt thou go? What wilt thou do with thyself? Where wilt thou lay thy hated head?—But if you can say, “Blessed be God, I gladly agreed to the proposal; He gave me the grace not to deny him:” then may it be said this was a good day’s work, and you will have cause to bless God for this day as long as you have a day to live.

 

 

John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 402–405.

Two Sermons by John Howe (Romans 6:13): The Affections for Coming to God

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Having set forth the intellectual elements of yielding to God, Howe know comes to the affective aspects of coming. Coming to God in both thought and affection. There is a tendency for one sort of Christian to know the right things, but be stiff or lacking in their affections; a cold orthodoxy. There is an opposite tendency to be reverent in emotion, but without any direction. They desire to love God, they just don’t know much about God. These two camps tend to denigrate the other. Howe rightly shows that we must have right thoughts and right affects. 

The first element of affection is consent, “It must be done with a fulness of consent; and herein it chiefly consists. When the soul says, “Lord, I am now most entirely willing to be thine,” this is your yielding yourselves. And hereby the covenant is struck between God and you; which consists in the expressed consent of the parties covenanting in the matters about which the covenant is.” In fact, the other aspects of affection largely fill-out what Howe means by “fulness of consent.”

He calls this covenant a “conjugal” covenant, a marriage. 

He makes an important observation here: “But then you must take notice that this is to be done with a full consent, which that is said to be which determines you, though it be not absolutely perfect.” Note that: the nature of the consent to yield is an action which “determines you” — it is what you will be: “You may be said to yield yourselves to God, with a full consent, when you live afterwards as one devoted to him.”

Next, the yielding must involve “life” — it is a true, vital act. But it is not done in one’s own power, “Do it as feeling life to spring in your souls towards God in your yielding yourselves to him. What! will you offer God a carcass? not the “living sacrifice,” which you see is required, Rom. 12:1. Beg earnestly for his own Spirit of life and power, that may enable you to offer up a living soul to the living God.” [That is a great line, would you offer God a carcass?]

The yielding must be done in faith. Notice carefully how he defines faith: not as a bare intellectual apprehension, and not as a vague feeling, but as a very definite act of the will in dependence, “There must be faith in your yielding yourselves; for it is a committing, or entrusting yourselves to God, with the expectation of being saved, and made happy by him.”

The full consent to this conjugal covenant, made in life and faith must be made in love, “Another ingredient into this yielding of yourselves must be love. As faith, in your yielding yourselves to God, aims at your own welfare and salvation; so love, in doing it, intends his service, and all the duty to him you are capable of doing him.” He explains that as coming to God as a “devoted servant.”

It is done with humility, “With great reverence and humility. For, consider to whom you are tendering yourself; to the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity;” to him that hath heaven for his throne, and earth for his footstool; and in comparison of whom all the inhabitants of the world are but as grasshoppers, and the nations of the earth as the drop of a bucket, and the dust of the balance, &c.” 

He then finishes the manner of coming with a pair of emotions which we do not often  pair, joy and solemnity; or gladness tends toward frivolity and our solemnity to being glum; but Howe requires both. 

First, joy: “And yet it surely ought to be with great joy and gladness of heart, that he hath expressed himself willing to accept such as you, and that he hath made you willing to yield yourselves. The very thought should make your heart leap and spring within you, that he should ever have bespoken such as we are to yield ourselves to him, when he might have neglected us, and let us wander endlessly, without ever looking after us more.” Note that this strain of joy comes after humility. Humility is necessary because we too easily think God should hear us and forgive us. But Howe rightly underscores, God was under no obligation to show goodness to us; therefore, we should come to him in joy. 

Finally, solemnity:  Note what you are doing, “You should do it with solemnity.* For, have you ever had a business of greater importance to transact in all your days? If you were to dispose of an estate, or a child, would you not have all things be as express, and clear, as may be? And would not they insist to have it so, with whom you deal in any such affair? And is there not a solemnity belonging to all such transactions, especially if you were to dispose of yourself, as in the conjugal covenant? though that is to be but for this short, uncertain time of life: so as that the relation you enter into today, may be by death dissolved and broken off again to-morrow. How much more explicit, clear, and solemn, should this your covenanting with God in Christ be, wherein you are to make over your soul to him, and for eternity? You are to become his, under the bond of an everlasting covenant.”

What would this look like:

Do so then. Fall before his throne; prostrate yourself at his footstool; and having chosen your fit season, when nothing may interrupt you; and having shut up yourself with him, pour out your soul to him; tell him you are now come on purpose to offer yourselves to him as his own. O that you would not let this night pass without doing so! Tell him you have too long neglected him, and forgotten to whom you belonged; humbly beseech him for his pardon, and that he will now accept of you, for your Redeemer’s sake, as being through his grace resolved never to live so great a stranger to him, or be such a wanderer from him more. And when you have done so, remember the time; let it be with you a noted memorable day, as you would be sure to keep the day in memory when you became such a one’s servant or tenant, or your marriage-day. Renew this your agreement with God often, but forget it never. Perhaps some may say, “But what needs all this?” were we not once devoted and given up to God in baptism? and is not that sufficient? To what purpose should we do again a thing that hath once been so solemnly done?

“Is the Gospel No Longer Enough for Black Christians?” Asks DBH

The the provocative title is Mr. Harrison’s not mine.

Read the essay by Darrel B. Harrison

A social justice-centered gospel will take you only so far (Mk. 8:36). How can we for whom the gospel was sufficient – and necessary – to change us, expect something other than the gospel to change someone else? To believe that an innately sinful society inherently possesses either the capacity or the ability to bring about the kind of societal equity so zealously desired by contemporary social justicians is both unrealistic and naive. Jesus made this point abundantly clear to the Pharisees when he said to them:

“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” – Matthew 23:26 (NASB)

Two Sermons by John Howe, Romans 6:13; A thoughtful assent

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Continued from this post

The second, third and fourth elements of such yielding concerning the degree of intellectual assent which must be given in any true yielding: deliberation, judgment and “fulness of consent”.

Deliberation: 

It must be done with great deliberation; not as the mere effect of a sudden fright. What is done in a rash haste, may be as soon undone. Leisurely consider, and take the whole compass of the case; weigh with yourselves the mentioned grounds upon which you are to yield yourselves, and the ends you are to do it for, that things may be set right between him and you, that you may return into your own natural place and station, that you may be again stated in that subordination to your sovereign Lord which fitly belongs to you; that he may have his right which he claims, and you the mercy which you need. Here is place for much consideration.

John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 397.  A point noted previously, Howe’s call to repentance is not the purely emotional call of a “revivalist” or “evangelist”: you are pressed to come (and he will press); but you are not called without due consideration.  In speaking like this, Howe has the model of the Lord:

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:28–33 (ESV).

Judgment: One must consider the case until he has reached a conclusion, a judgment. God calls you to yield; consider the matter carefully and do not come or depart until you have reached a judgment. Howe cites to:

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:14–15(ESV). The word for concluded is the verb krinein, to pass judgment upon. The yielding there to the control of Christ is the result a judgment.

Fulness of consent: At this point Howe speaks of making a deliberate covenant with God. The idea here is taken from the law. A contract is formed by a “meeting of the minds”. One cannot accidentally form a contract (or at least that is the ideal!).  You know what you are doing and “hereby a covenant is struck between God and you.” It is not idle movement, it is not “thinking about it.” The yielding sought by Romans 6:13 is an understanding consent to the call of God.

In the next, we will come to the affections and attitudes which must characterize the one who yields to God. In the end, we will see that Howe is setting out the elements of true faith: head, heart, hands (if you will).

Two Sermons by John Howe; The Manner in Which We Must Yield

In the second of the “Two Sermons” Howe discusses how we are to approach the command in the text “yield”: “Yield yourselves to God.” Romans 6:13. The second sermon contains two main elements: first a discussion of the manner in which we must yield ourselves; second, an explanation of why we must do so.

By “yielding”, Howe means a serious, repentant submission of oneself to God. This act of “yielding” must be done with full understanding and with the right affections.  While not in specific view in Howe’s sermon, I am struck in the tone Howe’s call to repentance when contrasted with the “revival” meetings and “alter calls” I saw growing up.

There is no emotional manipulation; there is no “just come” (although there is a serious come because you are a sinner — there is no get good before you come element) on a whim. Howe is calling one to a deadly serious commitment. His tone is “count the cost and then come.”

He gives cautions and directions for the one who will come.

1 One must come in a manner of repentance: “very deep and serious repentance”. This is to be the form of coming whether one’s initial repentance or the repentance of a long lived believer.  One must come with “self-accusing” — how different that is from the speech of our therapeutic age. Yes, Howe will give the most gracious and wooing call at the end of this second sermon. But he does not pass by the seriousness needed for true repentance.

We must repent of our acts, thoughts, affections. We must also repent of our delay:

How can you think of yielding yourselves now at length to God, without being deeply sensible of your having deferred it so long, and that you have not done it sooner; and how great the iniquity was of your former course, that you have all this while committed a continual robbery upon him that gave you breath?

 John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 397.

Two Sermons on Romans 6:13 by John Howe, Part 3. How we are to consider God in relation to us.

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This is the third post in this series

Howe will argue that we must “yield” ourselves to God. Therefore, he next underscores aspects of God’s relationship to us which would necessitate such a yielding.  Thus, he notes that God is our Creator and Sustainer. Our very existence depends upon God, he “who renews your life unto you every moment.”

This matter of being our Creator and Sustainer will imply certain aspects which pinch our flesh.

Since God is our Creator and Sustainer, he holds additional relationship to us. He is our Owner. In recognizing such we add nothing to God’s rights:

Your yielding yourselves adds nothing to his rights in you; you therein recognize and acknowledge the right he had in you before; but it add to you a capacity and qualification, both by the tenor of his Gospel-covenant, and in the nature of the thing, for such nobler uses as wither wise you cannot service.

Recognizing his right in us, makes us more serviceable, but it is nothing other than what we owe. If we refuse this acknowledgement, we are no better than “brutes and devils”.

God is also our Teacher:

There is another sort of teaching, which if you yield yourselves to him as your great Instructor, he will vouchsafe unto you. The things you know not, and which it is necessary you should know, he will teach you, i. e. such things as are of real necessity to your true and final welfare, not which only serve to please your fancy, or gratify your curiosity; for his teaching respects an appointed, certain end, suitable to his wisdom and mercy, and to the calamity and danger of your state. The teaching requisite for perishing sinners, was, what they might do to be saved. And when we have cast about in our thoughts never so much, we have no way to take but to yield ourselves to God, who will then be our most undeceiving Guide. To whom it belongs to save us at last, to him only it can belong to lead us in the way to that blessed end.

John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 386. This teaching of God is not new revelation. Rather, God makes the existing revelation effective, it becomes teaching we receive from him:

He will so teach you, as to make you teach yourselves, put an abiding word into you, that shall talk with you when you sit in your houses, and walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and whereby you shall be enabled to commune with your own hearts upon your beds while others sleep; and revolve, or roll over in your minds, dictates of life.

 John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 390. His teaching will not leave you unchanged.

Third, since God is our Creator and Sustainer, God is our Sovereign Ruler:

Though teaching and ruling may be diversely conceived of, they cannot be separate in this case. The nobler and final part of God’s teaching you, is teaching you your duty; what you are to practise and do. And so when he teaches you, he commands you too; and leaves it not arbitrary to you whether you will be directed by him or no. What is his by former right, and by after-consent, and self-resignation, shall it not be governed by him, if it be a subject capable of laws and government, as such consent shows it to be? Your yielding yourselves to God is not a homage but a mockery, if you do it not with a resolution to receive the law from his mouth: and that whereinsoever he commands, you will to your uttermost obey. But in this and the other things that follow, my limits constrain me unto more brevity. Only let not this apprehension of God be frightful; yea, let it be amiable to you, as in itself it is, and cannot but be to you, if you consider the loveliness of his government, the kind design of it, and how suitable it is to the kindest design; that it is a government first and principally over minds, purposely intended to reduce them to a holy and peaceful order, wherein it cannot but continue them, when that kingdom comes to be settled there, which stands in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and all the laws whereof are summed up in love; being such also as in the keeping whereof there is great reward.

John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 392.

Finally, we must consider God as our Benefactor. Now, we often think of a benefactor as someone who does us good by our own sights and according to our own inclination. God is a greater benefactor, because he government and his goodness to us are one. He does us good by being our teacher and sovereign:

The very business of his government is in the first place to alter the temper of your minds; for, continuing carnal, they neither are subject to the law of God, nor can be, as the same place tells you. Therefore if his government take place in you, and you become subject, you become spiritual, the “law of the Spirit of life” having now the possession and the power of you. Nor was it possible he should ever be an effectual Benefactor to you, without being thus an over-powering Ruler; so do these things run into one another. To let you have your own will, and follow your carnal inclination, and cherish and favour you in this course, were to gratify you to your ruin, and concur with you to your being for ever miserable; which you may see plainly if you will understand wherein your true felicity and blessedness must consist, or consider what was intimated concerning it, in the proposal of this head; that he is to be your Benefactor, in being to you himself your supreme and only satisfying Good. He never doth you good effectually and to purpose, till he overcome your carnal inclination.

 John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 393.

Finally, we must consider ourselves in this transaction: If God is our Creator, Sustainer, Owner, Teacher, Sovereign and Benefactor, who are we? We are his creatures, but sadly creatures who are apostate and unfit for communion with God; and yet, under the Gospel, we are “sinners invited and called back to God.”

Social Justice & Cultural Marxism & Racism & Evangelicalism

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Voddie here addresses the issues of “Social Justice”, and what this entails for evangelical Christianity.  His background on Marxism and Cultural Marxism is quite good (In college, I read the men he discusses in lecture. His explanation of what they were doing and why was far better than anything my professors ever offered! This would have helped me immensely in school).

But is really useful is where he moves on to explain how these ideas play out in conversation.  He goes on to briefly point at how one can think about the real problems which plague our society.

It is long, just over an hour; but it is worth all of the time it takes:

 

Contemplating the Goodness of God

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Stephen Chanticleer explains that we impoverish our lives because we do not meditate up the goodness of God. He explains that such knowledge would transform what we desire

A sense of the Divine goodness would mount us above the world. It would damp our appetites after meaner things; we should look upon the world not as a God, but a gift from God, and never think the present better than the Donor. We should never lie soaking in muddy puddles were We always filled with a sense of the richness and clearness of this Fountain, wherein we might bathe ourselves; little petty particles of good would give us no content, when we were sensible of such an unbounded ocean. Infinite goodness, rightly apprehended, would dull our desires after other things, and sharpen them with a keener edge after that which is best of all. How earnestly do we long for the presence of a friend, of whose good will towards us we have full experience.

CS Lewis in The Weight of Glory explains that we were created to desire and seek such goodness

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased

Vampires Genesis 3 and Proverbs 5 & 7

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An image from Varney, the Vampire, 1848

Vampires are interesting beasts. They are extraordinarily wicked — and they will not die. Yet, they are not precisely alive. They are seductive; but rather than being procreative, they will kill. These are elements which are precisely described in the Bible.

For instance, in Genesis 3, Adam has rebelled. Adam and Eve are under the sentence of death. Therefore, God ejects them from the Garden so that they do not eat from the Tree of Life and remain in a state of Death in Life:

Genesis 3:22–24 (ESV)
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

The Vampire is a picture of Adam if he were never ejected from the Garden. The Vampire  is alive and yet dead (and always ready to return to dust).

Second, the Vampire is seductive and overtly erotic. Yet, at the same time this eros does not lead to any procreation but rather to death. This is the picture of seduction in Proverbs 5:

Proverbs 5:3–6(ESV)

 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,

and her speech is smoother than oil,

 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,

sharp as a two-edged sword.

 Her feet go down to death;

her steps follow the path to Sheol;

 she does not ponder the path of life;

her ways wander, and she does not know it.

And also Proverb 7:

Proverbs 7:21–23 (ESV)

21  With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22  All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23  till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Finally, I once heard Dr. Grant Horner observe that the Vampire is a parody of Christ. Christ gives his blood so that the guilty made live: the innocent dies for the guilty. The Vampire takes the blood of the innocent so that the guilty may live.

The resonance here helps explain why the image of the Vampire has been compelling: the Vampire exemplifies certain elements of the nature of sin: the seduction, the desire for immorality without redemption and the death in life which sin compels.