I want you to imagine a single day of perfect justice and peace. What would that be like?
- All the wars around the world would cease.
- All the jails and prisons would empty.
- It would be a boring day on Wall Street.
- Washington DC would be quiet and Hollywood would be clothed.
- All the abortion clinics would offer care for pregnant moms without offering abortions.
- The homeless would be fed and clothed and have a warm bed to sleep in.
- Veterans would get the care they need.
- There’d be no drug overdoses, no drunk driving, no homocides or crime.
- There would be no divorces and even remarriages as split families became whole again.
- Police officers and protestors would share pizza and stories together.
- You’d call up that friendship broken from long ago and it would be like old times.
- Your relationship with your family and coworkers would be perfectly healthy.
- You’d finally do the good job you’ve always wanted to do at work or school.
Everyone would be treated fairly and respectfully. And so it would be all quiet not just on the western front but everywhere in every relationship and place. Do you want a day of perfect justice and peace?
God promises us a day of justice and peace is coming. (v1-5)
In our “God of Justice” series we’re studying the prophet Micah from the Old Testament. Let’s review.
Micah 1 – The problem of idolatry and injustice is in Israel, Judah, and us.
In Micah 1 we saw the northern nation of Israel committed idolatry against God—they worshiped false idols. Their idolatry spreads to southern Judah who will be exiled because of it. We’re studying this book so that we might recognize and repent of our idols and injustices and experience renewed hope.
Micah 2 – Love of money leads to unjust treatment of the poor and forsaking the gospel.
In Micah 2 we learned that “idolatry (not loving God first) leads to injustice (not loving our neighbor well).” The rich loved wealth so much they stole the homes and land of the poor and vulnerable and had false prophets who told them what they wanted to hear. We were challenged to truly care about the injustices in our world and to reject prosperity-gospel preaching that tells us we can have our best life now.
Micah 3 – Unjust power takes advantage of others but just power cares about what’s best for others.
In Micah 3 we contrasted selfish-unjust power with what Micah exercised, authority empowered by the Holy Spirit that cares more about others’ good than itself. Gospel power is even willing to lay down its life for the good of another. Although this chapter gave us hope in what could be it ended in a devastating prophecy that because of their sins God is going to destroy the temple.
Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
Have you ever seen a deserted piece of property. What happens? If there’s a building it starts to look run down and abandoned and trees and bushes start to grow up all around the house. In verse 3 Micah is prophesying that the temple is going to be a heap of rubble and the temple mound overlooking Jerusalem will become an overgrown thicket. All is lost, but… God promises us a day of justice and peace is coming.
Micah 4:1 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it. (NIV®)
Micah contradicts the last verse in chapter 3 with the first verse in chapter 4. Your temple mount will be an overgrown thicket, but “in the last days” it will be restored and the temple will be established. The temple won’t just be for the Jews, but for all the nations, the non-Jews (Gentiles) too. In the following three verses Micah prophesies that God will bring justice and peace to the whole world through this temple.
2 Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Zion is Jerusalem. Through this new temple God is going to teach the Jews and nations justice and peace. In the last day God will bring perfect justice into our world, settling disputes and wrongdoings.
3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (NIV®)
In the last days nations will come to this temple and choose peace instead of war. They will turn weapons of death into tools of life. This is the most important part of Micah. It’s the center of the book. Isaiah has a nearly identical passage in Isaiah 2:1-5 so this is key. God promises us a day of justice and peace is coming. But where is that day? Did Judah see it? Their temple was destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again.
That day is here, just not all the way.
“The last days” means the days of the Messiah. We believe Jesus is the “Messiah.” That’s what “Christ” means. So when Jesus arrives he inaugurates the last days. He begins them. Have you ever heard of the “now but not yet?” With his first coming Jesus brings the last days. He calls it the Kingdom of God during his ministry. But he doesn’t bring the kingdom or last days in its fullness. That’s for his second coming when Jesus returns from heaven. The now but not yet means because of Jesus’ first coming we will see signs of peace and justice but there won’t be complete peace and justice.
I brought a visual aid to help explain this today. I bought Monica an insta-camera for Christmas, like a Polaroid. Since you’re looking very nicely dressed today I thought I should take a picture of you. Make sure you smile. One. Two. Three. Cheese. Now it takes about 90 seconds for this photo to develop. Do we have a photo? Yes. Can we see it yet? No. But every moment it’s becoming clearer and more defined. Christ brought the last days of justice and peace and every moment we can work to make them more real.
That day comes through Christ and our church.
If the “last day” has come with Jesus, that means his temple is somehow re-established on Mount Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. How can this be? There’s no temple in modern day Israel. Jesus is the temple of God. Jesus houses the very presence of God because Jesus is God.
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. (NIV®) (cf. Matt 12:6; John 1:14, 4:21; Col 1:19)
But it’s not just Jesus who is the temple of God, we are too. The people of the church are also the temple.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV®) (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16)
If the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you, if he dwells in us as the church, we are his temple. Do you know what this means? This means that when the church comes together to worship Jesus, we are spiritually coming to Mount Zion. The author of Hebrews writes to the early believers:
Hebrews 12:22-24a “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…” (NIV®)
There’s a lot going on here but what it means is that when the church gathers to worship Christ the last day is here, not in its fullness or completion, but in real and relevant power. Christ is the temple. We’re a temple. We’re on the spiritual Mount Zion and the nations will come through us to Christ. As we gather around Christ we too get to help bring justice and peace into this world. Part of this is getting to help solve the injustices we see in our communities and relationships. We get to beat swords into plowshares.
There’s perhaps no better modern example of the church helping solve injustices than the Christian churches lead by Anglican priest, Dinis Sengulane. When the South African country of Mozambique was decolonized, a civil war broke out that lasted from 1977 till 1992—15 years. It was absolutely terrible. Over a million people were abused and murdered in horrible ways. Sengulane lead a church delegation that helped broker peace between the rebels and the President. He and another Christian group helped lay the foundation for a 1992 peace-treaty.
Sengulane and the church didn’t stop there because there were still “more than seven million guns” hidden all over Mozambique that could lead to another civil war. They worked with the government to help start the “Tools for Arms” or “Swords into Plowshares” project inspired by Isaiah 2. If you turned in a weapon you got a tool. So turn in your gun and get a shovel that you can use to farm. The more weapons you turned in the more tools you could get. One village turned in so many weapons they got a tractor.
As part of this initiative they helped launch an art project where they took these old weapons used for war and bloodshed and turned them into beautiful pieces of art designed for peace.
- This first piece is called “The Saxophone” and is made from an “AK47 and a bazooka.” A weapon used for war is now a symbol of music and harmony.
- This second piece is called the “Throne of Weapons.” The artist also used assault rifles to create a chair. The artist intentionally made the back of the chair to look like the gothic cross of a church.
- This third piece is really a symbol of the whole movement. They call it the “Tree of Life.” It’s about 11.5 feet tall and celebrates the life this movement has helped create.
Over 600,000 weapons were turned in as part of this program. It was Christians and the church who lead this movement. We don’t need a civil war to be leaders of justice and peace in our community.
I surveyed you at the start of this sermon series asking “What’s an injustice our culture commits?” and one of your main answers was abortion. One way we can help end abortions is by passing laws that protect the lives of the unborn. But as the church I think we have to be extra careful not to get caught in the culture wars. The culture wars are partisan battles between conservatives values and liberal values over things like family and marriage, the separation of church and state, and abortion. And a war is what it has become, with mothers on one side and babies on the other. But if the Lord is calling us to turn our swords into plowshares how might we approach this same issue in a way that promotes both justice and peace? How can we take care of both mothers and their babies (see prograce.org)?
I still think that means voting for protection for the unborn but it should also include voting for protection for single moms and promoting adoption. Casting a ballot isn’t enough. We need to roll up our sleeves and love our neighbors. We can do that through programs like Safe Families. Safe Families is a program where we as a church come around families and moms in times of crisis and need. Imagine a young mom comes to us to help take care of her child during a hard time. We as a church rally around her and provide the love and support she needs. Do you think if her friend gets pregnant she’s going to encourage her to abort the baby or to tell her about the love and support she felt through Safe Families and our church? Through programs like Safe Families we can make a difference in the cause of justice. If you’re wavering over filling out an application, I want to encourage you to stop wavering and just do it. Our Discipleship Pathway wants us to really go out there and develop relationships and change lives. This provides us a way to do that. As the church we get to begin to bring God’s justice and peace into this world. This won’t be easy.
God promises a day of justice and peace but today he calls us to obedience and faith. (v6-13)
In the rest of chapter 4 Micah does two things. He calls the people to obedience and faith. In verses 6-8 Micah calls the people to have faith that God will heal their wounds and bring them home.
6 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“I will gather the lame;
I will assemble the exiles
and those I have brought to grief.
7 I will make the lame my remnant,
those driven away a strong nation.
The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
from that day and forever. (NIV®)
We need to believe. Believe that the Messiah Jesus can heal the lame, give sight to the blind, and bring eternal life through the gospel message (Matt 11:5; John 5:1-15). Have faith that Jesus can heal your sins and will one day bring you home. In verse 10 Micah calls the people to “leave the city” and “go to Babylon” but “there you will be rescued.” Corrie ten Boom, a woman sent to a concentration camp for helping Jews escape the Nazis said, “The safest place is in the center of God’s will.” Micah ends chapter 4 by saying the people of Judah and Jerusalem will encounter resistance and exile but by God’s grace they will overcome. The safest place is in the center of God’s will.
Obedience and faith aren’t easy. That’s why we have to set our eyes on Jesus. We have a Savior who took a spear in his side to transform a deadly cross into a symbol of life. It’s by his blood that instruments of war become instruments of peace. It’s by his blood that warriors become peacemakers. It’s by his blood that you and I can lay down our hostility and know the peace of God. God promises a day of justice and peace but today he calls us to obedience and faith.
If you’re at war over something or with someone I want to challenge you to turn your swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Instead of furthering the conflict, how can you create justice and peace? How can you use what you have against someone for them? Pray about it and as the Holy Spirit to lead you forward. God promises a day of justice and peace but today he calls us to obedience and faith.
Pastor Jonathan Romig preached this message at Cornerstone Congregational Church. You can download a PDF copy of this sermon above, which includes further endnotes and references. Click to listen to sermons or to read our story.