King Hezekiah faced some serious obstacles in his lifetime. During his lifetime the Assyrian army, a military force known for their brutality and strength, ransacked Judah and gathered right outside Jerusalem’s walls. The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, sent his messenger to mock Hezekiah and the God of Israel (Isa 36:1-2). We see this in verse 1.
Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
on the cheek with a rod. (NIV®)
King Hezekiah was facing some serious personal obstacles. He might lose his kingdom, his warriors might abandon him, he might die. Likewise, many of us are facing personal obstacles. “Everyone is going through something.” Maybe your obstacle is financial. You don’t have a well-paying job or your bills are mounting. Or it could be your schedule. There’s just not enough time in the day. You’re too busy. You don’t get to relax or be with family or friends. Maybe it’s deeper. You’re depressed, melancholy. Nothing good is happening in your own life and all you hear is bad news. We all face personal obstacles.
The obstacles Hezekiah faced were personal but they were also corporate. It wasn’t just him who faced the Assyrians, but all the people. It wasn’t just him who might die. It was all of Judah. The whole community was at risk. Jerusalem means city of peace but the whole city is facing annihilation and exile. They’re probably going to die or starve and the enemy is telling them their God won’t deliver them (Isa 36:14-15).
If they were facing obstacles as the people of Judah what sort of obstacles are we facing as the people of Cornerstone? You know what the big-three problems are that churches face and no one really wants to hear a sermon on? Money, attendance, and evangelism.
- Money – Although our church is incredibly generous we are still facing a budget shortfall of almost $18,000 going into next fiscal year. The finance team has said we need to cut next year’s budget but they’re not sure what to cut. This is a big obstacle to doing the ministry we want to do.
- Attendance – I’m going to be honest with you all. Attendance is terrible. When we first launched 80 people felt like a lot. Now 55 feels like a lot. Last year from July through June our average attendance was 59 people at a worship service. So far this year we are averaging 49, a drop of 10.
- Evangelism – Our church is mostly made up of transplants, believers from other churches. We’re not seeing new people come to know Christ like we had hoped. The aim was never to be a small church but to grow this church by reaching the unchurched, people who don’t know Jesus, but we’re not there yet.
Instead of preaching one sermon on money, one on attendance, and one on evangelism, I’m cramming it all into one because these are the obstacles we are facing corporately. Let’s talk about them. Let’s face them. Let’s find solutions. I believe we can find solutions by looking to God’s word.
We’re looking at the story of Micah. I think as we compare our obstacles (money, attendance, evangelism) to theirs (death, starvation, exile), it’s fair to say our situation is looking better and better. Their problems are more serious than ours, but that means whatever solution Micah gave them should work just as well for us. Whatever they look to for hope and deliverance should be the exact same thing we look to. How they responded and how we “can” (keyword) respond influences “if” we will overcome our obstacles.
Before we jump into our first point one word of caution. A church that is packed every week, has lots of baptisms, and is flush with cash isn’t necessarily a success in God’s eyes. But a lack of money, attendance, and conversions isn’t a sign of healthy church either. However, my sermon isn’t really about those things. It’s about how we respond when we face challenges. It’s about focusing on the right things. See our first response starts with our eyesight.
Eyes – Set your eyes on Jesus. (v1-6)
First, set your eyes on Jesus. What does Micah do when the people of Judah are facing the destruction of their temple (chapter 2) and the promise of exile in Babylon (chapter 4)? He speaks to them of a deliverer.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” (NIV®)
He tells them that out of the smallest and most insignificant of towns, a town that doesn’t even make the map (kind of like Forge Village or Graniteville), a deliverer is going to come. King David, the greatest king of Israel, came from Bethlehem, but not much has come from there since (1 Sam 16:1). But our God loves to use the weak and the small to overcome the big and the strong.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord.
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. (NIV®)
Micah is trying to get the people of Judah and Jerusalem to set their eyes not on Assyria, or king Hezekiah who isn’t strong or capable enough, but on a coming Shepherd King. Today I’m inviting you to take your eyesight off whatever you’re going through personally and what we’re going through corporately and begin to refocus on Jesus, not because this will make all our problems vanish but because we will view them with the right perspective as we gaze first at Christ’s power, glory, grace, and goodness.
When the people of Judah heard this prophecy they wouldn’t have known to look to Jesus, but they would have known to look to a special future figure, the Messiah. The Messiah would have sounded super mysterious to them. The Messiah is a shepherd, but he’s from old, which means he’s God (v2). And yet he’s also human because he has to trust the Lord for his strength (v4) and he will be born in Bethlehem (v2). They had to look to Jesus through a veil, but we can see him clearly because we have the New Testament and can see exactly how he is both God and man. But clarity only does us only so much good. We have to look at him and place our hope in him. We have to intentionally choose to trust him most. We have to look to our Shepherd. We have to get Jesus in our eyes. As Christians we are to be people of hope. We can’t live defeated lives because Jesus has won the victory and we want people to see our hope in him.
It can be really bad if you get the wrong thing in your eyes. A couple months ago I was working in my basement when a speck of sawdust fell from my ceiling and scratched the white part of my eye. It really hurt. I put my eye in water and sat in a dark room but it still stung. It made it hard to function. If we get the wrong things in our eyes we’re not going to be able to function as God intends.
Do you know why church attendance matters? Because every week it helps you refocus on Jesus. Do you know why giving matters? Because Matthew 6:21 tells us that where our treasure is that’s where our heart is too. We want to set our hearts on Jesus. Do you know why evangelism matters? Because we can only do it successfully if we’re thinking more about Jesus than we are ourselves. Let’s take a personal and corporate trip to the eye doctor. What are you setting your eyes on? What are you spending your money on? Where are you spending your time? What do you tell people about easily? We need to set our eyes on Jesus. If we do, this is the promise.
And he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and march through our fortresses.
We will raise against them seven shepherds,
even eight commanders, (NIV®)
What does this verse say? It says that the people of Judah and the people of Cornerstone have a Shepherd King (Jesus) and “he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land…” In other words, when we’re facing obstacles or tough circumstances Jesus can give us peace. He’s enough.
Verse 3 says, “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” It’s a prophecy of a restored community. We have to face our problems and challenges, whether they’re personal because you’re going through something, or they’re corporate because we’re all in it, together. As a community (“unity”) we need to set our eyes on Jesus, encouraging each other individually and together when the hard times come.
We have two opportunities to corporately set our eyes on Jesus as a community. The first is tomorrow night’s time of worship. In that time we can let go of thinking about our personal problems and our church’s obstacles and just worship Jesus. The second opportunity comes from the Elders. They have asked me to preach a sermon on prayer and fasting in March. This came about because the Outreach Ministry Team came to the Elders and requested us to set aside time as a whole church to pray and fast and to seek the Lord’s direction as a church together. I think this is exactly what we need. We need to come together as a community and set our eyes on Jesus through prayer, through taking a break from some of those other things we look to comfort us (like social media, or food, or desserts, or tv, or sports, business, or whatever), and just ask for more of Jesus. The Outreach team is going to meet to discuss what exactly this could look like but would you begin to think and pray about what the Lord might ask you to fast from so that you can spend more time praying and focusing on him? Let’s set our eyes on Jesus together as a church.
In the first 6 verses of Micah 5 the prophet Micah says a shepherd king will come who will deliver them. He will be from the least of towns but he will overcome with the strength of God. He will bring peace despite their circumstances, despite Assyria. This brings us to our second response to our obstacles, our feet.
Feet – Take the gospel out. (v7-9)
We walk our feet outside to share the gospel.
The remnant of Jacob will be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass,
which do not wait for anyone
or depend on man. (NIV®)
The remnant, which are the people God has saved by his grace, are to be out “in the midst of many peoples.” Micah is talking about us now. We’re to be out and in the world. When we encounter resistance or hardship, what’s a natural response? Withdrawal and hide. But as the church, we can’t do that. Why? Because we’re to go out into the world and be like “dew from the Lord” and “like showers on the grass” (v7). What do you feel when you walk through dewy grass and the sunlight is hitting it and there’s a morning breeze? You feel refreshed and awakened. We refresh and bless the world.
As Christians, God calls us to go out into this world and be a blessing with the gospel (Gen 12:2-3). The next two verses (v8-9) talk about a “young lion” in rather graphic terms and triumphing over enemies, but those are ways of describing our complete victory. As Christians, we will achieve victory as we go out into our world and bless others with the gospel. It’s as we are in the midst of people, not as we are separate, that we overcome our obstacles. It’s as we go, not as we stay, that we bless the world.
You can’t be a morning dew if you stay indoors. We have to get outside and go. This is why frontline ministry is so important because you’re out in your normal world being an agent for Christ. But we also need to think of other ways that we as a church can get outside our building, serve our community, and share the gospel. Let’s recapture God’s vision that Romans captures so well.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (NIV®)
I want to challenge every single person in this room to walk outside of this church tonight and sometime this week to invite someone you know who doesn’t know Jesus to either the game night or Christianity Explored. I admit neither of these ministries are truly outside our church but they are a starting point. We made invite cards to Christianity Explored so that you would have something to hand them. Lord willing we will think of other opportunities to take the gospel out into our world, both on our frontlines, and as a church. Let’s solve our evangelism obstacle. Let’s use our feet to walk the gospel out.
I don’t know if the people in Micah’s day wanted this part. They wanted God to deliver them, but on their terms. They wanted to stay safe in Jerusalem. But that’s not what the Shepherd King said he would do. Shepherds move their flocks from one field to the next. If sheep stay in one field too long they can overgraze and hurt themselves. Do we want our pasture more or our shepherd more? We’ve talked about directing our eyes and feet towards Jesus, but there’s one more response—what we do with our hearts.
Heart – Turn your heart from its idols. (v10-15)
We need to turn our hearts to Jesus by repenting of any sins we may be holding onto. Look at how the Lord systematically dismantles the idols of king Hezekiah and Judah.
- You trusted in horses and chariots (verse 10), I’ll destroy them.
- You trusted in your cities and strongholds (verse 11), I’ll destroy those too.
- You trusted in your witchcraft (verse 12) and your idols (verse 13), I will destroy them all.
If we are placing our trust in anything besides Jesus, our money, our time, new conversions, or a general feeling of success, those are idols and Christ will destroy them. He loves us too much to let us worship them. Maybe that’s not you and you’re worshipping something else—your career, your family, the Patriots—then let’s all together confess this sin corporately and receive Christ’s forgiveness. Let’s ask us to change him so our hearts are completely his.
I’ve been reading Micah for You by Stephen Um, who is the Pastor of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston, and he turned my attention to a verse in Deuteronomy.
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
andthe one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (NIV®)
The picture we get here is that the Lord God is a shepherd who carries weary lambs on his shoulders. Are you weary of your idols? They won’t satisfy. Our shepherd went to the cross to lay down his life for lost lambs. He shed his blood so that spotted lambs can become white as snow. He did this so that we could find rest between his shoulders. His shoulders bore the cross so that our shoulders don’t have to. The solution to idolatry is not trying harder or being better, it’s crucifixion—crucifixion of our sins with Jesus and resurrection to new life with him. Come Jesus, crucify our sins. Raise our hearts from the dead. Let this be our prayer…
“Help our eyes, feet, and hearts follow you Jesus.”
You know what king Hezekiah did when he faced impossible odds? Do you know what he did when the Assyrian army threatened to destroy him and mocks the one true God? He goes up to the house of the Lord, the temple, and he prays before the Lord (Isa 37:14-20). You know how God answers? Our God strikes down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and kills Sennacherib king of Assyria (Isa 37:36-38). The victory is complete and it’s powerful and it’s a picture of the kind of victory we can have through Jesus Christ. If it’s the Lord’s will, we can overcome our obstacles as we set our eyes on Jesus, take the gospel out, and turn our hearts from their idols. Help our eyes, feet, and hearts follow you Jesus. Amen.
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.