[Read v.1-13] יהוה is looking for fruit [v.1] Who has a grape vine? I know that Robin has several. We have our one or two and enjoy the fruit; some like Ivan even make wine. But it is a hobby, an interest; our livelihood doesn’t depend on it. In recent years, with the growth of the wine industry we have seen quite a few vineyards established in Canterbury. You go up Waipara way and see row upon row of vines - this is nearer to the place of grapes in Bible times. Wine was a staple - the water was bad, wine is what you drank. Grapes were vital to life. Israel’s livelihood came from wheat, sheep, olives and grapes. You were concerned with your vintage, with your vineyard; that was your wealth. Here is יהוה looking for a harvest, looking to His vineyard and fig trees - and He finds nothing! God intends for us to be fruitful [John 15:1-16 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain]. There is great blessing on the fruitful but judgement on those that don’t bear fruit. What is the fruit that God is looking for? – we saw it last time: character in action: do justly, love loving-kindness and walk humbly with your God – the fruit of the Spirit. In Scripture Israel is pictured as God’s vineyard or as a fig tree. Note the emphasis on "I" - this is a personal grieving over the woeful state of the nation - they are evil and godless, the whole fabric of society was coming undone - much as we see today! It was time for harvest - for the nation to have produced fruit after all the labour יהוה had invested in her - but there was no fruit (cf. Jeremiah 2:21 “Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? Isaiah 5:1-7 Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. “I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” For the vineyard of יהוה of armies is the house of Israel And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.). יהוה looked for the fruit of justice and righteousness. There was nothing of substance produced to satisfy - no righteousness, no justice - no fruit of the Spirit, only deeds of the flesh. Jesus also used the two figures of fig and vine to describe his disappointment in the nation compared with what it was intended to be (cf. Matthew 21:18,19 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.; Matthew 21:33-44 Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvellous in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. ”). God expects us to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Thorns instead of fruit [v.2-6] v.2 - The nation had become corrupt and worthless - no longer could the good and godly be found for they had been destroyed - they had perished. The corrupt and violent had exploited them - killed the worthy from the land to obtain their wealth. The godly do not join in the corrupt system which it is essential to participate in, in order to survive - and so they have been wiped out from the land. There is no upright man left in the nation. The country is truly in a sorry state - for it the presence of the righteous that withhold יהוה’s judgement - now there is no one there to spare the nation or to intercede on its behalf. Those that remain are violent and evil - planning murder in order to advance their own cause - gain other’s wealth or position or to preserve their own skin in a "dog eat dog" society. It is their own brothers that they pursue and lay traps for! Violence, the law of the jungle, rules. v.3 - Men take advantage of their position to feather their own nests - leaders and judges ask for reward - backeesh, bribes in order to give the desired outcome, or support. Typical Eastern corrupt politics - all is done by bribery. God hates it! The whole system is corrupt - evil and injustice is the norm - they are well practised at it, and in fact know of no other way. What they want, they get. People ruled by their selfish, soulish desires - fleshly lusts. The "great man" is the one who gets his own way - he speaks what his soul desires - and plots and schemes with others in order to make it happen. This is the assertive entrepreneur, the self-made man that our society so esteems today. Is this not the standard and accepted behaviour of our society - you set a goal, what you want, then you strategize, plan to obtain it - this is plain selfishness! - being ruled by the flesh. "What I want, I will get" is the creed by which our society lives. Intricate and complex schemings - all to achieve our own desire. Do we not admire the one who has a dream, sets his heart on it and makes it come true? This is the very activity that is utterly deplored here! v.4 - The best, the most upright is like a thorn bush - utterly twisted and tangled - useless - no wood of any value. The only good a thorn bush is for, is for burning. So was the case with Israel. The only thing for them was judgement fire - even the best of them! Judgement was coming. They would post a watchman - but on that very day, punishment would come upon them - utter confusion, despite all their clever planning and scheming. A day of consternation, as they are called to pay the consequences for all their evil which they have accumulated. What a tragic, sorry picture is painted of a people who were intended to be a light to the Gentiles “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” Their corrupt and evil behaviour caused the great name of יהוה to be brought into disrepute. יהוה will act for the honour of His Name! v.5 - Micah looked at his nation and saw that there was nothing left of righteousness and justice - it was utterly worthless - corrupt, ripe for יהוה’s judgement. Loyalty and faithfulness, trust, could not be found in this "dog eat dog" society where everyone was only concerned with furthering his own ends. Just as it is today. In such a corrupt society you can trust no one. Lives are ruled by suspicion, looking for ulterior motives. Even those closest to you, you cannot trust or rely upon. For any could betray you if the price of the bribe was right. Any indiscrete word may be used against you if it works to another’s advantage. A husband must even watch what he says to his wife. What a terrible situation it is when faithfulness, loyalty and commitment have disappeared! - who can you trust? What can you rely upon? It is walking on sinking sand! Nothing firm or reliable! Just like today! v.6 - This lack of trust which destroys the basis of relationships penetrates to the closest and most fundamental relationships - it penetrates to the family - coming between father and son, mother and daughter. A son has no respect for his father - despises, rejects him, rebels, treats him contemptuously. But this is standard form today! That most foundational relationship and bond is severed - you can’t even trust your own son. This is an awful thing! It is indicative of the time before the end - the thing that needs restoring is the family (cf. Malachi 4:6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” ). God hates it! He will destroy the land with a curse because of it! Daughter rises up against mother. The young against the old. Those closest to you are those who betray you - those of your own household are your enemies (cf. Luke 12:51-53 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”). Any one will be against anyone else - how they are related to them counts for nothing - just so long as it works to your own advantage. No one can be counted on anymore, even those dearest to you. What a terrible thing when faithfulness has vanished! When חסד can no longer be found. It portrays a desperate and hopeless situation. One that can only reap יהוה’s vengeance. A picture that can only lead to despair.
Society is rotten, ripe for destruction – the way our own society seems to be going. Do you ever look around you at what is going on in the world and get filled with despair? How can it be righted? Does the situation ever seem to be hopeless? Well …
The righteous still hope in יהוה for justice [v.7-9] - The whole of society was suspicious of each other, not trusting anyone. But Micah had one in whom he trusted. His God was very real and very personal: "I will watch ..."; "I will wait ...."; "..... God of my salvation."; ".... my God will hear me." As a watchman (seer, prophet) he watched - looked for the יהוה’s answer, יהוה’s deliverance (cf. Habakkuk 2:1,2 I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. Then יהוה answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.). The prophet had sure hope when all around was hopeless and nothing was sure. He waited for God "my Saviour" (יִשְׁעִי) - for Jesus! God will hear me! Hallelujah! Absolutely sure, certain, reliable! He is my Salvation! From יהוה deliverance/salvation comes! (cf. Psalm 3:8 Salvation belongs to יהוה; Your blessing be upon Your people!). And from Him alone! Praise His wonderful Name! Whoever trusts in Him will never be disappointed (cf. Psalm 27:1,14 יהוה is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? יהוה is the defence of my life; whom shall I dread? Wait for יהוה; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for יהוה Romans 9:33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” ). When all around is falling apart, He will save those who trust in Him. Does society seem to be going rotten? Hope in God, wait for Him! Trust in Him, not in government or reform. Faith remains! v.8 - Although all around was falling apart and wickedness abounded, the prophet did not lose hope. His faith was fixed securely in יהוה. Judgement was coming, the enemy would invade but it held no fear for Micah - for יהוה was his light (v.8) and his salvation (v.7 - cf. Psalm 27:1). The enemy has no cause to gloat over him, rejoicing in his downfall - because, although calamity would come, יהוה would preserve him. He may fall in the time of distress but it would not be permanent - he would not be cut down, he would rise - for יהוה upholds the righteous with His hand (cf. Psalm 37:23,24 The steps of a man are established יהוה, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because יהוה is the One who holds his hand.). Dark times will come but they hold no fear for us for יהוה is our light for us even in the darkest time (cf. Psalm 139:11,12 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-9 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labour pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,). The darkest night is not dark for those whose trust is in יהוה. v.9 - Micah wasn’t professing self-righteousness - he openly acknowledged that he was a sinner. It is not whether we have sinned or not (for all have sinned), it is our faith that is reckoned as righteousness. Although Micah had sinned and therefore deserved punishment and discipline, his faith was fixed unswervingly on יהוה - this is how he differed from the rest of Israel - not because he was better than they, but they relied upon themselves, whereas he relied on יהוה alone. Micah didn’t place any reliance on his own righteousness but placed his whole reliance on יהוה for Him to plead his case. He didn’t seek to justify himself but willingly bore what יהוה quite rightly placed upon him, waiting for יהוה to deliver him, to take up his case, for Him to vindicate and see that justice is executed (cf. 1 Peter 2:23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;). Micah’s faith is not in his own righteousness but in יהוה’s righteousness - "His righteousness". Micah’s faith was totally and exclusively in יהוה. He was absolutely assured that he would dwell in the light of יהוה’s very presence. It is all יהוה’s doing - reliance on His mercy, grace and loving-kindness (cf. Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.). יהוה would bring him to righteousness. Micah left his case in the hands of יהוה - we do well to do the same - cease from self-justification and reliance on our self, our own righteousness and strength. Righteousness will come, justice will prevail – Jesus will come! We never lose hope.
יהוה’s vindication on the basis of fruit [v.10-13]- יהוה will vindicate, will bring about justice. The enemy boasted, gloating over the defeat of God’s people. But things will be turned around when יהוה executes judgement. It is the oppressor and enemy of His people who will be covered with shame, not Israel. They will see Israel restored and exalted. They will see that indeed there is a God יהוה! They ridiculed יהוה, saying "where is He?" - they thought that He was not, or that they were greater than He - because they defeated His people and He did nothing to defend them. How many ridicule?: where is God? [cf. 2 Peter 3:4 saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”]. But now יהוה will act in justice and righteousness - they will be utterly shamed and defeated before His might. All will know that there is a God in the heavens, and יהוה is His Name!! Hallelujah! Now the righteous remnant will look upon their enemies - see them utterly vanquished, trampled down - become nothing! - mere dirt of the road. Where are the mighty ones who exulted so proudly? Those who ridiculed יהוה most high? They are no more! The righteous, the humble are exalted and the proud and mighty are cast down to be trampled under foot! Hallelujah! Great and mighty, righteous and just is יהוה Almighty! All praise and honour be to Him! Those who seem so mighty now, the unjust and wicked will come to nothing. v.11 - Micah placed his trust solely in יהוה who would vindicate the cause of those whose reliance was in Him alone. He would act in justice - establish righteousness, utterly defeating those who had oppressed His people. He would restore the remnant of His people to the land and rebuild the nation and extend it. The deserted land would overflow with people and יהוה Himself would shepherd them. He would be their God and they would be His people. Note "day" (3x in 2 verses) - the Day of יהוה - the day in which He acts - establishing righteousness, justice, vindication and vengeance. A day of judgment upon the wicked but a day of restoration, of rebuilding for those who are His. We have seen Gaza given to the Palestinians, settlements evacuated. But the ruined and deserted cities will be built. Their walls will be built - security and safety provided. A day of building and expansion. So many will return that the borders will have to be extended. The territory taken from them will be returned - the borders will expand into the territory of those nations that sought to seize their land for themselves. In Divine justice יהוה will extend Israel into the lands of those who sought to extend their own territory into Israel and drive her into the sea. It will be a day of recompense. v.12 - People will return from one corner of the world to another - from Assyria, who captured Israel - the northern tribes will return. Assyria is to the north, Egypt is to the south. From every extremity they will return. From those that captured and oppressed them they will return. They will come to you - the land will be repopulated with God’s people as we see this very day. Israel will be blessed but the earth, the world, will be judged. v.13 – יהוה is a fruit inspector. The earth will become desolate - because of the deeds of its inhabitants. They will be judged according to their deeds and hence come under the curse of יהוה as His wrath against their sin is poured out. Israel has already received her punishment in full for her lack of fruit - she will now enjoy blessing as the rest of the earth suffers. The boot is on the other foot now - for long she had suffered while the world prospered. But יהוה has established justice - recompense for what has been done. יהוה looked for fruit (v.1) - the fruit is either that which He seeks (the fruit of the Spirit) or bad fruit which will be destroyed. יהוה will act to vindicate the fruitful. Are we producing fruit or thorns?