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Justice League v. Thanos

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Thanos is Coming

Arabelle wasn’t on the Marvel train when the movies first came out, but she has caught the bug this year. She’s been watching through the movies chronologically and, this week, we got to watch “Infinity War” together.
This picture is primarily to drive my nerd friends crazy.
For those who haven’t seen it, no spoilers but… Thanos is coming.
He is a quite-nearly all-powerful god-like being who is coming to Earth to gather the final infinity stones which will allow him to destroy half the people in the Universe.
Most of the movie is preparation, trying to prevent Thanos from coming, trying to spread the news about what Thanos wants, and trying to prevent Thanos from getting what he wants.
So, we are in the book of Micah. Pastor John gave us an awesome intro last week.
Here’s how I imagine it.
Thanos is coming.
God is like Thanos.
Better find out what He wants.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
(is it the end-all of wisdom? No

Idolatry and Injustice

To recap: what is God so upset about?


(we read this last week):
Micah 1:5 ESV
All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
The “high places” are places of idolatry. Where they are worshiping other gods… or worshiping YHWH inappropriately. Seeking to control or manipulate God. That’s idolatry.
Micah is writing at the same time, or shortly after, Hosea. God is upset that His bride, Israel, His people are chasing after other gods. Like an unfaithful wife.
We recognize that sin in our own lives, our heart is constantly setting up idols. This breaks God’s heart and fills him with jealous anger.


and they are not practicing justice and righteousness.
Micah 2:1–2 ESV
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.
This is an oblique reference to a famous sin of one of Israel’s former kings - Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Ahab desires a garden from his neighbor, Naboth and offers him a price.
Naboth refuses - because God didn’t set up Israel as a capitalist society (which is weird to our modern ears). It isn’t a scarcity based economy, it is a gift-based society.
The economy of God is not based on scarcity, but on abundance. If God wants there to be more digital art, he just makes it. Unlike us, if God wants there to be more land, more food, more planets, more stars, more universe… he just makes it.
God gave the land, he appointed it family by family, he even set a reset plan in place every 50 years so debts could be forgiven - the year of Jubilee.
It is wrong and illegal to sell their land, their inheritance from God. So Naboth refuses.
Ahaz complains to Jezebel, Jezebel insides other local leaders to gather and two false witnesses to accuse Naboth at dinner of some crime worthy of execution. Naboth is executed. Ahab gets his land.
This is what “bear false witness” is about in the 10 commandments. Using what God made and gave for good to manipulate and oppress and take advantage.
and God is FURIOUS about it.
Imagine if you made each of your kids something special, just for them. And one steals or tricks all the other kids out of their gifts and then sells them in the street.
(Sounds like an Arabelle move)
No! I made that for Dylan, just for him. If you need more, just ask me. If it is good for you, I’ll give it to you. I’ll make it for you.

Love God, Love Others

So, God is angry at their idolatry and angry at their injustice.
What’s the bumper sticker version of this?
They have failed to love God.
They have failed to love others.
With all of that knowledge… Thanos (I mean YHWH) is coming.
Here is the coming of the Lord, picture this for a second.
Micah 1:1–4 ESV
The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.
Assyria is coming to completely destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel and sack the Southern Kingdom.
Babylon is coming later to actually fully conquer the Southern Kingdom and take them away into captivity.

Who is going to survive?

Micah 2:12 (ESV)
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men.
Micah 4:6–7 (ESV)
In that day, declares the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted;
and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.
Micah 5:7–8 (ESV)
Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
The word “remnant” keeps showing up here in Micah. What is a remnant? It is the few left over after MOST have been destroyed.
Those who are left. (residue, remainder).
It’s… not many.
So God’s not talking about half of the people. He is talking about a few.
It doesn’t sound like Thanos’ half… it sounds worse than that.
And this God is willing to destroy MOST of his people in order to teach a lesson to just a few.
That is terrifying and, again, I don’t like it. I want God to save everyone. But this idea of “remnant” shows up again and again in Scripture. God saves a remnant, just a few. And that continues, by the way. Wide is the road that leads to destruction. Narrow is the path leads to life and few find it.

What Does He Want?

So this terrifying being is coming, He is angry, He is coming to destroy, to judge, to punish.
What does He want??? What can we do???
I’ll do anything to appease the great and mighty YHWH.
Micah 6:6–7 ESV
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Justice and Righteousness

Micah 6:8 ESV
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this.
Remember this from Amos?
Amos 5:23–24 ESV
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Another contemporary prophet, Isaiah, so often quoted by Jesus.
Isaiah 1:11–17 ESV
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
What is the measure of Christian maturity, of success?
If it sounds repetitive… that’s because it is. It’s because it is what God says over and over and over again!
We try to make it about just the acts of worship, just the practices, just the worship and sacrifices. Humans have always done this. If we can fit God in a Saturday morning or Sunday morning box, than it’s limited and controlled and I can get on with my life.
But for some reason, God REALLY cares what we do with all of our lives, all of our heart, all of our interactions with His other beloved children. It really is crazy… but this is what He cares about.
And you should care about what the all-powerful all-knowing being cares about. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
So memorize this one:
Micah 6:8 ESV
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
How are you loving God?
How are you loving others?

Doing Justice

How are you practicing justice? Doing justice?
How do I actually do this?
a) Don’t steal Naboth’s garden. (Not doing explicit acts of injustice is a good start).
But God takes that further, doesn’t he. The priest and the Levite crossed the street to avoid the injured victim. They didn’t actively hurt him, but neither did they show love. It was the Samaritan, descendant of the remnant of the same Israel Micah writes judgment on here… who cleansed and helped and restored.
When I am painting someone we have an expression - doing them justice. Like “that picture doesn’t do her justice.” What do we mean? It doesn’t portray her as well as the actual reality. I love this as a definition here for “doing justice.”
Doing Justice
to treat or show (something or someone) in a way that is as good as it should be.
That’s good. Being a little taste of how “good it should be.” That’s love. That’s care. That’s beautiful.
Justice and righteousness. Right-relationship that leads to right-living that leads to right-relationship. Justice is the individual acts, and the societal acts that live out righteousness.
I don’t know how God is calling you to do this. I know that we are trying to live this out as a church in our community. In the park meeting and loving on folks. That’s not the only way, God is already giving you opportunities to live out justice, to “do justice”, especially to the hurt, the lost, the broken, the poor, the widows and orphans.
How are you doing justice?

Loving mercy

I love receiving mercy. When I know I have done wrong, I LOVE receiving mercy. But there is a sense of what we usually call “justice” that HATES it when others receive mercy.
Hey, that guy just cut in line. You just going to let him do that? You have to punish him or he’ll do it again! And it isn’t fair to those of us behind him in line!
LOVE giving mercy. LOVE seeing others extending mercy. Extolling that as a virtue, rather than someone getting their “rights” or their “just desserts” or “the punishment they so richly deserve.” Celebrate mercy, outwardly and inwardly. That is the spirit we cultivate.
Where “doing justice” is an external act, “loving mercy” is an attitude of the heart. It is an inner "woohoo” when someone receives mercy. Forgiveness. Undeserved favor.
And that kind of spirit shapes a people, shapes a culture, shapes a family, shapes a church. You can feel it in the atmosphere. If you’re in a room of people that LOVE to see you get called out and punished… or in a room of people that LOVE to see you receive mercy, welcome, love, grace and true justice.
Doing justice, loving mercy and...

Walking humbly before God

How do you actually do this?
This is not the message we are usually taught.
It turns out, walking humbly with God is the only way to walk with God.
If you are with God, you will be humbled.
Not my way - His way.
Not my justice - His justice.
Not my mercy - His mercy.
Okay… you’re the boss, Lord. I guess I’ll do it your way this time… and this time… and the next time. I better learn to like it, because it’s His way e’ry time.
If we only got this right, all the rest would follow. This is why the GREATEST commandment is “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” With all you got.
Because if you are truly walking with God, humbly submitting to His transforming love, His transforming work in your life, His Spirit at work within you… all the rest is going to follow.
He will teach you to love as He loves.
This is what it means to follow God. To follow Jesus. This is what it has always meant.
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