Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Week 4 of Advent: The Peace Jesus Brings from Micah 5:1-5

So far this Advent season, we have looked at Jeremiah 33 at the Power of Hope. We entered the Refining Love of God from Malachi 2. We had God sing us a love song from Zephaniah 3 while we considered God’s Protection and Delight. In all of this, we have been looking at God’s promise of Better days. We were made for better days. That is the hope of Advent and Christmas, that God had done something in Jesus that changes everything. Everything in the world and everything in us. All these promises are aiming at what Micah predicted—a promise of better days that will be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.

Today, we will look at His Peace. Shalom. It just falls off your lips, doesn’t it? Say it with me: SHALOM!

Back in Middle school, I can remember being so afraid of the town gangs. These boys would fight or rumble with other teen gangs around the State. We did not live in New York City, but we did have some tough gangs. T’s Dragons were the worst. But even before Tommy had his time of power, there was the Esmond Street Gang. These boys were men—to us. Big guys with muscles on top of their muscles. They even shaved! One day, one of the gang members put a hit on my older brother. Ed was not in the gang but he had pushed one of the boys on the bus and that meant there needed to be a fight! Dennis T. had another boy call Ed over to the other side of the street. When he got there, Dennis came out from behind the Billboard and told the other boy to run away. He was going to start hitting my brother –a lot –when I walked up to Dennis and stood right between my ‘soon to be dead brother’ and Dennis. I said: “If you want to fight my brother, you’ll have to go through me first!” I put on my tough face and waited for the first blow to my head. It did not come. He backed down and walked away. I had won the day and saved my brother from sure death. I cared about someone beyond myself. I was a freedom fighter against oppression and injustice. And my brother still owes me big time for that day!

On that day, my heart cracked wide open. I heard a voice from within me that said that this was not a good thing. It was unjust! Violence and injustice should not have the upper hand. There has to be a better way. Everywhere in any playground, you can hear: “That’s not fair!” One man once said, “A sense of justice comes with the kit of being human.” IT IS WHAT WE ARE MADE FOR!

I did not know it at the time but that small voice that I heard coming from within me was the same voice that had been speaking through the whole Old Testament. The voice got louder and louder. I grew to understand the pain some go through who are dealt with unfairly. I began to try and help them. “You were made for better days. The strong oppress the weak; the rich pummel the poor; nation goes to war against nation. But I, the Lord, have made you for better days, and I will bring those better days to pass.”

The Jews had a word for better days: SHALOM, for Peace. It meant more than the absence of war. More than a positive state in my soul or a private transaction between God and me. It covered those things but it also dealt with the end of injustice! It meant that people would love one another. Shalom would cover all creation, from the bugs to the whales and humans and the birds.

The Hebrew People felt that this Shalom of God would come in the person. Someone is coming who would open the door to peace. The big question is WHO was it? Isaiah wrote: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given…and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Remembers The Promise Of Shalom.

Micah lived about 700 years before Jesus. He was from a small town about 25 miles south of Jerusalem. As a prophet of God, Micah was able to see things that other people did not nor did they want to see. Micah records unspeakable violence and injustice in 2:9 and 3:1-2. This injustice made Micah really upset. It also connected him with the ancient promises for better days. God had whispered into his ear, “Remember, Micah, someOne is coming will bring Peace…who will bring SHALOM.”

These ancient promises pop up all over in his short writing. Look at Micah 4:3. 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.

This is one deep and rich picture of the vastness of His Shalom.

Remember when you were in those innocent days of youth. When the world would be a better place simply because you were in it? But then things got crazy. You started to settle into the reality of life and things changed. Like what we said last week; changes are all around us and few of them can be self-controlled. You might be saying now, “Who has the time to wonder about better days?” I got enough to worry about as it is! When you are not even sure how you are going to make it through this day! Bills to be paid. Kids to take care of. Health problems of your parents and your self. Retirement to plan for. The list of responsibilities goes on and on. Longing for peace, longing for justice, aching for better days—we may not have the time or the energy anymore.

Maybe you are still young and feel that the World is ready for you! You might be looking at life through colored glasses and all seems just right and perfect and this kind of talk disturbs you. You may feel that I have it all wrong.

You might be right. Then on the other hand, people like the writer of Ecclesiastes said that all life is a vapor and it is like grabbing at smoke. Elusive. You may have to really work hard at life and still not get anywhere …but there is hope. Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of Man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

But no wonder we become cynical! Look at the newspaper or watch the news on TV. (Better yet, just turn it off and read your Bible!) No wonder we stopped longing for better days. We have become cold to the idea. Yet, nevertheless, every once in a while something cracks our hearts wide open and we hear a whispering voice say to us: “You were made for better days. You long for peace because there IS A Peace Giver and His name is Jesus!”

The Messiah Comes Quietly.

Micah 5:3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

The suggestion is that times are like a woman just before childbirth—the pain increases as the time comes closer. Yet into this violent and seemingly hopeless situation, God will send His Peace Bearer! In the fullness of time! The Peace of Rome, one language, a system of roads, world-wide commerce—all perfect to take the Message to the world.

But He warns us that we might miss Him. We got the lights up but where is the Real Light? When God brings His Shalom, we might miss Him. Not with a marching band and a lot of hoopla and CNN coverage, but quietly and to unlikely people. To shepherds, an old widow, foreign wise men, a virgin…in Isaiah 11, God told us the Messiah would come like a branch growing out of a dead stump. From death and decay—and poof!—the Peace-Bringer would arise! Now in Micah 5:2, (“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans (or rulers) 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.”) the coming One, the Promised Messiah, God’s Shalom, would come from a tiny village, a quiet place: Bethlehem.


Here we have the Biblical account: Matthew 2:1-12.

Are you ready for Him? Is there room in your heart for this Promised One who will give you Godly Peace—the kind of Peace that passes understanding? If so-open your hearts to Him. If not, why not? What else does He need to do for you? Why not be open to His Great Love for you today and have this be your best Christmas ever!

Much thanks goes to Matt Woodley for most of this material during Advent. I used his outline and most of his text with my own illustrations. Note: No teenager was hurt or bullied in the writing of this sermon.

Get ready for Christmas!!!