A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of Micah 7:1-10 and :18-20, for Sunday, November 27, 2022, with the title: “Hope Found.” (A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: Ask class members: “Do you have a favorite song about the grace of God? And why would it be your favorite?”
(Some may say “Amazing Grace,” or “Grace That is Greater Than Our Sin,” or the contemporary song: “Your Grace is Enough” etc. and talk about WHY those are favorites about His grace …)
Then you can say: today’s lesson deals with how God gives us hope that He will rescue us from our the distress of our sin by His unfathomable grace.
CONTEXT: This is our last lesson in the Book of Micah, in the last chapter, Chapter 7. If you remember, Micah prophesied about the same time as Isaiah, about 700 B.C. He prophesied against both Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. We saw he addressed the evil in the land, the wicked government and religious leaders, and the promised Messiah in Chapter 5. Chapter 7 here opens with the evil currently in the land, but it moves towards the hope they have in the grace of God.
If you want to teach from an outline, I might divide the passage something like this:
I. The Present Distress :1-6
II. The Future Hope :7-10
III. The Gracious God :18-20
I. The Present Distress :1-6
You know that any section that starts off “Woe is me” is going to be bad — and :1 DOES introduce a section on the spiritual distress that Micah found himself in.
:2 describes the depravity around him. He says: “the godly person has perished from the land.”
He makes a particular reference in :3 to the wickedness of the people: “concerning evil, both hands do it well” — you might say “they’re ambidextrous” when it comes to evil; or “switch hitters” when it comes to evil.
If you’re a baseball fan you know what a “switch hitter” is: they can hit right- OR left-handed; they are good at both.
ILLUSTR: Mickey Mantle was a switch-hitter; Pete Rose was a switch-hitter; Lance Berkman who played here for the Houston Astros (“Killer B’s”) was a switch-hitter. There are a few “switch-hitters” in baseball today as well. Maybe one of your group members knows one?
But the whole idea of the “switch” hitter is that they are able to bat well either left OR right-handed.
And that is what Micah says here about the people in Israel: “Concerning evil, both hands do it well” —I.e., “they’re switch-hitters when it comes to evil! They’re ambidextrous when it comes to evil; they’re good at it, right- or left-handed” — which is a sarcastic way of saying: they’re really skilled at doing evil.
A good +x passage would be Jeremiah 4:22, “They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”
Sadly, this describes a lot of people today, doesn’t it?
??? You could ask your class here: what are some ways that people today are “skilled at doing evil”?
— They’re skilled at doing evil: they know how to find illegal drugs; how to get around the abortion laws; how to cheat on their taxes, how to rip people off in their business, how to hide their obscene texts or pornographic websites, how to cover up their affairs; how to post ugly comments online anonymously, how to cheat at politics — and on and on
— But as Jeremiah says, they know NOT how to do good:
You could ask: ??? What are some of the ways people don’t know how to do good today? They don’t know how to pray; they don’t know how to intercede for others; they don’t know how to read or study the Bible; they don’t know the plan of salvation, or how to lead someone to the Lord; they don’t know how to resist temptation; they don’t know how to make a visit to someone who is in the hospital, or to someone in need; they don’t know how to be godly parents to their children with a balance of discipline and love; they don’t know how to be selfless in marriage — and on and on.
The point being, of course, that our days are similar, in many ways, to Micah’s, in “The Present Distress.”
:5-6 talk about how even in one’s family & friends, where there should be trust and unity, there is no trust:
— don’t trust in a neighbor
— don’t have confidence in a friend
— He says even “from her who lies in your bosom” — in other words, your wife who sleeps with you, guard your lips; you can’t trust them.
Then :6 is a Scripture that is quoted by Jesus in Matt. 10:35-36, when He said I did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword, and he quotes these words: “a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
So Jesus applied this scripture to say that part of the evil of a society is that the wicked will hate and persecute the righteous, even in their own family. And that sometimes we have to follow Christ even against our our family.
One discussion question you could use here could be:
??? Have you ever had to go against family to follow/serve the Lord??? Or have you known someone who did?
I have a relative who serves with our SBC International Mission Board in a country that is closed to the gospel. While serving there, my relative sent me this prayer request for a young man who gave his life to Christ. For security purposes, she called him, “Mr. S.”:
“Continue to pray for Mr. S. When he shared with his family (that he had been saved) he also told them that worshipping their ancestors was wrong, and this greatly angered his family. Many members came to him individually afterwards and tried to convince him to leave his new faith. His father told him that he must choose between following Jesus, and his family. Mr. S said that he loved them both. His father then told him that he was not allowed to return to the capital city to study (he is a college student). But a few days later, his mother sent him back. But his parents will no longer help to support him financially anymore. Please pray that Mr. S will continue to make obeying God a priority in his life. Also pray for his family, that they will come to know Jesus.”
So this “Mr. S” literally had to go against his family to serve the Lord. Many of us take our family support for our faith for granted. But in an evil society, it will be like we see here in Micah 7, that even one’s household, and even close friends, will not support you in your faith in Christ — and cannot even be trusted.
That’s some of the nature of “The Present Distress”
II. The Future Hope :7-10
Then we see in :7 that Micah says, “BUT as for me …”
This is a major transition statement that marks a shift in the passage. All that bad in :1-6, he says, “BUT as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD.” He trusts that God is going to do something, even in this time of distress.
He expresses it in 3 ways in :1:
— “I will watch expectantly for the LORD” (YHWH)
— “I will wait for the God of my salvation”
— And he says in faith: “My God will hear me”
Micah has a hope in God, but it’s not a “hope so” hope; it’s an “I’m looking for it” hope.
You could talk about the difference between an “I hope so” hope, and an “I’m looking for it” hope.
— For example, a couple of weeks ago, our local Houston Astros were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series. The Phillies were ahead 6-5 going to the bottom of the 10th inning, and I kept “hoping” that one of the Astros was going to have one of those big, game-winning hits — but they didn’t. I “hoped so,” but it didn’t happen. And there’s a lot of examples of things like that, that we “hope” for, but don’t really have any certainty of.
But Micah had a “sure hope.” He had what I call an “I’m looking for it” hope. He says “I watch expectantly for the LORD.” He didn’t just “hope so;” he was WATCHING for what God was going to do! See, that’s real faith.
It reminds me of Psalm 5:3, where David says, “In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You, and eagerly WATCH!” I love that: he says I am not just going to pray and “hope;” he says I am going to “eagerly watch.” This Hebrew word means to “look around, keep watch.” It’s the word used in I Samuel 4:13 of Eli when he was carefully watching for the Ark of the Covenant to come back from a battle.
So David says, Lord, I am not just going to “pray,” I am going to pray and then WATCH eagerly to see what You are going to do!
THAT is an “I’m looking for it” hope — that’s faith. And that kind of faith/hope/prayer pleases God.
So Micah says, I’m going to see what God is going to do. He’s going to bring us salvation. AND I think it’s so good he says in :9, “I have sinned against Him”; we ALL have. But he trusts that the God against whom he has sinned, will also provide the salvation he needs: HE will “plead my case and execute justice for me.” And indeed I John 2 says Jesus is our Advocate, our “lawyer” with the Father, who pleads our case with Him. So this is a good place to go over the plan of salvation God has for us in Christ:
— God designed us to be in heaven with Him
— But we all sinned against Him
— So He provided a sacrifice for our sins: Christ’s death on the cross
— And we have to repent of our sins, and put our trust in Christ, like Micah did here. He had real faith that God would do something for him — and God DID. And we have to have that same kind of personal faith in Him to be saved.
But it’s not just faith in “anything” that saves us; it MATTERS who/what your faith is in. And our faith is indeed in a God who is gracious, as we see in this last section:
III. The Gracious God :18-20
This is really an amazing section which details the characteristics of the grace of God. It begins: “Who is a God like You?”
What does he say that God does, that makes Him so unique?
— Who pardons iniquity
— and passes over the rebellious act
— He does not retain His anger forever
— He delights in “unchanging love” (CHESED)
— He will again have compassion on us
— He will tread our iniquities underfoot
— He will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea (Mariana Trench)
— You will give truth to Jacob
— and unfailing love (CHESED) to Abraham
Here God shows us 8-9 ways that He is GRACIOUS to us, and forgives us!
??? You might list all of these on your dry erase board/or a handout, and ask your group: “Which one of these expressions of God’s grace means the most to YOU? — and why?”
A couple of things that will help you with this section:
— In :18 & :20 “unchanging love” = the Hebrew word “chesed.”
If you are not familiar with it, this is one of the richest Hebrew words in all of the Old Testament. It is so rich in meaning that it is hard to translate it with just one English word.
??? You might ask your group for the words their translation uses for this word. You may hear: “Mercy,” “unfailing love,” “steadfast love,” “unchanging love,” “lovingkindness” and more.
Then say: the reason these translations use so many different words is that this word “Chesed” is so rich. It is used of the undeserved goodness, love, and mercy of God. Martin Luther, the German Reformer whom God used to bring Justification by grace through faith back to the forefront in the church in the 1500s, wrote that “chesed” may be the best Old Testament word for New Testament “GRACE”: the undeserved goodness, grace, and mercy of God.
This word is used throughout the Old Testament of God’s grace to us. You may know of the repeated expression: “His love endures forever,” or “His lovingkindness is everlasting,” etc. That is the word “chesed.” It is the rich love, mercy, and grace of God.
The good news is, :18 says that God DELIGHTS in “chesed”! He LOVES to show us His grace! And that’s good news for us, isn’t it!
It was said of Julius Caesar that he just delighted in showing his enemies, whom he had defeated and captured, and whom everybody assumed that he would have executed — he loved to surprise everyone and show them mercy and pardon them, and make them his allies. That is what GOD does for us. He shows us “amazing grace” when we don’t deserve it — and He makes us His “allies” to serve in His kingdom with Him.
Another expression here that speaks to is in :19 where Micah sys that God will “cast all our sins into the depth of the sea.” What a great picture! I used an illustration of this recently regarding the Mariana Trench, a huge underwater “valley” in the far Pacific Ocean over towards Japan.
I don’t think most of us really understand just how deep the ocean is. The Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, is so deep we can’t even explore it all. Its KNOWN depth is over 36,000 feet — that’s about SEVEN MILES! You could literally take anything on the surface of the earth, and cast it into the Mariana Trench, and it would be totally immersed in miles of water.
(You might want to find a graphic like this one, from the Earth Science Facebook page, or another off the internet, to use as a visual, because it’s pretty dramatic.
You could throw a house in the Mariana Trench, and it would be swallowed up; you could throw a Wal-Mart in there (if you could throw one!) and it wouldn’t make a dent in it. You could stand the whole Empire State Building at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and it would be entirely covered up. As this graphic shows, you could take the largest thing on the face of the whole earth: Mount Everest, and cast it into the Mariana Trench, and it would be covered up by over a mile of ocean. The ocean is vast; it is beyond what most of us can even begin to comprehend.
And God says here in Micah 7:19 that He casts our SINS “into the depth of the sea”! The vastness of the ocean is a picture of God’s grace! His grace is immeasurable. It is higher than the heavens. It is deeper than the ocean.
Picture your greatest sin — that one you feel so bad about: as big as a house; as big as a Walmart; as big as Mt. Everest — picture that sin cast into the depths of God’s grace, where it is swallowed up, and covered over, and seen no more!
Like The Apostle Paul taught in Romans 5 “where sin abounds, grace more than abounds” — literally, “SUPER abounds”! Whatever your sin is; His grace is higher; His grace is wider; His grace is deeper; His grace is stronger. His grace is immeasurably greater than any of our sins!
So despite the oppressing time that Micah lived in, and that WE live in, there is HOPE to be found, in the promises of God. He has grace that is greater than all our sins, available for us in Christ Jesus. Another great opportunity to share the gospel this week — AND to encourage your Christian class members with a reminder of God’s great grace towards them.
I’ll try to post the graphic of the Mariana Trench in the Comments section here, so you can print it if you’d like to use it Sunday.
Next time, we’ll start on the Book of John! Looking forward to that!
God bless you as you share His word this week!
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