Here in Western New York we have a VERY popular taco joint (ok, that sounds weird; let's call it a taco fast food restaurant similar to Taco Bell) called Mighty Taco.
If you're ever in these parts for any reason be sure to add Mighty Taco's "Super Mighty" to your menu along with the original Chicken Wings from the Anchor Bar. For years, Mighty's slogan was a catchy phrase that read "Make Mine Mighty!!!" and today I'd like to steal their thunder and shout "Make Mine Micah!!!" as in the Book of Micah written by the Old Testament prophet of the same name.
It's surreal when one's private life seems to be in sync with unrelated real world events. Maybe that's the point -- that they're not "unrelated" after all.
At the very least, perhaps the lesson is to be open to the possibility that God can (and will) communicate with you in a very personal way if you simply open yourself to that type of thinking and allow for the possibility to manifest itself.
This is not to imply that I've somehow traded in the God of the Christian Bible for a pantheistic god -- "god is all, and all is god" -- but is to call attention to the fact that nothing is beyond God's control or reach. He is involved in the intricacies of each and every life and so if He decides He wants to use a newspaper headline or a song on the radio to get your attention than so be it! Who are we to say that He doesn't care about us enough to go to any length by using anything and everything within His creation to get our attention and draw us to Him?
In others words, you have to be observant and always watching and waiting for Him to move in your life so that you can give Him the proper glory and praise when He does. Hmmm, fascinating how consistent that would be with all of Jesus' commands to "watch and pray" too, huh?
For example, take for instance the fact that Rosh HaShanah was just celebrated over the weekend by Jews worldwide as well as by those Christians who have recognized that such a holiday is better labelled as being one of the Lord's Feast Days as opposed to merely a Jewish Feast Day.
Now, I don't write that to suggest that we're somehow not living obediently unless we observe and practice celebrating these Feast Days for ourselves (especially not after the commentary and confessional I just wrote the other day), but just that we should tacitly acknowledge their prophetic significance and that's all.
We're all well aware of what Rosh HaShanah represents on the world stage. What many of us might not realize (I had no idea until just now) is that there is an ancient Jewish custom called "Tashlich" that is connected to that all important Feast of the Lord.
The word "Tashlich" means "You will cast away" and so it's just another fitting discovery that correlates to my own personal situation, which is why I felt it was worth mentioning briefly here in follow-up to my previous post.
In this context, it refers to a custom dating from at least as early as the fourteenth century, but probably much earlier, based on the last verses of the Book of Micah:
Micah 7:18-20 (KJV) "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old." (emphasis mine)
Though I learned about it through these verses in Micah, I read that its earliest reference appears to be in the Book of Nehemiah which states, "All the Jews gathered as one in the street that is in front of the gate of water" (Nehemiah 8:1-10).
Still, I stayed with Micah and I'm glad I did. In fact, I decided to do a Bible study of this remarkable book with intense prophetic implications. The name "Micah" means "Who is like God?", in the sense that God is unique. It's actually the name of several people in the Holy Bible. Micah was an inspiring prophet to say the least, and when I re-read this book I was astounded by some of the things that stuck with me.
NOTES: BOOK OF MICAH BIBLE STUDY
> I see this book as a warning about the dangers of evil. In just 7 chapters, Micah hits us squarely between the eyes and the truth hurts although it needs to be heard if we are ever going to find forgiveness and restoration.
> Along with a great influx of wealth into the Israelite society during Micah’s time, came an increasing number of social evils. A quasi-peace pervaded over the smaller regional nations, which in some respects is much like post-war America. Accompanying the loss of morals came a warped view of God and a corrupt religious community. At this point, the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Israel and Judah) were happy with class oppression, decadent religious observances (6:7), and smug contentment before their God. In light of their rejection of Him, God was raising up a nation (Assyria) that would in the near future (722-721 BC) swallow up their wickedness.
> God in His grace interrupted this decadent society. He destroyed what was left and chose to raise up a remnant of faithful who would be loyal to His cause and person. Those refusing to join the remnant are cast into the great pot of judgment with the rest of the nations. God was doing something new. He was going to build His promised kingdom and nothing would thwart His purpose.
> Key word in the book is "hear" (1:2)
> Notice the word "let" in verse 2. Those who allow God to speak to them will understand that He has witnessed every transgression of His Law. Those who refuse to hear will find to their horror that He has witnessed every secret sin, but then it will be too late to partake in His mercy. They will drink the wine of His wrath! They will see Him when He comes in flaming fire! We must meditate on verses that warn us of that day.
> In Micah 2:1-3 I see the verse as speaking about Hollywood in a sense. It's a place where evil men dig into the depths of their imaginations and make it a reality through their profession. They have the power in their hand to encourage violence in the land and to destroy the family unit through many influences. They don't understand that God will bring upon them the fruit of their sin.
> Micah chapters 1-2 promotes confession. Micah convincingly points out the connection between the pain they suffer with their sinful and wayward ways. We see destruction as evidence of judgment (1:1-7); Revelation as evidence of sins (1:8-2:11); Restoration as evidence of God’s patience (2:12-13).
: If judgment comes early, we have a chance of escape. Many think that if they escape scrutiny then they are the clever ones. But Micah rightly rebukes those who tell the prophets to shut up, "If they do not speak out concerning these things, reproaches will not be turned back" (Micah 2:6). This is the reason we must repent now of our sins and not a possible later date.
: We might look down on these people as wicked schemers of evil (2:1-2), but the warning is before us. We must not assume innocence just because we do not have the opportunity to sin and get away with it! Each of us are called to examine our lives for the presence of the seeds of sin which if permitted grow up to poisonous plants.
: Under God’s discipline, it is easy to lose hope because we assume God to be like us. We say, "We are destroyed" (2:4), but we forget that the Lord’s intent is on gathering His sheep together and blessing them (2:12-13). If we are His sheep, we will listen to His voice.
: Sin always has a beginning (1:13), and if it is not dealt with, it grows right up touching the most virtuous part of your life and destroying your life (1:9, 12)!
> Micah chapters 3-5 fosters responsibility. Micah persuades them to accept responsibility for their difficult situation and to understand where it will lead to if they do not change. He encourages them to adopt God’s ways to find hope. We see decline under present leadership (3:1-12); Potential under God’s rule (4:1-8); Goodness growing from hardship (4:9-5:15).
: Moral leaders wanted! Governmental, commercial and religious leaders were corrupt. Money seemed to dictate their society because it did (3:11)! Calamity will come because of their irresponsible ways (3:12). Hope doesn’t seem to come from them.
: Our enthusiasm for others than the appointed leader over the remnant is a bad mistake. Leaders come and go, but it is "this One will be our peace" (5:5a). Kings and presidents must bow to Him. Why not volunteer yourself to His service now and live an abundant life?
: We would be wise to take the nations’ advice to "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord" (4:2). No one wants to live in a dying civilization. Hope and life is with the Lord. He takes the lame and makes us a remnant; He takes the outcasts and makes us a strong nation (4:7).
: Unless our enemies are the Lord’s enemies, we are in tremendous trouble. He may allow His enemies to crawl for a while, but it is only for a brief vain fleeting moment. His armies will lay siege against the chief foes (4:13). His mountain will grow taller than all the others (4:1). He will gather all His flock and lead them on ahead (2:12-13).
: Always too big. God despises man’s great projects. They will melt down into nothingness. They bragged of horses and first class chariots (5:10); we our modern armaments. They laughed from their fortresses and walled cities (5:11); we from our missile silos. They place their confidence in sorcery (5:12); we hidden knowledge. They trusted carved images (5:13-15); we confide in a controlled market. God’s power is seen in that He uses the simple to destroy man’s most sophisticated devises (4:12-13; 5:5-6).
: Never too small. God specializes in small beginnings. 4:1 says the mountain of the house of the LORD will become the chief of mountains. The greatest leader, the Messiah, would come from humble beginnings in a no name place called Bethlehem (5:2). It is the remnant that will multiply to be greater than the whole, "Like a lion among the beast of the forest" (5:7-8).
> Micah chapters 6-7 demands commitment. Lastly, Micah puts a clear assignment before them which helps them to evaluate how they are doing. He summarizes the terrible consequences of continuing in their evil behavior and again paints the hope of those who find compassion with God. We see God’s expectations (6:1-8); Results of resisting change (6:9-7:6); Blessings of hoping in god (7:7-20).
: Look not to those who depend on lent authority, but on the issuer of all authority and power. Every power that stands against Jehovah the LORD will be smashed. Those who wait upon the Lord will be greatly rewarded.
: We have not understood the greatness of our God until we have experienced the depth of His compassion. His power is seen in His ability to deal so gently with the objects of His anger. His love is more powerful than His might. No one has drawn close to God except the one who has cried over God’s compassion on Him. See Micah 7:18.
: Our second chance is right now. Take it. Too many have shuffled off an immediate response to the Living God for foolish and temporal reasons. Why hold to those things which will turn into dust and why put off now that which will bring eternal benefit? We have had the miracles; now is the time to respond to Him (7:15).
> Micah is a contemporary with Isaiah. Can’t tell if one copied or collaborated together.
> This is the time of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah (758-698 B.C.)
> Overriding Theme: Book of Righteousness of God
> Micah had a simple life while Isaiah had one of nobility.
> Micah's key verse: He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
> New Testament key verse: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
> Some scholars have tabulated more than 300 specific prophecies about Jesus in this book!
> Micah says God is coming out of His place
> Some of the "life lessons" I drew from this book include: God judges sin (Chapters 1-2); False leaders face doom (Chapter 3); God has a strategy for His people (Chapter 4); God given prophecy is accurate (Chapter 5); God makes what He wants and expects crystal clear (Chapter 6); Loyal love brings hope (Chapter 7)
> The following diagram (courtesy of Biblical Foundations for Freedom) shows how many times and where in Micah words of comfort and hope are used compared to words of warning and judgment. Remember the chapter divisions are artificial but even still the diagram enables us to get a good overview of the book and God's purpose. For example one can see God's faithful words even to a recalitrant society.
> It's also interesting to note God's faithfulness to preserve His people despite their disobedience and lack of faith. The obvious is not so obvious. Many have taken God’s anger against His people as a sign that He has "dropped" His people and His plan. Not true!
> The book ends marvelously with a prayer and praise!
As mentioned, reading this book affected me quite personally. Notice how the prophet has switched, grammatically, from addressing God in the "second person" (using "You") to addressing Him in the "third person" (using "He"). This may have to do with the difficulty finite man has when addressing his infinite Creator, and it comes up again in connection with the topic of blessings.
Personally, I took it as being indicative of the separation we feel when we recognize our sin and feel as though God has turned His ear and His face from us, and that we have no business even approaching Him given the depravity of our condition and current sinful state. At least, that's how I felt many times during the past several weeks before I realized that this is exactly what Satan was counting on! He was hoping I'd respond that way. I'm sure he wasn't counting on me reading this book and re-discovering my pardoned position in Christ.
Let's revisit the Jewish custom Tashlich for a moment. Jewish communities have for many generations gathered on the First Day of Rosh HaShanah at bodies of water and recited the Tashlich Prayer, which consists of certain chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) and the verses referenced above, to symbolize their wish to get rid of their sins, and to be forgiven by God.
Some people carry out the custom of putting bread crumbs in their pockets and shaking them out into the water to give more concrete expression to their desire to be free of their sins. Historically, Jews would sometimes be instructed by their own community leaders to seek out bodies of water not near the center of town, so as not to be seen during Tashlich by their non-Jewish neighbors, for fear of a "poisoning the wells" accusation. This was certainly true if actual food was thrown into the water, but even if not, they would be accused of mumbling curses and poisoning the wells by witchcraft.
Tashlich is preferably recited alongside a body of water containing fish, to remind people that just as fish are protected by the water in which they live, we pray to be protected by God. Also, just as fish swim freely and can suddenly be caught in a net, so too we can just as helplessly fall into the net of sin. And even as the eyes of fish are always open, so do we pray that God too will keep vigilant watch over his people.
Adding context and weight to this study today, it's interesting to note that the Book of Micah was written around 600 B.C., or roughly the same time that Nebuchanezzar reigned and also around the time of the great Greek philosopher Thales who is credited with beginning Western philosophy itself.
A very brief aside (and something to keep in the back of our minds without going too far down a rabbit hole since it's not the primary focus of this entry), is that a sculpture of Thales (representing Electricity from "The Progress of Railroading" in 1908), stands as the main facade of Union Station (Washington, DC), which is bizarre after all the anti-terrorism talk and raids this past week involving various cells that the government feared were planning a Madrid/London style subway bombing.
I've read that many Jews in New York City annually perform the ceremony each year in large numbers from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, but I could not find any independent confirmation of that taking place this year. However, what I did find that was most encouraging despite the media blackout was the fact that 60,000 Christian faithful gathered for the "Prayer In The Square Event" over the weekend, and one prominent Jew from the political arena even joined in. Interesting testimony to the power of prayer and faith in the only one, true God since it would appear that an attack in NYC that was imminent has now been foiled. Hmmm, I wonder if the opposite holds true for cities that support mass prayer and faith in a Satanic god instead? God forbid! Food for thought though especially if an unthinkable horror occurs. Perhaps the subject of the next column.
Also interesting to note (since water is a key element in the Tashlich ritual), is the fact that God reveals Himself near water in a number of Biblical stories, including the vision of the divine chariots (Ezekiel 1:3), and Daniel's end-of-days prophecies (Daniel 10:4). One midrash even claims that all prophecies took place near water (Mechila Rashbi 12:1). As in the story of Creation (Genesis 1:2), God's presence, so to speak, is said to hover around water, making it an appropriate place for prayer (Ba'al Haturim Genesis 16:7). Indeed, many medieval European synagogues were built close to waterfronts.
Great bodies of water connote majesty and glory, with riverfronts deemed as appropriate sites for royal coronations, symbolizing the new reign's perpetuity (Horayot 12a). Some later writers speculated that Tashlich similarly celebrates God's kingship over the world, a central theme of the Rosh Hashana prayers (Yabia Omer OC 4:47). Others alternatively contend that the ceremony recalls Ezra's Rosh Hashana assembly that rededicated the Torah by the water gates (Nehemiah 8:1-2). Rabbi Molin himself speculates that the waters recall Abraham's alacrity to bind Isaac which, according to one midrash, included crossing neck-high river streams created by Satan to stymie him, which eerily brought to mind the real world natural tragedy taking place in Georgia this week.
In a detailed study on this custom's history, Professor Jacob Lauterbach speculated that this rite stemmed from an attempt to pacify certain satanic forces and protect children from undue harm. That's pretty close to the truth. I only wrote about this out of curiosity, and the timeliness of it all given where I've been spiritually of late. All of this research is to suggest that Tashlich is a mere tool used to inspire repentance. Indeed, many scholars have stressed that this and other symbolic ceremonies of a similar kind have no hocus-pocus powers to attain atonement, which we all know can only come from faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, let's return to Micah. The writing style of the Book of Micah is also unique in that it mirrors a lot of what the Body of Christ is going through today as it is the written version of several sermons based on visions Micah received from God.
If we were to sum up this book in one sentence it would probably read something like: "We are immoral at every level and headed for destruction because only God can deliver us from ourselves."
In that sense, we could probably label Micah the "Prophet of Good News, Bad News" because he had a way of cutting to the chase (Micah 6:8). Then again, I guess many of the other prophets did the same thing to an extent and could be worthy of the same title. However, what makes Micah unique when compared to others like him is the fact that he preached or prophesied to both the northern kingdom of Israel (called Samaria) and to the southern kingdom of Judah. The other prophets preached to either one or the other.
Micah foretold of judgment that was coming to the Hebrews and of the future victory that would come through Jesus Christ. He was also a down-to-earth prophet who looked around himself and saw a mess. He didn't mince words whether he was describing the evil he saw, the destruction that was coming, or the hope of the future. He even foretold their exile from their homes, which did eventually happen. He also foretold the actual place of Christ's birth as being Bethlehem. Most importantly, he called his people back to a heart devotion instead of a faith that just goes through the motions.
These passages certainly embody the ideal of repentance that is such a preodominant theme in the rituals and customs of Rosh HaShanah. Subjective experiences aside, I think we'd all agree that the Four Horsemen are ready to ride. That leaves us all with only one response -- to fall to our knees and seek our Heavenly Father.
I pray that you make a decision for Jesus Christ if you haven't already because these are chaotic times, and time won't wait for you to finally make up your mind. Even if this doesn't materialize you could still die tomorrow, and any unresolved issues (like where you will spend eternity when you die) will be moot at that point.
Do you desire a personal relationship with the One who created you and desires to have an intimate relationship with you? You need to know that if you haven't been saved and born again then you're not here reading this by accident. God has been trying to get your attention for so long, and He desperately wants you to finally answer His call and reach out to Him before it's too late! This may even be your final warning. Are you willing to take that chance if you leave here without accepting Him and His free offer once and for all? If you know this to be true and want to respond once and for all, tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:
"Father God, I know I need You because I am a sinner, but also know that I can never get to You on my own. There's nothing I can do on my own to make up for my sins; nothing I could do on my own to earn favor and forgiveness from You or to secure my place in Heaven when I die. The only thing I can do is to make a conscious decision that You sent Your one and only Son Jesus Christ, and that He came to this world for me. He took my sins upon Himself, was crucified in my place, died for me, and was resurrected so that I may live forever. I accept Him and His sacrifice, and desperately want to receive Your Son Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. When He conquered death for my sake He gave me access to You. Thank You for Your grace and Your mercy. Thank You for forgiving me and for sending the Holy Spirit to transform my life from this moment forward. I pray that You transform my life from this day forward and give me a heart and a mind that desires to not only get to know You, but to be with You as much as possible. Teach me how to live, and teach me how to share this message with others before it's too late for them. Please count me worthy to escape the things to come. Amen."
While you're probably on fire for the Lord right now following your decision and this prayer please keep in mind that you can't just recite a 30-second prayer and be done with it, and go back to living without God like you were before. No! From this moment forward it's important that you commit yourself to growing closer to Him and to living obediently to His Word. You now have to exercise faith on a moment-to-moment basis and walk with the Lord daily as you allow Him to work in your life to change you and mold you according to His perfect will of who He wants you to become. Should you stumble or have difficulty in that pursuit please know you can always come back here to this community for prayers and support.
If you're already a saved Christian, but you haven't repented for your sins or sought the Lord for His mercy, forgiveness, salvation, or prayed that you are counted worthy to escape the things to come as we're instructed to, if you haven't done all these things in awhile, then please say the following prayer right now:
"Dear Lord, I pray that you will not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Please think of me according to Your mercy and for Your goodness' sake, O Lord. Lord I turn from all of those sins that I committed and I ask for Your help in washing the memory and thoughts of that sin completely from my mind. Please restore me to faithful obedience to Your Word, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit anew, so that I may keep Your commands all the days of my life. Lord Jesus, I invite you into my heart anew today, and I ask forgiveness for all of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins and for forgiving me of them through your shed blood for me on the cross. Please take away all the sinful 'old things' in my heart that defile me, and replace them with the 'good things' that you desire to grow in to my life. Please wash away all the sinful crud and tendencies toward evil and replace them with a hunger and thirst for your righteousness. I need your help, Lord God, in living this new life in Christ. Please send your Holy Spirit afresh into my life to help me, heal me, lead me and transform me. I also pray that your shed blood washes over me, protects me, and that I am counted worthy to escape the things that are coming upon this world in the form of your righteous judgment. Lastly, I pray that you have mercy on this nation even though we deserve your fierce judgment for our blatant sins that are before you. Help us to see the error in our ways as individuals and as a nation, and lead us to repentance before it's too late for us. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."
Now, go and share this message with others because they may not be prepared for what's coming (or perhaps for where they're going to spend eternity).
In the final analysis, how should we apply what we've learned from our study of the Book of Micah? With so many profound truths contained in just 7 chapters it's hard to isolate one key point to consider. Perhaps we should start by asking some simple questions.
How do we see ourselves fitting into God’s kingdom? Do we belong? Have we committed ourselves to His ways? We must see our profession of Him to affect our daily lives, or it is vain.
Jesus claimed that His kingdom would drastically alter the face of the Earth. Are you part of this process? Do you even want to be a part of it?
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