The Gravity Shadow of Christ
“I will bear the indignation of YHWH because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out into the light; and I shall look upon His vindication.”
Astronomy in the Old Testament
I’m told that an astronomer can find a distant planet, not because he sees the planet itself, but by noting the effect that the planet has on light around it. If the light of a star flickers or dims or seems distorted, there is a chance that a planet is causing the disturbance. So, the invisible planet is “seen” by noting its impact on its surrounding, its context. This practice is analogous to one of the ways that we can see Christ in the OT. Even when He may not be prophetically or typologically present in a text, we often still the impact–the “gravity shadow”–of His person and work in the wording and logic of the text. This verse is a prime example.
Holy Rage Against A Sinful People
First, see that God’s people–personified as a single speaker–bear the indignation or storming rage of YHWH. They are under the storm of His fury, a fury that YHWH has toward His enemies (Is.30:30). This verse starts with YHWH as wrathful enemy, and if He is the enemy of His people, if he has rage and anger toward them, then we must also conclude that it is just and holy and righteous anger. He is perfectly and infinitely justified in this rage. And we see why in the next verse, “because I have sinned against Him.”
The people of God have sinned against Him. Sin against God is just another way of saying, opposition to His person and work, which in turn is opposition to the good of all things. As a result of this, the Lord’s righteous and pure fury is directed toward His sinful people. God Himself rages against them, God Himself has set Himself against their rebellion, there is no where else to go–consider it–there is no where to flee if YHWH is against us. The logic in those well-beloved words of Paul from Romans 8:31 works backwards as well: If God is against us, then who can be for us? The answer? We see it in the next section of the verse.
God’s people have sinned against Him, they have made Him their enemy and now, in His justice and righteousness, the storm of His wrath is breaking over their heads. Who can save them from the Holy Rage of God? The answer is beautiful and fitting: Only God Himself.
The Divine Advocate
“I will bear the indignation of YHWH….until He pleads my cause.”
Salvation from the just wrath of God can ONLY come from God, there is no other power in all the universe that can snatch us out of His hand….and that is true both when we are in His hand as a beloved flock AND when we are in His hand as condemned rebels. And so, the people of God can only look to God in the midst of their punishment and Micah teaches them to hope that HE HIMSELF will plead their cause.
Now, this is a startling statement. The Lord Himself will strive, will contend, will dispute the cause of His people……..but what is the cause of his people? What is their situation? It is that they are under the just condemnation of the Lord! So how will YHWH dispute their case? How will YHWH stand up for His people whom He is also crushing under His wrath? We must conclude that Micah anticipates YHWH–in some sense–pleading the cause of His people with YHWH. There are at least two significant things to note here:
First, this lends weight to the concept of some sort of plurality within the God of Israel. There are not two Gods, but within YHWH there must be the capacity to be both Judge and Defendant….a tantalizing anticipation of the full Trinitarian revelation of the NT.
But secondly, as soon as we have said that YHWH can be both Judge and Defendant, we seem to have introduced the idea of dissension or, at least, tension within God, and this is certainly not the case. He is infinitely glad and satisfied in Himself and–as Jesus says in John 17:1-5, 24–His experience in eternity is one of Almighty Joy, Love, and Glory. So, while YHWH seems to be performing both the role of Judge and of Defendant, we must recognize that these “roles” were joyfully chosen on the basis of, and as an expression of free and sovereign love from before creation. There is no compulsion or dissension within God, there is only perfect harmony on display for the gladness of His people.
So, in harmonious, love-driven, freedom, YHWH has chosen within Himself from all eternity that He should be both the Righteous Judge and the Righteous Defendant of His unrighteous people. Can you see the “gravity shadow” of Christ? The Arbiter if here, the Intercessor is here, the cross is here……the cross where God the Son is lifted up–bearing the totality of His people’s sins and pleading their cause before God the Father. But the pleading of Christ before the Father is not an attempt to win over a hard hearted judge, rather His pleading and the Father’s judgment are variations on the same theme. These complementary variations meet and are harmonized at the cross, where the infinitely rich melody of God’s Triune glory reverberates from the crucified Son.
Salvation Through Judgment
And the cross becomes more clear as we move on in this passage. Not only does YHWH plead the cause of his sinful people, but then we read that their judgment is executed. Now, the word for judgment here need not mean condemnation, but it does seem to mean the bringing about of righteousness, the right ordering and right judging of a situation. So while condemnation or damnation is not necessarily implied by this word, if “right ordering” and the bringing about of righteous judgment is to be applied to a sinful people, the Law leads us to believe that the result will be the wiping out of that sinful people (Exodus 32:33). By their own admission they have sinned against the Lord, by their own admission they are justly condemned, and now judgment is executed and what is the result? “He will bring me out to the light.”
What!? How can the result of YHWH’s holy judgment against His sinful people be that they are brought out into the light? How can this possibly be? it must be because of something that happened when YHWH plead their cause. And indeed, that is exactly right.
When YHWH incarnate is lifted up on the cross, pleading the cause of His people, judgment is indeed executed, holy, pure, infinite, and perfect holiness vents the totality of its wrath against all the rebellion and sin of elect humanity. But this judgment, this violent re-establishment of Shalom, falls on YHWH. What infinite wonder and glory! Judgment is executed, sin is vanquished, rebellion is crushed and opposition to God is condemned in the flesh of our Lord and God! That is how He pleads our cause, that is how the execution of His judgment does not mean our damnation–because it meant HIS damnation, as it were. And because of this, because of the cross, the execution of divine judgment means that we are brought out into the light……brought out of our sin, out of our prison, out of the graves of our hatred of God and into the resurrection light of His presence. And indeed, this bringing our into the light happens only because our intercessor Himself is brought out into the light. Because Jesus is raised to newness of life, so too are we. Here is both the death and resurrection of the Lord on display!
And the final line of the verse is wonderful, “I shall look upon His vindication” or, “His righteousness.” Again, how can it be that YHWH judging a sinful people with the result being that they are brought out into the light–how can it be that that exchange reveals the righteousness of the Lord? Might we be tempted to say that it reveals His unrighteousness? Not at all….because (as Paul says in Romans 3:23-26), the interceding work of Christ declares with climatic finality the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God! ALL sins, ALL transgression, ALL rebellion is perfectly dealt with in the substitutionary death of the Son. The righteous YHWH judges His unrighteous people and brings them out into the joy and light of His presence in perfect justice because God the Son will plead their cause, bear their sin, be crushed in their place, die their death, become their curse, and then rise to new and vindicated life so that all united to him by grace-given faith will join Him in His victory. Hallowed be His Name!