What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8
by Pastor Lee Hemen
Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and He only had a few days left to impart some last instructions to His disciples. Already He had planned how He would celebrate His last Passover meal with them. He already knew the significance of the bread and the wine He would share. He also knew what He had to do to provoke the Jewish leadership by going to the temple and driving out their wretched money changers. But before all that He would have to make His entrance into the City of David. He knew that some in the crowds that cheered Him today would cry for His crucifixion in a few days. Neither the leadership nor the common crowd understood just how far they had wandered from God and how He would provide a way back to Him. They did not understand what God required.
The same could be said of what Micah teaches concerning Israel’s wandering from the Lord and how they needed to return to Him. Israel misunderstood what God required of them. They were depending upon their own way instead of God’s. Sound familiar? Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Micah prophesied in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His one statement on what God required of His people stands the test of time as a pillar of what God requires of His people. Let’s discover what Micah teaches…
Ashes placed on our foreheads cannot bring about the change God requires. Micah’s first question helps us to put a personal perspective on what many of us think concerning our own relationship with God. Micah wondered…
I. How in the world do I come before a holy God?
1. Micah takes on the roll of someone who is coming to worship the Lord and he asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” He immediately begins to question his ability to be seen in the presence of God. Why? You see, he views himself differently than many believers view themselves. Micah saw himself as unworthy of coming before the Lord. There was a reason for this. Like Paul, Micah would agree, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! Micah understood who he was and the nature of God. God was holy! This truth is often lost on some of us today where we think we are the most important thing in the world! In truth, the world does not revolve around you, nor does the plan of God. It revolves around His Son, Jesus. God related early on to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1 NIV) The connotation was that God is holy and Abraham needed to be as well in order to walk in relationship with Him! In fact, we find God telling His people, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44 NIV) So, the worshipper asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” It is a question we should ask. How do we dare come before a Holy Lord this morning? How can we bow down before Him? Remember, we know that God’s ways are neither our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. A Holy God is so far removed, exalted, from us, how dare we come before Him at all? So, the next thought of the worshipper is, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” The notion here is perhaps that which has been purified in the fire on the altar of God or that which is completely innocent would please God. We forget that a burnt offering was completely burned away and all that was left was ashes. And perhaps we discover that this is how we approach a holy God. Perhaps when we are totally burned away and all that is left is noting of us we can come before His throne?
EXAMPLE: In order to approach a holy God we have to have our sin burned away and become innocent. Sadly, there are those of us who arrogantly think we have the right to approach God. We forget the innocent sacrifice that was required for us to do so. Now we may think if we just feel burnt up enough, dried out in our emotions, we are a burnt offering before God. Or if we are simply saddened by our sin it is enough. Yet we discover that God requires us to be completely His. After all a sacrifice cannot crawl off the altar, it is burned up. Let me ask you, “How in the world do you come before a holy God?” Have you forgotten the innocent sacrifice required for your sin?
The crowds would cheer; strip off their cloaks and the branches of nearby trees to place before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. They thought they had a rescuer, perhaps a warrior king, who would change their disgraceful enslavement. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Surely God was pleased with them! About 800 years before, Micah knew better and he would consider…
II. How in the world can I please the Lord?
1. Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he is doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites, which many of us have copied with our lives in our day! However, we should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us!
EXAMPLE: I like a good bargain, but we should know better than try to bargain with God, yet many of us try to anyway. Children are infamous for knowing or trying to bargain their way out of trouble. My Dad used to tell us over and over when we tried the tactic of pleading we were “sorry” and that we would “never do it again”, “I appreciate your being sorry, but you still will suffer the consequences of your actions.” Like little children caught doing what we know is wrong, some believers will try to bargain with God. We make foolish statements that we will not to do it again or that we will change, if only He will forgive us this time. When we do we often know we will not change, we are just trying to bargain with God. How in the world can we please God, only through sacrifice and Jesus has already done it for us!
Slowly the donkey colt plodded into the city along the dusty path. With great frenzy the crowds greeted Jesus. Periodically, Jesus would look at the faces, smile, and acknowledge someone in the throng. Today was a day of joy; soon it would be one of great sorrow. Jesus knew what would be required of Him. And here, we discover in the lines of the prophet Micah…
III. What is required of us!
1. Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God’s ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to ” act justly” no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to “love mercy” even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to “walk humbly before our God”, even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is “walking humbly” as opposed to “walking in pride”. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When we ask, “What does God want me to do?” In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!
EXAMPLE: We often go through life wondering what we should do or not do. Believers have no reason to live this way because we know what we should do. We often go through making New Year resolutions that we hardly ever keep. We begin with good intentions but before long old habits take over. It may start out just once in a while not following through with our promise to change, then it gets worse and we soon have forgotten what we promised to do. Instead of making goals we never truly intend to keep or that we cannot keep, perhaps we need to follow the advice of Micah and walk humbly before our God! Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!
1. In order to approach a holy God we have to be burned away and innocent.
2. How in the world can I please the Lord, only through the sacrifice of Jesus!
3. Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.