Micah 6: 8 (Epiphany 4 – 2014)
“What Does God Expect of You?”
When we examine ourselves according to the Ten Commandments we realize that God commanded the impossible. We are born with the inability to measure up on all counts. Absolute perfection is what God demands. Absolute failure is what He gets from sinners in return. When God examines us through the blood of his Son, Jesus, He sees His children. He sees sin washed away. He sees people who love Him and love to do what He commands. As His children we strive to drown our sinful nature each day in our baptism. The Spirit awakens in us a new attitude that loves His Word and seeks to follow it. To us the LORD asks: “And what does God require of you?”
Through Micah, the LORD invited His people to plead their case before Him. He quickly lodged his case with them. He recalled their history as His people. “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.” The LORD reminded them of the story of how Balak, king of Moab, tried to put a curse on the people through the heathen prophet Balaam (Number 22-24). You may recall the talking donkey, which saw the angel of the Lord on the road. God used the donkey and Balaam to achieve His purpose of blessing the people four times on their way through Moab. God’s point is this “I have done all things well for you. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. I have earned the right to expect some things of you.”
God’s has sent His Son. He has rescued us from sin’s slavery. He has proclaimed the news of our Salvation through Jesus. He has the right to summarize our appropriate response. Our verse today is not in addition to, or a replacement of, the Ten Commandments. It is a clear summary of God’s Law for those who know and love God’s will for them: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly; to love mercy; and to walk humbly with your God.”
The phrase literally means “do righteous things.” The pages of history and our current society are filled with injustice. The human race prizes a foggy line between what is right and what is wrong. Holding people accountable is frowned upon. Claiming authority on any subject line is rejected as arrogance. Blatant sins parade around us as banners for progressive thought and enlightened minds. Everyone seems to have an excuse or rationale for whatever it is they see fit to do. To the world, justice means looking out for self and getting what I deserve. It has very little to do with what is right and what is wrong.
For us the concept of acting justly is at the very core of God’s Laws. The child of God is to “hate evil and love good, and maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5: 15). Christian parents discipline their children to know what is sinful and what is God-pleasing. God-fearing employees work cheerfully and honestly. They accept consequences when the rules of the workplace are broken. Church leaders point out sin to those who are living in unrepentence. Fellow Christians guide each other with God’s Words of honesty and integrity. God’s people carry out their civil freedoms in such a way that promotes a clear line of what is right and what is wrong. God’s people are prepared to suffer the consequences of standing up for what is right in God’s eyes. In summary, we act justly, when day by day we seek the wisdom of God’s Word for our daily lives and ask for His help in carrying it out.
God uses the Hebrew word which is often translated “kindnesses.” It is one of the Old Testament word pictures for God’s divine love for the people of His creation. It can sometimes be translated grace. Its primary meaning is description of our Savior’s ministry and life: mercy and compassion. How often are we told of the compassionate nature of Jesus when seeing others in need of his divine abilities!
It is the kind of character shown in the story he told about the Good Samaritan. Two guys passed by a man in desperate need. They turned the other way. They ignored the man’s trouble as if to say: “That is no concern of mine.” But one man showed mercy. He embraced the hurt with acts of kindness and generosity. He ignored his own safety. He considered the needs of the man above his own. He loved mercy (Luke 10:33).
This is what God has done for us. In mercy He looked down upon the world of sinners with a heart filled with compassion. He would have been justified in ignoring our eternal trouble. Instead, He embraced us and our need. He treated us with acts of sacrifice and generosity. He came down from heaven and became one of us. He considered our Salvation above his own life and rescued us. His sacrifice on the cross paid for our sins and restored us to God. God’s mercy is shown in the actions of His Son Jesus.
God’s people show mercy by reflecting that kind of mercy to others. Parents have hearts of love when their children fall into sin, or are lost and hurting. God-fearing bosses approach their employees with patience and caring leadership. Spiritual leaders show compassion when believers are drawn into obvious temptations and fears. Christian civil leaders make laws that seek the good of people’s lives rather than theirs. When people are hurting the child of God has a heart of compassion. In summary, we love mercy, when day by day we respond to the needs of others with a heart that resembles God’s compassion for us in Christ.
Walk Humbly With Your God
People who know what God has done, know the proper relationship they have with him. He speaks to you and calls you his creation, “O man.” You are dust. I have created you. I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. (Isaiah 43:1). It is interesting to note that the pronoun “your” is singular. God is your (singular) God. God has made you His child. That news sets humility into motion. Each week we walk into the LORD’s house and confess our guilt before Him. I do not deserve to be called your child (CW page 38). Humility is an appropriate character of the child of God. We have examined His laws and know that we have failed to keep them. We have seen the great lengths He has gone to pay for our many sins. We know Him through Jesus to be our heavenly Father. Humbleness is only right.
Humility seems a lost art these days. We tend to be more interested in validation rather than forgiveness. To admit when we are wrong is often replaced with excuses and attempts to appear flawless. To say we are sorry is replaced by efforts to make others look bad in the interest of looking better. The concept of putting someone in their place is labeled unloving.
The child of God’s knows better. Christian parents do not shy away from humbling the child who needs to be taken down a notch. Children graciously learn to know their place and respect the wisdom of the elders. Next year’s freshmen class walks onto campuses knowing their place. Employees patiently learn the pecking order at work. Congregations show a deep respect for those who teach the Word of God. Those who teach the Word of God beg for wisdom and courage to do it God’s way. Christians living among a godless society walk there in the shadow of God’s presence and the light of his grace. God’s people walk humbly with our God when we plead for His mercy for our failures and thank Him for His presence in our daily walk with Him.
Micah 6:8 is set in stone above the reading room in the Library of Congress. It is in the religion alcove. I wonder how many see it now as merely a neat phrase, or a symbol of work righteousness. For us it is an appropriate summary of God’s will for us in the Ten Commandments. But we hear it with cheerful hearts redeemed in Christ. In view of his mercy and forgiveness we say with John, “Your laws are not a burden” (1 John 5: 3). In Jesus God has done what He expects of us. In return we ask for His strength to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Amen.