“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.”–Micah 6:8
“I have a case against you.” Yikes! That’s something we don’t want to hear spoken about us. How about this? – “’I have a case against you,’ says God.” Double yikes! Micah was the prophet called by God to deliver this message to the people of Israel many years ago. God’s people were getting it all wrong and Micah was asked to explain it to them and to tell them what was going to happen as a result. (It wasn’t pretty.) He wrote a book about his message and experience so that God could speak to us through it today. So what does it have to do with us? Ummmm. . .well, God has a case against us. Triple yikes! But there’s good news! In the message Micah delivered were the simple instructions on how to straighten it out. Interested is knowing what it is? Me too. Let’s get started.
What’s the case? (see Micah 2:1-3, Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)
In Micah’s time, the list of infractions included devising wickedness, coveting, defrauding, and walking proudly. Before we breathe a big sigh of relief – thinking we’re innocent of such charges – let’s fast-forward ahead in time a few hundred years to Jesus’ time on Earth. The people of Jesus’ time said God didn’t have a case against them. Jesus responded by establishing the proper standard by which to measure such things. Murder and adultery were topics of Jesus’ discussion. Jesus taught that these sins are committed in the heart long before outward actions are taken. Anger and lust in the heart are the root causes of murder and adultery. So everyone in Jesus’ audience got the message. If they had ever been angry with someone or had ever looked upon another lustfully, God had a case. Yikes! So let’s admit it, God has a case against us too. Now to figure out how to straighten it out. . .
What not to do (see Micah 6:6-7, Matthew 6:5)
In Micah’s time, God looked at all the things the people were doing to compensate for His case against them. Through Micah, He told them they were doing two things wrong. (Later, Jesus backed him up on these.)
First, they were trying to deal with things by putting window dressing around it. Through empty religious rituals the people were trying to sweep God’s case under the rug. They figured if they gave more sacrifices and spent more time at the Temple, they could make sufficient payment to erase the case against them. God wasn’t interested. In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders were doing much the same thing. Their window dressing took the form of loud, wordy, public prayers, meant to demonstrate to the crowds that God didn’t have a case against them.
Second, they were making it too complicated. Through a complex set of prescribed rituals and offerings the people thought they were addressing the case against them. What they were really doing was substituting rituals in the place of dealing with the real issues. In Jesus’ time the complicated web of legal compliance that the leaders had put in place focused on looking pious rather than owning up to the case against them.
Today, we do the same. We go to church on Sunday and think that buys us a free pass when we get angry with the one who cuts us off in traffic on Monday. We pray diligently for God to straighten out the flaws of the world and then let our eyes linger on the sexy billboard or coworker. We devise complicated packages of logic to excuse our actions while condemning the actions of others.
What to do (see Micah 6:8, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 5:23-24)
The people in Micah’s time, in Jesus’ time, in our time are all called to get on a two-way street and understand the equal importance of the “traffic” that flows in each direction. In one direction – how we act toward others – we are to act justly. We are called to treat others with the love that God has for us and for them. Don’t act toward others in ways that are selfish or unfair. In short, love ‘em always! In the other direction – how we respond when others act toward us – we are to love mercy. When others don’t treat us with kindness and love, we are called to extend mercy to them. Understand that God has more than enough love for us and don’t require it from others as a payment for receiving love from us. Be understanding. Just as God shows mercy to each of us, we should extend it to others.
Walk Humbly With Our God
Not only do we have to get on a two-way street of just actions and mercy, but we must get on the right two-way street. To walk humbly with God, we must be on the road God is on. Inviting God to walk with us on the road of our choosing, is not walking humbly. It is walking proudly, on a road we deem more important than the road of God’s choice. God wants us to walk with Him, on the road He has purposed just for us. We must be willing to change the road we’re on and seek after God’s presence on the road He is on.
This is God’s plan. Pretty simple isn’t it? We tend to make it more complicated than this because, while God’s plan is simple, it is hard. The complicated, window-dressed approach is really just trying to substitute an easier plan. Yet, it accomplishes nothing but furthering the case God has against us. Instead, we are to keep it simple – act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. That’s the truth.
“He has shown you what is good. When you substitute religious activity for what is good, you are not doing what He has shown you. What He has shown you is simple, yet hard. You are to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
That’s the YouTruth. Walk Humbly With Your God.
Copyright 2009, 2011 Dan Buckhout.