Both the public schools, and our Angleton Christian School have resumed classes now. And I’m sure as classes began, most teachers shared with their students their expectations, right from the beginning: here’s how we need you to act, in your conduct; here’s what is required of you, assignment-wise, to get a certain grade. And that’s good; it’s good to know what the expectations are, going in.
And we might say the same thing is true in our relationship with God. What does God want from us? What does He expect of me? What does He care about — and NOT care about! Maybe you’re here at First Baptist Angleton for the first time — or maybe even any church for the first time — or for the first time in a long time. Or maybe you have come today because you’re seeking God in a special way at this time in your life. As you seek to come to Him, what does He want from you? It’s good to know, right?
Well, that’s what our passage for today shows us. Verse 6 says, “With what shall I come to the Lord?” In other words, what does God want from me? Verse 8 answers the question: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you.” And He shows us here what He wants, both in our vertical relationship towards Him, and in our horizontal relationships with other people. So let’s look at what God’s word says He wants from us today:
I. What God DOESN’T Want:
God doesn’t just want “religious stuff” instead of obedience in our lives. He says here in :6-7, “With what shall I come to the LORD, and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He makes it clear here that these are NOT the things that He wants. He says in :8, “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what … the LORD requires of you …” — and it wasn’t these things. He didn’t just want all these sacrifices and offerings. Especially when they were giving them while they were at the same time sinning in other areas of their life! God says, I don’t want you just to do all this “religious stuff,” and think it will “make up” for your sins. It doesn’t. That’s not what I want from you.
In 1066 William the Conqueror invaded England from France, and established himself as king. His invasion had led to the deaths of many men, so to help relieve his guilt before God, he built a chapel on the spot where the key battle took place. Cheryl, Michael & I visited there back in 2010; it is called “Battle Abbey” — the chapel that William built on the site of his conquest. Did he really think that building a chapel would make up for the guilt of his killings? It was a common practice in those days. “Build you a chapel; it’ll atone for your sins.” But that is just the kind of thing that God is talking about here. You can’t make up for your sins with religious deeds and sacrifices — no many how big a church you build, how much money you give, or how many good works you do. Outward shows of religion can’t make up for your inward heart of sin. God doesn’t want it.
That’s why Jesus said in Matt 5, if you are bringing your offering to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar, and go and be reconciled with your brother, THEN come and present your offering. Because the “good religious deed” of that offering isn’t as important as being right with a person in your heart! Sacrifices, and shows of religion don’t make up for sins.
And it’s still true today. God doesn’t want us to make “sacrifices” and outward “shows” of religion, to try to make up for other areas of our lives lives where we are disobeying Him:
— Well I cheated somebody in business, so I’ll give a big gift to the church building fund.
— I partied too much on Friday night; so I’d better go to church on Sunday.
— I’m sleeping with somebody I shouldn’t, so I’ll “make up for it” by going to visit folks in the nursing home.
God doesn’t want all that religious stuff — especially when you are doing it as a substitute for obeying Him in the first place! He doesn’t want our “sacrifices” or outward shows of religion to make up for inward sins.
So what DOES God want? He shows us three things in Micah 6:8:
II. What God DOES Want: He shows us three things in this famous verse:
- “Do Justice”
The word “justice” is the Hebrew word “mishpat,” one of the prominent words of the Old Testament;
– Exodus 23:6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.
– Deuteronomy 24:17 “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan
– I Samuel 8:3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.
– Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
God says throughout the Old Testament: DO JUSTICE! Make sure that everyone gets what they are due – from society or our legal system as a whole, and especially from YOU personally. Be just in your dealings with everyone, whoever they are.
This is to be true in the way we do business personally. We see some examples of what God is talking about here, later on in this very chapter:
— :10 talks about “a short measure that is cursed.” “Short measure” here is literally in Hebrew: a “shrunken ephah.” The ephah was a Hebrew measure for grain, it was about like a “bushel” is today. So He says, you have a “shrunken ephah” — in other words, the bushel you are measuring out to other people, when you sell them your grain, is too small. You are ripping them off. You are cheating them in business.
— He says in :11, “Can I justify wicked scales and a bag of deceptive weights?” Here is the same thing again: their scales to measure out what they are selling people are deceptive — they are cheating them.
God says these kinds of practices are wrong in His sight. Do JUSTICE when you do business with other people:
— you’re selling someone a pound, give them a real pound’s worth
— you’re selling them a bushel, give them a full bushel for their money
And that principle doesn’t just apply to agriculture:
— when you’re working for someone, give them a full hour’s work for a full hour’s pay.
— when you’re paying a worker, pay them everything they’re due.
— when you sell something, be honest in your dealings with them. Don’t rip people off and say “Well, that’s just the way of the world; that’s just business.” God says NO! YOU DO JUSTICE!
And as we see elsewhere in the OT, “mishpat,” “justice” applies to more than just business. Make sure that people get the justice that is due them — whoever they are. Don’t show prejudice either for or against someone, because of their status or background. Do what is right.
Deuteronomy says don’t pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan.
Some people think: “Well, this person is a foreigner; it doesn’t really matter how we treat them.” God says, yes it does. You treat them justly. Don’t give them less than justice just because they are of another ethnic or national background.
Or: well, that’s just a poor widow; nobody sees or knows how I treat them. YES SIR Someone does see it: and HE will judge you for the way you treat them! God says in Isaiah 10 He will judge those who take advantage of widows, and don’t give the poor their rights.
God says “do justice,” for everyone, regardless of who they are.
During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt tried to employ a number of innovative programs to deal with the crisis. But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down several of his efforts as unconstitutional. So FDR decided he wanted to “pack the court” and add enough new members to outvote them. But when Roosevelt’s proposal came to the Senate in 1937, George Norris, a senator from Nebraska, said he asked himself the question, how would he have stood ‘if Harding (a Republican president) had offered this bill.’ And then he gave his answer: he would have opposed the bill had Harding offered it — and so he said he would oppose it even though it was Democrat Roosevelt who offered it. Wrong was wrong, no matter WHO was doing it. (Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, p. 62)
God is saying here in Micah that’s how we should be towards every person: give them justice: friend or foe. Right is right; wrong is wrong; no matter WHO they are.
“Lady Justice” is often depicted in statues and paintings as being blindfolded; in other words, it doesn’t matter WHO the person is; justice is the same regardless. That is what God is commanding us here:
— You do what’s right for the unpopular person.
— You do what’s right for the person who’s from another country.
— You do what’s right for the person who has absolutely no political pull or power, just as you would for the person who DOES have political pull or power.
— Do what’s right for the person who hurt you or has given you trouble.
— and conversely, what’s wrong for your enemies is also wrong for your friends!
— Do what’s right for ALL. Do justice for ALL.
What does want from us? First of all, He says, I want you to do justice for all. Give everyone their due — friend or foe, rich or poor, whatever culture or color. DO JUSTICE!
B. “Love Grace”
Many versions translate this word as “mercy” or “kindness” or something similar. But this is the Hebrew word “chesed.” We’ve talked about this word before. It is such a rich word; virtually untranslatable by any one English word. It means “kindness, mercy, unselfish goodness, love, faithfulness, loyalty, covenant love.” As Martin Luther said, perhaps it is best understood as the Old Testament version of New Testament “grace.” It’s God’s undeserved goodness to us: “grace.”
So God wants us to “love grace.” Grace is when you treat someone better than they deserve. So He’s saying, I want you to LOVE grace; love treating people better than they deserve.
In a sense, you could say this is taking the last point we looked at, a step further. Mishpat, “justice,” is making sure people get what they are due. That’s good, as far as it goes. But now God says here, Don’t JUST “do justice” — that’s a good place to start. But go even further: “love grace” — go BEYOND just what someone is “due” and give them even MORE than they are due. Give them grace: treat them BETTER than they deserve.
Sometimes a person can take a kind of “cruel delight” in seeing people get what they deserve. For example, years ago the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley passed away. Shelly had been known to have written some poetry which was not Christian. So at his death, one newspaper reported: ’Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned; now he knows whether there is a God or not.’” (Jim Bernhard, Final Chapters: How Famous Author Died, p. 101)
That’s pretty hard-hearted, isn’t it? Sometimes we see a cruel, spirit of “justice” like that even from many of God’s people: “they got what they deserve,” or “Let’s give them what they deserve.” (We need to be careful about that; we don’t want God to give US what WE deserve!)
So God says, don’t just love justice. Instead, He says, love GRACE. Love — enjoy — take delight — in treating people BETTER than they deserve.
History tells us that Julius Caesar was known for the grace he showed his enemies. Most generals before Caesar, when they had conquered an enemy, would kill them. But Caesar’s policy was that when he had conquered an enemy general, he would show him grace, and forgive him, in hopes of making him an ally. His people said he just LOVED showing grace to people that everyone thought he should do away with. A couple of times, he forgave someone, who then turned on him again, and everyone said NOW he is going to give them what they’re due! — and he would defeat them again — and then forgive them again! One of his generals said: “‘Nothing was dearer to his heart than pardoning suppliants.’” (Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life, p. 30) Caesar just LOVED showing grace!
That is how God says He wants US to be. Don’t just relish doling out JUSTICE to people, instead, let’s get a kick out of showing GRACE to them! Let’s learn to enjoy treating people better than they deserve. “Love grace.” Let’s learn to say:
— Yeah, they hurt me when they did that. But you know what: I’m going to forgive them.
— Yeah, they said some bad things about me. But I’m not going to speak ill of them.
— Yes, they deserve to be punished for this. But I’m not going to do it.
— No, that person doesn’t “deserve” for me to give them anything — but I’m going to give them something anyway.
Let’s learn to enjoy, NOT giving people what they deserve, but to relish showing them grace instead. “Love grace”!
Now, someone might say, “Well, WHY should we do that? Why should we treat people better than they deserve?” The #1 reason is: because that is what God did for YOU, if you are a Christian!
See, none of us “deserve” what we have as Christians, do we? We don’t “deserve” to be Christians at all. If you think you “deserve” to be a Christian, then you don’t even know what a Christian is! Everything about being a Christian is due to the mercy and grace of God, not anything we “deserve.”
— when God created us, He didn’t create us as slaves, but as sons and daughters of God, made to delight in His presence and glory. That was grace!
— Then when we sinned against Him, we should have been judged immediately and sent to hell, but we weren’t — God showed us mercy and grace instead.
— And when there was no way for us to pay for our own sins, God sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross, so that we could be forgiven. “By grace you are saved” Ephesians 2:8-9 says. We didn’t deserve that incomparable sacrifice; it was all of His grace; we didn’t deserve any of it.
You are not saved because you are better than anyone else, or because of anything you earned or deserved. The only reason you are a Christian, is only of God’s grace.
So now God says, if you have received My grace, then I want you to show how much you appreciate it, by turning around and showing that same grace to others. LOVE grace. DELIGHT in being gracious to people, and treating them better than they “deserve,” because it reminds YOU that God has treated YOU better than you deserve — and it is also a witnesses to them of what God’s grace is like.
A couple of weeks ago our church prepared a chicken spaghetti meal for all the families and teachers who came to the “Meet The Teacher Night” at Angleton Christian School. Everyone was so appreciative of those meals. At one point I was walking around the booth area over at ACS, giving out flyers to families about the meal, and one woman was just astounded. She said, “Why would you do this? Why would you give all of us a free meal?” I said, It’s an extension of God’s love. God showed His love to us — and so we want to show His love to you, and we’ll take care of your meal tonight!
God’s grace to US, is always the basis for the grace we show others. We reason we give OTHERS grace, is because God gave it to US first.
God wants us to learn to delight in showing grace. “Love grace”! And let it remind us, and others, of the grace that God first showed us.
C. “Walk Humbly” with Him.
He’s specifically referring to our attitude towards GOD here: “Walk humbly with your GOD.”
Humility is one of the most important things God seeks from us. We read in Isaiah 66:2 this week where God says: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
As human beings, there are two basic responses; two basic attitudes we can have towards God: pride, or humility. We can either respond to God with pride, and say “I want to do what I want to do; I will be in charge of my own life;” OR we can respond with humility: “God made me; He knows best. I am not as smart as He is; I choose to submit to Him and do His will.” One or the other will be every person’s basic response to God, and to His word: either pride, or humility.
We see these two basic attitudes in the Luke 18 story of The Pharisee and the Publican. Both of these different attitudes toward God were on display here:
— The Pharisee had an attitude of pride: “I thank You that I am not like this other man; I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.” He was very proud of who he was, and what he had done.
— The Publican, on the other hand, was full of humility towards God. He was so convicted of his sin that he couldn’t even lift up his eyes towards heaven, but beat his chest and could only pray: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Two totally different responses to God: one of pride, the other humility.
Some of us saw some different responses towards God in our Sunday school text for today in II Kings:
— When the book of the Law, which had amazingly been lost in the house of God, was discovered, and was read to King Josiah, the Bible says Josiah tore his clothes and responded with mourning and humility before God — and God used it to bring a revival in the land.
— But after Josiah’s death, Jeremiah 36 says they read the word of God to Josiah’s son Jeohoiakim, and he took the scroll and cut it into pieces and threw it into the fire.
Again, these men represent two totally different responses to God: one of humility, and one of pride.
God wants us to respond to Him in humility; to “tremble at His word.”
We have to humble ourselves before God in order to be saved in the first place. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” You have to admit your spiritual poverty before God — that you are a sinner, who can’t save himself — in order to be saved.
That’s why the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19 couldn’t be saved. When Jesus told him to keep all the Commandments, he said “I’ve kept all these from the time I was a child.” What he should have said was, “Oh, I’ve broken so many of those; Lord have mercy on me; I’m a sinner.”
THAT’S how we’re saved: when we humble ourselves before God and admit our sin, and then ask Him to forgive us through Jesus’ death on the cross. But some people are not willing to do that. They don’t want to admit that they have sinned; they buck up in pride at being called a “sinner;” they don’t want to humble themselves and ask forgiveness.
What about you? Have you been willing to admit you that you are a sinner before God, and ask Him to forgive you in Jesus’ name? If you have, then you are saved. If you haven’t, you are NOT saved. You’ve got to humble yourself before God and admit your sin, in order to be saved.
And then once we are saved, God wants us to continue to humble ourselves in our daily walk with Him. Continue to admit that you need His help. One of the ways you do that, is when you pray. If you think about it, praying is a way of humbling yourself before God and saying, “God, I need Your help.” The more you pray, the more you are admitting you need God’s help. If you DON’T pray very often, you are basically saying you don’t think you need God’s help; you’ve got this. And what a proud attitude that is!
I remember when our boys were little; one of them was building something and he just couldn’t get it. I tried to help him, but he kept saying, NO! I can do it! Well, I KNEW he couldn’t do it; it was something that needed a grownup to help. But he just didn’t want any of it. In his childish pride, he kept trying to do it on his own, and kept messing it up, over and over, until I finally said; “Are you ready for me to help you yet?” And finally he did.
I think that’s a pretty good picture of where some of us are with God right now. In your pride you keep trying to make life work on your own, without God. And God’s saying, I’m here to help. But you don’t want any of it. You’re too proud to humble yourself; too proud to admit that you need God. But you keep messing things up. And today God is saying to you: “Are you ready for Me to help you yet?” Will you humble yourself, and admit that you need Me, and give your life to Me, and let Me help you?”
THAT’s the response, more than anything else, that God wants from you today: “walk humbly with your God.” Admit that you need Him; admit that you need His help. It’ll be the most important day of your life when you do!
— STOP trying to make up for your sins with “religious” things. Ask God to forgive you for the sin, and help you stop doing it and OBEY Him!
— Do justice: is there any area of your life where you are not? Business, showing favoritism to friends …
— LOVE grace: many of us would say we need God’s help in this: Ask Him to help you just LOVE showing grace
— Walk humbly. Continually admit your need of Him.
And if you’ve never done it before today, humble yourself and ASK HIM TO SAVE YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME!