REQUIRES OF YOU
Micah 6: 1-8
you have been in a real courtroom before, you might have found it to
be less exciting and filled with surprises than in “Perry Mason,”
“Matlock,” or “Boston Legal.” I have been on a jury once,
been a witness twice, and been a spectator once. In a real courtroom
almost never does someone stand and announce his guilt as a
spectator, and almost never does an attorney accuse a person who has
come merely to observe a trial. Trials have been held in America and
in other nations since Biblical Times, albeit often without the
decorum and procedures we adhere to in the American court system.
Well today, at least at the beginning, you are a spectator at a
trial; it is a trial of sorts between the Lord God who has been
wronged, Micah who is the prosecuting attorney, and Israel who is the
defendant. You cannot have God’s role, and you cannot have Micah’s
role! But as we look over the courtroom scene, there could be times
when we might become
in verses one and two, Micah, speaking for the LORD, introduces the
case. Witnesses in this case are all of creation (meaning the whole
world.) The court is reminded of all that the LORD has done for
Israel: he redeemed them from bondage, he sent them Moses, Aaron, and
Miriam, and later he stopped the King of Moab—Balak—from cursing
Israel even when an oracle named Balaam had failed. He even reminded
them how Balaam, a foreigner, considered the Lord to be his God.
between verses five and six, we pause; pause to get the tenor of the
proceeding. The defendant Israel is being accused of sinning against
God, forgetting God, and even being unfaithful to God by pursuing
other false gods. It is Israel, then, acting as its own defense
attorney, who retorts with courtroom hyperbole, with a flair for the
dramatic. Falling right into God’s accusatory trap, the people of
Israel ask what they could do in a worship setting to make things
right in God’s eyes! God certainly wanted to say “You are missing
the point!” but they proceeded anyway. The LORD had always
told them what was required—and he would do that here again—but
not before the overly dramatic performance by the defense. “With
what shall (we) come before the Lord, and bow ourselves before God on
high?” Israel asked rhetorically. “That’s not what God wants!”
Micah wanted to object, but hearing the judge’s objection in his
head, he let this sob story continue. “Shall we come before the
Lord with burnt offerings?” And here spectators like us might
think: “Ah, I see what they’re trying to do! They’re giving
examples of high redemption costs that might make things right again!
But the defendant continued: “Will the LORD be pleased with a
thousand rams!!” (Micah rolled his eyes). “Or with ten thousand
rivers of oil?” (“Oh brother!” Micah could have said out loud,
but the judge would have just reprimanded him for talking out of
turn. But how could he be quiet for such exaggerations?) Then Israel
goes beyond the pail, infringing into the territory that false gods
wanted and that the real God loathed: child sacrifice. “Shall I
give my first-born to pay for my sins?” The way it was phrased it
treated Israel as a child-bearing mother, speaking the unspeakable
surely between verses seven and eight Micah conferred with his
client: “Lord, how do you want me to respond to such a heinous
response! It is an outrage!” Something about the calm in the LORD’s
voice must have steadied this prosecuting attorney prophet and
redirected his anger into a steady, jaw-clenched answer: “The LORD
has shown you already
what is good! Don’t you remember? It’s not just what you do
in worship, it is how you live outside
of worship that God sees and requires! Do justice! Love Kindness!
Walk humbly with your God!”
And with that, the state rested, for the time being.
are the times you want to bargain with God? Some do it if they cheat
on a test and are caught; some do it if they don’t tell the truth
on their income taxes and are called in for an audit; some do it if
they cheat on their spouse and are caught. Notice how many people
come to God when they are caught! “If
you will just make this one thing right and let people overlook this
one thing, I’ll give, let’s see: my whole next paycheck to the
church! Or I’ll help the next homeless man I find on a corner! Or
I’ll volunteer at a food pantry! What will make this right, Lord?”
But the LORD is no fool, hearing each offer as
bribery without correction; of gifts without admitting guilt.
This famous passage gives answers to more than what God requires in
your life; it is what God requires when you
are trying to worm your way out of a jam. “Do
the right thing! Show kindness! Stop thinking of yourself first!”
That’s Micah 6:8 in plain language.
Lloyd John Ogilvie, who for years was pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, went to seminary in Scotland and
studied under the great preacher James S. Stewart. After class one
day, Lloyd stayed to ask his professor some questions about preaching
and pastoring. At one point Dr. Stewart leaned across his desk and
said these startling words: “Do you know what you
need to do Mr. Ogilvie?” You need to let
your ego die so Christ can find some room in your heart! Upon
reflection, Lloyd Ogilvie said “Something had to die in me before
God could have his way with me.” God doesn’t want our burnt
offerings or ten thousand rivers of oil, or our child or even our
promises for future generosity. They all skirt what God wants most:
us. God wants us, but
with changes: God wants our lives, our souls, our devotion, our
muscles, and our bones. God needs all of us to carry out a plan for
the world that is different from the one our meager minds can dream.
his book called Worship, Leslie
B. Flynn told this story: “A man was packing a shipment of food
that was contributed by a school for the poor people of Appalachia.
He was separating beans from powdered milk, and canned vegetables
from canned meats. Reaching into a box filled with various cans, he
pulled out a little brown paper sack. At first he thought a child a
bagged just some different items from the list. But when he looked
in, he pulled out a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, and a cookie.
He turned the bag around and read: ‘Christy-room 104.’She had
given her own lunch to help a hungry person.” Justice
looks like that.
ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked ‘If
someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what could that person
do?’ ‘If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on,’ the Dr.
replied, ‘I would urge you to find someone else with a problem—a
serious one—and get involved with that individual, helping him
solve his problem.’ That way you are no longer lingering over your
own problems; you are focusing on solving someone else’s issues.
Reid Morrison in this church used to sing a song with this line:
“Others; let that my motto be.” If we show kindness
for others we are doing what Jesus did in his earthly life, and what
he seeks to do through us now. That is kindness.
“a young seminary graduate came up to the pulpit one Sunday, very
self-confident and immaculately dressed. He began to deliver his
sermon in his first church, and the words simply would not come out.
Finally tears streamed down his face and he left the platform
humbled. There were two wise women in the front row. One leaned to
the other and said: “If he’d come in like he went out, he would
have gone out like he came in.”
humbly with your God.
Do justice; love kindness; and walk humbly with your God. If you do
that; if I do that; the judge in our trial could very well dismiss
the case against us- for lack of sinful evidence. Oh what a joyful
day in heaven that will be! What will you do differently now, not
just in here, but out there, that will be the first in a series of
life-changing events for you? When you begin, the applause of heaven
can be deafening.
A. Sumner January 30 2011