Reading: Micah 6; Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Now Micah addresses the people of Judah in the form of a court case. The LORD has a case against His people; He is lodging a complaint, an indictment against Israel, we read in verse 2. And then in verse 3 to 5, we hear the charge.
The LORD tells what He did for His people. In Egypt, in the desert. But they did not answer His great deeds with thankfulness. He made with them His covenant. The covenant of love. But they did not love Him and disappointed Him.
However, Judah has a different opinion. In verse 3 we read that the LORD says: O My people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? The Jews were of opinion that they did their utmost to please the LORD, to bring their sacrifices, that they tired themselves out in their service to the LORD. See vs. 6-7. Burnt offerings, with calves a year old: the best burnt offerings; thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil. Sacrifices in abundance. Yes, even their own flesh, their own children. In 2 Kings 21, we read about this, how Manasseh sacrificed his own son in the fire, burned him alive. They thought that by burning their own flesh, their own son, the fruit of their own body, they obliged God and then God must listen to them. That is the utmost what you could do for the gods. What could you do more?
That was also the attitude of the people of Judah: what do you complain, what do you whine, don’t we do our best, don’t we tire ourselves out, don’t we even give our own children in the fire? What more does God want?
They challenged Micah to tell them what they were lacking. Aren’t we good enough? Don’t we do enough? Come on, tell us, what is it that we should do more?
Micah answered: Why do you ask what you already know? Why do you ask for what God already revealed to you? Why are you so pleased with yourself, while you know that what you are doing is not what the LORD asks? The LORD has shown you, o man, what is good. You know the way, why do you still ask for the way? It is the way of God’s covenant! You grew up under the teaching of the law, which was read every Sabbath day, you sat under the reading of God’s Word, every Sabbath day. There it is that God revealed His will.
Now, we have the entire Bible. Also we are part of the covenant, through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we may live with God and live in His love. God has shown what is good, ultimately through His Son. But already from the very first beginning, in the five books of Moses, God revealed His will. The God Who revealed His will to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And before that already, to Adam and Eve. God never hid from His people. He gave His Word. He told them to remember His great deeds for them, on the Sabbath Day, every week again.
In Deuteronomy 6 we read the words: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might..’
And then in the following verses, the Israelites are told to bind these commandments as symbols on their hands and on their foreheads, write them on the door frames of their houses and on their gates.
Love the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul and with all your might. And love your neighbour as yourselves. That is what God requires of His people. Love.
Also now, we know what God requires of us. You know it, you hear it every Sunday again. There is no need to ask for what you already know. What Micah addresses here, and what God tells us, is that we must submit to His Word. It is about love, it is about obedience, it is about doing what you already know. We can ask a hundred of times for application in the sermons, but as long as we are not willing to do what we are being told, then it doesn’t change us one little bit.
The people of Judah defended themselves: didn’t we do enough? Look, what all we offered, look what all we brought to the LORD. All those sacrifices, so much.
And we could say: look what we do for the LORD: we send our children to Christian Schools and sacrifice a lot for that. We give a lot of money to the church and to many organisations. We are active, every week again we spend so many nights on work for school and church. We all fulfill our duty. Doesn’t that show how good we are, how much we are willing to sacrifice for the LORD? Look at us, we are faithful, we are the true church, we don’t give in to all the temptations of the world. What more can we do?
What else? Brothers and sisters, don’t you know what the LORD revealed to you in His Word?
That is what Micah had to tell the people. In all their business, they didn’t understand God’s revelation. They missed the point. God does not demand sacrifices, God does not demand burnt offerings. He demands love, He demands the willingness to listen to Him and to do what He says. Obedience: a people who walk in righteousness before Him. He demands their hearts. All their business, all their sacrifices, it was all false worship, false service. The LORD detested it. He didn’t want to see or smell their sacrifices anymore. He didn’t want to hear their music anymore. It did not come from the heart. It was not a show of their love and faithfulness. It was all out of an attitude: we will oblige the LORD so that He will bless us.
But the answer of the LORD is, as in Psalm 50: What do all your sacrifices mean, even if they were perfect, what do they mean, and what does the continual recitation of God’s law mean, when in your daily life you throw God’s Words away, you wicked men? Happy he will be who with his sacrifices honours me, who in true thankfulness bows before me, God says.
There is so much that must make us feel good about ourselves. If it feels good, then it must be good.
Don’t think that we are immune to that. Also in the church, such things can happen. Especially in the church, Satan is working hard. The apostle Paul warns in 2 Timothy 4:3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. ‘
Don’t go after great preachers, but listen to the Word of God. Be careful when speakers draw lots of people because they can say it so beautifully. Those people who can draw full halls, huge crowds, just because they are such good preachers, renowned speakers. Then it depends so much on men, on the one who is preaching, and not on what he is preaching. Not necessarily because what they say is wrong. But more because we ourselves so easily give in to our own feelings and often when speakers can say things so beautifully, then we let down our guard and then we are so vulnerable to heresies.
It is the Word of God that is important. Not the way in which people can say things. Not the beautiful words that appeal to our feelings. But the Word of God. It is the Word of God, in which God revealed to us hat is good.
And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice. Micah means in the first place that we should do justice, or act justly, that we should be upright before the LORD. God is just. And God created us in His image. He did so because it is His will to live in a covenant with us. He created us in His image so that we would have the gifts which we need, to live in communion with God. That we could answer His love with love. God requires of us, that we live uprightly. That we act justly towards Him. And then we will also do justice towards our neighbour. That we reflect God’s justice.
To do justice, that means to live according to God’s commandments in all our ways. Every day again. As God said in Deuteronomy 6 when you are at home and when you are on the way. When you lie down and when you get up. Always. Because that is right. That is your love for God.
The people of Judah, they brought their sacrifices, they fulfilled their obligations and then thereafter went on their own ways. ‘We did our part for the LORD, now we do our own part.’ On Sundays, we go to church to meet the LORD and to listen to His Word. The Sunday is over, the Monday comes: do we still acknowledge the LORD in all our ways? The Word of God is for every day.
And every day the Word of God will be a light on our path. There God reveals to us what we must do. To do justice. To be upright in all our ways.