God’s Way

“God’s Way”

Micah 6:1-8 (6:8) – January 29, 2023

            My son Peter is taking several college classes this semester, including Speech. One of the first assignments he needs to do is to formulate a speech on a topic of injustice in society. Since he is a thoughtful, articulate young man, he is taking this assignment very much to heart and considering well what topic he ought to research and prepare this speech on.

            If you and I think about our society today, I suspect we all can think of several major topics off the top of our heads that might be suitable for this class’s speech. I am serious: can you think of some topic that would be an injustice if it continues? And, these sad and difficult situations often do continue to happen. Over and over, time after time after time.

            Let us see what the prophet Micah had to say about this very topic. He begins with a firm statement of condemnation for the nation and people of Israel. “6 Listen to what the Lord says:

“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.

“Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people; God is lodging a charge against Israel.” 

            This prophetic book of Micah shows us the judgment side of God. The Lord is love, absolutely. Yet, the Lord is also a God of justice and judgment. The prophets warned Israel over and over again what would surely happen if Israel continued on the path away from God.

In our reading today, God certainly had condemnation for the nation of Israel, several centuries before Christ was born. We can see God’s condemnation come down against other nations, too. I wonder: does the Lord have a case against us in our world today? Against the people in the United States? Are we all determined to continue on the path away from God?

            Even when faithful church attenders, believers in God, are confronted by God’s justice and condemnation, they often try to wiggle out of it. Does this sound familiar? Can you recognize anyone you might know in these words or actions?

            So often, people try to placate God, or give God things or sacrifices to defend themselves from God’s accusations! Listen to what Micah says: “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

            Today, we may not offer these kinds of sacrifices, but people certainly bring offerings to placate God for their wandering, transgressing hearts and actions! Does this sound familiar? How about giving enough money to fund a new roof for the church, or a new wing for the building? Working so hard for the church, Sunday school, senior ministry and food pantry? Even convincing your children to become preachers, missionaries or other church workers?

            “This response only reinforces the pattern of showy religiosity that Micah has already condemned, especially from [religious] leaders who look to their own interests (3: 11). Micah would expect such false leaders to turn first to conspicuous acts of sacrifice, as though the problem is appeasing God rather than changing their own behavior.” [1]

            God is coming down pretty hard, indeed! Finally, after all of this condemnation and judgment and even threats of fire and brimstone, Micah clearly states what God does indeed want from God’s followers. “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.”

            As anyone can see from Micah’s plain words, this deep-down problem with wrong-headed thoughts, weasely words and mean-spirited actions cannot be simply solved by writing a check to the church of your choice. The attempt to appease God through a form of score-keeping or quid pro quo, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, is not to be tolerated. We humans cannot put a worldly price tag on God’s heavenly mercy and grace!

            When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, popular Christian books had a strong focus on “finding God’s will for my life.” Popular books, bible studies, study guides, all kinds of Bible helps. However, this statement from Micah could not be clearer. “We need to stop waiting for God to tell us what to do – we already know what the expectations are, so we should stop looking for an easy way out and get on and do what we have been told.” [2] We have our marching orders. Micah has several active verbs here in this command: act, love, walk with.

When we think a thought, or consider a comment or action, we can weigh it in this balance of Micah 6:8. Is this thought just? Is this comment loving or merciful? If I say or do this, am I walking humbly with God? We cannot give lip service in church on Sunday morning, when we continue to be unforgiving or racially unjust or hold petty grudges on Monday, or the rest of the week, either.

Each of us see people who have plenty of everything, while others beg for scraps. People working 50 or 60 hours a week at minimum wage, and barely able to get by. People who are disabled, or disadvantaged, or mentally ill. If we are not sure about this Micah 6:8 balance (or scale), I have another. The famous rabbi Hillel was once asked to explain the Torah. “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” he said, “all the rest is commentary.” Here’s a suggestion: pray for all those who work for God’s justice, and truly live to love their neighbors.

How can we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly when interacting with all of these? Perhaps “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is another good way to live: living life God’s way. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. A humble suggestion? Let us take these words to heart, and go and do them.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/commentary-on-micah-61-8  

[2] https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/worship/weekly-worship/monthly/january-2023/29-january-4th-sunday-after-epiphany

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