What God Requires of His People

Mica 6 v 6 – 8

Please take up your Bibles and turn with me to the prophecy of Micah – a prophecy of Micah this evening. We will return to the series on Romans and on Malachi in due time. In the meantime, please pray for me as I seek the Lord’s face as to what to say to the little flock that is entrusted to my care together with my fellow Elders, up on the hill, in our capital here.

I was thinking about what to say to you this morning and what to say to you this evening. We live in extraordinary times, and what any leader or any man says in these days needs to be things that people can recall later on and say “they spoke wisely”. We can only say that we speak wisely if we speak what God speaks. This morning, we consider: what shall we say? What shall we say – if God is for us, who can be against us? And we saw that nothing, not COVID-19, nothing that any people can bring over us, or disease, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

We have a Christian world and life view:
– We believe that we were created.
– We believe that we will be glorified in the final phase of our redemption, when we either die and go to be with the Lord or the Lord returns. That’s how it is going to end in the new heaven and a new earth – in the New Jerusalem. This is how this is going to end.
– It began by the Word of God; it will end in the glory of God.
– What do we do in between? We believe we live in this place as fallen creatures in a fallen world. So what shall we do? People ask me as a pastor constantly: ‘what are we supposed to be doing while all this is going on?’ We find the answer in our Lord’s Word and we find it in Micah 6:6-8. I’m going to tell you as your pastor how you are to live through the COVID pandemic. This is how we must live.

6“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(ESV)

You’ve often heard me say that narcissism is a huge problem in our world. And it is, and here the Word tells us how to respond to that – it’s to walk humbly with our God. We have heard many times that people are trapped in hedonism, in seeking pleasure and self-soothing. We respond to that with kindness. That means we need to see others and be kind and merciful to them. We live in a world that is materialistic, a world in which people are taught to love the world and the things thereof. We live in a world where the Lord says we must “do justice”, we must not at all cost just enrich ourselves and look out only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This is a very difficult, a necessary thing in our times, because we are faced with a providence that is causing authorities all over the world to drive us further apart, to make us socially distance from one another, and there is prudence in that. But it makes it all the more difficult for us to do what is good, to do what the Lord requires of us, to “do justice”, “to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. This is what it requires of us. And you and I, if we call ourselves Christian, we need to heed these things. We need to do what the Lord calls us to do.

Now this passage that I read to you is considered by many to be one of the most comprehensive and all embracing statements in the Old Testament regarding what God requires of us. Micah answers his own question, and he makes some important points. He makes them not only for the sake of the Israel of his day, but he makes them for the benefit of the Lord’s church today, for you and for me and for our children and our friends, because we know that the Old Testament was given to us for our instruction. The Apostle Paul tells us that much in Romans 15:4.

And so as we seek to learn how to do what the Lord calls us to do, what He requires of us, let’s consider the question first – what did the Lord require of Israel? Now if we asked that question, we may also ask – what did Israel think the Lord required of them. There are some possibilities and even some absurdities of what they might have thought the Lord required of them. And Micah deals with them – year old calves as burned offerings, 1000s of rams, 10 000 rivers of oil, or even offering of the firstborn child. Now we know that the Lord did indeed command some of these things, like the offering of calves and rams in Leviticus 1 already. But the absurd amount of oil and the offering of the firstborn are examples of what I think we may call hyperbole for the sake of emphasis. It’s exaggeration to emphasize the deepness of their plight to know. And from the context that appears to us to be ritualistic sacrifices alone, did not please God. That’s the first thing that we must get right – ritualistic sacrifices alone did not please God. One could not please God in the Old Testament by simply offering innumerable sacrifices, even things precious to us. For all these rituals were properly ordained of God. To be accepted by God, they must be accompanied by other things that are equally essential, and we’ll see what they are just now. So that’s what Israel might have thought – year old calves as burned offerings, 1000s of rams, 10 000 rivers oil, offerings of the firstborn child. They might have thought that, but what did God really require of Israel? It’s to love justice, to love mercy (or kindness), and to walk humbly with their God. That’s what He required of them.

  1. What did the Lord require of Israel?

    a. To love Justice

    Let’s look at first of all, what it means to do justly, to love justice. Justice is to give what is due to God and to our fellow human beings. It is the great commandment [Luke 10:27]:
     …love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

    That is justice. That means to act toward God and humanity according to the divine standard of righteousness as it’s revealed in His law. That’s what it means to love justice, to not just do it, but to love it.

    And that did involve the offering of sacrifices that God commanded. But it also involved treating their fellow human beings in a way that was always right, and always fair. Sadly, it didn’t always happen. We read in the book of Zechariah 7:8-14, that failure to do justly was one of the main reasons that Israel went into captivity. Listen to what Zechariah says:
      And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate so that no one went to and fro and the pleasant land was made desolate.”  (ESV)

    What horrible words! And as we read them, we look at our own time and we see to what degree we often are guilty of the same. Also in Zechariah 8:16-17, we read:
      These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”  (ESV)

    Look at our world. Look at the world we live in, look at the desolation. Look at what is happening to us. And instead of us looking around and trying to find out:
    – Where does the virus come from?
    – Who made it?
    – Who was abusing it?
    – Is it true?
    – Is it real?

    We can ask better questions than that, because whatever it is, we see the Lord in His providence, allowing us to be afflicted. We should ask:
    – Do we each man speak the truth to our neighbour?
    – Do we give judgment in our gates for truth and justice and peace?
    – Do we think evil in our hearts against our neighbours and sometimes against our own family members?
    – Do we love a false oath?

    If we do, we need to know all these are things that the Lord hates – He says so. So Israel was called upon to love justice and to do justly.

    b. To love Mercy

    Secondly, they were called upon to love mercy. What does that mean? That means to love kindness. Mercy is to withhold from people the ill that they deserve. It’s not just to give a nice smile, a nice smile does nothing these days, nobody sees it from behind your mask anyway. What does it mean? It means to show a compassionate warm heartedness towards other people. Not only to treat them fairly, but to show mercy when they mistreat you or when they are mistreated themselves. One reason they were to love mercy was because God Himself delighted in showing mercy. In the same prophecy of Micah 7:18-19, the Lord says:
    Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love.
    He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot.
    You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
    (ESV)

    You see, beloved, God is a God of second and third and fourth and fifth chances. God is a God of compassion, of mercy, slow to anger, and filled with loving kindness. And He wants His people to be just as He is – to love justice and to do justly, to love mercy, kindness. That’s what He required of Israel.

    c. To walk humbly with their God

    Thirdly, He required of Israel as Micah says, “to walk humbly with your God”. I was convicted today because I had to go and pick up something at the shop. [My daughter and wife] we’re walking with me, and in front of us was a young woman, and she had so many tattoos on her. And I made a snide remark to [my wife and daughter]. The narcissism inside of me just came out and I said, ‘It looks like somebody beat het with a wet comic.’ Yeah, sure, that’s funny, but we talking about a human being! Why did she do it? What is lacking? What if one day she finds out she made a mistake, and she wants to remove it and she can’t – are we forever going to remind her?

    You see, we need to walk humbly with our God and show kindness – that means to live in humble and submissive obedience to His desire and His will. And it can only happen when you and I recognize the absolute holiness and righteousness of God. It’s the humble of heart and spirit that greatly pleases the Lord. Isaiah tells us that in Isaiah 57:15:
     For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
    “I dwell in the high and holy place,
    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
    to revive the spirit of the lowly,
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.
    (ESV)

    These three things God required of those who would come before Him. Not instead of those ritual observances, but together with them. That was the Lord’s point in Matthew 23:23, when he said to the scribes and Pharisees:
     “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (ESV)

    So that is what the Lord required of Israel: to love justice, to love mercy (or kindness), and to walk humbly with their God.

  2. What does the Lord require of us?

    What does the Lord require of you and I this evening? What might we think? Let me tell you a little bit about what we might think. Some of us may think that all the Lord requires is the observance of certain habits and rituals like attending church on Sunday, as though if one does this, we have done all that is required. I often wonder if people really believe it when they say that to themselves, but that’s the impression one receives by their example, and that’s the answer we often get from people. I’m not saying it’s not important, you know, that attending the services of the church is important. It’s essential to obeying God. It’s required if we expect to grow spiritually.

    In fact, I’m persuaded that failure to attend every service can be displeasing to God, because when absent, we are not making the most of our time. Do we really believe our absence is the Lord’s will for us? It can explain also the lack of several things that we don’t attend faithfully – the lack of spiritual growth, the lack of commitment in the work of the church, the lack of close fellowship with God and other Christians. So I’m convinced that it’s essential that we observe what God has ordained for us. But the Lord requires more than just attending church. Some of us might think that what God requires of us is to dot every theological ‘I’ and cross every theological ‘t’ and make sure that we soundly confound and refute every single heretic we can find. Now defending the truth and speaking it in love is very important. But that’s not all God requires of us. What does God require of us? The same as he required of Israel:

    a. To love Justice

    To act toward God according to His law. The Lord says to us in Matthew 7:21:
     “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    To do justly means to act towards our fellow human beings according to God’s Law. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:25-29:
     Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.

    All those temperamental people out there, who are even more temperamental than I can be (which is really bad) verse 26 [and on], says:
     Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

    That’s what it means to do justly, to love justice.

    b. To love Mercy (kindness)

    As the Lord called Israel, He also, secondly, calls us to love mercy, or as the ESV calls it to love kindness. What does that mean? It’s a very simple, but very difficult thing – it’s to show a compassionate, warmheartedness toward man. You know what compassion means? It means feel-along-withness. That’s what compassion is – you feel along with others, what they feel when they are suffering. To do that toward widows and the fatherless first of all. James 1:27 tells us:
     Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

    Beloved, if we obeyed only this one verse spoken by the Holy Spirit by James:
    – Visit orphans and widows in their trouble. They have deep trouble. If we only did that, to visit them.
    –  And the second thing to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
    Can you imagine the revival we would have, if the Church of Jesus Christ the world over loved kindness, and showed mercy in that way alone – visit the orphans and widows in their trouble, and keep ourselves unspotted from the world? It gets even more difficult because the Lord prescribes it even towards our enemies [in Luke 6:35-36]:
     But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (ESV)Even towards our enemies, as the Lord required that of Israel, He requires that of us. Do we love kindness, do we love mercy, do we love our enemies, do we love the orphan and the widow, the evil, the unthankful to whom God is kind? Do we? We ought to, that’s what it means to love kindness.

    c. To walk humbly with our God

    Thirdly, as He required of Israel to walk humbly with their God, He requires of us to walk humbly with our God. It is the only way to enjoy His fellowship and His continued cleansing by the blood of the Lord Jesus. Listen to what James says in his letter, James 4:8 says:
    Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded. (ESV)

    The Apostle John in 1 John 1:7-9:
     But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)

    Such close communion and fellowship with our Lord requires that we daily listen to God. First of all, that we listen to Him – study His Word, learn His will – know the will of God. James 1:21:
     Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save your souls. (ESV)

    Set the filthiness apart and the overflow of wickedness. What do you replace it with? Meekness, with meekness you received the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.

    Peter says the same in 1 Peter 2:2:
     Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. (ESV)

    (i) Listen to God

    So to walk humbly with our God is not to go about thinking we know everything, but to know that we know very little. Listen to the Lord. YouTube’s fine, Google’s fine, Twitter’s fine. They’re not God – what they say is not what God speaks. You need to listen to God. Study His Word. Learn His will. Learn from the mistakes of the past too, be humble and learn – don’t only listen to God.

    (ii) Talk to God

    Talk to God more than you talk to other people. Pray for strength. Pray for forgiveness. Praise Him for blessings that you’ve received. Listen to what the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:14-16:
     Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

    Listen to God, talk to God, thirdly walk with God.

    (iii) Walk with God

    How do you do that? By doing His will in humble submission. Ephesians 5:2, 8, 15 – those three verses summarize it well for us. Let me read them to you.
    Ephesians 5:2:
    And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
    Ephesians 5:8:
    for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
    Ephesians 5:15:
    Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…

    By walking humbly with God, we are more likely to keep in proper balance the demands to do justly and to love mercy.

And so as I conclude, even though we live under a new covenant, the Lord still requires of us to love justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. All the things we do – Bible study, quiet time, going to church – may be different with respect to worship, but the basics are still the same. Let me ask you this evening as I ask myself: Are you doing what the Lord requires of you? Consider this: have you done justly by obeying the Gospel of Christ by loving your neighbour? Do you love mercy? So demonstrate it by accepting God’s mercy offered in Christ to you? If you haven’t received you have nothing to give. You need to receive the mercy and the kindness of God in order to give it to others. Lastly, are you walking humbly with your God? Are you living a dedicated and obedient Christian life? Are you’re walking humbly with God? If not, you can do all the other things – you can buy lots of books at Augustine [Book room] and read one a week, you can underline your Bible in color codes, you can go to all the churches’ Bible studies. You can have three quiet times a day, but you are not doing what God requires of you. What God requires of you – as He did of Israel – is to love justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God, especially in these days that very few people understand.