The Prophesy of Micah
Study by Bob Burridge ©2019
Study 10: Micah 6:6-8
How Can We Delight the Lord?
Famous court trials grab the public’s attention. Though people say they’re appalled hearing all the criminal details, and fed up with all the media coverage, they want to know what’s going on. They talk about them, or talk about all the talk about them. One thing that interests people and often makes them uncomfortable, is the way the accused is defended.
When someone is accused of a crime, there are different ways to defend them:
1. Is there sufficient evidence that proves the accused committed the crime?
Based on biblical teachings judgments must be based on clear evidence. Without credible witnesses or other positive evidence no one can be convicted of a crime.
Lack of evidence may show that the suspect is really innocent. It may simply mean that he can’t be proven guilty. Without evidence the accused must be set free and exonerated. The court must consider the accused to be innocent until proven guilty.
2. Did the accused act under excusable circumstances?
Biblical principles recognize that motive is important. The accused may have hurt someone, or damaged property, but it may have been to defend his life, or someone else’s. Possibly he was protecting his property from a thief. In such cases a violent act may not be a crime under the law.
3. Was the law justly applied and administered?
The Bible insists that false witnesses are guilty of a serious crime. False evidence or a corrupt court could try to convict an innocent person. If the police or the court proceed improperly in collecting and preserving evidence, or while interviewing a suspect, the charges may have to be dropped and the accused set free. Sometimes this principle is abused by appeal to technical loopholes in the legal process letting a violent criminal go free.
4. Was the accused acting in some kind of diminished capacity?
Some would excuse a suspect who didn’t understand what he was doing at the moment of the crime. They say he therefore can’t be held responsible.
In our legal system, if these defenses work the accused is found not guilty.
The prophet Micah brought God’s covenant lawsuit against God’s people.
They were charged with being unfaithful to God’s law. The penalty was national captivity, and personal damnation.
God called them to answer the charges and give their defense. What kind of defense could they bring? The evidence against them was beyond dispute
God isn’t mistaken in his charges. They had committed the crimes. There are no excuses for their actions. The witnesses testified that Israel was responsible when she sinned. The guilty verdict was inevitable.
Once the verdict is reached, another question comes before the court: What can be done about the sentence? The kind of defense ultimately determines the punishment. What can the guilty do to please God once he has offended Him? How can they delight Him?
Micah shows their feeble attempts to turn aside God’s wrath:
How can the guilty delight
the God they’ve offended?
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?
7. Will 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?”
God in his lawsuit proved his people were guilty beyond any doubt. They had broken the requirements of his covenant. Now, how can they please the Lord and delight him? They had their own idea.
What if they brought impressive offerings?
Would that be a good defense? Would it get them off? Sacrifices were good things, God demanded them. But they misunderstood them. They thought the sacrifices were to impress God with how serious they were.
1. Shall we bring a year old calf?
God’s law was satisfied with an 8-day old calf for an offering. A year old calf was much more expensive. They thought that by bringing a more valuable offering they could remove their own guilt.
2. Shall we bring thousands of rams?
God required one ram for an offering, they offered the whole flock.
3. Shall we bring rivers of oil?
God required that a measure of oil to be added to the daily offering. They planned more oil, ten thousand rivers of it!
4. Shall we bring our first-born?
This heathen practice imagined that sacrificing their first born son would appease the gods. This abominable practice was actually being tolerated in Israel. It actually added to their guilt in God’s court of law.
Their answers showed an appalling ignorance of God’s ways.
They were confused about the purpose of the offerings. They weren’t to impress God by giving up something valuable. The sacrifice was a way of showing faith in God’s promise. Only God’s Messiah could take away their guilt. It wasn’t the cost or size of the sacrifice, but what the person bringing it trusted in that mattered. It wasn’t the blood of lambs, goats or bulls that removed their guilt, but the Messiah to whom those sacrifices pointed.
They had what the Bible calls “a zeal without knowledge.” It’s as if they said, “Lord, look at all we have done for you. Look at what we’re giving up! Certainly you are impressed and pleased.”
The sinner’s suffering and self-denial don’t eliminate guilt. Jesus will say to many at the judgment day who brag in all they’ve done; “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ” (Matthew 7:23)
These self-serving superstitious sacrifices can’t delight God. They are the ways of false religion!
God has made known what he requires,
what delights him.
8. He 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?
“He has told you” God had spoken by Moses and the prophets.
Their Lord had diligently worked to make himself known to Israel. It’s no mystery what he requires. He requires us to be good.
But what is good? What does the Lord require of you?
What is acceptable and pleasing to God? How can we delight Him? There are always a lot of confusing answers being offered. In Micah’s time, another prophet, Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
Micah called God’s people to return to God’s definition of what is good. To do good is to do what really pleases God, what he says delights him.
1. He commands his people to do justice.
Micah had already made a case for their in-justice:
2:1-2 “woe to those who devise wickedness” they covet and take
2:8 “My people have risen up as an enemy” they had taken the robes of fellow Israelites
2:9 they evicted women
3:2 they “hate the good and love the evil”
3:9 they “detest justice and make crooked all that is straight”
The word “justice” in 3:9 shouldn’t be limited to the courtroom. It means living God’s way in every area of your life and society. It means being discerning about what is right.
Some get confused when they read what Jesus said, “judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Which is it? Make wise judgments or make no judgments? In the context Jesus was criticising the Pharisees who were going around judging others by their hypocritical standards. It’s wrong to judge others by man’s rules. Instead Jesus was calling them back to God’s standards (Matthew 7:2). Right after that statement Jesus commanded them to make discerning judgments about many moral issues.To do justice we must first know God’s law.
Another way to do justice is to deal fairly with the sins of others. In God’s court, justice demands that first steps should be confidential. In Mt 18 Jesus commanded us to go privately to a person we believe has done wrong, and humbly try to help. Only when we’ve been unsuccessful should the church officers be brought into the situation.
It’s unjust to talk to others about someone else’s faults. If you listen to or spread any kind of gossip, or repeat negative things about others, then you are not doing justice. God’s court demands that there are no “leaks to the press”, or to friends, and others in the community and church.
If you judge by any standards that are not God’s, listen to and spread gossip, do your business deceitfully, or if you don’t care about the process of fair judgment, then you are not good. God is not delighted in you.
Psalm 37:27-28 says, “Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.”
2. He commands his people to love kindness.
Not only to be kind to all that need us, but also to love kindness. The Hebrew for “kindness” is “Khesed” (חסד). It is often translated as “kindness, mercy, pity”. It’s one of the attributes of God. He shows mercy and lovingkindness. He commands that kindness should be reflected in us as his creatures.
If we hope to delight God, we must love his kindness to us. We should also love to have his kindness be seen in us for his glory. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
If we don’t love the kindness of God, and love to have his kindness be seen in us, then we are not good. God is not delighted in us.
3. He commands his people to walk humbly with their God.
The Bible shows us that when Enoch walked with God it meant that he lived a humble life pleasing to God. His obedient life meant close fellowship with God too. We must know God’s ways and humbly live by them. Without doing what God requires in a way that humbly honors him our most costly services are just vain superstitions.
In 2 Chronicles7:14 God reminds us, ” if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
If we are more concerned with building ourselves up, about doing things our way, getting what we want, making ourselves feel better or making others think highly of us, then we are not good. God is not delighted in us.
According to the Bible
no one is good or does good!
Romans 3:12 “no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Yet to delight God we must do good. To do good we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. However, as fallen, selfish creatures, we can’t do these things.
To do them we must first be made spiritually alive. The sacrifices and rituals pointed to the answer as long as God’s people understood them in the way God intended. They never removed sin in themselves.
Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
They illustrated that Christ, God’s Messiah, is the only way our sins are removed. Isaiah 53:5 says about our Savior, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
The sacrifices were the testimony of the Old Testament believer that he didn’t trust in himself, but in God’s promise, for his salvation.
But, if Christ paid for it all, then why does God require us to be good? When God’s grace comes to us, it gives us spiritual life. He does more than just make us repent and believe. That same work of grace also makes us do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. James 2:17 says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” When God’s children demonstrate their faith by being good, God is delighted. Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Are these three things missing in our lives? Do we find it hard to be fair and just? Do we take God’s lovingkindness for granted? Is kindness rarely seen in us? Do we walk centered on our selves? Are we more concerned about how we feel? what others think of us? how our situation compares with others? or how better our lives would be if things were different? Or do we prefer to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?
We should make sure that we’re not putting our trust in what we do, but in the finished work of Jesus Christ who died in the place of his people. Our job is to provide what these good seeds need to grow.
We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to work these things in us. We should study God’s word to know how to be just, what it’s like to show kindness, and how to walk humbly in sync with our God. We should keep an eye out for opportunities to do these things and to encourage them in others.
Those who are changed by the Holy Spirit call out with King David as he said at the end of Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
Index to the Studies in Micah