Fourth Sunday After Epiphany - Youth-led Family Worship Service (30 January 2022) Micah 6:1-8
Micah was one of the twelve minor prophets who lived between 740 and 696 BC. Micah is one of the poetic books in Hebrew which cautioned the twelve tribes of Israel about the advent of Jesus Christ and the Judgement of Israel. Micah prophesised against Samaria and Jerusalem during the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. 2 Kings 15–20 and 2 Chronicles 26–30 give the history during these three kings reign.
The Almighty Father created the first human in His own image and gave him His breath to live. He gave Adam the authority over all creation. Genesis 2:15 says the Lord kept Adam in the garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility “to dress it and to keep it”. When the fallen angel tricked Adam and Eve, they lost their authority and holiness. We know they were separated from the presence of the LORD God. The early sin passed through generations and filled the whole world. The Lord separated Abraham from his family. But He did not give laws and commandments to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.
During famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. But after many years, the twelve tribes of Israel became slaves in Egypt. Their cry went up to the LORD God. The Lord redeemed Israelites from their bondage land. They witnessed the Lord’s wonderous and mighty works both in Egypt and in the wilderness but they murmured against the Lord and Moses. Although they witnessed the fall of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, they asked Aaron to make idols for them. They knew the Lord led them out of Egypt, but they said it was the idols that brought them out. The Lord gave them manna and quails to eat. They still fought against Moses and the LORD God and saw the Lord’s wrath in the wilderness. The earth opened and covered many. Moses and Aaron led Israelites to their promised land Canaan. Moses was the first prophet, and the LORD God was their king. The LORD God ruled His chosen people through prophets and judges.
The people asked for a king to rule over them. They wanted to live their lives like other nations of the world. Prophet Samuel cautioned Israelites about the consequences of having kings. But the people were very firm in their decision. Saul, David and Solomon were the first kings of united Israel. As Solomon’s ways were not pleasing in the sight of God, the kingdom was split into two. Most of the kings who succeeded the thrones did not please the LORD God. They led the chosen people away from the Lord and His ways. The Lord spoke through prophets, but the people did not listen to the Lord’s voice. He wrote their constitution and gave the Ten Commandments to His chosen people. He did this so people would understand His expectation and He could have a good relationship with His people. But the laws and commandments did not bring the people closer to the LORD. They did not obey the commandments. The Lord smote enemy kings and gave their land to His chosen people, but the people forgot the Lord’s works. When they were in trouble, they repented and turned to LORD Jehovah. A few years after the Lord delivering them, they went back to their sinful ways. This was a continuous cyclic process. God the Father decided to leave His chosen people again under their enemies. In this situation, prophet Micah prophesised against Jerusalem and Samaria and asked the people to turn back to the LORD God.
The title for today’s meditation is ‘Accusation and Expectation of the LORD God’ based on our Old Testament Reading, Micah 6:1–8. I would like to read three verses from Micah chapter 6. Verses 2 and 3 say, “Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.” In verse 8 we read “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” In these verses, the Lord says He has accusations against the Israelites and also tells about His expectation. I would like to meditate on these two points today.
1) The Lord’s Accusation
In Micah 6, the Lord says He has a controversy with His people. He reminds them about their past. He tells them to recollect their journey from Egypt to Canaan. We also just recollected the journey of Israelites in the wilderness. Offering sacrifices was one of the laws given through Moses. But the Lord asked in verses 6 and 7, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or 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?” The Old Testament laws and commandments said people had to give sacrifices to receive forgiveness. Following the laws, the people were offering sacrifices for the remission of their sins. Because of this continuous cyclic process, the sacrifices and offerings became meaningless. The Lord’s questions may seem like conflicting with the laws and commandments He gave. But His questions in these verses say He was not pleased with the attitude in which the offerings and sacrifices were given. The laws did not fulfil the purpose because there was no repentance. So, what was the Lord’s expectation? Let us now meditate His expectation.
2) The Lord’s Expectation
The Old Testament laws and commandments are given in two parts. The first part contains the instruction and the second part contains what should be done if the instruction is not followed. I would like to mention two commandments to understand this.
- The first commandment is “I am the LORD thy God: Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” Leviticus 20:2 says the punishment: “Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones”.
- The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who was caught in adultery. They quoted Moses’ laws and asked Jesus’s opinion. They were referring to one of the Ten Commandments: Though shalt not commit Adultery. Deuteronomy chapter 22 and Leviticus chapter 20 mention the punishment for breaking this commandment. Leviticus 20:10 says, “the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death”. Deuteronomy 22:28 and 29 say, “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days”.
In Leviticus 9:2, the LORD God said about the sin offering to be offered. “Take thee a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the LORD”. Here, the Lord’s expectation was not to receive sacrifices. His expectation was for humans to walk in His ways.
In this situation, in Micah 6:8, the LORD God mentions His expectation: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” The Lord expected three things from His people. 1) Do justly; 2) Love mercy and 3) Walk humbly with the Lord God.
1. Do justly: The Lord has already provided commandments. He expects us to follow the commandments and do what is just. Romans 3:24 says, we are ”being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. It is His grace that guides us to keep His commandments and laws.
2. Love mercy: Matthew 10:8 says, “freely ye have received, freely give”. The Lord expects us to be kind and loving to those around us. Do we show and share the love of our Lord with others? Matthew 5:7 says “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” If we want to receive mercy, we must first show mercy to others.
3. Walk humbly with the Lord God: Our Lord expects us to walk with Him, and He expects our walk to be humble. The King of Kings and LORD of Lords was born in a manger, not in royal palace. Jesus humbled Himself when He bore the humiliation and hung on the Cross to redeem us by His precious blood. Are we humble in our walk with the Lord and give all the glory to Him? Or are we boastful of our talents and our possessions? Matthew 23:12 says, ”whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted”. If we are walking with the Lord, we will be humble and give all the glory to Him. We will attribute Him as the source of all that we have.
Today, we say we do not need to follow any of the Old Testament practices because Jesus died for our sins. Even in the Old Testament, prophet Samuel said in 1 Samuel 15: 22, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” When David repented of his sin, he said in Psalm 51: 16 and 17 “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” When the Almighty Father gave laws and commandments, He mentioned the punishment so the people would follow His commandments. But the people gave importance to the second part and continued to live in sin.
It is true that Jesus offered Himself as the one-time sacrifice as the Lamb for the remission of our sins. But prior to His sacrifice, He consolidated the ten commandments into two prime commandments based on Father’s love. He did not give us any choice or remedy if we violated these laws. From this we can understand the LORD God expects us to follow His commandments. He did not mention offering of sacrifices as the loophole to continue sinning.
Let us self-examine ourselves. Today, does our Lord have the same concerns on us also like He did the Israelites? Are we picking and choosing from the commandments? When we look back at our lives, like the Israelites, we too have gone astray many times. When we come back to our Lord, how do we ask for forgiveness? Is the repentance from our hearts? Is there true repentance in our lives? Or is it like a regular prayer that we say on Sundays from the Prayer Book? Do we ask for forgiveness to live our lives justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our Lord? Do we do justice in all that we are involved with? Do we do to others what we expect them to do to us? Is our walk humble? The Lord can see our hearts and thoughts. What will he see there? The Old Testament people were happy to offer sacrifices and continue sinning. Are we happy to ask for forgiveness and go back to our sinful ways? Rather than following the commandments, are we excusing ourselves saying our flesh is weak?
If you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you this morning, following the words in Joel 2:13, I encourage you to “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil”.
Know “ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” Amen!