The Just, the Kind, and the Humble

February 22, 2023

black book on gray wooden table

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? - Micah 6:8

Do justice! Be loving! Be humble! These are the mantras being shouted out today and expected behaviours among Christians. How it is to be done has been the subject of much debate and discussion. Some argue that to do justice means to be involve in social activism - ranging from fighting against police brutality to launching social programs for the poor. Those who are involved in rallies and marches against social injustice are often lauded as brave and doing the right thing. Some have dictated that to be loving is to approve of those who choose to love whomever they want to. We hear of preachers affirming and elevating those who are practicing gay relationships as being more genuine and loving believers than heterosexual believers. Some has suggested that to be humble is to readily listen to and even accept the position of those who hold beliefs that are contradicting to your own. When you speak truthfully about the dangers and contradictions of such beliefs, you could be labeled as being proud and not reflecting Christian humility. Yet where are such ideas about justice, love, and humility come from? One place they are not coming from is from Scripture, and in particular, Micah 6.

Micah 6 is God’s indictment of Israel (v.1-2), the reason for His indictment (3-8), their sins that brought the indictment (v. 9-12, 16), and the consequences of their sins (v. 13-15). God starts the indictment by describing the immensity of the indictment. This was not merely a parking ticket or a memo given for being tardy at work. No, this is an indictment that is as immense as how high mountains are and how deep the foundations of the earth are. These are major, major concerns from the LORD to His people. Their transgressions, in the eyes of the LORD, are too great! Yet, why is it their transgressions are great?

The greatness of their transgression flows from the reality that they were God’s people. God reminds them that they were not merely His creatures. He has a special, covenant relationship with them, one that was established when He faithfully delivered His people from slavery in Egypt, and how He faithfully delivered them from all their enemies (v. 4). He asks a pertinent question: what did God do for them to live like the way they are living now (v. 3). The greatness of their sin was that they were living a life that did not reflect the reality that they had experienced God’s love and faithfulness in their life.

Another reason for the greatness of their transgression was their tendency to argue God’s sacrificial grace as an excuse for their liberalness in their sins. Israel seemed to think that their religious performances and sacrifices of offering calves, rams, oil - even their firstborn to God - should be enough to satisfy the wrath God has for their sins (v. 6-7). They assumed that the thousands and ten thousands of offering they are presenting to God is immense, asking the question, haven’t we done enough? Haven’t we been faithful in following your law? Haven’t we utilized the sacrificial system for what it is supposed to do? To placate you and give you no reason to be angry with us? Yet in doing so, God indicts them further, and tells them what He has told them what He expects - not the offerings, the sacrifices, nor their firstborn - He expects them to do justice, love kindness, to walk humbly with your God (v.8). These, God says, is what Israel has blatantly ignored, neglected, and rebelled against.

God outlines their sins in these area. He starts indicting them for their injustice in acquiring wealth. They had accumulated treasures of wickedness, treasures through wicked and deceitful scales. God has revealed that when it comes to buying and selling, trading among Israelites and foreign traders, people were cheating and trying to get as much wealth as they can by imbalanced scales. They were being unjust in paying what you owe, demanding more money for products and services beyond their actual cost. Injustice, for God, is oppressing your neighbour by cheating him out of his money.

God further indicts them by their lack of kindness or love for kindness by accusing thier rich men of great violence, and the inhabitants with speaking lies and being deceitful. Kindness for the Lord has to do with those in power abusing their power to cause violence on his fellow man, and with man withholding truth from his fellow man.

Towards the end of the chapter, the LORD reiterates the root of all these, that they have not humbly walked with their God. They have walked humbly with the statutes and laws of Omri, they have walked according to the works of the House of Ahab. They have walked in their counsels, rather than the Lord’s counsels. They have proudly defined God’s counsels as foolishness, and the wisdom of man as wiser than God’s.

In God’s indictment, He then outlines the consequences - desolation. This desolation manifests itself in their eating, their savings, their livelihood and their pleasures. Despite continuous pursuits of such things, they will not be filled nor satisfied. They may sow, but they won’t reap the rewards of thier sowing and planting. Desolation and famine -that God has expressed as the consequences of their blatant sin against God.

This passage exposes the heart of the people of God back then and even now. We as Christians could easily replace the mentions of Israel, and the passage will still be relevant. How? The problem with Israel and with Christians have to do with how we view God, how we view His Grace, and how we view His law.

The problem with Israel and with us Christians today is we tend to view God as distant in comparison with our relationships with those around us. The people of Israel thought that since God’s salvation was a distant occurance in the past (slavery from Egypt), that His covenant with us was also a thing of the past. The same can be said for a number of Christians today. Since Christ has saved me when I was young, now that I am older, I feel He has been distant from me. Yet how has the distance of the past distance the God of eternity from us? The God who saved us in the past, isn’t He still saving and keeping us saved in the present? Israel back then was surrounded by powerful nations left and right, up and down. Yet in their tiny fiefdom, they were not reconquered and sold to slavery (at least during the time of Micah) back to Egypt. We Christians as well, when Christ has saved us from sin, He has not only saved us from the penalty of it, but is continually saving, preserving us from the power of sin, preventing us from being returned to slavery of sin (Romans. 6:6). Oh our God is not distant! He is our God, and we are His people, yesterday, today and tomorrow!

Another problem with His people is that we tend to view our relationships around us as more reliable and trustworthy than God. Their elevation of the statutes of Omri, the counsel of their ”glorious” kings of the past have become for them more trustworthy than the Word of the Lord. Omri and Ahab were kings who viewed through the lens of thier history (and historiography) have led them to believeve that they were widely successful. Omri had expanded their borders, and Ahab had as well. Yet what they did forget was the blatant idolatrous worldview of such kings, and that worldview was reflected in their statutes. Even Christians today have our own versions of Omri and Ahab - successful individuals or cultural icons who have their own mantras and success. Far to often, we follow their advice on dealing with issues that God speaks about - the family, our work, and our life purposes. Why is that there are few Young Adults following the call to pastoral and missions work? Why are there Christians who are in the workplace who are faithful in their work, but have made it an idol - neglecting to consider the purposes of God and the motivation of working for God in those spheres? The answer - we believe more in the wisdom of man, rather than the wisdom of God.

The third problem with God’s people is our tendency to misappropriating the Grace as the Law, and misappropriating the Law as Grace. What do I mean? God’s sacrifice system was a shadow of His ultimate expression of His grace - the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Yes we praise God, because of what Christ has done, we who trust in Christ for our salvation are saved and our sins forgiven completely and sufficiently. Yes, we praise God because we no longer have to offer sacrifices for our sins, because Christ’s offering is once and for all! Hallelujah! Yet, how often do we justify or excuse our disobedience because we point to the sacrifice as being done on our behalf? How often do we use the grace of God in excusing our neglect of the law of God?

The result of such a perception: we now think that God is gracious about His law, that He is not serious with His commands for us. Because the sacrifice is there, I now have an excuse to continue on in my sins. Yet, haven’t we got it all backwards? God made it clear that as being His people, as being recepients of His grace, our lives are now changed. We no longer are to live in sin but to live in righteousness - and righteousness is not expressed by going back always to the sacrifice done for us by Christ. The righteousness that we have truly received in Christ when we were justified in him is to be expressed in our desired, joyful, God-pleasing, obedience of His law.

Finally, the problem with His people, is that we see His law as a hindrance to blessing, when it is actually His law that functions as His means to bless us. The people of Israel saw that if they were to be faithful, they would lose the financial blessings they thought they would gain if they cheat. We as Christians also do the same, we think that disobeying God’s will of gathering for worship with fellow believers on a regular basis will lead to more financial income opportunities. We think that being faithful in our work, our family, and our faith - properly alloting the time and effort for each in a balanced and healthy way - are a hindrance to the prosperity we will achieve if we put all our energy to our work to the neglect of our family and faith. We think God’s will and God’s laws are a hindrance to His blessing. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Oh, Lord, help Your people to heed the indictment given to Israel before. We are in danger of continually living in a way that neglects the reality of your covenant relationship with us, the reliability of Your wisdom, the sufficiency of Your grace to make us desirous of Your law, and the life-giving and life blessings of Your law. Lord, deliver us from neglecting these things. Help us Oh Lord - to relate right with You, with Your grace, and with Your ways. I pray this in Christ’s name. - Amen.

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