What God Requires
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 11, 2005

 

Main Passage: Micah 6:6-8 (NLT)

 

Chris read for us earlier in the service from the book of Micah in the Old Testament. Micah was a prophet who lived around the same time as Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos. Now a prophet was basically a person that was used as a spokesman for God to speak to the issues of the day. A prophet would be able to see with clarity the state of society and could warn people about what was in store for them unless they changed.

Take Jonah, for example. Jonah was a prophet, sent by God to the people of Nineveh to point out their wickedness and to warn them that unless they did something about it they would be destroyed. Sad but true. But as a direct result of Jonah’s message, the people of Nineveh changed their ways and God relented, deciding not to destroy them.

So here we have Micah, a prophet in his own right. His mission? To deliver a message to both Samaria and Jerusalem. Now, just for a little bit of history, after the death of King Solomon in 931 B.C., who was King David’s son, Israel split into two Kingdoms due to forced labour disputes and high taxation. Here’s a map… [PowerPoint] There was the Kingdom of Israel in the north (which had Samaria as its capital) and the Kingdom of Judah in the South (which had Jerusalem as its capital). And these two Kingdoms were still divided when Micah arrived on the scene around 740 B.C.

Over this period of time both cultures had gone downhill, incorporating false religions, political corruption, oppression of the poor, and all sorts of immorality. And this is the setting into which Micah spoke, warning of imminent destruction.

The society of the day had plenty of problems, but not being religious enough wasn’t one of them. The people were plenty religious. They attended services in their Temple, they observed special holy days, and they participated in numerous ceremonies and sacred rites. They were very religious. They were not, however, Godly. They thought that going through all the religious motions was enough and that it didn’t matter what their life was like outside of the Temple…. A viewpoint which is very popular today.

So how did Micah confront this situation? Well, he asked them a question. He asked them…

Micah 6:8 (NIV)
And what does the LORD require of you?

“What does the Lord require of you?” A fair question, don’t you think? I mean, don’t you like to know what’s required of you? In school, didn’t you like to know what assignments you needed to complete in order to get a good grade? Don’t you like to know what you need to have done by when in order to keep your job? When you buy computer software, don’t you like to know what the system requirements are so you can know whether you computer can run the program or not? Not a bad question… “What does God require of you?”

Well, pretending that you weren’t familiar with the passage that Chris read for us, how do you think they would answer? I expect the people would have had plenty of answers… make sure you keep all the ritual sacrifices…. sheep, goats, calves, sacrifice your first-fruit. Attend all the temple services. Observe all the holy days. Pray before every meal. There are all kinds of things they may have said. Perhaps you have your own ideas of what God requires of you. The rabbis themselves identified 613 specific commands that they expanded into an encyclopedia-sized set of books known as the Talmud.

Of course the problem with that for someone like me is that I wouldn’t want to read all that. I just couldn’t do it. First of all, I don’t speak Hebrew. Secondly, it would take me forever to get through it and there’s no way I’d remember it all. I’d probably have to get the Reader’s Digest version or get a hold of the Coles Notes version or something.

I like things to be short and to the point. I don’t even read e-mails that are too long and complex. Anything more than a few sentences and I just scan it. If you want me to read an e-mail, keep it short. If you need more than one paragraph, keep the paragraphs short. Otherwise, I may just scan it and delete it.

Well, thankfully Micah didn’t write an encyclopedia to answer the question, “What does God require?” He was able to identify three things that summed up everything that’s required. In fact, pastors love this verse because Micah asks a question and then gives a three point answer. Great sermon outline. And the interesting thing is that he didn’t give a checklist of duties and obligations… he gave us three principles that can guide our lives. Basically, he told us…

A. See that justice is done.
B. Let mercy be your first concern.
C. Humbly obey your God.

So what I want to do for the rest of our time here this morning is talk about these three things. You can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along.

 

Three Things God Requires

1. See That Justice Is Done.

That’s the phrase used in the CEV.

Micah 6:8 (CEV)
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done…”

The NIV says to “act justly.” The NLT says to “do what is right.” What was Micah talking about? What does it mean to see that justice is done? Well, it means that we don’t harm or injure or rip-off anybody in any way. It means that we don’t go overboard trying to get our own way. It means we don’t get carried away seeking revenge or trying to get ahead.

I was reading something written by a man named Armor Peisker, and this is what he says…

“We are to be truthful, honest, and sincere toward ourselves, toward God, toward our civil and business obligations, and in all other relationships with our fellowman.”
~ Armor D. Peisker
Beacon Bible Commentary Vol. 5

As far as it is up to us, we need to act justly. We need to act justly in our relationships, we need to act justly with those that we might have some level of power over, we need to act justly in our business dealing. And I’m aware that it’s not always that simple… that there can be all kinds of shades of grey when it comes to acting justly, especially in business. And I don’t have all the answers to every situation. I know that must come as a shock to some of you, but I don’t. All I can really say is, be sure that you act in good conscience… that your motive isn’t to swindle somebody but is to act fairly. To do what is right. To act justly.

This also means that we need to stop injustices. We need to stick up for those who are being mistreated. What did this mean in Micah’s day? Well, let’s look at just a few of the other things he wrote. He scolded some by saying…

Micah 2:1-2 (NLT)
You rise at dawn and hurry to carry out any of the wicked schemes you have power to accomplish. When you want a certain piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone’s house, you take it by fraud and violence. No one’s family or inheritance is safe with you around!

Micah 2:8-9 (NLT)
You steal the shirts right off the backs of those who trusted you, making them as ragged as men who have just come home from battle. You have evicted women from their homes and stripped their children of all their God-given rights.

Micah 3:1-2 (CEV)
Listen to me, you rulers of Israel! You know right from wrong, but you prefer to do evil instead of what is right. You skin my people alive…

These were the injustices being done, and Micah spoke out against them. And he tells us to stand up for the victims of injustice. Easy to see why Micah became known as the “Defender Of The Poor”. And his words are echoes throughout the Bible.

Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.

Deuteronomy 10:18 (CEV)
The Lord defends the rights of orphans and widows. He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing.

James 1:27 (NLT)
Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.

Acting justly means that we stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. We defend the defenceless. We care for those who have experienced loss, particularly widows and orphans. And churches are doing this even now. If you’ve been watching the news this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you know that much of the media attention has been focused on those huge centers where the refugees were taken, such as the Houston Astrodome. Well, the Astrodome only housed 18,000 people. I say “only 18,000” because 150,000 were being cared for by churches in Houston. That’s the untold story. Every church doing what they could, showing compassion and caring for these refugees.

An American Red Cross spokesperson claimed that nationally they had 18,000 volunteers working on the relief effort. Well, the Southern Baptists alone had 30,000. And that’s just one denomination. Throw in the Wesleyans and Methodists, and Pentecostals, and Catholics, and Nazarenes and whatever, and you’re well into the hundreds of thousands.

According to the Red Cross themselves, over 90% of the meals they are providing are being cooked by Christians.

[Statistics from PurposeDriven.com]

Robert F. Kennedy said this:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy
(1925-1968, American Attorney General, Senator)

And that’s what Christians are doing even now. They are sending forth tiny ripples of hope. We need to do that. We need to see that justice is done. God requires it.

 

2. Let Mercy Be Your First Concern.

Micah 6:8 (CEV)
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern…”

Maya Angelou had this to say about mercy:

“Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, ‘I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.’”
~ Maya Angelou

Just a thought for you as we head toward winter. Please, please, please… put away your bikinis.

We’ve already talked about justice. It’s important to act justly, but justice must always be tempered with mercy.

James 2:12-13 (NLT)
For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you.

Matthew 6:14-15 (CEV)
“If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in Heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The message is clear… we cannot expect to experience God’s mercy unless we have also shown mercy. Forgive what others have done to you, don’t hold grudges, give people a second chance, let them make up for their mistakes, and look for opportunities where you can help people and work to their benefit.

A few years ago, a Gallup Poll was conducted to find out who were the most admired people of the past century. Let me just give you the top 10 names from that poll.

10. Winston Churchill
9. Eleanor Roosevelt
8. Pope John Paul II
7. Billy Graham
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt
5. Helen Keller
4. Albert Einstein
3. John F. Kennedy
2.Martin Luther King, Jr.

And who do you think came in as the number one most admired person?

1. Mother Teresa

Isn’t it interesting that someone known for showing mercy topped the list?

1 Peter 3:9 (CEV)
Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God’s chosen ones, and he will bless you.

Now contrast that with what George Eliot said:

“We hand folks over to God’s mercy, and show none ourselves.”
~ George Eliot

Don’t let that be descriptive of you. Let your first concern be mercy.

The third requirement is…

 

3. Humbly Obey Your God.

Micah 6:8 (CEV)
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”

The Hebrew here is literally translated, “Bow low to walk with God.” It talks about a heart attitude of submission, obedience, and reverence for God. And it is out of this heart attitude that the first two requirements actually spring.

“Great beauty, great strength, and great riches are really and truly of no great use; a right heart exceeds all.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
(1706-1790, American Scientist, Publisher, Diplomat)

A right heart is one that is humble and obedient toward God.

James 1:21 (CEV)
You must stop doing anything immoral or evil. Instead be humble and accept the message that is planted in you to save you.

James 4:6 (NLT)
God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favour to…

WHO?

…to the humble.

According to J. David Hoke, this whole idea of humbly obeying God can be broken into three components.
 

  1. Understand that God is in control.

    We tend to play God ourselves and like to think we are in control, but that is not the case. God is in control. And we shouldn’t exalt ourselves over Him. Don’t accept the notion that you know better. Don’t accept the notion that you can control your own destiny. Understand that God is ultimately in control. Understand and accept that.
     

  2. Understand that we are sinful.

    We make wrong choices… we all do. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23;

    Romans 3:23 (NLT)
    For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

    We all need to be humble enough to admit that we make mistakes and to ask for God’s forgiveness whenever we do things that hurt Him.
     

  3. Respect the dignity of all human life.

    Walking humbly with God means that we are going to treat others right because they were created by God in the image of God. As C.S. Lewis said:

    “There are no ordinary people… it is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.”
    ~ C.S. Lewis

    We must remember that we are dealing with people that were created by God, regardless of how they have chosen to live.

 

So there you have it. What does God require of you? Read it with me…

Micah 6:8 (CEV)
“See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”


 

 

 

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