Micah was a prophet in the 8th Century B.C. during a time that Israel was in the beginning stages of an economic boom. Money was pouring into the country, stock market was soaring, small businesses were taking off, and people were getting rich.
And they attributed this to God’s blessings for Israel . . . After all, isn’t money and prosperity a sign of God’s blessing?
And so to ensure that God continued to bless them, they made going to church a priority. Each week they would set aside a few hours from their vacation homes, swimming pools, jet skis, and even their child’s soccer game to go through the religious motions and offer sacrifices to God.
And then when Monday morning came around, they were back at work making lots of money.
I don’t want to suggest that making money is a bad thing but the way they were doing it was wrong.
- The rich were getting richer at the expense of the poor.
- The political leaders were taking advantage of those they exercised power over.
- Buildings and other forms of infrastructure were being built by exploiting the labor of those desperate for work.
- And the people whose job it was to serve justice were accepting bribes at the cost of justice.
This extravagance of the wealthy contrasted with the misery and suffering of the poor who could not even afford the bare necessities of life . . . and Micah really struggled with this.
But perhaps the thing that made him the most uncomfortable is the fact that the church wasn’t doing anything about it.
But why would they want to . . . church attendance was up – in fact, some churches had to move to multiple services, and multiple campuses, and overflow rooms were created where the preacher was projected on a huge screen . . . pretty exciting stuff and certainly something to boast about and definitely something you didn’t want to jeopardize.
And so preachers only preached things that people wanted to hear. Micah even joked that if a preacher said that God would provide a life time supply of beer and wine . . . he would be a very popular preacher. He could write best selling devotion books and pack out stadiums when he spoke.
So inside the church were people shouting praises to God and offering him sacrifices in order to make sure that God would continue to bless them and meanwhile, outside the church, were people standing on the street corner begging for money; wondering how they are going to feed their children that day.
And Micah wanted to know; how could people who say they followed the God of justice and advocate of the downtrodden, ignore the least of those among them?
Micah saw all of this and he just couldn’t stay quiet anymore. God had been stirring his heart and it was time for him to become an advocate for God’s people . . . It was time for him to step up and become a Holy Troublemaker.
Now to set the scene, you have to picture getting sued by God. Image one day that we go to the mailbox and there's an aggressive and tenacious letter from a law firm that says, "We have been retained by God, and have been instructed to commence proceedings against you."
Imagine how strange that would be but that’s exactly what’s happening in Micah.
And in this scene . . . God serves as both the plaintiff and judge and Micah is counsel. And as the defendant is called to the stand to hear the charges, an impressive jury is empanelled – the mountains and the surrounding landscape because they’ve been around long enough to see what’s been going on.
And God commences the hearing by asking questions . . .
- “What have I done wrong that you are treating me this way?”
- Don’t you remember our promise to one another; I will be your God and you will be my people?
- Don’t you remember how I’ve protected you and provided for you?
- Don’t you remember your story?
- Don’t you remember my faithfulness?
What have I don’t wrong that you are treating me this way?
Now at this point, the people don’t know exactly why God is so angry. They don’t know what they’ve done wrong. In their minds, everything between them and God is cool and so they are getting a little worried because somehow they’ve rocked the boat and God is upset with them and if God is upset with them then they might lose their stuff.
And so they respond to God’s concern, “What more do you expect from us?”
We go to church. We give sacrificially to the offering every week. We have our devotions and try our best to follow you with our lives. I know we're not perfect, but what do you expect from us? What will make you happy?"
Probably not a bad question to ask but instead of waiting to hear from God they start answering their own question, assuming that the solution is more ritual and sacrifice.
- They start modestly with simply bowing down
- and then it quickly escalates to more costly sacrifice of a year old calf
- Then into the more lavish sacrifices of thousands of rams and rivers of oil.
- And finally to the forbidden . . . the sacrifice of a child. Something that was never a part of their faith practice and the prophets spoke sharply against.
And when Micah hears this, he just starts shaking his head. The whole sacrificial system and worship of God had been turned into a kind of national insurance policy.
If we do this . . . then God will do that.
And so he says, you guys just don’t get it. You’ve made your relationship with God so complicated. God has made it clear what he requires from his people and it has nothing to do with ritual and sacrifice and religious stuff so stop being so consumed with those things and redirect your energy to these three simply things . . .
Do Justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
Do Justice. God says, “I don’t want people who just come to church, worship me and drop a little money in the offering plate . . . I want them to look at the brokenness in this world and say . . . that’s unacceptable and I’m gonna do something about it.”
And don’t just be nice to people. Don’t just hand a dollar bill and half eaten sandwich to the guy standing on the street corner. That’s called charity.
Justice is about dealing with root causes that made the charity necessary. It’s getting to the very heart of brokenness.
And if anybody should care about brokenness, it ought to be God’s church who share His heart and who have received God’s love and justice in their own lives.
Love Mercy. Justice is about working to address the root causes of brokenness but mercy is about walking alongside those who are broken and suffering . . . it’s to see everyone as a beautiful creation of God and being generous and compassionate towards them.
And God doesn’t just say, do mercy, he says make it something you love to do. You can’t wait to get up each day because each day brings a new opportunity for you to show mercy and walk alongside someone who is broken and hurting and just needs someone to cry with them, to mourn with them, to give them a big ole hug and say together, with God, we can make it through this.
Walk humbly with God. Walking humbly includes all the things we normally think of in our relationship with God; intimacy, cultivating relationship, staying attentive to God’s will, being deliberate about pursing ongoing spiritual growth and discipleship; going to church, giving our tithe, and volunteering.
But it goes so much deeper than that . . . walking humbly with God is about acknowledging our own brokenness. And as we do justice and love mercy . . . we are reminded of our pain and brokenness and that we too are in need of justice and mercy.
You see this isn’t just a check list of more things to do in order to please God . . .
- I volunteered to be on the board at faith café . . . check
- I cried with a friend who was dealing with some tough life issues . . . check
- I made it to church three times this month . . . check
No, this is list to remind us of who we are in God.
They are a reminder that He is our God and we are His people.
The people of God asked that day . . . God, what more do you want from us? Do you want us to sacrifice our firstborn child?
And God says, “No, I’ve got that part covered”
And 400 years later, God would send his son into this world to bring his justice; to get the very heart of our brokenness and offer a solution. He sent his son, Jesus to show mercy and walk alongside us; to cry with us, to mourn with us, to give us a big ole hug and say together, we can make it through this.
And Jesus was obedient to God as he made a humble journey to the cross where he would die for our brokenness so that we might be restored back into relationship with God.
And in Christ, God looks at you and he looks at me and he says . . . what I need from you is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with me”
And so Logos Dei Church . . .
Where is justice in our lives?
Where is mercy?
Are our hearts broken by the things that break the heart of God or are we just going through the motions?