If you're just popping in on this November series, you can catch up here.
Have you been thinking about fearing God, but not being afraid of Him? I have. As I do, my awe increases! Make no mistake, if we are apart from Christ, we should be afraid God. He's holy, remember? [Yes, Heather, you've mentioned it before!] We are full of sin, deserving only His wrath. But in Christ we can be reconciled to God and be afraid no longer. God saves us and captures our hearts and we fear Him in a new way, wondering at His goodness and desiring to live to please Him because of His great mercy to us. Cowering before Him no more, we cling tightly to Him. How wonderful that Holy God rescues us from our sin and gives us a new identity in Him. The old has gone, the new has come!
That is good news.
And Now, a Word from a Prophet
For the next few days we'll be taking a look at a passage that may be familiar, especially the last verse. This is one of the first that came to mind when was brainstorming for this series, because it includes the question, What does the Lord require of you? (That's kinda what we're trying to figure out this month!)
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
If you know the Old Testament, even a little, you're aware that God established an elaborate system of sacrifices. He set that up. So what's the deal here?
I can picture a couple in a desperate situation. He has great affection for her and wants to enjoy being in relationship together. She, having great difficulty accepting this unconditional love, feels the need to figure out what she needs to do to earn it. (Yes, to earn a love that is already freely given.) She cries out, What do you want from me?! Her lover replies,
"YOU, my dear."
The Lord did give the ten commandments and establish the sacrificial system for Israel. They forgot, as we are wont to forget also, that He called them out of slavery first, setting them apart to be in relationship with Him. THEN, He showed them how to live. He wanted their obedience. Yes! But primarily,
God wanted their hearts.
And Now, a Word from Charles Spurgeon
I was poking around for commentaries on this passage and found that Charles Spurgeon once began a sermon on Micah 6:8 with these words:
This is the essence of the law, the spiritual side of it; its ten commandments are an enlargement of this verse. The law is spiritual, and touches the thoughts, the intents, the emotions, the words, the actions; but specially God demands the heart. Now it is our great joy that what the law requires the gospel gives.*
I believe that the people of Israel could offer their sacrifices rightly, if they remembered that their salvation and relationship with the Lord was found in Him and that the sacrifices were simply a means to worship Him. This passage does not say, Forget God's law. Rather it takes it to another level. Remember God's law, walk humbly with Him, with a heart surrendered to His every command and precept.
As Spurgeon says, it is our great joy that what the law requires the gospel gives. Not one of us upholds the ten commandments with perfection. But in Christ we don't tremble in fear of God's wrath. Rather we look at that law; we see the depth and breadth of our sin; and we repent. Then, we rejoice that our sins are forgiven, and can move forward in what God requires of us:
Seeking justice. Loving mercy. Walking humbly with God.
Getting back to that couple. Imagine the woman finally believing her lover, surrendering herself to his love, letting down her guard and trusting him with her fragile self, confessing to him the difficulty she has in accepting his love. As he holds and assures her, her confidence in the truth of his words grows. As she moves through life in relationship with him and he is true to his word, she is changed. Fear wanes. Confidence grows. She wants to tell the world of this man and his love. She desires to please him for no other reason than that he is who he is and has loved her so well.
Surrendering our hearts to God works something like that. When you open your Bible, don't first ask, What am I supposed to do? Begin with this: What do you want me to know about You today, God?
It is meeting the God of the Bible, not knowing all of the rules,
that changes lives.
People changed by God, live for Him.
What does the Lord require of you? Well ... YOU! Are you meeting that requirement? His mercies are new every morning, He says. Hand yourself over to Him today! :)
What's next on the agenda, Heather?
Over the next couple of days, let's do take a look at how God's "Big Ten" direct us in the areas of acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. As I said earlier, God's love does not negate His law, so we do need to know it and live in obedience; in the context of the gospel we can pursue righteousness rightly. Praise God! I've never made a connection between the ten commandments and this Micah passage before, so I look forward to what we'll learn together.