November 13, 2013

{Day 13} Saved and Called: Act Justly, Love Mercy

If you're just popping in on this November series, you can catch up here.

Doing minimal research online for commentaries on our Micah passage from yesterday showed consensus on the connection between the ten commandments and acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God.  Put side by side, it is easy to see the connection.  Theologians often speak of the two tables of the law: the first table (commandments 1-4) addressing our relationship with God and the second table (commandments 5-10) our relationship with others.  Of note is the fact that the two are inverted in their order, the Micah passage addressing our relationship with God after how we are to live with others.  I personally don't feel it's necessary or important to explore why this specific order was chosen, so we won't do that here.

The other point of consensus I found in the handful of commentaries and sermons that I read, was on the first part of the verse, He has shown you,  O man, what is good.  All observed that God has not kept His desires for us hidden; He has revealed His requirements, and they are good.  God declaring things to be good reminds me of Genesis, when God proclaimed the goodness of all He created.  Looks like His law falls into that category too!

God has declared it good.  Let's chase after it!

What exactly do we want to chase after?  This: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.  Given that many Bible scholar folks link these things to the ten commandments, let's consider them together.

Commentators argue that acting justly and loving mercy summarize these commandments:
  • honor your father and mother
  • do not murder
  • do not commit adultery
  • do not steal
  • do not give false testimony (don't lie)
  • do not covet what belongs to another
Is this the first list of things that comes to mind when you think about acting justly and loving mercy?  It's not for me.  In an age when we have knowledge of injustice happening all over the world, my mind often jumps directly to what movements I should be involved in and I feel guilty that I don't care as much as the next person about really great causes.  But on the surface of these commandments, I don't get that first impression.

I get the impression that God cares about and has a way in which He wants me to live in relationship with others.

I believe this can, (will and should!), take us to involvement in great social justice causes, but God wants us to begin with our hearts, right where we are, bending them in obedience to His law.

More than Meets the Eye
Years ago our pastor was preaching through the ten commandments.  He pointed out that every "Thou shalt not" has an opposite but unspoken "Thou shalt!"  Honestly, when I look at the second table of the law, I can think, Some of these I think I could say I've actually kept!  (Like the rich man who went away sad.)  If I consider the opposite of them, however, the bar is raised and I see how I violate God's law; I do not act justly and do not love mercy.  For example, here are some questions one could ask himself in relation to commandments 6-10.  (I'm not including honor parents since it's a Thou shalt.)
  • Do I value and protect peoples' lives when I have opportunity?
  • Do I strive for purity in my relationships and when I am alone?
  • Do I have a habit of sharing and giving generously?
  • Do I tell the truth?  Am I a person of integrity?
  • Do I practice contentment, rejoicing with others in their successes and happiness?

Oh man, I do not like that list!  It shows me how much work is yet to be done in my heart.  Same for you?  Nevertheless, we don't need to be afraid of it.  God placed His Spirit in our hearts and the Bible says His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3.  Paul also says, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The Lord has revealed His requirements.  They are far more strenuous than simply throwing a few doves , a couple rams, and a steer on an altar - far more than showing up at church regularly, tossing some money in the plate as it passes, and giving a few cans to the food bank!  He has also revealed HIMSELF in Christ, who came as Emmanuel, God with us.  Jesus acted justly.  Jesus loved mercy.  Jesus showed us the way, told us that He is the way, and said, Follow me!

Will you follow?

Paul said the law shows us our sin, how bad our wretched state before God really is!  We need the law to reveal our desperate need for God's grace and pardon.  Once we've taken hold of God through Christ, (handing over our filthy rags and taking His cloak of righteousness), we can turn back to the law and pursue righteousness, with the confidence that God will make us people who increasingly act justly and love mercy, because of who HE is, what HE has done, and through HIS power at work in us.

Boy, we really need God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Don't we?

In light of that, tomorrow we'll consider how Micah's last point, walking humbly with your God, helps us live the holy life to which He calls us!

Grace and peace, friends.

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