For those interested in eternity, the question of what does God want is important.
- Some people would say that all God wants of you is that you be kind to others and do good.
- Some Christians would say that churches should only be focussed on preaching and not being distracted by social care, social justice.
- There are others who believe that the only way to reach God is through elaborate religious practices, or meditations, or spiritual retreat.
Micah 6 & 7 teaches you what does God want of you, but also makes it plain why you should, why you can’t, and why he is still so amazing anyway!
What does God want of you? (Micah 6:1-8)
Micah 6:1 begins “Listen” or “Hear”. In Micah, that’s a marker of a new section (after chapters 1-2, 3-5). Even so, there are clearly separate parts in Micah 6-7 suggested it was written over a period of time and the parts brought together. That’s one reason why some of the prophets are harder to read than other parts of the Bible. A bit like Jeremiah.
Micah 6:1-2 is a scene we find in a number of the prophets: A courtroom!
- The mountains and hills have seen Israel’s sin against God, and now they’re called as witnesses.
- “He will bring charges against Israel” (v2).
So Micah 6:3-5 lists the charges. The background is very much that Israel have turned away from God, despite his covenant. Read Micah 6:3.
How could he possibly have tired them? After all, h’d redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. He prevented harm coming to them from enemies. When they drifted away after other gods, he firmly corrected them and brought them back to himself – so that he could continue to bless them under the covenant.
How would Israel respond, hearing God saying such things? Maybe, “O Lord, you’re right! Thank you for reminding us and calling us back to you!”? No, instead it was more like, “Ugh! What does he want now? We’re already doing all this religious stuff and he’s still not happy!”
Read Micah 6:6-7, noticing the offensive escalations. As if they’re saying, “he’s never happy”. Like a nit-picking, fault-finding boss.
Religion with and without God
That’s what your heart is like if all you have is religion, but no actual love for God or his people – or any people, really. Too many people are wrapped up in religion but have no real knowledge of God himself. Not wrapped up in him. What happens, when you have religion without God? You try harder with your religion: Robes, candles, mass, more and more pomp. Is God really impressed? You try harder with missions, groups, conferences, etc. You may call yourself a Christian, but how much of your profession of faith is about religious stuff you do?
What does God want? Read Micah 6:8.
He doesn’t want something new from you. He’s told you already. Three things there in verse 8:
- “to do what is right” – to do justice. To do the right thing and to put things right. It’s good to do good and right to do right.
- “to love mercy” – not just to be merciful, but to love mercy. To love doing things out of kindness.
Even to do acts of love out of kindred empathy for another
(not just because you’re told to)
- “and to walk humbly with your God” –
- With him. The offerings he gave in the Old Testament were so that you could approach him, and that he, the holy God, could dwell among us.
- “Walk humbly” is an everyday thing, not a big event or even Sunday service.
Do what is right; love to be kind; walk in daily company with God.
But, obviously, the world around doesn’t do that. So:
Cling to Jesus (Micah 7:1-7)
The rest of chapter 6 lists curses that are about to fall on Israel – curses that were listed under the covenant God made with them. Despite their religion, they were miles from God.
- Jesus warned that there will be many who one day say to him, “Lord, lord…” and he’ll send them away to hell itself, saying “I never knew you.”
- That’s a tragedy, and has no joy for Christ or his people.
Micah 7:1-7 is Micah’s own reflection of sorrow as he looks at the sins of people around him.
In v1 he says he feels as unhappy as a hungry harvester – there are no crops to harvest. His society is a mess, and it’s not hard to see similarities with ours: Read Micah 7:2-3.
- There were plenty of dodgy deals done with taxpayers money through the pandemic.
- Even the police seemed reluctant at first to investigate obvious breaches of trust at Downing St parties.
- Business dealings are routinely dodgy.
- People who cheat often have the advantage of those who try to deal honestly.
Micah says that even personal relationships are messed up too. Read Micah 7:5-6. How many men and women cheat on their spouses? How many families are divided by feuds?
What can anyone do? Read Micah 7:7.
You can do worse than sit and worry about the state of the world. But you need to do more than that. You can’t boil an ocean, but you can boil a pan. You can’t save the world, but there is one who can save you.
There’s hope for you
For you, there is hope. For you, there is good news. It’s actually available to everyone, but they’re not coming. You’re here, reading this: Look to the LORD for help. Wait confidently for God to save you; he will certainly hear you.
How can you know? Because God has promised. He sent his Son, Jesus, from eternal splendour to become human. Only God as human could do the two things you need most: Die in your place, and forgive your offence to him. He then promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He’s made it clear, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and you are one, so he came for you. Would he begrudge you salvation, after everything you’ve done? “God wants everyone everywhere to be saved.”
The world is a mess, but God offers you hope right here and now. You can cry out to him for forgiveness and he will hear you. Read Micah 7:7 again.
Peace and discord
What happens when you do that?
- You’ll turn from your sin to God.
- You give up trying to impress him with your religious efforts, and you trust Jesus for what he has done for you.
- Then (and only then) are you truly able to do Micah 6:8!
- And the more you do that, the more out of step you will be with the world as it carries on in sin.
What does that feel like? Jesus tells you in Matthew 10:34-36, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
He quoted Micah 7:6. But Micah spoke about feuds in families because of sin and rebellion; Jesus says there will still be family splits in his name. But those feuds will be different because they’re about Jesus. (If everyone in the family follows Jesus, there really ought to be peace!)
Clearly Jesus means from this that if you’re faced with a choice of serving him or pleasing your family, you’re to follow him. You may need that to sink in.
You might even think Jesus asks too much. Or you might feel you just can’t do it. Micah has help for you:
Marvel at your God (Micah 7:18-19)
Verse 8 onwards is basically a psalm – it’s poetry. Habakkuk ends similarly.
Micah 7:8-17 are about how judgment is going to fall on God’s people in Jerusalem. It’s going to be awful; enemies will have a field day. But God also promises that he will turn the situation around afterwards.
- Micah 7:16-17 All the nations of the world will stand amazed at what the LORD will do for you. They will be embarrassed at their feeble power. Like snakes crawling from their holes, they will come out to meet the LORD our God.
But why? Why should God do that? If the people have rejected him and tried to fob God off with cheap religion why should he promise to save them at all? What kind of God is he?
Read Micah 7:18.
The CSB translates the first part as “Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion…?”
- Forgiving iniquity. He forgives not just the wrong things that you do, but your whole twistedness that keeps on leading you away from him.
- Passing over rebellion. Not turning a blind eye to your mistakes, but actually passing over your overt rebellion against him.
Think of people who do evil: Putin, Saville, the Moors murderers – the list is very long. But to God in his perfection, all humanity is steeped in sin. We’re all the same to him. So why on earth should he forgive you or pass over your rebellion?
The nature of God
Micah 7:18 again You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love.
It’s in God’s own gracious character to love you. He will straighten out your twistedness. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he will turn around your rebellion. He will raise you up from your sinful falling short. By Jesus’ sacrifice, he will cleanse you from all your guilt.
And he’ll do it – not because you’re worthy or lovely or better than anyone else – but because he delights in showing unfailing love. He delights in it enough to enter creation to save you.
The LORD laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.
- Do you fail “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). I know I do. But God delights to show you his unfailing love.
- Do you fail to put Jesus first, actually prioritising worldly things (even family) ahead of him? Me too. But God delights to show you his unfailing love.
- Do you feel a failure of a Christian every day? Of course. But he is faithful. He will forgive, he will complete what he has begun in you.
- Who is a God like him? Faced with your own weakness, you can turn to him and marvel at his greatness.
And then, in his power, do right things and put things right. Cling to Jesus, even when it costs you in earthly relationships. And marvel at him, and walk humbly with him every day.
That is what God wants of you.