Daily Reflections December 1
The chapter reads as if it were set in a court room. The Lord tells Israel to arise and plead their case. The Lord proclaims that he has only been good and merciful to them. He redeemed them from Egypt, provided anointed leaders, turned curses against them into blessings, and led them miraculously into the promised land. But they not only forget about the righteousness of God but make him the enemy. They know that they are not safe in this guilty state as sensed in the previous chapters. So the prophet, as if speaking for the people, inquire as to what would please God.
We know what this is like. At some point in a marriage, one of you will say something like this during an argument: “What do you want? I’ll wash the dishes, I’ll take you on vacation, I’ll quit my job—Just tell me how to fix it!”
The desire is simply to get out of the situation and have it go away. Israel had that same attitude. If there was a problem then maybe they could throw an extremely valuable sacrifice on the alter. Not good enough? Maybe quantity is important, so throw a lot of sacrifices on it and see if that works. Still not enough? Maybe put your child on the altar. Anything! The spouse and the prophet responds in unison, “You’re missing the point.”
The relationship has been fractured. External things are worthless unless they are done within, and as a response, to restored covenant faithfulness and love. And if those works are present without coinciding with a healthy relationship then they also are a mark of hypocrisy.
Jesus saw this in the religious people of his day and said,
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
The prophet lays out what the Lord has already revealed to them through the law that he requires: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. There are still some who use this popular passage to espouse a works-based salvation. There are even mission organizations that use this as their mission statement. So, they strive to fight injustice, kindly serve people, and not be too convictional about God. But they end up missing the point again.
Micah and Jesus intended for the people to hear that the issue wasn’t external, but internal. The problem wasn’t the external actions of the law, it was that their hearts were far from ever being able to fulfill the spirit of the law. And the reason that Micah and Jesus tells them that God requires justice, mercy, faithfulness, kindness, humility, etc. is not so that they can strive to do those things. It is to show them the deep blindness, depravity and inability of their own hearts. Their hearts could never be what God requires.
Thank God for the new covenant! Not only is a perfect sacrifice offered but a new heart also. And this new heart, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can enable us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. No hypocrisy; simply a healthy relationship resulting in joyful acts of love.
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
Christianity is, and always has been, a missional faith. We believe that we have Good News which the world needs to hear. The last words of Christ during his earthly ministry reinforce this fact. The final words of Christ in Luke’s narrative are found in the first chapter of the book of Acts:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Even a cursory reading of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we need to be a people who are active in sharing our faith. This requires us to go out into the world and rub shoulders with some people whom we might not regularly interact with. This is the example that Christ gives us in chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel. Over the course of his ministry Jesus had built up the reputation as being someone who regularly received and ate with sinners. When the religious leaders rebuked him for this, he responded with three parables.
The first two parables tell the same story with imagery of a lost sheep and a lost coin. The moral of the story is that it is fitting to look for what is lost and to rejoice when it has been found. Christian ministry, we learn, is about bringing lost people back into right relationship with God. This is the goal of everything that we do and we must now allow the opinions of others to deter us from this mission.
The third parable in this chapter reinforces this same point via a much more elaborate story. While there are many details in this parable that are worthy of our reflection, I want to instead narrow in on the character of God revealed through the father.
The father goes above and beyond what was expected of him in order to show his love for the lost son. He runs out to meet him, restores him back to full father-son relationship, and throws a party to celebrate. When the second son throws a tantrum over all of this the father also reaches out to him with a rebuke made in love.
This is an image of the God that we serve. Our God is in the business of restoring lost people back into right relationship with Himself. As we meditate on this fact, we should be encouraged to do two things. First, if we are lost or wayward we should be encouraged that it is safe to return to God. If we come to Him with a repentant heart, we will find open arms ready to restore us to right relationship with Himself. Secondly, we should seek to imitate the Father. We should be both a community that forgives one another, and a community that goes out seeking the lost.
Director of Youth Ministries Ryan Shevalier