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Monday, June 6, 2011

What does God want from us? (Micah 6:8) Part 1

Part -1 “What does the Lord require of you?"
We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what we expect from God, and how we should or shouldn't respond when we don't get what we want. We spend precious little of it discussing what God requires of us. Our mantra tends to sound a lot like that old Janet Jackson song, "What have you done for me lately?"

There are indeed things that are required of us. Look with me at what the prophet Micah understood to be “God’s requirements.” Requirements that should be written into our hearts. So that when someone asks, “What does the Lord require of you?” Your response will be, “To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

It really sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” It almost sounds like the scouting oath. Be fair. Be nice. Be humble.

But when we study the prophet who spoke those words, and we look at the context in which he spoke them and their impact on those who heard them, we soon realize that it is much more than a glib motto.

To understand Micah we must first place him in context of the history of the Hebrew people. So unfortunately, that will require a very brief Bible history lesson:

The Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt, making bricks and starving, when God called Moses to the top of a mountain and spoke to him from a burning bush. God sent Moses to the Pharaoh with one message: “Let my people go!”

God, through Moses’ leadership, led the people out of bondage to the Promised Land. During this time, God established a covenant with the Hebrew people: "I will be your God and you will be my people.” God’s loving actions of freeing the Hebrew people from slavery and giving them the Promised Land are among the many ways God held up His end of the deal. God promised to continue to provide for them.

But, a covenant relationship, like any other relationship, is a two way street. Both parties have responsibilities and required (expected) behaviors that sustain and maintain the relationship.

It is just like a marriage covenant, where two people promise to love each other, to care for each other, to respect each other. Most of us have at least heard of those promises: "To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part." We agree to the requirements of a marriage covenant because we love somebody and want to commit our lives to them.

Well, God made just such a covenant with the Hebrew people. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” And what were God’s requirements of the Hebrew people? Here’s a summary…two "simple" commandments. “Love me and yourself and others like I have loved you.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” [Deuteronomy 6:5] and “love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18]

God added some other specifics like: Don’t murder, don’t lie, don’t steal, be faithful to your husband or wife, don’t be jealous of your neighbors and want their stuff. All of these seem pretty clear requirements for good relationships. And God added another reminder. In Leviticus 6: 12 He said, “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

What God is saying here is that once you get comfortable in the Promised Land and begin to enjoy a life of freedom and the abundance of the land, don’t forget about me and our relationship. Don't forget the things you need to do to maintain our relationship. Don't forget that this is a two-way street. When you are free and safe and fat and happy, remember me.

Our prophet today is named Micah. His name means, “Who is like Jehovah?” Micah held an high idea of the holiness, righteousness and compassion of God.

The heart of his book is expressed in the closing chapter: “Who is a God like You?” (Micah 7:18). And the unspoken answer is…None!”

[ more this week...]

(originally posted 3-14-11)

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