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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 service, 2007-04-15

Text: Micah 6:6-8

Our messages for this quarter are based on the theme of 'Knowing the Lord through Prayer.' This theme is really the essence of true religion: True religion is nothing but the enjoyment of a personal relationship with God through faith and sincere prayer. This truth is emphasized over and over again in the Bible. It is taught in many different ways: It is taught by precept in the commandment, 'Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.' (Deuteronomy 6:5). 

It is taught by example in the life of Enoch who 'walked with God' (Genesis 5:22), and in the life Abraham who was called the 'Friend of God' (James 2:23), and also in the life of King David who was known as the 'Man after God's own heart' (Acts 13:22). It is also taught through the recorded praises and prayers of people who had communed with God. As King David wrote in Psalm 27:4 'One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.'

And yet, despite such an abundance of clear teaching from God about what true religion is all about, it is this point that always seems to be missed by many! Time and time again people miss this important truth completely in all their religious efforts and activities. They reduce religion to nothing more than the holding of certain beliefs, following a set of rules and regulations, or performing certain rituals, or observing certain days for fasting, or chanting certain prayers. Now, they may feel that they are being most spiritual when they devote their time in doing all these activities. But what they still lack is the very essence of all spirituality, which is to enjoy a personal relationship with God.

Oftentimes even Christians who may already know this truth and understand it well, would go astray from it after some time and begin to concentrate instead on the outward forms of their devotion, including church attendance, singing, praying and participation in church activities. They become content with a veneer or outer shell of godliness, without experiencing the real substance and power thereof. 

Some may even become so fanatical about these outward forms, that the forms are more important to them than God Himself! The apostle Paul testified that the Jews of his day were like that. They had a tremendous 'zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.' (Romans 10:2)

And we all need to be constantly reminded against committing this error, because anyone can easily fall into it. In all things that you do as a Christian, your primary focus must always be on this one thing needful: the building your personal relationship or walk with the Lord. That is where your spiritual life really is. Without it, your weekly attendance of worship services will be a waste of time. Without it, your singing of hymns will be lifeless. Without it, your tithes and offerings will be given out of duty rather than out of love. Without it, your listening to sermons, or your participation in Sunday school or in any Bible study will not profit your soul at all. 

If you are already experiencing any of these things now, it may be time for you to regain your focus on building your personal relationship with God. Dearly beloved, have you somehow been neglecting your walk with the Lord? Have you become so busy with church activities and the outward forms of devotion that you have lost your primary focus on building your relationship with God? If you have, then listen carefully to what the Lord has to say to you now through His Word in Micah 6: 8 'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?'

In order to understand these words well, let us first consider the historical background behind them. The words of this scripture text were given by God through a prophet of Judah by the name of Micah, who lived around the year 735 BC. It was a time of great material prosperity in Judah. Unfortunately it was also a time of great moral and spiritual decline. No class of people was free from the corrupting influences of sin. The princes, the priests and the people - all alike were deeply affected by it. And so Micah was appointed by God to speak out against these sins. He spoke against the rich who oppressed the poor (2:1,2,9). He also spoke against false prophets who were making empty promises of sure deliverance from foreign invasion (3:5). At that time the Assyrians were about to launch a series of military campaigns into Palestine. Through Micah, God warned the people that if they did not repent of their sins, He would bring the Assyrian forces to destroy Jerusalem and reduce it to rubble. 

But the people could not understand why God would ever allow His people to experience the horrors of foreign invasion and occupation. They could not comprehend what wrong they had done that God would take such drastic action against them. Thus, at the beginning of Micah chapter 6 God is pictured as one who brings a lawsuit against His people for the sin of ignoring Him. In vv.1 and 2 He calls on the mountains and hills to witness His charges against the people. Then He reminds them of the ways He had helped them: vv.3,4 'O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.' The Exodus of Israel from Egypt represents the first great act of God in which He showed His love for the people. In v.5 the inability of Balaam to curse God's people is mentioned as an evidence of God's protection for them.

Then in vv.6-7 God's people are pictured as man who realizes all his sins against God and he is now so conscience-stricken that he wants to know what he could do to remedy the situation. But as you read these verses you will see that what he thinks God requires from him are merely outward acts of devotion. 'Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' Let us focus our thoughts now on what these verses teach about:

I. Man's Mistaken Ideas of What God Really Wants (vv.6-7)

A. In Coming before the Lord

The two questions of v.6 speak about what man thinks he must do in order to come before God. He wants to know, 'With what shall I come before the Lord?' He thinks that as long as he comes before God with the right gift to offer Him, God will surely accept him. Now, there is nothing wrong with the bringing of gifts and offerings to the Lord's house when we come for the worship service each week. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that, 'God loveth a cheerful giver.' The problem is not with the act of giving itself but with the motive for giving. We ought to do it because we believe that all that we have is rightfully His, and that the Lord deserves to receive the best from us. We should bring offerings and gifts to Him out of love and gratitude. 

But gifts must never be used as an attempt to gain favour or approval from God. And this was exactly what the man in v.6 was attempting to do when he said, 'Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?' He thought that the gift he brings along will enable him to gain God's favour. Perhaps some of us too may have done this at times. You thought that you can purchase God's favour and love with your gifts, and that the Lord will thenbe obligated to grant you whatever you request from Him. This mistaken idea actually comes from using our own human wisdom on how to gain favours from the people we know.

Please understand that God's love and favour cannot be purchased whether with money or with acts of faithful service and devotion. Don't ever think that the Lord will certainly bless you with good health and wealth just because you have given Him so much and served Him well. No matter how well you have served Him and how much you have given to Him, always remember that 'We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do' (Luke 17:10) It is only by undeserved grace alone that we can receive any favour from God. And that grace is shown to us only because of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. 

B. In What Pleases the Lord

Another mistaken idea of what God really wants can be found in the things that the man proposed to bring before God. In v.7 he asks whether the Lord would be pleased with them. The first thing he mentioned was burnt offerings. Burnt offerings were prescribed in the book of Leviticus. They are meant to be an act of consecration. In all other kinds of offerings only part of the animal was burnt on the altar while the rest could be consumed by the priest or the person who made the offering. In the burnt offering the whole animal was burnt on the altar leaving nothing behind for human consumption. It was completely devoted to God, and in that manner, it honoured God. Now, different kinds of animals could be used for burnt offerings, but the offering of calves that were a year old was considered by the Jews to be the most costly because of their economic value. And so the man in our text was proposing to offer the most costly offerings he could give to God.

That's not all. In the next verse he proposed to multiply his offerings lavishly, by giving thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil to God. I think we can recognise what he was trying to do. He was essentially saying 'I will give you whatever it takes to please you. Just name your price!' And he even goes to the extent of offering to God his most precious possession, his own firstborn child. We remember how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah when God commanded him to do so. But this man is willing to do that even without being asked! 

From our own human perspective, all that the man proposed may seem to be commendable acts of devotion. Surely God would surely be pleased with them, would He not? Who will not appreciate such generous gifts? But what God sees is not the gifts but the heart. Beyond the multitude of costly offerings God sees a heart that is not right with Him - a heart that is far from Him and that is still tolerant toward sin. And this makes all the offerings worthless in His sight.

Dearly beloved, you must be convinced that the very best offerings and service that you can render to God are useless as long as you are not right with Him because of your sin. They are merely an empty form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Man is always trying to get back to the good graces of God with some outward religious service or some material gifts. But the Word of God tells us that 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' (Psalm 51:17). This is what God really wants from us.

II. God's Revelation of What He Really Wants (v.8)

What the Lord really wants from you dear friends, is not your gifts and offerings but the fervent desire to be right with Him and to walk with Him. This is revealed in verse 8 which says, 'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' In order to be right with God your attitude toward sin must change. You cannot love God and love sin at the same time. You must hate your sins the same way that God hates them. The biblical word that is used to describe this change is repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin which leads to a change of conduct. 

A. Exercising the Righteousness of God

The first change that repentance will produce is 'to do justly' (v.8). This refers to exercising God's righteousness in every area of your life. If your desire is to be right with God, you must be just and fair in all that you do. You may want to examine your life carefully: Are you engaging in any business or work practices that are ethically and morally questionable? The Jews in Micah's time had kept false weights and measures that they used to cheat others in their business. Verses 10,11 says 'Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?'

In today's world, people use various means to cheat others or to gain an unfair advantage over others. Some people do not do justly to the authorities: They try to evade taxes by not giving a complete disclosure of their assets. Some have shortchanged the authorities in the matter car park coupons. Some do not do justly in their work or employment. Recently a sister in our church shared with me how upset she was when another person in her place of work took all the credit for the work she had done. Students are sometimes guilty of not doing justly as well - by plagiarism, the use of pirated software, and downloading music or videos illegally. All these practices, no matter how you may attempt to justify them, are just as wicked and abominable to God as the scant measure, the wicked balances and deceitful weights that the Jews were using in their business. And if any practices such as these are found in your life, you must stop them at once in order to be right with God. 

B. Emulating the Mercy of God

The second change that repentance will produce in your life is 'to love mercy.' In this verse it means that you should emulate God's mercy. God is well known for His mercy. He has always shown great mercy in all His dealings with mankind. Because of this He expects us as His people to love mercy. Now, loving mercy is even better than being just, because he who does justly may not necessary love mercy, but he who loves mercy will also do justly. As Romans 13:10 tells us, 'Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.' 

But in Micah's time the Jews were not showing mercy to the poor. They exacted the letter of the law from them. They lent money to a needy person at high interest and when he could not pay back his loan in time, they took his outer garments and let him suffer from cold and nakedness (2:8). Widows who could not pay their creditors where cruelly driven out of their homes with their children (2:9). There was no compassion or pity at all for the plight of these poor and needy brethren!

While we may feel indignant about those who do such things, we must examine our own hearts to see whether we are doing the same thing. Have you shown enough love and consideration for others? Have you cared enough for those who are suffering and gone out of your way to help them? Do you pray for those who share their problems and difficulties with you? Is there anyone against whom you are still bearing a grudge and have not forgiven? Please remember that God wants you to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as He for Christ's sake has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). 

Dearly beloved, if God has shown you that you lack mercy, then you must get yourself right with Him. This love for mercy does not come naturally to us because our sinful nature makes us naturally selfish. Love and mercy can only be produced supernaturally from a heart that God fills, and this will happen when you walk humbly with Him.

C. Enjoying True Fellowship with God

This brings us now to the third and the most fundamental change that must be produced in us. It is found in the words 'to walk humbly with thy God.' As I mentioned earlier on, this is all about having a personal relationship with God. There are several important points we need to know about this.

Firstly, no one can walk with God unless he is first reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. This means that if you are still not saved yet, you must turn to Jesus and ask Him to be your Lord and Saviour. He alone has the power to restore your relationship with God because He died on the cross to pay for our sins. But you must turn to Him in prayer in order to have your sins forgiven. This is the first and most basic prerequisite for walking with God. The Bible says that 'as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.' (John 1:12) How wonderful it is to be changed by Jesus Christ from being a sinner who is out of fellowship with God, to being a son of God who enjoys the most blessed fellowship with God! 

Secondly, no one can walk with God unless he fully submits to God's leadership. Submission is implied in the word 'humbly' in this verse. Your submission should be like that of a humble child to his father -you must trust God and rely on Him to lead you by the hand to wherever He wants to take you.Your submission to God should also be like that of a humble pupil to his teacher - you must be teachable and ready to learn from Him. Your submission should also be like that of a humble servant to his master - you must obey every instruction that He gives to you and seek to do only His will. Let us therefore commit ourselves to walk humbly with our God by trusting Him, learning from Him and obeying Him.

Thirdly, the words, 'walk with God' imply the enjoyment of close, intimate fellowship with Him. Psalm 16:11 tells us that there is fullness of joy in God's presence. And we need to set aside time each day to be alone with God. 

This is what we call having our quiet time or daily devotion, and it is the best way to begin your day. In your quiet time you come before the Lord in order to commune with Him and to experience the wonderful delight of being with Him. For those 10-15 minutes, you should put aside all other thoughts from your mind and heart. Don't think about the things that you need to do for the day, or the problems that you are going to face for the day. Just keep your thoughts focused on God. Tell Him how much you long to be with Him and commune with Him. Let your heart be filled with praise and thanks to God. Then read a portion of Scripture, and let Him speak to you through His Word. Let Him show you what He wants you to do for the day. He may reveal to you a sin in your life that you need to confess, or a command that He wants you to obey. He may strengthen you with a word of assurance and comfort. And when God has blessed you with His Word, give thanks to Him and pray for grace to do all that He wants you to do.

This is what your daily quiet time ought to be - a personal time of spiritual communion of your soul with the Lord. And such a daily walk with God will then become your source of spiritual life and strength to live your life fully for the Lord - and even to do justly and to love mercy as Micah 6:8 says. I would therefore urge you not to be satisfied with your devotional life until you are enjoying your walk with God. I would ask all of you to make a firm commitment right now, to keep not just daily quiet time, but daily quality time with the Lord, enjoying a personal and meaningful relationship with Him all the days of your life.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25