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Micah 6:6-8: True Worship is Obedience Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 January 2007

When I was in college I attended a number of conferences geared towards Christian college students.  One such event was the Passion Conferences.  Many are familiar with these conferences because of the music that has come from them (a number of CD’s have been released through the years).  It was at these conferences where I first heard John Piper speak.  God really used these conferences to encourage me in my understanding and practice of the Christian faith.  Yet, I remember always feeling somewhat discouraged at the end of the conference.  I enjoyed the corporate singing and preaching and small groups so much that I did not want it to be over.  I always wanted to just stay in that place, with those people and that band, and worship the Lord for the rest of my life.  It was easy not to be distracted by the world and the daily concerns of life.  We were there, focused on the Lord together and it was great. 

Of course I knew that the purpose of the conference was not to just get a bunch of college students together in a room to sing praise songs for the rest of their life.  Yet, I was often left with the question: how do I worship God like this all of my life?  How do I give my life to worshipping the Lord?  Or, to echo our text this morning: with what shall I come before the Lord or what does the Lord require?  I think we often find ourselves asking those questions, especially after we have had a ‘mountain-top’ experience with the Lord.  We are often left wondering: how do I truly offer my life in worship to the Lord?

As we have already noted, these are seemingly the questions being asked and answered in our text this morning.  Last week we looked at God’s accusation against Israel, namely her failure to remember the saving acts of the Lord (see 6:1-5).  In some sense, the court scene is continued in our passage this morning.  First, the accused bring a question before the Lord.  Then, through the mouth of the prophet, the Lord answers this question.  I want us to consider the question asked and the answer given in our time together this morning.

The Question Asked: With what shall I come before the Lord (v.6-7)?

We can learn much about the accused by their question and how they ask it.  Look at verses 6 and 7 with me.  It seems as if the questioner is being somewhat sarcastic.  They are possibly responding to God’s accusation against them with something like: ‘O yeah, well what are we supposed to do?’  Another possibility is that Micah is showing the hypocrisy of the people, as if they were saying: ‘Yes, we will give you any sacrifice you require’ (of course, except what you really want, as we will see in verse 8).  Notice how what is offered increases in value.  They start with burnt offerings, then calves a year old, then thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil (an offering that only a king could make), then they conclude with even the offering of their firstborn child.

Either way, the questioner (a representative of Israel) is revealing his wickedness and rebellion.  The Lord is not interested in mere ritual or hollow sacrifice.  He is not fooled by the one who brings a great offering only to withhold his own heart.  He is not a god who can be bought.  Besides, what can we offer Him that He does not already own?  The questioner may give the appearance of really wanting to worship the Lord, but as we see in the actual question (and in the Lord’s response) we know that they are simply looking for a way to pacify the Almighty.  Basically asking: ‘What can I do to get you off of my back and out of my face?’  They are willing to go through the motions (whatever they may be) to try and ‘please’ the Lord.

Yet, how will the Lord respond to such questions?  What will His answer be?

The Answer Given: You know that I require heartfelt obedience (v. 8).

Notice that the first part of the Lord’s reply through Micah is that He has already told them what He requires.  Look at verse 8a.  The Lord has already made it clear through the Law and the Prophets what is good.  Thus, again, their question, even if it is sincere, reveals their failure to remember what the Lord has already made known to them.  As we noted last week, the Lord is not telling them anything new.  Rather, through the prophet He is simply reminding them of what He has already told them. 

So, then, what particularly is He reminding them of?  Look at verse 8.  What does the Lord require?  With what shall we come before the Lord? Simple: obedience.  Particularly, obedience in loving our neighbor and obedience in loving the Lord.  This is a recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.  If you break up the 10 commandments, you see the first four dealing with obedience towards God and the last six dealing with obedience towards each other.  When Jesus summed up the Law, He told us to love God and to love our neighbor, even as we read from Luke 10 to begin our service.  Likewise the other New Testament writers, particularly John, speak to us of the connection between loving God and loving our neighbor (see 1 John).  Thus, true worship begins with obedience towards one another and towards God.  God is not looking for ritual or sacrifice as much as He is concerned with heartfelt obedience.  We cannot ignore the needs of one another and still claim to be faithfully serving the Lord.

Micah mentions three specific actions in this text.  First, he tells us that the Lord requires that we do justice.  Remember Micah’s accusation against the leaders of his day?  They were being anything but just toward the people (see chapter 3).  They were taking bribes and cheating people out of their land.  Micah is reminding them that the Lord is not pleased with faithless sacrifice.  We cannot come before Him simply going through the motions while we are cheating our neighbors.  No, if we want to truly worship the Lord, then we must do justice.

Second, Micah tells us that the Lord requires that we love kindness.  We are to delight ourselves in being kind to others.  We are to see opportunities of service as privileges.  We are to eagerly look for ways to meet the needs of those less fortunate than us.  If you are looking for ways to worship the Lord with your life, then look no further than serving your neighbor through acts of kindness, not begrudgingly, but because you love kindness.

Third, Micah reminds us that the Lord requires that we walk humbly with your God.  We are to conform our lives to the will of God, as revealed in His Word.  We are to live our lives in the way that He instructs.  Again, meaning partly that we see to the needs of those around us.

Thus, the Lord answers the questions of the accused by reminding them that what He really requires is not sacrifice as much as justice, kindness, and humility.  He is not simply looking for people who go through the motions as much as He is looking for people who are continually obedient to His commands to serve others.

I began this morning by telling you about those times in my life when I just wanted to stay on the mountain with the Lord instead of going back to my ‘normal’ life.  At one particular Passion conference, when we were nearing the end and I was longing not to leave, Louie Giglio said something that I will never forget.  Apparently he knew what I was thinking, namely that I just wanted to stay with the people there and continue singing praises to God.  To such a thought he replied: “It is time to go home, but that does not mean that our worship will end.  Rather, our worship will begin.  For true worship begins not with singing at a conference, but with obedience.”  This is what the Lord is reminding the people of Israel through the prophet Micah, namely worship the Lord through your obedience to His commands to love Him and to love your neighbor as yourself.

So I ask you this morning: have you worshipped the Lord this week through your obedience?  Did you show justice to your fellow man?  Did you delight yourself in being kind to your neighbor?  We began our service by reading the parable of Jesus that speaks of two sons.  Both were asked by their father to go and work in the vineyard.  One agreed but never went.  The other did not agree, but eventually went and did the work.  Jesus is condemning the Pharisees for talking about being religious, while never actually doing the work.  I fear we often do the same.  I fear we only gather with other believers on Sunday morning to keep up appearances.  We sing the songs, give some money, say a few amens, and even get emotional on occasion, but that is it.  That is the sum total of the worship we bring.  Sure, we commit to do the work, but we never actually go.

Yet, what does the Lord require of His people?  Does He not require that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God?  Let me be specific.  I surely believe that the Lord is calling us to social action in this passage along with others.  He is calling us to fight for justice, especially for those who cannot fight for themselves (such as unborn babies and unwanted orphans or elderly).  The Lord is calling us to take care of the poor and to meet the physical needs of those around us.  Yet, the passage applies to more than just social action.  It also instructs us on how we are to behave towards one another within the Body of Christ.  Do you fight for justice in your relationships with the people in this Church?  Are you kind to every member of this community, even more, do you delight in being kind to them?  Do you go out of your way to show kindness to any who are in need in our Church?  If we cannot do that among each other, then we cannot expect to do it faithfully in the community at large.  Yet, this passage calls us to do both.

One final question: are we to do those things so that we can earn our salvation?  Of course not.  God has given us salvation as a gift by sending His Son to die in our place on the cross.  We could never do enough justice or love enough kindness to earn our way to heaven.  Rather, we work because we have been saved.  We work because God has given us a heart that longs to worship Him by being obedient to all He has commanded.  By His grace, may we bring what He requires.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 21 January 2007 )

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