What God requires
What יהוה requires.
יהוהis seeking something….. perfect moral character! Turn to Micah chapter six. A few weeks ago retreat for teachers of Bethlehem school in Tauranga, speaker spoke of “canon with the canon” – we only use a small portion of the Scriptures. He said that we know nothing of the Minor Prophets except Micah 6:8! I don’t know whether that is true but today I am going to look at this well loved verse. Last time I looked at chapter six of Micah and dealt briefly with (v.8). I looked at the verse in the context of the chapter which, of course, is the way to expound Scripture, but I want to look at in isolation today. [READ 6:6-8] Verse eight stands out - it has done for centuries. The Jews noted it. The rabbis were attracted to it. The Law had become exceedingly complex, so many rules, there were 613 commandments and they had added to them. How do your remember them all? If you can’t even remember them how can you ever keep them? There was a longing for simplicity, to distil the law into some simple principles that captured the whole. Jesus did this pre-eminently: (Matthew 22:36-40 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”). But the rabbis saw in this verse a distillation of all that the Law required. This is what יהוה required of man. יהוה has a requirement of man, you see in the beginning God created and everything that he made was good, very good – that is, it was perfect. It had to be because that is who God is. He is good, goodness personified. Thus this is requirement of creation, that it be good. But we all know that man, very soon ceased to be good. But that didn’t alter God’s requirement, that man, the pinnacle of His creation, the only moral being he created, be good. God created man in His image – God is good and he requires that man be good. This is what יהוה seeks. יהוה is seeking something in man. Did you know that God is looking for something in you? You may have thought that your life was your own, that you can decide what you do with and the direction you take. No, God created you and He is seeking something in you. What is it that יהוה is seeking for in man? It is moral character. יהוה is looking diligently, searching for these qualities in man. He has shown us what it is that He is looking for in us – He has revealed it to us: justice, loving-kindness and humility. But it has not only been the Jews, over the centuries, Christians have also been drawn to this verse and the exalted view it upholds. There was a desire in the believer’s heart to please God and this verse encapsulated it. We want to please God don’t we? Well this verse tells us what He seeks, the standard that יהוה requires. He requires it of us individually – this is not addressed to the people as a whole, the “you” is singular - יהוה is looking for something in each of us, in you personally, each individual is accountable before יהוה! Nowhere in the rest of the O.T. is the type of religious devotion that God wants described in a more succinct and elevated manner. Love of God and man are inextricably connected in what can be described as the high water mark of religious thought of the O.T.. The message of the prophets concerning the desired conduct of Israel, which was preached over several centuries, can be boiled down to this verse (cf. Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Psalm 40:6-8 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”).
Do justice – It is justice or judgement. We are told [Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged] but elsewhere we are told to judge [1 Cor 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?]. When we exercise judgement it must be done with justice, and that is the connotation here – doing what is right and fair. יהוה seeks justice – He is Just and requires that His people be so also [Genesis 18:19 For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of יהוה by doing righteousness and justice, so that יהוה may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” Proverbs 21:3 To do righteousness and justice is desired by יהוה more than sacrifice]. Fairness, justice and it must be done. We are to do justly – that is to live with perfect fairness in all our dealings. We approve justice and fairness, but it is not just applauding and approving justice or even proclaiming and taking a stand for justice - יהוה wants the doing of it – getting your hands dirty, helping the oppressed, going in to bat for the underdog. The Bible speaks a great deal about caring for the widow and orphan – those with no one to uphold their cause, defend and provide for them – doing justice means helping them out practically [James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.. Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.] The message of the prophets was one of social justice, they cried out against the rich and their self centred ways. [Isaiah 58:6-11“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? ….. And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And יהוה will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Jeremiah 7:3-7 Thus says יהוה of armies, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Hosea 12:6 Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually. Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.] And Jesus was just the same: [Luke 11:42 But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.]. If we are God’s people we must be people of justice, concerned in a practical way with ensuring that the disadvantaged receive fair treatment. The Christians of the 19th century did great things in this regard – we as evangelicals have tended to stress the need to hear the Gospel (rightly so) and make derogatory remarks about those who preach a social gospel (rightly so) but in the process we have tended to neglect this area that is so important in יהוה’s sight.
Love loving-kindness – "Do justly and love mercy" - in judgement remember mercy. Justice is based on righteousness, ensuring that the disadvantaged get what is right, what they deserve. Mercy has to do with what we don't deserve. We sing the song, know the verse "Do justly and love mercy" but "mercy" is not a good translation - the meaning is not “mercy” but covenant love - a commitment to kindness, love, loyalty, faithfulness on the basis of a binding unbreakable agreement. Chesed - I said last time that it is akin to love in marriage. The KJV used a translation of the Greek translation and has done a grave disservice with this word because it is a key concept - the very nature of יהוה Himself [Exodus 34:6 Then יהוה passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “יהוה, יהוה God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands]. Chesed is my favourite Bible word. Although the meaning is not mercy it is a love that goes beyond what you deserve, very akin to grace - loves, gives is kind even when undeserved, even in the face of unfaithfulness and lack of love in return - it still loves. It is a giving love, selfless, it isn't reciprocal, dependent on the other's response - it is based on covenant commitment. Justice is a decision of mind but chesed goes beyond that - it takes heart - you have to love loving-kindness, delight in it, it can't be done grudgingly, out of obligation, or because it is required - you have to love it in order to carry it out because it is exceedingly costly. חסדּ - loyalty, covenant love, kindness, love, loyalty, faithfulness, marriage commitment. It is the key word in Hosea – prophet was told to marry a prostitute who committed adultery, the prophet was instructed to take her back and love her again – it was a picture of Israel who forsook יהוה for idols, yet He drew her back with chords of love. [Hosea 2:19“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion,] [Psalm 78:34-38 When He killed them, then they sought Him, and returned and searched diligently for God; and they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer. But they deceived Him with their mouth and lied to Him with their tongue. For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant. But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; and often He restrained His anger and did not arouse all His wrath.] יהוה demands LOVING-KINDNESS - loyalty. They are to delight in loving, kind commitment to others: חסדּ is a selfless word - a giving of yourself on behalf of others. [Proverbs 20:6 Many a man proclaims his own loyalty (חסדּ), but who can find a trustworthy man?]
Walk humbly with God – The word means to show a humble action, formally, act carefully, i.e., act in a manner respectful and careful of another’s direction, showing the quality of humility, implying wise behaviour. It is to be our walk – our habitual way of life, in fellowship with God. It was seen in Moses, a man closer to God than most. [Numbers 12:1-9 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married and they said, “Has יהוה indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And יהוה heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Suddenly יהוה said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. Then יהוה came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, יהוה, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of יהוה. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?” So the anger of יהוה burned against them and He departed.] Miriam and Aaron were prophets, they heard from יהוה but Moses walked with Him – spoke face to face with him. How did Moses get to such a place of intimacy with יהוה? - Moses was the meekest man on earth. Miriam and Aaron were proud of the revelation they received. Here is the principle by which God works: [James 4:6 “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”]. If we are to walk with the Lord, we need humility. But man is proud. As soon as he gets near to God he boasts of his position. But only the humble get close to God. [2 Chronicles 34:27 Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares יהוה. Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 66:1,2 Thus says יהוה, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares יהוה. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.] The people had asked, “With what outward thing shall I come before the Lord;” the prophet tells them, “what thing is good,” the inward man of the heart, righteousness, love, and humility. And what doth יהוה require (search, seek) of thee? - The very word implies an earnest search within. He would say, “Don’t concern yourself with things, for יהוה seeks not what you have but you yourself; not your substance, but your heart.” They asked what should I offer You? Offer yourself!”
It’s impossible! – Does it seem a big ask? Does it seem to exacting? Do you fall far short of this ideal? You are right! What יהוה requires is impossible! יהוה has shown us what is good [Matt 19:6 someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good;] there is none good but God: these qualities are only found in Jesus.
Jesus is just – Jesus did justice. [Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares יהוה, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. Psalm 72:2 May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice. Isaiah 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of יהוה of armies will accomplish this. Isaiah 32:1 Behold a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly]. Jesus did justice – the woman who committed adultery, He was the only One who had the right to execute judgement, but He showed mercy.
Jesus is abounding in loving-kindness – Jesus loved mercy, loving-kindness. He delighted in it [Psalm 40:8 I delight to do Your will, O my God] Delighted in doing God’s will, expressing His nature which is loving-kindness: [Galatians 2:20 the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.]. It was covenant love: [Matthew 26:26-28 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.]
Jesus is humble – Jesus walked humbly with His God. [Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Philippians 2:5-11 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.]
It’s no longer I but Christ – We cannot do what God requires – only Jesus can. He perfectly fulfilled the requirements of יהוה. How then can I do what God requires? How can I do justice, love loving-kindness and walk humbly with God? The only way is for Jesus to do it! For Him to live in and through me. [Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ 2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.] It is by grace, by faith, by the Holy Spirit, not by my fleshly efforts but by abiding in Him [John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.] And if it is Jesus who is doing it, I can take no credit for it. It is God’s work so all the glory goes to Him [1 Corinthians 1:29-31 so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”] It is all undeserved, the gift of God: grace [1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I laboured even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.] It is not in me, it takes a completely new and fresh creation of God [2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creation.]. Praise God for the new creation in the image of Jesus Christ who does in us what is pleasing to Him [Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.]