Saturday, July 25, 2015

What God Wants

Scriptural Reading: Micah 6:3-8
Devotional Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-22

We were born in sin and shaped in iniquity. (Ps 51:5) I used to wonder what that simple Biblical truth meant. Each of us has watched that newborn come from the hospital. Almost everything they do is cute. You just want to have them smile for a picture for your photo album, family, and friends. Pretty soon the newborn, as a toddler, begins to hear the word “no”. They keep smiling. Parent(s) ultimately decide they must do something to make their children understand their “no”. As King Solomon wrote in Prov 22:6, they are to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV) Why should parents feel threatened to go in a department store for fear of how their child may act in the toy or cereal section? It is the same if that child grows and no longer has a desire to go to school or come to church. Parents have been placed in charge of the welfare of that child until they are of adult age. We live in a society where parents are threatened by laws created by man in the best interest of children. Yet there is a biblical way. And parents cry out their love for their children despite such laws and in any situation. Such is the case with the Almighty Father. He had trained His children, the Israelites. Now He must cry out against their idolatrous self-interests and injustice.

This quarter of study is entitled “God’s Prophets Demand Justice.” We are in Unit II – “Micah Calls for Justice Among Unjust People” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third of a four-lesson study focusing on what God requires for justice.

It can’t be said that God had not told the children what he wanted. He had done just that many times. In Deuteronomy 10:12-16, the prophet Moses recorded His requirements, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” (NKJV) As the Prosecutor and Judge, God hauls Israel into court for their blatant disobedience. Through His vessel Micah He commands Israel to plead a strong case before the foundations of the world. The mountains and the hills have witnessed everything the LORD has done for Israel and everything required in exchange. Can Israel even plead a case against God before the foundations of the world that would not expose their stupidity? Yet God makes an appeal to the rocks, which does not have ears, to hear and cry out, because Israel which has ears is refusing to hear and obey God’s commands. (Micah 6:1-2)

The LORD has said He has a controversy with Israel and brings them into court. Then He does something very surprising. Instead of lodging a charge against them, He says, “What am I guilty of?” In Micah 6:3-5 we see God pleading with His people, “O, My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me. For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled, And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, From Acacia Grove to Gilgal, That you may know the righteousness of the LORD.” (NKJV) God is humble. He knows He has done nothing for Judah to be disloyal to Him. Parents might ask a similar question. They have never been parents and there is no manual for the perfect parent, although books have been written.

But God knows He has done nothing to wrong the Israelites. He reminds them how He brought them out of slavery in Egypt and then sent godly leaders Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to be before them. The LORD declares in Exodus 7:1, So the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.” (NKJV) And the women followed Miriam in the wilderness as witnessed in Exodus 15:20, Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” (NKJV) Although they were not perfect, they were faithful until the end. Their faithful service does not describe the wickedness of the Israelite leaders in Micah’s day. (NKJV) God wanted them to keep in their minds fresh memories of the day of their deliverance.

He wanted them to remember how Balak, king of Moab, had it in his heart to do harm against the Israelites in their journey to the Promised Land. Balak contracted for the services of Balaam to curse the Israelites. But God has power over their enemies and caused each of Balaam’s curses to be a blessing. God wanted them to remember how they were delivered from the place where they last camped (Shittim), and crossed the Jordan River, which was at flood stage, to dry land. They then camped in Gilgal when they reached the other side. Had they forgotten these miraculous deliverances?

The Israelites are guilty and convicted of injustice and ingratitude against God. Their guilt is too great to be denied. Therefore, they wish to be at peace with God and begin negotiating with a series of questions. By focusing on what God demanded from His people they were in essence asserting that they had been complying with what the Law of Moses required. To reconcile with God their inquiry is noted at Micah 6:6-7, With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousands rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (NKJV) In verse 6 the Israelites have been convicted and want to know how to communicate with God. They realize they must bow before Him and inquire what it will take to please Him. What must be given for the transgression and how can they be saved?

The first answer explored is that one should come before the LORD with burnt offerings. (Ex 29:38-43; Num 28:1-8) The daily requirement is “two lambs a year old without defect” (Num 28:3) Calves a year old would be even more valuable. Burnt offerings were the most basic of the offerings commanded. (Lev 1)

However, the Israelites’ proposals began to betray them. God required one ram for a sin offering. Their question continues with a high bid to impress God in numbers. What about thousands of rams or even ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Such oil accompanies certain offerings (Ex 29:1-2; Lev 2:1). Then the most radical and unacceptable offer was made. They offered their firstborn in exchange for their transgression. This was nothing but child sacrifice as practiced by other pagan religions. It was strictly forbidden by God. In Deuteronomy 12:31 it is recorded, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (NKJV) So what does God really want?

The Israelites had not bid right. God had often declared it was better to obey than to sacrifice. This is what is seen when Micah explains in verse 8 what God wants, He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NKJV) Money won’t buy a pardon from God. Sacrifices won’t buy a pardon from God. God wants us to be righteous and just in our dealings with our neighbors. He wants us to have mercy, love, and compassion for each other. God desires that we not only walk in humility with Him, but have a love of humility. It is best to remember the Golden Rule and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How much better would our lives be if we seek the common good of justice for neighbors as we extend loving mercy to them while conducting ourselves humbly before God?

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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