“What does the Lord require of you?” (Micah 6:8)

Pastor Ino

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Beginning today, we will read from the book of Micah. Micah was a prophet in the same time as prophet Isaiah. The name Micah is a short version of the phrase “Who is like Yahweh (the Lord)?” It’s a beautiful name. Recently I have gone to a few concerts of Bach’s church cantatas, and I heard a reference to the book of Micah in cantata number 45. So let me begin by quoting the verse from Micah that I heard in the song, Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Along with a beautiful melody, Bach has shared this word of God with many people through his song. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. This verse is one of the treasures of the Old Testament. Act justly and love mercy. Walk humbly with your God. That is the theme of the book of Micah.

Let us now read passages from this book. Chapter 1 verse 1: “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” Micah served at the same time as prophet Isaiah; he prophesied and witnessed the destruction of Samaria and also the destruction of northern Israel by Assyria. He also gave God’s message of judgment to the people of southern Judah because of their idolatry and lack of repentance.

Verse 2: “Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.” Micah uses the image of a courtroom to describe God declaring his will, like a judge announcing his judgment. God is like a witness as well, and because he best knows the hearts of people, he will deliver the right verdict. And this is his verdict:

Firstly, God will judge Samaria. As verse 5 says, “All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the people of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?” The northern kingdom of Israel has not turned back to God; its capital Samaria has been a city of idol worship, and so the people’s hearts have become depraved. Northern Israel’s bad influence came to southern Judah. So God declares in verse 6, “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations.” And verse 7: “All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire . . .” The temple gifts mentioned here are the profits earned by temple prostitutes. There were many prostitutes at the temple, who sold their bodies in front of the idols. This abomination was brought to light. God would bring righteous judgment on this nation.

Verse 9 says, “For Samaria’s plague is incurable; it has spread to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself.” Micah said that God’s judgment would extend from Samaria to Jerusalem. Truly, a nation whose leaders are depraved and selfish will experience misery. Even if they had once been the people of God, a chosen people, they can forget the God who created them. It is truly tragic. Unless southern Judah repents and turns back to God, they would meet the same end as Samaria.

Chapter 2 shows the intrigues of these leaders. Verse 2 says, “They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.” Instead of using their power for the people’s benefit the leaders are controlled by their greed. God brings their hearts to light. I hope that the modern day leaders of Israel will take God’s warning to heart. Next, verse 3 says, “Therefore, the Lord says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.” Not only northern Israel but also southern Judah was led by people who strayed far from God.

But something that stands out in chapter 2 is that, despite the condition of God’s people, there will be a remnant of people that God will preserve, lead, and use to do his work of restoration. Verses 12 and 13 say, “I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. The One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their King will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.” God’s harsh judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem is certain. But there will be a remnant of people preserved, whom God himself will lead, and a time of restoration will come. Brothers and sisters, we too are a remnant. The Christians in Japan are small in number. But no matter the condition of Christianity in Japan, the Lord Jesus will lead and go before us.

Chapter 3 verse 1 says, “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice?” This is justice based on God’s laws. In other words, righteousness based on God’s laws. In the Ten Commandments given through Moses, God’s will it is written, “You shall not make any idols. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony.” This is the kind of justice God is talking about.

Verse 8 says that our God is full of power, the Spirit of the Lord, justice and might. While, in verse 9, it says the leaders of the people do the opposite of what God wants. Verse 9: “Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right.” Those at the top of society have turned away from God’s law and doing what is right. And the rest of society follows their example. How can they be called God’s chosen people? Although called to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, the people of Israel were doing the opposite. That was the reality of Jerusalem, where prophet Micah lived.

Verse 12 says, “Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” Micah did not witness the destruction of Judah. But this is what God promised would happen.

Let us take a moment to return to our key verse, Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Let us repent if what we are doing is wrong, or if we have strayed away from God’s ways. Let us bring God back to the center of our hearts. Let us do what is right. Indeed, it is God’s will that we do what is righteous. Recently, the importance of church management has been discussed. It’s my hope that as Christians we will take more interest in the events happening in our society and in the world, and work towards justice in society. Management is important for this. God wants each of us to desire, pray for, and act in justice, in whatever situation we are placed in. Our God is full of power, the Spirit of the Lord, justice and might.

In addition, it is God’s will for us to believe in Jesus and live in God’s grace. We are to walk humbly with God. Let us aim to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. In my next sermon on the book of Micah, I will focus on verses that relate to the grace of our Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

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