Hear now what the Lord says: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel. 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 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. 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 thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 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? (Micah 6:1-8)
The Cry Of The Prophets Are Unchanged
Reading the books of the prophets resonates with the heart of those seeking the favor of the Lord. Written in the long ago, the holy writ still pulses with the heartbreak of a rebellious people facing a merciful God. There is every reason under heaven for the Lord to completely annihilate the nation of Israel because of their stubborn will to follow the path of wickedness. Prophets like Amos bring a burning message of doom upon the leaders of the nation to no avail. Time and again the prophets plead and beg the people to turn to the Lord and the response they get is apathy; at times anger and oft times murder of the messengers of God.
Micah opens God’s court of law in pleading the case of the Lord versus the people. He reminds them of all the things the Lord has done for them – from the beginning. Creation is His first witness. The breath of life is held in the hand of God. When the morning breaks, it is by the will of the Creator. Everything that exists in heaven and earth is established by the command of the Lord. The people complained that God has been too hard on them. He begs to know why they feel that way. Why do they think He has wearied them and what has He done that would make them feel unloved? Which commands are burdensome? Is there anything that the Lord has not done for them that has not been for their good? The testimony of the Creator is manifest by the evidence of the world around them.
The Lord then turns to the history of the people. Have they forgotten where they were when the hand of God delivered them from bondage? History is an important part of believing in the Lord because it is there we learn the power of God and His might. The Lord God redeemed them – they did not do that themselves. They were in slavery and God brought them out by a mighty hand. He gave them leaders to guide them and protected them from enemies like Balak king of Moab. All of this was to show His righteousness! What evil can they find in the purpose of the Lord? There are many more examples in the history of Israel that show the might and supremacy of God in protecting the nation of Israel.
Worship had become a wearisome part of their life. The people were tired of putting forth the effort to do what God commanded them. They went through the motions of sacrifice and what a dreariness it had become. A burnt offering here, a calf there, and thousands of rams and rivers of oil and the heart of the people grew tired. They came, they assembled, they went through the motions and they went home. Life was not about service to God but about their own lives. What they had forgotten was what true worship was really like. He did not want the sacrifices as a token of their faith; He wanted their lives. The failure of the nation was to forget that life was about justice every day and showing mercy to his fellow man every day and walking every day before the Lord with a humble heart. Their religion had become an act. Like a prosthetic, the people put the robes of worship on to offer sacrifices and took them off until the next day of sacrifice.
The modern age of worship is little changed from the pleadings of Micah. Jesus built His church for the glory of His Father and buildings are filled with complacent, apathetic and bored children of God. Prosperity has clouded the mind with the things of the world so the heart easily forgets all that God has done. Long forgotten are those exciting days of redemption when salvation meant more than anything did. Every Sunday the masses go through the paces of worship in rote harmony of symphonic precision offering up the sacrifices of the five acts and going home as uninspired as the dead animals sacrificed on the altars of Israel.
God still wants the same as He desired in the long ago. A Christian should live each day seeking the justice of the Lord in everything he does. When he goes to work, when he seeks entertainment, as a part of a family and every part of life should be focused on the things that are just before God. Loving mercy is a daily walk and Christian’s should spend time in the word of God learning what mercy means so they can share that with their neighbors. Unfailing is the need for the people of God to be humble servants of the Lord. It is not about how many songs are sung, sermons preached or listened to or whether we take of the supper or pray in the right way; it is about the heart of man. Justice, mercy and humility are the traits of God’s people that love Him and want to serve Him in every way. The heart will lead the person to worship in the proper manner but without the heart worship becomes vain. What does the Lord require of you? Read the prophets and you will learn.
To know whom you worship, let me see you in your shop, let me hear you in your trade; let me know how you rent your houses, how you get your money, how you kept it and how you spent it. (Theodore Parker, Sermon, of Conventional and Natural Sacraments, 1849)