October 19, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Who Is Like Yahweh?
Shepherd of Your flock, restore Your wayward people; lead us again to green pastures and renew us beside the waters of comfort. Because of Your faithful care, we worship and praise Your holy name. Amen.
I read about a man named Andy this week. Andy was an interesting guy. He’d never been out of his home town until he went to college. He rarely showed any signs of emotion, but he had a great sense of humor.
Andy became a devoted Christian while he was in college, and often told people, “Just remember. Jesus loves me, and He loves you.” When he became angry, however, Andy would simply say in a deadpan fashion, with a completely straight face, “Just remember, Jesus loves me, and he sorta likes you.” But when things really went badly – I mean really bad, he would eventually throw up his hands and look at the sky and yell, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?”
Can any of you relate to Andy? Just looking up at God and pleading with Him, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?” I can testify, for a fact, there have been plenty of times when that was me!
We are in our sixth week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.
So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the 6th chapter of Micah, & see what it says about what God wants from me! And we will see that there is no one like Yahweh! Listen to God’s Word from Micah 6:1-8…. —-
1 Listen to what the LORD says:
4 “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
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.
Micah was the prophet of the downtrodden and exploited people of Judean society. He prophesied during a time of great social injustice and he boldly opposed those who imposed their power upon the poor and weak for selfish ends. As he preaches to the people, Micah himself raises the question that Andy asked – “Good God almighty, what do you want from me?”
Of course, Micah is a bit more poetic – “What does the LORD require of us?”
The context in Micah carries with it the sense that these people were hurting, and they came to God doing their best to meet every rule, to follow every church expectation, to even exceed the minimums. And yet, they suffered. They were still looking for a job; they were still fighting the courts; they were still diseased or injured or alone or afraid. Good God Almighty – what more could be hoped for ?
This third, and final, “Hear ye”-saying of this short book, says, “Listen to what the LORD says”, and then there’s a brief line up of the ways God has rescued the remnant, the ways God has delivered the Judahites, the ways God has saved the Israelites – from their own sin and from oppression from others.
Micah reminds them that there is no one like Yahweh! All we need do is trust Him.
Have you wondered this week, what does God expect from you? You recount the list – I go to church, maybe I even attend Bible study or Sunday School; or I sing in one or two or three of the choirs; I brought a bag of candy for the Trunk or Treat event; I brought a can of lima beans for the UGM Food Barrel; I made some cookies for Just-for-Fun; I serve on one of the boards, or I volunteer to do some activity on Sundays, or I try to give money when I can. What more does God want?
The answer Micah gives is not hard to understand. Micah 6:8 is one of the clearest explanations of God’s expectations of His people.
This is not the first, or only, time the Bible tells us what God expects of us. Way back in Deuteronomy 10:12 the same question is posed: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you?” In this passage the people had built their golden calf in the wilderness, and Moses came down the mountain with the second edition of the 10 Commandments, and the answer to this question is: “Fear the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good.” And Jesus references this passage in Matthew 23:23 where He criticizes the scribes and Pharisees, “Hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others!”
What makes this answer hard is not in the understanding – it’s in the actual doing!
So, what does it mean to “act justly”? I have a number of ideas here that I will throw at you – but first, let’s hear your voices. Name some ways you can do justice in the name of God:
• Recycle and don’t over use the earth’s resources – a fair share for all.
• Treat people of all races, nations, languages and classes as we would like to be treated.
• Work toward affordable housing for all who want/need a roof over their head.
• Improve the employment rate – job availability for every employable person.
• In our relationships, just be respectful and generous.
• When disputes arise, look for peaceful, respectful, trusting ways to reconcile.
• Keep our promises; don’t deceive or take unfair advantage of others.
• Forgive others when they fail at any/all of these ideas.
• “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and the on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
How does one “love mercy”? Name some ways you can love mercy in the name of God:
• Show compassion to the needy.
• Forgive others when wronged by them.
• Go out of our way to be helpful to someone, even a stranger.
• Welcome people into our church, our homes, our neighborhoods – even if the “fit” seems uncomfortable.
• Accept others as they are – not necessarily approve of them, but accept them in love.
• “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
What word should be emphasized in “walk humbly with your God”? In that phrase, “walk humbly with your God”, which word would you put the most emphasis?
• Walk – daily prayer, in every encounter, enact your faith.
• Humbly – respecting others as more valuable than yourself, and knowing that God is God, and we are not!
• With – not lagging behind God, and not running ahead of Him either.
• Your – claiming full allegiance to God and God’s ways, regular in worship, faithful in study, expressive in life; you belong in the House of the Lord!
• God – trusting ourselves to God in all of life’s “boundary experiences” – illness, grief, loss, pain, death; and praising God in all of life’s victories – health, gain, birth, life.
How do we walk humbly with our God?
• Live like we believe what we say we believe! – even when it is hard to do so!
• Be confident that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
None of this is easy – in fact it is impossible for any of us to live-out perfectly. But, thank God, it is not impossible with God in our lives!
Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God will not earn us a place in heaven – salvation still only comes by faith in Jesus Christ! We cannot save ourselves by doing enough justice, or being kind enough, or even by living lives of piety. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day – do you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and do you confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the dead? That’s how we gain salvation.
But this directive from Micah is also not an attack on church tradition or our participation in rituals and liturgies. It is merely an assault on doing those without faith!
Who is like Yahweh? No other faith in the world expects justice and mercy, even humility in our walk with God, to be a response to God’s perfect justice and full grace for His people. No other god is like Yahweh!
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr.; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL; 1988; Pp. 226-228.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 491.
Wingeier, Douglas E.; Troublesome Bible Passages; Abingdon Press; Nashville, TN; 1994; Pp. 40-44.