For Sunday, January 29, 2017
Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
All God wants is that we open our hearts to the amazing love he lavishes upon us. Micah 6:1-8 is an invitation to do just this.
I have a special love for this passage because Micah 6:8 is my favorite verse of the Bible. In fact this verse is largely responsible for inspiring my wife Heather and me to become missionaries in Irkutsk, Siberia for 10 years from 1994 through 2003. I distinctly remember when we first arrived at the Irkutsk airport. We had 10 big duffle bags (9 too many, but we didn’t know any better). We weren’t even sure if anyone was going to meet us at the airport. But we were there. God had done amazing things to get us there: he provided colleagues, funds, and training in Russian culture and language. Yet what a thrill to put our own two feet on the ground so long promised and hoped for.
This must have been how Israel felt when they crossed the Jordan river. Yet how soon we all forget and fall back into saying, “God, what have you done for me lately?”
Our passage alludes to this whole dynamic with the simple phrase, “and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal” (v. 5). In the Expositor’s Bible Commentary Thomas McComiskey, who was a Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School during my years there, does a wonderful job explaining just what happened. In this small stretch of what was a much longer and larger journey God defeated the Midianites (with whom Israel had been illicitly sleeping), stopped the flow of the Jordan so Israel could cross it on dry land, and then worked for them to bring down one of the great fortress cities of all time, Jericho.
A God who would do such things, even when we are sleeping with the enemy, is a God who really loves us! As McComiskey goes on to say, the context of the passage is God asking his people, “What have I done to weary you of wanting to love me?” (v. 3). The answer is nothing. The mountains and hills which have witnessed all things from the beginning of time (v. 2) know this to be true. They are the jury here.
Now if you were a people who had been rescued from slavery, rescued from a far-away foreign country (Egypt), given great leadership (in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam) (v. 4) – note that last one is a woman – if you were a people who had all of these blessings, how could you not fail to follow faithfully? What a bunch of dumbbells! Well, hello pot, meet kettle, whom you have just called black. This is us. We blow it persistently. We are broken but God is still unfailingly committed to blessing us.
In our honest moments, we will find ourselves saying, “Well, yes, God is indeed good, but how could I possibly thank him enough? Why even my firstborn son wouldn’t be sufficient thanksgiving!” (v. 7).
Here then is the kicker. God says, “Look, I don’t want your firstborn son. I don’t even really want your offerings. All I want is your heart. All I want is that you make an attempt each day to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with me (v. 8).
This invitation is so welcoming and so freeing, it’s remarkable. We can do this! In most situations, do we know what the right thing to do is? Yes, of course! Do we know what it would mean to be kind? Well, give us a minute, but sure! Do we know what it means to walk humbly? We certainly know it when we see it, and we can emulate what we’ve seen. So yes again.
“That’s it?” you say? “That’s all God wants?” That’s all God wants. So how do we give God our hearts. Here are three simple suggestions:
- Make your highest priority each day a personal appointment with your boss (the spiritual one – God):
- Read his Word. The lectionary is a great way to make this a habit.
- Journal. What’s happening in my life? What is God saying to me about it?
- Pray. The first step in humility is recognizing we can’t figure it out on our own.
- Create a daily reminder on your smart phone that says simply, “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly”. This alone will transform your life.
- Ask God to give you one random act of kindness to extend each day. It’s a blast.
God not only extends his heart to us corporately through his word, but he does it personally with each of us? Where and how has God done this for you?