Tag Archives: justice

A call for expository preaching

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Baptism of Christ“, mid 12th century Cappella Palatina di Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

When we read God’s word, or preach and teach it, it’s important that we come to own what we’re reading, and that our hearers come to own it for themselves. We ought to meet people where they are, yes, but also lead them to where they need to be. Where we need to be is with Jesus and on his mission. As for preaching, I prefer the expository method because it still seems to be the best vehicle for accomplishing these ends.
Here is an expository sermon outline for one of next week’s Lectionary readings, Isaiah 42:1-9:
We are called to bring justice to the nations through Jesus.
4 aspects of Jesus’ ministry of justice:
As the servant of God the Father (v. 1)
  • Upheld (v. 1a)
  • Chosen (v. 1b)
  • The delight of his Father’s soul (v. 1c)
Working according to the Father’s heart (vv. 2-4)
  • Softly (v. 2)
  • Graciously (v. 3)
  • Resolutely (v. 4)
Leading God’s people
  • Called in righteousness (v. 6a)
  • As a light to the nations (v. 6b)
  • To heal and liberate (v. 7)

With the seal of divine authority

  • His name (v. 8a)
  • His exclusive glory (v. 8b)
  • His ability to foretell the future (v. 9)
If you were preaching or teaching this passage, what approach would you take, and why?
For me, it is incredibly encouraging as a New Year begins to realize that Jesus is and will bring justice to the nations. How we all need this, whether in the U.S, Russia, Syria, Israel, Iraq, or anywhere else. How amazing it is that we carry a message that actually is good news to EVERY people upon the earth, because one day, it’s all going to come together, in a way that affirms the best in all of us.  Where and when in your life have you already experienced glimpses of this future reality?
I’ll be visiting the U.N. and meeting some world leaders in February. This might be a very encouraging message to share with them.
Happy New Year!

Lenten reflection on a life verse

For Sunday, February 21, 2016
2nd Sunday in Lent

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8

This is my life verse.  On my tombstone may it read, “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”  As we’re on this Lenten journey I decided to reflect further on what’s really here.  I’m in both the Hebrew and Greek 10 minutes a day clubs on alternating weeks.  (To join, just commit to spending 10 minutes a day in the given language).  I have a calendar entry on the top of each Monday to remind myself.  During my recent Hebrew weeks I’ve been exploring Micah 6:1-8 in depth.  There is so much here.  For today I’ll confine myself to the three key terms in verse 8: justice, kindness, and walking humbly.

The Hebrew word translated “justice” is ‘mishpat‘.  I like to remember key Hebrew words because when I run across them multiple times they become friends with a depth and range of meaning that can’t be conveyed directly from one language to the next.  ‘Mishpat‘ carries with it the idea of true religion manifesting itself in social concern (Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC)).  As Christians we need to be known what we’re for more than what we’re against.  One of the things we’re for is justice.  This means a culture in which every person is valued for the image of God in them and in which every person is encouraged to thrive.  I recently visited a Milwaukee ministry called “Word of Hope“.  Pastor Cliff said, “Our job is to take away every excuse a person has to fail.  If they need a job, we’ll help them find one.  If they don’t have a ride to get there, we’ll arrange one.  If they have some underlying issues that prevent them from keeping that job, we’ll work through that with them.”  This is the justice of the gospel in action.  “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

The Hebrew word translated “kindness” is ‘hesed‘.  I first became friends with this word in seminary when studying the book of Ruth with Dennis Magary.   If you ever have a chance to study with Dennis take it!  The kindness that Ruth extended to Naomi, that Boaz extended to Ruth (and vice versa), and that God extends to us through Ruth’s grandson King David and then on through Jesus is this very word ‘hesed.  It’s God’s unfailing love.  God is saying, “I’ve got your back.”  It’s my Russian missionary colleagues putting $200 in our bag to enable my wife Heather and me to purchase a snowsuit for my son Karcher that we otherwise couldn’t afford while in Siberia.  ‘Hesed’ can cause tears of gratitude to well up in your eyes.  ‘Hesed’ is also reciprocal.  When you’ve experienced it you can’t help but extend it to others because every time you do you experience it again.  To fail to show ‘hesed’ was to break the covenant and to break the covenant was to reveal that you were never part of it in the first place (EBC notes).

The phrase “to walk humbly” is based on two Hebrew words.  The first, ‘tzana’, means “to be humbled” as an extension of acting in a cautious manner (Kohlenberger / Mounce).  A derivative appears in Proverbs 11:2:  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (EBC).  So many of us live in pride: so few of us live with wisdom.  Humility is the difference.  The second Hebrew word used here meaning “to walk” is ‘halak’.  God wants us to ‘halak’ with him because he is already and always ‘halak’ing’ with us.  It is as Eph. 5:15 says: “Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, because the days are evil.” So putting it all together, “to walk humbly” is to live intentionally in view of God’s glory and presence in our lives.

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.  This is a high calling both glorious and fulfilling.  Where is the path on which we will flourish?  Right here.

Your turn

  • Do you have a favorite or life verse and what brought you to it?
  • What would you like written on your tombstone?
  • How can Lent helping you reconnect with your own life verse and calling?