So what does God want from his people? What is God looking for? Micah is a prophet who is telling the people that their sins have brought judgment upon them from the Lord. They have acted wickedly. They are clinging to idols rather than trusting in the Lord. They are oppressing other people. They are taking the possessions of others and harming the weak. The leaders are oppressing the people rather than giving justice to the innocent. The prophets preach their message for money rather than according to the will of the Lord. In each message, Micah has declared a coming judgment for their sinning and a future restoration once the judgment is complete. But what does God want? Why is God judging? The answer that the Lord gives to Israel teaches us much about the character of God and what God wants from us.
The Lord’s Case (6:1-5)
The Lord begins with imagery of bringing the people of Israel into the courtroom. The Lord says that he is going to plead the case he has against Israel before all the earth. He has an indictment against his people. The opening argument from the Lord is presented in verse 3. “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!” The question is very simple. What has the Lord done that you have decided to leave him? What has God done to make your life a burden? What is your difficulty that you have with the Lord?
In verses 4-5 the Lord defends himself. The Lord declares that he brought them out of Egypt. He redeemed them from their slavery. He sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead them from their slavery. Not only did the Lord set them free from their slavery in Egypt, the Lord wants the people to remember what he did for them after the exodus. Remember the evil that Balak the king of Moab plotted against you and remember what Balaam the son of Beor answered. This is reminding the people about what is recorded for us in Numbers 22-24. Balak, the king of Moab, had hired Balaam the prophet to pronounce curses against Israel. As much as Balaam wanted to pronounce these curses for money, he recognized that he could only proclaim the words the Lord put in his mouth. So every time Balaam attempted to pronounce curses, blessings on Israel came out of his mouth. The Lord wants the people to remember this. I set you free and when people tried to harm you with curses, I turned those curses into blessings. Finally, the Lord says to remember what happened on their journey from Shittim to Gilgal. This is telling the people to remember the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River and the miraculous victory over Jericho.
God’s declaration is very simple. All that he has done for Israel is take care of them. All that he has ever done is give them blessings and keep his covenant promises. How has God been a burden to you? How has God been a weariness to you? He set you free from your slavery. He gave you the leaders you needed to succeed. He blessed you on your journey. He conquered your enemies. He performed miraculous acts to see God’s love and power toward you. How has God wearied you?
God could have the same indictment against us when our lives look like the people of Israel. When we act like it is such a weariness to be a Christian, God has a charge against us. When we act like it is such a burden to worship him or give our lives to him, God has a case against us. How has the Lord wearied us? How can we possibly think that the Lord has been a burden to our lives? The Lord has set us free from our slavery to sin. The Lord gave us the leaders we need in Jesus and the apostles so that we can succeed. The Lord has blessed us on our journey to the promised land. The Lord has conquered our enemies and performed miraculous acts as seen in the resurrection of Jesus to show his love and power toward us. How has God wearied you? We might think that these mighty works were thousands of years ago. But those are to continue to be the points that we look to for God’s faithfulness. This is what Micah is telling Israel. It had been around 800 years since the exodus. But God wanted them to continue to look back to that exodus as the defining moment for their lives.
What God Wants (6:6-8)
So what is God asking for people to do? You might be surprised at the rhetorical questions that Micah asks on behalf of the Lord in verses 6-7. How does God want us to come to him? Does God want a bunch of burnt offerings when you come into his presence? The implied answer is no. Would God be pleased if you came to him with thousands of rams for offering to him? The implied answer again is no. Should you bring 10,000 rivers of oil to him? No, that is not what God wants. Does God want you to give your firstborn child for your sins? Yet again the implied answer is no.
God does not want you to do the impossible. God is not asking for that. God is not asking for you to do something that is outside of your ability. Neither is God asking you to perform a bunch of religious acts. Often the religious world defaults into this kind of thinking. I will perform a bunch of acts to gain God’s approval. I will go to church every week. I will give more money to the Lord. I will do this and do that. But this is not what God is looking for his people to do either. God is not asking for his people to turn him into some sort of pagan god that needs appeasing. He is not the volcano god that needs a sacrifice before he erupts all over the people. Neither is God impressed with your extravagant gift or religious actions. You must not think of the Lord God as if he is like what humans have created to be gods. So what does God want? Look at verse 8.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV)
God is not asking you to do the impossible. God is not asking for a bunch of religious activity. God wants you to do right by people, love kindness and mercy, and live a humble life with God. This is how God wants people to respond to him. Verse 6 asked how should we come before the Lord. Verse 8 is the answer. You come before the Lord, not with your gifts and sacrifices, but with your humble heart that loves mercy and does what is right. What is our response to a world of wickedness? What is our response in a world of sin and injustice? What does faithfulness look like in a broken world? Our response is to not act like the world. Our response is to be different. Our response is to show life transformation to the world. We will do what is right and fair by people. We will show mercy and kindness. We will walk in humility with the Lord. Jesus said the same thing when he was teaching the people.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23–24 ESV)
Notice that Jesus highlights the same points that Micah highlighted to the people of Israel. We must never miss the need for us to do right, show mercy, and faithfully follow the Lord in humility. Jesus warns about focusing on other details of God’s law to such a degree that you miss the big E on the spiritual eye chart. God wants justice, mercy, and faithfulness while not neglecting what God has commanded us to do.
This is an important teaching for today that we need to consider. We have the tendency to swing between two extremes in efforts to approach God. Notice the scribes and the Pharisees approach to God was to focus on the details, but failed to show justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord. This was the problem in Micah’s day where they maintained their sacrifices but did not love the Lord. People will do the same today, focusing in great detail on the commands and details of God’s law, but fail to live right, love mercy and grace, and walk in humility with God. So the pendulum gets pushed to the other extreme. Now all the matters is that we love people, live right, love mercy, and be humble to the exclusion of details. So now how we worship does not matter. The details of obedience to the Lord now no longer matter. None of the details are considered because all that matters is that we love God and love people.
I want us to see that Jesus says you need both. Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for paying attention to the details of God’s commands. Rather, he condemned them for neglecting the weightier parts of the Law in order to focus on the details. Jesus did not say to stop focusing on the details. Jesus said you should have done both. God wants us to be so captured by how he rescued us from our slavery to sin through our leader, Jesus, that we will desire to do right, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord. Walking humbly with the Lord means listening to what he says to do. Humility before the Lord means obedience to the Lord. It is arrogance on our part when we do not obey him because we are saying that we know what God really wants or what really matters. Love, justice, mercy, and humility are to lead us to focusing on God’s ways and listening to God’s teaching. This is what Micah proclaimed in the last prophecy. God’s remnant people will have the idols cut from their hearts (5:10-14) and they will seek to be taught by the Lord so they can follow in his paths (4:4).
Does this weary us? Has God done so little that we cannot be bothered to listen to God’s ways and follow in God’s paths? Has God done so little that we cannot be bothered to pay attention to the details of God’s law? Has God done so little that we ignore doing right to others, showing mercy to others, and walking humbly with the Lord? Does God have a case against us? Have we followed in the path of Israel and are worthy of judgment because our lives do not reflect what God desires? God is not asking for us to do the impossible. God is not asking for a bunch of mindless religious acts. God wants your heart to be changed to love him, love others, and follow what he has told us to do.