January 25-27, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Micah 6:1-8
“YOU BE THE JUDGE!”
1. Consider the Charges
2. Consider the Evidence
3. Consider the Verdict
4. Consider the Response
Micah 6:1-8 (NIV1984) “Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2Hear, O mountains, the LORD's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3"My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember [your journey] from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD." 6With 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? 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He has showed you, O man, 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.”
Are you as fascinated with crime and courtroom drama as the rest of America seems to be? Law and Order, CSI, Dateline, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown. They are everywhere. Well, whether you like that stuff or not today God’s Word pulls you into a courtroom drama and whether you want to or not you get to be the judge. Here’s some of the background to the case. The prophet Micah served God at the same time as the prophet Isaiah, so you are around 700 before Jesus came. It was time of relative prosperity for the Jewish people. There was no immediate threat of an invading army. The economy was doing OK. God was physically blessing the people. But God was not happy with His people.
Consider the charges. “Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2Hear, O mountains, the LORD's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3"My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.” Did you hear the tone in God’s voice? It’s the unmistakable tone of betrayal. Anyone here who’s been backstabbed by a friend knows this feeling. Or if a boy finds his girl is dating another guy. Betrayal hurts. “What did I do to deserve this?” God asks. Now that’s dangerous for people to ask because we don’t always treat each other right. Rarely is someone 100% innocent. But God can ask, “What did I do wrong?” He can because He does everything right. Listen to what He did for these people. “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. 5My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember [your journey] from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD." What had God done to harm His people? Nothing. He just helped them. When they were caught up in oppressive slavery in Egypt He rescued them. When they needed good and faithful leaders He gave Moses, Aaron, Miriam. When Balak the king of Moab tried to have Balaam curse them God made Balaam bless them instead. At Shittim when they people sinned sexually with the Moabites and joined in their idolatry God chastened them with the poisonous snakes, listened to their repentant cries and stayed faithful though they didn’t deserve it. He brought them to Gilgal, the Promised Land even though the history of that journey records repeated cases of whining, complaining, bucking their God given leaders. That’s what God had done and Israel responded with unfaithfulness and betrayal. Those are the charges.
The evidence? Hear O mountains. Let the hills listen. Those people must have hated God calling on these witnesses. It’s kind of like saying, “If the walls could talk.” When a pastor walks into the school restroom and the 4-5 boys in there stop talking and quickly exit, he might wonder what he would hear if the stalls could talk. The mountains, the hills. What had they seen? They had seen these people pay lip service to God in their worship, bored at the type of worship God desired and required that pointed them again and again to their need for a Savior. The hills witnessed the people dancing around the Asherah poles or flopping around in their fornicating worship of various Baals because that was more fun. They had seen the prosperity God had blessed His people with taken for granted with no mercy or care for their neighbors in need. There’s the evidence of betrayal and unfaithfulness.
The verdict? What say you? You be the judge. Guilty! It’s as plain as day. They were guilty of betrayal and unfaithfulness.
Their response? “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? 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Not quite the response you’d expect from someone who has just been found guilty of sin. They show they are only in an outward relationship with God. They’re trying to bribe him. “OK. Lord what do we have to do to make this go away? Do you want more offerings, is that the deal? Shall we make human sacrifices? What do we have to do to get you off our back?” You be the judge. Is this how God’s people should act?
But now remember that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Why does God want us reading this word today? It’s so that we are warned.
Are there some charges God could bring against us? Betrayal and unfaithfulness? "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.” If we have been unfaithful what has God done to deserve this? When our country was attacked by terrorists on 9/11 many people including Jacobi flocked to church and cried out to God and He has protected us. When the housing bubble burst and the recession set up many people in America including us asked for the Lord to help and He has. He preserved us and our families even though it meant tightening the belt. How often haven’t we cried to God when sickness or hospitalization came and He helped us? Even though we often leave our Bible gathering dust, God stays faithful. He has not removed His word from us. What has God done to deserve unfaithfulness? Nothing. He’s only been good.
What about the evidence? If the walls could talk what would they say? Well if the church walls talked they would say that our highest attendance of our members ever and the highest percentage of our members regularly in worship was immediately after the Twin Towers were destroyed. But that since then regular worship of the Lord has gradually slipped. They would say that the generation of God’s people for whom weekly worship was a given is being replaced by generations that feel once or twice a month is good enough. Who regularly put something else, be it sleep, hobby or kids’ activities as a higher priority than God and God should be happy with that. They would say that the consumer mentality that is used so effectively to get us to buy things is now evident when God’s people worship so that the things of God that point out the need for a Savior, like confession and the Law, and that point to Jesus like the Gospel message in absolution, Baptism Lord’s Supper, well frankly that’s boring and what’s really important is what I like. So the idols we worship don’t have funny names like Baal or Molech but regular names like Tim or Paul, Mary or Jane as we each worship the god called ME. And what if the walls of our homes and cars talked? What would they reveal?
It’s time for the verdict. We know what it is. Guilty. Hold it. Not Guilty! How can that be? Actually we are little different than the people Micah preached to. We aren’t just God’s people on the outside, we are on the inside too. While the thought of a Savior to come was not enough for those people we are grateful that someone did sacrifice His firstborn for the transgression of our souls. God did. Jesus took away our sins. He covered the evidence with His holy precious blood. Not guilty.
And that changes our response. We are not going to pompously try to buy God off or think we can appease Him by trying harder. We know that the sacrifices God desires are broken hearts and that humbled sorrowful hearts God does not despise. So our response is simply this. We are sorry. We are sorry for apathy and poor priorities. We are sorry for taking God for granted, for getting bored with things that point out our need for Jesus and point us to Jesus. We are sorry for asking for help and forgetting to say Thank you. We are sorry. And God forgives us.
And now we are ready to respond in another way. 8He has showed you, O man, 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.” That’s our life of sanctification. Act justly. Follow the commandments. Love mercy. Grateful for the mercy God has shown us we extend mercy to other people. Walk humbly with God. God is God. we are not. We will serve and worship Him. We will expect to entertain Him and worship, not Him us. And then we can serve God and others in another way. The Epiphany season highlights Jesus revealed as the Savior of the world. Let’s show people by how we act that following Jesus is not just another set of rules but about God who loves and forgives and people who respond by willingly acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. Amen.