These are the notes from from my sermon at FBC Chickasha on August 4, 2013.
Have you ever been in a relationship before, either with a friend, girlfriend or boyfriend, spouse, or maybe parent, and thought, “What do you really want from me??” Expectations in a relationship are very difficult to understand sometimes, especially if the other person doesn’t communicate well. There have been relationships in my life that have left me very, very frustrated because I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
Have you ever felt that way too? What about with God? Have you ever wondered what He really wants from us? Honestly, somedays I have sat and wondered, “Am I doing this right? What do you really want me to do?”
The truth is, God has told us time and time again in the Bible what He really wants. We simply forget it – a LOT.
The Bible tells us that what God desires, what He really wants, is a meaningful relationship – not a meaningless religion.
Let that soak in for a bit. This may be something you have heard quite a few times. But what does that really look like?
When I think about this idea, I consider meaningful relationships in my own life and what they would look like if I took that meaning away. Take a look at this video and see if you think this is a meaningful relationship or not.
Does that look familiar to anyone? That seems like a silly example of marriage, but doesn’t our relationship with God look like that week in and week out?
6 Hear what the Lord says:
Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth,
for the Lord has an indictment against his people,
and he will contend with Israel.
3 “O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
and redeemed you from the house of slavery,
and I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam.
5 O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,
and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
and what happened 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 myself before God on high?
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 thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O man, 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 is a “minor” prophet in the Bible, just because the length of his book. However, his messages were anything but minor! He spoke to Israel during a time of outward prosperity but inward injustice. Under David and Solomon, Israel had a golden age that slowly slipped away as time went on. Pressures from neighboring nations and shallow spirituality led the Jewish people into a different type of lifestyle. Money also became more prevalent in everyday life, which changed so many things.
Priests started doing sacrifices for payment. Merchants would use fixed scales to unfairly charge too much for what they were selling. Land used to be owned in several small sections by many people, but the growing materialism led to the rise of just a few landowners who employed workers at terrible wages. From this, many people were forced into poverty and poor lives. Crime went up along with corruption in the justice system.
Still, with all of this going on, people were still going through with the religious rituals of the day. Sacrifices and festivals were still going on. They were still “doing church,” as we would say today. But life for them did not reflect that at all.
And so chapter 6 in Micah culminates in this argument. Through Micah, the Lord asks the people, “What have I done to you to make you act this way?” God brings His case to the most ancient things in creation – the mountains and the hills. They act as the jury, because they have “seen” all that God has done.
But this question is actually a little silly and is intended to be. “What have I done?” is almost sarcasm, because God knows He hasn’t done anything but good to His people. He then goes on to talk about a few of the most memorable moments in His work for Israel – rescue from Egypt, Moses, protection from Balak who was trying to just get them cursed by Balaam, and all the victories in the Promised Land. The people had forgotten what God had done for them.
Verses 6-8 are the closing arguments in this discussion. Speaking from the perspective of the people, the question is asked, “What can we do to make up for all of this? Does God want…” and several over the top, outrageous religious offerings are mentioned. Calves were considered the most precious sacrificial animal. Thousands of rams? BARRELS of oil?? A firstborn child?
Is God asking for any of those? Not at all! The point is that these “things” are not what really matters. They aren’t what makes God happy.
I like how The Message paraphrase of these verses reads:
How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child,
my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
God says He just wants a meaningful relationship with His people. He is tired of this fake, phony duality between worship and life. People would bring a sacrifice then go out and cheat their customers or rob someone of his livelihood.
This is really an incredible truth about God. Yes, He did give His people commands and a way to live, but He wanted them to have meaning with His people. He was never interested in requirements to be met to enter into the “heaven club.” And they all get summed up in verse 8: do what is right, love how God loves, and follow Him more than yourself. That is what a meaningful relationship with God looks like!
And a relationship like that is meant to not just change you but the world around you! That’s why God was so upset here, because life was getting worse around the people, even in the midst of following “religion.”
Before we move on, let’s just break down this last verse to really understand what is being said. Do justice – do what is right, and care that what is right needs to be done. Love kindness – love people like God loves us, and know what that love is really like. Walk humbly with God – know God, and let Him be your Lord, the One who leads you! Put His ways before your ways.
Hopefully, you are beginning to see the parallels of life in this passage and life today. Aren’t we in the same spot? I mean, hundreds of people file into this church alone every week. A few thousand attend church services all over our community each week. But, does our city really the effects of that? Is Chickasha changed? How would you answer that question?
Let’s make it smaller. What about your neighborhood? Your street? Your workplace? Your family?
Just going to church isn’t the answer. Now, please hear me, it’s a big part of that! I’m not trying to devalue what we do here. Worshipping the Lord together each week is incredible. But fulfilling a requirement changes no one, starting with you.
Do you think your relationship with Christ is meaningful? Just going to church some throughout the week doesn’t make anything meaningful or honest. It’s easy to put on a happy face for a few hours. You can come be fairly fake in a Sunday School class or sanctuary. Then when you get home, that mask comes off and it’s back to normal.
So let’s just take those masks off right now. God wants you to be honest. Is your relationship with Him real and meaningful? Does knowing God change you and the world around you?
And church is not a place where you need to come and hide either! That doesn’t do anything for your relationships with others here. Meaningful relationships with other believers need to be authentic – they need to be real. That’s what real church is all about. If you want a show, go to the movies! We are not here for that, and God doesn’t want that.
He’s not interested in the show! He’s not interested in your “Sunday best.” Honestly, He doesn’t cringe like we do when stuff goes wrong in the worship service – when our “plans” fall apart.
I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on anyone here today, because that is not my job. And to be honest, this is going right back to me just as much as anyone. I’m pretty good at putting on my “preacher face” on Sundays. It’s easier to hide away all of my imperfections and not deal with anything. Life is much “smoother” then.
But if I can’t get real with God, then nothing is going to change. Not me, not anyone.
Where do we go from here? What would would our lives look like if our relationship with God was more meaningful? Do you feel like you are hiding from Him?
There isn’t a real a + b = c formula to making a relationship meaningful, but there are some things you can do to get started in the right direction.
- Do justly: what areas in my life do I need to correct to do the right thing and live how God wants me to live?
- Love mercy/kindness: Who in my life do I need to love like God loves me? Who around me can I serve, even if they do not deserve it?
- Walk humbly with God: What is my personal relationship with God like? How can it be better?
- Pray. I know you hear this all the time, but it’s true! In that video earlier, how much did I really talk to Courtney? What kind of relationship is that?
- Read the Word. Getting to know God more means spending time with Him and learning more about Him. Best way to do that? Read the Word, put it in your heart.
- Let truth intersect your life. Now, praying and the Bible do not really do much good until they find a real place in your life. In what ways does what you learn in the Word or at Church play out in real life?
- Let God lead. Follow God’s call and purposes in your life.
Today, there are many great truths for us in these few verses, but I hope that you see that God wants a meaningful relationship with us and not a meaningless religion. And you know, maybe you are here today, and your life has been lived in a meaningless pursuit. Maybe you’ve been chasing after “doing” all these things to be right, but you are missing the mark. And that’s okay! It’s good news, that Jesus wants us to follow Him! He died and rose again to fulfill that requirement that we could never achieve. He was the firstborn that God actually did give, like we saw in verse 7. The first step for you in having a meaningful relationship with Jesus is actually putting your faith and trust in Him, not yourself.
For all of us, let’s take a few minutes and reflect on what is saying to us through this. Maybe you need to come pray and take your mask off. Maybe you want to sit for awhile and write down what God is telling you about changes you need to make. Don’t wait to get real with Him.