“Hear, you 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. “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 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. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord .” 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? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, 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. – Micah 6:2-8
Although this passage does not technically have a water reference, except to “rivers of olive oil”, it contains one of my favorite passages of the bible. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to float this stretch of water. I guess life has just been happening, but I am back on the water today and I am excited to run this reach of the river.
The passage begins with an admonition to “Hear, you 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”. Now certainly this word was targeted at the people of Israel, but I think it was directed at all those who have come after as well. So let’s listen in and see what God has to say….
God is reminding the people of Israel, and us, of what He has done both to them and for them in their journey through the desert, as desert people, and in their days of exile. Then comes the truly deep water in this passage when God says “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” God is asking the people of Israel, and us, what the wages of sin are to be? God makes it clear in this passage that absolution does not come from calves, burnt offerings, or even rivers of olive oil. The solution to this seemingly irreconcilable separation from God is not in these earthly things but in God’s sacrifice and the obedience of our souls in response. So what does obedience look like?
Micah lays it out here in Micah 6:8. “He has shown you, O mortal, 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.” This passage contains the same summation of the law given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Obedience is about humility toward God, loving God with our heart, soul, and mind; and acting justly and with mercy in our treatment of others – loving our neighbor as ourselves. The tricky part about this is when we attempt to actually achieve these two items in practice. One of the first times I was exposed to Micah 6:8 was on a mission trip to Mexico when I was helping as a high school youth leader many years ago. We reflected on this verse as we traveled to Baja Mexico and helped to build a church floor and did activities with kids.
I can still remember the chaos when we attempted to do a craft with 100’s of small children in a very hot tin building. What began as a complicated craft quickly devolved into drawing smiley faces on kids fingers to make finger puppets using a sharpie pen. I did not know a lot of Spanish at the time, but I was able to communicate one set of words, “Jesús te ama”. Hopefully our actions were communicating the same thing. I think I learned through that experience that when we truly love God and others it will shine through in our actions. Even if our actions as flawed followers are imperfect and messy.
I think that is what Micah is trying to tell the people of Israel in this passage – walk humbly with God and love others with mercy and justice – even when you are not sure you are doing it “right”.
Prayer: God help us to walk humbly with You and love others as much as we love ourselves.