Remember: The Lord is my Shepherd [so] I shall not want? Simple truths. Even so …
Micah 6:8 [New King James Version] ~ He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
“O man” … Who is that?! Without any qualification, it could be anyone, or everyman. But this is in the midst of a prophecy which God brings to the nation of Judah, a people in covenant with the Lord. The book of Micah ends with a reference to Abraham and Jacob, God’s promises sworn to the forefathers from the days of old. Micah 6:7 (just preceding our verse of interest) refers to people going through the motions of ritual worship (sacrifices, burnt offerings, oil, etc.). So this man God calls to attention (O man) is a person in public covenant with God; he is at least a professor (professing faith in God). That is critical, or we might be tempted to read this verse as a salvation formula: ‘Here it is, everyman ~ how to get right with God: Three duties, to merit heavenly entrance.’ NO! Rather, here are three faithful responses of the redeemed man toward his heavenly Savior. We could have cut to the chase by considering the end of our verse, Micah 6:8, where the Lord is called ‘your God.’
- Do justly. That is, do righteousness. Do what is right. In context, God has just mocked the empty rituals of animal sacrifice IF that worshiper has no interest in doing what is right in his life (as God determines the right). This is the same truth which God spoke to King Saul through His prophet Samuel: “To obey is better than to sacrifice.” In that Old Testament era, God did desire animal sacrifices, as a symbol of the worshiper’s faith in a coming Substitute, but without the inner resolve to do justice and to obey God in all the ways God reveals His truth to us, that wasted meat served to condemn the proud fake. So this comes to you today. We are not antinomian (against the Law of God). The Lord requires His people to do what is right and just.
- Love mercy. Desire more and more God’s grace, His lovingkindness to fill up your daily life, His tenacious love to support and surround you. And care to grasp from whence it comes ~ through Jesus Christ. And if you do love God’s mercy toward you, then you will more and more want to extend it to others, in two ways: Tell your friends, neighbors, and enemies about the gospel of God’s grace, and model it to them by extending mercy, lovingkindness, grace, and covenant love (even against merit). We can say this with full confidence, since there are separate Bible commands for us to love God, to love our brothers and sisters, to love our neighbors in need, and to love our enemies! The best translation of the word given as “mercy” here is ‘loyal love,’ what God displays to us.
- Walk humbly with your God. That is required, but go back to the full verse to see that, in the first place, it is GOOD. What is GOOD? Whatever God says is good and very good! Then God specifies: It is GOOD … when we walk humbly with Him. There is nothing better. I have a story to help seal this point: My grandson Drustan is the last great lover of trains (especially anything having to do with Thomas the Tank Engine)! Love is too slight a word for this; it is Drustan’s passion (waking or sleeping ~ his one desire; heaven, to his young mind at this point, probably looks much like a freight-yard terminus)! So at a recent Renaissance Festival, a young lady in a fairy costume approached little Drustan, offering to sprinkle him with fairy dust, which would empower him with three wishes for anything he wants. “Would you like me to do that?!” Drustan turned to look at his mother, with a confused expression on his face, then said to the ‘fairy’: “But I have trains at home!” Oh, to be so committed, focused, and undistractable! Not concerning trains … but about your God. Walk with Him, and that will be enough!
In these five January Sabbaths (2016), we are reviewing our priorities of: ministering to children, defending human life, pursuing holiness together, holding up the word of God, and spreading the gospel of God’s grace to the ends of the earth. Today, Defending Human Life. Like those silly “It’s What They Do” commercials, this is (simply) What Christians Do and have done throughout history ~ God’s people acting courageously contra mundum to protect and preserve the lives of ALL people, and to teach God’s truth about that value to the many:
- When Canaanite pagans were sacrificing their children to Moloch, Israelites were showing hospitality to strangers in their midst.
- When Romans were exposing their unwanted infants to the elements and to wild beasts, Christians were coming out of their catacombs at night to scoop up the helpless outcasts, adopt them, and bring them to Jesus Christ. Christians spoke out against the murderous gladiatorial games for decades, until a Christian emperor could finally outlaw them.
- It took way too long, but eventually Christians (like William Wilberforce within the British Empire) saw the evil hypocrisy of the sale of human beings into slavery based on race, and insisted that a Christian civilization must put all that away. Again, it took way too long, but it was Christian ministers, largely, who led in effective civil rights gains so that basic human rights could be enjoyed by people of all races.
- While Darwinistic naturalism eventually led “educated” moderns to devalue human lives as purposeless products of time and chance, Christians continue to say contra mundum that we are made (together and individually) in the image and likeness of God, intelligently designed.
- So as eugenics becomes a working option for naturalists (scientifically manipulating the human species in order to give evolution a boost), Christians have insisted that the supposed benefits of genetic tampering be held in check by a humble stance and by care for the weakest among us.
- Godless forces enjoyed a temporary win in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling of 1973 as that legalized abortion in the United States. But in the 43 years since then, those holding to a Biblical ethic see in each individual fetus God’s handiwork, leading to protective legislation and care centers and a more life-welcoming culture. Yet much work remains: More vigilant now, observe how we did not throw a party over China’s new TWO child policy!
- And while huge industries like pornography (amazingly enjoying “freedom of expression” status) and human-trafficking (still skulking in the dark shadows) benefit from ignorant devaluation of certain human lives (simply to be used and abused for the pleasures of those who are wealthy enough), we push in the power of the Lord of life for accurate assessment of value ~ for all.
Once one opens the Bible and takes it seriously, it is easy to see this perspective which will always bless all humanity and dignify its weakest members. After all, the institution of the hospital, the profession of nursing, and the impetus behind so many medical advances and respect for the disabled and the advance of literacy came historically from the Bible’s view of high human value. Our critics read this Book lightly, see that it tells of Heaven and Hell and Eternity, then accuse us of being so other-worldly that we are of no-earthly-good. Jesus taught and lived otherwise, and so have His disciples. In fact, Jesus taking to Himself a real human body puts such life in proper light, and then His raising up of Dorcas (who merely cared for/about widows) by His Spirit’s power seals the life-affirming message!
So while investing generously in our neighboring Pregnancy Care Center [http://www.pcclawrence.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pcclawrence/] is our simplest application (to work out our own high valuation of human life), that is merely the tip of the iceberg concerning our contra mundum mission.
Not quite the same as New Year’s Resolutions, for a body like a church it is essential that we remind one another (at times like this, the beginning of a new year) about our priorities … Why We Do What We Do. This month (January of 2016), God is generously giving us five Sabbaths, so I will hold up for attention our priorities of ministering to children, defending human life, pursuing holiness together, holding up the word of God, and spreading the gospel of God’s grace to the ends of the earth.
Motivating our congregation’s ministry to children this year is nothing ~ except the entirety of Scripture! Jesus refers to the Old Testament as “the law, prophets, and Psalms” … all of which teach us to care about the spiritual education of our children. The New Testament (as Gospels, history, and epistles) continues that same theme.
- Do you know why God chose Abraham? Genesis 18:19 ~ For I have chosen [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.
- Concerning “the Law,” what is the first commandment with a promise? Exodus 20:12 ~ Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. And haven’t we seen the hard side of this promise … how a nation with disorderly families cannot prosper or even live?!
- What was the first Scripture portion which a Hebrew toddler memorized? The Shema (in Deuteronomy 6): Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! Love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind. Teach these words diligently to your children and talk about them as you sit down and rise up.
- The psalmist chimes in on the theme of God’s great blessing of children (in the midst of pagans who were glad enough to sacrifice their children to idols). Psalms 127 & 128 remind us poetically that the Lord builds the house (family), that children are His gift, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. Happy is the home with many little olive plants gathered around the family table.
- The Old Testament closes (and I mean, in the very last verse of thousands) promising a Messiah who comes with a ministry of reconciliation, phrased thus: He will restore (bring back together) the (once estranged) hearts of fathers and children (Malachi 4:6).
- So the Messiah comes. And in the Gospels, we see the Promised One calling children to come to Him. Of such is My Kingdom. Matthew 19:14 ~ Do not hinder the children from coming to Me.
- A famous sermon marks the sending of Christ’s Holy Spirit into Christ’s people, their Power to spread His good news into His world. Acts 2:39 ~ The promise is for you and your children and for those far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. This reminds us of God’s call of Abraham, in terms and means.
So without diminishing our zeal for personal sanctification, and vigorous evangelistic outreach to the lost in our own community, and generous missions the world over … let us resolve (in 2016) to love children well. Specifically, let us bring them before God’s means of grace. And practically:
- Pray daily (for Biblical, four-fold growth: in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God, and in favor with man).
- Speak naturally about the omnipresence of your God and your highest commitment to Him.
- Live credibly, as a Christian investing contra mundum (looking to a different city).
- Confront responsibly, as you interact with your children (and this includes admonition and discipline).
- Give generously to the children’s ministry functions of our congregation, presbytery, and denomination.
- Prompt boldly, calling even the little ones to ponder their specific gifting and future ministry possibilities.
- Educate holistically, showing that (and how) Jesus Christ is the rightful Lord over everything.