Friday

10 July 2015

“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?” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 38: 10-22

Background

If you ever stand in a great cathedral or basilica, you cannot help but be overtaken by awe at its magnificent architecture, sheer scale and intricately crafted detail. Even if we do not feel entirely comfortable with such extravagance, we can understand the intent of its creator - to produce a building that communicates something of the greatness and majesty of the God in whose name it has been constructed.

We might be similarly inspired by other art forms - like a great musical anthem or contemporary worship gathering, each in their own way seeking to capture something of our sense of praise and adoration for God. Those who compose and lead such activity are also seeking to answer the questions - what does God require? How can we adequately respond to who God is?

These are questions that every generation and community of God's people have asked through history. The prophet Micah knew well the magnificent temple of Jerusalem and its surrounding citadel; a holy city, where a successful nation performed great and stunning rituals in celebration of God.

Yet the difficult and painful message that he bears is that their activities are inadequate.  Inadequate not because there is insufficient splendour, pomp and ceremony, but that this is not what God requires. Instead of being expression of living as God intends, religious festivals have become a substitute for it. People are so involved in doing things 'for' God that they have stopped listening 'to' God, so much so, that God's judgement is declared to the mountains and the hills (verses 1-2); if the people will not listen, perhaps the land will.

The people had done wrong; they may not have abandoned their great worship rituals, but they had abandoned the laws and principles of honesty, fairness and justice that God laid down as the foundation for their corporate life. To call the nation back to God did not involve more and greater acts of worship or expecting people to come flooding back to the temple in droves - but to re-embrace the values of God's kingdom in their everyday lives; summed up by the powerful words of verse 8 - "to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly".

Micah's words are no less challenging today; we can easily recognise equivalent injustice and wrongdoing in our own society. The call to God's people is not simply to engage in great acts of ceremony and festival, but to work to develop communities of justice, kindness and humility.

 

To Ponder

  • What does the Lord require of his people today? And what does the Lord require of you?
  • How often are we too busy doing things for God, that we stop listening to God?
  • To what degree can religious activity and routine become a substitute for working for justice, kindness and humility in our society?


Bible notes authors: Andrew Bradstock and Phil Jump (members of the Joint Public Issues Team: Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed Church and Church of Scotland working together)

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