What, If Anything Does god Want From Me?
September 25, 2016
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DOES GOD WANT FROM ME?
September 25th, 2016
In the window of a store, an antique dealer noticed a mangy kitten lapping milk from a saucer. The saucer he recognized to be a rare and very valuable piece of pottery. He went into the store and offered to buy the kitten for $ 100. The store owner said, “the kitten’s not for sale.” “Look,” said the antique dealer, “that kitten is dirty and I doubt anyone else will want it, but I like, and I’ll give you $ 200 for it.” Reluctantly, the store owner agreed to the deal and collected the $ 200. The antique dealer then said, “You know, for that price, would you mind throwing in the saucer? The kitten seems so happy drinking from it?” “Are you kidding,” said the store owner. “That’s my lucky saucer. So far this week I’ve sold 34 stray cats who were drinking from it.”
We are in a series of messages from the book of Micah, one of the so-called Minor Prophets, which is a collection of 12 books that make up the last section of the Old Testament.
As I spoke about last Sunday, the prophet Micah lived in a very tumultuous time because of the rapidly expanding Assyrian empire.
The Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III invades and subjugates the kingdom of Israel in 738 BC. Only 16 years later (722/721 BC), his son Sargon II destroys Samaria, the capital, and destroys Israel as a nation and kingdom.
And then, 20 years after that, Sargon’s son Sennacherib, besieges and almost conquers Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah.
Micah, like other prophets of that day and age, predicted these events and attributed them to God punishing his people for moral and spiritual sins. I’m going to just list a few of the passages where the prophet describes what was going on.
Woe to those who lie in their beds at night planning injustice and thinking of ways to commit evil. The next day they do it because they can. They want to have more properties and take them. They want more houses and seize them. They use violence against a man and his house, against the owner and his inheritance. Micah 2:1-2
Micah bemoans the lack of social justice. The rich and powerful take advantage of the poor in order to enrich themselves even more.
Now hear this … rulers of the house of Israel. You hate justice and make crooked everything that is straight. You build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with injustice. The leaders of the city pronounce judgment for a bribe. Her priests instruct only for payment. Her prophets divine only for money. Micah 3:10-11
Greed and injustice always go hand in hand. People take advantage of others in order to find an easy way to enrich themselves. In Judah and Jerusalem you could buy off the judges and the religious leaders in order to turn things in your own favour.
When the innocent are pronounced guilty, when victims are treated as criminals, when the person with the more expensive lawyer always wins, it undermines the fiber of a civilized society. So when things are corrupt at the top, it soon filters down:
Should I leave the crooked scales or the short weights unpunished? Yes, the rich of the city are full of violence. Her inhabitants lie to one another; every word from their mouths is deceitful. Micah 6:11-12
Greed and corruption can become the norm within a society, as it had in ancient Jerusalem. What is modeled by the leaders is followed by the population. By the way, the same can be true in a home. If the parents cheat and lie or steal, take advantage of others, are destructive when it comes to the environment, often the children will think this is the normal way to go through life.
But Micah pointed out that there was an evil within the city that was even worse.
I will destroy sorceries from your hand, and you will no longer have fortunetellers. I will destroy your carved images and your sacred pillars. Then you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. I will root out your Asherim from among you and destroy your cities. Micah 5:12-14
God is telling the inhabitants that their focus on witchcraft and idol worship is one of the main reasons why destruction is coming on the city. Asherim were fertility poles, often in the shape of a woman, that were worshipped.
Today we may not worship the devil or some pagan god or goddess, but we can worship other idols in their place … We can idolize values or individuals or things or experiences or money, all of which we can value much higher than God.
So there is a whole litany of charges that God brings against his people. And he calls them to account, as if entering a divine court of law.
Hear now what YHWH is saying: Arise and plead your case. Let the mountains be witnesses; let the hills hear your words. Listen, you mountains to the indictment of YHWH; take notice you foundations of the earth. Because YHWH has a case against his people, he goes to court against Israel. My people, what have I done to you, with what have I been a burden to you? Answer me! Micah 6:1-3
The next few verses then recount all that God had done to intervene in Israel’s history to free them from being enslaved within Egypt and to give them Canaan as their homeland, which is then followed by the passage we are looking at this morning. This is no longer Micah prophesying about God’s indictment of the nation. Rather, it speaks to the situation by asking what God would have Micah, and by implication, the nation do:
With what should I come before YHWH and bow down before the God on high? Should I come with burnt offerings, with yearling steers? Does YHWH delight in thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of olive oil? [Should I dedicate to him my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for my sins? It was told to you, O man, what is good and what YHWH requires of you. It is to do justice, to love steadfast kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ] Micah 6:6-8
Micah was referring first to the offerings and sacrifices that are spoken about in the Torah, the Law of Moses.
There are five main kind of sacrifices or offerings listed in the Mosaic Law, three that were voluntary and two that were mandatory. It would make more sense in the context if Micah was referring to the voluntary or free-will offerings.
Name of the offering
What was sacrificed
Purpose or Reason of the sacrifice
Bull, bird, ram
Devotion / Commitment to YHWH
Bread, flour, olive oil, salt, wine
Thanksgiving for God’s provision and care
Any herd animal including a ram, grain, bread
Thanksgiving to God and fellowship with God’s people
Bull, goat, dove, flour
Atonement for intentional and unintentional sins
Atonement for unintentional sins
(Atonement = payment for sins or wrongdoing)
The burnt offering (cf. Lev. 1:10-11) in Hebrew is Olah, which literally means “that which goes up.” We derive the word Holocaust from Olah. Unlike the other offerings and sacrifices, this one was burnt up in its entirety on the altar. With the other sacrifices, much of it was either given to the Levites or it was eaten in a communal meal.
The burnt offering signified submission to God and total dedication to His will. It also was understood to be an expression of a desire to be in relationship with God - an important point to remember.
With reference to the rams and olive oil, Micah likely thought of the other two voluntary offerings: the peace and grain offerings.
The peace offering is offered in thanksgiving to God (Lev 7:11-14). In addition, because God, the priests, and the one bringing the sacrifice consume the peace offering together, it also signifies peaceful communion or fellowship among God’s people.
Because there is no sin involved in the peace offering, it is called a sweet or satisfying or soothing aroma or fragrance to YHWH (Lev 3:5).
The grain offering was a free-will offering that was given to thank and worship God for his provisions and signifies complete dependence upon God for having one’s needs met.
One would think that the answer to the two questions, one regarding the burnt offering and bulls, the other being the rams and olive oil, would be a resounding “yes,” because they are written about in the Law of Moses, and taking into consideration the size of the offering … growing in magnitude in each line … numerous bulls, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil.
But Micah is indicating that, in light of the conduct of his people, the real answer is a resounding “no”! How can that be? Well, there was another prophet who was active at the very same time Micah. He too witnessed and wrote at length about the injustices and evils committed during that time. This is what he had to say about the temple sacrifices:
YHWH says, “What are your multiple sacrifices to me? I have had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of your cattle. I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. When you come to appear before me, who requires from you the trampling of my courts? Stop bringing your worthless offerings, burnt offerings that are an abomination to me!” Isaiah 1:11-13
Isaiah, just like Micah, witnessed the injustice, violence and corruption that was rampant in Jerusalem. And, like Micah, he makes the point that God can’t stand pretense. He cannot stand a person apparently saying that they are committed to doing his will, but in daily life displaying a ruthlessness and uncaring attitude that flies in the face of what God’s will is.
But maybe something else is even more costly and would make up for that dichotomy. What could that be? Returning to our passage:
With what should I come before YHWH and bow down before the God on high? [Should I come with burnt offerings, with yearling steers? Does YHWH delight in thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of olive oil? ] Should I dedicate to him my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for my sins? [It was told to you, O man, what is good and what YHWH requires of you. It is to do justice, to love steadfast kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ] Micah 6:6-8
It is possible that Micah is referring here to a parent sacrificing his first-born son to YHWH, much like the inhabitants of Jerusalem had sacrificed their infants in the valley of Hinnom by burning them alive to the god Moloch.
Should this be the case, it would indicate the length to which people will go to curry the favour of an idol, or atone for their sins.
The first-born son in essence becomes the scapegoat. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a goat was designated “Laaza’zel” (Lev 16:10), which literally means “for absolute removal.” The high priest would confess the intentional sins of all the Israelites to God and symbolically place them on the animal. The animal was then led into the wilderness and left to die (Lev 16:20-22.
If we look forward to the NT, the sacrifice of the firstborn son could remind us of God the Father, giving his only son to atone, to pay for, the sins of the world.
However, given the whole of the OT, it makes a lot more sense if Micah is referring here to the dedicating of a first-born son to the service of God, much like Hannah did her son Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 1:11,28).
If that is the case, then, just like the other sacrifices, there would be nothing inherently wrong with dedicating a child to God. In fact, the Mosaic Law demands that the Israelites give their firstborn sons to God (Ex 22:28-29).
The fact that Micah mentions that people would dedicate their firstborn son to God in order to pay off the penalty of their sins is unusual, but perhaps it still signifies the significance of such having a son removed from the home to serve God at the temple, in order to have one’s own misdeeds forgiven.
Again, the answer to Micah’s rhetorical question is meant to be a resounding “no!” No sacrifice is big enough to make things right with God when a person is unwilling to submit to God’s will.
So what is God’s will for our lives? What does he desire from us?
Have you ever asked God to give you direction in life? Maybe you wanted him to tell you where you should move to, or what you should study, or what career you should follow, or who you should marry, or whether or not you should make a certain purchase.
And as important as these questions are, maybe God’s will isn’t as specific as we might want it to be. Maybe he’s OK with you living here or there. Maybe he’s OK with you being a doctor or a carpenter. Maybe there isn’t just one person among 6 billion that is your soul mate.
Yes there are a number of points that can guide us in our decision making.
I Need to Ask God for Wisdom
It should really go without saying that, if I am a believer, I need to pray about the major decisions in my life.
Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then it is peaceful, gentle, open to reason, full of compassion and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
I Need to Know God’s Moral Will
One of the problems we have is that our world view and our moral values are shaped primarily by society at large - and society’s morals are shaped by media: by news reports, TV programing, and social media. In order to have a world view and morals that reflect God’s will, we need to know what the Bible says about certain things.
If we do, then there is no need for us to seek guidance in areas that have been expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture. For example, believers do not need to ask whether or not they can become a con artists, practice witchcraft, take supplies home from work, or marry an unbeliever, since those kind of answers are already found in the Bible.
I Need to Use Common Sense
A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 27:12
Is it doable?
God would not want us to act contrary to common sense and good judgment. So taking a course of studies at University with the knowledge that there is a good chance that this line of study will not lead to an actual job, may not be wise.
After all, the Bible says that believers are to be able to look after themselves and not become a financial burden on others (Paul: work with your hands).
Is it feasible?
Common sense includes looking at the situation we find ourselves in. If I can’t get a student visa to Scotland, or I don’t have the funds to study there, or I don’t have the necessary prerequisites to be accepted into a course of studies, it could be somewhat irrational to pursue it.
That is not to say that God cannot provide the needed funds when we do not have them, or open doors that seem to be completely closed. We can operate on faith, however, generally that does not mean doing something irresponsible.
And by the way, just because a door is open, doesn’t mean that we should go through it. I learned this the hard way when I went to study at the University of Munich, one of the worst decisions of my life.
Throwing out a “fleece” is also rarely a valid approach either (if it rains tomorrow, I’m meant to move away, if the sun shines, I’m meant to stay). Besides, it is easy to misread the circumstances and interpret them according to our own preconceived notions and desires.
A story is told of a farmer who wanted to be a pastor. When he saw a cloud formation that looked like “PC”, he took it to mean, “Preach Christ,” never thinking that it could mean “Plant Corn.” He sells the farm and pursues theological studies.
One of two things could happen. He could do really well. However, the cloud is no guarantee. So the other option is that he could also bomb out – either in seminary, or because he does not have the necessary gifting or personality to succeed as a pastor.
What I am saying is that there should have been other signs and indications in order to make such a decision … more than relying on the shape of a cloud.
Am I wired that way?
Common sense means looking at how God has wired us. He may have given us heart that breaks for the homeless or the elderly or children or the abused or the poor or the lost. On top of that, God has gifted us with a variety of talents and skills and abilities.
In order for our choices in life not to backfire, we need to take into account how we are wired … and sometimes it takes time and trial and error to find that out.
I Need to Get Wise Counsel
Lastly, there is the wisdom of seeking wise and godly council … from a number of people. And we should be circumspect in choosing people with life experience and wisdom.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Proverbs 12:5
Here are some very bad ideas when it comes to doing God’s will:
I must pray about each decision I make
Some decision are simply logical, or too insignificant. So if I’m enrolled in school then I don’t have to pray about whether or not I should attend classes.
God’s will is often contrary to human reason
It is the very, very rare exception where God’s will does not make sense. Under most circumstances, God wants us to use good sense.
God’s will means giving up my happiness
God’s will for us is an abundant life filled with freedom and joy. God does not want us to be miserable, although he may ask us to do without something from time to time that we may not particularly like.
God’s will means I will never have problems
Even the most abundant and joy filled life will be one where there are problems and heartbreak and difficulties. And being in God’s will won’t make us immune to these.
God’s will means I have to be in full-time ministry
While God wants every person to do good, not everyone is suited to full-time ministry. Most Christians will be called to serve God in the context of secular employment.
God’s will means I have to give everything away
We simply cannot respond to every need. God doesn’t want us to spread ourselves so thin that we become ineffective. Jesus didn’t heal every blind man in Israel.
God’s will means that I will have everything
A Christian may become wealthy, but many Christians don’t. Living above our means because we expect God to give us all our wants is simply wrong. And, it leaves nothing over that we can give back to God or share with others.
So, as long as we don’t do something illegal or immoral or unwise or unreasonable, when it comes to the major choices we make in life, we should be OK.
However, there is one more thing to keep in mind. Whatever our choices are, we need to recognize that ultimately we cannot predict what happens to us. How does the saying go?
As coined from a poem by Robert Burns (To a Mouse, 1785), “The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry.”
So we should make plans for our lives using all these methods. But we should make our plans with a great amount of humility:
If the Lord wills, we will still be alive and do this or that. James 4:15
But really, as I’ve already indicated, God may be as happy with us being a grocer as an evangelist, he really isn’t concerned whether we marry someone tall or short, and he may be happy regardless of where we live.
God’s real concern is about who we are as people, the kind of people we are, and how we act and interact with those around us. So that is what Micah tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem – and he gives them a three-fold answer to the question what God desires from us, his creation:
With what should I come before YHWH and bow down before the God on high? [Should I come with burnt offerings, with yearling steers? Does YHWH delight in thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should I dedicate to him my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for my sins?] It was told to you, O man, what is good and what YHWH requires of you. It is to do justice, to love steadfast kindness (chesed), and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8
God wants me …
1. To do justice (act justly)
God wants his people to act in a way that is just, that is, with honesty, integrity and fairness.
We act justly when our empathy for others and out conscience kick in. Our empathy ask the question: “How does that person feel?” Our conscience asks the question: “What is the right action to take given this?”
Without empathy, we become ruthless and predatory. “So sue me.”
Without conscience, we become uncaring. “It sucks to be you.”
God’s real concern when it comes to our actions is that we do what is right and fair in our interactions with other people.
Doing justice involves treating others as equals.
Doing justice involves being fair with others.
Doing justice involves not cheating others, not swindling an employee or stealing from an employer.
Doing justice involves being honest even in the smallest and routine business transactions. For Christians, honesty is not the best policy, it is the only policy.
You (God) desire truth in the inward parts.
There has to be this deep inner conviction that our only option is to be people of integrity who do not take advantage of others for our own gain … ever.
God wants me …
2. To Love Steadfast Kindness
Chesed is a Hebrew word that is variously translated as “lovingkindness,” “steadfast kindness,” “abiding mercy,” “loyal love,” as both a disposition of the heart as well as the actions resulting from such a disposition.
I’ve decided to translate it by used the statement “steadfast kindness” in order to express that chesed is speaking of ongoing (unfailing) unselfish and self-giving kindness toward another person.
This is something that God’s people are to embrace and love. They should love to treat others with unfailing and unselfish, even unexpected kindness, - not out of a sense of duty or obligation or compulsion. They should WANT to do demonstrate kindness; They should desire to treat others with kindness;
It’s not to be a chore but a joy!
Faithful kindness is the only response that makes any sense in light of the faithful kindness that God has shown us in Jesus Christ. And faithful kindness on our part leads to further faithful kindness on the part of God toward us. Jesus made this point in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the merciful,” that is, those who are compassionate and kind, “for they shall obtain mercy.”
And that is a good thing because the unfortunate reality is that at times we can become uncaring, self-centered, and harsh in our attitudes and actions toward others.
God wants me …
3. To Walk Humbly With Him as My God
When becoming children of God, we totally commit to God. If that is not the case, there will be constant compromise and mediocrity.
However, we are living sacrifices, which means we have the tendency to crawl off the altar. Commitment to God then has to be an ongoing process of daily submission to His will.
This all-out commitment and humble dependence upon God is the basis for what the Bible calls "the knowledge of the Lord."
Did you notice that when Micah tells us what God expects of his people, the first two things he expects have nothing to do with God. They have to do with how we behave toward one another.
God expects His children to love and get along with one another. He expects His children to treat one another justly and fairly, and He expects His children to love mercy and to show kindness toward one another.
But the third expectation Micah shares is that God expects us to have a right relationship with Him – with God Himself.
That right relationship with God always begins with humility, not arrogance. If we think that our relationship with God is a one way street, where God is obligated to make us happy, to serve us, to answer our prayers, we haven’t grasped that relationship at all.
We need to change our course in order to match his, not the other way around.
Our years on this planet are brief, and none of us want to waste them. But unless we regularly acknowledge God and His desire for our lives, they will end up counting for little.
The Bible concentrates on our need to cultivate intimacy with God but says little about methods of determining His will. The Bible is not primarily a how-to-do-it manual but rather it is primarily a guidebook on who-to-know.
When we consciously acknowledge God’s presence and depend upon Him in the course of making decisions, the choices that are made are both ours and His. Doing God's will is not an end to itself, but a means of knowing Him better and becoming more like Christ.
God's will is a way to be and a way to behave. He does not unfold His plan for our lives before us like a blueprint and expect us to do nothing until we see it. His will for us is a dependent walk in which we invite Him to participate in all of our activities.
AM I READY TO “WALK WITH GOD” IN HUMBLE SUBMISSION TO HIS WILL FOR MY LIFE?
IF SO, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO NEXT?
 See Lev 9:3-4 where ram and oil are combined as peace and grain offerings respectively.
 It seems that the burnt offering was almost always made first. On top of the burnt offering, there would follow the peace offering (Lev 3:1-5).
 Samuel’s mother Hannah dedicated her firstborn son, Samuel, to God, which meant for her that she had to bring her son to the sanctuary at Shiloh after she had weaned him, so that he could grow up serving God.
 The implication of Ex 22:28-29 is that the son is to be sacrificed like all the first-born animals. Micah’s wording, the concept that a child is given over to God as a sin offering, also seems to support that theory. However, in Ex 34:19-20 and Num 17:15-16, the Israelites are told that they must redeem every firstborn son (acc. to Num 17:16, for five shekels of silver). The notion of human sacrifice is also found in Lev 27:28, where a human being who is dedicated to YHWH cannot be redeemed but has to be put to death. This flies in the face of passages like Lev 18:21 and Deut 18:10 that forbid child sacrifices to the god Molech. Another very odd passage is found in Ezek 20:25-26, where the prophet speaks of God intentionally giving “bad laws” and refers to the sacrifice of first-born sons. This is contradictory to Jer 7:31 where the prophet chastises the Israelites for having sacrificed their children (likely to Moloch or Baal) which, according to this verse, was not commanded by God, in fact, never entered God’s mind. It could be that what Micah had in mind is that first-born sons were given over to God in order to serve Him, potentially in the sanctuary, like Samuel (the focus is on the donation of the child rather than its sacrifice). This seems to be confirmed in Num 3:12 where the Levites are said to take the place of the firstborn sons, so that the former now belong to God and would spend his life serving him.