Advent: Born to Set the People Free

Micah 6:1-8

Hear what the Lord says:
Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth;
for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
and he will contend with Israel.

‘O my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
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.
O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.’

‘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?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’

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?

Micah was a prophet in the 8th century BCE and he focused his work in the southern kingdom of Judah. Micah was a small town guy. By all standards, he was not what you would call influential. Yet, as he takes on the mantel of prophet, he is critical of the rich and powerful in Judah. He is particularly judgmental of the way business, government, and religious leaders use their power to oppress and cheat those who are already at their mercy.

Our text today, begins with contention between God and Judah. God is frustrated because Judah has forgotten all the ways God has cared for them. Thus, God summons all of nature to act as witness to what God will say.

In verses 3-5, God goes on to describe all of the wonderful things God has done for the people of Judah. What has God done except save them over and over and over again. God is frustrated because every act has been for the sake of Judah and Israel; and yet they continue to worship false gods and treat others poorly.

The people respond with those famous verses of scripture, “With what shall I come before the Lord….Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old…thousands of rams…ten thousands of rivers of oil….my firstborn?”

The people are frustrated as well. They are confused about what God wants from them. They bring God their gifts and burnt offerings and still God contends with them. They just don’t seem to understand that God is not in it for their gifts, their offerings, their blood sacrifice. God is not looking for a certain kind of thing. God is looking for a kind of person. A person who does justice, loves kindness, and walks with God.

This is what God requires: justice, kindness, and connection with God.

We no longer bring God burnt offerings to place on the alter – however, we certainly have those things we bring before God. We try to appease God with showing what good people we are and all the things we do right. We try to appease God by showing up at church, checking off our service quota for the month, and giving to worthy causes. None of these things are bad, but when they are more about getting it right than they are about how our lives are transformed we miss the point.