What Does God Require?

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“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

All to often we want to jump to the conclusion before we even read the book.  But if we start at the end, we miss all the important stuff before it.  If I started at the end, I would miss the character development, I would miss the thickening of the plot, I would miss identifying with certain characters and despising others.  We weren’t meant to start at the end.

Beginnings are important places to start.  Actually, it’s more than just important.  It’s integral to the rest of the story.  It’s essential and the rest of the story depends on there being a beginning.  Because without the beginning there’s nothing to start off of and therefore no place to go from.

Now, You Lord, are the Ultimate Story Teller.  You know how to tell a story.  You know how important the beginning is.  You started Your story about us right there, right at the beginning.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  The beginning matters because the beginning is the foundation for the rest of the story.

In Micah 6:8, the beginning matters.  It’s the foundation of the rest of the verse.  I mean, I could start of with doing the things that You, Lord, require, like justice, mercy, and humbly walking with you, but unless I start at the beginning of that verse, I won’t have the foundation I need to do them.  See, the doing justly, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with You are the end of the story.  The beginning of the story starts with me looking at You so I can see and know what that looks like.

Here’s the beginning- “He has showed you, O man, what is good.”  See, Micah was being told to shout out to the people the controversy that God was having with His people.  And He wants Micah to speak out against the “strong foundations of the earth.”  God has a problem with the choices His people have been making.  He has a problem with the foundation they are standing on.  Lord, You are wondering how Your people can stand on any other foundation after all You have demonstrated to them, after all the times You have manifested Yourself to them.  How could they forget?

How could they forget the mighty works You did, Your voice that they heard audibly, Your righteousness that they saw and experienced?  What should Micah do to make things right with God?  Should he bring burnt offerings of calfs?  Will that make You feel better about the people’s decisions and hearts?  Will that change anything?  If they gave thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil, would that please You, Lord?  Will that have changed the people’s hearts?  Is that what You want from us?  Is that what You require, our gifts?  What if I even offered my own firstborn child for my sins, would that satisfy You, Lord?

No.  At this point, for these people, all these gifts are empty.  Every one of these is just an appeasement.  But aren’t You the One who established the sacrificial system in the first place?  And now You are saying that’s not what You want?  Or are You saying You want something deeper than a superficial sacrifice that is only an appeasement?  Isn’t that what the pagans gave their gods?  Didn’t they give a sacrifice so their god wouldn’t be angry and wouldn’t react in anger?  But what about Your people?  What do You require?  What is the purpose of a real sacrifice?

Well, first Micah tells us that You showed us already what is good and beautiful and precious to You.  Here’s the neat thing about that word “showed.”  It’s from the Hebrew word “nagad.”  Strongs says that You brought it right to the “front.”  You took what was good, like You, and made it “stand boldy out opposite” what everybody else’s good looked like.  You manifested it.  You demonstrated it and announced it by the very words of Your mouth to those who were standing present before You.  It’s been exposed.  It’s no secret.  It’s not evasive.

So what is it that You require of us?  That’s another interesting word there.  “Darash” is a Hebrew word used to describe a way of  worship.  It’s when You search something out.  It’s when You dig into Scripture and search out the meaning.  You seek the heart of God and you ask Him to make it known to you.  It implies diligence.

The problem is that we can wish for the good things with all our heart but then not be willing to pay the price for them with all our heart.  What I want and what I am willing to do for it don’t line up in this case.  You are telling me that should not be so.  You are telling us that You alone determine what is good.  My goodness doesn’t count for anything unless it lines up with Yours.  So Micah is asking me to reexamine my standard.  Does my standard line up with Yours, Lord?

The Jews would have understood what Micah was talking about here.  They understood that word “darash.”  It’s a part of rabbinic biblical exegesis.  It’s how the Jews have been studying scripture for years upon years.  Darash is part of Torah study known by this acronym, PaRDeS.  It consists of Peshat, which is the plain, contextual meaning.  The Remez is the allegorical meaning.  Darash is the metaphorical meaning.  Sod is the hidden meaning.  And none of the meanings ever “contradict the base meaning”.  I’m not just to look at You and Your Word superficially.  I’m to dig deeper into You, deeper into Your Word.  I”m to go beyond the plain meaning and look at the allegorical, the metaphorical, the hidden yet to be revealed.

Skip Moen explained this idea about PaRDeS.   “Darash is the verb of careful examination, searching, looking deeply into the text.  It is the verb for seeking God through the study of Torah (cf. Ezra 7:10).  ‘What does YHWH require of you?’ might be read ‘What does YHWH seek in you?’ or ‘What does YHWH find in examining you?’  What do you pursue with unrelenting commitment?  What do you consistently do that brings you into God’s presence?  What are you doing that restores His order?  Darash is the verb of continued, deliberate searching.  Darash is lifetime liturgy.”

Lord, You didn’t design an easy fix where we follow some prescribed ritual and can keep on heading in the direction we’re already heading.  First and foremost it’s about Who I know.  What I do will flow from that knowledge or lack of knowledge.  You have shown Yourself, but have I taken the time and effort to get to know You and understand You?

What do You expect of me, Lord?  You expect me to see the metaphor, the comparison between my life and the sacrifice You require.  How am I supposed to be like that sacrifice?  What are You really looking for?  That’s what You want me to think about.

And how can I fulfill Your requirements, how can I be good like You and in You if I don’t even understand the meaning of what You are searching for in me?  If You expect me to bring forth justice, I must know what Your justice looks like.  You tell me You’ve shown me.  What is justice, “mishpat” really?

Mishpat is “the administration of government.”  It’s not just how we “render, make decisions, administer, rule with true judgments.”  It’s not how some organization rules over us.  It’s always about the leadership that You, Lord, have appointed being personally liable not just for “rendering decisions but for rendering decisions according to [Your] directions.”  (Skip Moen)  So, if You are seeking this “mishpah” in me, it means that You are expecting me to administer Your “government” in my own life and to those around me.  It’s not up to my own decisions or my own rule or my own authority.  It’s all according to Your decisions, Your rule, Your authority in my life.  I’m Your instrument of government.  I can’t be Your instrument of government unless I know You.

I must act like I am fulfilling Your government in my life on this earth.  I also must love mercy.  What is that?  Am I to be compassionate?  I am, but that’s not what mercy, “hesed,” is talking about here.  Hesed starts with God.  One way to express it is to call it God’s lovingkindess, or maybe Your lovingkindnesses.  But that doesn’t even express it fully.  It’s Your love for Your creation before they ever even made any promises with You.  It’s in the fact that when You created us You had already chosen and committed to obligate Yourself to us.  It’s Your intervention and loyalty to a people who were not loyal.  It’s Your whole character.   

Look back at Psalm 136.   It’s all about Your hesed, Lord.  It endures forever. Because of it You do great wonders.  Because of it You created all of creation.  Because of it You made the lights in the heavens.  Because of it You smote the firstborn of Egypt and brought Israel out of captivity.  Because of it You demonstrate Your strong hand and stretch out Your arm toward Your people.  Because of it You divided the Red sea, You lead Your people through the wilderness, You smote great kings,  You provided a land as a heritage, You noticed people in their low estate, redeemed people from their enemies, feed all creation, and it never stops.  And what You did for Israel You are still doing for us today.  None of us deserve Your care, intervention, rescue, and provision, but You, because of Your lovingkindness toward us, love to treat us this way.  How do you describe hesed other than to say that this is all the ways that my God demonstrates His love and kindness to me.  And this is what You are seeking for me to exhibit back to You and to others.

Now, how do I walk humbly with You?  What does that really look like.  “Tsana yalak” is the Hebrew.  This word, tsana, is only used one other place in Scripture. It’s in Proverbs 11:2 and it’s contrasted with pride.  So humbleness is the opposite of pride.  But what is pride?  Is it thinking more of myself than I ought?  So is humbleness thinking less of myself?  Or is it something more?

Pride, “zadon,” is my getting my way and being “clever” about it.  It’s me relying on me instead of me relying on You, Lord.  It’s me taking over Your authority, Your government.  I’m not only in charge of my life, and possibly everyone else’s, but I’m also rebelliously disobedient and I am delighted in my own selfishness.  I know better than You.  I can do what I want to do.  Skip Moen calls pride “an attempted demonic coup d’etat of God’s right to reign and rule.”

But You call me to be humble to walk in Your ways.  Luke, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus set Your requirements You are searching for in me here:  “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and will all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  So instead of committing to my own way, my own government, my own authority, I am deliberately, committedly placing myself totally under Your reign and rule.  And when You look at me, when You examine me, when You seek Your way in me, then You find what You are looking for in my actions and in all the aspects of my life.  You look and You see me humbled under Your mighty hand.  You see that my heart, soul, mind, strength, and even my relationships are placed under Your control and lined up with Your desires.

See, this Micah 6:8 requirement isn’t about being good or doing good.  It’s all about knowing You.  It’s all about living in You.  It’s all about submitting wholly to You and to Your authority and to Your lovingkindness and to Your government and to Your everything.  It’s all about You becoming everyting in my life.  I throw appeasement out the door because it’s not about making You happy.  My life is entwined in knowing You and being known by You.  How can I make a God happy who has everything and doesn’t even need me or anything I can give.  That sacrifice was for me.  I needed it, not You, Lord.  And in the sacrifice You wanted me to see how You alone had everything under control for me, how You alone had my best interests in mind, how You alone wanted to accept me unto You and make me like You.

How many years have we been looking at the prize all wrong?  My goodness is not the prize.  My justice or mercy or humbleness is not the prize.  You alone are the prize.  You always have been and You always will be.  And when You finally become My Prize, then I will start valuing the things You value because I will value You above everything, even above myself.  And here’s the good news.  I don’t have to wait for some future day for You to show Yourself to me.  That’s what Micah is saying.  You’ve already shown Yourself.  Will I take my eyes off of myself long enough to really look at You?  Will I search You out no matter the cost or commitment You are seeking from me?

Well, Lord, I want You to write Your whole story in me.  I want to search for You like there is no other treasure in the world.  I can seek all the good things there are in the world.  But there is One thing that is above all others, and that’s You.  All other goodness looses it’s luster compared to You.  Yes, would I sell all that I have to purchase for myself that One Pearl of great price?  Would I seek diligently like I’m searching for a hidden treasure?  Would I be so joyful for having found it that I would sell everything just to own it for my own?

Because those two responses matter.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Because You are going to examine my responses.  You are looking to see if I would sell everything for You.  You are pulling the net in full of fishes.  And You are sorting.  Will I be found full of Your goodness or will I be found full of my own rotten goodness?  Will I be gathered to You because I already clung to You?  Or will I be found lacking in You and cast away?

Lord, teach me total surrender.  I want to be wholly Yours because there’s no such thing as being partly Yours.  I can’t have two masters.  May my life, every aspect of it, totally line up with You.  Lord, I need You desperately.  May I be fully committed to You because You fully committed to me before I even ever knew You.  Yes, You are the Pearl.  You are the Treasure.  And I will seek You and Your way with all my life.

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