January 13, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2019 — Micah 6:6-8 — How Can I Make Things Right with God?

Preacher:
Passage: Micah 6:6-8
Service Type:

Bible Text: Micah 6:6-8 | Preacher: Andrew Schaller | Sermon for the Baptism of the LORD – Sunday January 13, 2019
Calvary/Marquette Soli Deo Gloria
God’s undeserved love, mercy and peace are yours; a gift of God the Father; purchased and won by God the Son; made your possession by God the Holy Spirit.  Let God alone be glorified for this gift, Amen!
Micah 6:6–8 (NKJV)
6 With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?
 
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
 
8 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?
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
   Through whom alone are we justified,
       Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
 
When we last met for worship, we meditated upon the prayer of the Prophet Jonah, which He offered up – not from a quiet place in a church – but from the belly of a great fish.  Jonah ended up in the fish because He ran away from the task given to him by the LORD.  Jonah had been given a difficult task, he had been sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Judah’s greatest enemy, to call upon them to repent of their sins and seek forgiveness of the LORD.
 
The Prophet Micah was raised in a small-town bordering with the lands once held by the Philistines.  Micah was given an equally difficult task.  He was sent by God from his hometown to the big city of Jerusalem, to rebuke the unfaithful nation of Judah, during the reigns of King Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
The LORD used the Prophet Micah to bring his case against his people.  The LORD bore witness to the sins of Israel to the north and promised to make their capital of Samaria like a ‘heap of ruins in the field.’ Then the LORD turned his attention to Judah.
He had been ‘reading their mail’ too.  He knew how corrupt the nation had become, how people lay in their beds and planned the evil they would accomplish the next day.
He knew about their wicked rulers and lying prophets.  He told them that He would make Mount Zion ‘like a plowed field’ and the temple mount like ‘the bare hills of the forest.’
The LORD didn’t only bring word of Judgment to Judah.  The LORD also comforted those who repented of their sins and longed for the Coming Savior by foretelling His birth in Bethlehem and that scores of Gentiles would be drawn to trust in Him and be saved.
 
We can’t help but wonder how the people of Jerusalem received this ‘prophet from Hicksville.’ We don’t know what they thought of Micah because the Holy Spirit doesn’t reveal it.  We do know how they responded when the LORD revealed to them that He knew their sins and called upon them to defend themselves.
They thought they could make things right with God. The LORD revealed to them that they could not make things right by offering their possessions, even the most precious.  They could not make things right by changing their ways.  They could only be delivered if they confessed their sins and relied upon the Christ to deliver them.  It’s the same for us today.
Let us begin with prayer:
Lord Jesus, on the cross You cried out, ‘It is finished.’  We thank you that you completed the work that Your Father gave You to do. You fulfilled the law of God for us by keeping it perfectly; You bore the curse of sin in our place by taking our sins and guilt upon Yourself.  You have reconciled all humankind to God.  Grant that we may with our whole heart believe this and never rely upon any work or merit of our own, but always trust in Your finished work on Calvary.  In Your Holy Name we pray.  Amen.
 
+++++++
 
We have all done things that we regret…whether we got caught or whether any other human being knows about it.  We’ve all said things that we wish we had never said, that we wish we could take back.
But we have all learned that there are no ‘do overs’ in this life.  We may regret the things we have done, but we can’t ‘undo’ them, there is no ‘undo key’ on the keyboard of life.  While we can’t undo our mistakes, we can apologize for them and seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt.  We may apologize for the things we have said, but very often this doesn’t take away regret, it doesn’t take away guilt.
We’d like to think that we can balance out the scales, that we can do something that makes up for what we have done wrong.  It seems natural to ask, ‘What can I do to make things right again?’ This may seem an acceptable question to ask of another human being it isn’t an acceptable question to ask God when confronted with our sins.
After revealing that He was aware of their sins of thought, word and action, the Lord called upon the people of Judah to take stock of what they had done and take the stand to plead their case before Him.  It was an ‘open and shut case’ against them.  Even though the LORD had mercifully delivered their fathers from slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land; even though He had given them the Land and they had promised to be faithful to Him…they allowed altars to be built to false gods on the hills all around Jerusalem.  Even though He had been faithful to them, patient and merciful, they went through the motions, offering up praise to Him while their hearts were far from Him.
 
Instead of confessing their sins…they figuratively reached for their wallets and asked:
6 With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?
 
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil?
“OK, LORD…what’s it going to take this time?”
 
“Do you want the best of our possessions?”  Shall we come before You with whole burnt offerings, with healthy one-year old male calves?  Do we need to give you the best of our possessions to make things right or if quality doesn’t matter how about quantity?
 
“Would you be satisfied with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil?”  How much to take care of this little problem, to turn your anger away?
It was as if they were trying to make a deal with God!  It was as if it was just another business transaction, to be rid of their sin and guilt! They had dismissed the seriousness of sin and looked on sacrifices as their part, their payment.
Even, their ‘final offer’ showed how far their hearts had departed from Him:
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
 
“How about the most precious thing, LORD?”  Can we make things right with you by sacrificing our firstborn sons and daughters?  Will that make things right for all that we have done?
Why would they even suggest such an offering?  Well, because other ‘gods’ were satisfied with human sacrifices.  Their neighbors to the northwest worshipped a god named ‘Molech’ who accepted human sacrifice, the offering of their sons and daughters by fire.
The LORD had precisely forbidden such sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 18:21, 20:1-5), the Prophet Jeremiah reports that they had engaged in these practices (Jeremiah 32:35, NKJV):
35 And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’
How could it get so bad?  They didn’t have a real relationship with the LORD anymore.  They didn’t come up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice because they were grieved by their sins against God.  Their hearts weren’t in it anymore, it was all an act.  They were just going through the motions.
Let us understand that these things are not revealed to us so that we self-righteously stand in judgment of them.  These things have been written so that we evaluate our own hearts and our own worship.
Do we confess our sins with our lips…but at the same time make plans for sin?  Do we use the words in the hymnal to confess our sins while at the same time think about our plans for the day or the week to come?  When we lay our offering in the bag as it comes by us, is it a reflection of our gratitude for all that has been done for us to rescue us from Hell; or is it just our part, a necessary obligation, a way to remain a member of this little group?  Do we work for the LORD in faith, an act of love for what He has done…or is it for the benefit of others?
God help us that we confess our sins from the heart.  God help us that we strive daily to turn from sin.  God help us that our offerings, be they time, talent or monetary, are always an act of faith, a reflection of our gratitude for Jesus.
 
God help us that we live honestly before God and one another. There is no time to be fake.  There is no time to ‘go through the motions.’  Our outward offerings, our actions, cannot make things right with God!  We cannot atone for sin by promising to do better next time.  We cannot make things right with God by ‘living holy lives.’
The LORD, through the Prophet Micah, responded to their ‘offerings’ by turning them back to His Holy Law:
8 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?
 
Have you ever asked one of your children to do something…that you knew they couldn’t accomplish?  While we don’t make it a regular practice and frustrate our children, but there are times when it’s useful to teach a lesson.
 
In fact, God does the same thing to us.  God wrote the 10 Commandments into the human heart (Romans 2:14-15) and gave it in written form through Moses on Mount Sinai.  However, just because God demands we keep His Commandments…doesn’t mean that we can do it.  For you see, God doesn’t only demand outward obedience to those commandments, but also inward obedience from the heart in perfect love.   It turns out that God gave the 10 Commandments, the moral law to illustrate our failures, to show us our sin.
By the way, that’s not my opinion, that’s what the Scripture says!  It was given so that (Romans 3:19b-20):
“…every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
 
In the same way, when the LORD through the Prophet told the impenitent people of Judah: “…do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” …that doesn’t mean that they could do it!  The LORD was turning them back to His Law so that they see their sin and come with penitent hearts fully realizing that they couldn’t ‘make things right.’
 
Likewise, when we read these words that God wants us to ‘…do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ let’s not conclude, ‘So that’s what I have to do to make things right with God!’ If we imagine that we can keep God’s Law we are no different than Judah and in the same boat with the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-20) who failed the same test.
The truth is…we don’t and we can’t accomplish these things to God’s standards.
 
We don’t do justly and love mercy.  Our lives are ongoing examples of unrighteousness and sin.  We love ourselves and put our desires and needs before all others. If we are honest, we admit with the Apostle Paul (Romans 7:19):
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
We don’t walk humbly with God.  We disobey Him and follow our own will, our own desires.
The greatest lesson that we need to learn is this: “We can’t make things right with God!”  We can’t make things right by outward offerings or by what we perceive as holy living.  If we could have made things right then this message would have been entirely unnecessary (Luke 2:11):
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
We can’t make things right…but Jesus has already. In every way…He loved justice and mercy.  He walked in perfect obedience to the Law of God as our substitute.  Now, by faith in Him, we are credited with having done justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.
Jesus has by His sinless life made things right and earned our place. We have been declared ‘not guilty’ of sin.  We have been made God’s children and heirs.
This…having fallen short of God’s demands and having done nothing but sin.  God has satisfied His own justice, provided us mercy and in Christ made us His brothers and heirs.
We haven’t made things right with God…we can’t…but Jesus has!
Amen!
 

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