Audio Worship 4/30/2023 "What Is Good" Micah 6.1-8

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1585

April 30, 2023

Micah 6.1-8    Click here for audio worship

Dr. Ed Pettus


What Is Good”


1Hear what the Lord says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3“O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! 4For 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. 5O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

6“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? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8He has told you, O man, 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?


  • An Indictment


Hear, O Israel! This is serious. This is your father sitting you down for that “come to Jesus moment”. This is when God is about to lay down some charges against His own people. How many felonies against Israel? How many broken commandments? The command to hear is used to begin the first two verses. Hear what the Lord says, and hear, you mountains. Pay very close attention. The word for hear is Shema, Hebrew for hear and obey. It is not just to turn one’s ear to God, but to listen to the point of obedient response.

God has a problem with Israel. In verse 3 the rhetorical questions indicate that they have turned away from God for no good reason. Is there ever a good reason to turn away from God? No. Then God pleads His case. I delivered you. I redeemed you. I have the history to show who and where and when I brought you out of Egypt and into the promised land and now you want to depart from me through your idolatry and sin. You have no reason whatsoever to turn to idolatry, evil leadership that hate the good and love the evil (3.1), prophets who cry peace when they are full but the people are hungry (3.5). If we read further into chapter 6 we see even more to the indictment. Illegal business practices (11), violence and deceit among the rich and powerful (12). Following the evils of leaders who worshiped Baal (16).

Time and time again Israel fell into idolatry because they forgot what God had done for them. Time and time again God brought this indictment and pleaded for them to return. Remember what God has done. This is a major theme in the Old Testament and one that is echoed in the New Testament in places like the Lord’s Supper when we “do this in remembrance” of Christ. We worship together every Sunday partly for the sake of remembering our baptism, our redemption, and our devotion to God through Jesus.

Israel slowly fell away from God. They have no defense for sin. But God keeps covenant despite their sin. He details His case...He brought them out of Egypt, out of the bonds of slavery...Moses, Aaron, and Miriam serve as witnesses of this redemption. These three strengthen God’s case as He presents Moses the deliverer, Aaron the priest for Israel, and Miriam a prophetess. But that is not all, God brings before the jury even some minor stories: Balak and Balaam are minor characters in the history of Israel, but perhaps the point is to show that God is involved in the largest and the smallest details of Israel’s life and history. You can find their story in Numbers 22-24 where Balak asked Balaam to curse Israel, but the Lord intervened and Balaam instead blessed Israel. Shittim and Gilgal were the last and first campsites before and after crossing the Jordan River to the Promised Land.

God’s case is airtight! Israel has no defense. These examples brought before the jury show, without doubt, the righteousness of God. So then, what is Israel to do? How shall they be free from this indictment? These are the questions posed in verses 6-7.

One might ponder our own nation this day and age as we slowly have fallen away from our foundations in the Christian faith. We might wonder if God has an indictment against our country and even against the church that is, in some parts, following the idolatry of the world rather than the truth of Scripture. Is God calling us as a nation to remember our past and the Judeo-Christian cornerstone that established the United States as one nation under God? Is God also calling on the church in the United States to remember its past and the Holy Word of God that calls out sin rather than accepting it, that loves with the love of God and not simply tolerating every sinful act and attitude for the sake of being relevant?

Hear, O nations. Hear, O church. The Lord has an indictment against you, against us! Are we listening? Perhaps the nation is not, but are God’s people? I hope we are.


  • What Is Good


Most of the time when we hear Micah 6 quoted, it seems that the word required is emphasized, and that is fine, but another word precedes required. The word is good. When we think about those two terms separately, we probably are favorable to good and may not be so toward required. When a boss (or maybe a spouse) says something is required of us, we might frown on that task. But if someone says this is good, do this or that because it is good, in that case we are more likely to do any task with joy. But in the text of Micah 6 the two terms are paired together… “what is good; and what does the Lord require of you.” We hope that anything required of us from anyone is also a good thing, but we can be assured that anything the Lord requires is going to be good. We may not always see the good and the good may not even be known in our lifetime, but we know that God is good and that God requires many things of us. What is good and what is required are the same in God’s Word. Requirements are good things when it comes to what God desires of us.

The distinction here is about one thing required more, or even over, another. Shall I just go through the motions of offering sacrifice while still acting as if God did not deliver? What good is an offering of rams and oil without a life that reflects commitment to God and His ways? God does not want a sacrifice that simply goes through the motions. God wants our devotion and obedience to His commandments. He wants fidelity and trust. He desires that we love Him and our neighbors. If we do none of these things and then bring an offering of financial means or empty worship, that is not good or required. It is a mockery of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

What is good? What can be done to get back in right relationship with God? What will please God? Will bringing a burnt offering be enough? This is a legitimate consideration since burnt offerings were required for the forgiveness of sin in the Old Testament system. Will thousands of rams? That seems like a lot! Ten thousand rivers of oil? That seems excessive too! Perhaps those questions are to demonstrate that there is nothing that Israel can bring for the Lord. There is nothing that can be done along the lines of works or sacrifice of goods. The third offering escalates even further to one’s first born. God did require the firstborn to be given to God, but not as a human sacrifice, only in covenant through circumcision. The point to all these questions is that there is nothing in these requirements that would please God or bring forgiveness for Israel’s sin. It is not about outward sacrifices or particular works to earn forgiveness. God is already willing to forgive Israel. God loves Israel. God only wants Israel to follow Him by keeping commandment which involves worshiping God alone and loving God. It involves loving neighbor.

Israel has done none of these things and therefore God has this indictment. An indictment, in this case, demonstrates that God cares for Israel; He does not want this relationship to end. So what does God want from His people? What does the Lord require of Israel and of us? It is not about offering rams or oil or our firstborn; it is not about that kind of offering. But it is about an inward disposition of devotion to God, about attitudes of life that will bring glory to God. Micah offers three attributes: to act justly (Hebrew – mispat), to love kindness (hesed), and to walk humbly (tsana) with God. This might be one of the greatest expressions of genuine discipleship.


  • Do Justice


This is not social justice as the world defines justice. No qualifiers are needed, well except that it is biblical justice. This is to do God’s justice. Social justice has very little to do with biblical justice. Social justice is about regression in society under the pretense of progression. It seeks to put down one group to elevate another, usually based on race or economic factors. Social justice wants to rob one to pay another. It tries to equal the field without concern for justice itself. Social justice is about grouping people into oppressors and oppressed. Social justice primarily promotes that which the Bible opposes. Social justice promotes homosexuality, abortion, climate change, animal rites, and most recently critical race theory. It reaches to the point of making null and void Christianity in the most evangelical conservative understanding. The term social seems so innocent and seems to be equivalent to Micah 6 justice, but it is not even close. For those who have seen The Princess Bride, you know the character Inigo Montoya who often says, You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. Social Justice does not have the same meaning of doing justice in Micah 6.

God’s justice is doing what is right according to God’s Law. Follow the law. Obey God’s commandments. This is justice. No twisted qualifiers before the term justice. Let me give an example that I heard Friday of how people twist words and meanings and do so from the Bible. There was a group of people talking about the rites of minority peoples, homosexual, trans, all the alphabet soup of sexual whatnot. Someone on the side of the Bible brought up the text from Genesis 1.27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Now, let me ask you to think about that verse and the meaning of the last word, them. Male and female He created them. What does them refer to? He created them. Who? Them is male and female, them, those two! Not so with the social justice warriors. Them is now a third group, the soup, the LGBTQIA+, I lose track. Them can even be a pronoun for one individual. The word that means two people, male and female, is twisted and contorted to mean something completely different than what the Bible is revealing. It is the most absurd interpretation, so far removed from reality that I do not even want to use the term interpretation in relation to their view. They do the same kind of thing with the term social justice, turning it into something completely unrelated to God’s scriptural meaning of justice.

God calls us to do justice by opposing everything about the world’s social justice, because it is not justice at all. It is a distortion of justice. It is a mockery of God’s call to justice. It is idolatry and could have been a deformation of justice that led Israel away as it is leading many Americans away from God. Justice is related to righteousness and involves bringing people into a right relationship with God. This is a just thing, the right thing to do with people, to lead them to God, that they too may practice justice. Justice is doing the right thing all the time. Righteousness is treating others with respect and integrity, practicing God’s way in life and doing all we can to make things right in any given situation. This is God’s good requirement, to do justice.



  • Love of Kindness


What does it mean to love kindness? The Hebrew word hesed can be translated in a variety of ways depending on the context in Scripture. It can mean kindness, goodness, mercy, steadfast love, loyalty, and other words like these. It means steadfast love when corresponding to God’s love for us. It is a love that never ceases. It is constant and it calls us to love God and neighbor. So it easily translates into kindness and goodness in how we go about loving others. All of the ways hesed can be translated are ways to love and so loving and showing kindness to people is a way of loving them and reflecting God’s love for them.
Hesed is a good Hebrew word for us to know and fun to pronounce as well! Chesed. When this word is used of God’s action is denotes His great loyalty and faithfulness in covenant. It is a word of action, a word expressing the multifaceted expressions of love. In my study Bible I double underline every use of steadfast love in the Old Testament, and it is used a lot! It is a word that reveals God’s love from beginning to end in the Bible. The false teaching that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath is very shortsighted. Just look at Psalm 136 as one example of God’s love. It is basically 26 verses of God’s love as Creator and Redeemer.

This is the same love and kindness we are to express and practice in our lives. It is another attribute that is far superior to burnt offerings and sacrifices and going through the motions of worship without any character behind those things.


  • Walking Humbly with God


To walk humbly is to live humbly, without arrogance, without being puffed up, without gossip, with humility, sober judgment, emptied as Christ emptied himself in Philippians 2. Walk worthy of repentance. To walk humbly with God means to do that which pleases God and to yield to God’s will and not walk by our own will. It is to live in God’s ways, to practice faith, hope, and love. It is to follow Jesus with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. It is to learn and follow everything in God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation. We totally rely on God for all things and give Him thanks for all things. It is to always be reminded to keep the main thing the main thing.

Israel walked away from what pleases God and began to walk toward idols and false gods. This led them to covet and to abuse and to oppress. We sometimes get caught up in minor things and make them major things and then forget to keep the main thing the main thing. Israel may have tried to make the sacrifices mentioned in those questions. They not only forgot to worship God alone, but they forgot that the motive behind the sacrifice is even more important than the sacrifice itself. They probably got caught up in the motions of making sacrifices but forgot the main reason and motive behind those sacrifices. They thus made the sacrifice of no value.

When we stray from God’s commandments, when we fall short of God’s glory, when we forget the main things of God’s Word, we also open greater opportunity for temptation and sin. We cannot let the things of this world distract us from loving God and neighbor. We cannot let the things of this world draw us away from God’s will. The reasons people inside and outside the church fall for things like social justice is that they are drawn away to false interpretations of God’s Word. The things of the world draw people away from God. John says it clearly in 1 John...


15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2.15-17).


Whoever does the will of God! The will of God is that which is good and that which the Lord requires of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. It is the desire of the flesh that tempts people away, as it probably did for Israel. The desires of the eyes draw people to the “bling” or to the latest human “wisdom”, better known as foolishness. What distracts the heart from God is the pride of life, which may be something like the failure to lose our life in order to save it. All of these things are temporary, only the things of God and heaven are eternal. Those are the main things that we must strive to keep before our eyes daily.

In all of this is the person of Jesus Christ. To Him we look and focus and we follow. When we look to Jesus, we see the same requirements of Micah 6 expressed in a variety of ways. To follow Jesus is to do these things as well. Jesus was also about the heart and not about meaningless outward sacrifices. Jesus is not about going through the motions, but about living the faith in dependence upon God alone. Jesus calls us to the same way of life as Micah called Israel long ago. May our response come by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. There is no greater life, no better life, in fact there is no life at all apart from our God and this life He calls good and required. Amen.