Weekly Bible Devotional
“Change the World: Religion with Feet”
September 1, 2019
Scripture for Sunday: Micah 6:6-8
“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? 7 Will 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?” 8 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?
Notes on The Text:
This is one of the well-known Bible passages and is often quoted to help remind people of God’s dream/vision for our lives. One of the eternal questions for human beings is: What is the purpose of my life? And we often look for the answer in all the wrong places. We look for the answer in things like culture, doctrines, philosophy, knowledge, or science. And the problem is that the answer can only be found when we are captured by God’s dream for the world to live as God’s agents of justice, compassion, and love. The prophet Micah was reminding his people of this high calling to service. They had forgotten about God’s vision for the world and their calling to be a blessing to other nations.
Micah was a country prophet in the south after the fall of the northern kingdom into the hands of the Assyrians. That was a time of great uncertainty and fear in his culture. Micah provided his people with a warning about and an inspiration for what was to happen next. They could live like the rest of the cultures around them, enamored by the gods of money, success, and power, or they could live as agents of God’s vision pursuing justice and peace. Micah had a vision for the city of Jerusalem to become a place of worship and justice for all nations. Nations and peoples would find themselves drawn to Zion. They would come to learn God’s ways, and they would find that their weapons of warfare would be of no further use. God’s way of settling disputes would be through international mediation, through the learning of the paths along which justice could be pursued, and through walking along those paths. This vision of a world guided by God’s teachings is more than a mere ideal. It is a testimony of Micah’s faith that such a day is coming.
Micah saw that the way to fulfill this dream was for people to match their worship with their actions and lifestyles. The people of ancient Israel had been faithful in their worship, but their economic and social systems had become corrupt serving only the interests and greed of the wealthy and powerful. They had replaced following God’s commands for the social systems of their lives with an exclusive focus on temple worship and sacrifices. Instead of doing justice, practicing jubilee, and loving their neighbors, they focused on offering burnt sacrifices to God in the temple. They had reduced their relationship with God to rituals and empty worship.
Micah called the people of ancient Israel to renew their faith in God in their daily lives. The prophet challenged the people to three simple, yet profound, steps: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” These are the three components of the renewal of their faith: Do, love and walk. God’s justice is a holistic way of looking at all of society and for all people with their different abilities and needs. As for love, this is another big concept because it is not just any love. It is steadfast love. The Hebrew word for love, hesed, means unfailing, never-ending and steadfast love. This is the kind of love we are called to, a love that will never let the other go. The third part which is “to walk humbly with your God” is not about feeling bad about ourselves and letting go of our needs. This is often what we associate with humility. As biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann points out that in the biblical sense humbleness produces wisdom according to Proverbs 11:2. Walking humbly means being open to the great wisdom of God in our lives instead of only focusing on our knowledge. Pride often leads us to believe that we know it all and we don’t need any input from anyone else, not even God.
We begin this week a new sermon series called “Change the World” based on a book by Mike Slaughter with the same title. Our focus will be on what it means for each of us to follow Jesus in our daily lives. Much like Micah called the people to an active faith that puts worship into practice in daily life, we are going to take a journey together through scriptures and through our lives to see how God is calling us to fulfill God’s dream. Slaughter writes, “Everybody wants to change the world, and it all starts with a changed heart. As we grow closer to the heart of Christ, we learn to love others the way he did. Passion for justice and desire to serve flows naturally from a faith centered on the message and mission of Jesus: to bring good news to the poor, release to the captive, and sight to the blind.”
What does this mean for us as we try to fulfill God’s dream in the world? I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I do know the way! I know that following the wisdom of God as spoken through the prophets like Micah and following in the footsteps of Jesus are the ways to fulfilling God’s dream. God did not leave us orphaned or without guidance. The problem is that the voices and visions of our egos are often much more amplified than God’s dreams which God implanted deeply in our souls. Our work on the journey of faith is to amplify the dream of God for our world and to dedicate our lives to fulfilling it.
In his book, Change the World, Mike Slaughter, writes, “True church growth is not about how many people attend each weekend. The true greatness of any local church is measured by how many people serve the marginalized. Jesus had a church of only 120 members when he left planet earth. By most church growth standards, this membership would be deemed utter failure. But Jesus used a very different measure…His followers…understood that the mission was not to get the world into the church to get the church into the world. The business of the church is to engage and empower disciples of Jesus in meeting the needs and closing the gaps of disparities for the least of these. Religion that honors God is religion with feet.” Religion with feet is about living with God’s dream as our North Star.
In his book God Has a Dream, Desmond Tutu writes, “You are the indispensable agent of change. You should not be daunted by the magnitude of the task before you. Your contribution can inspire others, embolden others who are timid, to stand up for the truth in the midst of a welter of distortion, propaganda, and deceit; stand up for human rights where these are being violated with impunity; stand up for justice, freedom, and love where they are trampled underfoot by injustice, oppression, hatred, and harsh cruelty; stand up for human dignity and decency at times when these are in desperately short supply. God calls on us to be his partners to work for a new kind of society where people count; where people matter more than things, more than possessions; where human life is not just respected but positively revered; where people will be secure and not suffer from the fear of hunger, from ignorance, from disease where there will be more gentleness, more caring, more sharing, more compassion, more laughter, where there is peace and not war.”
Prayer by Walter Brueggemann:
God of our mothers and fathers long gone and treasured,
God of our grandchildren yet to be and awaited,
God of our years, our days, and even this moment:
Our lives are deeply rooted in miracles before us,
Our faith is richly set in courage running thick,
Our vocation is shaped by all those
who have risked for your purposes.
And now, in our remembering, we are made mindful
of our own place of call, and
our own time of obedience.
We pray for ourselves and for your whole church,
courage beyond our easier timidity,
vision beyond our present tense,
restlessness beyond our steady settlements, and
yielding beyond our will to manage.
Give us appropriate yielding that we may be like our remembered ones in freedom and in love for you. We pray in the name of Jesus whom we remember until he comes again. Amen.