An 80 year old couple was having problems remembering things, so they went to the doctor and explained about the problems with remembering stuff. After examining them, the doctor says they are physically good but suggests writing things down to help them remember. That night while watching TV, the old man got up and his wife asks, "Where are you going?"
"To the kitchen."
"Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?"
"Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember?"
"No, I can remember that."
"I also would like strawberries. You had better write that down cuz I know you'll forget that."
"I can remember that, you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries."
"I also would like whip cream on top. I know you will forget that so write it down."
"I don't need to write that down, I can remember." He then stomps off into the kitchen. After 20 minutes he returns with a plate of bacon & eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment and says, "You forgot my toast."
The key to this message today is to remember, to remember the things of God, to remember what he has done, to bring to mind the way he has rescued his people, provided for His people, the way he has saved His people.
To remember what God has done. Even when our minds grow weary, to remember that God is good. Sally is my hero with her mother who has Alzheimers… It is not always easy… yet one of the things that keeps Sally going to take her mother places on occasion, knowing her mother will never remember the next day, and probably not in the next five minutes, is that in her endless studying of the subject, she ran across the very helpful thought that while you may not be building any memories with your dementia parent , like babies, it is good to build positive impressions… Maybe our memories get fuzzy, yet building positive impressions of God, His love, His forgiveness, His carrying us through…
Something funny happened as I studied Micah 6. I have come to believe most people miss the main point! Micah 6:8 is a favorite verse of many folks…READ. with fear and trepidation, I humbly suggest that most people get this verse wrong. (Feel free to disagree…) I understand why it is a favorite verse because it is so clear and simple what God requires of those who follow Him: Justice, mercy, humility. These are tremendous qualities of character to strive to live.
- Justice is about wanting what is right especially for the weak and those with little or no power to defend themselves, I sincerely hope we as individuals and as a church seek justice for the weak.
- mercy is about not responding to others in ways that the deserve but to overlook offenses ~ put mercy into practice and you will be a person that is deeply admired,
- and humility, not thinking too highly of yourself but understanding any gifts, any advantages, any strengths are from the hand of the Lord.
The problem God has against His people is sin. In the context of Micah talking to the people of Jerusalem, sure, the Assyrians are surrounding the city, yes, there is threat from a foreign nation, certainly God Almighty is on their side, yet there is still sin in the camp. WE ARE SINNERS IS THE AWFUL TRUTH.
If you look at Mic. 6:3, read between the lines and it is apparent that rather than admit they are sinners, the people are blaming God: READ. Nothing new under the sun. What people were like then is what we are like now… blame God, expecting Him to give us a life of ease with no responsibility on our part….
By the time you get to Mic. 6:6 the verdict of guilt of the people is already assumed, so the question now becomes how to get right with God as sinners who have rejected God. First Micah suggests the perfect sacrifice, then he goes for quantity. READ Mic. 6:6-7. The implicit answer is that the best or the most is not enough to get salvation because the truth is that God wants our hearts, not our formalities. If our heart is not right before God there is no act of kindness, no pattern, no penance, no sacrifice that will earn us salvation.
We come back to Mic. 6:8, which is about the heart, which is why people love this verse so much, because Mic. 6:8 seems to be a contrast with Mic. 6:6-7. It is a good message: all the sacrifices in the world won’t bring you closer to God if your heart is not in it, if your character is not broken. READ Mic. 6:6-8.
Here is what I think most people miss in understanding this verse: I cannot be perfect in my justice, I will fail as a man of mercy, I can never complete humility. I am a sinner. I strive to good, I value lifting up the weak, I don’t think I am the best at anything, and God still has a case against me. I am a sinner. I cannot be good enough to deserve God’s salvation. Mic. 6:8 is not a contrast with the previous verses, it is one more nail in the coffin of sin that I cannot attain the salvation of God by trying to perfect my character. YES, God wants us to be people of justice, mercy and humility, but we cannot do it. If my salvation depends on my good character, I am as good as dead!
The rest of the chapter of Mic. 6 goes on to detail the sins of the people, especially the leaders….This seems to be the details of the case God has against the people. Mic. 7:13-16 is the punishment. I am not going to read the words, they need to be there but I don’t have to like them. Sin deserves punishment is the point.
We come full circle arriving back to the beginning. We are sinners. God wants to rescue us from our sins. We cannot give sacrifices that are perfect enough, we cannot give enough offerings to meet the need, we cannot hang our case on our good character. So what’s the answer?
REMEMBER What God Has Done. The answer is God. Micah did not know the name of Jesus Christ, but you and I do. But they have stories of God’s great work of salvation. READ Mic. 6:3-5.
God reminds the people that it was He that rescued them from Egypt a thousand years earlier… even though it is a generation a long time beforehand, the story is meant to be remembered, passed down from generation to generation, as a reminder of God’s great salvation, his rescue of the people… It is a gift for every generation to be able to say, “We were there when God freed us from slavery…” Like the great spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord, were you there when they laid him in the tomb, were you there when he rose up from the grave…”
God’s loyalty, God’s love, God’s desire to save people is true for every generation from the Exodus on… His character is what saves people… not what we do, but what he does… To Remember is to renew our commitment to the God of the covenant who promises to never let us go…
It is God that provides human leaders to lead the people. He speaks of Moses, Aaron and Miram… all stories worth telling again and again, but the pattern continues to this day of God providing leaders of faith. For months on Facebook I’ve been watching updates on Pastor Dave Browning’s cancer. Many years ago Dave was at the old Baptist Church in Everson, eventually ending up as an amazing pastor in Skagit Christ the King, and all over the world. He died this week, and what fun to see hundreds of posts, “thank you Lord for an amazing man of God…” Remember God’s provisions. Salvation is all about God even when he uses people. He is the one that orchestrates, brings together.
REMEMBER is emphasized again in Mic. 6:5… Balak, Balaam… [BTW, God says, “Remember MY PEOPLE” which shows his love for the people, his desire to be with them and to save them. We may be sinners, but God loves us anyway. [Many amazing parents love their children even when in jail.]
The Balak and Balaam story is basically the book end of the rescue from Egypt story. (Many of you will think of Balaam as the guy whose donkey talked to him.) First they are to REMEMBER when God brought them out of Egypt, then 40 years elapsed while they wandered in the wilderness, and as they are about to enter the Promised land King Balak tries to stop them. The story is in Numbers 22-24, Balak enlists the prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel, but Balaam refuses and instead blesses them…As the people are about to enter the promised land, God thwarts the evil King’s cursing words of discouragement and instead provides Balaam to bless them: Num. 24:1-2, 5-6… “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel… he looked out and saw Israel encamped… ‘How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens planted along a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters, water will flow from their buckets; there seed will have abundant water…” on and on come the words of encouragement and the people find the heart to enter God’s riches. God is saying in Mic. 6:4-5, “I was there when you left Egypt, I was their bringing encouragement/blessings when you entered the promised land.”
Remember, remember. Bring to mind what God has done. That is the key to salvation, giving credit to God, never forgetting his power and love. I cannot give a perfect offering to make up for my sins, I cannot do enough good things, I cannot become a perfect person of high character ~ so I must remember what God has done to save me. Remember, O Jacob, Remember, O Israel, Remember, O Carl. And here’s the kicker, as we remember, we will be molded into people of justice, wanting the same salvation for others, people of mercy, knowing just as we have been forgiven we will want others to know God’s grace, and people of humility, because I have done nothing to deserve God’s love. It is only by the work of God and what he has done that I am saved.