Micah 6) The Lord's Expectations

6) The Lord’s Expectations

Text: Micah 6:1-8


One of the things that I have learned about marriage as I’ve talked with people going through separation is the danger of taking one another for granted. Amid the busyness of life spouses have a tendency to neglect their relationship, they don’t take the time to convey their appreciation and their affection for each other. And if that goes on for too long, emotional distance and hurt feelings damage their relationship. And it’s that idea of emotional distance that God is confronting in our passage this morning. It’s not that God has grown distant towards his people, but that they have taken him for granted and grown distant to him. And so Micah explains the Lord’s expectations of his people. And he does so in a courtroom, but it’s not so much a criminal court, but a family court. God has a grievance against his people and the result he seeks is the renewal of their covenantal faithfulness and love. God wants their hearts to return to him. He wants hearts that have grown distant and cold, to come near and grow warm once again.


1) The Lord’s Accusation

So let’s start with the Lord’s accusation. And that’s exactly what this is. Verse 2 says, ‘2 Hear… the Lord’s accusation... For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. (Mic 6:2)’ Something has gone seriously wrong in the relationship and it’s not God’s fault, God is blameless here, the fault lies with his people. The fact is we are to blame for our lack of intimacy with God. And so God pulls out his funny wig and he sits down on the judges seat, and he dusts off his lawyer lingo, because he has an accusation, he has a charge, he has a case against his people.

a) The Lord’s Witnesses

But it’s not just the Lord verses the Israelites, the Lord has witnesses. Micah writes, ‘1 Listen to what the Lord says: “Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. (Mic 6:1-2)’ The Lord’s witnesses are no one less than the mountains. So what good are mountains as witnesses? Well God uses mountains for two reasons.

i) Mountains are Public Domain

Firstly, mountains are public domain. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but mountains tend to be really big. And if you were going to tell something to a mountain, it’d have to be pretty loud. And that’s the issue with the Israelites rejection of God, it isn’t a little thing, it’s a big thing. And it’s not something they did in secret that no one else knew about, it was done in public and everyone saw. And so God brings his accusation against them publically. He wants even the mountains to know. Micah probably chose a very public place and time to preach these words. He probably waited for the Passover when Jerusalem was bursting at the seams. He probably preached this stuff from the Temple, the most public place in Jerusalem. Public sin demands a public response, and so God wants the mountains and the hills to hear.

ii) Mountains were there from the beginning

Secondly, mountains were there from the beginning. God chooses mountains because they were witnesses at the beginning of God’s covenantal relationship with his people. That relationship, started at Mount Sinai, when God promised to be their God and they promised to be his people. And that commitment was confirmed when God’s people pronounced the blessings of covenantal faithfulness from Mount Ebal, and the curses of unfaithfulness from Mount Gerizim. The mountains knew that in entering into a covenant relationship with God, God’s people had promised to love and obey him. And over the years the mountains had also witnessed their unfaithfulness and disobedience. Micah contrasts the immovable mountains with the fickle hearts of God’s people. And so God calls these mountains to stand as witnesses against them.

b) The Lord’s Case

So the witnesses have been called, but what exactly is the Lord’s case against his people. The issue is that God’s people have broken their covenant with God, they have not fulfilled their marriage vows. His rightful expectations as husband have not been met. God asks, ‘3 My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? (Mic 6:3)’ It’s like they’re accusing God of letting them down in some way. But what has God done to deserve their emotional distance? What has he done to deserve their rejection? Rather God reminds them of his love for them, how he has done good things for them, how he hasn’t been a burden to them. In fact, God tells them four things that he has done for them that have proved his love and faithfulness.

i) I Redeemed you from Egypt

Firstly, he reminds them of how he redeemed them from Egypt. Verse 4, ‘4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. (Mic 6:4a)’ Not only has God not let his people down, he instead brought them up out of the mud pits of Egypt. The God they were rejecting is in fact the God who saved them from slavery. In the same way God has redeemed us from our sins through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin. But God in his mercy sent Jesus to die in our place to redeem us from the consequences of our sin. God has saved us from hell, an eternity separated from him. God has not let us down, rather God has lifted us up from our sin.

ii) I sent you Leaders

Secondly, God reminds his people how he sent them leaders. God says, ‘4 …I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. (Mic 6:4b)’ God didn’t leave his people to wander without direction, he gave them leaders who would guide them and help them. He gave them Moses who told them God’s word. He gave them Aaron, the high-priest who made atonement for their sins. And he gave them Miriam, the prophetess, who led the women in singing of God’s victory on the banks of the Red Sea. And the same is true for us today, God has given us leaders to guide us: the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts and guides us through God’s word; as well as faithful preachers and pastors and elders who encourage us and remind us God’s goodness towards us in Jesus Christ. God has not abandoned us, rather he provides for our needs.

iii) I protected you from your enemies

Thirdly, God reminds his people of how he protected them from their enemies. Verse 5, ‘5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. (Mic 6:5a)’ Micah is referring to the events in Numbers 22-24. Balak the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse God’s people so he could defeat them in battle, but five times God instead made Balaam bless his people. God protected his people from their enemies. And in the same way God protects us from our enemy, Satan. Satan is busy trying to destroy our faith, and tempt us away from God, but Jesus prayed that God would protect us from the evil one (Jn 17:15). And James tells us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us (Jam 4:7). God has not forsaken us, rather he shields us from harm.

iv) I brought you into the Promised Land

Finally, God reminds his people how he had delivered them into the Promised Land. Verse 5 continues, ‘5 …Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord. (Mic 6:5b)’ Shittim isn’t a swear word, rather it’s the last place God’s people stayed before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. And Gilgal was the first place they stayed after they crossed the Jordan. God’s people arrived at an impassable barrier, the Jordan river in full flood, but God had promised them that the land on the other side was their home, and so he made a way for them to cross over. In the same way God has promised us a new home in heaven, a place impossible for sinful people to reach, and yet in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross he has provided a way. God has provided a way for us to receive the eternal life he has promised us.

God’s point is that we don’t have any excuse to distance ourselves from God, we don’t have any reason to reject him, because time and time again God has proven how much he loves us, how faithful he has been towards us, how much he has done for us, how he has redeemed us from our sin, how he provides for our needs, how he protects us from evil, how he fulfils his promises. And yet God’s loving activity in our lives will only impact our faith if we remember them. And that’s God’s point, that we ‘may know the righteous acts of the Lord.’ According to God these things that he has done reveal his righteousness, they prove his goodness to his people. And that’s what I want to do this morning, to remind you of just how good God has been to you, of how Jesus died for you, of how Jesus provides for all your needs, of how Jesus protects you from harm, of how Jesus gives you eternal life. I want to remind you of God’s righteousness, of how God sent Jesus to redeem us from our sin by his own blood. I want to encourage you to draw near to God, and know that God longs to draw near to you, that God desires to lift you up, that God loves you more than you could ever imagine.

v) And you give everything but yourselves

So how do we draw near to God? That’s the issue that God raises in verse 6 and 7. God quotes his people saying, ‘6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? 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 thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Mic 6:6-7)’ And it sort of sounds great doesn’t it? ‘I want to give something to God, what can I give to make myself right with God? Maybe burnt offerings, maybe a year old calf, maybe a thousand rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil, maybe even my first born son, maybe that will make me right with God?’ But it misses the point. Firstly, there’s nothing that we can offer that will make us right with God. All we can do is accept God’s grace, that he has made us right with him through the death of his Son, Jesus.

And secondly, they were willing to offer everything and anything except what God most wanted, themselves. These people gave everything but themselves. What God wanted was their genuine faith, their heartfelt devotion, their authentic worship. Like many parents buy their children’s love with presents and entertainment, so we are tempted to buy God’s love. But God desires a relationship with us. God desires to be our Father and us his children. God desires to be a husband to us and we his bride. God wants our love, not just our obedience. He wants our hearts, not just our external efforts. How often do we offer God stuff, rather than ourselves? We think giving 10% cuts it, that putting aside a couple of hours every Sunday will make the grade, that being a part of a small group is all it takes, but we don’t give God ourselves, we don’t give God all that we are, we don’t give God everything we have. Instead like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 we keep a bit back for ourselves, we pretend to give it all, but we’re not, we pretend to be faithful to God, but we aren’t, we pretend it’s authentic, but it isn’t.

c) The People’s Response (nothing)

So that’s what God has against his people, he’s laid out his accusation, he gathered his witnesses, so what is their defence? Back in verse 3, God says, ‘3 …Answer me. (Mic 6:3c)’ So what is their answer to God’s charge? Well if you look at verse… hang on… I’ll find it in a minute… it’s… It’s not there! They have no answer. The truth is God’s people have no excuse for distancing themselves from God. They have no defence for rejecting him. And the same will be true when all mankind find themselves standing before God’s throne on the Day of Judgment. All our pathetic excuses for why we didn’t believe in God’s existence, why we didn’t put our faith in Jesus, why we didn’t commit to the church, why we didn’t give our live in worship of God, will be shown for exactly what they are, pathetic excuses. In the face of God’s love and grace and goodness we have no excuses for rejecting him, or distancing ourselves from him, or growing cold towards him.


2) The Lord’s Expectations (v8)

God has proven to us just how much he loves us and how faithful he is to us, and how good he has been to us, , and yet so often our hearts are cold. So what then does the lord expect of us? Verse 8, ‘8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Mic 6:8)’ This is probable one of the most famous verses in the Bible. One scholar has called it ‘the finest summary of practical religion to be found in the Old Testament.’ Basically, it’s Micah’s summary of God’s law. So let’s break it down.

a) God has shown us

Firstly, Micah notes that the Lord has shown us what he expects. This is nothing new. God has already shown us what is good, what he requires of us. God has told us over and over in his word what he expects of his people. A classic example is Deuteronomy 10:12-13, ‘12 And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Dt 10:12-13)’ God told his people that nearly 700 years before Micah’s day, but they had forgotten it. And so Micah reminds them of what it means to live in a relationship with God, of what it looks like to love the God who had redeemed you. Jesus puts it like this, ‘37 …‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40)’

b) God expects us to Act Justly (v8a)

Micah starts with the second commandment, how we are to love our neighbours. According to Micah, God expects us to act justly. The idea is that we are to treat people fairly, giving them what is due to them. A person who does justice is one who treats people right, a person who offers respect, a person who has integrity. Jesus says, ‘2 …in the way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 12 …do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Mt 7:2,12)’ Basically God expects us to treat people as God would treat people, with justice. Just as God is just so we are to be just. And like we saw earlier, we don’t act justly to get right with God, rather in Christ we are right before God therefore we act justly.

b) God expects us to Love Mercy (v8b)

Secondly, God expects us to love mercy. That word mercy in the Hebrew is the word Hesed, which is one of the most significant words in the Old Testament. It is translated as love and kindness and faithfulness. It most often describes God’s faithful, kind, and merciful covenant love. It’s the kind of love that gives where no giving is required and acts when no action is deserved. It’s the kind of love that looks on the weak and vulnerable with the eyes of God’s love and gives them not what they deserve, but what they need. In the New Testament it’s the kind of love that is described by the Greek word agape, a love that sacrifices itself for the sake of the other, the kind of love that Jesus displayed on the cross. Again God expects us to treat other people as he treats people, with mercy. Jesus says, ‘36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:36)’ Just as God is merciful to us, not treating us as our sins deserved, but instead forgiving us in Christ, so we are to be merciful towards others.

c) God expects us to Walk Humbly (v8c)

Thirdly, God expects us to walk humbly with himself. While justice and mercy summarize the second greatest commandment, Micah finishes with the first great commandment, what it means to love God. Our love for others flows out of our love for God. And to love God is to walk with him. Micah isn’t suggesting that we go for a casual stroll with God here, rather he’s using the word walk as a metaphor for how we live our lives. To walk with God means to live a lifestyle wholly devoted to him. It means we seek his glory in everything we do. It means putting his will before our own. It means humbling ourselves before him. The Hebrew word means to walk ‘thoughtfully,’ or ‘carefully.’ It means that we live with an awareness of God’s holiness and grace, of his majesty and power. Pride insists that we take first place, whereas humility seeks to give God first place. So I have to ask you this morning: Do you love God? Are you walking humbly with your God? Do you love to show mercy to people? Do you act justly towards others? Because that’s what the Lord expects of those how have experienced his loving grace in Christ Jesus.


In these first 8 verses in Micah 6 God makes it clear that we can never match God’s amazing gift of grace, how God has redeemed us from our sin in Jesus Christ, how God provides for us, and protects us and faithfully fulfils his promised to us. But despite the fact that we can’t earn God’s love, he does call us to give him all that we have and all that we are. God doesn’t want us to give stuff, he wants us give ourselves. God doesn’t want our efforts he wants our love. God doesn’t want our money, he wants our hearts. God isn’t interested in ritual, rather he wants our everyday ordinary lives, as we walk humbly with him and as we show justice and mercy to others. God doesn’t want external sacrifices, rather ‘in view of God’s mercy, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, that is our spiritual act of worship. (Rom 12:1)’ How is your relationship with God? Has your heart gone cold, are you emotionally distant from him? Maybe you need to remember how much he loves you? Maybe you need to remember all the things he has done for you? Maybe you need respond how God expects those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus to respond, with love for God, and justice and mercy for others. Amen.

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