PLEASING GOD: TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE - The Book of Micah


Why do we do the things we do? To please God, or to be able to bargain with Him? Is there no thought of God? Why did we attend church this morning? What does our attending church this morning, most Sundays, say about how we view our relationship with God? To please God, or to be in a position to bargain with Him? Or is there no thought of God?

The Book of Micah is a call to change. A warning to take immediate action to avert disaster.

David Jackman gives us an understanding of the purpose of prophecy:

"Warning about a present situation which will lead to a future catastrophe, very often, unless action is taken in the present, to remedy the future."

In the Book of Micah, we see God’s people are not pleasing Him with their Idolatry. Instead they are pleasing the nations. They have turned from God, turned on their neighbours. Chapter 2 categorises their sin toward their neighbour- covet and steal, devise wickedness, corrupt business practice.

The message of Micah the prophet is to declare their sin and give warning to change their behaviour in the present, so that the future is different. They must take immediate action on the basis of what God has told them. The LORD is coming - for judgement

Often when prophets speak for God, including Micah, false prophets/counter-prophecy rise up. Micah 2:6 shows us this. “Do not preach,” they preach “one should not preach of such things [disaster, exile!!]; disgrace will not overtake us.” We’re OK, we’ll be safe. So who’s right?

Who will they listen to? Who do they want to listen to? Do they want to change their ways?

The one who does the will of the Father is somebody who says, “I surrender my will,” which means...

Any part of my life, if God is showing me through this person or through the Word of God or through a sermon or through a book or through the providential circumstances of my life, if I see I’m being disobedient, I want to know that. I want to know it. I want to amend my life.” Tim Keller

That is the prophets job - expose, reveal to them their sin. We need that. We should want that, if we are to please God. Not just assuming I’m OK. The Word of God is encouragement, it is also for correcting us of sin.

The warning is that the LORD is bringing disaster – and when we reach Micah 6, Samaria has been laid waste by Assyrian empire and now they are at the gate of Jerusalem to do the same thing.

No doubt the question is “what can we do to avert this disaster?

What is their response?

In Micah 6:1-8 we see the language of the courtroom. God is plaintiff, accuser. Micah his messenger, and Israel on trial - the accused.

Micah 6:4-5 - God has been good to Israel - redeemed them, lead them into the Promised land. What was wrecking life for the people of God was not the surrounding nations, nor God, but their sin. If they were faithful and obedient, they would live long and well and safe and prosperous in the land. God is faithful and powerful, so looming exile from the land can mean only one thing ... they are unfaithful. It is not just that they have made some mistakes, but wholeheartedly turned from God and rejected him.

Their Wrong Response

Micah 6:6-7 is their collective response - “Can we buy our way out of this?” “What's something that pleases God that we can muster up to satisfy his grievance against us, so that he might deliver us from the Assyrians?”

Their response? Sacrifices - he likes those … Calves, 1000’s of sheep, rivers of oil, maybe sacrifice our firstborn will do it.

OK, we’ve sinned - what can we pay you to satisfy your grievance in us breaking contract?

There was no heart. As Bruce Waltke puts it, they - “Transformed the covenant into a contract.”

Contract not covenant - marriage is a covenant not a contract.

Contract: If you do this then I’ll do that. If you do so much I’ll do so much.

Covenant is about relationship, wanting to serve the other … love. Not some cold legal binding contract like we have with the electricity company - “you give me electricity I’ll pay the bill.”

Similar to the first king of Israel Saul, commanded by God to slay the Amalekites and not to spare any animals - kill the lot. But Saul kept loads of sheep … why? We can use them to sacrifice to God, he’ll be pleased with that (sounds subtly very spiritual). Samuel tells Saul that this was a great sin: To obey is better than sacrifice.

Tim Keller remarks: "Samuel looked at Saul and said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” Do you know what he means? “Saul, you fool. God didn’t want the sheep. He wanted you. By keeping the sheep, you kept yourself. By doing it your way, you kept control.”

Saul did not please God, trying on his own terms, rather than listening to what he had been told by God.

Micah says - God doesn’t want rivers of oil, and thousands of sheep, He wants you, wants your heart.

They didn’t pay God to rescue them from Egypt “Oh thank you, now I will redeem you in return for your gifts" - it was his grace and mercy. And it is the same now - it doesn’t change – it’s turning back to Him in His grace and mercy, not paying Him off by performing a whole lot of rituals in the temple.

But how can we make the same shift?

Why do you do come to church? Why do we give money? Why do we get involved in ministry? Have we turned our relationship with God into a contract, trying to buy an answer to prayer? "God, if you help me, I will give one year to ministry of your choosing." "What will you do for me if I sacrifice my family by spending all my time in ministry?" What is our agenda in serving? Gaining credits from God for future need? "Remember, I gave you those years, that money … you owe me."

God is a helper. We can ask Him for help but, based on His grace, not our performance. He is much, much more - He is Saviour, Loving Father, He is Lord Almighty - we should want to please Him for who He is. God doesn’t want rivers of oil, and thousands of sheep. He has told you O people what is good [what pleases God] and what the Lord requires of you, walk humbly with him.