Many of the smaller books in the Bible written by prophets are addressing the sinful behavior of people and how God is asking them to repent (turn back to Him). These are often words that make clear where the people stand and where they are headed if they do not change their ways.
What is interesting is that these people were usually still doing religious things, but instead of pursuing God, they were trying to “deal with” their sin in their own way. We read a lot in the Old Testament about sacrifices, but often we miss the point of what those sacrifices to God actually represent.
When we think of the sacrifices themselves as what the LORD is asking of us, we could end up very confused by passages like those we find in Micah 6.
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah 6:6-7
Weren’t sacrifices for sin something God asked the people to do? Yes. Was this the list of sacrifices asked for? No. Then why is Micah bringing up this list? Well, because it seems like the people are more concerned with what they are offering than why they are doing the sacrifice in the first place. In what context were they to be making sacrifices?
Sacrifices were about an acknowledgment of sin and an expression of knowing that their sin was wrong, that there is a cost to sin, and that they were in need of seeking God’s forgiveness and payment for that sin in order to receive cleansing from their sin. Sacrifice was a symbol of the death they knew they deserved and the life giving on their behalf, which would eventually be Jesus Christ on the cross. But this was not how the people were treating sacrifices. We see how they were treating sacrifice by reading just a little further in Micah.
“Shall I [the LORD] count pure those with the wicked scales, and with the bag of deceitful weights? For her rich men are full of violence, her inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.” Micah 6:11
The people wanted the sacrifices they’re making to God to mean that they didn’t need to change their ways but would have insurance against judgement. This is vary similar to how a lot of people these days view the “Sinner’s Prayer” (Claiming Jesus as the sacrifice for sin). People want their insurance against Hell, but meanwhile they don’t have any desire to chance the way they are living. They want to be considered pure even though they are not. This reminds me of the passage in Romans 6 where Paul talks about what it means to be offered and to live out the Salvation we have received through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4
Micah challenged the people’s “hell insurance” type of thinking in the Old Testament time as well with these words:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
God has shown us what is good. We are not in a position where it is impossible for us to know good and bad. In fact our position is that we have been shown what is good. We know what we should be doing.
To do justly. In order to “do justly” we have to first understand justice, which means knowing right and wrong, which is what God has already shown us. When we look to God, we will then be able to clearly see our sin and the world’s sin, we will then have to know what actually will happen in regard to that sin. Which means knowing that before God we are all deserving of death. It also means dealing with all true and false situations via knowing and acknowledging the truth and dealing rightly with those situations were there is falsehood and wrong happening.
To love mercy. In order to “love mercy” we have to understand what mercy is. We have to know what it means to be deserving of punishment and yet receive the compassion and forgiveness of our God. We have to have accepted this act of God in our lives in a way that produces that same desire within ourselves toward others.
To walk humbly with your God. In order to walk with God “humbly” we have to desire to be in submission to God. In other words we are choosing to be in a position lower than Him where we are yielding to His authority, His rules, His leadership, His justice, His mercy, His desires, etc. Because the moment we step outside of who God is and start to decide things for ourselves, we are going to get off track. Because by ourselves, we do not know good, we will not be able to produce justice, we will not love mercy, nor will we be interested in humbly seeking any of these things from God.
New life is ours to walk out, but only through dying to ourselves and living in Christ.
In the same way in the Old Testament sacrifices were a symbol of what needed to take place in a spiritual sense inside us and in a very real sense with the payment of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, so too is the “Sinner’s Prayer” a symbol of what needs to take place in a spiritual sense inside us and in a very real sense with us accepting what it means to live out Christ’s death on the cross in our lives.
Challenge: Don’t admire and invest in the symbol when it is what the symbol represents that is what really matters.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10