Going Deeper 1-31-20

‚ÄčThe first reading for Epiphany 4...
Micah 6: 1-6  1 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 "O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord." 6 "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?

‚ÄčThis is such an important text!  In some ways, it seems to clarify some of the hard-to-understand parts of the Old Testament... or at least partially.  One I have in mind is the concept of sacrifice and its role.

Of course, many books have been written by people with much more knowledge than I possess, and there are a lot of cultural and religious implications that I do not know about.  What I do understand is this: like many of the rites and rituals God has called His people to do throughout history, all of them are for our good and not God's, and if we lose sight of their meaning, they all have the potential to not only become a waste of time, but potentially dangerous to our spiritual health.

Sacrifices provided opportunities for God's people to demonstrate their gratitude, as well as dependence on God.  They also demonstrated God's desire to forgive by allowing sin and guilt to be transferred upon animals, who would bear the punishment and death.  Finally, they had the potential to serve as ongoing "education" for future generations, as their history and meaning were passed on.

But it is clear that these meanings were lost, and that sacrifices became less and less meaningful--and even corrupt.  Many concluded that they were actually ways to manipulate God into blessing His people, with no true humility or repentance required.  Sacrifices were done mindlessly and minimally.  And this was symptomatic of a loss of faith and connection.

When things fell apart, people would conclude that they needed to simply do more and better sacrifices, when what was truly needed was a change of heart and mind and ways.  What was really needed was "true religion"... summarized beautifully in our text: doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

These continue to be the responses God calls for us to do in response to His mercy and grace.  If our rites and rituals do not connect with these truths, and we better re-examine what we are doing and why!

With You in His Service

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."