Drowning in Rivers of Oil
by Pastor Gene
What does the Lord require of me? When the Lord looks at me, a sinner He’s rescued from sin and death, what does He expect to find?
Micah 6:8 famously asks and answers that very question. “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.”
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.
Having been confronted with the Lord’s indictment against them in Micah 6:1-4, the people of God came to their senses and repented. They asked …
“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?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
No, the Lord isn’t interested in meaningless rituals offered without faith. A.J. Martin writes:
“By these questions the prophet was not downplaying the importance of the sacrificial system. The Lord had set up the Levitical system to provide, among other things, atonement for the people’s sin. Micah, as a righteous member of the covenant community, was no doubt involved in the sacrificial system. He knew, however, that the sacrifices were meant to be outward expressions of inner trust and dependence on God for His grace and mercy.”
God is far less concerned with the burnt offerings, or year-old calves, or thousands of rams, or rivers of oil His people might bring before Him than He is with the state of the heart that brings them.
God doesn’t need “my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul.” After all, He’s already given His Firstborn, His only begotten Son, for my transgressions!
“Give Me Your Heart”
So, what does God want from us? What does He require from men and woman who’ve found rescue in the blood of His Son? Well, Micah doesn’t leave us hanging! He tells us exactly what the Lord is looking for.
“He has told you, O man, 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?”
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.
Micah understood the Lord’s heart. He knew that God isn’t pleased with His people simply going through the motions. It’s not mere calves or rams or oil that He wants from us; He wants our hearts.
“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” He said to Samuel (1 Samuel 16:7). “You will not delight in sacrifice,” David wrote, “or I would give it … The sacrifices [that God desires] are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:16-17, brackets mine).
More than anything, wrote the repentant king, “You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).
So, in bearing his sinful soul before the Lord, David didn’t ask for help in becoming a more efficient ‘sacrificer’! Rather, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Proverbs 23:26 puts it succinctly: “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Giving God our hearts means giving God our faith-obedience.
Love and Faith-Obedience
Micah knows this too! The Lord wants more from us than simply doing the right thing. He wants us to do the right thing for the right reason – because we love Him.
“If you love Me,” Jesus told His disciples, “you will keep My commandments … Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me … Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:15, 21, 24a).
But if love equals obedience, what does obedience look like? Micah says it looks like (1) acting justly, (2) loving mercy, and (3) walking humbly before God.
This is no secret either! “He has told you, O man, what is good!” “O man” means every person with ears to hear. And what is “good” is all that is pleasing to the Father – that which brings blessing, that which is beneficial.
We just can’t play dumb here! What it means to love Jesus is no mystery! “He has told you, Micah declares, “what is good.” “If you love me,” Jesus said, “You will keep my commandments.”
The Father is not satisfied with merely connecting with us through externals; He wants what’s inside too.
Our Deepest Longing, and God’s
The deepest longing of any follower of Jesus should be to know Him and the power of His resurrection. Paul wrote …
“Whatever gain [advantages] I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection …” (Philippians 7-10a, brackets mine).
Indeed. Our deepest longing should be to know Him and the power of His resurrection. And I think the deepest longing of the Father is that our hearts would beat in perfect time with His.
May it be so.
Jesus promised: “Whoever is believing in Me … ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38; ‘believe’ is the present active participle of πιστεύω). So, to walk in faith is to experience “a continual source of satisfaction” which provides “life continually” [E.A. Blum]!
But, if I try to just ‘go through the motions’ of the Christian life without first giving God my heart afresh each new day, I may find myself drowning in rivers of oil (Micah 6:7).
To consider …
- Micah 6:8 says, “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.”
We’ll be looking at each of these individually in future blogs, but what do you think each of these means?
What do you think it means to “act justly”? To “love mercy”? To “walk humbly with your God.”
- A.J. Martin writes: “[Micah knew that] the sacrifices were meant to be outward expressions of inner trust and dependence on God for His grace and mercy.”
Would you characterize your life as one of “inner trust and dependence on God for His grace and mercy”? In which areas?
In which areas do you find it difficult to trust and depend upon Him?
- I wrote: “Micah understood the Lord’s heart. He knew that God isn’t interested in His people simply going through the motions. It’s not mere calves or rams or oil that He wants from us; He wants our hearts.”
Do you ever catch yourself just ‘going through the motions’ – perhaps in your prayer or devotional time, or in your Bible reading – without first really giving God your heart?
- What do you think David meant when he said, “You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart?” (Psalm 51:6)
- I wrote that “giving God our heart means giving God our faith-obedience.”
What do you think faith-obedience is?
Why is the hyphen important?
Why not just ‘faith’? Why not just ‘obedience’?
- “If you love me,” Jesus told His disciples, “you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If this is the criteria, how’s your love been lately? Any problems?
- I wrote that “the deepest longing of the Father for each of His children is that our hearts would beat in perfect time with His.”
Do you think this is true?
What does this look like to you?