Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 27 2019 - Micah 6 – Call to repentance

This morning's passage takes the form of a courtroom drama. The Lord is bringing an accusation of unfaithfulness against his people and is calling upon them to answer his charge. The mountains and hills are called to act as witnesses in this drama (6:1-2).

The Lord reminds Israel of how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to this good land. When Balak king of Moab plotted against them and hired the prophet Balaam to curse them, God caused him to bless them instead (6:5). God had been gracious and good towards Israel in their poverty and need. But they have failed to respond to his kindness.

Micah voices Israel's response. What shall his people do to show their gratitude to God for all his many blessings? How about animal sacrifices? (6:6), or if these are not enough, what about offering their firstborn children as sacrifices to the Lord as was the practice of some of the other nations who inhabited the land before them? (6:7). Micah then answers the people with these well-known words:

He has shown you, O mortal, 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. (6:8)

God is not looking for religious ritual, let alone child sacrifice. He wants his people to live upright and godly lives, showing compassion towards others and a humble spirit before God. He wants them to reflect his own gracious character and the pattern of his dealings with them.

The verses that follow underline the relevance of this call, for the conduct of his people is far from reflecting the call of God on their lives. They are cheating one another by using false scales and weights when selling goods (6:11). The rich are oppressing the poor with violence and lying about their conduct when the oppressed seek justice (6:12). For this, God will bring them to judgment: their harvests will fail and the nation will be brought to ruin (6:13-16).

What does the Lord require of us? All too often, our neglect or exploitative treatment of the poor of this world goes on out of our sight and so escapes our notice. Unfair systems of international trade exploit lax working conditions and low wages of people in third-world countries to provide us with cheap goods at their expense. How can we act to make a difference in such situations?

Inspired by Micah 6:8, the Micah Challenge was formed in 2005 as a global coalition of Christian organisations seeking to mobilise Christians against poverty and to hold governments to account for their promise to halve extreme poverty by 2015 (a promise made in the Millennium Development Goals). Success has been partial and patchy but not insignificant. Nevertheless, many in this world still live in poverty and the gap between rich and poor seems to be growing ever wider.

In the light of these things, what does the Lord require of you – and of me? In practical terms, how does our behaviour need to change if we are to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God in every aspect of our daily lives? We need to ask such questions when making purchases, whether in shops or online. We need to ask how we are using the good things that God has given us to serve his purposes in this world rather than serving ourselves.

Above all, these verses point us to the Lord Jesus Christ who left the riches of glory to assume the poverty of a life in which he had nowhere to lay his head. He has shown us what is good by his own life of acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with his Father God. He calls us to follow him.

Father God, make us aware of the needs and conditions suffered by others across your world. Make us sensitive to the call of Christ and to the promptings of your Spirit. Turn us from the idolatry of greed that seeks to perpetuate our comforts at the expense of others. Give us a heart of compassion for the poor and a passion for justice that reflects that of Jesus our Lord.

Jul 27 2013 - Romans 10:14-11:12 – The word of Christ

Paul writes that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. That’s an intriguing phrase (sometimes lost in translation). Does Paul mean that people need to hear the message of the Gospel, the message concerning Christ – the word about him, or does he mean that they need to hear Christ himself speak into their lives – they need to hear Christ’s word? The ambiguity may be deliberate; Paul may intend us to understand what he writes in both senses.

The powerful Gospel message that brings people to faith is a message concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a better religion or philosophy, not a better set of ideas, not even a better set of values, it is an encounter with a person through whom we came to know the Creator of the universe. All of our words concerning Jesus are ineffective unless those to whom we speak encounter the living Lord. It is when Christ speaks into the heart, calling people to trust him and to follow him, that lives are changed.

There is power in the word of Christ. By his word the storm on Lake Galilee was stilled; the wind and the waves obeyed him. By his word lepers were cleansed of their debilitating disease and returned to their families. At his word of command demons fled and troubled minds were made whole. At his word the dead were raised to life again; Lazarus came shuffling out of his tomb to be unwrapped from his grave clothes. By his word water was changed into wine and sadness into laughter. There is power in the word of Christ.

The crowds testified concerning Jesus that no one else ever taught like him. Sceptics concerning the supernatural may still admire his words in the Sermon on the Mount and speak of him as an extraordinary teacher. In doing so, of course, they miss the point, for his teaching exposes and condemns, it is his person that gives life. The disciples recognised the power of his words; Peter said of Jesus, “You only have the words of eternal life.”

In his letter to the Christians at Colossae, Paul says of Jesus that all things were “created through him and for him.” He is the word by which heaven and earth were called into being and filled with life. That word became incarnate in Jesus Christ the author of life. By his resurrection, he gives life to the dead as his Spirit breathes life into those who hear his word.

Paul writes these things to the Christians in Rome to remind them of the missionary purposes of God. God’s purpose is to create for himself a people from every nation on earth and to do so through the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s word in creation has travelled throughout all the earth. Now the word of Christ is touching every corner of the world through the ministry of Paul and others and through the testimony of the churches. The Christians at Rome, Jew and Gentle, are testimony to the power of the word and are called to bear testimony to Christ.

Living God, thank you that the word of Christ has come to us and given us life. By the power of your Spirit continue to breathe through your word and transform us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus. May the word that became flesh in him live in us; may our shared life display that we are the body of Christ. So may our life and words speak of him to others that they also may hear the word of Christ, have life in him and become part of the fellowship of your people.

Peter Misselbrook