“I call to the stand the people of Israel.”
That’s basically the opening of Micah 6, where God calls the Israelites to account in a court-like atmosphere.
He cross-examines them, saying,
My people what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me! (3)
He then testifies of all he’d done for Israel, delivering them from Egypt and from those who tried to harm them, and leading them through the desert to the promised land.
At which point, the people get exasperated with all the questioning and basically say, “Well what do you want? We’ll do anything just to get you to shut up and leave us alone! Do you want offerings of calves and rams? Shall I offer my own children as a sacrifice? What do you want anyway?”
And that’s the kind of attitude that many people take when it comes to God. They think that all he wants is religious ritual. Going to church. Sacrificing their money by giving tithes. Fasting. Some people at Lent will give up things that they usually do, thinking that it will earn them points with God, but then live their own way the rest of the year.
And that’s how the Israelites were. They just wanted to get their sacrifices out of the way, hopefully appease God through them, and then live their own way the rest of the time.
But Micah told them,
“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.” (8)
God is not interested in empty religion. What is empty religion? It’s doing religious acts devoid of a love for God. It’s doing religious rituals one day, but doing your own thing the rest of the time.
For the Israelites, they were cheating people in business and acting violently against each other (10-12). While they were willing to act religiously to get God off their backs, they refused to do what God really required. To do what was right, to show mercy to the people around them, and to walk humbly with God daily, not just once a week.
How about you? What do you think pleases God? It’s not your money. It’s not going to church. It’s not doing religious rituals. Jesus summed it up this way, when asked what the greatest commandment was. It wasn’t sacrifices. It wasn’t tithing. It wasn’t any religious rituals. Instead he said,
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12:30-31)
Do you want to please God? It’s not found in empty religious acts. It’s found in loving God, and in loving others. For that’s what God truly desires.
Lord, help me never to offer you empty religious acts that mean nothing. What means more to you than anything else is that I love you and that I love others. Teach me how to do that every day. Show me how to touch your heart every day, and to touch the lives of the people around me. Let me be your vessel that you can use. In Jesus name, amen.