Forgiveness.

Forgiveness.

I was contemplating this morning on a number of things revolving around violence and the flippancy we treat the lives of those around us. This happened after a brief back and forth with someone on Facebook regarding capital punishment (according to the Bible) and I was a bit flustered. Anytime I have Facebook banter with someone my emotions rise and my blood pressure probably goes up. I realize this has something to do with not wanting to get into a debate on Facebook because it never really goes anywhere. Forums and Facebook never seem to be a place where people actually change their deep rooted beliefs or values based on some comment someone made. Also, it’s a public debate. It just encourages others to get involved.

The only reason I commented today is because I have committed myself to calling out my friends when they flippantly talk about violence, the lives of human beings, or marriage. This is especially true of my Christian friends, and especially true of my very vocal Christian friends. If you talk about loving people and post Bible verses all the time, then you shouldn’t be flippant about things that should be taken very seriously.

Anyway, while he believes, as many do, that it is God’s will that the government kill those “who have given up their right to live” because they have “killed a life they didn’t create,” I argued for mercy and forgiveness.

Forgiveness and mercy is not the natural human response. Forgiveness, in our minds, negates justice. But for a Christian to seek out death for another human being instead of forgiveness seems ignore what makes the “good news” so good. Of course that doesn’t mean we do not live with the consequences of our actions. I just do not believe that death is the necessary means of punishment. That’s core to what we believe as Christians. Does a murderer deserve death? Yes. But that death has already been paid. Once. For ALL. Because we ALL deserve death.

So as Christians, it’s ok to go marching around saying that someone deserves death, as long as that person is also pointing to themselves, and then explains that they have already been forgiven.

And that is what makes forgiveness so powerful. When we forgive, we are imitating God. It’s not natural for us. That is why I like the quote from Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

I also love the quote,

“We are most like beasts when we kill, most like men when we judge, most like God when we forgive.”

There’s already enough death in this world.There’s already enough injustice. People are shot to death when they are just trying to find help. The world doesn’t need more death and killing. The world needs more mercy and forgiveness. Because ironically, true justice and life is found in the greatest unjust death that has ever occurred: that God died for all mankind and through Him any human being can have eternal life. That’s the Gospel.

Forgiveness brings and breeds justice.

 

Selected Quotes from “On Mercy and Justice”

Selected Quotes from “On Mercy and Justice”

he following text, often attributed to St. Basil the Great, is now regarded by some scholars as the work of one of Basil’s followers. This translation is the work of C. Paul Schroeder and is included in his collection of St. Basil’s writings On Social Justice.

“The world that forgets God, brothers and sisters, is ruled by injustice toward neighbors and inhumanity toward the weak.”

“Just as the Prophet Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, taught, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.” (Is 1:16-17) The Mosaic Law also contained many commandments regarding not harming one’s neighbor, as well as many precepts enjoining kindness and mercy. If someone abandons the practice of the one, the other will not suffice for that person’s restoration. Acts of charity made from unjust gains are not acceptable to God, nor are those who refrain from injustice praiseworthy if they do not share what they have. It is written concerning those who commit injustice and then attempt to offer gifts to God, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” (Prov 15:8) With regard to those who fail to show mercy, however, it says, “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” (Prov 21:13)

It is for this reason that Proverbs instructs, “Honor the Lord with your just labors, and offer as first fruits your righteous works.” (Prov 3:9 LXX) But if you plan to make an offering to God out of the fruits of injustice and exploitation, you should know that it would be better for you neither to possess such things nor to make any offering from them. A pure gift gives wings to prayer; as it is written, “The prayers of the upright are acceptable to God.” (Prov 3:9 LXX) Conversely, if you possess what you have as a result of just labor, yet make no offerings to God for the support of the poor, exploitation is reckoned against you, according to what was spoken by the prophet Malachi, “The first fruits and tithes remain in your possession, and the gains of exploitation shall be in your house.” (Mal 3:8, 10 LXX)”

“It is therefore necessary for you to blend mercy and justice, possessing with justice and dispensing with mercy, according to what is written, “Preserve mercy and justice, and ever draw near to God.” (Hos 12:6 LXX) God loves mercy and justice; therefore, the one who practices mercy and justice draws near to God. It follows that every person should make a thorough self-examination. The rich should carefully consider their means, from which they intend to make offerings, in order to make certain that they have not wielded power over the poor, or used force against the weak, or committed extortion against those in a subordinate position.”

“Mercy does not come from injustice, nor blessing from a curse, nor goodness from tears. God says to those who cause the tears of the oppressed, “What I hate, you do; you cover my altar with tears, weeping and groaning.” (Mal 2:13 LXX) Show mercy from your own earnings, and not from injustice; do not even think of bringing unjust gains to God under the pretext of showing mercy. Such displays are empty glory.”

“This is the reason we perform works of mercy: in order to receive back mercy from God. God gives back to those he approves, and he approves no greedy person. Gifts offered to God are no gifts at all if in acquiring them you have made your brother or sister sorrowful. The Lord says, “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Lk 19:9)”

“If such commands were given to those under the Law, what shall we say of those who are in Christ? To them the Lord says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20) For this reason, the Apostle exhorts us to give to those who have nothing not only out of our crops and produce, but also from the works of our hands. “Do good work with your hands, so that you may have something to give to those in need.” (Eph 4:28)”

“These things should be a constant reminder to us; we should place them before the very eyes of our soul, so that we may not neglect the opportune moment, nor pass over the present time, waiting for some other chance, lest we should be lost in the end on account of our hesitation and delaying. May the Lord grant that we may be found fruitful and vigilant, mindful of his commands, ready and unimpeded at his glorious appearing; in Christ himself our God, to whom be glory, might, and honor, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and forever and ever.”

Selected Quotes from “On Mercy and Justice” on my Tumblr page

A look at Micah 6:6-8

A look at Micah 6:6-8

Background Information

The prophet Micah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom during the time in which they were held in captivity by the Assyrian king, Sargon II, around 730 to 700 BC.[1] During this time King Hezekiah worked very hard to bring revival to Judah although Assyria loomed at the door. Hezekiah was somewhat successful in his attempts to bring revival, but it was mostly superficial. God used Isaiah, Micah, and Hezekiah to keep Judah from judgment. While the Northern Kingdom’s sins were transparent, the Southern Kingdom’s sins were hidden behind religious observances and rituals. Everything looked wonderful and orthodox on the outside, but Micah knew that their hearts were far from their God. He saw past their adherence of the external things of the law and addressed the root of their sins – their hearts.

Micah 6:6-8

In chapter six of Micah, Micah makes a proclamation from God concerning His people Israel. He asks them what he has done unto them and calls for them to respond. He reminds them of His faithfulness to them, protecting them from harm from such people as Balak and Balaam. In verses six and seven, Micah gives the response of the people to God. And in verse eight, Micah then responds giving a direct answer to their questions. He addresses the issues in which they are seemingly so ignorant and foolish to perceive as truths, that some kind of external ritual or sacrifice is good enough to satisfy God. Micah states that God has already shown them what He expects of them, and that they should not have asked the question in the first place.

Literary Style

Micah here is poetic. The speech-form is masterfully composed and is borrowed from the entrance liturgy as evidenced in Psalm 15 and 24, and in another place borrowing from Isaiah 33:14-16.[2] His writing style is defined by questions and answers. Micah represents both parties involved. In the first part of the chapter Micah spoke for God, in verses six and seven he represents the people, and in verse eight he speaks for himself, posing as the priest between the people and God.

Some believe that this speech would have conjured in the minds of his audience a courtroom setting.[3] The judge is God, and Micah speaks on his behalf as his counsel. The witnesses are found in the first part of the chapter: the mountains, hills, and the very foundation of the earth (6:1-2). In chapter six of Micah, God takes Israel to court.

MICAH 6:6

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burn offerings, with calves a year old?”

אֲקַדֵּ֣ם – piel, imperf, 1cs, קָדַם, I come

אִכַּ֖ף  – nifal, imperf, 1cs, כָּפַף, I bow myself

אֲקַדְּמֶ – piel, imperf, 1cs, קָדַם, I come

 

It is unlikely that Balak is the speaker of verses six and seven with Balaam giving his response in verse eight as some have asserted.[4] Micah here most likely speaks for the people of Israel represented as a single, inquisitive worshipper. God’s charge against Israel has been made and this individual now responds.

While most commentators believe that verses six and seven are asked by the people personified, not all agree as to the spirit from which they proceed, some taking the questions to be full of arrogance and self-righteousness; others see the questions acknowledging their sin in some degree and truly desiring means for propitiation.[5] It is probable that the people are most likely truly repentant, but severely ignorant of what their sin actually is.

The people do acknowledge God in his high place מָר֑וֹם)). This unique expression is also seen in Psalm 92:8 (9).[6] They desire to come before the Lord אֲקַדֵּ֣ם)). This word means “to go meet” or “appear in the presence” of the Lord. This signifies humility and gives a glimpse of a repentant heart. They desire to come before the Lord, and they know that they should not appear before him empty-handed. So they ask if they should bring burnt offerings or sacrifice year old calves. Burnt offerings were demanding sacrifices where the whole animal was offered, unlike others where the offering was also eaten by the worshipper in a meal.[7] A year old calf was regarded as the best sacrifice, although they were eligible for sacrifice from the age of seven days (Lev 22:27, Ex 22:30.)[8] Although usually seen as two separate types of sacrifices, the burnt offerings and year old calves could be an example of hendiadys, making the calves to be the burnt offerings.[9]

The question assumes that God is the problem, and that something must be done to change His attitude towards Judah.[10] They desire to please God, but show their dramatic ignorance. They do not realize that sacrifices are not what are lacking, but righteousness. They are eager to obtain God’s approval, but are completely ignorant of the means by which to do so.

MICAH 6:7

“Will the LORD delight in thousands of rams, or in ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul.”

יִרְצֶ֤ה – qal, imperf, 3ms, רָצָה, pleased

אֶתֵּ֤ן – piel, imperf, 1cs, נָתַן, give

Here, they, as Leslie Allen puts it, “turn from quality of offering to quantity.”[11] And in doing so they imply that Yahweh is a greedy and bloodthirsty God. The word יִרְצֶ֤ה, typically understood as “delight,” is a technical term of the priest who would examine sacrifices and declare them fit for presentation to God (Lev 1:4; 22:25).[12] These seemingly unfathomable numbers more than likely used as hyperbole. King Solomon and other kings did sacrifice sheep and cattle in numbers far greater than even these mentioned (1 Kings 3:4; 8:63; 2 Chr 30:24; 35:7), but here the numbers are exaggerations.[13] Rams (אֵילִ֔ים) (Lev. 5:15) and olive oil (שָׁ֑מֶן) (Lev 2:1, 4, 15) were common sacrificial substances.

The offerings gradually increase in size and value until they reach a climax at the end of verse seven. Here the speaker seems desperate, realizing that his suggestions up to this point have been futile.[14] Now the speaker asks if God would be pleased with the most valuable sacrifice that a man could give, his own first-born son. But this thought is completely unreasonable because God had explicitly forbidden this as an abomination (Lev 18:21). The people offer sacrifices of flesh, even the fruit of their own flesh. But they should have known that what God desires is not that of the flesh, but the spirit. And Israel should have known this from both the sacrifice of Isaac required by God in Genesis 22, and from the law concerning the consecration of the first-born in Exodus 13:12-13.[15]

It is also here that the people mention their transgression פִּשְׁעִ֔)) and sin (חַטַּ֥את) for the first time. But in the way they ask it, most likely hyperbole, they are mocking the notion that they actually had a sin problem, that God’s claims are unsubstantiated.[16] The two nouns פִּשְׁעִ֔)) and (חַטַּ֥את) grammatically are more likely causal accusatives than appositional terms.[17] The idea that human sacrifice was a common act in Israel is not very reasonable, although it was practiced in neighboring nations. It is undeniable that it did seep into the nation of Israel, and people did sacrifice their children to a god named Molech somewhere on the south side of Jerusalem. This god is the one to whom both Ahaz and Manasseh infamously sacrificed their sons (2 Kings 16:3, 21:7).[18] The Hebrew word (נַפְשִֽׁ) is often understood as soul, as it is here, but it also could have the understanding of talking of the whole person. If that is the case, then it could be translated “my sin” instead of “the sin of my soul.”

Ultimately, the questions raised by the people of Israel showed that they were truly ignorant of God’s will. The questions both showed their ignorance and mocked God Himself. They feel God’s attack in the previous verses was unwarranted, and desired to know what it would take to be back in fellowship with Him. They would do anything, even sacrifice their own children, except do what they should have known that God wanted them to do. This is when Micah speaks up as the priest.

MICAH 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you, except to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

הִגִּ֥יד – hif, perf, 3ms, נָגַד, told

דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ – qal, participle, masc, sing, absolute, דָּרַשׁ, require

עֲשׂ֤וֹת – qal, inf construct, עָשָׂה, to do

אַ֣הֲבַת – qal, inf construct, אָהֵב, love

לֶ֖כֶת – qal, inf construct, הָלַךְ, walk

 

This verse is one of the best summaries of the law in the Old Testament. The rabbis who commented on this verse in the early centuries called it “a one-line summary of the whole Law.”[19] Micah now addresses Israel and tells them what God requires of them. Unfortunately for them, they should have already known what God required of them because He had already told them multiple times in passages such as Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

The personification of the worshipper of verses six and seven is seen here as man (אָדָ֖ם). This word is more often used collectively than of a single person.[20] In addressing Israel this way the contrast of the “God on high” (אלֹהֵ֣י מָר֑וֹם) of verse six is contrasted with simple אָדָ֖ם here.

Micah has nothing new to say to them. God has already told them (הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛) what is good (טּ֑וֹב). Some assume this verb to be passive, and so translate it without a subject (“What is good has been explained to you”). The majority see the verb to be active and subject being the LORD or God.[21] There should have been no mystery or question about what God had required. And it had nothing to do with sacrifice and offering. There were simply three things that God required of His people: to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God. Yet, Israel at this was just the opposite: unjust, oppressive, and in want of affection.

They are first to do justice (מִשְׁפָּט). This word has a broad meaning and involves right and fair relationships in the community, especially in legal and financial affairs.[22] Justice is necessary for people to live amongst each other in the way that God intended. But Israel at this time could even be defined as unjust. Injustice ruled in Israel, and this made temple worship a mockery of Israel’s faith.[23]

They also told to love mercy (חֶ֔סֶד).The second part of the summary, like doing justice, focused on actions toward others. The rich word חֶ֔סֶד is used here. It is described by Leslie Allen as “a word of relationship, expressing an attitude of covenant obligation.”[24] But it is a fairly complex word, and TWOT concludes that “it is by no means clear that  חֶ֔סֶד necessarily involves a covenant or means fidelity to a covenant.” It refers both to an attitude as well as to actions, and the KJV’s rendering of “loving-kindness” is archaic but also quite accurate.[25] It is the covenantal aspect of this word that is best understood here. In verses 3-5 the Lord had accused his people of failing to obey their covenant obligations to Him.[26] Here, ultimately, they were being told to have a heart-filled desire to do good to others and to obey God.

Finally, God tells them to “walk humbly with their God” (לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ) “Walk” here is used in a figurative sense. This requires passive and active obedience towards God.[27] The word (הַצְנֵ֥עַ) is a rare word, occurring only twice, here and in Proverbs 11:2, where it is contrasted with the word “proud.”[28] It most likely means doing what God wants and not insisting on one’s own will. The first two duties are mostly towards others, but this duty is to God. He expected them to “walk” with them, just as Enoch and Noah had done. It is this walk that God truly desires, and not rituals or sacrifices. They are only expressions of that walk.[29] He is their God, shedding light once again on the covenant between them.

CONCLUSION

Even though the three parts of verse six have great meaning separately, it is the whole verse which is most important. These three pillars are what was expected of Israel, not rituals, not sacrifices. God wants the heart. He wants His people to want His will and to serve in love of others and of God. For us today, when we feel that we have fallen short of pleasing God we many times turn to forms of religiosity – going to church more often, spending hours in prayer, giving more money, etc.[30] We tell God “I’ll do anything, just don’t make me change.” But God has told us what he requires of us. We are to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.


[1] Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 478.

[2] Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 368.

[3] Peter C. Craigie, Twelve Prophets: Volume 2, The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 45.

[4] The Pulpit Commentary: Micah, ed. H.D.M Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 87.

[5] Ibid., 87-88

[6] Allen, 369.

[7] Allen, 370.

[8] Ibid., 370.

[9] David J. Clark and Norm Mundhenk, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Micah, Helps for Translators (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1982), 230.

[10] James E. Smith, The Minor Prophets (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1992), Micah 6:8.

[11] Allen, 370.

[12] Smith, Mic 6:7.

[13] Allen, 370.

[14] Clark and Mundhenk, 230-231.

[15] Carl Friedrich Kiel and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), Micah 6:7.

[16] Smith, Micah 6:7.

[17] Allen, 370.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Kenneth L. Barker, vol 20, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2001), 112.

[20] Allen, 371.

[21] Clark and Mundhenk, 232-233.

[22] Ibid, 234.

[23] Cragie, 46.

[24] Allen, 371.

[25] R. Laird Harris, Robert Lair Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 307.

[26] Clark and Mundhenk, 234.

[27] Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fasset, A.R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Micah 6:8.

[28] Clark and Mundhenk, 234.

[29] Cragie, 47.

[30] Ibid.

 

What does the LORD require of us?

What does the LORD require of us?

“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

To me, this is one of the most powerful verses found in the entire Bible. What does God expect from us? This verse spells it out plain and simple.

We are to realize that God has shown us what is good. God has told us what He has required of us. We have no excuses before Him. This verse also shows us that we are personally accountable to God. Let us also not forget that it is through God’s grace that He has told us what He requires from us. There are people groups and religions where they are unsure of what God expects from them and their worship is lived in trial and error, fearing that their god may punish them for approaching Him wrong. But Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, has shown us what He requires of us.

First of all, we are to do justly. While we look at this we must remember that this is between yourself and God. It is not about someone else and God. The finger must remained pointed at yourself. We are to never compare our lifestyles and relationship with other peoples’ lifestyles and relationships with God. God does not compare us to others, He only holds us to His specific standards. Thankfully He has not made that a guessing game for us. He specifically says here that we are to do justly. Simply stated we are to do right at all times. We are to never treat others unjustly. We are to be focused on always doing right at all times. We are to run away from sin. The first standard that God expects from all people is to do justly.

Secondly, we are to love mercy. Mercy is something that I have a passion to understand. It is something that I believe Christians have to be defined with having. To be a Christian and to not be merciful is to be living at enmity with God. We cannot expect mercy if we are not giving it either. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I will discuss mercy more at a later point and in much more depth. But it is important to note that it is not merely mercy that God expects us to have. God expects us to have the love of mercy in our lives. We do not merely like mercy and giving it. We love mercy. We love being merciful. I believe that the more we do in mercy, the more we are acting like God. And I also believe the more we are acting like Christ-like-ones, a.k.a. Christians. So here we see the second standard that God requires of us: the love of mercy.

Thirdly, God expects us to walk humbly with Him. To walk with God implies a personal relationship with God. This requires us to be believers with Him. So God desires and requires all people to believe in Him. To walk with God shows an intimacy. As a good father loves his son, and grows with him over the years they spend with each other, they bond in their walk through life. So it should be with God the Father. We have the privledge to be able to have a relationship with the God of the universe. It is not only a privledge, but God expects it and requires it. And He gives us the privledge to call Him our Father. We have the ability to call Him our God. It is not just a walk with God, however. It is a humble walk. We are to never live in pride. We are to live with a servant’s heart. We cannot walk with God if we are living in pride, or have a prideful heart. God exalts and lifts up the humble and the meek. We must remain humble in our relationship with God. God requires it.

This is a simple summary of an amazing verse. I will reference it frequently because it is very practical, and very powerful. If we take these requirements seriously, how will that affect our daily lives? How will it affect our attitudes? How will it affect our relationships with others? How will it affect our beliefs and our faith? The Christian life is a daily practice. We must strive to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. God expects it from us daily. So we must die daily to ourselves and to be able to live how God exects us to live. Let that be true for you everyday, as I strive for that as well.