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What God Requires

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2021 4:00 am

What God Requires

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 10, 2021 4:00 am

The past year has caused many of us to wonder why there’s so little harmony. So how can we be part of a lasting solution? Hear the answer when you study along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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So many of the events in our world over the past year have caused us to look around and wonder, why is there so little harmony in our world? Well, if we're going to be part of a lasting solution, we need to answer that question correctly. And today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg turns to Micah chapter 6 to explain our only hope for true peace and harmony. It would be the eighth verse of the passage that we read.

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. Let me begin in this way by asking a question. Do orchestras really need conductors? If the conductor were to be deposed by them in some kind of coup and the members decided that what they were going to do was simply go with their feelings—play whatever they felt at any particular time and whatever volume they chose and so on—well, of course, clearly, the end product would be chaotic and would be unappealing.

Now, let me ask a second question. How are we to account for the absence of harmony in our world? And one way of answering that—and it is the Bible way of answering that—is to acknowledge that we have deposed the conductor, that the Bible tells us we have been created by God and for God, and yet we have been separated from God, and we have been scattered in the imagination of our hearts. Well, who needs a score? We can make the plays up as we go along.

We can just play whatever tune we like. And furthermore, people might say the idea of a conductor, the idea of one who oversees us and so on, is just so far away from all that we now hold to and affirm. Now, in this, you may not agree, but there are few people that I meet at the moment who would be prepared to deny the fact that our world is out of kilter. It is a world that is not only fractured, but it is fearful. It's a fearful place, inhabited by people who are themselves increasingly filled with fear.

And we're dealing, actually, at the moment, it would seem, with a three-headed monster. We're dealing with it pandemically. Our lives have been completely changed as a result of this virus, which has swept the world—not only pandemically but also economically.

And it's not for me to give any kind of instruction in this regard. I, like you, just simply read what I find day to day. But it would seem obvious that we have been confronted now by levels of unemployment, by mountains of debt, that we are told will take more than time to relieve or to repay. And then, racially, our nation now has been fractured, and its brokenness has been highlighted in the demonstrations that have come in the aftermath of the unspeakably brutal and cruel death of George Floyd. And again, fear grips the nation. Which is the worst of the viruses, we would find ourselves saying?

It's almost impossible to come to Micah chapter 6 and verse 8 without, certainly in these days, saying something along these lines. Two observations. One, I've chosen to use the more old-fashioned term racial prejudice, or racial discrimination. And the reason for that is because language is now so abused.

The word racist has now been so abused that it has virtually lost its meaning. So I say the issue we deal with is racial prejudice. It's just one observation. The second observation is this—that with the events of the last few days, objective morality has now made a reappearance.

What do I mean by that? Well, matters now are immediately identified as being either right or wrong. As I drove here this morning, one of the signs read, Racism is wrong. Which, of course, it is. However you want to define it, we know what we're talking about today. But the thought that occurred to me was, isn't it interesting that it doesn't say something like, Racism is a bad idea? Or, My personal view is that it is this?

No. It simply says, It is wrong. Because every honest person knows that it is wrong. And from a biblical perspective, clearly so. Because when we turn to the Bible, we realize that the Bible says there is only one God. And there is only one reality, which is that man has been made—men and women made—in the image of divinity, in the image of God. And as a result of that, there is only one morality, and that that morality emerges from God himself.

Therefore, God is a God who says, I'll tell you what's right, and I'll tell you what is wrong. Now, in light of that, it is impossible to say, Nothing matters. It all matters. It matters for more than we know, because it matters to the Creator, it matters to the lawgiver, and for this reason, black lives matter. It is impossible to be otherwise.

In fact—and this we will not delve into this morning—these issues of such brutality and murder matter far more than our culture is prepared to accept. The sanctity of human life is bound up in the fact that man was made in the image of God. He was put together purposefully.

His genetic code was written by the Creator himself. And that is why the Bible says that if you take a man's life, you forfeit your own life. And the recognition of the sanctity of life is revealed not only in the way we care for those in the fragile elements of life but in the way that we are prepared to acknowledge that capital punishment for such murder is not only legitimate, it is divinely ordained. Do you think we care about life? We don't care about life enough. God cares. God made us.

God loves those who have been so tragically bereaved. And our great need in all of these discussions is to have a solid dose of theological realism. All of us have emotional attachments. All of us have backgrounds that are unique to ourselves and so on. But the real question is, are we going to gain an understanding of things by looking to the Scriptures themselves?

My opinion is as valid as the next person's opinion, perhaps, if it's true, if it's good. But by and large, we all are in need of being taught by the one who knows the answers to all the questions. And that is essentially the role of the prophet. What is Micah the prophet saying? What is he providing for the people?

Well, he's not talking about his own ideas. Look at how the chapter begins. Hear what the Lord says. This is the role of the prophet. This is the role of the preacher of the Bible. Not for me or for anybody else to stand up and give you our views, but to stand up and say, Listen! Listen now! Listen to God!

And that's why we constantly say, You are sensible people. Examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so. Notice that he is speaking to his people, and he has reason to contend with them, to indict them. And the reason for that is because, if you work your way back through the text, you will see that they have been devising wickedness, they have been working evil on their beds, they can't wait to get up in the morning to perform it, and it is in the power of their hand to do. That's the beginning of chapter 2.

And so it goes on. And so he is addressing them, and he is addressing them with reason for contention. Also, you will notice that in addressing them, his tone is one of entreaty, that sense of tenderness. Oh, it's about like, Oh, come on!

Oh, my people! Now, what he then does is he reminds them of his righteous acts. You will see that down in verse 5. The righteous acts of the Lord.

Now, he's just giving them, essentially, a little reminder of history. The redemption that he has brought about in verse 4, in bringing them safely out of Egypt. The leadership that he then gave to them so that they might make progress in Moses and Aaron and Miriam. The way in which, in the events of Balak and Balaam, God in his great providence turned curses to blessing.

And in the encounter from Shiddon to Golgal, he's simply reminding them of the events that were there when they crossed the Jordan. These, he says, are the righteous acts of the Lord. And notice that you may know the righteous rights of the Lord.

And it doesn't mean that you might be able to rehearse them. No, the knowledge that he's speaking about here is a life-transforming knowledge—that you might know the righteous acts of the Lord, that when you think about what God has done for you, it might be transformative. Knowledge of the truth of God is the basis, then, for making sure that our emotions and our feelings are both given full effect and, at the same time, held in check. And so he says, I want you to know the righteous acts of God.

I don't want you just to be able to say, This is what happened, and this is what happened, and so on, no, that you may know. That's the real question. Do you know God? His people had completely lost sight of all that God had done for them. That's why he says to them, What have I done to you? How have I wearied you?

Answer me! It had all become tedious. It had become tiresome. They were saying, Oh, it's the same old material. It was routine. It became irrelevant.

It was dangerous. And so we call the counsel, then, for the defense. What is the response of the would-be worshiper? Well, you have it here in verses 6 and 7. And we can read these verses, where you have this progression of expressions of devotion—burnt offerings, with calves a year old.

Well, what about thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil? What if I was like Abram and offered up my son in an expression of my desire to have my sin dealt with? Now, the way we need to understand this, of course, is in light of what Scripture tells us. We have an illustration of it when we studied in 1 Samuel many moons ago, if you will remember. And Samuel the prophet confronts Saul, you will recall, and he says to them, Has the LORD great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices? Does he have his great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

And of course, that's the point. They're not saying that the sacrifices were irrelevant or the expressions of devotion are irrelevant, but what God is looking for is obedience. You have it in a parallel passage in Amos, which, when I read it in Peterson's paraphrase, struck me forcibly.

And this is a similar context, where the prophet Amos is taking on the same issue. The people are saying, Well, we could come before God, and this is what we'll be able to say. We've done a wonderful job on sacrifices. We've been very self-giving.

We have been prepared even to go to the extremities of it. And God says, I can't stand your religious meetings. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I've had all I can take of your noisy ego music.

When was the last time you sang to me? Do you want to know what I want? I want justice. Oceans of it. I want fairness.

Rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want. Ralph Davis says, But why do we think we have to be so frantic? Why do we think God wants us to organize more Christian things to do? That's what their answer was. God says through his prophet, What are you guys up to?

They say, Oh no, we've got it covered. Finally, the prophet responds, and in verse 8… Now, this eighth verse is of course quoted frequently—I'm sure you'll have turned to it in the past few days, and understandably so. Interestingly, Newton, the hymn writer and the pastor, commenting on this, said, There is hardly any one passage in Scripture more generally misunderstood. Now, you've read it, and I have read it, and you may find yourself saying, Well, it seems pretty straightforward to me.

There's essentially only three points. Number one, to do justly. That is, to act in such a way that is the reversal of all that was taking place. That it means doing justly in accord with the will and purpose of God as he has both manifested it and as he has revealed it to us in Scripture. So, within the framework of God's revelation of himself, we want to take seriously these things—perhaps far more seriously than we have been giving credence to to this point. But taking that seriously is not the same, I suggest to you, as this commentator's explanation of what doing justice, quotes, according to the Bible really means. It is, he writes, creating a situation and a society where everything is right—a society where every last person in it, including the most vulnerable and the weakest, can flourish and thrive.

That's not my purpose to interact with that for now, but it is to set it out before you so that you, like me, can be thinking along these lines. To do justly, to love mercy. A heart attitude. These actions taking place not as a performance of some demanded duty but as a glad and spontaneous action.

It's not going to be possible for us to really believe that, Father, your love is a faithful love, and then for us to be faithless in our expressions of love. And then, thirdly, to walk humbly. In other words, to walk in submission to God's will. In New Testament terms, it's Romans 12 to offer your body as a living sacrifice that is an acceptable form of worship to him.

Humility means that I don't take myself too seriously, that I don't cherish exaggerated ideas of my own importance, that I don't assume that I have everything buttoned down and know how it should be—which is, of course, one's tendency. Well, you say, that's fairly comprehensive and it's fairly clear. Why did Newton say, quotes—again, there's hardly a passage in Scripture more generally misunderstood? Well, he's not here to answer the question, but I think at least this would be true of what he meant. Number one, because of how this verse is attempted without the gospel. And then it becomes just a display of natural virtue. It's just another version of a good God, if he exists, will reward nice people if they do their best. And part of the way of doing your best involves justice, it involves mercy, and it involves being humble about it. How easy it is for us to attempt this without the gospel. Also, how easy it is for pastors to proclaim it in place of the gospel, if the message that comes across is, Why don't you go out and have a really good week and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?

They say, I'll take a stab at that. But you see the inherent danger. Am I wrong in suggesting to my friend that he ought at least to be wary of explaining Micah 6 8 as, quote, creating a situation and a society where everything is right? That is called the new heaven and the new earth. We've got to read the prophets in light of the apostles. We've got to interpret the Old Testament in light of the new. You've got to ask yourself of that kind of explanation how it fits within the epistles of the New Testament, and the emphasis of the apostles.

Who themselves had a prophetic ministry? But our time is gone, so let me just tell you the third reason that I think it is one of the misunderstood passages. Because it needs to be understood that it is only possible by the gospel. Micah is not here charting a path as a means to acceptance with God.

So what is the answer? Well, you see, the answer is not in our righteous acts but in the righteous acts of the Lord. Verse 5. He has shown you, O man, what is good. Jesus is good.

If your Bible is open, you just go back a page and you'll find yourself in the Christmas narrative. And verse 5, he shall be their peace. He shall be their peace. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Or as we have it in Titus, for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. When Newton preached on this passage, he entitled his sermon on this verse, No Access to God but by the Gospel of Christ. And I'm pretty sure that is what he meant when he said this is so misunderstood, so taught or received in such a way as to say, you know, this is the missing link.

This is the key. But what the passage is saying is, Would you come before God? Then come in the name of Jesus. You'll find acceptance. Because remember, before Jesus left, he said, Whoever comes to me, I won't cast out.

And if we don't come by way of that entrance, there is no other way. And if we're worried about what kind of response we will receive, go to the end of the chapter, go to the closing verses of the chapter, where the prophet says, Who's a pardoning God like you? Who pardons sins like you? Who forgives iniquities? Who cleanses us? Who fits us for your presence?

You do. What you essentially have in verse 8 are the credentials of our justification—not the things that contribute to our justification but the evidences of our justification. Well, loved ones, we can't fix the world. But with God's help, we can make a pledge to one another to declare our willingness to live the gospel in expressions of justice and kindness and humility. And as strange as it will sound to an onlooking world, God has provided in the local church the genetic blueprint of a broken world remade.

Does an orchestra need a conductor? Surely. Do we need a Savior?

Surely. To him we look. To live out the gospel means that we live lives that are marked by justice, kindness, and humility. That's a commitment we can only make with God's help. That's from today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. If you're a regular Truth for Life listener, you know that you can count on hearing Christ-focused, life-changing Bible teaching every day on this program. That's because we believe the scripture, while it is penned by men, is authored by God.

Its truth is unchanging and without error. Our passion is to proclaim the good news of the gospel as far and as wide as possible. We're also passionate about providing you with books that can help you grow in your faith. That's why we're recommending today a one-month devotional titled None Else, 31 Meditations on God's Character and Attributes. We want to recommend to you that you request your copy of None Else today when you make a generous one-time donation to Truth for Life. You can give your gift by tapping the image you see on our mobile app or by visiting truthforlife.org slash donate or call 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Join us tomorrow as we'll confront a difficult question. When the world seems to be in social and political disarray, how should the church respond? The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-16 13:32:21 / 2023-09-16 13:40:30 / 8

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