With what will I approach Yehowah’s presence? With what will I prostrate myself to God in the heights? Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings? With yearling calves? MC7:7 Will Yehowah approve of thousands of rams? With tens of thousands pourings of oil? Shall I give my firstborn child for my transgressions? The fruitage of my body for my own sin? MC7:8 He has already told you, O human, what is good - what Yehowah requires of you. Only this -- to be just and fair, to take pleasure in compassion, and to walk humble with your God. [21st Century Paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures - NCMM]
From Abel God asked for an offering of the “firstlings of his flock.” [Genesis 4:4] From Noah God asked for animal sacrifices from the seven of each kind carried in the Ark. [Genesis 8:20, 21] From the Hebrew patriarchs God asked for burnt offerings. From the Israelites God commanded them to offer up to Him offerings of every kind. In the days of Jesus of Nazareth the Jews continued to offer up “holocausts” or burnt offerings.
Despite all of these, what was it that God really asked of His worshippers? Can we reduce these to just a few to make it easier on ourselves? [Psalm 51:16, 17; Isaiah 1:11-15] It may turn out that it would be easier to offer up holocausts to God rather than the three things He asks of His worshippers. What are these?
The prophet Micah writing about 700 years before Christ made it clear the three things that Yehowah required of those who will worship Him. What are these and what do they mean?
All of us have no difficulty in telling what is “just and fair” when it comes to the way WE are treated. We know for sure what is just. We know for sure what is fair. The reason we know is because we know how we feel when we are treated unjustly, or unfairly. Even little children learn this lesson very early. They learn naturally how to judge who is being just and fair to them. How?
It is only just and fair that we know the rules first. The rules have to be the same for everyone. Any punishment for breaking the rules must be based on a common standard. Since this is how we wish to be treated it is only reasonable - just and fair - that we treat others with this same justice and fairness we want for ourselves.
There is an example of this one of the Nazarene’s parables. When illustrating the matter of forgiveness, Jesus told the story of a slave who was heavily in debt, so much so that it was impossible for him to repay the loans he had accrued. However, his master out of mercy - he surely was just and fair - canceled this unbelievable debt. However, upon leaving this slave spotted another slave who owed him a very small amount. The forgiven slave became enraged and began to choke his fellow, screaming, "Pay up!” Well, his actions got back to the master - and all things being just and fair - he had to pay for his failure to be just and fair with others.
Being “just and fair” not expecting things of others that we ourselves are not willing to deliver. It simply is not “just and fair” to demand that others do something that we cannot do. We expect people never to speak ill of us, but we think nothing of doing so about others. We expect others to sacrifice all, while we give only token charity. We want everyone to forgive us, but we are hard taskmasters when it comes to be “just and fair” to others.
Jesus describes “justice” as one of the weightier matters of the Law of Moses. [Matthew 23:23] He condemns the Jewish hierarchy for becoming very demanding and religious about minor matters, but ignore being “just and fair.” Such has marked religious hierarchies throughout the ages among all religions. They, like the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ generation, “piled huge burdens on the people but are not willing to use their linger finger to relieve their load.”
For the quality of “just and fair” to be present there must be something else. That is next considered by the prophet.
The Nazarene was a most compassionate person. His feelings of compassion - and what this moved him to do - are described in the Gospels. Also, he worked the subject of compassion into some of his parables. [Matthew 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:13; 1:33]
Paul encourages the attribute of compassion:
“Become graciously charitable to each other, with a tendency to sympathetic compassion full of forgiveness to all, exactly as God by Christ graciously forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:32 NCMM]
“Clothe yourselves with empathy and compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, tolerance. Be patient and tolerant of one another even if someone has a complaint against another.” [Colossians 3:12, 13 NCMM]
Peter also exhorts to compassion:
“All of you be like-minded - sympathetic, along with brotherly affection, well-disposed to compassion, humble in disposition, not paying back harm for harm, or slander for slander, but rather, bestow blessings [on others].” [1 Peter 4:8, 9 NCMM]
Compassion - with its friend “empathy” - are at the very root of properly motivated love [or, AGAPE]. For love begins with empathy and compassion. Love first notices a need out of interest for others and then the engine of compassion and empathy arouse a positive action that seeks the highest good of another.
Such a quality does not always come naturally to most. We are born somewhat egocentric, convinced the whole world revolves around us in our cribs and high-chairs. Unfortunately some never outgrow this attitude and go to their graves thinking the world owed them a living. However, upon becoming a disciple of the Nazarene, the Christian must slowly train themselves to think in a different way. It takes time, but at last the “genuine disciple” learns to think first - not of self and personal interests - but of others and their needs.
Paul makes an appeal to a Christian congregation and in this context he combines the need for compassion and sincere interest in others. In Philippians 2:1-4 he writes,
“So if there is … any inner feelings and compassions … be considerate of one another, not just looking after your own selfish things, but also those things of others.” [NCMM]
Compassion is manifest in many ways, but one is paramount - charity. For when a truly compassionate person sees a person in need they quickly come to their aid. The very idea is at the root of Christ’s parable of the sheep and goats illustrating his parousia-judgment of his own Church. [Matthew 25:31-46] The sheep are those with compassion who saw a need among their fellowship and took positive action. The goats, on the other hand, saw the same needs but were unmoved despite their claims of Christianity.
A modern example of such compassion was seen in the simple lady called Mother Theresa. How many persons - including Christians of any sect - would be willing to sacrifice all to go to the dark and dank gutters of Bombay and care for women and children in abject poverty? Which one of the highly respect religious leaders of ANY sect or religion would be willing to give up their means and life-style, respect and honor, titles and prestige, and go to a Third World country to labor among an AIDS-infested population? It was not without reason that this dear woman was given the Noble Prize, in part because of her compassion. She said: “We should see in the faces of the poor the Lord Jesus.”
Yehowah through the prophet Micah does not merely say, “be compassionate.” But rather, He says, “take pleasure in compassion.” We should wear compassion and empathy as though it were clothing. Everyone who knows us should be able to say, “Now there is a compassionate Christian.” In every community there are ways to demonstrate such compassion. There are any number of volunteer services where one can offer their help free to assist those in need.
Of course, compassion ought to begin at home. From there compassion ought to move out into every individual we meet as we Christ in our hearts. We carry compassion in the work place, the market place, the schoolyard, and all the hundreds of other places our Gospel feet take us. Now compassion and the subject of “walking” are considered next in Micah.
The first person to have been described as “walking with God” was Enoch [Genesis 5:22, 24] and next Noah. [Genesis 6:9] Yehowah told Abraham,
“I am Almighty God and you must continue to walk before me and prove yourself blameless.” [NCMM]
Micah the prophet has already used the idea of walking with God in Micah 4:2, 5,
“[Yehowah] will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths. … For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, while we will continue to walk in the name of Yehowah our God forever and ever.” [NCMM]
In the Christian Scriptures the word “walk” and “walking” is used of personal conduct or lifestyle. [Romans 6:4; 8:4; 13:13; 2 Corinthians 5:7] Paul uses the metaphor with regard to a life of spiritual conduct. Paul writes,
“So now I tell all of you: if you continue to walk by the Spirit you will not follow through on any fleshly desire. … If we continue to live spiritually we will also [continue to walk] spiritually. … Now peace and mercy upon all those of the Israel of God who continue to walk orderly according to this rule.” [Galatians 5:16, 25; 6:16 NCMM]
Also in other verses he comes close to paraphrasing Micah:
“Continue conducting yourselves [or, walk] as Children of the Light because the Light’s fruitage is every type of moral virtue, ethical uprightness, and integrity.” [Ephesians 5:9 NCMM]
“Conduct yourselves [or, walk] worthily of the Lord, completely pleasing Him as you continue to produce fruitage in every kind of good work, always increasing your complete and thorough knowledge of the God.” [Colossians 1:10 NCMM]
The beloved apostle John uses the idea of “walking” as a way of conducting oneself. He says in his three epistles:
“If we live [walk] like we are in righteous illumination -- exactly as Jesus lived [walked] in righteous illumination -- then we are a community cleansed from sin sharing in the blood of God’s Son, Jesus. … The person who says, ‘I remain in harmony with him,’ has the responsibility to live [walk] just as Jesus lived. … Now this is the loving concern: so that we may continue to walk in [God’s] commandments, just as you originally heard, that you continue walking in [that loving concern]. … I rejoiced exceedingly when visiting brothers testified about the Truth you hold and how you continue to walk in accordance with the Truth. I have no greater reason for thankfulness than to hear my children continue walking in the Truth.” [1 John 1:7; 2:6; 2 John 6; 3 John 3, 4 NCMM]
However, it is just not “walking with God” but also “walking HUMBLY with God.” The Christian walk or conduct cannot be in self-righteous arrogance passing out judgments and criticisms on everyone. It must be characterized by lowly mindedness or humility.
Our Lord set the premier example as Paul describes:
“[Jesus] emptied himself, and took a slave’s form, and became in the likeness of humans. And, having discovered himself in a human frame, [he] made himself lowly [or, humbled himself] and became obedient until a death, but death on a stake.” [Philippians 2:8 NCMM]
Christ’s walk with his God was a humble one.
Here was a spiritual being who existence in God’s presence in the celestial realms of glory. He is second only to his Father in all the Universe. It is this One who was willing to leave that all behind, descend to the earth, and live among “an adulterous generation” in a desert land. This required humility to begin with. It required humility throughout his life. And, it required humility to die in a manner that made it seem he was a criminal.
How many modern religious leaders do you know that would be willing to make this kind of humble sacrifice? Almost without exception members of any religious hierarchy live much better than the average membership of their church or organization. Would they be willing to even in the footprints of Mother Theresa, let alone Christ Jesus. Would they be willing to leave behind their honors and prosperity and lifestyle and move to a third world country and live among a diseased people? Then, be arrested as though a criminal and executed as such without honors or glory?
Some persons are almost humble by nature due to a variety of circumstances. Others are almost arrogant from the womb and live their lives as though they were the actual center of the Universe. They are the kind with bumper-stickers that read, “I am okay. You are so-so.” The modern “Me Generation” is filled with them, many of them Christians.
One way or the other we will all be humbled in the end. We may choose the course of humility, or we may be humiliated by God in the Judgment. [1 John 2:28]
Like the attributes of being “just and fair” and “taking pleasure in compassion” we must train ourselves to become more and more humble. Like the other characteristics, humility is often a matter of how we view others. Jesus taught that the “greatest” among his disciples would be the one who was servant to others. That takes humility. Behaving like a true servant to others means viewing others as our superiors. This is the powerful lesson the Nazarene gave when washing the feet of his apostles.
This is not something that comes easy for most. It is a learned process. One way to understand it is to learn to appreciate that all persons are blessed with certain gifts and qualities. A master violinist may enthrall large audiences during a solo performance. This does make him/her superior IN PLAYING A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT. It does not make him/her a superior human being. A brain surgeon may not know how to repair an automobile engine. A genius at computer software may not be able to write his way out of a wet paper sack. A person known as a genius in mathematics was known to be a poor speller.
Each human being is possessed of their own talents and history. We might compare it to the question of which is superior - a clock or a lamp. Well, if you need to be some where on time, the former is superior; but, if you are in the dark, the latter. If we focus more on the gifts and beauty of others, and less on our own talents, we will find ourselves becoming more humble.
As humble persons in conversations we will find ourselves expresses our opinions less and listening to those of others. We will find that we no longer try to dominate a conversation. We will discover that if two are present, then we may share half of the conversation. And if ten are present only one-tenth of the conversation. Sometimes we might find ourselves JUST listening. There are few people without an opinion. There are few of these who think their opinion wrong. However, it is not always necessary to express an opinion. The humble person might wait to be asked for his or her opinion first and then offering it in a humble manner.
Humility is also a quality in which jealousy is absent. Most often arrogant and egotistical people express their jealousies regarding a person who is wiser, richer, more beautiful, or more socially placed. A dead give away to this lack of humility is loose gossip and slander. These are ALWAYS motivated by jealousy whether the person is willing to admit it or not. So humility will find us speaking well of persons, making excuses for them, and at all costs avoid making a derogatory judgment of them.
The idea of walking with God is a wondrous concept. In sinless Eden our original father took walks in that paradise garden. The historical record reports that God also visited the garden in the “breezy part of the day.” [Genesis 3:8] Adam and God talked.
How will we walk with our God, Yehowah, the Father of our Lord Jesus. Surely the “genuine disciple” will become evident because of being “just and fair,” one who “takes pleasure in compassion,” and is characterized by humility in his or her worship of God. Such persons who persist in this walk with God will one day enter His celestial Presence and come “to behold His face.” [Revelation 22:4] O, what walks and talks we might enjoy then! May that be your happy lot!
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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