Worship & Justice

Enacting Justice in Micah’s Time

In the days of the prophet Micah, worship coming from Israel—God’s covenant people—and going to their covenant God, had serious problems. Worship suffered from cold formalism, empty ritualism and meaningless symbolism. Israel practiced God’s law, observed every ceremony and offered each sacrifice with professional precision. While each ritual performance was precise, love for God had hardened into an attempt at divine bartering. Do what God demands so that He will give you safety, significance and service. Over time and little by little, even the most passionate and genuine worship of God can erode into a shell of false worship used to cover and excuse self worship.

Even though their outward actions lived up to God’s demands, self worship replaced the just worship of the Glorious God. Love of self replaced love of God. Self satisfaction replaced God given contentment. Self reliance replaced trust in God. Thus, Israel rejected the true safety and satisfaction which comes from the Glorious, Loving, Faithful God in favor of that which comes from wicked, selfish and fallen man. Their unfaithful worship disintegrated into becoming a faithless people.

Now listen to what the LORD is saying: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Listen to the LORD’s lawsuit, you mountains and enduring foundations of the earth, because the LORD has a case against His people, and He will argue it against Israel. My people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Testify against Me! Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from that place of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam ahead of you. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab proposed, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, so that you may acknowledge the LORD’s righteous acts. (Micah 6:1-5, HCSB)

This was not a new occurrence in the history of the children of Israel. Indeed, it was and is a recurring issue. To quote a colleague, Dr. Andy Chambers, “we never drift toward God.” From this dead worship descended all kinds of idolatry, moral decay and civil injustice. These three seem to be mutually supportive in a decaying spiral of human and societal self destruction. Empty worship of the true God easily gives place to loving fake gods. For idolatry ultimately becomes self worship and self worship quickly gives in to those base desires that turn divine gifts into lusty abuse. This explains the relationship between idolatry and sexual license. Sexual license leads to sexual perversion and moral decay both privately and publicly. Thus, people using people for self-gratification become the norm and true justice is thrown out the window. Justice becomes questioned, redefined, abused, stretched, denied and ultimately superseded by public opinion as each man does what is right in his own eyes. Therefore, there exists a causal link from a loss of proper worship to personal and societal decay.

While the people loathed this outcome and craved any human remedy, they rejected turning to God with genuine repentance and complete trust in His way. For it seems easier to rely on human ability than Divine Will. This, of course, is absolutely false.

What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? (Micah 6:6-7, HCSB)

God did not demand that they stop offering the sacrifices He formally required, nor did He want pagan worship applied to His name (“give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin”), rather He requires a people to reflect His Just character by working justice.

This requires two perspectives. First, everything done by God’s people should be held to the standard of His revealed justness. God’s people need to know God’s Word in order that they might live under it rule by means of the Holy Spirit. Second, God’s people must not fail to stand for justice when they see and have the opportunity. Inaction when justice needs a champion is as wrong as acting unjustly. Quiet ignorance and apathetic inactivity is not excused.  God’s people must adore Him and trust Him so much that they are compelled to cry out for and live by God’s justice.

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