Jan. 30, 2011
Micah 6:6-8

Walking out of the grocery store, you hear the all-too familiar sound of metal scraping metal. Angling toward your car, you see a teenager staring at your fender. The damage is minimal but costly. When you identify yourself to the teenager, he apologizes immediately and begins to explain this incident can’t go on his driving record. He has been driving only for a couple of months, and he is on probation with the insurance company. “How much will it take to make this go away?” he asks and reaches for a checkbook. Based on the sports car idling nearby, you assume he’s good for the cash. Would you take the check?

The nation of Israel had a pitiful driving record. They had careened into many ditches and scraped the paint job beyond recognition. As a nation, the people rejected God too many times to count. They worshipped idols and practiced immorality (Micah 1:3-7). Repeatedly, they offered God a penance. As with the teen in the parking lot, they asked God, “How much will it take to make this go away?” When approached by the prophet Micah with their rebellion, Israel pulled out the sacrificial checkbook and started negotiating.

Micah 6:6 records their initial offer, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” Exodus 12:5 reports that the year-old calf was the choice sacrifice of the Hebrew system. Surely this offer would appease God, they reasoned. 

Sensing hesitation on God’s part, Israel increased its offer. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” (Micah 6:7). If quality didn’t impress God, perhaps quantity would do the trick. They would overwhelm God with their magnanimous generosity.

Again afraid of God’s hesitation, Israel plopped the ultimate trump card on the negotiating table in Micah 6:7: “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” God couldn’t refuse this offer; they were pledging to give what God had not even required. Surely this was an offer God could not refuse.

Before we consider the outcome of Israel’s negotiation with God, we should contemplate our own attempts at bargaining with God. While we don’t barter in calves and oil, we negotiate with God for His affections. We promise to attend church weekly as long as God will forget about the harsh words we uttered in anger. If attendance alone doesn’t appease God, we’ll toss a tip in the offering plate to atone for our little indiscretion. Surely sacrificing our time and talents will suffice; but if not, we’ll commit ourselves as servants to attend children’s camp or maybe an overseas mission trip! Isn’t that an offer God can’t refuse?

The prophet Micah revealed that Israel’s offers and ours are woefully inadequate. Micah 6:8: “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?” God expects His followers to uphold right, oppose wrong, love others, show grace, set aside selfishness and commune with Him. 
What does God require? The demands of God penetrate beyond any external action and lands squarely in the heart of man. Faithful church attendance cannot impress God because He is more concerned with His presence in our hearts than with our presence in His house. Your money doesn’t astound the Almighty because He is more concerned with the state of your heart than the weight of your envelope. Your actions cannot turn the head of the heavenly Father; God is much more concerned with the condition of the heart than the contents of your hands. 

What if the teenager in the parking lot had sideswiped your child instead of your car? Would you still consider the offer? Could you stand over the wounded body of your child and negotiate a price to make the offense go away? 

That’s exactly what we do when we try to negotiate with God about our sins. We stand over the wounded body of Christ and ignore the sacrifice, pretending that our penance will absolve our sins. What does God require of us? He requires the same that He gave: everything!

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