An older pastor offered me some advice several years ago. He suggested that whenever you move to a new community as a pastor, you need to find a good doctor, a good counselor and a good lawyer.
I never have been called into court as an adult defendant or plantiff, but I have used the advice and services of an attorney.
Micah 6 is where we discover “The Day God Sued His People.”
God’s people believed He had not treated them fairly (vv. 3-7). Others believed He was requiring too much from them. Some engaged in exploitation and manipulation of the naive and strangers among them, while others pursued get-rich-quick schemes at the expense of their neighbors.
God decided to bring suit against His people (vv. 1-2). The Judge of all creation (God) acted as the plaintiff. The mountains and hills were the jury. His people were the defendants. God engaged Micah as His attorney of record.
Why did God hire a lawyer? Is He incapable, impoverished or ignorant? Absolutely not. He did it to have a redemptive advocate with His people—an advocate…
To reveal the facts,
To speak the truth,
To display the proof.
In the midst of this trial on covenant faithfulness, the defendants (God’s people) asked one, simple question in verse 6.
God’s attorney responded with one, simple statement in verse 8.
Micah stood for God, pleading God’s case for covenant faithfulness.
We can stand for God, pleading His case.
I want you to stand faithfully as God’s advocate.
Look closely at verse 8. Let’s discover three actions necessary to stand for God. How can we stand for God and plead His case? The first action is found in verse 8.
Defend the Vulnerable (v. 8)
Justice was rightness rooted in God’s character. It was not being pious in appearance, but being godly in actions toward the weak and the stranger, those vulnerable to manipulation, mistreatment and abuse. God reminded His people, “You once were strangers, the smallest, weakest…”
We were all once strangers, the weakest, the outcasts, until someone came to our defense, included us, empowered us, reconciled us (1 Corinthians 2; Ephesians 2).
Today in their desperation, the under-educated and untrained are pimped for fast money and momentary gratification. Often in ignorance and manipulation, the innocent are aborted from the safety of a mother’s womb for the sake of convenience; a destructive choice often filled with years of guilt, regret and depression. There is a single mother whose ex-husband refuses to pay child support for the very basics of living, but finds money for gambling. Look into the face of an older, confused child who watches the self-destructive behavior of an alcoholic parent and yearns to know safety and security. Grieve the future of a promising teenager whose life is snuffed out and whose parents lose a child because of the recklessness of someone else driving under the influence.
We don’t need to travel far to witness a community dragged into ruin through the corruption of well-begun public servants whose initial intentions have become bent and whose touchstones have become drowned in political gamesmanship. We can weep about a state impoverished by money-hungry schemers manipulating power and public policy for their own advantage, power-drunk egomaniacs seeking to live off back-hall sweetheart deals.
Who will stand for God? Who will speak on behalf of these casualties of our culture? Who will practice justice, defend the vulnerable?
These are the manipulated strangers that Dr. J.D. Grey saw when he helped found the Metropolitan Crime Commission for a corrupt-filled New Orleans and organize the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation in 1942. He was doing justice, defending the vulnerable, giving voice to the broken hearts and shattered lives.
Practice justice. Defend the vulnerable.
There is a second action necessary to stand for God. Look at the next part of verse 8.
Demonstrate Loyal Integrity (v. 8)
Mercy is the deeply rich Hebrew word hesed, grace, as well as its greater meaning of being generous toward a lesser, an empowered being gracious toward an impoverished. The cost was borne by the greater; the sacrifice was given by the empowered. It is the loyal, faithful love a mother usually has toward a child, always seeking and hoping, never giving up or giving in, always looking for some way to provide acceptance and wholeness, even at her own cost.
We former strangers are now tied to each other as neighbors. This charge to demonstrate loyal integrity is necessary when we grow lukewarm toward one another, when we become more hearers of the Word than doers of it. It is necessary when we espouse the platitudes of loyal integrity but avoid the costly practice, compromising ourselves by excusing behaviors and attitudes in ourselves of judging others. It is necessary when we betray one another and cover the action with righteous-sounding rationalizations, when we relate as enemies rather than neighbors.
Today, someone is moving from soft porn to sexual addition; someone is devolving from Bingo and the lottery to casino games and a gambling addiction; someone is sliding from recreational marijuana or alcohol to a drug or alcohol addiction. To whom can they turn for help? Can we give them a reason to trust us, to trust God? Has our loyal integrity and faithful acceptance been on display—the hesed or grace of our Father?
How can we stand for God? Who will demonstrate loyal integrity and faithful acceptance?
Practice justice. Defend the vulnerable. Love mercy. Demonstrate loyal integrity. There is a final action necessary to stand for God. Look at the last part of verse 8.
Live Wisely (v. 8)
Humility is modesty or wisdom based on God’s covenant. It is accepting one’s position with respect and dignity as a creation of God in His massive, eternal scheme and our utter dependence on Him for everything. This requires an ongoing right relationship with God and an appropriate self-estimation, not just the social obligations and ethics of doing justice and loving mercy. Notice the phrase, “Your God,” which is grounded in relationship with God as His people.
We former strangers are now tied to each other…through God’s covenant, which is based on Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). This word is necessary when the arrogant, proud and presumptuous need humbling, when we begin living foolishly rather than wisely, when we presume our relationship with God is healthy.
Earlier I mentioned Dr. J.D. Grey, who was pastor for many years of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans. For years, a myth circulated about Dr. Grey, his cigar smoking, and a young seminary student who tried to humble him, but instead received a scathing rebuke. Finally, Dr. Grey was confronted with this story and asked if it were true. He said it never happened, but humbly admitted his humanness. Further, with tears in his eyes, he insisted that if any student ever sought to confront him about his nasty habit of cigar smoking, he believed he would respond with gratitude and respect for the student’s courage, conviction and compassion. Dr. Grey sought to live boldly but wisely and humbly, remembering his place in God’s scheme of things, not taking himself too seriously, avoiding becoming so heavenly minded that he became of no earthly good.
Do you want to stand for God? Walk humbly. Live wisely. Beware of taking yourself too seriously. There is not any of us that big or significant in the shadow of the cross of Christ.
So, God’s attorney asked, “What does the Lord require of you, O Man?”
The response is God’s Word to all of us.
God’s attorney calls us to move from forms of worship to the Object of worship:
• from worship as a self-centered event to worship as an other-centered life;
• from developing personal charisma to godly character;
• from nurturing cultic, compliant followers to thoughtful, interdependent disciples;
• from the prerogatives of a privileged leader to the personhood of the powerful Christ;
• from self-actualization to self-surrender;
• from our best life now to His sacrificial death then.
An attorney stands up for his or her client, advocates for the client. By God’s hesed, Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:2). He stands for us before God, but who stands for God before His world?
In a culture that seems to have lost any sense of shame, any sense of innocence, of lawfulness, self-respect, dignity, rightness—who will stand for God as salt and light? Who will speak truth and power with a redemptive purpose and God-centered focus?
The prophet pled God’s case for covenant renewal. He stood for God, pleading His case for covenant faithfulness. You can stand for God, pleading His case for covenant faithfulness.