Since becoming a pastor I have become aware of the struggle to bring together righteousness and truth with mercy and love.
When I am dealing with righteousness and truth I tend to become less merciful and loving.
When I am trying to be loving and merciful it seems as though the temptation is to neglect being clear in regards to righteousness and truth.
Honestly, I struggle to merge these two things together. When I am strong in one area I struggle in the other.
I consider myself a merciful person but there are many situations when my reaction is NOT always patient, loving and merciful. For this reason, I am so glad that the Scriptures give me permission, and even responsible, to respond with both righteousness and in mercy.
Consider just a few examples,
1 Timothy 3:3 when Paul lists some of the qualifications for an elder he says an elder must not be...”violent but gentle, not quarrelsome…”.
1 Timothy 6:11, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.”
2 Timothy 2:22-25, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
When there is a doctrinal or relational problem in the church it is so easy to handle it in the wrong way. I could quickly become impatient, agitated, argumentative, combative. It would be all too easy for me to think to myself,”Good riddance! The church will be better off without you.”
Therefore, I need God’s Word to remind me that:
God has given me the command to defend truth and to be merciful to even my enemies.
He has given me permission to be a defender of truth and to display loving kindness simultaneously.
He has made me responsible to uphold righteousness and truth and to express mercy and grace.
He has given me the grace to love righteousness and the grace to be merciful to opponents.
He has also given me examples in scripture of how I can be a lover of righteousness and also merciful to all.
You too have been given this command from the Lord.
You too have been given permission concerning such things.
You too have been given the grace to display these things in the church, in your home and in your sphere of living.
These things are not just the responsibility of the elders; but of every Christian.
A Christian goes to the Word of God to see examples and receive grace to do this well
Micah 6:8 clearly teaches us this, “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.”
This sermon will seek to address two primary things today.
First, we will try to show how a Christians duty to do righteousness and love mercy is fundamentally different than an unbelievers who speaks of such things.
Secondly, we will take a moment to see how Jesus models these virtues when He interacted with sinful men. He is our greatest example! It is possible to love truth and righteousness and to be merciful and kind.
The other night I watched the democratic debate. If you watched it, you will recall that there were many times when you heard these politicians make an impassioned plea for America to display justice and mercy. Let me give you one example.
When discussing the problem of mass shootings Senator Cory Booker made a plea for America to be a nation who is characterized by empathy. He made the argument that none of us should only feel empathy when tragedy hits us close to home. He asked that we become a people who cries for all injustice no matter how far away it occurs.
I think that Mr. Booker verbalized what we all have felt. How close do we have to be to a tragedy before we will shed a tear, or display empathy for others, or to respond in an appropriate way?
You and I don’t have to look far to find injustice, violence, abuse, and crime. All of us see some form of injustice and suffering that needs to be righted. People are asking for laws to be written, for justice to be done and for a strategy to be implemented.
But something vitally important is being left out of the conversation.
We want all of this to be done apart from submitting to God and to His revealed Word.
We are not a people who is walking humbly before our God.
We want to talk about justice, mercy and love; but we do not want to go to the source of grace that we might obtain it. This grace is only found in the LORD.
We have been in Micah for twenty-one weeks. And in that time we have had the opportunity to see that Micah is speaking to a people who had become characterized by their propensity to oppress, their injustice, their brutality, their disdain for the preachers of truth and their love of money and for the pleasure that it afforded them.
We have had ample opportunity to have our hearts moved by injustice and unrighteousness. Consider the following examples:
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. (Micah 2:1-2)
“But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;
you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly
het no thought of war.
The women of my people you drive out
from their delightful houses;
from their young children you take away
my splendor forever.” (Micah 2:8-9)
“...you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron.” (Micah 3:2-3)
“Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
‘Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.’” (Micah 3:9-11)
We have seen these displays of brutality, lawlessness, and the perversion of truth. We have seen the bribes, excesses, lawlessness, and injustice.
Has it moved you at all in your heart to see such injustice and unrighteousness?
Has it made you want to not only see the answer; but to submit yourself to it?
Has it made you want to not only hear the solution; but to partake in the remedy?
Are you ready to hear Micah tell us that the solution is not in becoming more religious; but in humbly submitting to God and His Word. (Micah 6:6-8)
As moving as Senator Booker’s plea was, it fell short of displaying the biblical perspective that we will see today in our text. People can speak of justice and mercy but these things are fruits of a relationship that one has with the Lord. We are to to display steadfast love, mercy and truth not simply because we have seen injustice; but because we have experienced the grace of God.
Consider Sinclair Ferguson’s words in his book, “The Christian Life”, “Perhaps the most wonderful thing about salvation is this: God lifts us not only from what we are by nature to what Adam was in the Garden of Eden, but to what Adam was to become in the presence of God, and would have been had he persevered in obedience. The Gospel does not make us like Adam in his innocence – it makes us like Christ, in all the perfection of his reflection of God.”
If we want to truly do justice and love mercy then we must look to the LORD and walk humbly before Him.
The context of Micah 6:8 is intended to make us consider the righteousness and mercy of God.
God calls upon us to remember how the LORD had delivered His people out of Egypt and provided for them great leaders despite the fact that they feared, grumbled and complained throughout.
He called upon them to remember that God delivered them from the plan of Balak and Balaam to defeat them while they were in the wilderness.
He called upon them to remember how He had led them from Shittim to Gilgal. All of this He did despite their faithlessness for the sake of His glory.
All of these mercies from God are called “righteous acts” in Micah 5:5.
Upon considering how God has been merciful to such inconsistent and faithless people; we are to see this and do what is required by the LORD. This does not mean that they are to offer spectacular offerings and make unimaginable sacrifices to the LORD.
It means that they will do justice and do righteousness.
It means that they will love mercy and kindness.
And it means that they will walk humbly before the LORD.
In scripture, there are many examples of individuals who experienced injustice. A Godly person, who is full of faith will not simply look at the offender and demand justice; rather their first response is to look to the Lord and to draw strength from the grace that is in him. Let me give you two brief examples.
First, consider Job 1:13-21.
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants[a] with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
In all of this Job shows us that a godly response to injustice is always to look to the LORD and to walk humbly before Him. Trusting Him through even in the face of such desperate trials. He does not immediately cry out for justice or even mercy. The first thing that Job does is to turn humbly before the Lord in worship.
20 “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Secondly, There is no greater expression of what it looks like to draw near to the Father during times of injustice than by looking at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. In Jesus’ darkest hour and in his most painful moments, He drew close to Father. He said to His disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And Jesus prayed saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-46)
When Jesus saw the injustice that would be brought upon Him He could have demanded justice. But in that moment Jesus looked to the Father and displayed the greatest act of humility, righteousness, justice and love ever witnessed.
He did not call down angels to kill his enemies.
He did not call down fire to incinerate them.
Instead he looked to the Father and said, “Father forgive them they do not know what they do.” (Luke 22:34)
To look upon the cross of Christ is to be transformed by this grace. John 1:16 says, “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” It is this grace which will produce in us a heart righteousness and a love for mercy.
There are so many today who see the need for mercy and even righteousness. But the only way to have it produced in the heart is to humble ourselves before God and His Word.
Now I would like to look at two quick examples of how Jesus merged together righteousness and mercy in the scriptures. In John 1 the apostle introduces us to Jesus with a particular phrase. He says that Jesus is full of grace and truth. Jesus embodied a life that was full of righteousness, mercy and humility before the Father.
Let us first look at Matthew 18:21-22, “ Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
In this passage, Jesus is teaching about forgiveness. When he finishes Peter expresses what we all would want to ask, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times.”
You see, without the Spirit of God working through the gospel in our hearts there will always be a limit to what we will be able to forgive. For Peter, his limit was seven times. Jesus tells Peter the truth and says, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Notice that Jesus is aware that Peter, and all the other disciples have a long way to go in their understanding on his teaching concerning forgiveness. Their love for mercy is seven offenses away from being exhausted. Jesus does not become angry with them; rather, He displays great mercy with them and teaches them another parable concerning the unforgiving servant. In other words, He has mercy on them and then continues to teach them to ground their hearts in the truth. And Jesus knows this will be a continuing lesson.
Jesus doesn’t mind teaching us the same lesson over and over. We see this even in Micah 6:8, “He has told you (over and over again), O man, what is good...”
The second example is found in Matthew 19. Jesus gives a profound teaching upon marriage. His teaching is so different than what the disciples have heard and known that their only response to it is found in Matthew 19:10, “The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’”
Again notice that the disciples view on marriage at this point is so far from the biblical view on marriage. Yet, Jesus is merciful to them. He does not get angry and scold them. Instead, Jesus again continues to teach them and disciple them with patience.
These examples that we have seen in Jesus are only two of so many expressions of how Jesus modeled righteousness and mercy in the hardest of context. We could have mentioned…
the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8
Jesus’ teaching about the Father’s love for the prodigal son
the rich young ruler who walked away from eternal life but upon whom Jesus looked with love
the examples are endless…
We are all called to put all three of these things together in our lives as well.
How will you do this with your family?
How will you do that in school?
How will you do this in our culture which is so much like Micah’s?
This week, when you are displaying mercy, ask how you are also displaying humility towards God and doing righteousness towards men.
This week, when you are displaying righteousness and truth to men, ask yourself how you are displaying God’s mercy and being humble before God.
When you seek to walk humbly before the LORD, ask how you can display grace and truth in all of your experiences throughout the day.
If you need an example of how to do these things then look to Christ. Look to the scriptures.