One for the Rule Followers

TEXT: With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:6-8

MEMORY VERSE: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8

For as long as I can remember, I have been a rule follower. I grew up telling my parents to buckle their seatbelts and turned in elementary school classmates for cheating on tests. In high school I avoided alcohol like the plague, and I have never met a “Do Not Enter Sign” I didn’t abide by. The sheer possibility of watching someone break the rules sends me to a new stress level. Being a rule follower is both my downfall and my blessing; it has both kept me out of trouble and out of fun—probably equally so.

I am well aware that my innate need to follow the rules can be a big problem, especially when it comes to the Gospel. Jesus speaks most harshly not to the rebellious law-breakers, but to the Pharisees—the biggest rule sticklers around. And I understand the predicament in Micah Chapter 6 because I too often have the same kind of thoughts.

With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (6:6-7)

If we keep escalating the sacrifices, if we do enough good deeds, if we follow every rule…can we come into the presence of the Messiah then?

But, oh yeah, He has told us already: it’s not about the works. It’s about the heart.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.(6:8)

The thing is… I know my sins. I know I don’t deserve grace or forgiveness or mercy. I don’t deserve to spend eternity praising Jesus throughout the heavens. And my brain wants to try and make up for it through trying and toiling. But I also have experienced the glory of the cross, the cross that both destroys me and makes me whole. The cross that overwhelms and agonizes me, while leaving me with a peace even in my distraught state over its magnificence. This is the glory of the cross that leads us from a place of obligation to a place of restoration.  

And this verse right here? It tells us what He wants from us: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. When we look at this passage in light of the bigger story, we might just see it. We cannot have true justice without Jesus, and to dwell on the past in a state of guilt is to not fully accept His mercy. The Lord urges us not to hang onto guilt or rules or our own works, but to faithfully hold onto and walk humbly with Him.