“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8, NKJV).
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, the “prince of prophets,” and was God’s prophet during the reign of three kings of Judah:
The first was Jotham (2 Chronicles 27), a godly ruler whose father, Uzziah, also walked with God for over fifty years until his rebellious act of usurping the duties of the priests caused him to live the remainder of his days as a leper (2 Chronicles 26:16-25).
The second ruler under whom Micah prophesied was Jotham’s ungodly son, Ahaz, whose time on the throne was one of idolatry and the wretched act of having his own son sacrificed to the demon god Moloch. He also turned away from trusting God for the nation’s protection and relied on uneasy alliances with neighboring nations (2 Chronicles 28). The one area of light in this dark period was Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin conception (Isaiah 7:14), which would come to pass some seven hundred years later when Mary was chosen to bear the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25).
The last monarch under whom Micah ministered was Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29-32), a godly man who turned the kingdom back towards the LORD. He relied on the LORD when the Assyrians threatened Judah, and was rewarded with fifteen extra years of life by God.
Each king acted before the Sovereign God that either brought about blessing or harm to the people and nation. What the king could not do for them was to bring the required sacrifices before the LORD for the atonement and forgiveness of their sins. This was each individual’s responsibility. Even the prophets of God were not exempt.
Micah pondered the question of what to bring before the LORD as an atonement for his own sins. He was conscious of the fact that the act of sacrifice can begin with reverence and a sense of personal interaction with God, but had the probability of falling into a rote routine that didn’t have any meaning or sense of contrition on his part. A burnt offering was, at best, temporary if you were indeed sorry for your sins, but was useless if your actions weren’t genuine or based on a conscious feeling of sorrow and penance afterward. The second inquiry that Micah pondered was the dedication of his son as a means of showing remorse for sins. What was the motive? Did this action truly honor God, or was it an underhanded means of saving one’s own skin at the risk of another person’s life?
The Scriptures tell us that God has shown us what to do according to the Moral Law (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21, 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), and as history has progressed, these laws of God have never needed to be improved, changed, or updated. Micah teaches that we are to do justly, that is, to walk in accordance with the LORD and to treat people right. He also tells us to be merciful, to show not just sympathy and empathy, but to assist the downtrodden as God leads you. He also says to walk humbly before God. There should never be any room for an ego or a feeling of grandiose attitudes in any persons who wishes to be obedient and a useful vessel for His glory.
The Scriptures point out that there is no way we can be right before God in our own strength and that whatever concept we may have of being “good” will not meet God’s holy standards. We read passages such as Isaiah 1:18 and Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, and 6:23 and come face to face with our wickedness, like it or not. In God’s sight, our self-proclaimed righteousness is no better than the rags used to bind a leper’s skin to his body, or a used menstrual cloth (Isaiah 64:6). We cannot come to the Sovereign LORD through religious means, that is, how we as fallen man tend to define what we need to do to appease God or whatever deity one tends to worship. This is nothing more than rank idolatry, which is forbidden by God all throughout the Old and New Testaments, and is totally unacceptable to Him.
Scripture also tells us that any works we do in order to appease God or gain favor outside of His direction and standard is a waste of time and energy. The question is how many “good works” would someone have to do in order to please God in their own strength? The Bible says that our works – apart from service to God as a result of trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins – will not suffice.
Jesus has already borne the hardship of having our sins placed on Him by the Father when He went to the cross; and through His resurrection, that sacrifice was accepted by God the Father as a permanent atonement for our iniquities (Romans 5:6-11; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5, 5:9, 7:14). Salvation is of the LORD (Psalm 68:20), and you are secure in this by the promise of Jesus Himself (John 10:28-30).
This is a teaching that bears repeating. We must confess our sins before the LORD and realize that we cannot save ourselves. If we could, then Jesus died and rose again for nothing. We are justified by Him through His death on the cross (Romans 3:19-26; Ephesians 2:8-10). We must believe in Him for our salvation, placing our full faith and trust in Him (Romans 10:9-10). We do not need to add or include any teaching or belief beyond what Christ has done for us (Galatians 1:8-9). It’s Jesus. Period. There is no “extra-credit Christianity” to obtain or gather.
However, we cannot and will not come before Him in our own power or on our own terms, expecting a deal or compromise. He finds and saves us without our help (John 6:44; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:26, 33; John 8:12, 31; 10:27). Therefore, we cannot lose what He has freely bestowed on us. This should be a blessed comfort to anyone wondering about where they stand with the LORD at difficult periods of dry faith and doubt.
I encourage you to read passages such as Matthew 11:28-30. The Lord Jesus tells us all throughout the Gospels that He is the One who can heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, raise the dead, and give eternal life to those who come to Him. He is coming again, and I believe much sooner than a lot of people would care to acknowledge. We come before the LORD in brokenness, in sorrow, and repentance; and in turn, He gives us true peace, a place in heaven, and fellowship with Him for all time. Don’t go at this in your own strength. Come to Him today. He wants you, and that is all that matters.