Decisions: Do the Right Thing (HS)
Let me begin by telling you something that I’m sure will shock you: I’m a bad person. Let me give you an example: When I was about 8-9 years old, my sister made me mad—I don’t remember why, but she probably told me that my power rangers weren’t cool. So, she had this shell necklace she really liked, and I snuck into her room and stole it. Then, I went out to the garage, laid it on the ground, and I smashed it with a hammer.
I told you. I’m a bad person.
But it’s not just when I was a kid. I still sin. I still do the wrong thing. I struggle regularly with pride, with selfishness, with anger. And God is working on me, and I am getting better I hope. But I still sin.
I just had this conversation with a student in our ministry a few weeks ago. It is one of the more frustrating parts of the Christian life that despite our salvation, we continue to sin. We continue to choose our own way over God’s.
But that’s not what God wants for us. His will for us is to DO THE RIGHT THING. We are called to repent of our sin and do something different. We are called to live rightly.
Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints. And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint! He has a case against his people. He will bring charges against Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me! For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you. Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead? And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, when I, the Lord, did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.” What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
We sin against God
We sin against God
The text begins with a court case. Micah is the prosecutor. God is the plaintiff. The mountains are the jury. The people are the defendants. God is bringing a charge against the people. And what is the crime?
If you do a survey through the book of Micah of all the things Israel is doing wrong, it paints a pretty rough picture: idolatry, violence, fraud, corruption, murder, extortion, cheating the poor out of their bread and homes, evicting women and children, event stealing the clothes off the backs of the poor. There a section in chapter three where God uses cannibalism as a metaphor for the way the leaders have acted. It’s bad. It’s really bad.
So, there’s a transition in the text, and now a representative of the people wonders aloud about what to do. Maybe, he says, we can do a sacrifice. That’s a good idea, he thinks. God wanted us to do sacrifices in the law to cover our sin. Then, he thinks, well, maybe let’s raise the stakes. Let’s do a sacrifice of a pure, young calf. God will like that more. No, no that’s not it. We really need to show that we’re committed to this. Let’s sacrifice a thousand rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil. Maybe God doesn’t want a pure sacrifice, maybe he wants just a ginormous, over-the-top, quantity of sacrifice. Then, the final jump here: Maybe we should sacrifice our first-born children.
Now, this is important, because you might be tempted to think that this whole scenario is genuine repentance. You might think, well, the people really want to turn around and do things right. They want to come back to God and show their commitment to him with everything they have. But then we get to the final sacrifice and we realize that they don’t care about repentance and following God, they just want it to look good. Child sacrifices were something that the evil nations around them did, and shows them continuing down the same path of violence they were already on. In fact, God specifically told them in not to do this. So, they want to make their repentance look as good as possible without it actually changing their hearts.
In the following verse, Micah explains that no, this is not the way to repent. God doesn’t care about this fake repentance.
You know, as Christians, with 2,000 years of reflecting on the cross of Christ, we talk a lot about forgiveness. And rightfully so. God’s grace in Jesus is incredible and life-changing and the absolute basis of our entire faith. But we cannot forget the cost of this forgiveness. The Bible is clear: We cannot shortcut repentance.
Things are BAD. BAD REALLY BAD.
What are some reasons that people do the wrong thing?
Why do you think God cares so much that the Israelites aren’t doing the right thing?
What are some ways that people try to “fake repent” without really changing?
Do Justice Love Mercy Walk Humbly
Do Justice Love Mercy Walk Humbly
Look at verse 8: God cares that you do what is right, that you love mercy, and that you walk humbly with him.
When it says, to do what is right, that’s the word for justice. God wants us to be just. Now, when we think of God’s justice, we have a tendency to think of retributive justice. Like, we think of Batman swooping in, bashing some dude’s heads in, tying them up, and leaving them for the feds. Or, maybe even more accurate would be the Punisher. In fact, when ABC was ready to produce the show, they billed The Punisher as one who is “a vigilante seeking justice for those failed by the court system.” So, what does the Punisher do? He shows up and kills everybody who has done something wrong. The question is: Is that justice?
When the prophets talk about justice, this is usually not what they mean. It might include God coming to judge the world, but the goal is always the restoration of order, of well-being for all people and when wrongs are made right. So, doing what is right is not about a show of worship, but it’s about restoring peace to the world. It’s about loving mercy: do you show the same kind of mercy that God has shown to you? It’s about walking in humility. That means letting God make the decisions in your life. It means following Jesus as he says: Not my will, but your will, God.
And that’s the beautiful thing about this: we’re simply following Jesus. Because doing the right thing is HARD. Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God is SUPER DIFFICULT.
But we don’t do it alone. The story of the Bible is all about the one man in history who actually did this: everything he did was right. Everything Jesus did was good and right and just and merciful and humble. When Jesus showed up in the synagogue, his first sermon was from the book of Isaiah, and he said I’m bringing good news! I’m restoring justice to the world. But Jesus knew it would never last unless he fixed, not just the outside, but inside our hearts. So, Jesus went to the cross. He did the hardest work of all, the greatest act of justice and mercy and humility that has ever existed; and he destroyed the biggest obstacle in the world: sin. And finally, he made a way for the Spirit of God to live in us so that through you and me and the church, the Spirit of God can change the world.
What was helpful from the video?
What are some examples of people doing justice/loving mercy/walking humbly in the world around you? What about in your school?
How does Jesus help you do the right thing?