What Is It That Pleases God? Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: What Is It That Pleases God?
Text: “He has showed 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?” (Micah 6:8).
Bible Reading: Micah 6:6-8
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has showed 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?
When Micah wrote these verses, Israel’s southern kingdom, Judah, had become corrupt. The people there were faithfully bringing sacrifices to the Lord, under the false impression that this would satisfy His demands. However, God corrected His people through His prophet Micah. Micah let them know that God demanded justice, not burnt offerings; mercy, not calves and oil; humble obedience, not sacrifice. Then again, justice, mercy, and obedience were precisely those qualities lacking in Judah.
The verses that I read, actually sum up the messages of the 8th century B.C. prophets. The prophet Amos called for justice; Hosea emphasized kindness; and Isaiah urged the people to obey God, or in other words, to walk humbly with God.
In these verses, the people expressed their desire to be at peace with God, on any terms. They asked this question, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?” Micah responded by making them aware of the reason why God was angry with them, and so, they were frightened of what the consequences might be. They wanted to know what they could do to be reconciled to God and to make him their friend. They were asking the right person, when they asked Micah because he was God’s messenger.
The next question for Micah was, “Wherewith shall I come?” It wasn’t a general question, such as, “What can any man do?”, instead, it was personal; “What shall I do?” It is only when we become aware of our sins and we feel guilty, that we begin to seek peace with God and pardon for our sins. Only then is there any hope for us. The Jews asked how they could come to the Lord. They believed there is a God, that he is Jehovah, and that he is the high God, the Most High.
You and I know that we must come before God. We must come as His subjects, to worship to him, and as beggars, to ask Him for those things we need. And we must even come before him, as criminals, to accept His judgment. When we come before him we should bow our heads, because it is our duty to be very humble and reverent when we pray.
They also asked Micah, “What will the Lord be pleased with?” There it is! That’s our subject today, “What Is It That Pleases God?” I want to know, “What do I have to do to please God?” Well, we know one thing for sure, and that is, in order for God to be pleased with us, our sin must be taken away, and it must be atoned for.
The question here is, “What shall I give for my transgression, for the sin of my soul?” Notice, that the transgression we are guilty of is sin. So the next question is, “What shall I give for my transgressions?” In other words, “What will satisfy the Lord?” And we also want to know, “How should I come to the Lord?” We must not appear before the Lord with empty hands. What shall we bring with us? In what way should we come? In whose name must we come? We don’t have anything ourselves that would recommend us to God. So what is the righteousness that we need, to appear before Him. The Jews have all these questions, but they don’t have the answers, so they make proposals, but their proposals betray their ignorance. Let’s examine those proposals.
First, they made a high bid for God’s favor. They offered something that was very expensive—thousands of rams. God only required one ram for a sin-offering; yet they offered flocks of them, all that they had. They were willing to make themselves beggars, if that would buy them peace with God. They offered to bring the best of their flocks—thousands of them. Their animals were a treasure to them, and they would have hated to part with their precious rams. It would have been easier for them to part with their first born, if that would be accepted as the atonement for their sins. They were willing to offer their children, because the heathen nations that surrounded Judah, sacrificed their children, to appease the gods they believed they had offended.
It’s clear from what they proposed to do that they didn’t understand what God wanted from them. It is true, that some of these things were set up by God’s law, such as making burnt-offerings to God, and sacrificing calves of a year old, or rams for sin-offerings, and oil for the meat-offerings. But these alone would not commend them to God. God had often declared that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to obey Him than the fat of rams.
Each of these things pointed to the future sacrifice of Christ and the shedding of His blood. It was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. And as far as the other things that were mentioned, some of them are impracticable.
For instance, there is no such a thing as rivers of oil. The truth is, that all proposals for obtaining peace with God are absurd, except those that are according to the gospel. One stream of the blood of Christ is worth ten thousand rivers of oil.
Some of the things that were proposed are wicked things, such as sacrificing their children on an altar. That would only increase God’s anger and add to their sin. Notice also, that their proposals are all external things. And they’re all insignificant, and they are insufficient to accomplish what was proposed. These things could not answer the demands of God for justice, and neither could they satisfy the wrong done to God by sin. It’s sad, but I have to say it, “Men will part with any thing rather than to give up their sins, but nothing they part with is acceptable to God unless they repent of their sin.”
Now we have arrived at our text—verse 8.
Here, God tells them plainly what he demands of them, and what He insists upon, from those that would be accepted by Him. There are many people today who don’t want to hear this because they believe that they can purchase God’s blessings. They are going to be disappointed if they believe that they can purchase pardon for their sins, and God’s approval.
In this verse, God has shown thee, O man! What is good? Here we are told, “He has showed 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?” God himself has shown us what we must do. We don’t need to worry about it, and we don’t need to make proposals like the Jews did, because the terms are well-known and laid down in the Word of God.
The One we have offended, and the One to whom we are accountable, has told us what we must do to be reconciled to Him. He has shown it to mankind, and He has showed it to you. He has shown it to Gentiles as well as Jews, and to both good men and bad men because we all need a remedy for our sin. What God tells all men everywhere in general, must by faith be applied to each of us individually, as if He has spoken to us by name, and to no one else. Once we hear what God has said, it is like finding something that is good. He has shown us, through His Word, what our end will be, and that’s what we must aim at.
He has shown us what is good, that is, where our true happiness lies. And by showing us what He requires of us, He has shown us the way in which we must walk towards that end. For those who keep God’s commandments, there is great reward now, as well as in heaven.
It is God Himself that has shown us how to live to please Him. He has not only shown us, but He also made it clear. He has even given us convincing evidence that what He says is true.
So there may be a question in our minds, “What is that good thing that we can discover?” The good that God requires of us is not that we pay a price, so that we can be pardoned from sin, and accepted by God. That can’t be it, since our pardon was purchased for us.
Verse 8 tells us that in order to please God; we have a three-fold duty to perform.
First, we read that we must do justly, that is, we must give to everyone what is right and proper. That’s an obligation that we have to them. We must not do wrong to anyone, but we must do right to everyone. In other words, we should give people their due. But what about God; what is the justice of God? It can be summed up as God’s fair and impartial treatment of all people. God’s prophet, Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (v. 30:18).
As a God of justice, He is interested in fairness as well as what is right. His actions and decisions are true and right. That is one of God’s qualities, according to those who worship Him continually in heaven.
It says in Revelations, “And I heard another from the altar saying, ‘Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments”’ (Revelations 16:7). The Bible teaches that God is both Lord and Judge. He not only brings justice to individuals, but also to nations and He “sets things right” for the poor, the oppressed, and the victims of injustice. But for the wicked, and the unjust, and those who oppress others, God the Judge of the earth is a dreaded force. But for all who are unjustly treated, God’s moral actions are reason for hope.