Summary: God had given his people explicit instructions as to how to conduct themselves. First God’s people were to love him and second they were to love others. The prophet Micah points out that sacrifice is pointless unless it is supported with obedience.
“What God Desires”
Part 2: Micah 6:8 “Loving-kindness”
This week we continue our three week series on “What God Desires.” Last week we introduced ourselves to the prophet Micah and in particular the lawsuit God filed against his people for their breaking of their covenant agreement. Essentially by this agreement, the people of God were to obey his commandments in return for God’s protection and blessing.
ILLUSTARTION: American humorist, Sam Levenson once said about the Ten Commandments
Different people look for different things in the Ten Commandments. Some are looking for divine guidance, some for a code of living, but most people are looking for loopholes.
Sadly I suspect this to be case for many of us. Instead of looking to live the way God want us to live, we look to find a way out, and live the way we want to. However, God promised his curse for disobedience. As the story unfolds throughout the Old Testament, the people of God wanted their own way. In so doing they devised ways they believe would gain favour with God. So they focused their attention on ritual practices and sacrifice. As we determined in Micah 6:8, this is not what God wanted at all. God is more interested in the way people live than their religious practice. Even things such as attending church, praying, tithing and volunteering can become religious practices by which we try and buy God’s favour. However, God demands that we, “act justly,” “love mercy,” and “walk humbly.” When we live this way we demonstrate the love that God has for us, and hopefully the love we will display for others. For this is what God desires.
The word mercy has been translated in other bible versions as, “steadfast love,” “unfailing love,” “love,” and “loving-kindness.” All of these demonstrate different aspects of the original Hebrew language, but none do so sufficiently by themselves. These words emanate from the Hebrew word hesed. Hesed appears in the Old Testament 250 times. Half of these appearances occur in the Book of Psalms.
As we did last week of the word, “justice” we ask ourselves the question, “why does God require us to ‘love’ or ‘demonstrate’ loving-kindness.” It should be no surprise that our response is the same as it was for us “acting justly.” It is because God’s nature and character is that he is a loving God, willing to demonstrate mercy, even when his people disobey.
1. God is loving and faithful
The God we worship is a God of love.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6)
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5)
Even when Israel sinned -- he assured them of his loving-kindness
The LORD is slow to anger and rich in unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion … (Numbers 14:18a NLT)
The assurance of God’s loving-kindness is bound in the covenant relationship with his people.
You will be my people and I will be your God
God’s love is distinctive in that it is based on “loyalty” as in the loyalty shown to Abraham and his descendants. God’s covenant with his people is a “covenant of love”
If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers (Deuteronomy 7:12).
God’s love is enduring, it never fades or rusts.
The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).
The endless love is God’s commitment to his people, even if they are unresponsive and unrighteous. His loving kindness is his covenant. And so his blessings to his people speak also of his love.
ILLUSTRATION: A Sunday School teacher asked her class if they knew the difference between kindness and loving kindness. One little girl said she knew the difference. She told the teacher that kindness is like when you ask your mother for some toast and she gives it to you, but loving kindness is when you ask your mother for some toast and she gives it to you with butter and jam on it. And that’s the way God is. God, in his loving kindness, is an exceedingly generous giver. He doesn’t just give you some blessings, but He gives some ‘blessins’ with some butter and jam on it.
With butter and jam God showered the Israelites with blessings (Deuteronomy 7:13-16)
Israel is to “love” God—they are to be faithful as a covenant partner—as God loves Israel. However, there is no suggestion of coercion or manipulation on any being’s part; whether it is on God’s part or on a human being’s part. Israel’s relationship of faithfulness to God is motivated by love.