Summary: When you sin, don’t wallow in self-pity and make these absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep. Just be honest with God -- admit that you've sinned -- and go back to following Him. That’s all he wants.

Micah - God’s Lawyer

William Jefferson was a congressman from the state of Louisiana for almost 20 years. His current location? Oakdale II Federal Correctional Institute in Beaumont, Texas, where he’ll stay until August 30, 2023. What did he do?

In 2002 he used the resources of an organization originally designed to encourage people to vote to ensure that his daughter would win an election to the State House of Representatives in Louisiana. In 1998, 2002, and 2006, Jefferson used this same organization to make sure that his sister would win elections as a city official for New Orleans.

A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Jefferson used a National Guard detachment to recover personal belongings from his home. When the truck they were in got stuck in mud, Jefferson called in a National Guard helicopter to help them out. All this happened while rescue operations were still going on in other parts of the state.

In 2005, a company named iGate sent $400,000 to Jefferson to ensure he would help their business by persuading the Army to purchase iGate technology. Later that same year, Jefferson received an additional $100,000 in cash. When asked, Jefferson said it was to be used as a “motivating factor” to ensure contracts made with companies in Nigeria would be successful.

The FBI raided his home in August 2005, where they found $90,000 in cash in the freezer, wrapped in tin foil and stuffed in frozen food containers.

In 2006 he was stripped of all Congressional committee memberships, and in 2007 was indicted on 16 charges of corruption. He was found guilty of 11 of them, and sentenced to 13 years in federal prison -- the longest sentence ever handed down to a congressman for bribery.

Corruption, it seems, is still alive and well. We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time -- India, China, and Russia are all typically repeat offenders -- but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States. We’re better than that, right?

I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions. When people make stupid decisions, they have to face the consequences. Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like fire and brimstone, right?

Usually, yes; that is, unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for their immorality. Don’t believe me? Turn to the book of Micah, chapter 6.

1Listen to what the Lord says: “Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2“Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3“My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

6With 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? 7Will 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? 8He 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.”

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama: “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”. You start with the prosecution in verses 1-5. I can hear a southern lawyer yelling this now -- God is demanding that the people explain their actions! See, at this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt:

Chapter 2: “8Lately my people have risen up like an enemy. You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without a care, like men returning from battle. 9You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever.”

In chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically: “1Then I said, ‘Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice, 2you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; 3who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?’ 4Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done. 5This is what the Lord says: ‘As for the prophets who lead my people astray, they proclaim “peace” if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them.’”

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics! “2The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets. 3Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire -- they all conspire together.” Sounds kind of like what William Jefferson did, doesn’t it?

So in 6:1-5, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen. They are the jury! The book of Luke says that if we’re all silent the rocks themselves will cry out in praise -- is it too much to think that they could serve as a jury if asked to by their creator?

Next, God is asking the defense, “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?” He then begins to list off what he has done, like it says in verse 5 God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

What comes next is such a human reaction! The Israelites want to jump to the other extreme! They go from not listening to God’s commandments at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Their firstborn child?! Really? That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think? But this is how they thought! They were like the criminal who, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, throw away the key, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.

And you know what? The Israelites deserved every one of those things. They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! God would be well within his rights to simply point his finger and zap them all with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone. But he doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what he wants: “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”. That’s it. God doesn’t care about these huge, outward displays of guilt. He’s God! He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not. All He wants is for your to follow Him.

That is the very definition of mercy. Going back to our courtroom case, this would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing again.” Can you imagine if some of the big courtroom trials ended like that? What if the military trials they give suspected terrorists ended like that? “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.” Really? That would never happen! But God’s mercy is so much greater than ours that we can’t really comprehend how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again.

That’s right -- after all of this, after the courtroom drama and the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK! I will continue to bless you, and this is how. Micah, Chapter 7: “11The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. 12In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.”

So what does this mean to us, today? It means that if you sin, if you do something to disrespect God or to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become SuperChristian to make up for it! All God wants is for you to follow Him -- the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that. When you do sin -- and lets face it, it will happen -- don’t wallow in self-pity and make these absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep. “God, I’m so sorry that I cheated on my math test that I’m going to eat nothing but bread and water for the rest of my life!” Instead, just be honest with God -- admit that you’ve sinned -- and go back to following Him. That’s all he wants.