God Doesn't Want More FROM You. God Wants More OF You.
I was reading a familiar passage of Scripture today from Micah 6:6-8 when I discovered something I haven't seen before, and I got excited to share it. That's kind of how reading the Bible works sometimes. You might have read and reread the same passage a hundred times throughout your life, and then all of a sudden you see it in a new way.
At any rate, here's the passage I read:
6 With 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?
7 Will 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?
8 He 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. (Micah 6:6-8)
As I read through this passage--prepared to focus once again on verse 8, which is one of the most quoted verses from the Old Testament, I realized that this passage was drawing a sharp contrast between the One God, whom the Jews worshipped, and all the other gods that their ancient Near Eastern neighbors worshipped.
In verse 6 the prophet asks a question: "With what shall I come before the Lord...Shall I come before him with burnt offerings with calves a year old?" We're talking sacrifice here, obviously, and the kind of sacrifice that costs you something if you live in an agrarian society that depends on livestock to live.
Then in verse six the prophet escalates. "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?" Again, this is some serious sacrifice, the kind that seems unbelievably extravagant--the kind that would send not only you, but your entire community into destitution.
In verse 7 things get really serious. "Shall I offer my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" In the ancient Near East, child sacrifice was not uncommon--especially if you couldn't seem to get the gods' attention any other way.
The gods that were worshipped in the Mesopotamian region of the ancient Near East often required escalating sacrifices. If you were asking the gods for rain, and a simple sacrifice of calves didn't make it happen, then you sacrificed more--maybe a lot more. And if the gods didn't answer then, you might even sacrifice your firstborn child.
The gods were always angry. And they always required more.
Kind of like the gods of our day--Consumerism, Materialism, Triumphalism, Success, Busy-ness... It's never enough with these gods, is it? We start sacrificing a little, but before too long we find we're handing over even the things we consider most precious.
But Micah 6:8 presents an image of the One true God, the Creator, the Sustainer, our Rock and our Redeemer. "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." God doesn't require more from you, is what the prophet hears. God simply requires more of you.
So, if you are striving, working, sacrificing more and more in order to get ahead... to achieve success... to find peace... to have enough... know this: God simply wants you. God wants to be in relationship with you, and for you to want what God wants. And what God wants is justice, love and mercy.
May you realize that you are what God wants most of all. You are more than enough for God. May you live into the hope of God's justice, love and mercy as you walk humbly with God in the peace that comes from this knowledge. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.