What was going on was that Micah was speaking to was this whole system set up that there's injustice that the ones who are weaker, the ones who are disadvantaged are the ones that keep getting pushed down. That's where we're at in the history of Micah. People thought back then, and you can make all the correlations you want right now too of like, the things that happened in the Old Testament, what the prophets speak to, you can make direct correlations throughout history of when that has happened time and time again, this isn't an old story just for Judah and Israel, but this is a story for all of us, that we all take part somewhat in the systems that keep people down.
One of the things that's interesting about the people when Micah was telling them what God wanted. They said, “What more does God want? We give Him all the rams we can to sacrifice. We given Him all the oil. We give Him all the money.” They assume that God wanted exactly what they wanted. More wealth, more power, more control. What do you do when you've amassed all the money that you don't even know what to do with? If you have problems, you kind of just throw the money at it. That's what the people in Israel and Judah were doing towards God. Like, God must want this. Because we want it. We're going to keep giving that to God.
They were creating an image of God, that was just as selfish and gluttonous as they were. Now they're distorting the view of God for others. We often create God in our own image. Religion does the same thing. Like I said earlier with different denominations, how we split off from one another. We keep saying, “Well, that's not of God. God doesn't want that. God won't be pleased with that.” We're going to break off, make our own church, our own denomination. We are not immune to this as people of faith. We too create God in our own image.
Micah's concern for Judah and Israel was that they would trample over anyone to build their own wealth and power, even their own people. The video we watched, we saw that this can happen in any relationship or any system, whether it's families, your city, your country, the world, your spousal relationship, but this can show up in any system of relationship. When you start putting yourself over someone else.
I'm going to give two stories. One story is of a woman, story of abuse. She was abused by her stepfather, and about 30 years later, she met up with him and she wanted to forgive him. She also wanted an apology from him because she realized she couldn't go on. She lived with all this pain for the last 30 years. She couldn't imagine being controlled by that pain for the next 30 years.
She said to him, "You realize what you did hurt me. You realize you picked me out because I was the weakest, because I was the youngest of the family when you came in, I was the most vulnerable." She developed anorexia throughout her life because of this abuse and trauma. So for those 30 years, she was entrapped with that trauma and shame and guilt that was put on her from that system of abuse and power.
Next one, there was a man who was released from prison. As we all know, in our day and age when you're released from prison, it's not the easiest. There's not a way that you know how to fit back into society. All you know is prison and that you are provided food, that you're provided shelter there, but when you get out, now you're all on your own. Then there's also systems in place that it's harder and harder for those people to actually gain jobs, a place to stay, to be taken seriously, so he was facing an uphill battle. He was just punished without being rehabilitated.
We're going to take a moment of silent reflection. In this moment while we pray, while you think about the things in your own life, we'll move into a time of music as prayer and then we'll go into the Lord's prayer, but in that, I want you to think about where are the ways in your own life, whether you participate actively or non-actively in systems of power that keep people down because this is what Micah is telling us. This is the context of Micah, that this is the sin of the people, creating God in their own image and treating others like they are not the image of God.
As we move into this time of silent reflection, think about in your own life, maybe you've also been a part of that where you had felt pushed down by everyone else. Israel and Judah strayed away from God, and we can too. God told Micah exactly what God wants from his people. God said this, "He has told you, O mortal, 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."
Another translation says it this way, "But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple. Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love and don't take yourself too seriously. Take God seriously."
Justice then, what is that all about? What is justice? We maybe have this idea of justice in our minds and this was proven so true the other week. We're trying this thing where our youth or teenagers are a couple of weeks ahead of us because in Youth Connects, what they're actually doing is teaching each other about a lesson. If anything neat comes out of that, we want to use that for the following week.
Two weeks ago, they started talking about Micah so that we could use it today. Now, the one thing that came out of that, that I really wanted to use was their view of what justice was. Tammy down there told them, "Bring a video or an audio clip or a reading or something to tell us what is justice." Somebody brought a YouTube clip of basically people getting what they deserved or karma.
That somebody didn't mop up the floor and somebody slipped, and then they came by and slipped again too, so they just got what was coming to them. That was their idea of justice. Basically, revenge or you get what's coming to you. I don't think it's just them. I think a lot of us have that as an idea of justice in our minds too. The video we watched a little bit earlier, it goes a little bit further and explains it a little bit more about God's justice and God's way of living.
We all participate in injustice, actively or passively, even unintentionally. We're all the guilty ones. This is the surprising message of the biblical story. God's response to humanity's legacy of injustice is to give us a gift. The life of Jesus. He did righteousness and justice, and yet he died on behalf of the guilty, but then God declared Jesus to be the righteous one when he rose from the dead. Now Jesus offers his life to the guilty so that they too can be declared righteous before God, not because of anything they've done, but because of what Jesus did for them.
Justice isn't just about punishment or making somebody pay for what they did, but it's restorative. It's supposed to bring back order. It's supposed to participate in the reconciliation of all things. Micah setting the path forward to what God wants and Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that path, showing us that, guess what? You don't have to do anything more to please me. You don't have to give me the rams. You don't have to give me the sacrifices, the money, but you need to do these things. Act out the same love and justice towards others that I have towards you.
It also says in the scripture to love mercy or other different translations, say kindness or grace, that takes a step further. Mercy is showing love and compassion to somebody that maybe really doesn't deserve it. Because maybe in some ways, we don't deserve the love and compassion and forgiveness we receive either, but we have. That's the way of God. That's the life. That's the rhythm of the kingdom of God and walking humbly with God.
This one we think sometimes about, well, we just have to be humble. Humility. It's not all about us. Yes, that's the important part of it. It's not about you, but it's about what God calls us to, but also, humility also brings wisdom, putting on that wisdom that God has given us. God has told us exactly what to do. Now you have a responsibility. This is the wisdom to walk by. It's not that sacrifices are bad or money is bad or anything like that, but it's the heart behind it.
Going back to the stories that we started of the woman who faced abuse from her stepfather for 30 years. She sits down with him, tells him how he made her feel, how the consequences throughout the years caused her anorexia, how she continues to live with it day after day. She said that this forgiveness that she was giving him, wasn't necessarily for him, but for her to be able to move on. That this is something restorative now. That this is no longer going to keep me down. There was some reconciliation, but of course, you don't have to be best friends with people who have wronged you. That relationship, there is some understanding and reconciliation. That is restorative justice because she now lives free.
The man out of prison got involved in a group called Circle of Support through the Micah Foundation. Coincidence? Now he lives in a home that rehabilitates him and other seniors who are released from prison. He also participates in other Circle of Support groups for younger men in prison or going into prison or getting out of prison. He's like becoming a father figure to those young men. He is living into that restorative justice. That now he has a responsibility. It's not just now he's good, but now he's helping others who are disadvantaged and changing their lives.
Be awake to what God's presence in your life is. We're in Bronco country here. In Bronco country, you wear the gear on Sundays. You cheer for the team. You watch the game. You have people over you food, we celebrate it, but wearing the apparel doesn't make you the fan. I could have worn a Bronco's jersey today, but you guys all know that's not real.
It's not the apparel that makes you a fan but something more. Your actions show that you're a fan. You, as a Christian, your actions are showing that you are following God. That you are doing what's right. That you are loving mercy and you are walking humbly with your God. It's about what's in the heart. The book of Micah has a lot of doom and gloom. There is a lot of anger. There's a lot of indictment of the wrong things they have done. Ultimately, Micah's message to the people of Israel is stop doing this, but because God is merciful and that God is going to exercise justice for the sake of the salvation of all people. That's the hope in Micah.
We tend to think of prophets of being cranky, people who confront those who are doing wrong, but there is hope in it. That even in the midst of all this, even turning away from God or distorting God for others, God is still going to save those people. That this is God's mission. This is what the kingdom of God is all about, restorative justice. If you believe your life has truly been changed by God, many of us feel that way, why else would we be here? Then we should live the same way.
We should live as if we want others to experience that life-changing kingdom of God. That this is something different. A restorative justice taking care of those who are disadvantaged, who are weaker and not keeping them down. If you feel like in some ways that's not where you're at, maybe you've got to ask the tough questions of yourself, just as Micah did of Israel and Judah.
If we are truly changed by God that our lives are now different, then what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? What are we waiting for? Let's go out this week, do right, do justice, love mercy, grace, kindness and walk humbly with your God. Amen.