To Do Justice

Mt Zion

 

YHWH, what do you want from us?

This is the age old question. From the dawn of time, man has tested the boundaries, continually questioning the requirements of YHWH. Is this really what God said? Illustration after illustration demonstrates man’s desire to rationalize away the instructions of God. This tendency to question, and to ultimately doubt, YHWH’s authority and his holy character, is a repeated theme throughout the entire Scriptures.

Even though we persistently defy YHWH by refusing to uphold his commands, we still believe that he is for us. Surly, we believe, in his grace he has not left us. In this day and age, all kinds of people lay their claim on God. We pick out segments of the Scriptures that we find relevant or comforting, usually the promises, and leave out portions that don’t fit our lifestyle. All the while, insisting God will shower his grace on us and protect us under his wing, because of his great love for us.

But do we love him? For those who truly ask, for those who sincerely inquire, “What does the King of the Universe want from me?”, do we quickly answer with the list of the ways we are presently following him? Or, do we carefully listen to the words he has already given us, very clear, specific words, and then plead with YHWH to continue to perfect us as we walk with him?

My husband and I were reading through Micah recently. Oh, there is so much in this book! So full of challenges. And such a hopeful message. Micah was a true prophet, proclaiming the message of YHWH to a wayward people. This message is one we all need to hear.

“Hear, you peoples, all of you;
    pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,
and let YHWH God be a witness against you,
    YHWH from his holy temple.”

Micah 1:2

 

The book opens with a call to all people, over the whole earth, to pay attention. Hear, shema, open your ears with understanding, listen in a way that produces obedience. YHWH is about to give a message, a testimony about himself, that is essential to our walk with him.

 

“Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
    and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
    and make crooked all that is straight,
 who build Zion with blood
    and Jerusalem with iniquity.
Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
    its priests teach for a price;
    its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
    “Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
    No disaster shall come upon us.”

Micah 3:9-11

 

In Micah 3:9-11 the prophet says that the leaders detest justice. They are clearly not obeying the commands of YHWH, as is evidenced by their violence and greed. And yet the leaders insist that they are leaning on YHWH. They even go so far as to say in verse 11, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us?” Wow! That could probably be said of all of us. We ignore YHWH is so many ways and then insist that he is with us and will care for us.

Then, the leaders inquire of Micah regarding the requirements of YHWH, maybe in a sarcastic tone. The words they use indicate that they clearly consider their walk with YHWH to be righteous. Isn’t this what you want? This is what you said. They are willing to present sacrifices, burnt offerings, and gifts before YHWH, but they show that they know nothing of what God truly desires. The people even express their willingness to sacrifice their children, which was a common practice in the worship of other gods. YHWH forbids this, saying to be careful not to worship YHWH with the same traditions as pagans. Never mind the fact that they are more than willing to shed human blood.

 

“With what shall I come before YHWH,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Micah 6:6-7

 

Micah’s response on behalf of YHWH is so profound. YHWH has already told you what he is looking for in you. If they had earnestly been seeking God they would have known what the Scriptures had revealed. Micah never says that YHWH doesn’t want them to keep the sacrificial aspects of Torah, but he adds that they have neglected justice and steadfast love. They have given up their humble, attentive and careful walk with YHWH.

 

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does YHWH require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

 

That sounds simple, even if somewhat challenging in reality. But then what really is justice? What does steadfast love mean? How specifically should we walk with YHWH?

I want to look deeper at justice. Justice, mishpat in the Hebrew, is not some vague character trait. It is not merely a desire to uphold a fairness and goodness toward others. These are very specific judgments, often referred to as civil rules, that are outlined in Torah. Mishpatim is a category of commandments, or mitzvot, given by YHWH that are rational, they make sense. Anyone, almost, can understand why the people of God would be commanded to refrain from these things. These are commandments not to murder, take another man’s possessions, or overcharge interest. YHWH didn’t give us a vague value to uphold, that is left up to man’s interpretation. He clearly laid out the boundaries for us and our interactions with other people. This is the definition here of justice.

There are other types of commandments, mitzvot, in Torah, as well. Chukkim, or degrees or statues, relate to the commandments that don’t seem logical. They are to be obeyed for no reason other than that YHWH commanded it. An example of this is dietary restrictions. Another category of commandments is eidot, or testimonies. This is the same word that was used in the very first verse when YHWH proclaims that he is a witness to his people. These commandments reveal or represent an aspect of YHWH or his plan to us, for example, Sabbath or Passover. In following these they provide a witness to YHWH to ourselves and to others. So when we read verses that use the various terms, commandments, laws, decrees, testimonies and so on, we need to be aware that these are referring to very specific aspects of the Torah. I love how this Psalm reflects this so beautifully. I love how it demonstrates so clearly the connection with our walk with YHWH.

 

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the Torah of YHWH!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
    when I learn your righteous rules
I will keep your statutes;
    do not utterly forsake me!

Psalm 119:1-8

 

The leaders in Micah’s day were prideful in their obedience, or lack of it. They thought their walk was righteous enough, in keeping the laws of God, and that he was in the midst of them. But Micah replies that unmistakably they had forsaken a huge portion of the Torah. They had given up justice, mishpatim, ignored unfailing love, a loyal graciousness, and they had forsaken their true walk with YHWH.

When we declare our obedience to YHWH, without true regard for the complete obedience that he requires, we reveal much about our hearts. When we inquire of him what he seeks of his people, while in reality we only seek confirmation that we already live in obedience, we show that we have much in common with the leaders of Micah’s time. We reveal that we believe full obedience is not necessary for our walk with YHWH. We insist on living out only a portion of the Torah with complete disregard for the remainder. We know what YHWH has commanded in the past but we don’t feel it pertains to us now.

When we respond to God’s message by presenting our proof for why we are free from the boundaries that he has set up, we reveal something else about our hearts. We reveal that our walk with YHWH, humbly learning from him, being attentive to his words, is not our main concern. Our chief end is to live free from any laws that might bind us, so as to only be sustained by his grace. We only want to hear YHWH’s word if it supports our belief that we have no requirements other than love, in a vague and loosely defined sense of the term. Our ears are not willing to hear in a way that produces obedience. Again, this is exactly what the leaders did during the period of Micah’s prophesying, only they were neglecting different aspects of God’s Word than we do today.

Here is the hope! In the end times, when YHWH establishes his Temple in Jerusalem the truth will be made know to all people. No one will question, or ponder, any longer what YHWH requires. YHWH will fully reveal to us the manner in which he desires us to walk with him. But here is the interesting thing. It is nothing new. YHWH has explained it from the beginning of time, and he says it through Micah. And he continues repeat the message throughout the rest of Scripture. YHWH tells us exactly what will be proclaimed from the mountaintop.

 

“It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of YHWH
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
    and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of YHWH,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth Torah,
    and the word of YHWH from Jerusalem.”

Micah 4:1-2

 

In the end times people from the entire world, from every nation, will travel in mass to YHWH’s holy mountain in Jerusalem. They will say to each other, let’s go to the Temple of the God of Jacob so that YHWH will teach us his Torah. Those who walk with YHWH will be flocking to Jerusalem so that they can be taught the truth about Torah, so they can humbly walk with YHWH. And, this is the most incredible part, out from Zion Torah will go forth to the whole earth. The Word of YHWH will finally be declared from Jerusalem, and the ones who hear with obedience will walk with YHWH forever. That is astounding!

YHWH wants our hearts. He wants us to walk humbly and attentively in relationship with him. In that way, all else, every requirement of his law of justice and righteousness, all the logical judgments, illogical decrees and symbolic testimonies, will joyfully fall into line. This is not some vague notion of justice or love, that we so often hold to, but a specifically outlined set of instructions. Instead of being hard-hearted towards YHWH’s word, and defiant against his commandments, we should be thankful.

YHWH, in his grace, has been so specific in his Word. Man is not intended to carry the burden of guessing YHWH’s definitions of justice and righteousness and love. And we are not expected to have the ability to be in perfect obedience. Yeshua, the Messiah, proclaims in that the yoke of the Torah is upon him. Instead of trying to define obedience ourselves we should learn it from him. He is the perfect righteous example, and in following his way, which is the inseparable from YHWH’s way, we will find rest for our souls. Because of his perfection, we are free from carrying the guilt of our imperfection. And the Spirit of YHWH ignites in our hearts a passion to walk in his ways.

 

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29-30

 

In the final days, this is the message that will be proclaimed from the Temple in Zion. How does that impact our walk with YHWH now? What portion of YHWH’s Torah do you believe is necessary? Is there a part that you think is unimportant to YHWH? Do you still lean on YHWH and believe that he is in your midst? Is it wise to disregard the Torah, even if just a portion of it?

 

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does YHWH require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

 

 

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