This story is told that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up.
“Ah, gentlemen,” he said, “come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work.”
At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, “John, where’s all the hay?”
“Sorry, sir,” John called down from the hayloft. “I ain’t had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here.”
Pretending is not just reserved for politicians and little children. Too often Christians can find themselves feigning holiness and piety while practicing the very opposite.
Old Testament Israel was guilty of hiding behind a facade of rote worship and external religious activity, yet their hearts were not right with God. To confront them with their hypocrisy, God sent the prophet Micah around 750 B.C. to proclaim His impending judgment on them.
In Micah 6 the scene is like a courtroom with God calling the witnesses. They are told to prepare and plead their case. But first God opens the procedings by reminding them how He had cared for them, provided for them, and protected them. From Egyptian slavery, through the wilderness wanderings, until He brought them into the promised land, God had endured their complaints, constant grumbling, and periods of unbelief.
God is weary of the veneer of their religiosity. He seeks their whole heart. True allegiance. And personal moral conduct.
What does God want? The prophet states it succinctly in Micah 6:8.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
In principle God’s desire for His people has not changed. It is possible to weekly attend worship services, offer sanctimonious prayers, give large sums of money, and engage in the public work of the church, yet lack inner devotion and an intimate relationship with the Lord.
What does God require of us?
(1) To do justly. Surely that must begin by receiving God’s justification. The Bible says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2)
In a world where so much seems to be unjust and unfair, Christians are called to live honesty and honorably. To be fair. Equitable. Just. In our business dealings. In our promises. In our respect for and obedience to the laws of the land.
(2) To love mercy. Some translations render this word “kindness.” It is used 247 times in the Old Testament and speaks to God’s “loving kindness.” His goodness. And His mercy.
Vine says the word speaks to the “mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship.” While this begins with our relationship with God and His loving kindness toward us, it must issue itself in our interactions with our fellow man.
“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus pronounced, “for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt 5:7). God’s mercy toward us is dependent on our love, kindness and merciful treatment of others.
(3) To walk humbly with God. The world is not impressed with humility. It’s in awe of power, position and prestige. In a culture that proudly proclaims “image is everything,” the Lord seeks those who will submit to Him, deny ones self, and humbly obey His Word.
It may not be cool to be unpretentious and self-effacing, but it is an attitude of humility that causes us to be more like Jesus and pleasing to God. In a culture that arrogantly struts before others, God says, “walk humbly.”
I heard of a rather pompous acting deacon trying to impress upon his Bible class the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked.
After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.
Be assured. God knows you. What does He see?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman