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10.11.15 The Courage of Faith Micah 6.6-8 Sermon Summary

by on October 14, 2015

Have you ever wished that God was different, like when you read of God’s destruction of the world, or divinely sanctioned genocide, or God’s inflicting entire nations with plague? Well, apparently, so does God.

Summary Points

  • Waiting for God’s promises—what Abraham teaches us
  • How the testing of faith clarifies our understanding of God
  • How Micah envisioned the most faithful image of God, and how Jesus fulfilled it
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

Last week we met Abraham and Sarah, and how they were chosen to be a blessing to the world. That blessing would begin through a child, and this week we are on the threshold of the promise. Three angelic visitors come to Abraham’s tent “in the heat of the day.” Abraham has Sarah make cakes—something of an appetizer—while he slaughters a choice calf. While the visitors eat, Abraham waits under a tree like a waiter in a fine restaurant.

Here is a major difference between the Older Testament and the Newer—and today: the Older Testament isn’t in a hurry. We’re about twenty-four years after God first made the promise to Abraham and Sarah. And Abraham spends the whole afternoon waiting on the visitors. Sometimes we have to wait through the long narrative of our lives—in the heat of the day—to see God’s promises fulfilled.

Waiting that long is hard. Just ask Sarah. Maybe out of weariness of faith, or maybe she’s learned to cope with disappointment using humor, but Sarah laughs when the angels reveal her impending pregnancy (Abraham laughed in the previous chapter). But because God uses every detail of our lives, wasting none of what occurred while we were waiting, their son ends up being called Isaac, which means, “he laughs.”

The Bible promises a last laugh—when God sits around with all creation and we laugh at how unbelieving we were. It does take time to get there, though.

Anyway, Isaac is born to overjoyed if also surprised parents. And after another perhaps 20 years Abraham hears something absolutely devastating. He hears God command him to sacrifice Isaac.

This sounds very foreign, barbaric, uncivilized, and horrific to us. But it wouldn’t have to Abraham. Child sacrifice was common in ancient religions. It was known even during the time of the monarchies which is why Micah, writing in the 8th century (1200 years after Abraham) mentions it.

Just as Abraham is about to kill Isaac, he notices a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. Isaac is spared; the ram is sacrificed in his place.

Imagine for a moment how Abraham’s understanding of God changed through his life. First God starts as a voice calling him to unknown place. Then God makes outrageous promises. God condemns the social injustices of Sodom and Gomorrah. God even blesses the child Abraham had with Hagar, Sarah’s slave, when they were trying to move the promise along. Then God’s promised Isaac is born, but he commands Abraham to sacrifice him. Finally God substitutes a ram for the child.

If you wish God were different—less bloodthirsty and violent, perhaps, or less passive and permissive—then Abraham’s story, along with the whole Bible, invites us to keep walking. God wants to be known for who he truly is, not for how we envision him.

Micah understood this. As he watched Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom, his contemporaries were assuring the Southern Kingdom’s Jerusalem that it would never fall because of God’s promise to David. Micah had the courage to say, “You’ve misunderstood God.” God doesn’t want sacrifices of calves, rams, oil, or children, Micah says. God wants you to sacrifice yourself—your heart, your ego, your body—to justice, kindness, and humility.

We get a depiction of this through Abraham. When the three visitors arrived, he saw a just need. He satisfied it with kindness. And he waited humbly for what was next. It’s true that Abraham also thought God wanted child sacrifice. Then that God wanted animal sacrifice. All that teaches us is that it takes a while for God to change our images of him.

But at their best, Abraham and Micah looked ahead to a time when the sacrifices we make are spiritually motivated, not motivated by the need to appease a bloodthirsty, vengeful God.

In an attempt to purge us of this distorted image of God, God revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ as a final high priest. With his death came the end of blood sacrifices. Now only spiritual sacrifices remain. And as Jesus demonstrated with his own life, Micah had it right: God calls us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him.

May our faith have enough courage to leave behind old images of God, and embrace the fullest revelation we have in Christ. Amen.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Share an example of how you’ve had to wait (or are still waiting) to see God’s promises fulfilled? As you share similar stories, what encouragement do you draw from Abraham’s story or from one another’s stories?
  • What other “image changes” do you see through the scriptures—between Older and Newer Testaments, between the Gospels and the Epistles, between the Histories and the Psalms?
  • Jesus and Micah agree on the image of God. What other agreements do you see between Jesus and the other parts of the Bible?
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