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David Dealy: God is Just, Micah 6:8

September 5, 2023

Audio Recording

Often when we think of the justice of God, our minds go to an angry, vengeful God who executes judgment on the wicked. However, a closer look at scripture shows us that justice is action taken on behalf of the vulnerable. Throughout the entirety of the Bible, we see God’s heart for the outcast, orphan, and downtrodden. From the mosaic law to the sermon on the mount, it is clear that God’s heart is for those who cannot help themselves. As Christians, we must follow and embody the heart of God, taking on the cause of the vulnerable and making it our own.

Discovering God
Discovering God
David Dealy: God is Just, Micah 6:8
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Okay, let's get into it. God is just, what does it mean that we say that God is just, I want to, to address your perhaps discomfort in even talking about this idea, because when we say the word just or justice, there are a lot of things that flood into our imagination and our system. Alright, so would you just practice this with me? Close your eyes for just half a second. And when you hear the word justice, what is the word picture? What is the thought? What is the feeling in your body when you hear the word justice? Okay, hang on to that. Whatever that was, hang on to it. For some of us, God is just that phrase evokes this image of a judge overseeing his courtroom high up and looking down on the courtroom. For some of us, justice is inherently political, right?

01:03 To say justice department or to say social justice. Woo. Like, here we go. It's all firing. Okay? and for many of us, the word justice brings images of activists in the streets and kind of this vocal, outcry. And here's what we're gonna attempt to do today, my friends, is we are going to start down this road with one very important thing. And that is, we as the church, as God's people have got to better root ourselves in God's definition, in God's expression of what these things mean before we adopt what the culture around us is telling us. These things mean are you with me? We have to root ourselves in what God says first and then engage with what culture and our time of history and all these things present us. Often we do the reverse. Often we do the reverse. We are presented with a definition or an idea about something, something like justice.

02:06 And then we begin to look through that lens into like, well, what gut muss God be like, if this is justice and we're gonna try to reverse engineer that as best we can a bit today, and root ourselves in what God says first, and let that be our lens in the life of Jesus Christ expressed here on earth, that we look back and say, oh, this is who God is and this is what justice, what what it means. now if you grew up in the church, as many of us did, you may in that expression of God is just get some feelings around a definition and idea of God as a very angry being. I know I, I had this quite a bit growing up that this idea of the Father, right? So Trinity is the Father, the Son and the Spirit, and the Father is kind of that distant relative that is a bit grumpy and doesn't like when the kids come around, right?

03:06 And kind of has this, experience all the time, like, that's the father, but Jesus, I'm gonna hang close to Jesus. 'cause Jesus is cool and Jesus is loving and he does lots of nice things. So he's gonna be the one I stay close to. I don't know who that guy is and that I'm, I'm joking a little bit, but that has created for many, many people an idea, an actual theology that God actually can't stand you, but he looks to Jesus. The blood of Jesus washed on you and he can tolerate you as long as he sees that, but you, he actually doesn't care for. And first I just wanna say, I'm sorry if you legitimately sincerely, I wanna say I'm sorry if you have grown up in that idea of the nature of God, even Siri knows

03:59 .

04:02 If you grew up in that idea of who God is, I just wanna tell you it's a distortion. It's a distortion. Hard truth is that God deals with injustice and God judges and, and he has a right order for things. And we're gonna unpack what that means. But to start at a point of God does not love you and actually can't stand you, but because of Jesus, he tolerates you, is a distortion of all of scripture. And it negates all of the merciful, graceful, love-filled expression of who God is in scripture, in life of Jesus, right? And negates that. So let's dive in here. How do we begin to think, God is just, what does that mean for us? My, contention to you today is that we all, we all want justice . We all want justice. If you have ever been a person who's lived in vulnerability or insecurity or in a place of injustice, then you know it is about as unloving in existence as you can experience on earth, in, in, in the mild side.

05:09 It's neglect. it is unfair, it is unequal in the worst version. It is abusive and oppressive. We all want justice. And actually, here's the thing. We pay a lot of people in our world to keep justice going around us. Whether you believe in God or not, we pay government officials to varying degrees of success. We pay government officials to kind of keep justice going. We pay police officers, God bless him and God bless you if you say yes to this role in our world. Thank you. You hold justice around our communities. We even pay silly things like umpires at our kids' games, . Now, before I became a pastor, I was a high school football and baseball coach. And one year our baseball team was doing really well. And we were in the league championship and we were playing our, our rival school who we'd played them several times in this situation over the years.

06:09 And we get to game time of the league championship day and we're prepping the guys on the field and parents are coming and fans are coming and it's, you know, it's getting exciting. It's a big, it's a big deal. And here's the thing you need to know when you're coaching in high school, you should have a minimum, a minimum of three umpires at a game minimum. Oftentimes because the crews get stretched. You might have two umpires at a game. Well, we're prepping our game. And what looks to me to be a very young man, starts walking in a, in a umpire's outfit, walks towards our field. And I didn't know him. I knew most of the umpires in our region, but I didn't know him. I was like, Hey, I'm Dave, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Who's your crew today? Just me. Thank you.

06:58 Yes. Little, a little bit of trepidation like, oh, this isn't good. We get into the game. Scores tied one, one, we're in the bottom of the fifth inning, we're away Now here's the deal with, with baseball. Each team has to create a batter's lineup before the game. And the coaches exchange these and you know exactly who's coming in, what order to the plate to bat. And there's a whole strategy around this of where you place your batters and all and how you pitch to these guys. All this stuff. So we get to the bottom of the fifth inning, tide one, one, they bring their batter up. I look at my batting card, it is not the right guy. Now the rule of baseball is if a batter comes up to bat and he takes a pitch and he's out of order, he's out. Just that pitch done, he's out.

07:45 So as any good coach would, I told my pitcher, throw the pitch, they throw the pitch. Great time. I go up to my young friend in the blue outfit and I say, hey, here's bating order. This clearly isn't the guy. He's out. And I see a look of trepidation come over this young man's face, and it's just enough of a pause that the parents start shouting, oh, come on, gimme a break. And the fans are getting riled up. And then the coach comes out like, and and he says this honest mistake, we'll get the right guy. Sorry about that. That's very nice . But your guy's out. And the umpire is, is kind of, he's just sitting here in the tension. So I say, I'll be right back. Go, I, I go grab the rule book outta the dugout 'cause I'm that guy. And he's like very clear, black and white pitch thrown out of order first out. And the guy looks at me and he says, coach, this is how we're gonna play today, Speaker 4

08:56 ,

08:57 Thank you. This is how we're gonna play today. What, what does that even mean? This is how we're gonna play today. We won that game. ,

09:14 I want you to just sit for a moment. If you, hopefully you fell in, even in a tiny little bit, a bit of the injustice of the one who is meant to hold justice together in this silly little play environment that we've created. The one who says, this is how we're gonna play today. And I abdicate what I'm meant to be doing and how this is supposed to work in a way that is unfair. I want you to just hold on to that data point because it is a very small, silly example, but true that we all want justice. We all want things to live and work and operate in the order that moves things forward. That is right, that is good. That actually is the nature of who God is. That is an imago day thing in us that wants what is right, that wants what is good. That's an image of God thing. We want that in our world. And it is the character of Psalm 1 46 says this about who God is.

10:15 It says He upholds the cause of the oppressed. He gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. The Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves righteousness. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the way of the wicked. When we look carefully and closely at scripture, we see a theme from beginning to end that God runs to those in a vulnerable position because injustice most happens to those who are vulnerable, not those who are invulnerable. It still happens, but it happens so much more to those who are vulnerable and God sees them and God caress and he won't stand by. He works, he works. He goes into action towards injustice. In our world, and I will do this a lot, when we talk about these things, I want to take us back to our origin story.

11:30 'cause if we wanna understand why justice matters and what it means, that God himself and his character and nature is just, let's remember what he intended in the first place in Genesis, at the very beginning it says that God created a whole world of order and not just ordering that things worked. It was an order that brings life. Life beget life, beget life, beget life. And to be in this meant that life was ever being created continually flourishing. That was God's intention. So there's light and dark and there's day and night and there's sky and land and there's male and female. And all of these things are moving and working to bring forth more life for thriving. This is our origin story. But in Genesis chapter three, it only took three chapters for this to get messy. Genesis chapter three, it says that sin enters the, the picture enters the story and it enters through relationship.

12:36 It enters through relationship. And it is a conscious decision that humanity makes to say, I will decide what is good and evil. Thank you God for all that you've set up for us. This table so nicely, buffet for us. Thank you. We'll take it from here. We'll decide what is good and what is not and what you need to know about God as hell literally breaks loose on his creation. God doesn't say, ah, that's too bad. God doesn't say, Hey, humanity, you do you. He doesn't. God goes into action. He moves towards what has been broken and he creates for himself a people Israel, a people who will be an example to all people of who God is by the way they live and the order and the life they bring, it will point to that hub where all things originate. It will point back to it and say, God is good.

13:44 We should all follow, we should all follow God. And so the story of the Old Testament is the story of this people group who were enslaved, we're like at the bottom rung, we're the most vulnerable and lived under that for years and years and years. God taking them out of vulnerability, out of slavery, out from under oppression and establishing them as his people to be a light to the world. Which sounds awesome until a few chapters later where now the people God has chosen become to look more like their oppressor in the world than they do. The people who have been set free, they begin to oppress and they begin to war and they begin to look just like everything that had went wrong. And so much so that God sends what are called prophets. He sends these people, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and this man named Micah and he sends them to God's people to remind them not just what's coming, prophets don't just tell the future.

14:52 That's a misconception we've kind of developed. Prophets mainly are there to remind the people of who they are, who God is. They're there to remind and remind and remind. It's what we're doing today. We are being reminded who, who is God that we might reorient all of our, our lives and existence around that idea. And so Micah prophet comes to the people of Israel and he says this, these specific words he has told you, mortal one human. He has told you what is good and what is required of you to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. He's told you what's good. He's told you what is required of you as his people to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Could there be better words for us, the American church in this moment? So we're about to go into another election circus, right?

16:00 And the volume's gonna go up to 11 in our world. And everyone's gonna be telling you who to hate and who's out to get you and what's gonna fall apart if we don't do this and da dah, dah dah. I just want to tell you this is us rooting ourselves back to what God said is good and required of us His people. That's good to love, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. What does that even mean? Let's unpack it. I wanna introduce three Hebrew words to you. And if you're asking yourself, why do I need to know Hebrew words? Here's why. Because we take these words, justice, mercy, humility, and we do the same thing we do at the beginning. These ideas, these pictures and images of what these words mean in our current context can be different than what God intended from the very beginning.

16:52 So let's hear the words that he spoke. Three words for justice and righteousness that are used hundreds and hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Three words. The first is miss fought. Will you say Miss fat, mis mis fought. Mis fought is an action word. Justice, taking action, doing something about what is wrong in the world. Mis fought is the first definition of justice. The second is Ed, will you say Ed has hasad? Hasad is the motivation behind the action. Hasad is a love of mercy. It motivates the action. These two are not separate. These things are intertwined. Mis fought. Action has said motivation of the action, loving mercy to bring justice. And the last is edika. Will you say Ika? Sika. Sika is the word for restoration. Restoration. This is the one we miss most, I would say in our culture. So we get familiar with do justice, right?

18:03 Miss Fat. We get that. Okay, do something. We see something wrong, do something about it. We get that. We disconnect that often. Our justice is motivated by anger, hate, all kinds of emotional things get stirred up in us, right? God is saying mis fought action connected to has said the motivation of loving mercy. Those two things. And when you bring them together, they bring . Restoration, restoration, restoration. God's intention in all of this is holistic. It is holistic. So in our time we often think of justice as punitive. You get the consequence that you earned by doing something stupid. You brought it on yourself. Here's your punishment. And that's the end of it. But that's not the end of it. In God's way, that's not the end of it. God moves yes to confront what is wrong, motivated by loving mercy to bring restoration. Restoration to return back to what is good. You don't believe me. So I'm gonna read you a story . Alright, Genesis chapter four. This is the beginning story that we've been reading all things were good. Humans decide, we'll decide what's good and it unleashes hell on earth. And this is the very next story. Cain and Abel, Genesis chapter four. And it says this, Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, with the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man.

19:45 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks and kain worked the soil. In the course of time, Kain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel also brought an offering fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. But on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was angry and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door and it desires to have you. You must rule over it. Now, Cain said to his brother, Abel, let's go out to the field. While they were there in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, where is your brother Abel? I don't know. He replied, am I my brother's keeper? Which is like the most smart Alec remark in all of the Bible.

21:05 I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper? And the Lord said, what have you done? Listen, your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Would you mark that in your memory? Your brother, your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opens its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. And then Cain says to the Lord, my punishment is more than I can bear today. I'm being driven out of the land and being hidden from your presence. I'll be a restless wander on earth. Whoever finds me will kill me. But the Lord said to Cain, not so If anyone, anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.

22:07 And then the Lord marked Cain so that no one would who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of nod east of Eden. Kain made love to his wife. She became pre pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. And Kain built a city. This is God's word. What do we see here in the story? So many of us have heard so many times we see Miss Fa has said in action at the very beginning. At the very beginning, first God warns Cain sin is crouching at the door. You are filled with anger and jealousy and greed, and all of these things are bubbling up. And it does not have good outcome. This will not be a good outcome. You must rule over it. And this is has said, this is the motivation of loving mercy in action. God speaking to Cain. But Cain disregards. And when he kills his brother, God confronts Cain. He will not let it slide. He confronts him. Misfit. God acknowledges what has happened. The wrong that's been done, even that your brother's blood cries out to me. Can we just sit with that? That the cries of the unjust cry out to God? And he hears it. He does not dismiss it. He hears it. He cares. Your brother, your brother's blood cries out to me misfit. And God delivers a punishment. He delivers a punishment. This is misfit in action.

23:53 But then Cain is overwhelmed and lost and afraid. And in this unbelievable act of mercy, God says, not so that you'll be alone, not so that you'll be destroyed. And God puts his mark on Cain. He re identifies himself with Cain. And this is you guys. This is the misfit has said toward sedah . This is doing justice in a motivation of loving mercy that brings restoration. It brings restoration. Now you can sit here and say, that wasn't harsh enough. God should have done that. Why didn't God just destroy Cain I for an eye? And this is the part of Micah where we, we have to sit with and I will walk humbly with God. I will do justice. I will love mercy, and I will walk humbly with God. God will decide I gotta do the work. I can't just turn my ears and I can't turn my eyes and I can't just post on social media or read articles I tell my friends about.

25:00 I have to do, I have to get in the game. But that engagement has to be connected to loving mercy. It has to be. It cannot be motivated by ven vengefulness and hatred of the other. It cannot. That is not God's way. And when we step toward justice in the act of loving mercy, we bring restoration to the world around us. And God gets the final say. God gets the final say. I wanna tell you, 'cause this can sound a bit meta. I wanna tell you a story of somebody I knew. He was interviewing for a job at a nonprofit and he knew one of the board members at this nonprofit who was recruiting him to be a part of, this organization. And so he gets into this process and as he does, he meets with Melissa who runs the nonprofit. And Melissa is highly educated and highly competent and highly passionate about the work and has given her life to this nonprofit. And this young man is, is in the process of applying and going through it and finally gets to the point where Melissa gives him an offer letter, here's what we can compensate you. And the guy looks and he's like, that is not enough money to live here in this city in this time and do this work and that and the qualifications. That's, that's not enough. And Melissa says, that's more than I make.

26:30 Now this guy knew a board member. And so afterwards says he's walking out, he gets a call from the board member and the board member says, Hey, how'd it go? Did you sign the offer letter? We good to go? And he says, no, we're not good to go. That's not the right compensation for this level of work and background and experience and all these different things. The board member gets off the call, goes to work, calls back, okay, you got it, you got it. We'll, we'll meet that number you asked for. And the young man says, great. And then you need to pay Melissa more than me. You need to pay Melissa more than this offer that you're giving me. And, and here's the thing with this story. Does this wipe away all inequality between men and women in pay and, and work environments everywhere?

27:19 No, of course not. Does it even wipe away all inequality within this one little organization? No. But is it stepping toward justice in the heart of love and mercy to bring restoration? Yes it is. Yes it is. And you and I have this opportunity every day, every day. So don't believe this narrative that you have to run for office or you have to create a nonprofit or create this advocacy group to actually be doing something. You get this choice all day long to not avert your eyes and shut your ears When injustice happens, when it arrives at your doorstep, you are required to do something. And that motivation has to be in love and mercy. It has to be in love and mercy. And as you do that, it will bring restoration. Will it be without bumps or, or opposition or rejection? No, of course not. And we shouldn't expect that. But what are you called to church? What are you called to? Are you called to live a comfortable life where we sing worship songs on Sunday? Or are you called to be the light of the world that God intended to bring reorder and restoration into our community? Which is it?

28:40 I challenge you to sit with that and as you do, I want you to just ponder the example of Jesus. What Jesus lived out for us. Our belief is that Jesus was God himself arrived here on earth to reveal to us all of these stories and laws and ideas that have been passed down in the flesh. What does this actually look like? And Jesus healed the sick and Jesus fed the hungry and Jesus touched the disease to on the outskirts of society and gave them dignity. And he ate at the table with the rejected ones of the community. And he counted among his closest relationships, his disciples, those who were poor, uneducated, socially spurned and abandoned. And Jesus taught them and he taught us to pray. This, our Father who is in heaven, you are holy.

29:50 Let your kingdom come and your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Let your kingdom come and your will be done here in bend as it is in heaven. Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on this earth space as it is in your God space. Let it break through and it will break through in us. You guys. It will break through in us. Don't wait. It'll break through in us. Now here's the hard, hard reality of course, as we live in the in-between, in the already and the not yet in the already and not yet, Jesus has come and he went to the cross and his blood was shed and Abel's blood cried out from the ground. What have you done? But Jesus' blood cries out. It is finished, it is finished. And so we await the final chapter and the completion of this story. But we live, we're not in the final chapter. We're in the story right now. You guys we're in the game.

30:56 And this can be frustrating and overwhelming. And that's why those words at the conclusion of Micah, I will walk with God humbly. I will walk this out. I will do justice. I will love mercy, and I will walk where God takes me in a posture of humility that he makes the final call. I wanna pray this prayer over you. If you close your eyes, you probably have heard this, I would guess at some point it's called the Serenity Prayer. And this prayer's meant to be an encouragement and hard times. So we just let these words rest over you. God, grant me the serenity. Grant me, grant me the peace to accept the things I cannot change, and yet the courage to change the things that I can. And God gimme me. The wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Taking as Christ did, the sinful world as it is, not as I would like it to be. Trusting that Christ will make all things right if I surrender to his will so that I may be happy in this life

32:35 And supremely happy with him forever and ever in the next let this be our prayer, Lord.