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God’s Ultimate Desire

Devotions
In a typical court of law, a defendant sits on one side of the courtroom, the prosecutor sits on the other side, and the judge sits in the middle. Today’s reading also presents a courtroom scene, with Israel as the defendant and God as both prosecutor and judge.

His case against Israel is simple. He had delivered them from Egypt and slavery, provided leaders and blessings, and acted in mighty ways. Yet they had forgotten God’s salvation and drifted away. How would God’s people respond? Scripture lists their pathetic answer: perhaps God just needed to be assuaged with burnt offerings, calves, rams, and oil! Demonstrating the depth of their decline, they even suggested offering God their firstborn as a sacrifice.

The prophet was quick to dismiss these suggestions. God had already declared what He desires from His people: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (v. 8). He does not want punctilious, arrogant law-keeping, and He certainly does not want child sacrifice. He desires a life built around His own heart—to act with justice in our lives; to orient our hearts to love mercy for others; and to walk with faithfulness and humility with Him. These are the deep desires and concerns of God’s heart.

We have no better illustration of these three things than the person of Jesus. His life was imbued with a concern for justice to the poor and oppressed. His words and actions were filled with mercy to sinners. And His death on the cross was the ultimate proof of His faithful walking with God to the end. As God, Christ’s life of justice, mercy, and faithfulness brings salvation. As man, Christ becomes an example of a life fully given over to the ultimate desires of God’s heart.

Apply the Word

Justice, mercy, and walking with God are not works we do to save ourselves. They are a way of life in response to God’s grace already shown in Christ. Write out the words of Micah 6:8 on a notecard and carry it with you this week as a reminder of Christ’s own life and His call to follow Him into the very heart of God.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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