It is bound to happen. It happens even to the best of us. It wasn’t our intention. We didn’t seek it out. It wasn’t part of the plan – it just happens. One day we are reading and studying the Bible and the next, we are going off of what we think it says. If you grew up in church like I did, you automatically have ideas about the stories contained in the Bible. If you didn’t grow up in church, you may have ideas of what you have heard or it can just seem like a jumbled group of stories thrown under a cover called the Bible. And if we are honest, even if we grew up in church, we can feel like it is a jumbled group of stories. We have big ideas of who God is and what all God would be pleased with. We may try to figure this out and live our lives according to a set of rules we have pulled out of the scripture to best fit where we are. We may even feel we are on the right track.
This may be all well and good. This may be okay for a season. But it is not sufficient if we plan to continue to follow God. God may not change but we sure do. And the more we face adversity, we tend to become more defensive, more angry and more determined. When we are faced with challenges, we may not approach those the best. Sometimes we feel like we are standing on the promises but all we really are standing on is a set of beliefs we have compiled to justify what we think and feel – and then use to beat others down. Somehow, this doesn’t seem right. Yet, all too many of us do it. Believe like me or you are wrong – we seem to say. Think like me or you are a sinner – we seem to proclaim. Worship like me or you are doing it wrong. We hold our banners high but really might find we are flying the wrong flag.
But this isn’t new. This didn’t start in 2020. This didn’t become a thing recently. People of faith have often found a way of vigilant, if not violent ways in order to prove correctness. Our history is full of it. And it is horrible. But what do we do? It seems so simple yet can be one of the most difficult things to do – we go back to the Bible and see what God has to say. And what he has to say might just stop us in our tracks.
I want to read 2 sections from 2 different prophets in the Old Testament. Israel thinks they are getting it right. They feel good about where they are. There is prosperity in the land. Things are going great for them. Surely God is all over it. And then…surprise. God isn’t pleased at all. Yet they didn’t listen. I wonder if we will.
The first is from Amos 5:18-24
18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
19 as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
And the second is Micah 6:6-8
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord 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?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
What is going on in these scriptures? They both echo what is often spoken by the prophets in many of the scriptures. This serves as a warning. It is an eye opener. It is meant to wake the people so they become the people of God. But it is harsh. It hurts. There is nothing easy about these words. They are difficult and cut to the core.
I hear God tell the Israelites that they are getting the worship part right but their lives are a mess. They are doing what is right when they enter their places of worship, but messing it all up from there. They are dirty on the inside but clean up real pretty for worship. They put on the garments of glory for worship but those same garments are stained and dirty. Here is the bottom line in these scriptures: How you conduct your life matters. What you do every day matters to God. How you treat people matters. What you do with your time, talents, gifts and service mean something. You don’t get to live unethically and pretend it is okay. You don’t get to cheat and lie and feel good about yourself. You don’t have the option of treating your neighbor poorly and justify it. Those waters of justice and the streams of righteousness just might wash us out. They may be the torrential rains that carries us downstream.
We hear the instructions from God. We hear that we are to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. And we are willing to do it if it means we are right. We only buck the system when it benefits us. But what about standing for those who can’t stand? What about being the voice of those who have no voice? When do we do that?
We have heard about justice. We have talked about kindness. But this morning, I want to consider what it means to walk humbly with God. To walk humbly means we don’t step ahead of God. We don’t try to take his spot. We don’t try to decide what God wants by making people do what we want. We don’t step ahead of the leader and our only leader being God. We walk humbly, acknowledging that we are here because God has put us here and loves us. We walk humbly, not thinking more of ourselves than we should. We walk humbly so that we can welcome others on the journey. We walk…but we walk with God. We do not walk alone and we do not walk as though we are God.
To walk humbly is being willing to accept that we may not always be right. There may be some things we have missed. There are some things we just do not understand. That is okay. It is okay because we are to walk with God. We don’t have to be right all the time. We are human. We will mess up. God doesn’t. So when we walk humbly with him, he directs our steps in the right way. There is something about letting God direct our way. We can’t become hateful when we are walking with God. He is directing our paths, not us.
To walk humbly means we are looking at ourselves and checking ourselves rather than making judgments about others. We don’t need to point out the faults of others. If looked at our own faults, that is enough to keep us busy. God is working on us when we walk humbly. And we need to understand he is also working on others. We are not God. We worry about us and let God take care of the rest. We listen to the things God is telling us. That will be more than sufficient for us to walk humbly.
Lastly, walking humbly means we welcome others to walk with us. We are following God, after all. It means we don’t have the answers, we just know who does. We don’t need to figure it all out. All we need to do is follow and invite others to walk with us. That IS the church – a group of folks walking humbly with God together!
God is calling us to move forward – with him. Join in, humbly walking with him. We will be changed. Maybe we give up our idea of correctness to walk with him in the only way possible – humbly – Loving God and loving others. May it begin with me.