Do you remember growing up and saying stuff like, "When I grow up, I will NEVER have to do this again!" It was usually uttered in frustration and total rebellion because someone was asking you to do something which you did not like or did not totally "get". You struggled with the "desire" to do as you were asked because everything inside you was saying, "I don't wanna!" It was one of those "I'm sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside!" moments. Did growing up really change much? Probably not. We just came to realize socks don't magically find their way to the dirty clothes hamper and into the washer. Someone actually has to "harvest" them from the floor and plop them into the wash water to see them made clean again!
Meanwhile, all the other people live however they wish, picking and choosing their gods. But we live honoring God, and we're loyal to our God forever and ever. (Micah 4:5 The Message)
It was a sad day for Judah - struggling with wanting their own way, but on the verge of catastrophe because of their rebellion. They struggled with rulers of the nation who bordered on being good to those who were downright misleading and absolutely too open to the influences of customs all around them. In fact, as Micah pens these words, he points out the "sex and religion" shrines which were now part of Judah's worship - something adopted from neighboring customs. Micah's message as a prophet to Judah was simply the words of a holy God sickened by the grotesque sin of his people.
We do an injustice to the holiness of God and the absolutes of the Word of God whenever we choose to "live however we wish" - picking and choosing what we will obey and what we will dismiss as not important or not applicable to our lives. Unfortunately, we do this more than we sometimes realize! We "filter out" the stuff which is "hard" to understand or "difficult" to comply with. We don't mind the "good" stuff - parts like blessings and riches - but we resist the "hard" stuff like obedience and paying a price.
The truth is simple - we need grace. Why? It is because of our desire to resist what we know is best for us! Judah had clear instructions - don't entertain the customs of the land. Judah had one of those seasons of "sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside". They find themselves in the midst of the question asked of Eve those many years before...."Did God really say....?" How many times have we faced this same question? If we could just learn from the past mistakes of those who have gone before us!
Do you know where this portion of scripture is taken from? It is the prophecy of the time when God restores Judah! It begins with: "But when all is said and done, God's Temple on the mountain, firmly fixed, will dominate all mountains, towering above surrounding hills. People will stream to it and many nations set out for it, saying, "Come, let's climb God's mountain. Let's go to the Temple of Jacob's God. He will teach us how to live. We'll know how to live God's way." (vs. 1-2) What NEVER ceases to bring me to my knees is the overwhelming grace of God when we clearly and defiantly choose our own way! There is so much hope in this passage - look at it again:
- When all is said and done - this suggests there is an end to our rebellion. We cannot forever resist the truth of God.
- God will dominate - not as a demanding task-master, but as someone we willingly submit to because we see the tremendous love behind his grace!
- He will teach us to live - because without him, we are just making choices based on what we "think" will produce happiness and the freedom we desire. Just like the socks on the floor, we can ignore wrong choices for a while, but eventually we want to get dressed in something "clean". The only "clean" garment is the one called grace.
- We will know how to live God's way - because God will connect the dots for us! Today, we may only have one or two dots connected - in the end, he will reveal the total picture! In the meantime, we have moments of repentance and submission which allow the next dot to connect to the last. This process is repeated until we see revealed the final image - his Son revealed in us!
I find myself writing a great deal about the grace of God. It is not by accident I point us so frequently to God's unmerited favor - it is simply because we need it so much! At least I do! I am not ashamed to admit it - I need his grace repeatedly (sometimes for the same silly thing over and over again!). It is kind of like the dirty socks - they gather in a pile of soiled mess until we realize we need clean ones! Then....we find ourselves hunting furiously for the clean pair! It is in that moment we realize - unless they are "washed" we have no hope of them being clean! The same is true with us - until we see all our choices as a pile of "dirty laundry" scattered all over our lives, we don't see the need for any "washing"!
Moms everywhere will associate with what I will say next. We may point out the dirty socks from now till the cows come home, but until the kids actually realize they NEED clean ones, they see no need to gather them up and bring them to the laundry! Until we actually see our need for grace, we will never gather ourselves up and take ourselves to one capable of removing all our stains.