Lent Week 2: Rest in the One Who Accomplish’s Our Work

Written by: Mark Van Valin

Mark Van Valin leads the Detroit Multiplication Initiative with Mission Igniter and the Free Methodist church in Detroit, Michigan. Mark was the lead pastor at the Ann Arbor church where the first Set Free team was born. He has been with Set Free since the beginning and serves on the SF board. 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

 

It would be easy to preach a sermon or post a blog urging everyone to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Lay down a few memorable points, a heartfelt illustration or two, add a pinch of guilt, and then end with a flourish: “So, if you want to be a good Christian, you just go out now and do it.  Roll up your sleeves, grit your teeth, and try harder to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. . . Let us pray.”

The late Edmund Clowney, an orthodox Presbyterian pastor, would call that a “synagogue sermon.”  What he means is that you could hear such a message in any religious setting, or even in a motivational speech. “You should act more justly. (Who could argue with that?) You should love mercy more than you do. You should walk humbly before your God.  Here are some inspiring stories of others who have done it, So, you get out there and do it too.”  

That’s not the gospel. That’s a Ted Talk.

If we read between the lines in Micah 6, the prophet’s words point backward in time, as well as cryptically forward. That’s what prophets do.

The chapter begins with God convening all creation to bear witness against His rebellious people. He then gives a short recital of all that He has done for them:

 

My people, what have I done to you?
    How have I burdened you? Answer me.

I brought you up out of Egypt
    and redeemed you from the land of slavery.

I sent Moses to lead you,
    also Aaron and Miriam.
My people, remember
    what Balak king of Moab plotted
    and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord. (v. 3-4) 

 

God was saying that he did not call his people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly in order for him to deliver them. He called them to live righteously because he had already done so. This is the vast difference between the Biblical story and that of all other religions.

  • Act justly?  God had already done it when he delivered over a million Hebrews from 400 years of brutal slavery under the oppressive Pharoah.
  • Love mercy?  God had already done it when he tenderly provided for Israel’s needs, gave them capable leaders, and protected them from their enemies.
  • Walk humbly before God?  In Moses, God set before the people a leader who modeled extraordinary humility. (Numbers 12:3)

What is more, Micah, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, points forward in time to what God was yet to do.

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (v. 7)

There is no need to. God had already set in motion His plans to do it by offering His One and Only Son on a cross.

The extraordinary point is this:

The God of Abraham issues no command to His people where he has not already done it for us through Jesus. Micah said as much, consistent with the entire Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. Justice is a hot topic these days among Christians, as it should be, but we should get one thing straight.

We cannot act justly nor can we truly love mercy or walk humbly before our God by trying harder. No, in order to live righteously, we first have to remember to rest in the One who has already done these things on our behalf. 

The first General Superintendent of the Free Methodist Church, B.T Roberts, took it even further. He wrote that to pursue justice or acts of benevolence, apart from our grounding in the gospel of repentance, grace, and forgiveness will ultimately prove self-serving.

Prophetic words indeed.

This is the gospel. We love only because He first loved us. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world.

 

Pray with me: 

“Lord, help me to get quiet enough, long enough to remember, to rest in your righteousness, your mercy, and your love. Keep me on my knees until I am ready to rise and offer my day back to you – to act justly when no one is looking, to love mercy in the hardest of places, and to walk humbly before the One who emptied himself, the greatest self of all, for me. Amen.”

 

Reflection Questions: 

  1. Can you see what B.T. Roberts talked about? The danger of pursuing justice issues in our day apart from being grounded in the saving grace and mercy of God? 
  2. How can you cultivate daily trust and rest in the grace and mercy of God? 
  3. How can rest in the Lord fuel your desire and ability to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before the Lord?

How can we respond this Lent season? 

  • Give and pray for the Ukraine relief efforts: 

Our team in Hungary is on the front lines working directly with refugees and at-risk peoples. Pray for and consider supporting relief efforts for the people of Ukraine by giving today. 100% of donations will go directly to helping those in need.

  • Reflect and join the community conversation: 

For additional ways to grow and reflect during this Lenten series, follow us on social media for journal prompts.

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