February 2, 2020

What does God really want

Passage: Matthew 5:1-12 and Michah 6: 1-8

One of the struggles which has been with every generation is how best to honour God. The people in Micah’s time were no different than any generation that preceded them. The question they ask of God through the prophet is: “What will it take to make God happy?” Today we might put it a different way by saying, “What does God really want from us?” What the prophet tells them is that they cannot buy the love or friendship or support of God. His love, care, protection and guidance are gifts to the people who choose to believe in Him. There is no price to pay except through a life lived in accordance with the path God knows will help bring them toward a fulfilment of their life.

I remember my father spending money to buy for me what he thought was the perfect gift. As great as the gift may have been, I never seemed to get excited like he hoped I would. That was because it was his love and his time that I cherished more. Those were the gifts that would last beyond all others for they were gifts not from a store but from his heart.

The prophet tells the people that what God requires of them is something that anyone could give. And those three things are summed up in verse 8 where the prophet reminds the people that what God requires of them is: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their God.

Can a little child like me serve the Father fittingly goes the words of that old hymn. Indeed, we can. It is not how rich, nor how powerful, nor how influential we might be that matters to God; it is what is in our heart and our soul. Paul declared in I Corinthians 13 that he could give all he had including his body to be burned but without love, he was nothing.

The consistent message throughout this document known as the Holy Bible is that God desires a relationship with His creation, with each one of us as individuals and with us as a community dedicated to Him and one another. And that relationship is based not on external material possessions but on an internal philosophy, ethic and vision. Every one who believes in this God is called upon to reveal that relationship through a life that ever seeks to do what is just, what is right; to love that which supports, builds and encourages others, shows respect for all people, and finally to walk humbly with God. We are to be a people who do not set the agenda and expect God to fulfil it but rather to be a people who take the time to listen for His voice in prayer, in conversation with others and let Him lead us in the paths we would take.

The Beatitudes as recorded by St. Matthew are part of what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. This was Jesus’ major discourse which really laid the foundation for the life that God was calling the people to embrace. In the first 12 verses of chapter 5, Jesus relates to the people the philosophy, the ethic and the vision that they are to adopt in their lives and what the benefits will be.

The first beatitude reminds us of Micah’s call to walk humbly with God. Blessed are the poor in spirit is another way of saying blessed are those who are not arrogant or believe that they know all things and are ever right in all they think or do. They are willing to listen and to learn. To them belongs the kingdom of heaven.

The second beatitude reminds us that there will be times in our lives when illness, suffering and even death will touch us, but we can know that we will find the comfort of God’s spirit if we are willing to receive it.

The third beatitude encourages us to be meek. Meekness means having once again the humility to seek for the path that God would have us take. In the end those who seek the path of God will inherit the earth as they will be the stewards of creation.

The fourth beatitude speaks of a need to seek after righteousness. This also echoes Micah’s call for the people to do what is just in the eyes of God, to want to be in a right relationship with God and with each other. The promise is that as we truly seek to do what is just, to be in that relationship we will find true peace which comes from the infilling of the Spirit of God.

The fifth beatitude speaks of the need to be merciful. This also echoes Micah for true justice is mercy. When we learn to be truly merciful with one another, we will find that the gift of mercy will be ours.
The sixth beatitude speaks of purity in our hearts. None of us is totally pure of ourselves but if we seek to fill our hearts and minds with the things of God and let those things direct our living, we will approach that singlemindedness that leads to a purity of heart and we will see God. We may not see him as we hope to see him one day but we no doubt will see the reflection of God in the people with whom we interact.

The seventh beatitude encourages us to be peacemakers. To make peace is far more than putting a stop to war and hatred. It is about changing the culture and the attitudes and moving in a direction that brings real change and peace. Jesus declares that in this way we become children of God for the children follow the example of the father and the father seeks to make peace.

Is what I have said today relevant to you? Only you can answer that but if it is, I would encourage you to look again at what you believe God is requiring of you and mark the words of Micah and Jesus for they are at the heart of what God reveals to us about Himself and His relationship to this world. Wherever you go, whatever you do, take these words with you and strive to follow them for they will deepen your relationship with the One who is Lord of all time and space.