“To love him [God] with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” – Mark 12:33
As I get older, the more I enjoy simpler things.
When I was young, my dad would take me to sporting events, and he would cheer as loudly as anyone around us. He got older and his cheering became much more subdued. As he got older still, he stopped going to sporting events. I couldn’t understand it. “That will never be me,” I thought.
Today I go to sporting events sometimes when one of my grown children or a friend asks me to go with them. And I still enjoy it. But my cheering is much calmer. To be honest, I would just as soon stay home and watch the games on television, eating snacks on my sofa.
These days I enjoy things that are simpler…quieter. I like reading a good book. I enjoy taking long morning walks with Sabra on trails near our home, talking about whatever comes to mind. I look forward to Saturday mornings when we have our coffee, bagels, and Bible study time together.
But what I enjoy most these days is reading the simple truth of God’s Word.
When we give our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and “guides [us] into all the truth” (John 16:13). He helps us understand and live according to that truth.
And we find that truth in God’s Word. We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Jesus prayed in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
The Bible is full of simple truths. Simple truths that have a profound impact on our marriage when we take note and apply them to our lives.
One of these simple truths is found in the book of Micah. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Amos. He prophesied during the eighth century B.C. It was a time when Israel was enjoying some of her greatest affluence. It was also a time of some of her greatest decadence. (Does that sound familiar?)
Amos describes this state of Israel in Amos 6:4-6: “You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. 5 You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. 6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.”
While everything seemed fine on the outside, they were decaying on the inside. Things had become so bad that even one’s closest friends could not be trusted. This even included one’s spouse.
We see this warning in Micah 7:5-6: “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. 6 For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.”
This was a desperate situation. But God always has a remedy. What solution did He give to His people during this time?
The answer is found in Micah 6:6-8: “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? 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 thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 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.”
This solution also applies to our marriage–whether it is in trouble or everything is going well. So let’s take a closer look at what God says to us through Micah. We always need to be growing in our relationship with Him and each other. And this begins with the study of His Word.
This section of Micah’s prophecy begins with questions from God Himself to His people. He wants to know what He has done to cause the Israelites not to trust Him. He asks, for example, in Micah 6:3: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.”
A humbling question to be asked. But sometimes we need to hear the tough questions to awaken us to our true situation.
Following His questions, God then provides examples of how He has only done good to them throughout their history. For example, He says in Micah 6:4: “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.”
So why has Israel turned from following Him?
God’s questions to His people Israel are also good for us to ask ourselves regularly.
As for Israel, Micah begins answering for the people in Micah 6:6-7. They have tried to worship God externally through their offerings. But God tells His people–including us–that He does not want only external worship. He wants worship from our heart.
God says to His disobedient people in Isaiah 1:11-13: “’The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.’”
Saul disobeyed God by taking sheep from a defeated enemy. When he was confronted by the prophet Samuel about his sin, Saul said he would take those sheep and offer them as a sacrifice to God. As if that would make everything right. But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
God’s meaning is clear in all of these passages. He is not interested ultimately in our works or any other external offering. None of these will bring us to a right relationship with Him. Instead, our works for God are good and pleasing to Him when we already have a right relationship with Him.
Jesus makes this same point in His teaching in Mark 12:33-34:
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ 29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ 32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions” (bold mine).
We also read this truth from Jesus in Matthew 9:10-13:
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (bold mine).
Here Jesus tells us what He wants from us rather than animal sacrifices. He desires mercy.
It is one of the things listed in Micah 6:8 that tells what God requires of us. And everything on this list will help make our marriage all He wants it to be. It’s no coincidence that one of those things is mercy.
All of these things begin in our hearts: “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In order to do these things, our hearts must be right with God. And God made the only way for that to happen–through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. You can read more about this and what it means for you here: Meet Jesus.
God doesn’t require grand acts of worship. He doesn’t want a big show of things. He simply wants our hearts devoted to Him.
When our hearts are right, we can see God at work in our lives and marriage.
We have a tendency in our current culture to dismiss the simple things. But simple doesn’t mean that thing isn’t profound and powerful. This is especially true when that simple thing comes from the all knowing and all powerful God.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ After reading this week’s teaching together, discuss what God has taught you individually and as a couple.
♦ Are you serving God individually and together? If you are, what is your motivation? Is it because of your love for God and others? Or are you trying to get something from God–trying to gain His favor?
♦ We can learn from Israel that we must not forget how much God loves us and how much He has done for us. This will motivate us to love God all the more, and to love each other more. Think back on the past week, the past month, or even further and name some things that God has done for you. How does this help you understand how much God loves you? How does it help you love God and each other more? How does it make you look at the future?
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you focus on His love and goodness and how He reveals it to you. Ask Him to help you not to focus on the negative. Ask Him to use this to motivate you to love Him more, each other more, and others more. Ask Him to help you show this love in your words and actions.
Next week, we will look at three specific, simple and powerful truths from God in this passage from Micah that will help make our marriages what He wants them to be.
May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,