IFC - Week 3

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WHAT

What does the Bible say?

Asking the question ‘what’ allows us to look deeper into the Scripture and understand the passage properly in its intended context. Before we can understand what Scripture means for us today, we must understand the meaning the author intended for his original audience. Think deeply about the text and what the author is trying to communicate to his audience. This requires deeper study into the background and context of the text, as well as, understanding the genre of writing and where it fits in the biblical narrative.


Preparing for Small Group


Read the book of Micah to gain an understanding of the context of Chapter 6.


Note the following:

  1. When was the book of Micah written? Where does it fit into the biblical narrative?

  2. What is the historical context in which Micah is writing?

  3. Who was Micah? What do we know about Micah?

  4. To whom was the book of Micah written? What was his intended purpose and message?


Do some deeper study into the purpose and role of sacrifice in the Old Testament legal system.


Micah summarizes the heart of the people of Israel as they seek to come before God in worship. However, their lives are living in disobedience to the law of God; they are wicked and evil both inwardly and outwardly. They seek to give outward expressions of worship to God as a way to demonstrate their righteousness and appease the heart of God. In chapter 3, Micah exposes the false confidence the people have that no disaster will come upon them because the Lord is with them (v. 11). They believed that the Lord was with them because they offered sacrifices and the sacrifices excused their life of unrighteousness. It is important for us to remember that these people were not unbelievers or pagans; they were supposedly people of God who were misunderstanding the spiritual reality.

Micah also demonstrates the extent that people were willing to go to in order to demonstrate their righteousness based on the belief that extreme sacrifice could cover extreme sin. The people were ready to give quality items (calves and burnt offerings), a large quantity of items (thousands of rams, rivers of oil), and the most personal of items (their children). Kenneth Barker states, “They would offer everything (even what God forbade) excepting only what alone he asked for, their heart, its love and its obedience.”


The Tyndale Commentary on Micah states, “Outwardly he appears spiritual as he bows before the Most High with gift in hand. But his insulting questions betray a desperately wicked heart. Blinded to God’s goodness and character, he reasons within his own depraved frame of reference. He need not change; God must change. He compounds his sin of refusing to repent by suggesting that God, like man, can be bought. His willingness to raise the price does not reflect his generosity but veils a complaint that God demands too much; the reverse side of his bargaining is that he hopes to buy God off as cheaply as possible. What effrontery to such a mighty and gracious God!”



Small Group Discussion

Here are some possible questions that you may want to explore during your small group discussion.


  1. Why is Micah bringing his charges before the people of Judah?

  2. Why do the people of Judah believe they can cover these sins with sacrifices? What was the purpose of sacrifice in the OT? How does the purpose of OT sacrifice differ from the way the people of Judah were using sacrifice?

  3. Respond to this quote from the Tyndale Commentary on Micah: “Christians, like Micah’s contemporaries and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, are also in danger of substituting monetary gifts and a dead moralism for the radical and continuing repentance that Christ demands.”

    1. What are some ways you see this same heart in your own life? How do you attempt to use religion to cover up sinful actions, attitudes, and desires?





NOW WHAT

What should I believe?

What important doctrines do we see conveyed in the text? What are the implications of this text on the gospel? When we understand the Bible as a continuous, progressive revelation of God’s plan of salvation, we must try to discover how this passage fits in with the theology of the Bible. Ask questions like, ‘how does this text impact or shape what I believe?’ ‘How does this text fit in with the rest of Scripture?’ ‘What other portions of Scripture support the key truths presented in this text?’


Preparing for Small Group


Key Themes:


Formalism (Legalism): Undue insistence on the outward observances of religion or the prescriptions of a moral code, with a corresponding neglect of the inner spirit or significance which the ‘forms’ were designed to safeguard. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church


Covenant: The biblical narrative is a story of Covenant. From cover to cover, the Bible is centered around various expressions of covenant between God and his people. The Mosaic covenant, as it is described and expressed in Deuteronomy, is the basis and foundation for the latter prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets. The prophetic writings of the Old Testament were given to call people back to covenant relationship with God. The central command of the covenant was to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). The promise given by God, “I will be their God” is coupled with the contingency, “you shall be a people for him”, seven times in the book of Deuteronomy. The people were in constant violation of the covenant either by commission, deliberate disobedience to the covenant law, or omission, failure to obey the law of God. Micah’s prescription in 6:8 is not a new commandment, but summarizes the very essence of submitting to God’s just decrees and so loving him with all one’s heart, soul, and strength as the Mosaic Covenant proclaimed. The transgressions of the people of Judah was a deliberate violation of the covenant that would ultimately result in the judgment of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity.

The covenants of the Old Testament were ultimately fulfilled by Christ in the New Covenant. Christ provides a final, effective solution to sin. Christ also provides a way for the people of God to be a regenerated people, made new from the inside out. We are no longer made righteous or justified by our keeping of the covenant. The covenant of God is no longer dependent upon our obedience. We no longer require regular sacrifice to atone for sin; Christ has provided a once and for all sacrifice for sin. We live in obedience to the covenant of God because of the price that Christ has paid. “God’s own mercy and faithfulness to the Abrahamic Covenant, however, will mean a future for the nation, a future for Zion, a future Davidic King and final victory and peace.” (For a deeper look into the biblical theme of covenant, read Christ From Beginning to End by Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum.)



Small Group Discussion

Here are some possible questions that you may want to explore during your small group discussion.


  1. What are some ways that you see evidence of formalism/legalism in your life? Why are we prone to legalism?

  2. Why is an understanding of covenant necessary to understand Micah’s instruction to the people of Judah? Why is it necessary to understand what Christ has done for us?

  3. Why is it important that Christ has fulfilled all requirements of the covenant? What does that mean for us? How do we live out the fulfilled covenant in Christ?



SO WHAT

What difference does it make in how I live?

Only after we understand the original context and meaning of the text and the doctrinal implications derived from the text are we able to understand and apply the text to our present context. Ask yourself, ‘what heart change should be produced from this text?’ Our first priority in reading and studying the Bible is not to determine what it means for us today; however, we must discover what the implications of the Bible are on our lives today as part of our study. What parts of this passage and the contextual or doctrinal implications found within it cause you to struggle? Why?


“As important as this truth is, we should recognize that Micah is identifying a minimal response - that is, this is the very least that Israel should be doing. A higher standard can be found in Deuteronomy 10:12-13”

“The prophet therefore names here justice and compassion, not because God omits the first essential of religion, his worship, but because he is here defining true religion by its manifestations. Hypocrites connect all holiness with external ceremonies. God requires something very different; for his worship is spiritual. And because hypocrites can pretend great zeal and great concern in external prayer to God, the prophets examine the life of men in a different fashion. They ask whether men deal with others justly and kindly, whether they are innocent of all deceit and violence, whether they practice justice and compassion. Our prophet follows this rule when he says the law requires men to practice justice with one another, and then to busy themselves in acts of mercy. Afterwards he adds what is really the prior demand, walk humbly with God.” - John Calvin



Act Justly

“To act justly is most important, for it does not mean merely to talk about justice or to get other people to act justly. It means to do the just thing yourself.” J. M. Boice, The Minor Prophets


  1. Why is it a Christian responsibility to act justly?

  2. How does acting justly reflect our understanding of our relationship to God through the work of Christ?

  3. What does acting justly look like in our context?


Love Mercy

The Hebrew for “mercy” is ḥesed, which primarily means a faithful and covenantal love.


“Let’s not get justice and mercy confused…the moment you think you are owed mercy, you are no longer thinking about mercy…mercy is voluntary.  God doesn’t owe a rebellious creature anything. A Holy God is both just and merciful, never unjust. There’s never a moment in scripture where God punishes an innocent person.”  RC Sproul  


  1. What is the relationship between justice and mercy?

  2. Why do we sometimes think that we deserve mercy? How does the Bible teach us the opposite?

  3. How do we live out a ‘faithful and covenantal love’ to our brothers and sisters in Christ?



Walk Humbly


The phrase ‘walk humbly’ is a difficult phrase to interpret because the Hebrew word for humbly is not the word for humility. Walk humbly, in the original Hebrew language, does not carry the same meaning as humility in the modern English language. The best translation of this phrase is ‘walk carefully (with your God),’ which means to be careful to live in the way that God desires.


“Worship and morality cannot be divorced from each other. They are two sides of the same coin.” - J. P. Lewis


  1. What does it mean to ‘walk humbly’ or to ‘live in a way that God desires’? Give practical examples.

  2. Can you honestly say that you are seeking to live in a way that God desires? What evidence do you have?

  3. How do you sometimes confuse living in the way God desires as a way to earn God’s favor and forgiveness with living in the way God desires because of God’s favor and forgiveness?


In response to this week’s message and small group, what in your life needs to change in order to better reflect the covenantal relationship you have with God through the work of Jesus Christ? What do the instructions to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly look like, practically, in your life? Remember, we do not work to earn our salvation, but because of the salvation that has been given to us, we live our lives in a way that honors God. How is your life demonstrating the gift of salvation that you have received from God?




In Focus Church