It’s the Heart that Counts (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 30, 2014)

Many years ago, I memorized Micah 6:8 as a song. The version I learned went like this: “He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I had that song in my head this morning, so I looked up the verse again to read it in context.

Micah is considered one of the “minor prophets” of the Old Testament, and the book is tucked between Jonah and Nahum. They may be called “minor,” but there are some major insights within those writings. For example, Micah foretold that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (see Ch. 5). Micah also called out the people of Judah for being dishonest and worshipping idols. In fact, the heading for the passage quoted above is “The Lord’s Case Against Israel” in the NIV translation. God had a bone to pick with his people.

In the first five verses of Micah 6, the Lord reminds the reader of his many righteous acts. He dares the Israelites to backtalk him with complaints about life’s burdens, after all that God has done for them. Then, in verse 6, Micah poses the question of what gifts would be worthy to bring to the Lord as an apology for our sins. He mentions a variety of offerings before he hits the nail on the head in verse 8: God doesn’t want our sacrifices as much as he wants our hearts.

I like the way The Message paraphrases verse 8 (the same verse from the song that I mentioned up above): “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”

The greatest gift that we can offer to the Lord during this season (or anytime) is ourselves. Romans 12:1 calls this “a living sacrifice” – our everyday lives, devoted to bringing him honor.

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