A God Who Searches
We use a lot of words to describe God:
- Positive images: Love, Awesome, forgiving, merciful
- Difficult images: wrath, vengeance…
- Omniscient – or all-knowing
- Omnipresent – always around us
- Transcendent – far off, outside the materials world
- Immanent – close by, within the material world
- you could add to this list…
But all of these are so heady….so theoretical…Sometimes I just want to know more about God’s personality. For example, I am a talker…give me a subject that I am passionate about and I will talk all day on it. I am also curious….I like to know why things work, what makes them tick, how can I fix something that is broken.
Well, what is God like? Is God a talker? Is God curious? Does God have a favorite subject? A quirky personality?
Now, I know these are all human qualities and even suggesting that God has a personality like we humans may be heresy to some folks. But scripture says we are made in God’s image, and if so, then there must be connections between the way we see and interact with the world and the way God does. And scripture is, in many ways, the story of people trying to understand those qualities.
Today, we settle into a couple of key passages:
- Matthew 5 – The Beatitudes
- Micah 6 – what does the lord require passage
- 1 Corinthians – picking up where we left off last week about the foolishness of God being compared to the wisdom of humans
Now most often these passages are preached in a way that compels us to DO something. And I think that is good. They do help show us a particular way to live.
This week in our new Blog, Joanie and I wrote about some of these ways of living. One of our posts described the beatitudes as a stairway into God’s kingdom..that is, the beatitudes are like steps on the journey of faith as we move closer and closer to God’s kingdom and we learn to live a kingdom citizens, as we work to bring God’s kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven.
Likewise, Micah 6:8 gives us a clear way to live and is a key passage for many faith communities in understanding what a life of faith looks like in service to God, that is, we should…
- Do justice
- Love kindness
- Walk humbly with God
And 1 Corinthians explains how these ways of living in the world will seem foolish and nonsensical
to the world. Consider the foolishness of Micah 6:8:
First, justice would, on the surface, seem quite wise. Some of the wisest folks in our land are judges and lawyers in our land. But in this passage, justice is about doing what is right. This may somewhat different from our legal system – which is focused on enforcing laws and settling disputes. Consider the statues that adorn many of our court buildings. Usually, the statue is a woman holding scales with a blindfold over her eyes. She suggests to us that our justice system is about being fair and balanced, or impartial. That is not the kind of justice that mishpat speaks of. Mishpat is justice that sees, that pays attention to those who are most vulnerable in our community and is absolutely partial to actions that are right, not simply fair. Jesus gives us the fullness of what mishpat means when he says you have heard it said and eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – that is, after all, what is fair and balanced on the scales right . But Jesus’ justice is different. But I tell you to turn the other cheek, give not just your shirt, but your coat as well, walk the extra mile, give to those who ask and love your enemies. (Paraphrase). That is mishpat – God’s justice that is totally biased towards us, justice that wants the best for us always and forever!
Second, love kindness – now that sounds nice, but let’s dig deeper, what does loving kindness mean? The word here is hesed and if you have come to any of our Thursday prayer and bible study meeting, you have heard me talk about hesed. It is one of the most important words in all of the Hebrew bible. It means faithfulness, loyalty, goodness kindness, steadfast love, unconditional love. Hesed is the word used to speak of Gods merciful love towards us. It is a word that implies a relationship of mercy, fidelity, forgiveness, and grace. And Micah says to love these things. It is a beautiful and poetic request, but it is also set in stark contrast to the world’s wisdom which says to love things like money and success and beauty and status. Most especially in contrast to the wisdom of the world which cannot really comprehend the steadfast and unconditional love of God.
Third, walk humbly with God. Humility leads us right back to those beatitudes, doesn’t it – blessed are the poor, the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. Humility is a pretty good word to summarize several of the beatitudes. A word that implies modesty, vulnerability, a lowering of the ego, placing others before self. In other words, a lot of actions that are often considered weak, ineffective, impractical and unsuccessful in our world. Humility will not get you far in the dog-eat-dog world. But in God’s kingdom, humility is a key to being blessed.
So, there is certainly a lot that we can take from these passages about how we should live in this world. They are beautiful and challenging calls to what a life of faith looks like. Yet when we only read these passages as a call to live a certain way, we miss something really profound which centers on an important little word in Micah 6:8:
What does the Lord REQUIRE of you?
Are all these things requirement? And if so, requirement for what? For salvation? For relationship with God?
REQUIRE – this word is the translation of the Hebrew word darash. This word is more accurately and more commonly translated in other passages of scripture as “search or seek.” Now, if we were Jewish we would likely know this word because it is quite literally the centerpoint of God’s Law. And I really mean literally the center point. The Hebrew bible is known to Jews as Tanakh. The three letters (T N K) which makeup this word refer to the three traditional divisions of what we would call Old
Testament. Those division are Torah (or law), Nevi’im (or prophets) and Kethuvim (or writings).
Torah is first and most central because it contains God’s law found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Torah is so central and important that Synagogues use it each week much like we have the Lectionary. Over the course of 1 year they read through the entire Torah by having a particular portion of the Torah each week.
Now, if you start at the beginning of the Torah and begin counting words and you start at the end of the Torah and begin counting words backwards, you will eventually meet at the very center word of all the Torah. And it just so happens that this center point is found in Leviticus 10:16 and while the verse itself does not stand out, the two words that are the center of the Torah contained in this verse most certainly do stand out. Those two words are darosh darash (search search) – repeating
itself as if to emphasize the search through repetition. This is no coincidence.
Now maybe you do not find this interesting. Maybe the word that is the centerpoint of a book does not mean much to you. But it has and does for Scribes and Rabbis and people who have copied and studied books diligently in order to understand God more deeply. Jewish tradition has taken this very seriously. It illustrates for Jews that the entire Torah (or law) revolves around
a constant searching of God’s word, constant studying of scripture, constant inquiry in order to more deeply understand God.
And this same word is found in Micah 6:8. But here it is not used for a person, instead it is used to described what God does:
God searches. God is one who searches diligently and deeply. God searchws within us, says Micah 6:8 – within our lives, within our actions, within our being.
And What does God search for within us? What does God seek from us?
God searches within us for how we are doing justice, that is for actions that are right, that are about wanting the best for one another.
God searches within us for how we love mercy, for how we are unconditional and steadfast in our love.
God searches within us for how we walk humbly, for how we are vulnerable with one another, for how we lessen our ego and put others before ourself
Not exactly what the world of riches, fame and success look for within us. But it is part of the identity of God to search for these things within us. And though that may seem foolish to the world around us, it is power and wisdom and strength in the kingdom of God.
So, brothers and sisters, I ask you and me today, as God searches intimately and lovingly within us, within our lives, what will God find?
Let us do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in our journey through life as God loves and searches for each of us…for by doing these we are being saved!
October 14, 2018
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