Micah 5:1-6:8; Revelation 7:1-8; Psalms 135:5-12; Proverbs 28:23-24
OT: “What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6-8 CSB)
Though God prescribed a system of worship that required the substitutionary sacrifice of animals, animal sacrifices were not what God was ultimately after, nor were they the acts of worship that truly pleased the Lord. The sacrificial system served two main purposes: 1) it was a temporary salve that treated the sinful situation until a cure could be administered, and 2) it was a foreshadowing of the substitutionary sacrifice that the Son of God would make to provide that ultimate cure.
Animal sacrifices were an external act of worship that were intended to demonstrate externally what the Lord God desired to see internally. The sacrifice of animals was in itself worthless if it did not include an internal humility and submission to the word, will and ways of God. The same is true today. The lifting up of hands, the singing of well-crafted songs, the soulful shedding of tears does not please the Lord if it is not accompanied by a true and sincere laying down of one’s life before God in humble and loving faith-filled submission to the word, will and ways of the Lord. What does the Lord truly require? What does sincere worship look like? Micah described what a life laid down before God in whole-hearted worship would look like. A life fully submitted to the word, will and ways of God would act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly with the Lord.
The Hebrew word for ‘justly’ here is mishpat. Mishpat refers to the judgements, ordinances, decrees and decisions of God. To act justly is to apply God’s directives to your life and actually live your life according to His word, will and ways. The Hebrew word for ‘faithfulness’ here is checed. Checed is far more than faithfulness – it is the zealous mercy, goodness, kindness, favor, and covenantal love of one for another. To love faithfulness is to 1) have a deep desire for the checed of God, and 2) to have a deep passion to show the checed of God to others. The Hebrew word for walk means to live out and lead your life in a certain manner. To walk humbly with the Lord is to resist the temptation to live your life arrogantly on your own terms, but to humbly live your life under the care, leadership and protection of the Great and Good Shepherd – trusting Him to provide for your every need.
NT: “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, restraining the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel rising up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were allowed to harm the earth and the sea, “Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed: 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the Israelites:” (Revelation 7:1-4 CSB)
Some scholars of the Bible see the 144,000 as a literal number, while others see it as a symbolic number of completeness (10x10x10 = 1,000 and 12×12 = 144. Both numbers of completeness multiplied together comes to 144,000). Some scholars see the mention of Israel as being literal, while others see it as symbolic of “spiritual Israel.” However it is interpreted, I believe it is representative of God’s faithful remnant that is on the earth at any given time within the tribulation, as well as representative of the natural children of Israel who come to faith in Christ during those times of tribulation. The main point of this passage is not the specifics of the number or the specific people that the number refers to, but the fact that those people are sealed with the seal of the Living God.
A seal in those days was round patch of wax that was stamped with the signant of the ruling authority. The seal itself had no power, but it represented the power and authority of the one whose signant was stamped in the wax. The seal designated ownership and it carried the power and authority of the king. God always has a faithful remnant on the earth at any given time. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah thought that he was the only one remaining in Israel that was faithful to the Lord, but God made him aware that he was not alone – that there were 7,000 in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). From the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, there have been a remnant of Jews who have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, placed saving faith in Him, and been named among God’s faithful. Those Jews who come to faith in Christ during the tribulation do not give themselves over to the mark of the beast, but are stamped with the seal of the Living God. They are preserved through the times of tribulation and bear the seal of ownership, power and authority of the Lord God while they walk on the earth. There will never be a time when God is not represented through His covenant people – and those who remain faithful to the Lord will not be given over to the shaking, refining and leveling work that proceeds His coming.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are ever faithful to those who remain faithful to You. I thank You that You seal those who are Yours and preserve and protect them through the trials of the day and the tribulation to come. Help me to be one who is truly faithful. Help me to not merely be someone who appears to be a faithful follower through my external religious exercises, but who truly acts justly, loves, mercy and walks humbly with You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.