“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8 ESV
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Psalm 69:30-33 ESV
Long ago in China there was an emperor who was getting very old, and he needed to choose someone to become the emperor after him. He decided to call all the children to his palace and give each one a flower seed. Each child would grow the flower seed and in one year bring the pot with the flower back to the palace. The one who had grown the best flower would become the next emperor. A boy named Ping planted his flower seed, but it didn’t grow. He tried to put it in better soil in a bigger pot, but still it didn’t grow. When the year was over, he brought the empty pot back to the palace. He was very ashamed, because all the other children brought beautiful flowers in their pots. But as the emperor looked at all the flowers, he was frowning. When he saw Ping’s empty pot, he asked Ping why his pot was empty, and Ping told him his seed hadn’t grown. Then the emperor was very pleased. He told the children that he had cooked all the seeds so they wouldn’t grow, and only Ping had been honest enough to bring an empty pot.
This is only a story, but it shows something a little like what the prophet Micah told the people. They were asking how they could please God and come to him, and asking if God would be pleased with many sacrifices–burnt offerings of cows and sheep and gifts of oil. Micah said that even if someone gave God his or her firstborn child, it wouldn’t be enough to please God or pay for any of their sins. There’s nothing anyone can bring God and be proud of it, but people bring God their empty pots, showing that there’s nothing they can do to win God’s favor. This is what it means to be humble. And knowing that God loves his people and claims them to be his own makes them want to live with justice and kindness toward other people.
We could never hope to pay for our sins, but God sent his own Son, Jesus, to pay the price for us. Jesus gave the perfect offering to God when he died on the cross. Because of Jesus, we can be sure that all our sins are forgiven, and we come to God humbly with nothing but what Jesus has done for us. God calls us his own people, and we walk with him every day. We learn about God’s justice and kindness, which is standing up for what is true and right and helping people who are weak and helpless. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us to show justice and kindness to other people every day.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for saving us and calling us your people. Help us to show justice and kindness and to be humble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Demi The Empty Pot New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990.