The prophet Micah ministered in Israel and Judah in the latter half of the eighth century BC. He prophesied, for perhaps 25–30 years, around the same time as Isaiah and Hosea. He preached much on the themes of judgement and forgiveness. The book given his name is effectively a divine lawsuit against Yahweh’s covenant people in which he indicts them for their disobedience and warns them of impending judgement at the hand of Assyria and Babylon.
As part of the divine indictment, Micah lists specific sins and injustices performed by God’s people. These include idolatry, the unjust seizure of property, the failure of civil and religious leadership, corrupt business practices, and empty sacrifices devoid of true repentance. This latter indictment is the particular issue addressed in chapter 6.
There, Yahweh brings a complaint against his people. He calls creation as witness (vv. 1–2) and, reminding them of his great kindness to them, asks the people in what way he has wronged them that they respond so rebelliously to him (vv. 3–5). The people respond with bewilderment. They cannot understand why the Lord has accused them of wrongdoing. “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?” (vv. 6–7). Do you see their confusion? The sacrifices had not stopped. They continued to bring sacrificial animals and expensive oil to him. What more did he expect? Their firstborn?
Notice the Lord’s response: “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?” (v. 8). Essentially, the Lord was saying that he was not interested in empty sacrifice. Automatic religion devoid of heartfelt obedience was meaningless. They could offer all the sacrifices they wanted, but without justice, kindness, and humility their sacrifices were meaningless.
It is in the people’s bewildered question that the name of God under consideration this week arises: “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high?” (v. 6). The phrase “God on high” translates the Hebrew name Elohei Marom. The people understood that God was on high and needed to be approached carefully. He could not be approached thoughtlessly or irreverently. They may have been confused about what true, God-honouring devotion looks like, but they realised nonetheless that God must be approached with reverence.
The name Elohei Marom talks to the doctrine of transcendence. Isaiah put it this way: “The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 33:5). God is not simply one part of creation. He sits apart from creation, even though he remains infinitely involved in it. He exists above and independent from creation and must therefore be approached with the utmost reverence and devotion. This name highlights the mystery that is inherent to the God of the Bible.
On the one hand, as we reflect on the name Elohei Marom, we realise that God is unknowable. He is the incomprehensible Creator who pre-exists outside of space and time. Human beings have the incredible, God-given ability to study and learn. This is one aspect of God’s image in us that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Animals fear the loud noises and bright flashes on New Year’s Eve, not knowing the source of those noises and flashes. Human beings understand how fireworks are designed and know that, when properly discharged, there is nothing to fear from the noise and the light. As human beings, we have been created with the ability to research and enquire and discover the inner workings of God’s creation.
But as wonderful as our ability to enquire and discover is, we hit a dead end when it comes to figuring God out. Creation operates by laws and, so long as we can discover those laws, we can understand creation. But God exists outside and above all that. We cannot, by our own wisdom, figure out God as we can figure out his creation. The apostle Paul said it best:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counsellor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
The unknowability of God is what left the Israelites so confused by the Lord’s indictment through Micah. They thought they were doing what was right, but was there something that they were missing? Had they completely misunderstood what God required?
At the same time—and paradoxically—God is, to a degree, eminently knowable. That is, although he is unknowable to us by our own wisdom, he has nonetheless chosen to reveal himself to us. That is why the Israelites had some concept of how God must be approached. They knew that he required sacrifice because he had revealed this to them.
Elohei Marom is “God on high.” He is transcendent and therefore unknowable to us. But the other side of the transcendence coin is immanence. The unknowable God, who exists above and apart from his creation, has graciously revealed himself to us in his creation. “He has told you, O man” (v. 8). We can know Elohei Marom to the degree that he has chosen to reveal himself to us.
Importantly, God’s self-revelation carries with it human responsibility. Those to whom Elohei Marom reveals himself are responsible to respond to him in a humble, devoted way. “What dos the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Knowing God has an ethical dimension to it.
As you pray to Elohei Marom this week, remember that you are praying to a God who exists above and outside of his creation. Remember that you are praying to a God whom you cannot know in his fullness. At the same time, be thankful that you are not praying to a completely unknown entity. You are praying to the God who has revealed himself to his people in creation, in Scripture and, most fully, in the Lord Jesus Christ. And remember that his revelation carries with it ethical implications. Those who know Elohei Marom must approach him in the right way: with a commitment to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with him. In your prayers of adoration in the coming week, ask God to produce in you a commitment to justice, kindness, and humility, for that is how we honour Elohei Marom as we approach him in worship.