I read the newspaper. Every single day. I’m not naïve enough to believe everything I read, but there is certainly a lot of disturbing news in the world. Sometimes I just want to fold up the paper and move on with my day. Sadly, not much has changed in the world since Micah’s day, but we get the answer for how to help repair it. Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
It’s a popular, inspiring verse; I’ve heard it many times. I wondered if there was more to it than what I think is on the surface.
To be honest, who doesn’t want to see justice done? Or receive a little mercy when we have done something wrong? Of course, we want to walk humbly with God!
What does this verse mean for our daily lives?
As in all Bible verses, we need to look at what was going on in the verses previously and look at the overall chapter. So let’s dive in….
Book of Micah
The book of the prophet Micah in the Old Testament is a thin one; just seven chapters. He is writing to the people of Israel and Judah.
God’s people were prospering economically but were spiritually decrepit. The Canaanite religion had infiltrated into some of the Israelites.
Not only does Micah attack their idolatrous ways, but he also emphasizes the horrible social injustices that the ruling class had adopted.
We see God’s anger against their sin and the judgment that comes from their unrepentance. But we also hear words of hope and comfort as he describes God’s great love and promise of eternal life to all who repent and believe.
Micah speaks to the Israelites about their disobedience, which was leading them to ruin. But he also encourages them with God’s power, sovereignty, loving mercy, promises, and future glory.
Micah Chapter 6
The 6th chapter gives a peek into an imaginary courtroom scene in which God lodges a complaint against Israel. The first word is “listen”-“Listen to what the Lord says.” God wants our attention to this important matter. Kind of like “Hear Ye, Hear Ye” in the courts of old.
God’s case begins with him asking the people of Israel, “What have I done to you? How have I burdened you?” (v3) They certainly were acting with ingratitude after all the great things He had done for them.
“I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you.” v4. He had instructed them on how to live when they finally crossed the Jordan river and entered the promised land.
But the people had forgotten his steadfast love and covenant with them; they rejected what was right. Their leaders were the worst of them! They had no compassion or respect for the people they were supposed to serve.
Micah had previously laid out the sins of Israel: fraud, theft, greed, debauchery, oppression, hypocrisy, heresy, injustice, extortion, lying, and murder, among others!
The Israelites had forgotten their personal relationship with God and completely turned away from him.
Verses 6-7 show Israel’s response to the charges: they focus on what they can offer to God as offerings for their acknowledged great sin.
They first ask if it would satisfy God with the burnt offerings of year-old calves. They ratchet up the ante after that.
What about thousands of rams or 10,000 rivers of oil? Would that suffice? Their ultimate offer is their precious firstborn sons. Would that cover it? Would that restore them to God’s good graces?
What Does God Require of You?
The Israelites knew the Law of Moses; they should have known the answer to their questions. Micah responds- “He has told you, O man, what is good.”
God didn’t need their hollow religious rites or sacrifices.
The answer to their question went much deeper than any religious observance. He wasn’t looking at their offerings; He was looking at their hearts.
God had told them in Deuteronomy 6:5 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The Israelites desperately needed a change of heart.
God then gives His three requirements for those who choose to seek, serve, and worship him:
To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. (v8)
We define the word justice as “fair treatment.” To “act justly” means to do what is right; living a life of integrity. God’s word provides us with the moral standards to live by.
Injustice was an enormous problem in Micah’s day. They would have known what Micah was talking about- discrimination, oppression, and abuse were rampant.
God was asking his chosen people to look at their own lives and remove any unjust actions or thoughts. He wants a commitment to help the poor and those who have been victims of injustice.
God’s desire is for us to see others as He does– deserving respect, love, and concern. We are all made in His image.
The next command, love mercy, is intermingled with acting justly.
The Hebrew word for mercy is “hesed,” meaning to show loving kindness to others with enthusiasm. If we are a follower of Jesus, the command to be merciful certainly will reveal the status of our hearts.
To love mercy, we must freely and willingly show compassion to the weak, the sick, and the poor.
The word mercy means we don’t retaliate when harmed, we forgive freely, and we reach out to others, expecting nothing in return.
We generously received God’s mercy through Jesus’s sacrifice. How can we withhold mercy from someone else just because we believe they do not deserve it?
This mindset becomes easier when we truly realize the depth of the mercy and God’s grace that was shown to us.
And the last requirement: walk humbly with your God.
The apostle Paul gives us a warning in Romans 12:3-
“I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement.” NASB.
He adds this reminder in his letter to the Philippians:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Having a healthy self esteem is important as it relates to our worth in God’s kingdom. Paul warns us not to think too little of ourselves nor be prideful; trusting only in our own abilities.
We should instead base our self worth on our identity in Christ- as a valuable and chosen part of His plan. If we want to walk humbly, we only need to look at the life of Jesus- the perfect example of how to live in humility.
Remember: Jesus washed Judas’ feet, too.
Micah 6:8 Message
Micah’s message is just as relevant to us as it was to the Israelites. How can we live out these 3 requirements?
Micah’s instruction boils it down to the three basics-
God desires justice rather than empty sacrifices, loving others with mercy and compassion, and faithful obedience to God.
Does all this sound nearly impossible?? These three things all involve action, but are certainly doable.
How to Apply Micah 6:8 to Your Life
●We need our whole hearts to align with what God requires of us. Our good deeds, our tithes, and our ministries are important but insufficient if not done with a humble heart.
●It may require a change in lifestyle, thought process, and time management. No matter how difficult, these are God’s requirements! The good news is that God enables us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
●God’s character is always right, always fair, and always kind. When we are in a personal relationship with God, he helps us, empowers us, and leads us by His Spirit to live as He did.
●We need to see the world through God’s eyes. It’s easy to look at others who differ from ourselves and have judgmental thoughts. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin of pride, and ask Him to open our eyes to see people as He does.
●He wants us to “remember to remember” all the good He has shown us. In doing so, we gladly and lovingly give him our whole heart in return.
●What does the Lord require? He wants us to express these qualities in our lives to those around us. In this way, we can point others towards God.
Where is your heart today?
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36.
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
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