Last Sabbath, I was at a young adult weekend centered on the theme “Desire What The Lord Requires.” All the seminars focused on Michah 6:8, which reads:
He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (WEB)
One speaker mentioned something that really stuck in my mind. In this passage, God doesn’t tell His people to be just, merciful, and humble. He uses specific verbs instructing us to act, love, and walk in certain ways. This passage is focused on actions that come from developing God’s character. It goes beyond being like God to actively walking with Him. And though it doesn’t say so here, this should be something that we want to do rather than something we do just because it’s a requirement. God has always been concerned with the state of our hearts and the motives behind why we follow Him. We please Him when we do what He requires willingly and desire the same things He does.
Matthew Henry’s and Adam Clarke’s commentaries says that to do or act justly means “to give to all their due.” Giving everyone what they are “due” from us includes giving God all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated, and also treating ourselves the way God intends.
Basically, acting justly is summed up in the two greatest commands (Matt. 22:36-40). That’s because the concept of justice is tied to God’s law, and the entire law hangs on the commands Jesus shared about how to love God and our neighbors.
In Hebrew, the word translated “justice” is mishpa (H4941). It is more often translated “judgement,” particularly in the sense of a court ruling or of an ordinance/law. God often uses the word when He talks about what was expected of ancient Israel.
You shall do my ordinances, and you shall keep my statutes, and walk in them: I am Yahweh your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances; which if a man does, he shall live in them. I am Yahweh. (Lev. 18:4-5, WEB)
The instruction “act justly” in Micah 6:8 is telling us to apply God’s judgments in a right and proper way. To justly use judgement, we have to follow God’s instructions on how to judge as well as what to judge. And that means familiarizing ourselves with scripture to put on the Lord’s mind so we can be act justly in the same way that He does.
The concepts of justice and mercy are intertwined in scripture. They’re both listed as weighty matters of the law that Jesus doesn’t want people ignoring (Matt. 23:23). But though God does justice because it is what His righteous law and character requires, mercy is the thing that He loves.
Yahweh executes righteous acts, and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the children of Israel. Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness (chesed, the same word as mercy in Mic. 6:8). He will not always accuse; neither will he stay angry forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward those who fear him. (Ps. 103:6-11, WEB)
God wants us to love mercy as much as He does. And when we do, that makes it possible for us to do justice the right way. Jesus told the Pharisees that if they understood what “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” meant they would not have condemned guiltless people (Matt. 12:1-8; Hos 6:6). Another thing they should have understood is that their lack of mercy in showing judgement means they won’t be shown mercy when they are judged (Matt. 5:7; 18:33)
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:13, KJV)
Because God is both justice and mercy, we need to love mercy in order to do justice correctly. And the reverse is true, too. We need to understand and apply justice so that we can be properly merciful rather than tolerant of sin. Mercy isn’t about ignoring God’s law, but rather applying it with loving kindness and forgiving others as freely as God forgives us.
Micah 6:8 says to “walk humbly with your God.” While several people in the Bible are described as walking with God, Christ is the ultimate example of doing this properly. For us today, walking with God involves walking in Christ’s footsteps, including His example of humility (Matt. 11:29; Phil. 2:8). Walking humbly is part of putting on His mind and it’s also connected with the unity that we talked about last week (Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-5).
All of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Pet 5:5-6, WEB)
We can’t have a relationship with God without humility. Humility is a mindset that we need to put on like a garment. And it should become part of us because it makes us the sort of people God wants to dwell with.
For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Is. 57:15)
Humility describes how we’re meant to walk with God as Christians. Without humbling yourself to walk with God, you can’t do justice or love mercy the way He does. We need to think of ourselves modestly enough that we accept God’s ruling on what it means to act with justice and to love mercy. Only when all three of these points in Micah 6:8 come together can we truly desire what the Lord requires and make pleasing God a core part of our lifestyle.