What Does the Lord Require?
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (NKJV)
The Pharisees of the New Testament were obviously not the first Jews to believe that the letter of the law outweighs the spirit of the law. The Pharisees' form of "checklist godliness" was obviously being practiced by the hearers of Micah's prophecy.
Micah 6:8 reminds us of the conditions God set on His promises to Abraham, namely to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). Additionally, the directions for Israel from God (via Moses) come to mind: And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deut. 10:12,13)
Both Samuel and Hosea emphasize God's preference for obedience, knowledge, and mercy over sacrifice and burnt offerings. (1 Sam. 15:22; Hos. 6:6.)
With all of these Old Testament passages in view let's examine Micah's three imperatives if man wishes to fulfill the Lord's requirements and come to realize and live "what is good."
To Do Justly
Adam Clarke suggests that for man to do justly, he must render unto everyone that which is due to them. Of course Clarke does not mean "what is due them" in men's eyes, but "what is due them" according to God's will.
To give God His due. God is deserving of our heart, body, soul, and spirit; our wisdom, understanding, judgment. Jesus tells us (Mk. 12:28-30) that the first commandment is to "love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." Because He created us in His own image, God rightly and justly deserves all of our worship and adoration. "This is the first commandment."
To give your neighbor his due. Jesus continues (Mk 12:31) His discussion of the greatest commandments with the second, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Can we sin against someone we truly love? Perhaps we might momentarily sin against a loved one, but not continually. True love desires to bless and not to injure. Note however that we are not to give that which is due to God to any man - neighbor or self.
To give to yourself what you are due. According to Paul, we are not our own but instead our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). So what we have coming must be tempered by what we must avoid. Paul reminds us first of all to "flee sexual immorality." Elsewhere Paul gives us lists of characteristics to avoid and attain (Gal. 5:19-25)
To Love Mercy
God realized what man has come to know; justice, while necessary, can be cold and unfeeling. (Micah 7:18.) To do justly alone is not sufficient for a child of God; we must love mercy and do what it requires. Mercy comes from characteristics that include kindness, benevolence, and charity. Part of what mercy requires is to be willing to forgive the sins of others as God is willing to forgive our sins. It is this aspect of mercy through which our own salvation comes (Titus 3:5).
To Walk Humbly
But how are we to do this? We must first acknowledge our sins and then be willing to submit to God's mercy. It is only through a humbling of ourselves that we will be allowed to walk with God. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Pet. 5:5.) Paul points out that it is high-mindedness that leads to unbelief and lack of faith in the power of God (Rom. 11:20; 12:3). The humble attitude required by the Lord will make itself manifest in a life of prayer, contrition, and service.
What Then, Is Good?
Homer Hailey suggests that "the 'good' that [God] requires is the doing of His will." To accomplish that lofty (yet necessary) goal man must act toward God and man according to the divine standard of righteousness revealed in God's will; he must show every man a compassionate warm-heartedness; and walk humbly in recognition of the absolute holiness and righteousness of God by submitting to God through obedience to His desire and will. (Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, p. 214.)
There is no "Christian To Do List." It is just not that simple. And yet we know that living Christ-like is not impossible (Mt. 11:29,30). But we must be mindful it is a "life" and not a series of accomplishments.
By Carey Dillinger
From Expository Files 11.3, March, 2004