The Expository Files



Micah: What Does the Lord Require?

Micah 6:1-8

MICAH (short for Micaiah—Who is like Yahweh?) was a prophet who wrote about conditions during the troubled times of about 735–700 B.C. Although he was a contemporary of Isaiah, he was a country prophet and more concerned with the oppression of his people than with events of the great cities or the intrigues of the nations of Assyria and Egypt.

“In an unforgettable passage (Micah 6:1–8), Micah presents a court scene. There is a call to court with the hills of Palestine as the judges. God is the complainant and Israel is the defendant. How has God failed in His great acts of the past? The only possible answer is that He has not. His failure is not the cause of Israel’s disloyalty.

“Israel complains in self-defense that God’s demands are unknowable.” Either questions of ignorance or “rhetorical questions expecting negative answers propose that God wants a multitude of offering of calves or rams; or that God wants rivers of oil, or even the sacrifice of the first child (cf. Lev. 18:21; 2 Kings 16:3; and remember that Ahaz, Micah’s contemporary, offered a son)” (Jack P. Lewis, Living Word Series on the Minor Prophets, pp. 26–27).

Micah’s response: “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?” In this text, we have the essence of the teaching of contemporaries Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. This passage has been called the “Golden Text of the Old Testament.” It is universally recognized as one of the greatest passages in the Old Testament. In just a few words, the prophet set forth the essence of the true religion—justice, kindness, and walking humbly with God. It was sorely needed then. It needs to be sounded out today with all fervor.

Despite the requirements for justice in the law (as in Exodus 23:1–9), men disregarded them on every hand. Micah 2:1–2 says, “Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” (See also 3:1–3, 9–11.)

Despite prevalence of religion and abundance of laws and lawyers, there is much injustice today. Because of injustice, there is labor unrest, a need for consumer advocates, criminals are allowed to go free while law-abiding people suffer fear, the poor do not have the legal protection that the rich have, and marriages and homes are destroyed. Sometimes religious leaders are not just or fair in handling God’s word. Texts will be used that do not teach what is asserted of them. Some take positions that cause one passage to be arrayed against another, and they take the one desired. God would have us to be just, for He is just and our religion must make us like Him or it is no good, and we cannot have a good influence without justice.

Mercy, or kindness, is a step above justice, for it is an expression of love (1 Corinthians 13:4, 13). There are situations where justice would call for punishment, but mercy forgives. Justice can be harsh, but mercy is kind—and kindness is needed in so many ways.

We need to have kind thoughts. Some have grown bitter and ruined their lives because they allowed their minds to be poisoned by real or imagined injustices or painful, unpleasant things involving others. How much better to develop the attitude of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:16, “… may it not be charged to them.”

There is also a need for kind words. We cannot all speak public words of great wisdom, but all can and ought to emulate the worthy woman of Proverbs 31:26: “… on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Then let us practice kind deeds. Jesus did. All commend the Good Samaritan for this. Dorcas was praised for it. Mercy or kindness is necessary to enter heaven (Matthew 25:34–40).

Finally, to have a religion that is well-balanced and right, we are to walk humbly with God. This means, first, that we have a proper knowledge of and respect for the great Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. The closer we come to our God, the more humility it will help us have. The fact that we are to walk humbly with God indicates that we are to seek His will, learn it and do it without delay, excuse, murmuring or complaining. Our religion will not be simply a public display of the required forms without regard to either our heart or life. Our walk will be by faith as that of Abraham (Romans 4:12). It will be one ever regulated by truth (3 John 3–4), uprightness (Proverbs 2:7), and love (Ephesians 5:2).

I marvel at the practical words of the prophet Micah, but he would not want to take the credit that belongs to the Spirit (3:8).

SOURCE: Goodman, R. W. (1991). Micah: What Does the Lord Require?. In D. Bowman (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: March 1991, Volume 8, Number 3 (D. Bowman, Ed.) (17). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

by Robert W. Goodman (1927-2014)
From Expository Files 21.8; August 2014