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What Does God Require?
Let’s just get right to it and look at this remarkable verse about what God requires of those who are His.
“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?” (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
The Bible will challenge us, correct us, and even rebuke us.
And this is what this verse before us does. It does all three. It does triple duty.
These past few years with all the political upheaval, along with the violence that has followed, I have seen this verse displayed by those on both sides of the issues trying to justify their position.
But what does it mean to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Lord? Does it lend itself to these positions. Actually, it lends itself to what we as Christians ought to be doing in spite of what is going on in our society. In other words, it’s about how are we to live out this verse as to what God requires rather than the requirements of man.
And so, it comes at us with this question, “What is good?” And what God is saying is that He has already shown us what is good.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good.”
And so, what is good? Well, there are only two things that are good, and they are God and His word.
When it comes to the goodness of God, nothing speaks more to this than the Psalms.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1 NKJV)
And as far as God’s word, Proverbs 16:24 says something that fits the bill.
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24 NKJV)
Now, to show how this verse fits, one of the main definitions used in our verse for “good” means “pleasant.”
And to show how good and pleasant God’s word is, King David said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8 NKJV)
And it doesn’t get any better than that.
And so, through Micah, the Lord is showing us what is good, what is pleasant, what is best and beautiful. And that is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
And this is what I’d like to take time to look at with you, what each of these means, and what it looks like in our lives.
But before we get there, we should take a moment and look at the context and what brings the Lord let us know this.
In Micah 6 God is speaking and is making a case against the people of Israel. The question He asks is found in verse three.
“O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me.” (Micah 6:3 NKJV)
These are strong words and quite an accusation. What God is reminding them of is what He has done and how He has redeemed them from their Egyptian bondage. Therefore, how should they respond to God’s righteousness? And the Lord makes sure they realize that it isn’t though any religious acts, which is seen in verses six and seven.
This is the problem with most people. We think that religious acts are what God desires and what pleases Him the most, but it isn’t. And while Micah 6:8 is what we will be concentrating on in our time together, it really begins with these same thoughts that Micah brings out about how to get right with God that has haunted humanity since the very beginning.
And what we see from our passage is that God is contrasting for us external religion, that is, the religion of man as it compares to what God set up, that is, true religion, which is all about our coming into and staying in a right relationship with God.
Now, Micah leads out saying, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?” (Micah 6:6a NKJV)
You see, this is at the heart of the prophet, and it is what is at the heart of everyone, and that is to see our relationship with God restored. It begins with recognizing our sinful condition before a holy and righteous God, and by the law what it takes is an offering for sin. And this is what Micah says.
“Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” (Micah 6:6b NKJV)
But as is the case with all of us, we think we need to up the ante for God to take us seriously which is what Micah goes on to say.
“Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?” (Micah 6:7a NKJV)
In other words, our transgressions and sins can only be swept away by the quantity of the sacrifices we make. But the question then becomes, “What is the right price?” If we don’t know, then let’s just add a couple of thousand to make sure we’re covered.
But what we see here is that God isn’t interested in the choicest animal, nor in the number that is offered. God has no interest in the multiplication of empty religious acts. Instead, it has everything to do with the condition of our hearts.
Quoting the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah, the writer of Hebrews said, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” (Hebrews 10:16 NKJV)
This is what King David thought as well, that it’s all about the sacrifice. But through the Holy Spirit, he knew it was wrong. It’s not the amount a person gives, but it is in the heart of the giver. This is seen in Psalm 51 when David was confessing and seeking God’s forgiveness.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NKJV)
You see, King David knew that to make ourselves right with God it’s all about the condition of our hearts and our spirits and not through religious acts, where our hearts and spirits are broken and crushed over our sinful condition.
Unfortunately, Micah didn’t catch on at this point. He thought he had to actually go further.
And in a way he was right. He realized that there weren’t enough sacrifices, that the blood of bulls and goats weren’t going to be enough. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4 NKJV)
Instead, something more, something greater was needed, that which is the most meaningful, which Micah related to the offering of a person’s first-born child, which is in some ways a prophetic word for the coming of Jesus and the sacrifice God made for us.
“Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7b NKJV)
Abraham knew the pain and the sacrifice that it required when God told him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:2 NKJV)
But what we need to understand is that this was never about Abraham’s sin, but rather it was a test of Abraham’s faith.
You see, what is needed is not our first born, but like Abraham, what God is looking for is the sacrifice of ourselves. This is what Paul realized when he wrote to the Roman church.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
But the death of the first begotten is required, not by us, but what was offered by the Lord.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
But going back to this question posed by Micah, the Lord through Micah gives to us the answer.
“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?” (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
So, let’s now break this down.
To Do Justly
To do is an act. It’s not something we think about, or something we just talk about, it is something that we are to do. To do justly means we do what is morally right or fair. This is not just something we talk about, because it goes beyond mere words. It is committing to do what is morally right and fair in every circumstance, even when it is not popular.
And while many may say yes to this, their actions don’t always follow, as the prophet Isaiah said, “These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me.” (Isaiah 29:13a NKJV)
The Apostle James said, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17 NKJV)
So, what does this word, “justly,” mean. In Micah 6:8 the Hebrew word is “mishpat,” which means to treat people equitably, that is, the same no matter their race or social status.
But there is an attachment that I see, and that is love. Again, I go to the Apostle James who said, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8-9 NKJV)
How does this look. To do justly is to be fair in all we do. To do justly means to be honest and truthful. It means we treat everyone equally, we hold everyone to the same standard, and we do not apply different standards of fairness to one person over that of another. This also means we will do what is morally right even when it is not popular according to the world.
It is this first statement that people are looking at these rallies and protests. But it is the second statement that Jesus brings out that balances justice and the law.
To Love Mercy
When confronted by the Pharisees who live by the law, most of which was their own interpretation of the Mosaic law, they questioned Jesus’s ethics and morals as he sat and ate with, as they put it, “tax collectors and sinners.”
But Jesus responded to their accusations saying, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13 NKJV)
Jesus was quoting from the prophet Hosea who said, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NKJV)
Now, there is a difference when it comes to God’s mercy verses God’s grace.
Mercy is the act of withholding deserved punishment, while grace is the act of giving unmerited, that is, unearned favor. In His mercy, God does not give us the punishment we deserve, which is hell; while in His grace, God gives us the gift we do not deserve, and that is heaven. Mercy and grace, for me, are attributes of love.
To love mercy then is a joint endeavor between God’s love towards us, and then our love toward others as a way of expressing our love towards God.
The extent of God’s love towards us is seen in Him sending His Son, Jesus, to die for us, even while we were still in our sins and thus His enemies.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
And as a response to His love, which reveals His mercy, Jesus gives to us the Great Commandment.
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
And so, to love mercy, which is God not giving to us what we deserve, we are to show mercy in the same way by not condemning others for what we ourselves are just as guilty of.
Therefore, to love mercy is to respond to all situations the way God would. It means that we will love others the way God not only loves us, but in the same way He loves them, caring for them rather than condemning them.
To Walk Humbly with your God
To walk humbly before God is to be mindful of how we are to live our lives before Him. The one who walks humbly with God does so modestly and without arrogance. When we do so, then He will lift us up, rather than our worrying about promoting ourselves.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:6, 10 NKJV)
To walk in humility is then to walk in love, which is the outcome.
Paul said, “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1b-2 NKJV)
The Bible has a lot to say about our need to walk in humility.
To walk humbly with God, therefore, means we are to recognize our position as believers as a direct result of God’s mercy and grace with nothing else added on our part.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Therefore, our walk with God should increase in humility, and not be full of pride and arrogance. It is to always remember that He is our creator, and we are His creation. It is to always remember that He is our King, and we are His servants.
If we were to sum up this verse, there are two things that we see. First, it is a call to an active faith that is lived out in what we do, and that is living humbly and in connection with God and others. It is in what we do, not just in what we say. It is a faith that is active and alive.
It is such a faith that pleases God.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)
The second is to love God as God has loved us, and then to love others as our way of showing God just how much we love Him. It’s known as the Great Commandment. You see, all three of these qualities hold together as one through our love for God and for one another.
And Jesus said that our loving others with the love of God is our call to duty.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NKJV)
Let me end with this, that the Lord requires us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, because we represent Him to this world that is lost and dying. It is through this that people will see God working in and through us, which may just be the catalysis for them to want to know more and to come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study