Certain dates on the calendar need no explanation and demand no commentary. Several of them are anxiously anticipated and warmly welcomed. One in particular is December 25. Not much needs to be said about what that date means. Another is January 1. And how about July 4? Without saying a word, you thought of hot dogs, apple pie, and fireworks, didn’t you? Other dates, however, prompt a much more solemn response. I am thinking especially of December 7, November 22, and September 11. The mere mention of such a date causes our minds to race back to where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.
None of those dates in December, January, July, September, or November require anything of us, but that’s not the case with another date. It needs no elaboration, but it is different because it requires specific action on our part: April 15! On that date each year, we are required to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of living in the United States of America. And if we don’t pay our taxes, we will pay penalties instead.
God is rich in mercy and full of grace, yet He requires certain things of us who are citizens of His Kingdom.
Sometimes we think that because our sins are forgiven, it really doesn’t matter how we live. Wrong! And the prophet Micah, who wrote seven hundred years before Christ, understood that.
Micah is best known as the one who foretold that the coming Messiah would be born in the tiny, seemingly insignificant village of Bethlehem:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. — Micah 5:2
Micah is also known for his very practical teaching in chapter 6. The lesson comes in a combination question/answer verse: the answer is embedded in the very question it asks! “What does the Lord require of you…”
His three-part answer immediately follows:
Do justly… love mercy… and walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8
These three actions are not suggestions. Nor are they mere options. These behaviors — related to our actions, our affections, and our attitudes — are “required” of each of us.
Micah taught in a culture characterized by idolatry, immorality, and outright rebellion against worship of God. In fact, it was a culture much like the one we are experiencing today in America. Micah boldly proclaimed that certain things are “required” of those who follow the path of the Lord. First, we are required to “do justly.” And he was referring to much more than a ruling in a court of law — God requires that we are to live differently than those around us. Specifically, we should be both moral and ethical in our dealings with others.
We should always honor what is right and speak up for those who have no voice.
Justice has become a popular byword among young evangelicals today, but Micah was emphasizing action over mere talk. It is not enough for God’s people to love justice and to be cheering from the grandstands for those people working for justice. each of us is required to “do justly,” to put justice into practice. What a difference it would make in our society today if more of us began to “do justly,” and rushed to the defense of those who are suffering in unjust circumstances and situations. Again, doing justly is a requirement, not a suggestion.
God also requires us as Christ-followers to “love mercy,” and the emphasis continues to be on action, not thought. We are not simply to show mercy to others but to passionately “love mercy.” Mercy is best defined as “not getting what we deserve,” whereas grace is “getting what we don’t deserve.” Micah’s instruction means that we are required to give people what they don’t always deserve; we are to cut them some slack and show them some mercy.
When we see someone in a difficult situation, though, some of us tend to immediately think, Guilty… until proven innocent! We take the seat of the judge when our “love” for mercy should be compelling us to be Christ’s hand extended to someone in need, whether or not that person deserves it. Susie, my wife, is one who truly “loves mercy,” and she has always reminded me that our children most need our love and encouragement when they least deserve it.
Twenty-five-hundred years after Micah wrote that God requires mercy from His people, the apostle John wrote this:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8
For the one who truly loves God, doing justly and loving mercy are as natural as water running downhill.
Lastly, the Lord requires us not only to do justly and to love mercy but also to “walk humbly with your God,” a requirement that clearly addresses our attitude. We are not to allow the perpendicular pronoun to raise its ugly head. Pride, the “Big I,” is one of the greatest hindrances to receiving God’s blessing. This was the beginning of Satan’s downfall (literally) when he said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). In sharp contrast, Paul’s admonition says to
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. — Philippians 2:3
Again, the emphasis is on the action we take in response to Micah’s instructions. We are to walk humbly before God and others, and walk refers to how you live your life. Enoch “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22), Noah “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), and so has every man and woman who have known God’s favor.
What is required of us? Justice… you must DO it! Mercy… you must LOVE it! Humility… you must WALK it!
And Jesus is our ultimate example. Knowing that divine justice demanded payment for the penalty of mankind’s sin, and even though He Himself never sinned, Jesus went to the Cross to “do justly.” And from the Cross we see how He loved mercy, saying to those who had driven the spikes into His hands,
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. — Luke 23:34
Did He walk humbly? Even on the evening of His betrayal and arrest — the evening of His greatest need — Jesus was on His knees, washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17).
Micah 6:8 is not a suggestion, but a requirement. So keep your hands busy: do justly. Keep your heart broken: love mercy. And keep your head bowed: walk humbly with your God.
Q & A: “What does the Lord require of you?” There is a positive action to take: do justly. There is a powerful affection to awaken: love mercy. And there is a prideful attitude to forsake: walk humbly with your God.
Excerpted with permission from The Jesus Code by O. S. Hawkins, copyright O. S. Hawkins.
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The new year is just around the corner. What better time to start afresh following Micah 6:8! Even before 2020, let’s keep our eyes and hearts open to ways that we can do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Come share your thoughts on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full