If you haven’t read the book of Micah, you’re missing out. The book of Micah is a book about the sins of Israel, and the indictment (formal charge of a crime, which in this case is sin) of the Lord. Micah then progresses into the revelation of a Shepherd-King, who redeems and shepherds His people. Read this book. Seriously. I promise you won’t regret it.
Before the passage below, Micah has, as a mouthpiece of the Lord, just begun speaking the indictment of the people. God is reminding His people that He “brought them up from the land of Egypt and redeemed them from the house of slavery” (6:4).
He then essentially provides a “moment of response” for the people. Micah 6:6 and 7 are questions being asked by the people. And verse 8 is Micah’s Spirit-led, God-given response.
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
After knowing their own sin (before God has even really mentioned it…the real weight of it follows this passage) and God reminding them of His goodness to them, they’re like, “Shoot. Well what can we do?”
They begin to think that they can do something or offer something to God in order to please Him. When faced with sin, their response is, “Alright, I’m gonna fix this.”
The church today does this exact thing. We may not say “Hey, guys, I can’t make bowling tonight. I’m gonna try to sacrifice thousands of rams to please God because I sinned.”
But we do offer Him things. I have. I’ve told God before, as if I have the ability to bargain for my sin, that I will sacrifice something that I love or give up a certain part of my life in order to appease Him, because I knew that a different area of my life was lacking. “God, I’ll give you my mornings and evening in quiet time, because I know that I’m choosing sin in trying to gain the approval of man.”
This whole concept makes me think of the scene in some movies when a person says, “If I live, God, I swear I’ll ______ (fill in the blank).” When faced with death, or in this passage’s case, sin, people try and offer things to God. Maybe if we can give Him something or provide something, He’ll spare us. Or He will even go one step ahead of that and extend grace.
Verse 8 destroys this entire concept.
What do we do? What does God require of us? “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
Let’s begin with justice. The ESV Study Bible helped immensely in understanding what justice means, here. Isaiah 42:1 also talks about justice, and the meaning of justice in both that passage and this passage in Micah is “fulfilling mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law” (ESV SB). In other words, if justice were enacted perfectly by humans, then whichever society that happened in would be perfected. It would be a utopia. The “Holy Grail” of so many schools of thought. If humans could just get ______, the world would be a utopia. Clearly, that has never happened.
It will, though. Jesus is the only hope for what we would consider “utopia.” Granted, it isn’t the utopia that so many people want. But Jesus provides hope. He’s coming back, to unite Himself with His bride, the church, and give us eternity in His presence. It is an “already, not yet” circumstance. Already we are “united with Him in a death like His, so we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:5).
Therefore, “justice”, or fulfilling the obligations we have according to God’s perfect holiness, is through Jesus. What can we offer Him? What can a human do to atone for his or her sins? Nothing. In the Messiah there is perfect justice.
So, in Micah, when it says “do justice,” it’s more so saying, “know Jesus,” because Jesus is the only hope for justice being fulfilled.
Next, the passage says “love kindness”.
The word “kindness” can also be translated to mean “steadfast love.” So, “love steadfast love”.
1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Once more, the subject is the Lord Himself. Do justice by knowing Jesus, because He is the only hope for justice, and love steadfast love, which is God. Know God and love God.
Then, “walking humbly with your God” is the gathering of these two things together. It’s almost as if this is summarizing the first two points. Humility is necessary to know God and love God. You won’t care to know Him or love Him unless you’re walking humbly with Him.
What’s our response to sin? When we clearly see God’s indictment against us, and know our sin, what’s the Christian’s response?
“Know God, love God, and humble yourself before Him”
He’s given us the freedom to do these things. Each day, we have the opportunity to bend the knee and submit to a justice-fulfilling, steadfastly loving, and supremely powerful God.