Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Tag: Micah 6:8



As we have seen, then, God is our Creator and sovereign Lord, and thus we are obligated to give Him our obedience.  But what exactly does He expect from us?  What exactly does He want from us?

About this too the Bible has a great deal to say, but there is one verse of Scripture that neatly sums up man’s duty toward God – Micah 6:8:

“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?”


There are, then, three basic things that God requires: 1) “to do justly,” 2) “to love mercy,” and 3) “to walk humbly with your God.”

First of all it says that we are “to do justly,” or, as it might more literally be translated, “to do justice.”  Strictly speaking justice is something that is administered by a judge, and the prophet Micah had strong words for the judges of his day who were often corrupt and took bribes (cf. Micah 7:3).  But there is also a broad, general sense in which all of us are responsible for maintaining justice in our relationships with our fellow human beings.  In this context justice means to treat others fairly and honestly, giving each person his due, and not doing anything to harm him or take from him something that is not rightfully ours.

“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? . . .

He who does not backbite with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbor,

Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend . . .

He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

He who does not put out his money at usury,

Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.”

(Psalm 15)

We must be careful to respect each other’s family, property and reputation; and that means that we do not attempt to manipulate or defraud him with lying, cheating or stealing, by stretching the truth or concealing information, by telling “little white lies.”  We are careful to give each person his or her due.

In business relationships in particular we should be completely honest with our customers, employees and vendors.  We should be careful not to misrepresent our products and services, but honestly represent what we have to offer so that the customer knows exactly what he is getting for what he is paying.  Employers should treat their employees fairly, give them honest evaluations, and reward them for their work.  Employees should give their employers a full day’s work for a full day’s pay.

But then the text goes on to say that we should “love mercy.”   The word translated “mercy” basically means kindness shown to others, especially to those in need.  Job could say,

“. . . I delivered the poor who cried out,

The fatherless and the one who had no helper . . .

I was eyes to the blind,

And I was feet to the lame.

I was a father to the poor . . .”

(Job 29:12-16)

What God requires of us is that we genuinely care about our fellow human beings and help them out in times of need to the extent of our ability.

What this may mean in actual practice is the expenditure of our time and money.  We must take the time to listen and make the effort to find solutions to the other person’s problem.  What we may not do is to go through life pursuing our own narrow self-interest and ignore the needs of others.  God is a God of compassion, and He expects us to show compassion as well.

But God also expects us to have a relationship with Him as well.  We are “to walk humbly with your God.”   To “walk with” Him means to commune with Him on a regular basis and to live our lives in accordance with His will.  And we are to do this “humbly” – in full recognition of the fact that He is infinitely greater than ourselves, that He is our Creator and that we are entirely dependent upon Him.

It is significant that in the immediate context the prophet poses the question, “With what shall I come before the Lord, / And bow myself before the High God?/ Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, / With calves a year old?” (6:6). Israel at that time still had a functioning priesthood, and all of these sacrifices were prescribed in the Old Testament law.  Yet while Israel maintained the external, formal religious observances, the land was filled with corruption, injustice and oppression.  Was God, then, impressed with the “thousands of rams” and the “ten thousand rivers of oil” that they offered?  No!  What matters most to God is not empty ritual, but a life marked by honesty, compassion and a genuine devotion to God.  Morality is a matter of relationships, our relationship with God and our relationships with our fellow human beings.  And therefore the prophet says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; / And what does the Lord require of you / But to do justly . . .”


            Last night Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated by a major party for President.  Her formal qualifications for the job are impressive: a graduate of Yale Law School, she has previously served as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, giving her experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government.  She is the consummate Washington “insider,” which in this election cycle may or may not be an advantage.

Mrs. Clinton has devoted her life to the pursuit of social justice.  Reflecting her Methodist upbringing she quoted in her acceptance speech John Wesley’s rule of life:

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

And yet in the same speech she expressed support for a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices (which we take as a reference to legalized abortion), and for LGBT rights.  In so doing she certainly thinks she is “doing all the good she can . . .to all the people you can.”  But is she really?

The problem is that the liberal, progressive” agenda on some of these issues puts the Democratic Part in direct conflict with the 6th and 7th Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Abortion violates the sanctity of human life.  The gay lifestyle undermines marriage as a committed, complementary relationship between a man and a woman.  The Ten Commandments, in turn, reflect God’s order for human society.

As human beings we have a moral obligation to obey the will of our Creator, no matter what we may think our individual self-interest may be.  But is it really in our self-interest to disobey God?  Are we really “doing all the good we can” by helping others to sin?  John Wesley certainly would not have thought so.  Neither should we.

A former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, quoted Micah 6:8 in one of his speeches:

“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?”


Significantly this exhortation is directed toward the entire human race: “He has shown you, O man.”  The word translated “man” is “adam,” the name of our common ancestor, and in this context includes all of his descendants, i.e. the entire human race.

The verse goes on to tell us “what is good,” and what “the Lord requires” of us.  It is a matter of a moral obligation that we to our Creator, and it is “good” – it is right and proper and beneficial to all concerned.

A part of that obligation is that we “do justly,” and that, in turn, means that the civil magistrate has a duty to

“Defend the poor and fatherless;

Do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy;

Free them from the hand of the wicked.”

(Psalm 82:3,4)

The underlying assumption here is that the strong and powerful will take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, and therefore the role of government is to “deliver” or “free” the poor from the rich and powerful.  Thus it is unconscionable that we would have a political and economic system that would leave a large segment of the population destitute and without access to healthcare.  As God judged ancient Israel, so will He judge us. On this point Mrs. Clinton is certainly well-intentioned.

We are also to “love mercy.”  It is a little hard to find an exact English equivalent for the word translated “mercy” (Hebrew: chesed), and scholars have long debated its exact meaning.  But it certainly includes the idea of kindness shown toward others and also carries along with it a kind of faithful and devoted love.  It is “mercy” in the sense of compassion shown toward those in need, and the word is sometimes translated “lovingkindness.”  Not only are we do display this quality; we are to “love” it.  So here again Mrs. Clinton is quite right to be concerned about the welfare of children, minorities, and those suffering from discrimination and injustice.

But the text also says that we are to “walk humbly with your God,” or as it might be more literally translated, “to behave humbly to walk with your God.”  We must be sufficiently humble to recognize that God’s ways are best, and bring our lives into conformity with His will.

The problem with the modern Democratic Party is that it wants to take a secular approach to social justice, and this raises the question of where our standard of justice comes from.  We tend to err on the side of individual autonomy – each individual should be allowed to decide for himself how he wants to live his life.  But when we ignore God’s will our efforts at social justice can be self-defeating.  By promoting “LGBT rights” we may think that we are creating a more inclusive and tolerant society.  But if in the process we create the impression that there are no rules, that any and every kind of sexual behavior can be tolerated, we wind up undermining family stability.  In the long run we create more social problems than we solve.  Lyndon Johnson famously “declared war on poverty.”  Today there is more poverty than ever, and the “Sexual Revolution” is a major reason why.  Pat Moynihan, an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration and later Mrs. Clinton’s predecessor in the U.S. Senate, pointed out the obvious fact that single parent families have to struggle to survive.  Why is there so much crime in the inner cities?  Because too many young men are growing up in single parent homes without good male role models.  What goes around comes around.

We do not help others by helping them to sin.  We help them by showing them the path toward redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  All of us live in a universe created by God; all of us are ultimately accountable to Him.  We can find happiness and fulfilment only when we come in line with His purposes for our lives – and His purposes are wise and good.  To love the sinner is to seek to free him from his sin.  Abortion and sodomy are unspeakable sins and are bringing down God’s wrath upon the nation.

Christians, pray for our country!