The prophet Micah says, in 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? ”
He says this to a people who were, in many ways, quite religious. They were offering God sacrifices, keeping the right days and going through the motions required by their religion. Yet the Scriptures make it clear that religious activity, of itself, is not enough to overcome the burden and debt created by sin. Religious activities cannot replace righteous hearts and make one pleasing to God. A multitude of sacrifices alone cannot make a man pleasing to God. Thus Samuel’s words to Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
So what does God require of us. Micah provides answers for us.
The Lord requires that men do justly. The word “just” is synonymous with “righteous.” To do justly requires that men live in a way that is right in the sight of God. We do this through keeping the commands of God in all aspects of our lives. “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.” (1 John 3:24a)
God’s commands for men deal with two areas of our lives. The first is our interaction with God. To be righteous, we must engage in those activities which show our reverence, thanksgiving and adoration for our Creator. But God’s commands also teach us how to interact with our fellow man. If we will not treat our fellow man in a way that is proper, God will not accept our love and adoration towards Him, for, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). To treat our fellow man with love requires that we treat them honestly, kindly, compassionately, with generosity in both thought and deed. We should always remember that to be righteous, we must practice righteousness (cf. 1 John 3:7)
The Lord requires that men love mercy. Mercy, as used by Micah, is one aspect of what it means to do justly and reflects part of the manner in which men should behave towards other men (for it is beyond the reach of men to in any way show God mercy). God demands of his followers that they be forgiving of one another. So important is this behavior, that Jesus instructed us when we pray to pray thusly: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) He furthermore said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14) If we wish to be pleasing to God, we cannot afford to be individuals who hold grudges, but must learn to forgive others easily and often.
The Lord requires that men walk humbly with God. Just as Micah expounds on what it means for men to walk in righteousness towards one another, so too does Micah further explain our duty to God within the scope of doing “justly.” As we walk in righteousness before God, we must do so with humility, remembering that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Pride is one of the great downfalls of men, causing us to elevate ourselves beyond both our own capabilities and our own authority. To be humble before God is to remember that His wisdom is higher than ours, His standards are purer, and His authority is supreme.
When our standards come into conflict with God’s, we need to adjust our own standards. When our lives fall short of God’s glory, we need to repent. When our opinions conflict with God’s word, we need to humbly submit and heed what He says. If we will not do so, we cannot be pleasing to God nor will He give us His approval.
God has shown men what is good. His word reveals it to us and if we will heed His word, we can live in a way that garners his approval. More than just a weekly ritual of worship (though we should worship), God requires that we do what is right, both towards our fellow man and towards Him.
If you would like to learn more of what God wants from you, we would be happy to study with you at the church of Christ, 234 Chapel Drive in Gallipolis.