I was reminded this morning of Micah 6:8 by a verse image that JoAnn Reid created on the Bible app:
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 NLT
Let’s dissect a bit this morning:
- The Lord has told you what is good
- This is what He requires of you
- Do what is right
- Love mercy
- Walk humbly with your God
And we can break down the five bullet points into two sections.
A pre-amble about the Lord:
- The Lord has told you what is good
- This is what He requires of you
What the Lord requires:
- Do what is right
- Love mercy
- Walk humbly with your God
“The Lord has told you what is good“
Like a good parent at home or a good leader in the workplace, the Lord sets clear expectations up front. In contrast to fallible mankind (who may have hidden agendas, and who may say one thing and do another), God tells us clearly what is good. It doesn’t change with the culture and times. It doesn’t sway to whatever wickedness we can justify in our own minds as being “well intended”. He has spoken. It is written. Roman’s chapter 1 is a good study on how God has “told everyone” what is good:
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Romans 1:18-20 NLT
So we should see that this Old Testament prophetic statement from Micah’s message to Israel is consistent with the New Testament gospel from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“This is what He requires of you”
There are requirements. While in great contrast, the Satanic mantra and the way of the fallen world system is “Do as thou wilt” — having people justify in their own minds their selfish, unjust, illegal, unloving actions with little consideration of God’s will or fear of His judgement. Christ did not go to the cross to free us to sin more. He did not live a sinless life and offer us grace so that sin might abound even more in our lives and in the world around us. He did not provide us with the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us so that He could be present in the midst of our sinful endeavors.
He has provided escape and victory. He has broken chains, opened prison doors, and made a way where there was no way. He has called us out of the darkness and into the light. And we are given a choice. John chapter 3 lays it out like this:
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16-21 NLT
We see that there is both an invitation by God, and an answer by each person.
“Do what is right”
We see that God requires that we do what is just and right.
For someone who knows that they do not always do what is just and right, this may seem like a high bar to set, maybe even an impossible goal to reach. This is not so much because the bar is set unjustly or unfairly high — doing right to others and being just towards others would sound like a very reasonable thing if we were all loving, selfless, just and fair people. Imagine a world where people were not wicked, prideful, selfish — where they did not demand their own way, did not wrong each other, did not place unreasonable expectations upon each other. That sounds like a beautiful place to live and be a part of. If that sounds like your home, your workplace, your neighborhood, your country — you would be blessed indeed.
But my guess is that you can see that your own life, and those around you, are tainted in some way that falls short of that perfect ideal. This should give any reasonable man pause to consider why it is so. It caused the apostle Paul to contemplate such things:
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:14-25 NLT
Do you ever wonder why in the world you would do, say or think such a thing?
Do you ever recognize that they’re is this war going on where you are tempted to do things that you know aren’t right or good or healthy — yet you do them anyways?
Please understand that neither Paul nor I are excusing wrongdoing by pointing out how sin works within us. Paul isn’t saying, “Don’t worry about your continued sinning because it isn’t you doing it, it is something else doing it, and you can’t help it.” No! Paul is saying, “Look, can’t you see how it is a sickness that leads to destruction and death, and how it contrasts with what you know is healthy, right, and good for you and for others.” He’s showing that this infection, this infiltration of sin is something we can recognize, quantify, measure in our lives as “real”.
The Bible teaches us that sin infiltrated in the fall of mankind, and it is sin that separates us from a holy God. God’s requirement is repeated multiple times, “Be holy as I am holy”. God’s is repeated over and over, consistently throughout both Old and New Testsment:
So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord who makes you holy.
Leviticus 20:7-8 NLT
So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-16 NLT
If the apostle Paul acknowledges this “war within himself” as we mentioned above, and we recognize and agree that we can see how “sin” is in us and works against our best interests, and we see that God calls us to be “holy” — how do we escape a trap that seems hell bent on our destruction?
If we were dealing with a religion that gives you a law to obey, some self-help steps to guide you, a checklist of dos and don’ts, even good reasoning behind why you “should” do X versus doing Y — you might say, “This stuff is worthless. It is just going to cause self loathing towards self or religious zealots will use it to oppress groups who are different than themselves. ” This is because we know that at times, we have known the right thing to do, and we have still chosen poorly and done the wrong thing. With a dead religion of only laws, advice and reasoning– we have seen how it fails because people are NOT holy — people are not just — people are not fair. They may seem so in a single isolated incident, but they are not consistently. And even when they appear so, many times there is a selfish agenda or reason behind it, like a sneaky thumb on the scales of justice that goes unnoticed — instead of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So how do we “Do right”?
How do we “be holy”?
This is where I tell you that “The Way” is a bit different than what you might have in your mind about “Christianity” as a religion. Knowing, loving, and walking in “The Way” is a narrow path that leads to life — while being a great religious scholar in the “Christian religion” can be comfortably practiced while moving along the broad way that leads to destruction.
If you feel confused at this point, stick with me. This meal takes some chewing. Just like we had to differentiate sin and how it has tainted what could be a perfect life, culture and community if it wasn’t present — I want you to see how “The Way” has been tainted in a way that has people misunderstanding a restored relationship with God as being “a religion”.
What is mercy?
The Hebrew word (חֶסֶד – checed – H2617) used here points to:
- Loving-kindness of men towards each other
- The reverence or genuine piety of men towards God
- The grace, favour, and undeserved mercy of God towards men
Mercy is the “right relationship” in each of these cases. Mercy is a right relationship between men, and mercy is a right relationship between God and man.
To “love mercy” is to love being loving and kind towards others. To “love mercy” is to love being reverent and in awe of and grateful towards God. To “love mercy” is to love and appreciate God’s unmerited grace, mercy, and favour that He demonstrates towards us.
So it isn’t “being begrudgingly kind” towards others because we know we are “supposed to”. That would be religious, that would be hypocrisy — that would be the tainted and false substitute and would not be “The Way”. It is about loving that relationships with others are being restored to the “right relationships”.
And it isn’t going through the motions of religious traditions, ceremonies, or practices because we’re “supposed to” or because “that’s what we’ve been taught to do”. That would be religious, that would be hypocrisy — that would be the tainted and false substitute and would not be “The Way”. It is about loving our restored relationship with God to where “genuine worship” and time spent “with the Lord” is ongoing, abiding, and consistent.
And it isn’t about using a concept of grace as a “get out of hell free card” to justify our loving our sin and continuing in it like those we read about in Romans chapter 1. That would be religious, that would be hypocrisy — that would be the tainted ands false substitute and would not be “The Way”. It is about our believing what Christ has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection and loving His mercy, loving “The Way”, loving this new abundant life with Him and living that we are turning away from the “old man” and turning to God.
“Walk humbly with your God”
Clearly, we have been building up to this point. And hopefully it is abundantly clear with this particular statement of “walk humbly with your God” that it is not just saying “be humble and follow the rules”.
Hopefully, at this point, we can agree on the focus of “religion vs relationship”.
It might seem fearful to a man who is clearly wrapped up in sin, who doesn’t love others, and who doesn’t love God to “meet His maker” at the end of His life to “find out whether hell or heaven is his future”. That seems to be the painting that “religion” paints to convince a man that he better — sign up for church membership — get sprinkled, poured, or dunked in the water — and start handing out tickets to God. But it shouldn’t be odd or surprising to discover that Jesus says in such cases, “depart from me” and “I never knew you”.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:21-23 NLT
We are called to walk humbly with Him now. And we are told that when we walk with Him, that the world will hate us like they hated Him. We are told that the enemy will try to work through others to harm us and to tear down our “right relationship” and compromise our testimony. We are told that we will share in His sufferings.
We aren’t given a prosperity religion checklist that says, “Do this good thing for God in order to manipulate Him into having to bless you.” No, that too would be religious, would be hypocrisy — and is not “The Way”. Because our eyes are not set on the treasures of this world that don’t compare to the things of heaven — nor fgo they compare to seeking first the Kingdom of God and walking humbly with the Lord now, today, even at this very moment.
A “religious man” who does not walk humbly with the Lord might pray fervently to be delivered from the fiery trials because he doesn’t know or trust that God is actually there with him ands has a purpose in mind:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? And also, “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?” So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
1 Peter 4:12-19 NLT
Did you catch the phrase “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?”
I encourage each of us to consider that statement — especially any man that considers himself religious or righteous.
Let’s choose to walk humbly with the Lord, friends. Amen.