By Shawn McMullen
God brought his case against the nation of Israel through the prophet Micah. “What have I done to you,” the Lord asked, “to make you break covenant with me?” (see Micah 6:3).
God reminded the nation that he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, gave them Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead them through the desert, protected them from King Balak of Moab (by turning his effort to curse them into a blessing), and watched over them as they journeyed to the promised land. What reason could he have given them to forsake him?
Micah summarized the response of the people to the charge God brought against them. “How can we make this right?” they asked. “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?” (v. 6). The Israelites resorted to what they knew best. “Can we appease God with an offering? Yearling calves, a thousand rams, a river of oil? What about our firstborn?”
“That’s not what God wants,” Micah explained. “Although they have a place in your worship, God isn’t concerned with your sacrifices. He wants you—your heart, your devotion, and your service.”
The prophet continued, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (v. 8).
How could the nation of Israel express their faithfulness and devotion to God? How can we do the same? Micah provides three simple steps.
Act justly. The phrase can also be translated, “Do justice.” For God to see genuine repentance among the Israelites, they needed to pursue justice in all their dealings and relationships. They were to stop oppressing the poor, accepting bribes, giving preferential treatment to the rich, and distorting the truth. We act justly today by living lives of integrity and by demonstrating fairness in our business dealings and personal relationships.
Love mercy. God wanted the nation of Israel to recall the mercy he showed to them and to express a similar mercy to others. Rather than take advantage of those around them, they were to be kind and generous. We show we love mercy today when we see, value, and love people as God sees, values, and loves them.
Walk humbly with your God. The Lord would see genuine repentance in the children of Israel when they chose to live in a conscious state of fellowship with him, knowing he hears every word and sees every action. This kind of awareness would lead not only to obedience, but also to humility. (It’s hard to feel anything but small when you find yourself in the presence of God.) We walk humbly with God today when we realize every word we speak and every action we perform “is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
God has shown us what is good and what he requires of us. In response, let’s live lives of justice, mercy, and humility to the praise of his glory.
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