What does God require? That is a great question. I suppose if you would ask 10 people, you might get 10 different answers. Some would have really complicated answers. Some wouldn’t really know. I think many would come up with an answer that mentions loving people. That’s at least part of the answer. Other’s would say that we should please God in the things we do. Again, that would be part of the answer.
What I want to look at this morning is a scripture from one of the minor prophets – Micah. God is speaking to his people once again and in Micah 6:8 we find these words.
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.
Earlier in Micah, we find God chastising the people Israel – in the introduction of the book, we find that these words were spoken to both Jerusalem and Samaria – the capitals of the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel.
God was angry at Israel because they were acting unjustly. Listen to these words of Micah from chapter 3:
9 Listen to me, you leaders of Israel!
You hate justice and twist all that is right.
10 You are building Jerusalem
on a foundation of murder and corruption.
11 You rulers make decisions based on bribes;
you priests teach God’s laws only for a price;
you prophets won’t prophesy unless you are paid.
Yet all of you claim to depend on the Lord.
“No harm can come to us,” you say,
“for the Lord is here among us.”
Talk about a prophecy that has contemporary implications. God is upset with his people because they hate good and love evil. He did not like the way they were treating people. Leaders are supposed to know what is right, just, and fair, but they weren’t any of those. These are strong words for any of us who are leaders. God wants us to lead, but He despises abuse of power. I think many of us can relate to leaders or others who have abused their power. It’s interesting to note that (at least in this book) God is more interested in Israel’s lack of injustice to the abused than He is with their idolatry.
God’s answer is mercy – these seems to be a familiar theme over the last couple of weeks. We are reminded that God doesn’t desire our sacrifice or our burnt offerings – no – he wants our obedience – God wants mercy – not sacrifice. God gave us both in his son.
Not only has God showed us what is good, but He has told us what is good and what he requires of us. We are to do what is right — we are to love mercy — we are to walk humbly with our God. James reminds us that “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” In other words, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
What does that look like? The ten commandments give us an idea. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. As we are reminded in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Listen O Israel!, The Lord our God is the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” The last six commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbors.
Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He replied “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And the second one is like it to love your neighbor as yourself.” Interesting, Jesus echos the ten commandments. Then in the letter of James we find these words, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
So, what does this mean to us? We live in a world were people have no access to clean water, children have never been to school, children are exploited through the sex trade, people are enslaved around the world, and people are starving to death. Jesus said when we take care of the least of these, we take care of him.
Sometimes we look around and say “what can be done?” Sometimes it is just the little things, like showing mercy, acting justly. And then walk with your God. It’s not either or, but both and. How will you show mercy, act justly and walk humbly with your God this week?