Justice, Kindness, and Humility
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (v. 8).- Micah 6:1–8
Micah promised future blessings for God’s people, including the worldwide worship of the covenant Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the birth of the Son of David—the King of kings—in Bethlehem (Micah 4:1–5; 5:1–2). He would rule in strength, providing the safety that Israel and Judah so longed for during the eighth century BC, when their existence was routinely threatened by larger empires (5:3–5). In the meantime, however, Micah foresaw that the covenant community would suffer exile.
We have seen that this suffering would be the punishment for the people’s idolatry and their oppression of those who lacked the right financial and political connections (Mic. 1–2). Such behaviors manifested the community’s blindness, as today’s passage confirms. The prophet repeats his indictment, charging the people with forgetting what God had done in redeeming them from Egypt (6:1–5). Micah accuses them of ethical forgetfulness, as seen in his reminding the people of their ethical obligations in verse 8, as well as his earlier condemnation of idolatry and oppression. Actually, the ancient Jews never intellectually forgot God’s great acts in choosing and saving them. The sinners Jeremiah 7:4 addresses could have trusted in the temple only if they knew the Lord had chosen Jerusalem. John the Baptist charged the people with remembering Israel’s election while neglecting the covenant obligations that proved their salvation as individuals was authentic (Luke 3:1–9). This ethical and covenantal forgetfulness is evident in Micah 6:6–7, when the people attempt to bargain with God for His favor by offering to sacrifice increasing quantities of animals and other precious goods to avert disaster.
But no sinner can purchase the Lord’s covenant love and protection. Micah reminds the people that God requires justice, kindness, and a humble walk with Him from those who call Him their Savior (v. 8). This does not mean Micah sees the sacrifices as dispensable as long as these ethical requirements are kept. Instead, the prophet means that all the sacrifices in the world will get us nowhere if we do not have the sincere faith that bears fruit in love of God and neighbor. The Lord’s covenant is not a tit-for-tat relationship or commercial exchange wherein we negotiate a price and He delivers in return. His covenant of salvation with sinners is a relationship grounded in His effectual love that changes our hearts and guarantees our loyalty to Him (Eph. 2:8–10).
Matthew Henry comments, “The legal sacrifices had their virtue from the reference they had to Christ the great propitiation; but otherwise, of themselves, it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” While people believe that mere sacrifices appease God, they cannot benefit from Jesus’ work. Along with an outward profession, we must have an inner possession of trust in Christ; otherwise, we are not in Him, and if we are not in Him, we cannot be saved.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 15:22