Many people point to Micah 6:8 as a simple, straightforward verse telling us how to get right with God: Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, 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.”
Let’s look at this in context.
Micah 6 starts out as a courtroom scene. “Plead your case”… “For the Lord has a case against his people”. God then reminded His people of the things He had done for them including leading them out of Egypt, protecting them from Balaam’s cursing them, and leading them into the promised land.
We might pause here to remind ourselves how the Israelites reacted to each of God’s protections that He pointed out to them here.
- He led them out of Egypt to be His people, but they grumbled repeatedly, wanting to go back to Egypt; worshiped a golden calf; and didn’t trust that God could bring them into the promised land – so they had to wander in the desert for 40 years.
- He caused Balaam to bless Israel instead of cursing them. This was a spiritual battle God was fighting on their behalf, without them even knowing about it. Their response was to sin sexually with Moab’s women and worship Moab’s gods – so God sent a plague and killed many of the Israelites.
- He caused the Jordan River (at flood stage) to dry up, letting the Israelites cross on dry ground. This was reminiscent of what He had done for the Israelites when they had left Egypt 40 years earlier. God had done for Israel what they could not have done for themselves – but the people didn’t remember all the righteous acts God had done for them, and turned away again and again.
In Micah 6:6-7, we see that things we do can’t reconcile us to God, including bowing down to Him (presumably in hollow worship), performing sacrifices (remember that to obey is better than sacrifice), even sacrificing things most precious to us – including our children. None of these things can reconcile us to God.
Then, we find the beautiful verse of what God really wants. Not religious ceremonies, but moral and ethical conduct – “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
None of us can do these things until we first submit to God as broken sinners and allow Him to transform our lives. We can only act justly once we have been justified. We can only love mercy (and extend it to others) once we have experienced and recognized God’s mercy. We can only walk humbly with our God after we bow humbly before Him, confess our sins, and claim his promise of forgiveness (I John 1:9).
Titus 3:5 reminds us, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” So people are misguided if they think they can follow this formula from Micah 6:8 to be saved. It’s only because of our saving relationship with God that we can do what He requires in Micah 6:8.
As we continue reading Micah, we see that Israel hasn’t lived up to God’s requirements, so in 6:13, He says, “Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins.” If God treated Israel this way, and if God doesn’t change, I’ll let you consider for yourself the implications for you and the implications for our nation.
Micah 7:13 is pointing to a time still in the future to us, when “the earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.”
But the last 3 verses of Micah remind us of who God is and what He has done in the past.
Micah 7:18-20: “18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.”
To quote Warren Wiersbe from his Bible commentary, “the better we know the character of God, the more we can trust Him for the future. The better we know the promises and covenants of God, the more peace we will have in our hearts when things fall apart.”
- We need to recognize we can never measure up to God’s requirements on our own.
- We need to humbly come to God as broken sinners, confessing our sins, and asking for His forgiveness.
- We need to remember who He is, what He has done in the past, and what promises He has made for the future.
- We then need to develop a deep personal relationship with God.
Only then can we “be imitators of God as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). And only then can we live a life acceptable to God – “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”