Three Things God Requires
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
The prophet Micah describes a tense courtroom scene as God accuses His people of being disloyal to Him and committing fraud against one another(Micah 6:2-4, 9-11). God’s tone, though, isn’t harsh and condemning. He pleads with them as “My people,” and He reminds them of many times when He rescued them from trouble. He doesn’t want to judge them; He wants to build them up.
Like scolded teenagers, though, the people of Israel respond to God’s correction with mock repentance. They complain, “What do you want from me? Okay, I’ll give you everything you could possibly want. How about a thousand rams to sacrifice? And how about ten thousand rivers of oil!. Not enough, God? Then I’ll give you my firstborn child child as a sacrifice. Surely that’s enough for You!”(Micah 6:6-7).
At this pressure-packed moment, Micah steps in and calmly speaks the truth, which cuts to the heart of the matter. “What does the Lord require?” he asks in response to their emotional, over-the-too offers of sacrifice to appease God. “God doesn’t want rams or rivers or dead children. He wants only three things from you: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. That’s enough, and that’s plenty.
God is grieved when we rebel against Him or ignore Him, and like the parent of a defiant teenager, He is probably exasperated when we still don’t understand and mock Him. Instead, God wants three things from us: good choices, rightly placed affections, and humility to embrace His love, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s enough and that’s plenty.
Many times I have people come forth and say I have missed my calling, that I should have been a preacher. I find this both flattering and very humorous because even though I’m not preaching, I am spreading the Word.
Living to please God isn’t really all that complicated but we sure try to make it so. When Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit, He said that the ministry of the Spirit was first to convict us of sin. We don’t have to try to figure out what is right or wrong if we just simply dig deep into our relationship with God and pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying. In the Psalms, David invites the Spirit to search his heart, to know his thoughts and to lead him in righteousness. Romans tells us that those who are being led by the Spirit of God are children of God. I know there will be some who object to this thinking and will say that we need some guidelines and instructions. The issue with this thinking is that it provides only the minimum acceptable level of conduct. As the Israelites were traveling in the wilderness, God expressed His desire to dwell in the camp in their midst. But their hearts were hardened toward God and they requested that He remain at a distance. They were willing just as the people in Micah’s day to do, give, and comply with God’s demands. When we think about that concept in any of our relationships we would discover that in truth if we have to tell the other person what we want them to do for us to satisfy the requirements I think we would acknowledge that we really don’t have a functional relationship. God replied to their request and met with Moses on the mountain and gave them ten rules called The Ten Commandments. The problem with this arrangement is that no one has ever kept all ten. No matter how many rules we may make up for any relationship, they fall far short of what could be when we are fully heart-connected. When we love to the point that we seek to please the other person, we go far beyond any minimum standard of expected conduct. We begin to learn what delights and pleases and that becomes our goal. When I first became a Christian I tried to live by the rules. Oh to be sure, I knew them but somehow my selfish sin nature would override them. The harder I tried to worse it became. One night at church in desperation, I cried out for God to help me live as a Christian. I think I was expecting some kind of transformation, a surgical removal of the old me or some great will power. I really didn’t know what I needed. But God did and that night He sent to me the Holy Spirit who filled me and baptized me and not only took up residence but became president of my heart. Did I become instantly perfect? No! Am I now? No! But now because He lives in me, when my thoughts, attitude, and conduct start down the wrong path, He convicts me. At the moment I might think that it’s ok but the Spirit that searches the heart puts on the brakes before I run over the cliff. I thank God for the guardrails of rules but I’m more thankful for having the Holy Spirit in the driver’s seat, leading the way.
Micah tell us that God wants us to “do justly.” The Amplified says to “be just” which means to treat everyone fairly and with respect. It means to be honest and morally ethical in every aspect of your life. It is literally allowing the Holy Spirit to bear fruit- the fruit of Galatians 5. Now we can’t do that on our own but if we allow the Holy Spirit to take up residence and then make Him president, He will bring it about through His power and through our relationship with Christ. The next thing Micah says is for us to “love mercy.” To love mercy means to be thankful for the mercy God has shown us and in turn show mercy to others. Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” The very nature and character of God is wrapped up in mercy. His mercy for us sent Christ to the cross in our place. We can do no less than to show mercy to those around us who fail. We who have been given mercy now have mercy to give and God who has given us mercy requires that we in turn give mercy. The servant who was forgiven much was required to forgive the little and when he refused, he lost mercy and received judgement. Finally Micah says we are to “walk humbly before God.” Humility is a lost art in our world of everyone wanting to stand out and be noticed. Paul in Philippians tells us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourself.” The Amplified says that we are “to walk humbly with your God( setting aside any overblown sense of importance and self-righteousness.”
It all comes back to our relationship with Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. When we model our lives after Christ, we treat others fairly and with love and kindness; we offer them mercy and compassion; and every blessing and every gift we have, no matter how incredible and impressive it may be, we give God the glory and we use them to lift up others. We choose to live a selfless life of service to God and humans. Any successes we may have we attribute to God.
These three little things are world changers. If we, the people of God would just practice them, we just might affect the world around us in a powerful, positive way.
Dr. John Thompson