With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 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.
What does the Lord require of us? This is the fundamental question in Micah’s prophecy –what is good? The news in the last few days, although still dominated by the covid-19 virus pandemic, has had another focus for our attention. An event that horrifies every decent person who had viewed the footage online or even seen the stills in newspapers, I refer to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, U.S.A. on Monday 25 May 2020.
In the United Kingdom we must humbly confess that racism has not been eradicated from our midst. The murder of Stephen Lawrence on 22 April 1993 in London, followed by the inadequate police investigation that followed, was a sobering reminder of this fact. The institutionalised racism in the Metropolitan Police Force uncovered by Sir William Macpherson’s enquiry that followed was a reminder of much more work needed to be done to ensure all citizens of whatever ethnic background were treated equally.
How does what Micah proposes translate into daily life?
He gives three principles for action:
(1)To act justly What does this mean for me in daily life today? Examples from this book in the Old Testament include fair prices for both buyer and seller when houses are sold; integrity in legal and financial transactions (both in Micah 2:2); and proper provision for the needs of the most vulnerable in society (Micah 3:1-2); Micah described a society where leaders, priests and prophets are no longer respected as authority figures, due to malpractice on their part;
In our own country there has been much debate about the extent to which certain figures in public life have observed the lock down guidance put in place some weeks ago. In the light of the sacrifices made by so many people during this time it has generated significant anger that others have chosen to act in a different way.
Micah would want to highlight first personal responsibility from each individual person. We may not have influence over the choices of other people, but we are accountable for our own.
He would also want to highlight the necessity of structural justice in the wider society. The laws and their application in a country in order to be fair should treat people equally. With respect to citizens, their race, religion, sexuality and social status and so much more should be irrelevant in the due observance of the laws of the land.
The tragic situation in Minneapolis and some other American cities in the recent past witness to underlying structural faults in the whole justice system that must urgently be addressed. God says here through Micah, no matter what other people are doing act justly, stick to your convictions. Will you and I do that –even if there may at times be a price to pay?
(2) to love mercy This word speaks of covenant loyalty, both in secular agreements and with the Lord. The language of Micah here is expressed in a legal covenant term hesed, implying that not only do we want to do the right thing –act justly- but to remember the basis on which we make such choices.
We make agreements /promises when we get married; when we purchase a house or a host of other transactions; supremely when we commit our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ; yet God says here through the prophet it is not about ticking boxes, we all do more than enough of that with paperwork.
What is being asked here? to love hesed. In other words to take delight in doing what is right before God and in our relationships with other people, not to do it grudgingly –because we ‘have to’. Why? because God is the compassionate and gracious God (Exodus 34:6); He delights to show mercy (Micah 7:18b);
Why is this important? Because if we have pleasure in doing what is right, because our heavenly Father wants us to have pleasure in it as He does, then it will not affect our attitudes when others around us are giving into temptation and delighting in inappropriate conversations or behaviour; we are not legalistically following a list of ‘Thou shall nots’, and with a solemn face; rather we are taking pleasure in doing what is good and honourable and appropriate for the best of reasons, supremely to please God, but it is also for the benefit of ourselves and other people around us. This is far more than playing with words; it is an approach to life
(3) to walk humbly with your God Here is a summary statement of the lifestyle of a man or woman of God. In Genesis 5:24 there is the obituary of a man called Enoch: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Can you imagine the impact that man had on his peers? Every now and then there are Christian men and women who so radiate Christ that loads of people are just drawn to them.
It is an attitude of heart and a passionate Christ-centredness. However, Micah is not speaking about results or the fruit of a godly lifestyle in our Christian ministry or vocation, rather his focus is more on our character and disposition. We are all called to be representatives of Christ wherever He has placed us. May we take up His call to serve in whatever setting and gain delight and satisfaction in pleasing Him as we act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with [our] God, Amen.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘Beauty for brokenness’