What does it mean in the verse to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8)?
This is one of the most popular verses promoting social justice in the Bible. As it reads, “He has showed 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.” Many desire to know more about what this inspiring verse teaches on the issues of justice, mercy, and humility.
Micah 6 involves a conversation between the Lord and the people of Israel. In verses 1-5 the Lord introduces His case against the disobedient people. Verses 6-7 shows Israel’s response as a series of questions beginning with, “With what shall I come to the Lord?”Verse 6.
First, they ask if God would be satisfied with burnt offerings of year-old calves, offerings required in the Law of Moses. Second, they ask if they should bring “thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil” (verse 7). Third, they ask whether they should offer their firstborn sons as a sacrifice for God. Would that be enough to cover their sin? Would God be pleased with them then if they sacrifice this loss?
Verse 8 follows with God’s answer, rooted in the Law of Moses: “He has told you, O man, what is good.” In other words, Israel should already have known the answer to their questions. God then says that He did not need or desire their religious rites, sacrifices, or oblations. Instead, the Lord sought Israel’s justice, mercy, and humility.
The answer to Israel’s sin problem was not more numerous or more painful sacrifices. The answer was something much deeper than any religious observance: they needed a change of heart. Without the heart, Israel’s conformity to the Law was nothing more than hypocrisy.
“Act justly” would have been understood by Micah’s audience as living with a sense of right and wrong. In particular, the judicial courts had a responsibility to provide equity and protect the innocent. Injustice was a problem in Israel at that time.
“Love mercy” means “loyal love” or “loving-kindness.” Along with justice, Israel was to provide mercy. Both justice and mercy are foundational to God’s character . God expected His people to show love to their fellow man and to be loyal in their love toward Him, just as He had been loyal to them.
“Walk humbly” is a description of the heart’s attitude toward God. God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities. Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love.
The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).
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