We are often told, and perhaps believe, that we live in a peculiarly complex time in which correct choices are obscure and open to interpretation. Moral choices and ethical decisions more and more are viewed as being subjective. Even believers sometimes find themselves in a quandary regarding what is right and wrong. Granted, some decisions are less clear cut than others. But having admitted that fact, we can still affirm that some things never change. And the unchanging things provide us with a compass for navigating through the sometimes confusing choices of modern life. From God’s viewpoint, many things never change. But one of the most succinct expressions of that truth is recorded in the prophecy by Micah: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (6:8).
The verse begins with a wonderful assurance. We need not guess what is right because God has shown (“told”) us (in His Word) “what is good” (absolutely and in His eyes). The Lord has not left us to the vagaries of pop culture or the variableness of personal conscience. We have a guide that is concrete, absolute, and accurate; namely, what God has told us in His Word. And for that reason it is also authoritative: the Lord “requires” us to give heed to what He has told us. Not only may we be guided by His Word, but also we must be guided by it. And what are the required instructions that God provides for our guidance?
“Do justly.” This is an outward requirement. The second table of the Law codified it as not killing, not committing adultery, not stealing, not lying, and not coveting. Seven times the New Testament reiterates the same truth as “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Lk. 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jam. 2:8). A fixed point on the compass, then, is this: make choices that will help and not harm those who potentially will be affected by our actions.
“Love mercy.” This speaks of an inward requirement. God is not interested in mere show. What merely looks good does not satisfy His demands. In the verse that precedes our text, Micah explains that God is not pleased with the mere externalities of religion: “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams [i.e., for sacrifice], or with ten thousands of rivers of oil [for anointing]?” Micah asks rhetorically. “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression?” he continues. Even the greatest acts of self-abnegation or self-sacrifice lack merit before God if they do not arise from a sanctified and loving heart. Paul in the New Testament makes the same point: “though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:3). Truly to “do justly” requires truly to “love mercy.” The word mercy means “loyalty” and speaks of an adherence to the demands of God involving both the heart and the will. It involves a firm desire and a fixed determination to do that which is pleasing in the sight of God.
“Walk humbly with thy God.” This describes an upward requirement. It speaks of a pattern of life so ordered as to be pleasing to God. The word humbly suggests caution and carefulness. In the New Testament, Paul expresses the same concept with the command: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). This fixed point on the compass points directly to God’s glory. God requires that the outward and practical deeds and choices we make be motivated by a genuine “love” for these virtues and that that love in turn be prompted by a desire that God be honored in all that we do.
Nothing in A.D. 2014 has changed these revealed requirements that God has made. He expects them to dominate our desires, direct our choices, and determine our actions. The challenges and choices before us may sometimes present us with apparent shortcuts and detours. But God’s compass guides us to do only what will bless others (which sometimes includes exhorting or reproving them), to not be focused on externalities but to have our hearts and wills submitted to what His Word teaches, and to be yielded to glorifying Him in all that we are and do. Believers who follow this inspired compass will bless others, honor God, and be blessed of the Lord themselves. These things never change.
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