By Frank Jamerson
When Micah, for the nation of Judah, asked what God really wanted from them, God’s reply was: “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” (Mic. 6:8). This is simple enough that the youngest Christian can understand, and yet profound enough that the most mature Christian can never run past it. It is for every man of every age and it fits where we live daily.
Amos, the backwoods prophet, said: “But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream , (Amos 5:24). Micah said God “requires justice.” Justice is fair-mindedness in action. It is the outward expression of honesty and sincerity. It is the very opposite of what the rich in Judah were doing to the poor (Mic. 2:1,2), the rulers were doing to their subjects (3:1-4), and the prophets and priests were doing to those who trusted them (3:5,11,12).
God still requires that his people be “just” in their dealings with their fellow man. We should be just, or fair, in play. Who likes to play with a cheater? But how many will justify cheating by saying, “It’s just a game”? Yes, it is just a game, but if a person will cheat in “just a game,” what would he do if there were really some advantage to be gained? Someone said that few sharper tests of character exist than “a golfer who faces his ball in the rough and nobody is looking but God! “We need to “think on things that are just” (Phil. 4:8), even in our play.
Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1,2). Yes, we must judge, for Jesus immediately said, “Do not cast your pearls before swine” (v. 6), and on another occasion said, “Judge righteous judgment” (Jn. 7:24). We cannot live in the world without making judgments, but we certainly could live better with more justice in judgment! We so often jump to conclusions without knowing the facts, and then excuse our harsh judgments as though no harm was done. An impatient passenger complained about a crying baby and grumbled, “Why don’t they get that baby to its mother?” not knowing that the mother was a corpse in the baggage compartment! A man shot his dog because his daughter was lost and, the dog came home with blood all over him. Later the girl was found with a dead panther nearby, but the unfair judgment had already been made and could not be undone! How often do we “murder” our brethren because we judged unjustly?
God requires us to “love mercy.” Mercy is kindness in action. W.E. Vine says: “Mercy assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.” Jesus told a story about a man we all call “good,” and the only thing we know about him is that he “showed mercy” (Lk. 10:37). He told another story about a man who “lifted up his eyes being in torment,” and the only thing we know about him is that he was rich but showed no mercy (Lk. 16:19). In the judgment parables, in Matthew 25, those on the left hand were not what we would classify as “vile sinners,” but rather were people who had showed no mercy. It has been said, “If heaven were opened to the unmerciful, they would turn it into hell.”
God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), and commands us to have the same spirit. “But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (matt. 9:13). “But if you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matt. 12:7). “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt. 23-23).
Mercy does not mean that we do not rebuke error and condemn unrighteousness, but it does mean that we must have the right spirit. We must not only be merciful; we must “love mercy.”
Finally, we must “walk humbly with our God.” Humility literally means “low-lying. ” It refers to a spirit free from pride, arrogance, self-righteousness and stubbornness. God wants us to have a submissive spirit. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). To the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3). Then he gave the example of Jesus who “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8).
It is only as we humbly walk with God that we can do justice and love kindness, and it is only as we do justice and love kindness that we can truly walk humbly with God!
No, God does not require thousands of rams offered in sacrifice, ten thousand rivers of oil, nor the offering of our firstborn for the salvation of our souls, but he does require that we “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly” with him.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 14, p. 421
July 20, 1989