God's Requirements

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God
?" (Micah 6:8)

Requirements are part of everyday life.
Requirements are also necessary in our lives.
We have to do them.
So, we might as well get used to them because requirements are needed and necessary.

We are required to pay my federal taxes by April 15th to avoid a penalty.
We are required to purchase airline tickets 21 days in advance if we want to get
the cheaper rate.
We are required to get driver's license if we expect to drive.
If we travel overseas, we are required to have a passport and a visa for the country on our agenda.
If you want to join a club, or any civic organization, there are requirements.
If you want to join a team in any sport, there are requirements.
If you want to go to a university, there are requirements.
If you want to have a credit card, there are requirements to be met.

Our great God who holds us in His hand has requirements for us to meet.
This message is about those requirements that God expects of us.

The prophet Micah had the qualifications to speak for God.
He was God-called.
He lived among the poor farm workers who were suffering at the hands of wealthy
and powerful landlords.
He spoke for the common people -- for everyday folks.
He was more comfortable talking to farm hands than he was having to deal with the
rich and powerful.

Micah was living in a world much like ours.
His generation was living with international tension.
Israel was caught between three warring nations—Assyria, Egypt, and the Philistines.
But the greater threat came from the Assyrians who had exacted tribute from Israel
in exchange for peace.
This led to a kind of voluntary national slavery.

Micah's world was filled with religious corruption.
Many times Micah railed against priests who took bribes and then said whatever people
wanted to hear.
It seems like all the leaders were on the take.
Moral chaos was a part of Micah's world.
This usually follows the first two.

It was every man for himself, the rich ripping off the poor, the leaders taking bribes,
and everyone cheating everyone else.
The merchants couldn't be trusted, the leaders couldn't be trusted, and many couldn't
be sure about the members of their own family.

As you can see, Micah lived in a day that was much like ours.
His book could have been written in this year of 2010.
So, Micah wrote to a world facing horrible problems.
He wrote condemning the sin and hypocrisy rampant among God's people.
He warned them of judgment to come.

He understood the plight of the people.
Times were bad for them.
Assyria had captured Damascus and Samaria.
Jerusalem was besieged, and there was internal danger for those in power couldn't be trusted.
The leaders were taking bribes; merchants were cheating their customers;
and pagan gods were being worshipped along with the Lord God.
Micah was saying that something is wrong in the world, and the world needs changing.

The powerful was taking from the weak and were perverting justice.
They were buying officials and judges in order to add to their own bank accounts.
Women and children were victims at the hands of the powerful.
The strong gave no concern or help to the lame and the blind.
The nation was using violence and war to serve its own national interests.
The "common good" was lost in the tangle web of politics, greed, and selfish acquisition.

Micah never hesitated to speak about the evils of that day, and to ... those who were in power.
Micah speaks for God when he said: "O, my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you for I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you
(or bought you) from the house of slavery.
I sent you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam so that you might know the saving acts of God

You can hear the passion, and the disappointment, yet you can hear the love in these words?
"O, my people.."
They are still God's people, and God loves them.
And, even though they had completely forgot that, God hadn't.

So, Micah reminds them.
You have forgotten.
You no longer remember the gifts from God.
You have become complacent and whinny.
Now you are trying to bargain and bribe your way back into your gracious God's graces.

Why didn't they see this?
And here we are centuries later struggling with the same issues.
Why do we have to keep re-learning the same lessons?

It is with these things in mind that we look at one of the greatest passages in the Old Testament.
Not many remember much about the Book of Micah except for one Bible verse.
And that verse is Micah 6:8.

Many of you learned this verse many years ago.
Many of you didn't, but you should have.
Micah 6:8 is one of those highlight verses, one of those great memory verses,
and one of those verses that really stand out.

What does the Lord require of us?
He requires that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
Micah is reminding the people of what God had already told them.
That term "good" was always used by the Old Testament prophets to sum up
the requirements of the law, which were good, and were intended for their good.

Israel had heard God's expectation of covenant-keeping many times.
In Deuteronomy 7, and later at the same gathering, at the second giving of the law,
in Deuteronomy 10, Moses adds this:
"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord
your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God |
with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands
and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good
(Deuteronomy 10:12,13 – NIV)

This is a discovery of that which is good, and which the Lord requires of us.
This reminds us of our goal in life for which we should strive.
He is telling us what is good, and where we will find true happiness.
This is the way that we must live, and this is what is required of us.
The words of Micah 6:8 are so simple and so plain.
But the truth is so profound.

Micah was a contemporary of Hosea, Isaiah, and Amos.
Micah said similar things that these prophets had said.
Micah was preaching at what could be called the end of "the good days",
and just before his nation fell on hard times.

There had been forty years of prosperity and peace.
During those times of prolonged prosperity and peace, people had forgotten God.
They ignored God.
They had drifted away from God.
They enjoyed "the good life" for forty years and now, they had forgotten God,
and His commands.
This was just before the end of the good times, and just before the fall of Israel and Judah.
Micah preached to the people of God just before their country and their life began to experience
terrible times.

There are times when I wonder if we are living at a similar pivotal point in our nations' history.
Are we looking at the end of the good times.
Is this the beginning before our nation begins to go downhill.
This is what was happening in the days of Micah.

Micah's words in verse 8 are simple and eternal.
Micah's advice was simple.
He was telling them that God didn't want their elaborate sacrifices, and their lofty, but empty, hollow words.
God wants a relationship with them that contains these requirements:
Do justice.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly before your God.

Micah understood that justice wouldn't come from government or power structures,
and that they were only concerned in preserving their own kingdoms and prosperity, security and justice.
Micah knew that justice must come from the people themselves, and those people
were experiencing the injustice.

Micah is urging them by the grace of God to dare to dream of dynamic new alternatives
to the injustices of which they were suffering.
And in verse 8, he is telling them how that is to be done.
What God required of the people in the days of Micah are the same things
that God requires of us today.

So, what does God require of us?
Micah's short list of requirements focuses on three things — two of them sum up
our relationships to people around us, and the third one sums up our relationship to the Lord.

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God
?" (Micah 6:8)

So, let us focus on the three words in those sentences as they apply to our life today.
Look at those three requirements:

First, To Do justice

First, God requires us to do justice, or act justly.
Justice describes a right relationships with other people based on how God views them,
and treating others in a way that honors and glorifies God.
It implies attitudes and behaviors that reflect God's commitment to justice.

The word, "mishpat," means judgment.
It means God's wisdom, God's law, and God's judgment so there would be fairness,
and equity within the human race.

There are nine words that are associated with the word, "justice," in the Bible.
The words are: widow, fatherless, orphans, poor, hungry, stranger, needy, weak and oppressed.
The word, "rich," is not in this list of words.
Rich is often associated with injustice.
We don't have to be concerned about the rich because the rich will be able to afford justice.
We must be concerned about the widows, the fatherless, the orphans, the poor, the hungry,
the strangers, the needy, the weak and the oppressed.

In the days of Micah, God's people needed to hear God's requirements to act justly.
They needed to hear this because their day-to-day life was marked by a shocking lack of care
for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the displaced.
In fact, the rich and powerful often oppressed the poor, and often made life more bitter for them.

Listen to Micah's words of condemnation:
"They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them.
They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance
." (Micah 2:2)

In another instance, Micah accuses them of using dishonest scales, weights,
and measures in order to get for themselves ill-gotten treasures at the expense of the poor.
(Micah 6:10,11; Micah 3:1-3).

In looking at the entire book of Micah, it is evident that he is concerned with ethical issues,
specifically in defense of the poor and ostracized.
You see most of the well-to-do, the educated, the ones who would have heard this prophecy
spoken saw the world as fine because they were fine.

Micah saw the world as it really was underneath the masks and layers.
If we casually look around us, we might or might not see areas in which to do justice.
Doing justice requires action.
It means stepping out of our comfort zones, our social circles, our cliques, our groups,
and looking for ways to help make other people's life better.

Think of the people you come in contact with often; not necessarily your friends or family,
but maybe a co-worker, a parent of a child who you see at the ball field,
the teller at the bank, the cleaning lady at your office.

God's people should aspire be like God.
Over and over again, the Scripture tells us about God's concern for the weak and helpless.
For instance in Deuteronomy 10:18: "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing

And in Isaiah 1:17, the prophet Isaiah said: "... learn to do right!
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow
(cf Is 10:1,2; Psalm 103:6; Amos 5:11,15).

Second, Love Kindness

Secondly, the Lord requires us to love kindness.
The word, "hesed", appears frequently in Hebrew scriptures -- about 250 times.
There is no English word that adequately captures the meaning of "hesed".
Sometimes, "hesed" is translated "kindness."
Sometimes, it is translated loving kindness."
Sometimes, it is translated "mercy."
Sometimes, it is translated "blessing."
Sometimes it is translated "love."
It might also be translated "grace."

The Hebrew word is "hesed" , which means "loyal love," which is the greatest attribute of God
in the Old Testament.
It defines God's steadfast, covenantal love.

In the Old Testament, God shows "hesed" toward the people of Israel by bringing them out
of Egypt and accompanying them through the wilderness.
David shows "hesed" to Jonathan when he saves his life.
Ruth shows "hesed" to Naomi when she accompanies her to Israel.
And the prophets demand "hesed'" of the people as an essential aspect of their relationship
with God.
Sometimes the word is translated as "covenant loyalty," or "responsible caring."
"Hesed" is always something that you choose to do.
It's the quality of caring that we show to one another in the Christian community

So, "hesed" means caring for others not because they deserve to be cared for,
but because they need care.
It means forgiving those who have hurt us.
It means reconciling with those from whom we have been alienated.
It means healing the wounds between us and others.
It means risking vulnerability toward those who might reject us.
It means treating others the way God treats us.

It is apparently not enough that we choose to act kindly and mercifully.
The Lord expects us to love kindness and mercy, to love forgiveness, to love being a blessing
to others, to love being reconciled, to love healing the wounds between us.
Not just to do it, but to love it.

We must love mercy; we must delight in it, as our God does, and we must be glad
for the opportunity to do good, and do it cheerfully..
We are not only to love mercy, but we are to show mercy to the miserable,
to persons in distress; to relieve the poor and indigent; to clothe the naked,
and feed the hungry; and to love doing such things.

Kindness blesses us whether we are receiving it or giving it.
The life that we touch for good will touch another life, and that life will touch another,
until we won't even know how many lives will be touched.
The older I get the more I appreciate kindness in others – that word of thanks,
a nod of approval, a smile to a weary worker, a greeting on the street, a hug for a friend.

William Wordsworth's memorable poem says: "The best portion of a good man's life is
his little nameless, unremarkable acts of kindness and love

American novelist Henry James said, three things are important in life.
"The first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, The third is to be kind."

One theologian once said, "Love without justice is mere sentimentality.
But the opposite is true as well.
Justice separated from love can be even worse.
If we do not heed Micah's words to love kindness, the struggle for justice can become
just one more ideological and dehumanizing crusade.
Love is consumed by anger; hope is eaten up in cynicism, meaningful action exhausted
in futile busyness.
And that is why it is so important that the work of justice remain connected
to the tenderness of love

An example of this happened following the Korean War.
A reporter went to Korea to write about what it was like there in the aftermath of the war.
He came across an American nun, a nurse, who was treating wounded Korean soldiers
– the enemy.

Toward the end of the war, the Korean army had few supplies or medicines left.
The soldiers' wounds had not been treated, and the wounds had become infected
and gangrenous and ugly.
As the reporter watched the nun cutting away gangrenous flesh from a Korean soldier's leg,
he held a handkerchief over his face and muttered under his breath,
"I couldn't do that for all the money in the world."

The nun heard him.
She paused in her work for a second and said to him, "Neither could I."

This nun loved ("hesed") – kindness and mercy – more than anything
the world could offer her.
May each one of us love like that!

God requires husbands and wives to cultivate this spiritual quality of loyalty in their marriage.
They are to be a wonderful picture of God's love.
We live in a society that doesn't know much about loyalty in love relationships.
Divorces outnumber marriages two-to-one.
We are required to be loyal, and must cultivate loyalty in the marriage relationship.

Parents are required to demonstrate loyalty with their children.
They should time with them, and invest in them.
Your family is your primary responsibility.

Children are required to demonstrate loyalty to their parents.
We live in a day and age where it's not cool to be loyal to your parents.
Too many children put their parents down, and dishonor them.
God requires children to show lovingkindness to your parents.

God also requires those in the workplace to actively demonstrate hesed in their business relationships.
We are living in a day when commitments are taken lightly and people seem to believe that contracts
are made to be broken.
God requires us to fulfill our obligations, and to make our word, our bond.
That is loving kindness.

Third, Walk Humbly with God

The final requirement in Micah 6:8 is to walk humbly with God, to "walk circumspectly."
The Hebrew root of the word describes a lifestyle that is not proud, not self-willed, and not arrogant.
We are called to walk in submission to God and to His will, and to His commands.
We are to live with purpose and with faith.

We know what it means to walk.
Walk implies a slow pace.
Walking is the opposite of running.
Walking is a slow, deliberate pace.
We are to walk humbly with God.

Humbly means that we are not full of ourselves.
Humbly means that we are not preoccupied with ourselves.
When we walk humbly with God, we are sacrificing our busy and self centered selves,
and we are focusing on someone other than our self and our pleasures.

Jesus said that the greatest person in the kingdom of God was a person who was humble
like a little child.
Jesus said that the greatest virtue of all the virtues was humility.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote more than half of the New Testament, said that
Jesus "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself,
becoming obedient onto death

Humility is sacrificing ourselves to listen to the needs of others and the desires of God.
Humility is the art of listening to another, wherein you forget ourselves for a moment
and actually listen to what another person is saying to you.
Humility is listening to God, when we forget the busyness of our own mind for a moment,
and actually listen to what God is saying to us through his Word

God requires us "to walk humbly with your God."
This is the most important of the three requirements.
Unless we walk humbly with our God, we cannot act justly or love mercy.

This humility ought to show itself in every act of life.
It is not wise just to try to be humble, but we are to actually be humble.
When a person talks a great deal about his humility, and when he is very humble to everybody,
he is generally a hypocrite.
Humility must be in the heart, and then, it will come out spontaneously as the outflow of life
in every act that a person performs.

To walk humbly with God means, like Enoch, to live for God and make Him the center of your life.
It means to live a life of fellowship with God.
It means to give your heart to Jesus Who gave His life for you.
It means to be filled with the Spirit and the power of Christ because you have been born again,
and now you are a new Creation in Christ.
It means to spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading.
In the New Testament this is called the life of discipleship:

"Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do,
Yielding allegiance glad hearted and free –
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you,
For you in your atonement did give yourself for me.
I own no other master -- my heart shall be your throne:
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for you alone

Living for Jesus is to walk humbly with your God.

It is essential that we understand that we can't fulfill any of these requirements
in verse 8 in our own strength.
And we can't do justice unless we have been justified through faith, and unless we are right
with God ourselves.

I read a story about the Queen of the Belgians who was visiting Poland when Poland was still
under communist rule.
Everywhere she went, she was accompanied by a guard of the secret police.
Since she was a Catholic, she often attended mass.
On one occasion while she was kneeling in prayer, she noticed that the guard standing beside her
was moving his lips and saying the prayers.

She was surprised and asked him, "Oh, are you a Catholic?" to which he responded,
"I believe, but I don't practice."

She then asked, "Then, are you a Communist?" to which he answered,
"I practice, but I don't believe."

God's requires that Biblical belief and practice must be a part of everyday life.
Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God are intensely personal
before they are social, and they are the result of being spiritual transformed.

George Maloney in his book "Why Not Become Totally Fire?" tells of a disciple
who went to Abba Joseph, and said, "Father, according to my strength, I sing a few psalms,
I pray and fast, I meditate, I try to cleanse my thoughts.
What more can I do?"

Abba Joseph stood up spreading his hands toward heaven, his fingers were like
10 lamps of fire, and he said, "If you want, why not become totally fire?"

God requires that every Christian should be so changed that every Christian becomes
a burning bush that continues to burn with the glory of God.
God requires every Christian to be so changed that we become passionate about
doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

Remember, God requires justice, mercy, and humility—no matter where we live.
What God requires, God will provide.

Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White