What Does God Require of You? 8/16/98

Micah 6:8
Page 1366 Come Alive Bible

“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?” (Micah 6:8).

Jesus Christ spoke of “justice, mercy, and faith” and of them said we “ought to” do these things. That means it is to our advantage to live with these three attributes as our character traits.

Visitors to our nation’s capital enjoy the beauty of the Library of Congress Building. In it are beautifully decorated alcoves providing reading rooms. The various alcoves are dedicated to different disciplines: art, history, science, philosophy, and religion. Each alcove has a distinctive design and motto. The committee responsible for choosing the motto for the religious alcove requested prominent ministers to make suggestions. The one chosen: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

When President Jimmy Carter took the oath of office as our nation’s leader he quoted the prophet Micah: “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?” (Micah 6:8).

The prophet Micah, our Great High Priest Jesus Christ, and our former President Jimmy Carter all appeal for us to make these traits our habitual lifestyle. In our current carnal culture these attributes need to be modeled.

At a time in the life of ancient Israel when moral depravity and religious decadence corrupted the people, God sent forth four prophets simultaneously to preach to His people.

Amos and Hosea were His heralds in the North.

Isaiah and Micah sounded forth the truth in the South.

Amos preached justice.

Hosea struck the note of love.

Isaiah called for reverent, humble fellowship with God.

Micah gathered the gist of all three and summarily said, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, To love mercy, and walk humble with your God?” (6:8).

Three virtues are mentioned in our text that are described by God as “good.” It should also be noted they are required of us by God. Jesus confirmed this when He said of them we “ought to” do them. They are:

“To do justly” refers to our ethical response to other people. To “do justly” there must be a standard for what is just and what is unjust. Some conduct is right and some isn’t.

A new virile virus has been loosed in our culture under the guise of a new virtue. Because of its rapidly increasing influence it needs to be reexamined. It is called tolerance.

For generations people have espoused tolerance. The definition normally given is: “the disposition to be patient toward those whose opinions or practices differ from our own…”

That is now called “negative tolerance.”

Positive tolerance is defined as: “every single individuals beliefs, values, lifestyle, and truth claims are equal.” That’s positive tolerance. It is broadly advocated.

If that is true then the door to the jail cell of the Uni-Bomber, Ted Kazinski, should be opened and he set free. Timothy McVey, your beliefs that prompted a lifestyle that blew up the building in Oklahoma is acceptable. You can go free.

If positive tolerance is correct Rudolph should be invited to come out of the North Carolina mountains to visit Centennial Park.

Positive tolerance has replaced the virtue of justice. Positive tolerance and justice cannot co- exist. They are mutually exclusive.

An advocate of positive tolerance defines for him or her self truth. One opinion is as good as another. Likewise one statement is as good as another. Such a person can state as true what facts reveal as not being true and still say, “I did not lie.” If there are no absolutes there is no truth and no falsehood. In the mind of such a person what ever they say is true.

This time in history is now being called the postmodern era. It is reshaping cultures concept of truth. Lying is impossible since it presupposes objective reality. To the postmodern mind there is no objective truth. Truth is subject. That is, what I as the subject define it as. Such a person can say, “I did not tell him to lie” becomes a “true” statement because lies don’t exist. To such a mentality words don’t have a fixed meaning. They mean what the user wants them to mean at the moment. An interpretation may be different from an interpretation tomorrow.

God has expressed His desire for us: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).

Our value-free, morally neutral, education opens the door for sources in Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and yes, Nashville to bombard young minds with thousands of hours of sounds and images that glamorize immorality and mock Biblical values.

Often parents begin to teach their little children that “what is good” is optional without knowing it. How often have you heard a parent of a young child say to a child, “Stop doing that and come here, O.K.?” Or, “Get out of the pool, O.K.?” Or, “Put that bag of cookies back on the shelf, O.K.?” That “O.K.” makes it appear to the child the choice of right or wrong is his. If it isn’t don’t say “O.K.” That solicits a choice in response.

God doesn’t say, “Thou shalt not bear false witness, O.K.?” Or, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain, O.K.?”

That brings to mind the lady who wanted a pet parrot. Upon visiting the pet shop she found one on sale at a remarkably low price. When she offered to buy it the shop keeper advised her not to. When ask why she was told it cursed a lot.

Confident she could break the parrot of this habit she bought it.

Soon after getting the bird home it started cursing. She put it in the freezer for 15 minutes. When it came out it is was shivering. Soon it warmed up and started cursing all over again. This time he was sentenced to 30 minutes in the freezer. When it came out it was coated with ice crystals. Upon warming up it started all over cursing.

This time he drew 45 minutes to an hour in the freezer. He came out stiff and ice coated. When it thawed out his owner asked, “Are you going to curse any more?” It shook its head “No.” “Are you through cursing?” A nod of the head indicated “Yes.”

Then the parrot spoke, “I have a question for you. What did that turkey in the freezer say to you?”

Advocates of positive tolerance are tolerant of anything but Christian virtues and Bible based morals. To them there are no absolutes of right or wrong. Everything is relative. Ask them if they are sure there are no absolutes and they will respond “Absolutely!”

To do as God requires and act justly there must be a standard for what is just.

Micah said, “He has shown you … what is good.” If there is a good there is a bad. If there is a right there is a wrong.

What is good and what is bad is defined for Christians by Scripture. Therein God “shows” what is good.

“To do justly” is to do God’s will. It means to act toward God and man according to the divine standard of God. Dante wrote, “In His will is our peace.”

The second virtue Micah states is:

“To love mercy” is to freely and willingly show kindness to others.

As with all virtues we can learn from God what is meant by it. Grace is God’s favor shown spiritual rebels who repent. Mercy is God’s favor shown those in distress. In His mercy He protects us from harm or punishment what we might well deserve.

Our Lord is spoken of as “the Father of mercies” (II Cor. 1:3).

A close synonym for “mercy” is compassion. As followers of the Lord we are to show compassion toward others. “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like minded” (Philippians 2:1, 2).

In general mercy means to feel sympathy with the miseries of others. God has such mercy toward us and we should show it to others.

Some persons comply with this first requirement but neglect the second. Such persons are as upright as a marble column and as cold and hard.

We should even have mercy on ourselves. When we do we overcome inferiority complexes. Many have done so.

Steinmetz, one of the greatest scientist of all times, came to believe he could be useful in spite of the fact his body was terribly deformed.

Milton was blind, but eventually he believed that, in spite of his blindness, he could write poetry that would make life sing — and he did.

Robert Louis Stevenson was sickly. He suffered chronic pain, but during his sickest years, he wrote some of his greatest masterpieces.

Beethoven reached the point at which he believed he could give to the world a composition like the Ninth Symphony, even though he was deaf and could not hear it himself.

Louis Pasteur made his greatest contribution after he had a stroke.

In showing mercy toward themselves these make of their adversities springboards rather than letting them be stumbling blocks.

On the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Molokai was a colony to which persons inflicted with the dreaded disease of leprosy were sent to live out their lives in misery.

A simple noble priest, Father Damien, went there to minister to them. He did so for months addressing them as: “You lepers.” He met with no response.

One day he spoke to them as, “My fellow lepers.”

He had so identified with them as to have contracted leprosy. Thereafter, his ministry met with positive response. His mercy was their hearts. It so won the admiration of our nation that a statue of Father Damien stands as the only religious figure under the rotunda of our nation’s capital.

These persons stand in admirable contrast to the character depicted by George Bernard Shaw as: “a selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making him or her happy.”

With justice and mercy so closely linked in the text some persons often confuse the two.

When a person commits a crime and thereafter expresses an apology or gives a self-excusing explanation we often say the person should be forgiven even if a crime was involved.

There are conditions for forgiveness. Contrition, confession, repentance, and a request for forgiveness precedes forgiveness. Some Christians become confused at this point and think that under these circumstances even the crime should be forgiven. There is a distinct difference in forgiveness of a wrong and acquittal of a crime.

There are times when justice and mercy can be compatible.

When Fiorello La Guardia was mayor of New York City he liked to keep in touch with all departments of government. He would even substitute for various heads. Once he sat in for the Night Court judge. It was a cold night and a trembling man was brought in charged with stealing a loaf of bread. He said he did it because his family was starving.

“I have to punish you nevertheless,” said La Guardia. “There is no exception to the law. The fine is $10.00.” As he said this he reached for his wallet, took out $10.00 put it in his famous hat and said, “Here is the $10.00 to pay the fine.”

“Furthermore,” he continued, “I’m going to fine everybody in this courtroom .50 cents for living in a city where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” The total was $47.50.

In effect that is what our Heavenly Father did for us. We sin and He has found us guilty. In the person of His only begotten Son He paid the fine and remitted our sin.

Because of that we are to live out Micah’s third virtue.

“To walk humbly with your God” means to live in conscious fellowship with God.

It is to recognize God’s absolute holiness and submit to His will.

In Scripture the term “walk” often refers to a lifestyle. To be humble means to be respectfully obedient.

When Elizabeth married the ultimately to be famous poet Robert Browning her parents disowned her. She and Robert moved far away to Florence, Italy. She loved her parents and sought reconciliation. Several times a month she would write telling them of her love. After 10 years there came a response. She received a package from her parents which she opened with excitement. Elizabeth’s happy moment rapidly faded when she found inside all of her letters to her parents — unopened.

Elizabeth, like Robert, was a poet. Her letters of reconciliation have been called “some of the most beautiful and expressive in the English language.” Unfortunately her parents never read them.

Like Elizabeth, our Lord went to extreme measures to achieve reconciliation. Have you left His love letters unread. As Micah said God has shown us, it is right here in the Book, what is good. To find what is “good” read and obey His love letters. Accept His offer of reconciliation.

Come to the cross. It is an exhortation to “do justly.” it was sin, human kinds injustice, that put Him there.

Come to the cross. It is an appeal to love mercy because of the mercy manifested there.

Come to the cross. It empowers one, enabling a walk with God.