What Does the Lord Desire of You?

Micah 6:8 asks what the Lord requires of you. This question can be answered in a variety of ways. Who you are, what you are passionate about, what spiritual gifts you have, and what you have experienced might shape the way you answer this question. You might have a passion and gift for evangelism, and so you focus on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Or, you might be more focused on worship, and therefore you may emphasize verses like Psalm 95:6, “O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.” You may think that God wants holiness, and the Ten Commandments define what it is that God expects of you. Or, you may emphasize Christian character, and so the fruit of the Spirit as described in Paul’s writings may be your favorite passage.

This diversity of answers helps the Christian community to be diverse, holistic, and inclusive, so that the passions, interests, and gifts of all God’s people can be realized.

Perhaps this also encourages us to develop a balanced, holistic spirituality that includes and celebrates the parts of our faith that are not in our wheelhouse. If I have a deep interest and call to pray, I may need to push myself to make sure I head out from my prayer closet to share my faith. If I love the experience of worship, I probably should not ignore my neighbors as I walk or drive to church on Sunday morning. We believe that developing all-inclusive, holistic ministry encourages us to have a full-orbed faith that reflects the broad range of how God wants to impact the world. All of these are part of God’s kingdom coming on Earth.

God’s provision in the past

As you read Micah 6:1-8, picture a courtroom scene. The lawyer is Micah who is representing God, the people of Israel are plaintiffs, and the world is the judge. In Micah 6:1-2, the mountains, hills, and foundations of the earth are seated as the jury for God’s complaint against his people. God is the defendant (speaking through Micah), calling for the enduring and solid realities of this world to judge the complaint that God has with his people. Even though God is on the defense, Micah refers to it as God’s controversy with his people.

In verse 3, it becomes apparent that Israel has been complaining about God. Listen for the pain in God’s voice as he addresses his people, “What have I done to you? How have I burdened you?(NIV). We can be quickly judgmental of Judah and Israel. How could they dare to say that God has somehow wronged them or that he has placed a load on them? But if we pause and reflect, aren’t there times when we all have either consciously or unconsciously complained about God? Why does he not act when I am in need? Why isn’t the world a better place? How can I ever live up to God’s expectations? I’ll never measure up.

In verses 4-5, God responds to Israel’s complaint with three reminders of God’s deliverance of his people. The first reminder is that defining moment of the exodus. Exodus 2:23-25 says, “The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out … God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant … God looked upon the Israelites and God took notice of them.” God chose Moses, Aaron, and Miriam as the instruments by which he would deliver his people. Micah reminds his listeners that God had indeed delivered them in miraculous and powerful ways.

The second reminder of God’s gracious protection and deliverance of Israel is the account of Balak and Balaam in Numbers 22–24. The story begins with the Israelites camped in the plains of Moab, close to the promised land. Balak, the king of Moab, was afraid of Israel. He decided that part of his defense against Israel would be to hire a prophet, Balaam, to curse Israel. Recall that on Balaam’s journey to Balak, his donkey could see an angel of the Lord that Balaam couldn’t. God used this encounter to tell Balaam to go to the king, but to speak only what God told him to say. When Balaam meets Balak, Balaam tells the king to build seven altars, prepare seven bulls and seven rams, and Balaam would see if the Lord would come to meet him. When God did show up, he gave Balaam a blessing on Israel. The scene ends with Balaam uttering an oracle of doom against Moab and others, and God continuing to bless and protect his people.

The final reminder in Micah 6:4-5 of God’s deliverance is the journey from Shittim to Gilgal, which leads us into the trip to the promised land where God’s people are finally home. In Joshua 3 and 4, we see Israel cross the Jordan on dry land with the ark of the covenant leading the way. After they had crossed, Joshua told the people to identify 12 men, one from each tribe, to select a stone from the Jordan as a reminder of God’s deliverance. These stones are set up in Gilgal as a memorial for their children about the crossing, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:24).

These saving acts of the Lord are the motivation for living a life pleasing to God. This response to God’s grace is done with joy and gratitude for the salvation that God provides his people.

In Micah 6:6, Micah sarcastically voices the words of the people of Israel, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?” He goes on to ask whether it is burnt offerings, thousands of rams, 10,000 rivers of oil, his firstborn for his transgression, or the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul? As we read these progressively extreme offerings, it seems that this is both manipulative and critical. What do I need to do to keep you happy with me, God? What extremes do I have to go to, to meet your excessive demands?

The response: Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God

Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” guides this book. It connects our faith with our actions, joining our care for those in need with our walk with God.

In verse 8, Micah slips back into his role as God’s spokesperson, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” While a number of translations use the word “require,” you could also use “desire” to include a sense of desire and response to God’s grace. When we use the word “require,” we need to make sure that doesn’t lead us to a work-based righteousness, meaning that we somehow earn God’s reward; the Scriptural context for obedience is always based on God’s saving grace.

What we are told is that we are to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In some ways, this is a simple and straightforward description to do what God wants.

In reflecting on God’s desire for us in Micah 6:8, we will begin with the last and move to the first. The reason for beginning with “walk humbly with God” is that this is, in reality, the basis for loving mercy and doing justice. As God’s people, we engage in those out-reaching activities through a faith-based perspective. Because of what God has done, we fully invest in healing the world around us through mercy and justice. Cultivating our walk with God provides the power and passion for us to fully engage—it grounds everything else we do.

You may recall that the walk metaphor is used often in Scripture to describe the overall direction one’s life is heading. In Deuteronomy, there are a number of references to walking in the way of the Lord, several psalms refer to a walk being blameless, and 1 John encourages us to walk in the light. This poetic picture envisions a comfortable relationship of presence with God and a life that fits into that path. The adverb “humbly” moves us away from arrogance and the egocentric need to always be better than others, to the simple acceptance of the gifts that God has placed within us. The hymn “Trust and Obey” might come to mind: “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.”

Secondly, God desires for us to love mercy, or, in some translations, kindness. This is the Hebrew word hesed, which can be used to refer to God’s loving kindness to us. It is interesting to note that God wants us to be drawn to mercy—having compassion for those in need. This is not always easy, as we see so much human need; it is on our street corners and bombards us in the media. Rather than mercy, it is easy for our hearts to harden and our minds to judge. These people are being both foolish and manipulative. They are taking advantage of our care. And we need to hear God say once again, “As one of my people, I hope you love mercy—for that is what you have received.”

Finally, God tells us to do justice. This action-orientated desire of God simply says to do it. Perhaps you struggle to know what it means to do justice. How did I do justice this past week? What does it look like? We have often defined justice by placing it primarily in a political, economic, or judicial realm. These definitions make it difficult to identify that we are doing justice on a regular basis. Where are our courts and police malfunctioning? What laws or practices allow for racial discrimination? What businesses take advantage of low-income people and charge them exorbitant interest rates? While these are indeed a part of social injustice, and we must fully engage in them, they can be distant from our daily lives. We’d like to make “social justice” a bit more accessible by developing a definition that would be useful for all Christians.

Our definition of justice is “to create a world where all people have equal opportunity to fully develop the gifts that God has placed within them.” While this does include the bigger political, judicial, and economic challenges we face, it can also include more basic activities, like a program that provides tutors so that kids in urban school settings have the same opportunities to learn to read as suburban kids. Justice is supporting an overwhelmed single parent who is struggling to find the time and resources to give adequate time to his or her children. Justice is taking in a foster child. Justice is employing a person coming out of prison. Justice is a host of other activities that level the playing field and provide equal opportunity for all.

Doing justice is also developmental, meaning that we don’t simply give things away to meet a need, but we help people help themselves. Using the well-known fishing metaphor, we don’t just give people a fish, but we teach them how to fish. In our daily lives, we all have the opportunity to do justice with actions that help people help themselves. In this, we are creating an environment where people can thrive and achieve their full potential.

Points to Ponder

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What does the Lord desire for you?
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What gifts and abilities has he given you for that?
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How can you step outside your comfort zone to other areas the Lord may be desiring for you?
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What are ways you can make Micah 6:8 an action in your life?
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Biblical, Theological, and Missiological Grounds for Holistic, Developmental Ministry