“He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (WEB version)
"He has shown you, O man." Whoever among you makes this inquiry, if you think and consider, may perceive that God has already taught you those services that He requires, and what things are the most acceptable to Him.
He teaches us by our own reason, if we will use it. He has also shown us this in his word, in the Law, and in all the revelations He has made to us.
So, in the Law of Moses (Deut. 10:12-13) it is written, “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep Yahweh’s commandments and statutes, which I command you today for your good?”
And again, (Deut. 30:11-12; 14) “For this commandment which I command you today is not too hard for you or too distant. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us? ... But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
The examples here insisted upon are only the sum and substance of the Ten Laws or precepts, delivered at Mt. Sinai.
And many of the Prophets speak in perfect agreement what is here said in Micah. In Isaiah: “Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice...” (Isaiah 1:16) And in Hosea: "For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6.)
Therefore what is said had been said before, and often taught, and shown to this people by reason, and by other Prophets and messengers. But now God reminds them of it, and shows them again.
"He has shown you what is good," or right, what is in itself reasonable and excellent, useful and profitable.
The several branches of our duty are sometimes reduced in Scripture to "love of God and our neighbor."
Our Master says that the love of God is the first and great commandment. And in the Law of Moses, written on two tables, the duties immediately respecting god are placed first. But in this text, it is first said that we should "do justly and love mercy," THEN "walk humbly with God."
But the order is of little concern, because the parts of duty can never be separated. And our Master having said, that to "Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all the soul is the first and great commandment, then adds, "And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." John writes, "he who doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother." (1 John 4:20-21.)
"What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly?" This covers everything that is fair and equal between man and man, according to the relations they keep, or the obligations they are under to each other.
In this chapter, just after this text, God by His Prophet lists many things contrary to this duty, without changing this unrighteous conduct, could never hope to be accepted by Him.
We are to be just in our dealings with others, without imposing on their ignorance or falsehood.
In our common traffic with others, we are to observe truth in our words, so on all other occasions we are to regard the truth of things, not saying anything falsely to the disparagement of our neighbor, which would be shown an injustice, a most injurious action.
We are also sincerely to keep what we promise, and to the utmost of our power be as good as our word.
We are to be faithful in all the trusts given us.
We should likewise diligently and prudently provide for those who are under our care, and depend on us.
It follows next, "And to love mercy" or goodness and benevolence. When the duty owed to our neighbor is described as "loving," them both justice and mercy are included in that one word. Here they are mentioned separately, and distinctly. And also elsewhere. "Therefore turn to your God. Keep mercy [kindness] and justice, and wait continually for your God." (Micah 12:6)
Showing mercy is doing no more to others than what we, in the same circumstances, would have others do to us. And not just relieving our own relatives, or friends, but also strangers, if we have the power to do it.
In this is included not only dong what others can claim of us, but something more: acts of kindness and benevolence, and forgoing and giving up what is due to us.
It includes guiding and counseling those who are inexperienced in the world, and helping them out of our wealth, so they may better care for themselves and their families and be useful in the world, as well as speaking favorably of others.
The last thing in this text said to be required of us is, "to walk humbly with God," or as the Hebrew is, literally, "and to humble yourself to walk with your God." In the ancient Greek of the days before the coming of Jesus, it was, "And be ready to walk with your God." The meaning in general is, "and to resolve to obey all God's commandments, and to continue and persevere in them always, to the end of life."
It is to resolve to worship the true God, and Him alone. In the text it is "Yahweh, your God,” meaning the God who has made us. This, certainly, is the one thing intended by the Prophet Hosea: to engage the people of Israel according to the Law as well as the dictates of reason, to fear Yahweh, their God, and to serve Him alone. This includes a respect of all God's commandments and readiness to submit to His authority.
This humbling ourselves to walk with God includes dependence upon Him, trusting in Him, and committing ourselves to Him.
We perceive that the holy obedience required of us is of great extent - consisting of justice, mercy and piety. It can therefore be no very easy thing to be truly religious. It must be a difficult and a high attainment. We have need, as Jesus directs us, to strive, to exert ourselves, and to do our utmost to enter in at the narrow gate. (Matt. 7:13-14)
Let us seriously attend to this representation of true religion, and remember that the things insisted on are absolutely necessary.
(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Nathaniel Lardner)