Micah 6:8 has been said to be a summary of the ethical requirement of the entire law and prophets, that is, the Old Testament.
8 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 (NKJV)
Micah tells us that we have already been shown in the Old Testament what need to know to live a godly life. In the New Testament John reinforces this concept.
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. John 1:16-18 (NKJV)
So we have what we need to know and know what we need to do. We are to act justly, be merciful and walk in humility. We may wonder what that looks like in practice. For example, one person may say allowing abortion is bringing justice and mercy to the mother who does not want an unborn child, though they would likely use the term ‘fetus’ because it is less personal and sounds more like tissue than a person. However, how is this just for the unborn child? It clearly isn’t. It is an act of unsanctified mercy, a term I will explore further later as it is very prevalent in our culture. First, seeing that living out Micah 6:8 requires a bit more examination let’s look at the key words – shown, justly, mercy, humbly.
The word shown in Hebrew is below.
- ָנגַד nāghadh, verb, to announce, to tell, to report, to explain
The primary meaning of this verb, attested principally in the Hiphil stem, is “to inform.” It can simply refer to disseminating previously unknown information (e.g., Ruth 3:16), or it can have the more emphatic nuance of “to announce” (e.g., Isa. 41:22) or “to proclaim” (42:12). An extension of this nuance is “to praise,” found in a number of Psalms (e.g., 30:9) and in Isaiah (48:20). Indeed, the heavens nonverbally proclaim the glory of Yahweh (Ps. 19:1). The participle can denote a herald (2 Sam 15:13). It can have the nuance of “to answer” questions (2 Chr. 9:2).
Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Nun-Ayin.
Some bibles translate this Hebrew word as shown in Micah 6:8 and some as told. The meaning in context is that what Yahweh requires is plain for all who want to know (see the first 3 chapters of Romans where Paul lays out all that has been shown particularly 1:18-20).
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV)
The meaning of justly is as follows.
- מִשְׁפָּט mishpāt noun, judgment, justice, ordinance
God’s kind of decisions are always just (Gen. 18:19, 25). Therefore, mishpāt involves dispensing justice and was a strong part of the prophets’ messages as they called the backslidden covenant people, and especially their leaders, back to his ways (Isa. 1:21; Amos 5:24; Mic. 3:1, 8; 6:8). It is a description of good government. Ultimately, the coming Servant of the Lord was to establish it in the earth (Isa. 42:3f). When God’s decisions, which reveal his character and deal with sin, are in the world, people learn righteousness (Isa. 26:9). Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem.
In essence doing justly is walking according to Yahweh’s character, which is revealed in His laws and ordinances. However, rigidly following the law can make us into Pharisees. The term means ‘separated ones’ and the focus of the Pharisees was on what they were separated from. They sought to live pure and holy lives by focusing on what they weren’t rather than on who Yahweh called them to be. It is enlightening to see the change Paul highlighted in himself in Romans.
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)
When Paul was converted from a Pharisee to a believer in Yeshua he shifted his focus from what he was separated from to who he was separated to! As Christians we can functionally be Pharisees if our focus is still on all the things we don’t do as believers rather than a focus on our relationship with Jesus.
Our next word from Micah is mercy.
- חֶסֶד chesedh noun, grace, steadfast love
One of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible is chesedh, meaning “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty” or “steadfast love.” When chesedh is used to describe an attribute of God, it becomes a key theological term for understanding the nature of God as presented in the OT, especially in relation to being faithful to covenants and true to his word. Chesedh is used by a wide variety of OT authors, occurring in twenty-eight of the thirty-nine OT Books. It occurs most frequently in the Psalms (127 times).
The fourth, and most important way that chesedh is used in the Hebrew Bible is in the theological context of describing a characteristic of God himself. In this area, chesedh is one of the most important theological terms in all of Scripture, giving an insight into the very essence of God. In the midst of tragedy, Lam. 3:22 proclaims that the chesedh of the Lord never ceases, that the Lord’s mercy is unending. The sense of chesedh here is of the inexhaustible quality of God’s “covenant fidelity” to his people.
Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Heth-Yodh.
In essence when Micah exhorts us to love mercy he is telling us we are to function like Yahweh. In the record of the Old Testament we can see numerous examples of His mercy to individuals and to Israel as a nation when He continually sent them prophets to warn them to change their ways and delayed judgment to give them time to repent. We are called to act in such a way toward others that we always seek to bring out the best in them and as part of enacting justice to remember that ‘mercy triumphs over judgment.’
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 (NKJV)
Justice and mercy are best walked out in humility.
|7076. צָנַע tsānaʿ Verb to act humbly|
|Mic.||6:8||and to walk humbly with thy God?|
The verb tsānaʿ occurs only in Mic. 6:8 and means “to act in a humble manner.”
Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Pe-Resh.
What is humility? I think a good scriptural description is in 1 John and Isaiah.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NKJV)
15 For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)
John is communicating that our confidence needs to lie not in our abilities but in Christ in us. Isaiah expresses a similar thought. The returning and rest is returning to a place of trust and quiet confidence in His protection and enabling. So, humility is not a lack of confidence, it is a transfer of confidence from our abilities to Yahweh’s, pride is confidence in our ability to do things independent of Him in our own strength. When examining our gifts and abilities Paul encouraged us to do this in a humble manner.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (NKJV)
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
Lastly, I believe there is significance in the order of Micah 6:8. In the application of justice we need to apply mercy with humility, for example Jesus response to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus was merciful and a grave injustice there would have been to punish the woman according to the law when those who brought her claimed she had been caught in the ‘act’ but never brought the other guilty party, the man. In our application of mercy we need to be humble, knowing that under the right circumstances that may be us in need of mercy. As Paul said in Galatians 6.
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)
So while we are to apply justice in mercy and humility we need to do it according to Yahweh’s standard. I referenced earlier the concept of unsanctified mercy. Let me clarify, our standards are not Jesus standards. We have a tendency in our culture of compromise and ‘tolerance’ to not want to challenge anything. Though as an interesting aside my experience has been in talking with those who promote tolerance that some of them are most intolerant people I have met, they will not tolerate me disagreeing with them. Our culture will not survive if we tolerate everything and we need to apply a standard in the administration of justice. However when we tolerate and support what the scriptures clearly say are wrong we are in opposition to Jesus, we are practicing an unsanctified or unholy mercy. We need to apply scriptural standards rather than cultural norms. Many times that requires both great courage and a great deal of prayer to do the right thing.
The other side of this coin is continuing to rightly apply the scriptures. A number of years ago a friend and I were invited to hear a guest speaker. It was a gathering of 30-50 people and the speaker was very serious and focused. In listening I could see that he was misusing the scriptures and was going to use select verses to prove that laughter and humour were ungodly and that we all needed to always be very serious and focused to be godly. At times we do, but that is not all there is to our faith. There was no evidence of joy or love in his talk so I interrupted and asked if I could ask a question. He said no, he would take questions at the end. Given where this was going I responded, “I might not be here at the end.” I wasn’t, there was no point in arguing with him as his mind was made up, wrongly so I am convinced. He at some level had some understanding of the law but was misapplying it and seemed to not grasp mercy or humility.
So let us endeavour to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Jesus, seeking to hear His heart in all situation and circumstances that we may continually re-present Him to a world that needs to know Him.