What Does the Lord Require of You?
“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?” (Micah 6:8, NRSVue)
Micah was a prophet who lived in the 8th century before Jesus and prophesied during a tumultuous time for Israel. He lived in a rural village, Moresheth, about twenty miles outside of Jerusalem, where he was probably a subsistence farmer whom God called to prophecy to Israel on his behalf. Micah frequently railed against the corruption and injustices of the city folk in Jerusalem, predicting the destruction and rebirth of the nation of Israel. Although Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, sharing a similar prophetic message, Isaiah operated mainly in Jerusalem. Micah’s ministry was primarily in the countryside; it is unknown if they ever met. Both used the imagery of “turning swords into plowshares” as a metaphor for the kind of peace God would bring (see Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3, see also the reverse use of this imagery in Joel 3:9-10). With Micah’s farming background, Isaiah may have borrowed Micah’s phrase.
One day, Micah took off for Jerusalem to declare the word of the Lord. An Old Testament scholar, Ellen Davis, says that traveling the twenty miles from Moresheth to Jerusalem in the Iron Age was a major ordeal—probably an arduous and stressful journey few people would undertake. Yet, Micah did just that when he left home and inserted himself into the royal court of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, declaring the word of the Lord. Micah denounced Jerusalem because he attributed its growth and progress to unjust business practices that impoverished the city’s citizens. He accused some other prophets of accepting money in return for tailoring their messages so as not to offend the powerful. Micah was sticking his neck out because King Hezekiah and others in power had the means and authority to kill him.
In Micah 3:12, Micah prophesies the “plowing” of the city of Jerusalem, where even the Temple Mount becomes unrecognizable as the ruins will be like a small shrine out in the middle of a wilderness forest. He draws a picture of utter destruction—unless the people of God and their rulers and prophets repent. What would repentance look like for them? What does God require of them to avert their demise as a people and a nation? Micah offers three seemingly simple things in Micah 6:8,
Do justice. Love kindness. And walk humbly with God.
While these three commands seem simple on the surface, they are three of the most demanding requirements God has given us as his people. I’ll share more about how to implement these commands for those who join us in worship at 8:15 this Sunday. I know many of you will attend at 11:00 am to hear Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett preach on “Courage for the Unknown Future”; however, my message will be available online by the first of the week. I hope to see you Sunday, and don’t forget to bring a friend! — Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen