The Micah Mandate
“He has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you; but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
In this summation presented by the prophet Micah, we have a simple statement as to the essence of true righteousness. This triad of qualities is a divine mandate given for living in community – justice, mercy, and humility. God wants us to be concerned about the issues of justice and mercy. And He enjoys the companionship of humble saints, to whom He has promised to give a “greater grace” (James 4:6).
As believers we must demonstrate the character of God by being just in our dealings with others. Luke 6:31 says, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” This is what we call the Golden Rule. It is the principle of justice. I am to “do justice.” But our responsibility before God extends beyond my own personal actions. The Word of God calls upon us, as God’s people, to seek to create a just society. The Old Testament prophets spoke out against the corporate injustice of the nation of Israel – such as the sacrifice of children, greed, and oppression of the poor (Example: Amos 2:6-8). We are to be God’s prophetic spokesmen crying out for justice. Sadly, the church has often failed to do this. For instance, in the 1950’s and 60’s, the evangelical church in the U.S. was to a large degree silent when it came to the issues of racial equality. We ignored, and in some cases opposed, the civil rights movement. This is but one example, of our failure to be concerned about justice, as the redeemed community.
The prophet of the Lord also tells us that we are to love mercy. This word translated as “mercy” is the Hebrew word chesed, which can be translated a variety of ways due to the depth of its meaning. It can be translated as loyalty, in some instances it is translated as lovingkindness, and in other places it is translated as faithfulness. Why all these different meanings? Because this is one of those Hebrew words that’s meaning is not easily conveyed in English. The concept of chesed is the “glue” that holds covenant together. It is loyalty, it is mercy, it is lovingkindness. And it is also devotion, righteousness, and unchanging love. (It is translated all of these ways in the NAS.) It is probably the most important word in the Old Testament. When God calls His people to love chesed, He is calling upon them to relate to one another the way that He relates to us.
This Hebrew word chesed corresponds in many ways to the New Testament Greek word agape. It expresses the kind of love God has for His children. It is a steadfast love that endures. It is the kind of love that is loyal, without always being approving. The love that the Father had for the Prodigal, that never ceased in spite of the Prodigal’s wayward ways. Our Heavenly Father likewise has an enduring love that remains steadfast in spite of our failures. He stands by His people, and we are to imitate our Heavenly Father.
Chuck Colson tells the story of his speaking on a university campus, shortly after his release from prison. In the midst of his talk he was interrupted by a heckler shouting, “Hey, Colson, why did you stick by Nixon?” Colson stopped his lecture, looked at the student and simply said, “Because he was my friend.” The audience in spontaneous unity broke out in applause. Chuck Colson’s answer struck a cord with his listeners. Everyone wants a friend that will stand by them, even in the midst of their tragic failure. May the Lord help us to be such a friend to others.
The prophet also instructs us that we are “to walk humbly with our God.” My friend, Ernie Gruen, several years ago wrote a book on the subject of humility, entitled But God Gives More Grace: The Irrevocable Law of Humility. One of the profound observations he makes is regarding the supreme value of humility, he says: “The greatest virtue or attribute in the Christian life is not love, or faith, or hope, but humility. This is true because humility causes an in-flow of the grace of God, which will bring into being love, faith, hope, or other fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
I believe that our humility before God will be reflected in our humility before men. Not the kind of false humility, which is simply pride disguised, sometimes expressed by pious preachers. But a humility that means I walk in reality about myself. A humility that does not ignore my strengths, but at the same time acknowledges my weaknesses. A humility that recognizes my dependence on God and others. A humility that expresses itself in obedience to God’s Word and God-given authority.
Pride fragments the Body of Christ and distorts the witness of the Church. Humble people are reconcilers that bring about peace. Peace may require yielding and humble people will yield. The proud create strife (Prov. 13:10), the humble produce and preserves unity (Ephes. 4:1-3).
I believe that God has given His Church the “Dominion Mandate” (Gen. 1:26-28), but I also believe that He has given us the “Micah Mandate.” Could it be that we must walk out the Micah Mandate before we can see the fulfillment of the Dominion Mandate?