Justice, Kindness, and Humility
When John Newton, the eighteenth-century hymn writer and pastor, preached on this verse, he entitled his sermon “No Access to God but by the Gospel of Christ.” Why would he use a title that seems to lack any connection to the verse?! Newton himself commented, “There is hardly any one passage in the Bible more generally misunderstood.” His sermon title, it seems, was aimed at correcting the common misunderstandings.
Newton’s title alerts us to the danger of reading the virtues described here and then attempting to live them out without the gospel, or proclaiming them in place of the gospel, as a means of access to God. Neither of these does justice to what the prophet—and the Lord—intended. The best way to understand Micah 6:8 is not as a list of things that contribute to our justification but as evidences of our justification. When we view it this way, with the proper motivation and goals established, we can understand what the Lord was calling Israel, and is calling us, to do.
The Lord, through Micah, tells us first to “do justice.” This means a commitment to act in accord with God’s will and purpose. For example, in Deuteronomy, Moses says that God “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18). We want to care about the things God cares about, which means taking such priorities seriously, seeking to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Second, the Lord tells us to “love kindness.” If doing justice is the action, then loving kindness is the heart attitude that fuels it. It’s warm-hearted compassion, ensuring that we pursue justice not as a performance of some duty but as a glad action of benevolence.
Third, we are to “walk humbly.” In other words, we are to walk in submission to God’s will, embracing our utter dependence on Him every step of the way. Why does Micah end this verse with humility? First, because humility is what is required to acknowledge that we do not perfectly obey the call to love kindness and do justice—and so we need the Lord’s forgiveness and not just His commands. And second, because even as we do obey Him in the way Micah 6:8 calls us to, the fruitfulness of our labors is ultimately not up to us.
You and I cannot fix the world; we must instead entrust the solution to the world’s King and Judge. Doing so both motivates and sustains us, with God’s help, to live out the gospel that has saved us, through expressions of justice, kindness, and humility, for the good of our neighbors, for the witness of the church, and for the glory of Christ. Across the centuries, Micah calls you today to reflect humbly on your need for the gospel, to look to your heart and ask the Spirit to grow it in Christlike kindness, and then to look to your world and actively pursue fairness and justice.
The Indictment of the Lord
1Hear what the Lord says:
Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth,
for the Lord has an indictment against his people,
and he will contend with Israel.
3“O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
and redeemed you from the house of slavery,
and I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam.
5O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,
and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”
What Does the Lord Require?
6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with1 thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,2
and to walk humbly with your God?
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