“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8
How do I come before God? To consider Him, who He is and how holy and righteous He is, is to realize how unworthy I am. It’s unavoidable! He is exalted in His goodness, truth and power, but I am riddled with selfishness, duplicity and weakness. In the past, better people than myself have realized that, if they stood before God in their human condition, they would die. How could I possibly hope to survive such a meeting?
The prophet Micah asked the same question on behalf of his whole culture. The instinct was to make some kind of grand sacrifice: thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil, my firstborn, a gift to appease God for the offense of my sin. But is there really anything in my power to give that would be an adequate payment for such a debt? Never. Only He has that much. No sacrifice, no penance of mine is enough.
The answer of God to Micah was a call to remember what they had seen. “He has showed you, O man, what is good.” The good they had seen was Himself and His great deeds done for them. Yes, God is holy and powerful, but remember how God has dealt with people, with us. He has been good. He has been merciful. He has provided. Remember what God is like. Then remember what God has required all along. Has He ever required the epic sacrifice of anyone but Himself? What has He commanded of His people?
“To act justly…” He has required that I consider others as well as myself. I am not the center of the universe. I am one of many who all have worth and rights and I am to live respectfully with my fellow man. This must be expressed in action: what I say, what I do, what I use, what I spend. It is NOT all about me.
“and to love mercy…” God has shown me mercy, plain and simple. He has not treated me as my sins deserve. To love mercy is to love that. I could never even dream of coming before Him without His mercy. And I am not alone; His mercy runs deep and wide over all of us. He requires that I acknowledge that…and love it. To appreciate mercy for me, but not recognize or participate in mercy for others, especially in cases of personal offense, is to not love mercy. To love mercy requires that I extend mercy.
“and to walk humbly with your God.” In light of my sin and the debt He paid on my behalf, I know that my access to God is His doing. Knowing what He requires of me is simply to acknowledge and imitate the justice and mercy He shows me. Acknowledging that I require His help in this is the beginning of humility. To live out His justice and mercy is to walk humbly with Him. Along the way, He teaches more and more. To keep living what I learn is to keep on walking humbly with Him. This is what He requires of me to come and remain before Him.