Micah 6:8 is one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses of the Old Testament.
It forms the climax of a legal case that God has lodged against Israel.
God calls the mountains and the foundations of the earth to witness his complaint (v 2). Without listing examples of Israel’s transgressions, God expresses the pain of his broken heart when He cries, “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!” (v 3 – NLT). The pain of a broken relationship becomes even more obvious against the background of God’s earlier acts of kindness towards his people. He delivered them from slavery in Egypt; gave them leaders; blessed them through the foreign priest Balaam and brought them into the Promised Land (cf v 4 & 5).
Although the people’s response in verses 6 and 7 gives the impression that God’s complaint has touched their hearts, they still do not understand the heart of the problem. God is not concerned with a lack of religious activities, but with a broken relationship with Him and the injustice in society that results from this. Therefore, numerous and costly offerings without sincere remorse will not restore the relationship. However, sincere repentance will become visible when they willingly live within God’s kindness towards his people. God initiated a covenant with them, in response they need to live from the deepest values of this covenant – justice (treat people fairly) and mercy (love them faithfully) (cf v 8 – NIRV).
If God’s guidance for a reconciled relationship asks for justice, mercy and walking with Him (cf v 8 – NKJV) it is crucial that we understand that this is not about three different activities. Justice, mercy and a sincere and humble walk with God embody a genuine relationship with God. When we separate any one from the others it jeopardises this relationship.
There are many stories in the context of the HIV pandemic which demonstrate that efforts to apply justice without mercy result in injustice.
To think about or discuss: How can we help each other to keep justice, mercy and humility together in our walk with God?
Author: N du Toit (Ds)