One of the great passages of the Old Testament (and when you consider that all Scripture is given to us by God, that is really saying something) is Micah 6:8.
Micah was a prophet of Jerusalem, during the time of the Judean Kings, about seven hundred years before Christ was born. It was Micah who delivered the prophecy of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, a prophecy cited by Matthew in his Gospel (cf. Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6). Micah prophesied concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, an event fulfilled over a hundred years after his prophecy (cf. Micah 3:12). Micah denounced the greed and sins of the people of his day in a powerful way, decrying the wicked priests and prophets who altered the word of God to suit themselves, and rebuking the corruption of the merchants and nobles that abused the poor.
In a book filled with powerful images and powerful messages, Micah 6:8 has come to be, perhaps, the one verse of scripture that Micah is best known for penning. It reads: “He has told you, O man, 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; ESV)
Just prior to this verse, Micah had posed the question… “What does God want from me? How can I please God?” and had offered a variety of possible ideas, including massive amounts of sacrifice and the offering of one’s firstborn son. But pleasing God is not impossible, Micah instructs us. God has told us what it is He wants. We don’t have to make up answers to the question ourselves, the word of God is God’s message to man, teaching us how to be pleasing to God. And when you boil down everything the Bible says, the basic ideas of goodness are not that complicated. What God requires is not that complex. But God does require it.
And before we ever start discussing what it is that God actually requires of us, let us notice the use of that very word: “Require.”
The question being answered is, “What does God require?”
To require something, in this context, means to demand it, expect it, or insist upon it.
God has a standard for mankind that He demands they live up to, or else there will be consequences. This is not an unreasonable thing. People face such requirements all the time. Parents require kids to clean their rooms, or take baths. Schools require students to maintain a certain grade-point average. Governments require their citizens not to murder one another, and to pay their taxes on time. In each case, failure to meet the minimum required standards results in some sort of punishment.
Even so, God has requirements of man. Meaning God has requirements for you… a set of standards He expects you to live up to.
Jesus, in His day, pointed out that not everyone was living up to those standards, while also teaching they were still required. Notice the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, making that very point: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20; ESV)
Some people don’t like to think about God’s expectations of them, either pretending they don’t exist, or thinking that God will make allowances for them. But the Bible is pretty emphatic in making it clear that God does not play favorites, He expects the same thing from everyone (cf. Acts 10:34-35); and He judges everyone according to the same standards.
Fortunately, when we look at Micah’s message about what God expects from man, Micah’s point is that God’s expectations are neither unreasonable, nor difficult. They are easy to understand, and, with just a little bit of effort on our part, quite doable. But they are, nonetheless, demanded by God of each one of us, and the man who desires to be pleasing to God is going to study diligently exactly what those requirements entail.
In coming weeks, we will look more closely at each of the things Micah lists as requirements to see what each one means. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about God’s expectations of you, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.