The Lord’s Requirements

“What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” —Micah 6:8

BASICALLY the Lord’s righteous requirements of his people in every age are the same although the details in each age will differ. God’s people in the Jewish Age were required to render obedience to the Law. In the present age they are called upon to bear witness to the Gospel, and thus to show forth the praises of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. And there are other differences of detail in what God requires of his people from age to age, but these are to be accomplished within the framework of those righteous requirements stated in our text—to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

In so far as the followers of Jesus are concerned, there are many varied allurements which might entice them away from the path of righteousness. One of these is highlighted in the two verses preceding our text. We quote: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or 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?” Then follow the words, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good,” implying that the outline just stated is not considered good by the Lord, and what the Lord does consider good is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him.

Satan is too wily a foe to suggest alternatives to the will of God which are related in no way to instructions which God has given. What Satan does is to distort those instructions to give them a meaning which the Lord never intended, and thus to lead the righteous away from the true path of righteousness. The question, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?” takes us back to some of the requirements of the Law. God had indicated that under certain circumstances burnt offerings would be acceptable to him—an evidence of the true heart condition of those who presented them. He also indicated that calves of a year old could be offered acceptably to him as sacrifices.

But the question implied here is, since this is true, could we be pleasing to the Lord simply by presenting burnt offerings to him, or calves of a year old? Certainly that would be a simple way of discharging our responsibility toward the great Creator of the universe. But the Lord never intended that any of his people should take this viewpoint of his requirements and ignore every other aspect of his will.

The next question is, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” Here is a subtle suggestion indeed! In God’s dealings with Israel under the Law he did require, in connection with the tabernacle services, the offering of rams, and indicated that this would indeed be pleasing, and in accordance with his will. But this did not mean that all the Lord required was the continual bringing to him of rams to be sacrificed.

The Lord required oil in connection with the typical services of the tabernacle and in the anointing of Israel’s kings. But that did not suggest that one could discharge his responsibility to the Lord simply by offering huge quantities of oil—described in the text as “ten thousands of rivers of oil.”

The Lord’s people of the present age are not asked by him to bring rams and oil as sacrifices. We are invited to present our own bodies as living sacrifices, with the assurance that they are holy and acceptable to God. (Rom. 12:1) There are various facets of the Lord’s will in respect to the manner in which we present ourselves in sacrifice, and if we are not watchful the subtle suggestion will appeal to our minds to make a hobby of one or more of these and ignore the others.

The Lord, for example, has indicated clearly that it is pleasing to him for his people to study his Word, that they might become well acquainted with his will and be able to serve him acceptably. But this does not mean that serving the Lord consists entirely of Bible study. Indeed, Bible study itself is but a preparation for the Lord’s service, enabling the Lord’s people to know what he wants done, and when and how. So, symbolically speaking, if the Lord has asked us to bring one ram for a sacrifice, let us not suppose that he will be pleased if we bring a thousand rams and ignore everything else which he requires.

Oil is sometimes used in the Bible as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts produces the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, brotherly kindness, patience. This is, indeed, a beautiful facet of the Christian life. But being a Christian includes other things. There is work to be done—hard work, and loads to lift—heavy loads.

Simply being joyful in the Lord is beautiful, and one of the present inheritances of the new creation, but it is not supposed to supplant the work which the Lord wants us to do in his service. He does want us to have the Holy Spirit, and to pray for more of the Holy Spirit, but he would not be happy if we thought that bringing him ten thousand rivers of oil would fulfill his will toward us.

Doing Justly

The Lord says that one of his basic requirements of righteousness in connection with his people is to do justly. This is simply an expression of the principle of justice as exemplified in the Golden Rule. We might at first be inclined to think that we have already passed this test; that for a long time we have practiced justice in our dealings with one another. But are we sure of this?

The Golden Rule speaks of doing unto others as we would that they do unto us. Perhaps it would be well to ask ourselves each day whether or not we have adhered to this principle. Have we refrained from doing unto others what we would not have them do unto us? Perhaps a sincere effort to do this would make each day one in which we would not only be happier ourselves, but would be a great blessing to those with whom we come in contact. How vital indeed is this requirement to do justly!

Loving Mercy

The second requirement of righteousness mentioned in our text is to love mercy. Mercy itself is a noble and godlike quality, but the Hebrew word here translated mercy is in many other instances translated loving-kindness. This gives us the unique expression of loving loving-kindness. Are we so fully in harmony with God’s righteous quality of loving-kindness—unselfishness—that we can say that we are in love with it?

The things with which we are in love take first place in our hearts. We consider them of the greatest importance. Does the love of God take first place in our hearts? We are told that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. This means that one of the manifestations of love is unselfish giving, and in the case of our Heavenly Father it was the giving of the dearest treasure of his heart. Are we in love with that thought, and is this love influencing us to loving sacrifice that others might be blessed? How exacting indeed is the requirement “to love mercy,” or loving-kindness!

Walking Humbly with God

To walk humbly with our God means to be so fully dedicated to the doing of his will that we will not knowingly take a step in life’s journey that would be displeasing to him. As long as we are in the flesh we will need to contend with the selfish desires of the flesh, and these desires are almost always contrary to the will of God. If we allow these desires to override the will of God as we go our own way, then we are not walking humbly with him.

To walk humbly with our God means earnestness in our study of his Word to know his will; it means determination to do that will no matter what the cost may be; it means the willingness to give up time, and strength, and money in the service which he has committed to his people in this age; it means doing all these things in the spirit of humility and joy—not rebelling against anything which the Lord indicates in his Word to be his will. All this the Lord requires!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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