Justice First: What the Lord Requires of You

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do Justice, love Mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

This familiar verse is found in a portion of Micah in which God has placed His people on trial for their sin, and is in answer to what is, in effect, the same question posed to Jesus by the rich young man, “What must I do to be saved?” (Luke 18:18, Mark 10:17, Matthew 19:16). Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, prophesied in a society in which every male head of household was, in some sense, a judge, even if only over his own house. And each man was also subject to the next higher judge, a village chief, a city mayor, a provincial governor or, ultimately, the King. Even the King was considered to himself be subject to judgment by God.

So, Micah’s answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” was first to judge rightly in the causes brought before the man. In that, he must not show favoritism but judge according to the heart of the matter, Isaiah 11:3-4. Second, after judgment has been done, it falls to the judge, and the victim, to liberally grant mercy to the guilty person or the debtor, Matthew 18:21-35. Finally, each man who judges another must always remain humble knowing that he too is subject to judgment by God, Romans 14:10-12.

The order here is important. First justice must be pronounced so that it is clear what things are good, just and pleasing to God. But second, mercy should be offered to those who show repentance and a willingness to accept the judgment. And finally, at all times, we must remember that we ourselves will one day stand before the judgment of God.

The Jews of Judah would, as the prophets predicted, be judged by God and chastised for their sins of pride and of rejecting God. Yet God would show mercy to a remnant who would repent and return to God in humility. It was the same for the rich young man, and is the same for ourselves. He, and we, cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven through our own efforts. But if we repent, recognize our own failures, and trust in Him alone, God will show us mercy undeserved.

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