“Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
— Micah 6:8 (CSB – Read the chapter)
So, yesterday we talked about the sarcastic response the people had to God’s case against them. God’s case was that they had left Him without cause. Their response was to sarcastically ask what He wanted from them? Bowed knees? A sacrifice? A thousand sacrifices? Their own children sacrificed? What would make Him happy? From there we talked about the fact that we sometimes feel similarly in our own lives. What does God want from us? What is it we can do that will make Him happy? Today, we get an answer.
This is perhaps the most well-known verse in the whole of Micah’s prophecy. I’ve blogged on it before. I haven’t reread that as I’m writing so hopefully I don’t say the exact same things this time. If I do, I guess that means I was right before. Or at least I haven’t changed my mind.
What makes this one single verse so helpful is that God lays out in three specific details exactly what He expects from us. What’s more, we can take this as authoritative because even though Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament such that none of it applies to us directly, but only through the lens of Christ, all three of these commands are explicitly reaffirmed in the New Testament.
The specificity of a command like this one means that any time we or someone we know is struggling with what God wants from us, we can point right here as the answer. And, honestly, it doesn’t matter what the context of the question is. This verse provides the answer.
So then, what is it that God wants from us? Let’s talk through this. He starts by saying that He has told us—all of us—what is good and what He wants from us. Notice He is saying this in the past tense. As much as the people were sarcastic in their response to God, there’s a bit of sarcasm and exasperation in God’s own answer to them. What does He want from them? He’s already told them.? Implication: if they had been paying attention before they would have already known the answer to their question. As my nine-year-old might say, “Oooh! Burn!”
And what is it they seemed to have missed? Three things. That’s all. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? All God wants from you are three things. There are three things you can do and you will make Him happy. Piece of cake. So, what are they?
The first is to do justice. That’s how the NIV puts it. The translation I normally use, as you can see above, phrases it, “act justly.” If we are going to make God happy, we need to pursue a life of justice.
Okay, but what does that look like? Most essentially, it looks like pursuing the character of God in everything we do. God is by nature just. That means everything He does is right, not simply because He does it, but because it is in His nature to always do what is right. If we are going to do justice, we need to make it our aim to always do what is right in every situation.
Doing justice, though, is bigger than that. Doing what is right in every situation we find ourselves in is important, but not sufficient by itself. There are those who need an advocate for justice, but whose path we may never cross if we stick with our own daily rhythm. If we are going to be committed to making God happy, we need to look for opportunities to help them achieve that justice. This is something we should commit to prayer and be ready to jump at God’s invitation when it comes. This will always make God happy.
The second thing we need to do is to love faithfulness. Various translations put this one as loving kindness or loving mercy. The actual word in Hebrew is chesed. This is a word that conveys the covenantal faithfulness of God. Included in that is His love and mercy and kindness and gentleness and so on and so forth which are all reflective of His covenant with His people Israel when Micah was writing and now we who name the name of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we are going to make God happy, it will be when we reflect His love in our interactions with the world around us.
What does this look like? Well, Paul’s beautiful and poetic description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is a pretty good place to start. We practice loving one another as Jesus loved us. This is most definitely what God wants from us.
So then, the first two things God wants are essentially that we reflect His two most fundamental characteristics of love and justice. This will result in a growth of holiness in our lives which is the third fundamental characteristic that makes God, God. If we are not careful, though, the sin in us will take a new tack. Rather than calling us into sensuality of some kind, it will instead play into our growing Christlike character and tell us how good of a job we are doing. Shouldn’t we be rightly proud of ourselves? In fact, if we’re honest, God hasn’t done all that much to make us like this. We’re really doing all the work on our own. See how easily things can sail off the rails?
This is why the third thing God wants from us is so important. He wants us to simply walk humbly with Him. He wants us to stick in a relationship with Him rooted in a deep understanding of who He is, who we are, and an easy comfort with both of those things. He made us for this relationship and it both flows from, but also leads to the growth of justice and love in our lives. And because God made us to have this relationship with Him, living in it will always make Him happy.
Now, are there more details that go into a life of pleasing God? Certainly. Life is an endless series of details and we move smoothly (and sometimes not so smoothly) from one to the next, wondering all the while if we are getting them all right. But if we we’ll get just these three things right, just about everything else will fall pretty naturally into place.
The bottom line here: You can make God happy. You can. No matter what kind of baggage you have in your background, no matter where your life’s journey has taken you, you can make God happy. It just takes three things. Might as well get started. There’s only life ahead of you as you go.