He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy…
They have always been the same. Our Lord has reality added nothing to these words of Micah. What he has done has been to put these truths in a new setting, to read them with a wider and deeper application; to embody them in His own life, and thus to enforce them with greater authority; to give us a new motive for obedience, and greater power to obey. What, does the Cross say to us but "do justly," "love mercy," and "walk humbly"? The essentials of a religious life are practical rather than theoretical. It appears that the Jews of Micah's time were most anxious about the right form of worship. Yet, what does Micah declare to have been the common life of these people? He takes us into their houses, and shows them to be full of dishonest gains. He takes us into their shops, and shows us the scant measure, the short weights, the false balances. Into their law courts, and we find the judge selling his verdict for a bribe. Right through society there was the same hollow deception. "The inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouths." So the prophet has to tell them this, It is not a question of right worship for you, but of right conduct. Not how you should sacrifice, but how you should live. There are certain duties necessary because God has commanded them, and there are other duties which God commands because they are necessary. There are two ways in which men, nowadays, make too much of the non-essentials of religion. There is the ritualist, who exaggerates the importance of ceremonial. We become ritualists of a sort when we think the claims of God are met by coming to services and meetings regularly. The essence of religion is not in those agreeable emotions you feel in listening to a stirring sermon. It lies in honest dealing, in kind actions, in that humble, obedient spirit which springs from a realisation of the presence of God. Its sphere is principally not in the Church, but outside — in the world and in the home. The time and place in which to show that you are religious men and women is when you start upon your work in the morning, when you buy and when you sell, when you spend an hour in recreation, quite as much as when you pray or when you teach. Another way in which some make too much of the nonessentials of religion is on the side of doctrine. Men speak as ii they wanted all difficult questions settled out of hand before they will become the servants of God. There are difficulties in the Bible, but they belong to the intellect, and not to the practical life. We need not underestimate the importance of evangelical doctrine, but unless the doctrines of grace bear practical results, it is doubtful whether we are truly acquainted with them. These are the essential things —
1. "Do justly."
(1) There is a justice of which the civil law is the guardian.
(2) A justice of which custom is the guardian.
(3) The only justice which will satisfy God is that of which conscience is the guardian.This will teach the thief to make restitution; this will not truckle to underhand tricks; this will respect the claims of others even when it is most seeking to advance its own.
2. "Love mercy." Many fail here. They are as upright as a marble column, and as cold and hard. The instincts of our better nature should teach us to be merciful. God urges us to show mercy one to another on the ground that we are all debtors alike to Him.
3. "Walk humbly with thy God." Many so called moral men, and kind men, are nevertheless godless men. What is it to lead a godless life? It is to spend the life apart from God. This is the essence of all religious life, making God a reality, and acting as in His presence.
Parallel VersesKJV: He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?