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Micah 6.8

Walter Gustafson, Hatboro PA, USA

“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?” (Mic 6.8)


In this verse there are three things that God requires of us. Let us notice first of all the significance of the order. If ‘loving mercy’ was put first as the most important thing, then ‘doing justly’ could very easily slip. The order is also significant in at least three other verses. In I Timothy 6.11 “righteousness, godliness, faith” are put before “love, patience, meekness”. We should point out that in most English dictionaries the word “meekness” has some element of weakness linked with it, but the Greek word translated “meekness” does not convey that thought. It is strength under control; strength linked with tenderness. In 2 Timothy 2.22 “righteousness, faith” are significantly put before “charity [love], peace”.

About the wisdom that is from above, it is “first pure, then peaceable” (Jas 3.17). If “peaceable” were first, then that would encourage compromise. However, if we are acting with wisdom from God we will be as peaceable as possible, consistent with the purity of the truth of God. That is also the same order that the Lord Jesus gives in the Beatitudes. The only peacemaking that is truly blessed (Mt 5.9) will be consistent with the previous Beatitude; “Blessed are the pure in heart”.

“To Do Justly” Individually

In Proverbs 12.22 we read “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.” God takes delight in every saint when they conduct their affairs honestly. We should never be mean in any business transaction. We should never imbibe the thinking of the unsaved. I like Phillips’ translation of the exhortation “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12.2). He renders it “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” You have probably noticed that many unsaved persons around you think that it is terrible to steal from your neighbour or from your buddy, but that it is perfectly okay to steal from the government, the telephone company, or the insurance company. But God’s Word says “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 Jn 5.17). If you double-check the clerks at the grocery checkout, you should be just as willing to tell them that they have not charged you enough as you are to tell them that they have charged you too much! I would not say that we should never dicker*, but it also should be done righteously.

“To Do Justly” Collectively

May the Lord help us to be like Josiah, who excelled in living by the Word of God: “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kgs 23.25). Paul wrote to Timothy “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim 5.21). This verse indicates that not only do God and the Lord Jesus Christ know, but even the elect angels know if anything is done in the assembly by partiality.

An assembly can be wrongly accused of partiality because every older brother is not recognised as an overseer. But it would be partiality if two brethren were equally qualified for overseership and one was recognised while the other was not. Similarly, every brother in fellowship should not have an equal turn at preaching the Gospel. But it would be partiality if two brethren were equally gifted, and had an equally good testimony, but one was asked much more often than the other.

“To Love Mercy”

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh” (Prov 11.17). A kind soul can get ulcers, but we are far less likely to get ulcers if we love mercy! We are thus doing ourselves a favour when we “love mercy”. There are a number of verses that show the desirability of a blend of mercy and truth: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (3.3-4); “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (16.6-7). Part of the ways that please the Lord are in verse 3 - a blend of “mercy and truth”. “Mercy and truth preserve the king” (20.28). The more that overseers in an assembly have a blend of mercy and truth, the more they will carry the confidence of the saints. “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies” (Ps 25.9-10). Even “the old paths” of Jeremiah 6.16 are a blend of mercy and truth.

“To Walk Humbly With Thy God”

Isaiah 57.15 is a real encouragement to walk humbly with our God:

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 

The apostle Paul was walking humbly with God when he wrote “I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15.10). Paul attributed his super-abundant labours solely to the grace of God. If we walk humbly with our God, we will be a greater influence for Him. Being different (and God does want us to be different from the world around us, as I John 2.15-16 teaches) might bring some persecution, but the greatest resentment comes if the world sees us being proud about our difference.

A dear brother called James Stevenson (a man whom I knew well, and one of the seven overseers who signed my letter of commendation much later) was conscientiously opposed to combatant service during World War 1, but he felt that he could serve in a non-combatant role. He was part of a group of about 30 like-minded men who the US army sent from one part of the USA to another without giving them a uniform. It seemed like the army was trying to tell them that they had no place for them in the service. It worked with most of them. After a month there were only six left, and James Stevenson was one of them.

Those six were brought without a uniform to a parade field. A Colonel marched a whole battalion in full dress uniform, stopped them in front of the six men, and said “These men are afraid to fight. They have a big yellow stripe up their backs. They can show that they are not cowards by joining the ranks and they will get a uniform afterwards.” He could see one after another joining the ranks and, after about 20 minutes, he triumphantly said “And now, I don’t suppose there is one of them left!” He turned around and there was one left - James Stevenson. The colonel asked “How come you are still here?” Stevenson replied “If it weren’t for the grace of God I would have been with you a long time ago. I was a sinner on the way to Hell when God saved me by trusting the work of Christ on the cross for my soul. Since He saved me from Hell by His grace, I don’t feel free to pull a trigger and send another man down to Hell.” The Colonel said “All right son, tomorrow morning we are opening up a medical dispensary and you can be in charge of that.”

I think most of us, no matter what view we may have of conscientious objection, can see that James Stevenson’s testimony had all the greater weight because he attributed the difference between him and all those other men solely to the grace of God. He was surely walking humbly with his God!

* Dicker – to engage in petty argument or bargaining.



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