The title of this article is from a question that was asked by the 8th century B.C. prophet in the Old Testament time Micah. The prophet gives the following as the answer to that question concerning the way one is expected of by God from his believer: Justice, love and humility. The concerned Scripture says, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall offer firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He showed you O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:6-8). Justice, steadfast love and humility make the kernel of the Mosaic Law for the ancient Israelites. God wanted from his people to turn away from their iniquity, vain worship and external righteousness.
The book of Prophet Micah in the Holy Bible focused on the basic three elements of the prophetic literature i.e. denouncement of apostasy and injustice; it represented threat of God’s judgment, and promise of messianic blessings. Micah denounced all kinds of injustice in the society, injustice especially in high places: among princes (rulers/kings), false prophets and priests. No place in the society was immune from the corruptive influences. All people fell prey to society disorder and decay. Prophet Micah prophesied against all these in the nation just like the other 8th century B.C. prophets, like Isaiah, Amos, Hosea did.People almost forgot God’s Covenant, and were ungrateful to him about his sustained loving kindness and interference in their history. They turned away from the God of their forefathers and turned to all forms of futile worship including Canaanite fertility cults.
The prophets summoned the wayward people to true repentance and turning to God with humility, in justice and righteousness. The people broke the Covenants that he had made with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on. He miraculously redeemed them from the slavery of Egypt and their Pharaohs. He led them to the Promised Land and provided for every kind of their needs: material, social, political, governmental, spiritual, cultural and so on. But they became ungrateful to him. The religious activities that they did were but lip-service only bereft of spiritual import.
God is unchanging and immutable his promise will surely come true in the eventual exaltation and glory of the faithful ones. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the faithful remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our inequities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago” (7: 18-20).
Jesus heavily criticised the self-righteous religious leaders of his time. They taught religion the other people. But they themselves did not obey what they taught others to obey! Chapter 23 of the Gospel according St. Matthew has so much to reveal this character of the hypocritical leaders of that time. Only one verse of that chapter will make the point clear. Matthew 23:23 puts this in this way: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but camel.”
God is merciful and forgiving God. He is just and righteous. But, he needs a new heart in us. He requires us to live lives of kindness to others, to be just and also to turn away from injustice and unrighteousness. God hates injustice and empty ritualism. He is the God of all people. So, he must be just. His justice and righteousness are the either sides of the same coin. God is love, but he is also stern. We need to get reconciled with him, conform to his character of loving kindness, just behavior and humility in our dealings with other people, and thereby with him. Today, we see injustice and corruption almost in every places and situation. We need to examine how we deal with other people. We need to ask the question: how much of our religious activities are external piety, and how much of them do we practice in our practical life. They are full of festivities, but lack in truthfulness and cannot effect real change of our hearts to God and make us sincerely mindful about the good relationship between us and other people, between our all-loving God and ourselves. How can we expect that our faiths and so-called spiritual activities will benefit us?
The writer is a Christian theology teacher and church leader