Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 31st, 2017 by Joel Watts

the magnanimity of Micah 6.(6-)8

Micah 6.1-8 is in this week’s lectionary (RCL). We often focus on the verse at the end of the passage:

The LORD has told you mortals what is good,
and what it is that the LORD requires of you:
only to act justly, to love loyalty,
to walk humbly with your God.

But, there is so much more. The dialogue is strained. God and Israel are at odds, separated by sin but united by covenant.1 We can see, however, the inherent passion in the words — and the emptiness of the relationship.

Israel is willing to give up its first born to pay for its transgressions. Surely, we can see in this a symbolic presentation for Christ. It harkens back to the Abraham/Isaac story as much as we are assured it pushes us to Jesus. What can we do in such a time of distress — when our God is silent to our pleas — to bring God to our aid? What can we do to earn God’s forgiveness?


There is more to this passage. The “Man” here is almost universalistic in its application. This is not merely to Israel, but to all of Adam’s race. Christians would contend that this looks forward to the new covenant. It is this context – covenant — that the requirements of the humans are to be understood. It is not merely “justice” as if some post-modern pseudo-Wesleyan wrote this book. Nor is it mere “kindness.” Rather,

“Justice” and “kindness” are broad terms for what is expected of those to whom one is joined by a social bond such as a covenant; even “love” fits in the covenant vocabulary.2

Love, Justice, Kindness — these things are those things God requires of us for Himself. In being just and kind towards God, we will inevitably be that to our neighbor.

In the Christian message, the universality of God’s demands and love are explored. It is not merely to Israel God speaks, but to all people. There is nothing we can do in of ourselves to be saved, or rather, to be restored to the covenant. We cannot offer a sacrifice worthy enough of that.

But God can.

And in doing so, our sole duty is to fulfill the covenant — staying in communion with God (which that “walk humbly” but entails).

There is so much to this passage — and it is often marred by the blithely reliance upon verse eight.

  1. Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Micah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 24E; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 506–507.
  2. Delbert R. Hillers, Micah: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Micah (ed. Paul D. Hanson and Loren R. Fisher; Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 79.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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