In a passage considered to be one of the most comprehensive statements in the Old Testament, Micah raises the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” (Micah 6:6-8). He supplies the answer and makes important points of application, not only for the sake of Israel in his day, but for the benefit of the Lord’s church in ours. As with all of the Old Testament, it was written for our learning (Rom. 15:4).
Israel’s attitude was, “God’s demands are unknowable! What more do you want from me, God?” For this reason, they give some possibilities and even irrationalities: “Year-old calves as burnt offerings? Thousands of rams? Ten thousand rivers of oil? Offering of the firstborn child?” God did require some of these things, like the offering calves and rams (Lev. 1:1-13), but the absurd amount of oil and offering of the firstborn are examples of hyperbole. From the context, it appears ritualistic sacrifices alone did not please God.
What did God require of Israel? First, to do justly, which means “to act toward God and man according to the divine standard of righteousness revealed in His law” (Hailey). Secondly, to love mercy, which means “to show a compassionate warm-heartedness toward man” (Hailey). Finally, to walk humbly with God, which involves living “in humble and submissive obedience to His desire and will” (Hailey).
Today, we might think that all the Lord requires is the observance of certain acts, like attending worship on Sunday. Certainly, it is very important (Heb. 10:24-25), but the Lord requires more than just “attending worship.” God requires us to do justly by doing the will of the Father in heaven (Matt. 7:21), speak the truth to our neighbor, be angry and not sin, and to allow no corrupt word to proceed out our mouth (Eph. 4:25-29). Additionally, God requires us to love mercy by showing a compassionate warm-heartedness toward widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27) and even toward our enemies (Luke 6:35-36). Finally, God requires us to walk humbly with Him by listening to His word (Jas. 1:21; 1 Pet. 2:2), talking to Him (Phil. 4:6-7), and submitting humbly to His will (Eph. 5:2, 8, 15). This is the only way to enjoy His fellowship and continual cleansing by the blood of Jesus (Jas. 4:8; 1 John 1:7-9).