With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:6-8 English Standard Version
“What does the LORD Require?” is the heading over this passage in the ESV Study Bible. The danger of even that question is that it is incomplete. What does the LORD require for what purpose? If we take this as the ground or basis for our acceptance before God, we miss the obvious problem of our unresolved sin. A determination to live for God from this day forward, do justice…love kindness, and …walk humbly… fails to consider two major problems; our unresolved guilt and sin from the past and our ongoing propensity to sin in spite of what we consider the best of intentions.
Our sin, inherited and imputed to us from Adam, cannot be resolved by continuous sacrifices or by efforts to do our best. However, when we are transformed in our inner being by God’s grace, the expected result is growth into the kind of life described in Micah 6:8. God’s requirement for believers is do justice…love kindness, and …walk humbly… But that is the result, not the basis for a relationship with God.
Micah closes his book with the basis for forgiveness of our sin and a relationship with God, continuing the meta-narrative (the Bible’s over arching story line) of God’s rescue of sinners based on God’s steadfast love (verse 18) which is God’s grace revealed throughout the Bible as the basis for our hope; and fulfilled in Jesus’ substitutionary death in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve.
Read Micah’s closing words with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in mind, for that is what is in focus.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
Micah 7:18-20 English Standard Version