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? (Mic. 6:8)
We have an “it” problem.
Micah brings one of the worst kept secrets about human nature to the forefront in this verse. It is an inconvenient truth, to say the least, as we reckon with the less-than-satisfying fact that education is not enough.
Our problem is not a lack of information. “It” will not be solved via transmission of data. Some of us heard it repeated on TV every Saturday morning as kids: knowledge is power!
We can tell that to ourselves and to our children 1,001 times, but repetition does not make a statement true. Knowledge is not power. At least not power to change. We want it to be true, and it seems as though it should work. But we have a problem with “it.”
I am speaking about that part of us that knows what we ought to do—we just don’t do it. For whatever reason, we just don’t. Of course we do it on occasion: when the time is right, when the weather is nice, when we are trying to make up for doing something bad. But we do not do it simply for the sake of it.
I am also speaking of what we know we ought to be, or want to be. Also about the way things should be, or once were, or might be. But at any given point in time, as we stop to think about it, it is just not working out. Why does it keep getting fouled up?
What is it? What is it? It can be a lot of things. It can be everything. Mostly it comes down to the summary of the Law that we say most weeks in church: love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
As Micah says so well: we have been told by the living God what is good and what the Lord requires: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. There it is, plain as day, not hard to understand, easily comprehended. As someone once said: it is not hard, just impossible!
When we say these words in our service, or when I hear these words from Micah, increasingly I find myself with a mix of emotions, realizing the distance between the ought and the actual. Love with all my heart, soul, and mind? Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly? I may try to hide behind good intentions, positive thoughts, occasional good works, but who do I think I’m kidding?
It is the law, and the problem is not that I do not know it. I know it all too well, and so do you. It is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15). You and I both came into this world as little law-yers.
So what do we do about it? Let’s continue to pay attention to the pronouns. We do not do anything about it, for neither you nor I can do anything about it.
But . . . (always such a great word). “But you, O Bethlehem . . . you who are too little . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days . . . And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God . . . And he shall be their peace” (Mic. 5:1-5).
The problem is that it is good and right, and before it we have no excuse, no hall pass. The truth is that it is good for us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. The problem is we cannot do it. So we look to another, to the One from ancient days who shall be our peace, who shall be the One who ends our problem by becoming “the end of the Law” (Rom. 10:4).
It really is about pronouns. Though it is good, right, and holy, we cannot do it, and it brings forth proper judgment and wrath. But it is overcome by him, apart from it and utterly outside of us, who fulfills its requirements for us, as “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
It really is not about pronouns. It is about him, and him alone. It is the good news that God reconciled us to himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ and his cross. It has everything to do with him, and he is immeasurably more than a pronoun. Thanks be to God!