Micah 6:8 says: “He has told you, O man [person], 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?”. We all know it. But I wonder if many of us know much about the rest of Micah and how this verse sits in its context?

In the preceding verses of chapter 6, God has spoken and expressed his displeasure-“the Lord has an indictment against his people” (v. 2)-even though he saved them out of Egypt (v. 4). As a result, Micah asks: What can we do? God has found us guilty. What extravagant sacrifices can we bring to set things right? Burnt offerings of one-year-old calves (v. 6)? Thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil (v. 7)? Our firstborn children (v.7).

No, he says. God has already told us what is good and what he requires: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God (v. 8).

Justice was in fact sorely missing among God’s people in Micah’s day. A big theme of the earlier chapters is the corruption of the leadership and the way they have unjustly used their positions to steal from and oppress others. It’s no surprise ‘doing justice’ is on God’s list.

But he wants more than simply doing what is just-giving others what they deserve. He wants his people to “love kindness”-to love hesed.

Hesed is a Hebrew word worth knowing in the Old Testament. It is rich in meaning and usage. It means to do good to someone who is in need, not necessarily based on whether they deserve that good, but instead on a strong personal commitment to that person. It’s no surprise, therefore, that hesed is often used of God and the good he does for his people based on his covenant commitment to them.

Psalm 136 is an excellent example. Read it and you’ll quickly see that in every verse the psalmist lists a characteristic or deed of God, followed by a refrain:

“for his steadfast love [hesed] endures forever”.

God is the one who loves hesed. It is his very nature to abound in it. So, when God’s people are told to “love kindness [hesed]” they are in fact being told to reflect the very character of the God to whom they owe everything. (TBC next week)