He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 NASB
Require – “OK, God, OK! What do you want from me?” When we finally understand that life isn’t ours to do with as we please, when we realize that we don’t control our own destinies, the door opens to answer this question: “What do you want, Lord?” The amazing truth is that God gave us the answer thousands of years ago, but apparently we have been ignoring His words ever since. It’s time to let Albert King meet Abraham Heschel.
Do you know the blues of Albert King? If you do, then you’ll know this one: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s a great tune about moral inconsistency. The lyrics describe wishing for good things but being unwilling to pay the price to have them. Albert King’s song could have introduced Abraham Heschel’s great question: “What does God demand of me?” And Micah has the answer for Heschel and the color commentary on King.
Micah informs us that God – and no one else – determines what is good. We can stop playing games with justifying the good acts and purposes we think fit some standard. Any behavior out of alignment with God’s view of good is sinful behavior, period! There is no guesswork here. God makes His path plain. Albert King could add the verse, “Everybody wants to serve Him, but nobody wants to obey His law.” Heschel reminds us that until we come to grips with Micah, our lives are heading in the wrong direction.
Having established the right standard, Micah asks the obvious question. What does YHWH require? Actually, the verb is darash (to seek, to examine, to inquire, to require). You’ll recognize this verb in PaRDeS, the acronym for the rabbinic method of studying Scripture. Darash is the verb of careful examination, searching, looking deeply into the text. It is the verb for seeking God through the study of Torah (cf. Ezra 7:10). “What does YHWH require of you?” might be read “What does YHWH seek in you?” or “What does YHWH find in examining you?” What do you pursue with unrelenting commitment? What do you consistently do that brings you into God’s presence? What are you doing that restores His order? Darash is the verb of continued, deliberate searching. Darash is lifetime liturgy.
What three behaviors are demanded? Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. Mishpat, hesed and tsana yalak. These are very big words. Each one requires considerable searching (darash). If you don’t know what they mean, you can’t respond to Micah’s question. So, you better investigate. Here’s a start.
Now the color commentary. Did you notice that there is no promise of reward? These are behaviors God requires of you because He is God. You do these things because He gave you life and He expects you to do them, not so that you will make it to heaven or get some crown or move into a mansion. In fact, serving God with the expectation of reward is already on the wrong path. There is nothing about mishpat, hesed or yalak that is motivated by what I want. Heaven isn’t part of this deal.
Is there no reward at all for a life dedicated to PaRDeS? Of course there is reward, but it is the reward of the joy of serving Him, the joy of being His blessing to others, the joy of fulfilling our duty to the One who is worthy of worship. The reward is the action itself. Mishpat, hesed and tsana yalak are the reward! We are the servants who say, “But I only did what was my duty” even after the Master tells us that we have been faithful.
And now you know that “Everybody wants to go to heaven” is a symptom of spiritual decay. If heaven is my objective, then God becomes my conductor, not my creator.
Topical Index: require, darash, mishpat, hesed, tsana yalak, heaven, Micah 6:8