He has told you, O mortal, 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? For a long time, these words from Micah 6:8 have been a summary for me of what it means to be in relationship with God. The Bible is a big book. Understanding it requires time and study. People have been reading it for many years so there is a vast history of interpretation to take into consideration, as well as the beliefs and practices that it has inspired in various groups of believers through the centuries. While I have in no way exhausted the sources of information that would shed light on ways of relating to God, I have grown increasingly comfortable with Micah’s words as a summation of the teachings of scripture. Even though these same words often make me uncomfortable when I fail to act justly, love kindness, and my walk with the Lord is less than humble, they nonetheless point towards the life to which God invites us.
To read these words as prelude to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to be reminded that his life and ministry was nurtured and fed by the Hebrew prophets.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:10-11)
Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)
When he worshipped he would have found himself, with every other child of Abraham, singing from the Psalms. I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor. (Psalm 140:12)
Thus was his heart filled and his thought shaped when he went up the mountain that day and having sat down he began to speak, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . .”