Lenten reflection on a life verse

For Sunday, February 21, 2016
2nd Sunday in Lent

“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

This is my life verse.  On my tombstone may it read, “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”  As we’re on this Lenten journey I decided to reflect further on what’s really here.  I’m in both the Hebrew and Greek 10 minutes a day clubs on alternating weeks.  (To join, just commit to spending 10 minutes a day in the given language).  I have a calendar entry on the top of each Monday to remind myself.  During my recent Hebrew weeks I’ve been exploring Micah 6:1-8 in depth.  There is so much here.  For today I’ll confine myself to the three key terms in verse 8: justice, kindness, and walking humbly.

The Hebrew word translated “justice” is ‘mishpat‘.  I like to remember key Hebrew words because when I run across them multiple times they become friends with a depth and range of meaning that can’t be conveyed directly from one language to the next.  ‘Mishpat‘ carries with it the idea of true religion manifesting itself in social concern (Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC)).  As Christians we need to be known what we’re for more than what we’re against.  One of the things we’re for is justice.  This means a culture in which every person is valued for the image of God in them and in which every person is encouraged to thrive.  I recently visited a Milwaukee ministry called “Word of Hope“.  Pastor Cliff said, “Our job is to take away every excuse a person has to fail.  If they need a job, we’ll help them find one.  If they don’t have a ride to get there, we’ll arrange one.  If they have some underlying issues that prevent them from keeping that job, we’ll work through that with them.”  This is the justice of the gospel in action.  “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

The Hebrew word translated “kindness” is ‘hesed‘.  I first became friends with this word in seminary when studying the book of Ruth with Dennis Magary.   If you ever have a chance to study with Dennis take it!  The kindness that Ruth extended to Naomi, that Boaz extended to Ruth (and vice versa), and that God extends to us through Ruth’s grandson King David and then on through Jesus is this very word ‘hesed.  It’s God’s unfailing love.  God is saying, “I’ve got your back.”  It’s my Russian missionary colleagues putting $200 in our bag to enable my wife Heather and me to purchase a snowsuit for my son Karcher that we otherwise couldn’t afford while in Siberia.  ‘Hesed’ can cause tears of gratitude to well up in your eyes.  ‘Hesed’ is also reciprocal.  When you’ve experienced it you can’t help but extend it to others because every time you do you experience it again.  To fail to show ‘hesed’ was to break the covenant and to break the covenant was to reveal that you were never part of it in the first place (EBC notes).

The phrase “to walk humbly” is based on two Hebrew words.  The first, ‘tzana’, means “to be humbled” as an extension of acting in a cautious manner (Kohlenberger / Mounce).  A derivative appears in Proverbs 11:2:  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (EBC).  So many of us live in pride: so few of us live with wisdom.  Humility is the difference.  The second Hebrew word used here meaning “to walk” is ‘halak’.  God wants us to ‘halak’ with him because he is already and always ‘halak’ing’ with us.  It is as Eph. 5:15 says: “Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, because the days are evil.” So putting it all together, “to walk humbly” is to live intentionally in view of God’s glory and presence in our lives.

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.  This is a high calling both glorious and fulfilling.  Where is the path on which we will flourish?  Right here.

Your turn

  • Do you have a favorite or life verse and what brought you to it?
  • What would you like written on your tombstone?
  • How can Lent helping you reconnect with your own life verse and calling?
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