“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?” (Micah 6:8 ESV)
I learned this verse in the KJV, so it’s hard to not say, do justly, love mercy. Old, hard habit to break. “Do justice.” What is justice? Justice is an attribute of God rooted in his holiness and absolute glory.
- “To do justly” is to act with equity, fairness and deference to those who are in a weaker social position – the opposite of the violence, oppression, fraud, lying, and injustice described in Micah 6:10-12. Thus “justice” is a comprehensive term for a way of life that finds its expression in the covenant of God.” (Kaiser)
- “In the Bible, justice means fulfilling mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law. Biblical justice creates the perfect human society.” (ESV Study Bible)
- “[Justice] insists on the rights of others.” (Allen)
You may remember that the justice of God in Romans undergirds our own justification. God’s absolute commitment to his own glorious holiness meant he must count our sins against us. Yet on the cross, Jesus completely paid the moral price our sins required. God’s justice against sin was unleashed against Jesus instead of us. With God’s justice satisfied by Christ, God is free to declare us innocent upholding his own status as God the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). God’s justice terrifies us in Romans 1 and assures us in Romans 3-11.
Have we heard a little about justice over this past year? Everyone is now interested in justice, demanding a just society, social justice is everywhere. This is of course, ironic as when our society does this, they are back on our turf. No more moral relativism, at least not with social justice. Moral outrage requires a moral standard. A transcendent “ought.” A universal moral responsibility.
Can you deny there is a moral God and also hold up justice as a moral requirement? You can but not logically. Our secular society conveniently borrows Christian truths while denying the God of Christianity. Like the man standing on the branch while cutting that branch from the tree—he has nothing holding him up.
Friends, Justice is Bible language. It is a Christian word. Biblically understood, it is glorious and good. Don’t let the world turn it into a bad word for you. Here in Micah, justice is a horizontal, personal deep concern for the needs and rights of others. This has been the hallmark of Christianity from the beginning. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
I think of that scene from Ironman where Miss Potts gives Tony Stark a gift of his original fusion reactor with this engraving, “Proof that Tony Stark has a heart.” When we do horizontal justice and care deeply for the rights and needs of all people, especially the vulnerable and weak, it is proof that Christianity has a heart.
It’s natural for people to stand up for their own rights. It is supernatural when we stand up for other people’s rights, especially those who have nothing to offer us. That is what God did when he cared for us. He needs nothing. We have nothing to offer him. We are the Jew beaten up along the path. Yet, the gospel is proof that God has a heart. He is our faithful neighbor. The Good Samaritan who cares for us in our distress.
I was talking with some friends about this passage recently. One friend got passionate and said, Micah 6:8 says, do justice. Do it! Don’t just talk about it. I’m so sick of all the posturing and virtue signaling! Why is he frustrated? Has there ever been a year of more people blustering about how important justice is and so little being actually done about it?
I’m always amazed when the tax returns are made public of certain politicians who scream about justice and their return shows that in spite of the millions of dollars they magically earn, their charitable giving is like 1% or less. Apparently it’s much easier to care about justice with other people’s money.
Doing justice means much more than complaining about it on social media or marching about it or philosophizing on it. It means actually making a difference in other people’s lives. We need more of that, amen? More doing, less posturing. What would DO justice look like in this coming year for you? Doing justice is what pleases the Lord.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Walter C. Kaiser, The Communicator’s Commentary (Word Books, 1992), 74.
 ESV Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1315.
 Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), 373.
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