We hope you’ve had a very merry Christmas celebration this week! Just like that, we’re on the cusp of a new year. With that, of course, comes everyone’s storied tradition: setting New Year’s resolutions—even if most of us don’t make it past January with our goals still intact.
Do you set resolutions for your spiritual life? Maybe you’ve committed to reading through the Bible in a year or reserving more time to spend alone with the Lord. Perhaps you’re looking for more ways to grow in your relationship with God and have targeted the new year as a great time to start. When it comes to our actions, God makes His requirements pretty clear. They’re worthy New Year’s resolutions, and they can essentially be boiled down to three simple points.
Relevant Then, Relevant Now
Ok, I’m cheating a little bit. The three points come from the same verse, and the words were spoken to Israel and Judah hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. But more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth, these commands are our responsibility as believers as well. They help us live in accordance with God’s character. As written in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lᴏʀᴅ require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
First, let’s analyze the context of the verse. Micah prophesied in the same time period as Isaiah and Hosea before Israel and Judah were taken captive. Micah’s book focused on warning God’s people of their coming judgment for their rebellion against Him. Indeed, the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires fulfilled these prophetic warnings not much later, taking the Israelites captive and destroying the city of Jerusalem. But prior to this, God warned His people through Micah’s prophecies. Here’s where His commands for us overlap with His commands for Israel.
As we begin the new year, here are three actions you can keep in mind as you strive to live according to God’s Word.
♦ Do Justly
Israel couldn’t say they didn’t see this coming. In the days of Micah, their leaders were dishonest, taking bribes and stealing from the poor for their own profit. It should have come as no surprise that judgment was coming. This is why Micah made justice a point of emphasis. His contemporary, Isaiah, echoed his message in Isaiah 1:17, saying, “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Evidently, justice is very important to God!
The same is expected of us today. In Luke 4:18, Jesus quoted Isaiah to fulfill Scripture and restate the importance of this Old Testament command, saying, “The Spirit of the Lᴏʀᴅ God is upon Me, because the Lᴏʀᴅ has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives …and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Justice should be seen in all of our actions toward others—family, friends, coworkers, authorities, strangers, and enemies alike. By demonstrating justice, true biblical justice, we can destroy selfishness, as we value God’s desires over our own. We must practice justice in the example of Christ.
♦ Love Mercy
Mercy should be at the core of all we do. Micah stressed this lesson to the Israelites, and Isaiah agreed by promoting the Lord’s mercy, saying in Isaiah 55:7, “Let him turn to the Lᴏʀᴅ, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Our responsibility is the same. Mercy was central to Jesus’ earthly ministry. Accounts of Jesus’ compassion to outcasts and the lowly fill the Gospels. We may not be able to miraculously heal physical needs as He did with a leper (Mt. 8:1–4), a woman with a blood disorder (Lk. 8:43–48), and a blind man (Jn. 9:1–12). But we can follow His example of compassion to social rejects like the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4:1–26); tax collectors (Mk. 2:15–17); children (Mk. 10:13–16); and, in a broad sense, our enemies (Lk. 6:27–36).
Jesus acted and spoke to show that mercy is not our duty only when convenient; it should be at our core in all circumstances.
Jesus acted and spoke to show that mercy is not our duty only when convenient; it should be at our core in all circumstances. We are to follow His example, which is restated in the Epistles. To encapsulate this desire for kindness, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” When we replace self-centered desires with mercy, we begin acting more like Jesus. Resolve to love mercy as Christ loved mercy.
♦ Walk Humbly With God
How hard is it to practice humility? In a sense, it might be the hardest virtue of all. We are humans with sin nature: Humility is the exact opposite of our inclinations. We seek our own desires before even thinking about meeting others’ needs. But self-serving does not reflect Christ’s image. Isaiah 2:11 warned Israel of what was to come: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,… and the Lᴏʀᴅ alone shall be exalted in that day.” Again the prophets corroborated each other’s messages, this time urging the Israelites to exalt the Lord while chasing humility.
In Philippians 2:7-8, Paul wrote that though He was equal with God the Father, Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Like these men, Micah instructed the Israelites to walk humbly with God. Humility should govern our every action as well. We should deflect praise, love others without expecting anything in return, and come before God with Him on the throne of our hearts, not ourselves. Through Jesus, we are given the perfect example to encourage us to practice humility.
God’s commands to Israel through Micah are so relevant to all who fear Him today. They affect how we live on a daily basis, dictating how we view ourselves, treat others, and live for the Lord. Let’s prioritize these commands as we do with New Year’s resolutions to act on God’s Word as He intended!