FOR TODAY Read Micah 6:6-8 With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Martin Luther once wrote that the Gospel in a nutshell is captured in John 3:16. One might make a similar claim about Micah 6:8 for it names the essential elements of the covenantal relationship between God and God’s people. The relationship which God expects is not one that is made on an altar, but what is made with one’s life with other people. By the time Micah began to prophesy, the Israelites had settled in the promised land. With settlement came the development and dependency on systems and structures, both secular and sacred. With all that was achieved, something seemed to get lost. The people, especially the leaders of the people, forgot what mattered most to God. And like many prophets, Micah calls the people back to what mattered most: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Chessed is the Hebrew word often translated as mercy or kindness. It is most closely translated "steadfast love." In other words, Micah’s call for mercy is not just for random acts of kindness. Mercy is born out of an acknowledgment that one’s life is steadfastly bound to those with whom you live. Community is essential to being in relationship with God. When I choose mercy, I am choosing relationship. It is not my only choice. I can choose revenge, retribution, retaliation, or abandonment. When I choose mercy, I am choosing to trust that the value of being together outweighs my own need to be right. The first step to showing mercy is to know and love the mercy first extended to us by God. In Exodus 33:18, Moses pleads with God, “Now show me your glory.” In response, God reveals that God will be known by showing chessed. “I am gracious to whom I am gracious and show mercy to whom I show mercy” (Exodus 33:19). God has bound God’s self to humanity. We see that most plainly at the cross. It has been said, “Whatever it was that nailed Jesus to the cross, it was the power of love that kept him on it.” Mercy is God’s choice to be steadfastly bound to us, and in turn, it is our commitment to be steadfastly bound to each other.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION When have you experienced justice that was merciful? Not merciful? What is the cost to you when you show mercy?
MERCY This week we focus on mercy, a word we use frequently in religious contexts or even colloquially: “mercy me, Lord have mercy!" Such common usage can sometimes dilute the true depths of this word. Being “merciful” is a quality attributed to God and one that God asks of us in return. We will explore various aspects of this attribute and its impact on our relationships in the coming week. Find all previous daily devotionals here