Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Book Review: What does the Lord require
In Micah 6:8 Micah answers the question which he asks in Micah 6:6. “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high?” Micah’s answer was rooted in what God has already told man which is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly before your God.” This simple yet difficult answer James C. Howell explores in detail devoting three chapters to the three things which God has shown us to do. James Howell also explores the historical nature of the prophets life and the historical meaning of the words so as to impart the fullest meaning of what it means to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly before your God.
This book is easy and accessible to all audience as James Howell clearly presents his case from Micah of what the Lord requires of us and also gives us example of what this means in our own society.
In answering what might justice, kindness and humility look like for us today, Howell looks at what the original words meant and consequently presents a definition of what these words mean. God has shown us what is good and what he requires and these words are not to be taken as a checklist but rather to be lived as a way of life. These attributes are bound up with relationships so we are to live in such a way that manifest these attributes in our life rooted in our relationship first with God. We are to seek justice, be intent upon kindness and humility and not settle for a lack of it.
God does not call us to think about Justice, or to want justice or to wish that it happens, or to campaign and pray for justice although these may be superb, holy activity pleasing to God. God simply yearns for us to do justice. The Hebrew word for justice is Mishpat which can simply mean a law or an ordinance. God has given his people a way to live and they are to live by it - in doing this they are living justly because love does no wrong to a neighbour and love fulfils the whole commandments. For us living Christians today, if we live our lives entirely by the ordinances found in the new testament then the orphan will be parented, the widow looked after, the poor provided for, the oppressed fought for (fighting for their rights) and etc. Our desire to do justice will lead us to broken communities: a slum, a marginalised people group, a neighbourhood slammed by a plant closing; to display God’s holiness to a wayward society.
God also requires us to love kindness. In the Hebrew the word translated to love kindness is ahavat hesed. Many translate this word to mean covenant loyalty and Howell agrees that this is probably the best way to speak of what Micah says God wants us to love. God wants us to love covenant loyalty and covenant loyalty is to be done in a community. Exodus 34:6 wonderfully declares that God abounds in hesed; the loving covenant loyalty overflows out of God’s own heart and immerses us in its flood and we are to do the same. We are to love hesed or as the King James version translates it we are to love mercy
The last of the requirement is God wants us to walk humbly with him. Some scholars translate the adverb humbly as hatzneia which connotes attentiveness. If we are attentive to God it will lead to our humility because his awe and splendour will simply amaze us and we will fall to our knees like the old apostle who received those promising revelations that tells us of the end of all things. To walk humbly before God will be like the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to to heaven but beat his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! We are not to be humble but to walk humbly that is a constant humility head bowing Jesus exalting life we are to lead. Those who walk humbly are not passive but active and wont get entangle in ego issues. They would be like their master and Lord who unwrapped the towel from his waist and washed his disciples feet. We are to walk humbly not just with each other but with God.
God has graciously shown us what is good. And what does the Lord require? To do justice, to love covenant loyalty, and the unspeakable pleasure in walking humbly with your God.
There is at the end of the book a study guide to be done in a group which allows the group to go deeper into the materials just read.
You can purchase from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Does-Require-James-Howell/dp/0664236944