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You have already been told what is right and what the Lord asks of you:
Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

In the Book of Micah, which means “who is like Yahweh” in Hebrew, the people of Israel are on trial. God and his people have a good old fight, which— though articulated in “legalese”— is more reminiscent of a lovers’ quarrel. Divorce court, anyone?

The trial begins in chapter 6. Yahweh, who plays prosecutor and judge, is both angry and exasperated by the Israelites, who, despite all the wonderful things God has done for them, persist in giving him the cold shoulder. “My people, what have I done to you, how have I made you tired of me?” God asks [6:3]. This is a good old-fashioned guilt trip.

One can’t help but sense bitterness— and an equal measure of exasperation— in the Israelites’ response. “What ridiculous sacrifice do you want now?” they seem to be saying. “Shall [we] enter with burnt offerings…rams by the thousand? Shall [we] offer [our] eldest sons for our wrong-doing?” [6:6-7].

Yahweh then responds with words that have long been described as a one-line summary of the entire covenant: “You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty, and to walk humbly before your God.” God does not want empty sacrifices, but hearts full of goodness, justice, and love.

Micah is the sixth book of the Minor Prophets and is a composite work. The first three chapters are probably from the actual prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, whose words were written down in the 8th century B.C. The other chapters may come from the prophet, or from a variety of later sources. Micah (like Isaiah) addresses injustice: landlords who take advantage of the poor, rulers who oppress the people, false prophets. He also maintains hope that God will not abandon his people.

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