How does one influence God? How does one earn God's favor? Many times in the prophetic writings, God makes clear that sacrifices are of no value, and may even be offensive to God if lives do not reflect the justice and love that God expects from loyal believers. This passage from Micah carries the question about the value of sacrifice to ridiculous extremes to make the point. Even thousands of rams and rivers of oil and firstborn sons are not what God wants or requires. Sacrifice, no matter how momentous, is useless without a life of justice, loving-kindness, and humility.
There is a bit of a rebuke at the beginning of verse eight. God has already told them what is good. Why should they even ask the question? It is as if they already know what they are supposed to do but they would rather do something superficial, like offering sacrifices, rather than deal with changes in their personal lives.
This may be the best-known passage from the book of Micah. One can hear it in the speeches of politicians, from the pulpit, and on lists of people's favorite Bible verses. It is, in a way, a summary of the ethical life God expects from God's people. It is full of words that occur frequently throughout Scripture--justice, love, kindness, a walk with God. The word "humbly" implies a sense of caution: The world is full of danger. There is much out there that can hurt or lead us astray. There is a common human arrogance that tries to fit God into a specific theology and then pretends to be more certain than a human has a right to be. Our walk through life is meant to be humble and can be safely traveled only if it is made "with God."
6 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?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has told you, O mortal, 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?
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org