“You have been told, O mortal, what is good and what YHWH requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” —Micah 6:8
Scholar and retreat leader Megan McKenna deepens our understanding of God’s desire for us through the prophet Micah. For McKenna, Micah’s simple and challenging verse reveals the essence of what the prophets are about:
According to God, this is life. This is the call of the prophets in a nutshell, the meat at the heart of their very existence. The words used are significant: “Do justice”—the Hebrew word mishpat means more than specific acts of justice. It defines God’s order in the world; it is the covenant guide for living in community; and it is the memory of God’s words and deeds past and present and the people’s response in gratitude toward one another. In a word it says, Be the Torah; do God’s justice; imitate God in your life.…
“Do justice” means to be faithful as God is faithful, holy as God is holy, to set those in bondage free, to hear compassionately the cries of those in slavery, to do for one’s neighbor what God has so graciously done for you. It is the teaching of the Torah, the source of abundant life. These two words—Do justice—point to the way of God and simply say: walk in it! Whatever the concept of justice might be, it is only by doing acts of justice, by solidly standing with those in need of justice, and by resisting injustice that justice can become a reality.
The second demand is “Love mercy” (or “Love tenderly”). The Hebrew word hesed, compassion, means coming to the rescue of the poor, the outcast, the alien, the slave, the powerless, hearing the cries of those in misery, giving love that is faithful, sustaining, enduring. It is the way God loves [God’s] people, and God’s people are to return that love by loving one another. This urgent command shoots right to the heart of every individual and to the community. 
Howard Thurman (1899–1981) asks what it means to walk humbly with God, the third of God’s requirements to Micah:
How do you walk humbly with God? How do you? How do you walk humbly with anybody?… [By] coming to grips with who I am, what I am as accurately and as fully as possible: a clear-eyed appraisal of myself. And in the light of the dignity of my own sense of being I walk with God step by step as [God] walks with me. This is I, with my weaknesses and my strength, with my abilities and my liabilities; this is I, a human being myself! And it is that that God salutes. So that the more I walk with God and God walks with me, the more I come into the full-orbed significance of who I am and what I am. That is to walk humbly with God. 
 Megan McKenna, Prophets: Words of Fire (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 129–130.
 Howard Thurman, “The Message of Micah,” August 17, 1952, in Moral Struggle and the Prophets, ed. Peter Eisenstadt and Walter Earl Fluker (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2020), 196–197. Note: minor edits made for inclusive language.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Jenna Keiper, Taos Snow. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Like this bird, the Hebrew prophets sing truth from new vantage points.
Story from Our Community:
I am filled with joy to learn about prophets. I’ve often described myself as a round peg in a square hole, only to discover in the last decade that there are like-minded people in the world who share my thoughts, sensations, and prayers. I’m not a prophet but the prophet’s message and spiritual focus resonates with me. —Jacquelin F.