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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"What Does the Lord Require?" (James C. Howell)

TITLE: What Does the Lord Require? - Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly
AUTHOR: James C. Howell
PUBLISHER: Louisvilled, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

This is a book about the Old Testament book, Micah 6:8. It explores the person of Micah. It explains the biblical contexts. It touches on how listeners perceive the message then, and its relevance for modern readers. Most of all, it looks to the God that the prophet Micah is pointing to. Obedience to God will lead to true fulfillment and will satisfy one's deepest desires.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Micah is a man more in tune with God, compared to the religious leaders of that day. What stands Micah apart was his boldness to denounce the greed and bullying happening during that time, as well as his boldness to point people to hope in God. It is essentially an exposition of the verse. It goes through each of the three verbal emphases: 'Do justice; Love Kindness; and Walk humbly.'

Before jumping into the three things, Howell tells us that God has shown us what is good BEFORE asking us to do good. This pattern is so consistent with the nature of God, where He shows us the way so that we know the way to obey. He patiently points out the essence of 'require.' In Hebrew, the word is darao, which is a continual longing, a desire that grows and grows to do the three things.

An insight comes forth quickly, that the three things are actually one and the same act of love. Justice needs loving kindness. Kindness is needed in humility. Humble living goes hand in hand with justice. The author calls the line between the three as 'blurry.' This is important for it helps us to see the whole verse as one verse. It enables us to practice all together.

Justice is something  that is 'done' rather than talked about. The word 'mishpat' is actually the law. Contrary to modern conceptions of desiring to be free from following laws, there is a risk of missing the opportunity to obey the laws that lead to a happier and more liberating life. True obedience to laws lead to freedom, not bondage.

The third thing that Howell talks about is the nature of 'walk humbly.' 'Hatzneia' means the opposite of pride and arrogance. It is aiming toward a 'downward mobility' of lesser greatness for self. It is an attitude that is so focused on God, that one does not have time to inflate the self.

The book concludes powerfully by stressing how the three things required of Israel is actually a reflection of God's character as well. This book may be small, but I advise the reader to take time to drink from the well of wisdom and the exposition of the Word. It comes also with discussion questions which should double up as a book cum Bible study materials. There is also a leaders guide.

Great book!

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is supplied to me free by Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The comments given are freely mine.

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