David certainly was a just king. 2 Sam 8:14-15 – “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went. David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” His acting justly had an impact not only in his personal relationships but across the entire society because of his position as king.
And under David’s leadership, Israel enjoyed many years of blessing because David strove to do what was just and right FOR all his people. Justice for David was acting on behalf of his people in a way that conformed to the ways of God.
And if you read through 2 Sam, you will see countless examples of David acting justly.
But on one spring day, he found himself going down a road that would forever change his life. We know the story. He was a king and he was usually on the front lines of all military battles. That’s what kings do. They lead and they fight.
But one day, he woke up and didn’t feel like going to war. I feel like that every Monday morning, I don’t want to go to work. I hear the alarm and I suddenly feel sick. And I wish I could fast forward to the weekend. Anybody else feel like me?
I would say that King David decided to stay back from the battle because he felt like his spiritual resume had earned him some time off – he had fought enough wars and won. And that fateful decision led to him falling into temptation and soon thereafter, he committed adultery with Bathsheba followed by his murder of her husband to cover up his sin. The injustice here and abuse of his power was unthinkable.
As a brief aside, if you were Uriah’s father, what would you say to David? May God curse you! Or maybe, how could you take away my innocent boy for a little fling? I doubt it there would be any words of mercy. Death is what David deserved.
Nathan confronts David about his sin and out of the deep personal soul searching that ensues, Psalm 51 was born. Read Psalm 51:1-10, 16-17.
Things were going so well for David up until this point. All his justice, all his doing what was right was in a sense completely nullified by this terrible act of sin. A man who was once praised for being just and merciful, now an adulterer and murderer.
We try our best to live for God, to love others, but sin gets in the way. We fail and we fail miserably. We stumble. We find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness and wonder how we got here. We feel wronged by others and a sense of injustice rises up within us and we want the wrongdoer to be punished. We feel victimized. And when that happens, we often give up trying to do what’s right. We give up on God. And we harden our hearts.
Not many people sin as King David did and manage to recover spiritually. That is why David is so exceptional. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, David repents. Psalm 51 is one of the most heart-wrenching repentance prayers ever recorded. Psalm 51 was David’s defining moment. Not his military victories, not his wonderful acts of compassion and generosity. But David’s defining moment was in that prayer of deep repentance as he threw himself at the mercy of God. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Micah 6:8. Act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly.
We will have a difficult time understanding the mercy of God unless we try to live out the first part of this verse, to do what’s right- and fail miserably and then to throw ourselves at the mercy of God in repentance. It is here that David learns to love God’s mercy. We see that David continually threw himself at the mercy of God with a clear understanding that if God were to show justice, he would be dead.
In fact, to live in God’s mercy is to acknowledge that God at any point could destroy me and everything good in my life, and it would be totally justified. But God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve out of His great love for us. He sent His Son to pay the full pentalty of our sins by dying on the cross. It is on the cross that God’s perfect justice and mercy meet. Where there ought to be justice and judgment and death, by the blood of Jesus who took our place, there is mercy.
The word mercy in Hebrew is hesed, which means being in God’s covenant faithfulness. Covenant is another word for contract, but specifically involves a weaker party who is utterly dependent on the stronger party to meet his or her needs. The stronger party accepts freely the responsibility of providing deliverance and protection to the weaker party, EVEN THOUGH he has every right not to.
That’s why hesed can be translated as mercy because within the protective boundaries of God’s covenant faithfulness, we can have confidence to throw ourselves at the mercy of God again and again, and find forgiveness. To those who don’t know God, they are not aware that they are in need of mercy or to whom they can turn to for mercy. They are completely on their own. Their guilt, shame, sins are THEIR responsibility to deal with and they carry these things as heavy burdens throughout their lives.
As Christians, it is our privilege that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence. To love mercy – there is a personal and relational aspect to that phrase. I love mercy because certainly I need it. And because God has shown mercy to us, we can the room to be merciful to others. This is God’s principle.
This brings us to the final part of Micah 6:8. Act justly, love mercy, and now to walk humbly
before your God.
The Hebrew word for humbly can be translated as wisely. To walk wisely before our God. A humble person is wise because he knows that life without God is hopeless. I simply cannot do it alone, I cannot live this Christian life. I need God and I need his mercy.
I believe Micah 6:8 reveals a pattern of Christian life – God saves us, out of a sense of overwhelming gratitude for this grace, we want to live justly, rightly according to God’s ways. But because we are sinners, we fail. And in that failure, we find mercy. If you repeat acting justly, falling short, loving mercy, acting justly, falling short, loving mercy enough times, the end result will be a person who walks humbly with his or her God.
There was mercy in David’s life when he committed adultery and murder, but he did not get off scott free. God’s full justice means death for all sinners. But God withholds the full punishment for our sins and only expresses partial judgment that we might have a chance to repent and continually cling to his mercy.
God’s justice or partial judgment for sin was evident in David’s life starting from his adultery and murder and lasting for the remainder of his life. We clearly can see the consequences of his sins through his family life.
Seeing our problems as a direct consequence of our sins is one explanation, but I don’t think it captures the full story.
We also need to know that sometimes things happen seemingly for no legitimate reason. For David, yes, his family problems were due in large part to his sins, but that doesn’t explain the full story. Despite having a godly, merciful, humble role model as a father, his children turned out completely, utterly different from what David had hoped for.
One of David’s sons, Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. David fails to intervene and in anger, Absalom gets revenge for his sister and kills Amnon. How can you make sense of this kind of wickedness coming out of David’s household?
Life is outside of our control. We try our best to live for God, we do our best to raise our families. And trouble hits. Either because of our sins or simply because we live in a broken world. In those moments, all we can do is humbly admit, Lord, life is out of my control and cry out for mercy.
And out of this pattern of striving to do what is right, failing miserably and claiming God’s mercy repeated over and over, for David, the fruit was a wise, humble life.
Micah 6:8 is one of my life verses. It is a verse that God gave to me when I was broken by God for the first time. The first half of my Christian life was all about acting justly. I was thriving in the Christian arena. I felt like I was on the top of my game.
When I was a college student, I attended all church events, I reached out to several people every week, I was extremely ‑
disciplined spiritually in terms of reading the bible and prayer. I took homeless people out to lunch regularly. I thought God was lucky to have me on his special forces squad. Whatever God needed, I was ready to do anything for the Lord, no matter the risk or the cost.
And while riding this kind of spiritual high, I remember meeting Abraham jdsn in November of 1998. I was excited to get to know my new shepherd because I was spiritual hungry, gung ho for Jesus, so we arranged to meet for coffee before service. I started my introduction by sharing my testimony and how excited I was to minister with him. And Abraham jdsn’s response is one I will never forget.
He said, you know, Ray, I can see God wants to use your life, but from what you shared, you lack one thing. I was like, hmm, that’s an odd thing to say, esp. to someone you just met. What could he mean?
More bible verse memorization, or more prayer, yeah I know I should be praying more. Instead he said, Ray, you are missing the spiritual limp of Jacob after he had been broken by God in the hip. Spiritual limp, what was that? I was running hard for God, I am Ray Bolt, why do I need to limp around, there is so much work to be done?
His words were prophetic and a few months later, I hit my first spiritual brick wall and the wrestling match with God began. In hindsight, I now see how God wanted to humble me, to give me that spiritual limp of Jacob. But I would not go down easily. Through my struggles with God, with myself, I saw that my ability to act justly WAS limited.
But instead of admitting that I needed mercy, I became more self-reliant. When you come face to face with the realization that you are limited in doing good works, you have 2 choices. Either you throw yourselves at the mercy of God OR you say, I’ll try harder next time.
I chose the latter. I reasoned that my struggle was a mere bump in the road. The spiritually weak, floundering Ray was not the real me. It was an aberration that I could self-correct with more effort. But the harder I tried, the more frustrated and cynical I became because I could not recapture my former zeal and passion.
And so understanding Micah 6:8 personally has been a long and slow process. These days, I am seeing more and more how much the mercy of God is the only thing that sustains me. I need His mercy when things are going well and I h
ave the room in my heart to act justly toward others. And I need his mercy when I am in a server room and hating life.
Certainly, the mercy of God was King David’s lifeline. King David had no way to reason his way out of his adultery and murder. There was no rationalizing it away as a mere blip on the radar. He had no recourse but to throw himself at the mercy of God. Not one time, but throughout his lifetime.
In 2 Sam 15:25-26, we see a portrait of utter submission to the will of God. Read verses. And here in this chapter, Absalom is growing in popularity and David is advised to leave the palace. You get the sense that David is not sure what is going to happen. He is utterly dependent on God and waits on God to unfold his will. He wonders if God might be judging him through his son Absalom’s rebellion, accepting that God has every right to punish him or even kill him. That’s why he says he may never get to see the ark again and he accepts that his fate could be death.
Again, it is that humility of acknowledging that he is sustained by God’s mercy alone, and that even if God were to punish or kill him, it would be justified.
A few verses later in 2 Sam 15:30, let’s read. This portrait of David really ministered to me. David is going up the Mount of Olives weeping with brokenness. What must he be thinking? He is wearing a covering for his head, which is a sign of repentance. This gives us some clue. I suspect he is recounting his failures – his failures as a king, failures as a father, failures as a Christian — but simultaneously God’s faithfulness in his life, all the times when he has been shown mercy. And I’m sure a large portion of his prayer walk was spent asking God to show mercy to his son Absalom.
Later, when the report finally comes in that Absalom has been killed, people are telling David to rejoice, but David has only one thing on his mind. He doesn’t care about his recent military victory. He doesn’t care about his kingdom. He doesn’t care about his own safety. All he cares about is Absalom. Twice, he asks, Is the young man Absalom safe? And finally David takes in the news and he cries out, O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son.
This is a heart aching prayer of a father who is struggling to accept the will of God in this situation. It started with David walking humbly, head bowed and covered, on his way to the Mt of Olives as he wept over his sins and the sings of Absalom.
This is the very same path that Jesus would later walk – on the way to the Mount of Olives weeping over the sins of the world before he was crucified. This is where Jesus demonstrated his humble submission to the will of God to die on the cross, "Yet not my will, but yours be done."
The Mount of Olives represents that place of utter dependence and humble submission to God – walking humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 – act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
Like David, may we struggle to do what is right before God – and find ourselves lovers of God’s mercy and walking in humble brokenness and utter submission to God.