The Prophet Micah chose the following famous words to express what it means to love the LORD God and to keep his commandments: “[The LORD God] has shown you, O mortal, 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).
The Prophets Micah and Isaiah prophesied when King Hezekiah, Jerusalem, and its Temple barely survived the Assyrian invasion that destroyed most of the rest of Israel.
In these desperate circumstances, Micah, Isaiah and Hezekiah depended on the hesed of the LORD God.
The word hesed in Hebrew is translated a number of ways in English:
—Faithfulness. (Psalm 117:2 NIV).
—Love. (Psalm 136 NIV).
—Mercy. (Psalm 136 KJV).
—Steadfast love. (Psalm 136 ESV; Exodus 34:6-7).
—Lovingkindness. (Psalm 136 NASB).
—Kindness. (Micah 6:8).
Since no one English word captures the richness of the Hebrew word hesed, I will use the word hesed in this blog.
At Mount Sinai, when the LORD God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, he said that he “punish[es] the children for the sin of the parents to the third or fourth generation of those who hate [him], but show[s] hesed to a thousand generations of those who love [him] and keep [his] commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6).
The LORD “came down in the cloud and stood there [on Mount Sinai] with [Moses] and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining hesed to thousands [of generations], and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:5-7).
The Prophet Micah, the Prophet Isaiah, and King Hezekiah lived at a time when Israel and its people were being punished for the sins of their generation and of previous generations.
Nevertheless, Micah, Isaiah, and Hezekiah had faith that the hesed of the LORD would save Israel, nurture Israel, establish the work of Israel’s hands, and bless people forever—not only in their lifetimes, but for thousands of generations of those who love the LORD and keep his commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6; 34:5-6).
The Prophet Micah chose the following famous words to express what it means to love the LORD God and to keep his commandments:
“[The LORD God] has shown you, O mortal, 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.”
To act justly and to love mercy by walking humbly with God!
It sounds as if the LORD God requires we mortals to act, love, and walk humbly with hesed.
It sounds as if the LORD God requires we mortals to act, love and walk humbly with faithfulness, love, mercy, steadfast love, lovingkindness, and kindness.
The blessings from acting, loving, and walking with hesed aren’t limited to us as individual mortals. The blessings from acting, loving, and walking with hesed extend to our communities of wisdom, families, businesses, nations, and civilizations forever. (Psalm 23).
As the Prophet Micah put it:
“In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be
established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of [Israel].
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations
far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
For more of my thoughts about the hesed of the LORD God, please read my blogs “The Hesed of the LORD Endures Forever”, “Hesed Saves and Nurtures Baby Moses”, “Hesed Saves Israel—Passover”, “Hesed Nurtures Israel—From the Red Sea to Mount Sinai”, “Hesed Nurtures Israel—Mount Sinai”, “Hesed Establishes the Work of Moses’s Hands—Mount Nebo”, and “Hesed Blesses Forever—David”.
For my thoughts about the Assyrian invasion that destroyed most of Israel, except Jerusalem and its Temple, please read my blog “Pandemic Wisdom—Hezekiah” and “Building the Temple—Isaiah”; and please read the chapters “Isaiah’s Vision”, and “The LORD Saves Jerusalem” in my book Healing the Promised Land, at pages 239-264.