So much of the writings of the prophets consisted of appeals to faithfulness. And not just faithfulness in general, but in particular, faithfulness to the Israelites′ end of the covenant, which was reaffirmed just before they entered the land. This is what the book of Deuteronomy depicted: the reaffirmation of God´s covenant with Israel. The Lord was now, after the 40-year detour, about to fulfill (or begin to fulfill) more of His covenant promises, His end of the deal. Thus, Moses admonished them to fulfill their end, as well. Indeed, much of the writings of the prophets was basically the same: appeals for the people to uphold their side of the covenant.
Read Micah 6:1-8
. What is the Lord telling the people there, and how does it relate to the book of Deuteronomy? (See also Amos 5:24
and Hos. 6:6
Bible scholars have seen in these verses in Micah what is known as a “covenant lawsuit”
in which the Lord “sues”
or brings a case against His people for violation of the covenant. In this case, Micah says that the Lord “has a complaint against His people”
, NKJV), in which the word “complaint”
(riv) can mean a legal dispute. That is, the Lord was bringing a legal case against them, imagery that implies the legal (besides the relational) aspect of the covenant. This shouldn´t be surprising because, after all, central to the covenant was law.
Notice, too, how Micah borrows language directly from Deuteronomy: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?”
(Deut. 10:12, 13
, NKJV). Instead, though, of quoting it directly, Micah modifies it by exchanging the “letter of the law”
of Deuteronomy for the “spirit of the law,”
which is about being just and merciful.
What seems to be happening here is that, whatever the outward appearance of religion and piety (lots of animal sacrifices, i.e., “thousands of rams”
), that´s not what constitutes Israel´s covenant relationship with God. What good is all this outward piety if, for example, “they covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance”
, NKJV)? Israel was supposed to be a light to the world, about which the nations would say, with wonder: “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”
). Hence, they were to act with wisdom and with understanding, which included treating people with justice and mercy.