He 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.
“mortal” is ‘adam“. Translated a man or here in the NIV, ‘mortal’. Remember this association when we get to walking humbly, and how the first couple (adam includes male and female – Genesis 5:1-2) walked with God in Eden until they upset justice by not keeping a command.
“good” is how God described the created world in Genesis 1. The parts of creation were in place and working properly – except for “adam” being alone.
“act” is a word in Hebrew that can mean simply to do in a general sense, but it is also used many time to “make” or “offer” a sacrifice. In the the previous verses the prophet gives voice to the question of the people: what offering should we bring? The answer seems to be to bring justice. I don’t think this is a denial of the role of sacrifice and worship, but that those actions were to encourage and accompany a life of just living. The following section lists some of the injustices of the people. The Prophets often say that worship does not compensate or cover up an unjust life (See Isaiah 1). Isn’t this an interesting comparison to Romans 12 – where the apostle says that our reasonable worship is to “offer” ourselves as living sacrifices and follows that with a chapter with many practical applications of the command to love God and love Others.
“mercy” is the Hebrew word “hesed” which can mean kindness, or mercy. It can also refer to a covenantal idea. God has committed himself to merciful faithfulness to his people. As a result he expects merciful faithfulness. Our faithfulness is to God and our mercy is for others.
“love” is the same verb as the great commandment, to love the Lord your God. There is no separation between loving God and loving mercy. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his maker.” Pv 14:21.
“walk” is a widely used metaphor for our course in life. (e. g. Psalm 1 ) The original couple walked with God in Eden, until they with a profound lack of humility attempted to “become like God” by breaking the solitary prohibition that they had been given.
To “do” – Romans 12
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
To ‘love” – Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
To ‘walk” – Deuteronomy 5:22-23
32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.