God has given many commandments. It is said that the Old Covenant contained 613 commandments Israelites were to follow. It is said that the New Covenant contains 1,050 commandments Christians are to follow. Whatever the numbers, God has given many commandments.
How can we summarize these commandments? What is it that God requires of man? Let’s consider Micah 6:6-8 which seems to provide a good summary.
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?” (Micah 6:6-7a).
It is true that it was God who required the Israelites offer animal sacrifices (e.g. Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 9:2-3). It is true that it was God who required oil to be used in some offerings (e.g. Leviticus 6:14-15; 9:3-4; 24:1). These things He did require.
However, He has always wanted more than ritualistic sacrifice. Such is not what He ultimately sought. Sacrifice without obedience does not please Him (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6;6-8; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). Sacrifice without a heart for Him does not please Him (Isaiah 29:13;Matthew 15:8; Psalm 51:16-19).
He did not need man to give Him the animals themselves. Remember, they already belonged to Him (Psalm 24:1; 50:10-12).
“Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruits of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7b).
What can man possibly offer to God for the propitiation of sin? Does God require the sacrifice of one’s firstborn child? Some misguided people have so sacrificed their children. Abraham said, “the LORD will provide” and so He did, and so He would through Jesus.
David Limbaugh has written, “Theologian Millard Erickson responds to the argument that it is unfair to have substituted His Son to bear our penalty. He considers the analogy of a judge imposing a penal sentence on an innocent bystander instead of the just-convicted defendant. The analogy fails, says Erickson, because God didn’t impose the sentence on some innocent third-party; He imposed it on Himself” (Jesus on Trial, p. 72). We should keep in mind that while it is true that there is a distinction to be made between God the Father and Jesus the Son (John 8:16); Jesus is God (John 1:1-3, 14; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13).
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
God requires three things of man. (1) We are to do justly (justice NASB). Homer Hailey commented that to do justly “is to act toward God and man according to the divine standard of righteousness revealed in His law” (A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, p. 214). We are expected to strive to live our lives according to the book. This is not sinless perfection, but a manner of life. We are to treat others fairly, according to God’s instructions (cf. Matthew 7:12). (2) We are to love mercy (kindness NASB). Homer Hailey commented that this “is to show a compassionate warmness toward man” (ibid). Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. It is kindness toward those in need. We are to exhibit such toward those in physical need (cf. Luke 10:30-37) and toward those in spiritual need (cf. Galatians 6:1-2). Moreover, we are to be kind and forgiving of others (Ephesians 4:32). (3) We are to walk humbly with our God. Homer Hailey commented that this means, “to recognize the absolute holiness and righteousness of God, and to walk in humble and submissive obedience to His desire and will” (ibid). It is with this attitude one is to worship Him and keep His commandments. The prophet Amos asked, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).