Humility and Discretion in Micah 6:8
Haftarah Balak (Micah/Michoh/Michah 5:6-6:8) 5782 B”H
הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָה־יְהֹוָ֞ה דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י
אִם־עֲשׂ֚וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת
Walking “humbly” with God
The Hebrew word “צנַע” tzana occurs only twice in the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”).
You will find a form of the word in both the above passage which is Micah 6:8 as well as in Proverbs 11:2:
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
Tzana is usually translated in English as “humble.” Strong’s Hebrew Concordance defines tzana as “to be modest or humble.” Accordingly, I will highlight how the NKJV, NRSV, and TLV all choose to translate this word as “humbly”:
Micah 6:8 New King James Version
“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 NKJV, emphasis added
Micah 6:8 New Revised Standard Version
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 NRSV, emphasis added
Micah 6:8 Tree of Life Version
“He has told you, humanity, what is good,
and what ADONAI is seeking from you:
Only to practice justice, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 TLV, emphasis added
Walking “discreetly” with God
With this much agreement by Christian translators, can’t we just be happy with their translation and move on with our day?
Well, sure. But that would be boring.
Let me instead point out a nuance that captured my attention while studying this passage and I hope sparks your thoughts, too!
The Complete Tanakh translation used by the Orthodox Jewish Chabad movement translates this word differently. Rather than humble, they chose to translate tzana as “discreet”:
Micah 6:8 Complete Tanakh
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God. Micah 6:8, Complete Tanakh, emphasis added
Could it be that the Jewish translation is closer to the original meaning?
Many of the Orthodox Jewish folks are more fluent in Hebrew having studied and spoken it much longer than those of us who are able to read and translate, but who are not necessarily as familiar with the language’s deepest nuances.
To be humble requires a degree of discretion, does it not? Let’s think about what it would mean to add more discretion to our walk with the LORD.
What about Bold Professions of Faith?
It is generally easy in the United States to make bold professions of our faith without fear of persecution or retribution.
We are able to wear Christian t-shirts, carry a Bible in a cute case, preach openly and testify to those who would listen.
Do you realize how incredibly blessed we are that our car radios can access multiple Christian stations? Those radio stations aren’t censored and no one is getting prison time for sharing the Gospel message. Not so in other countries, my friend.
Here in the U.S., we have a tendency to boast of our evangelistic efforts. “How many” people attended the tent revival. “How many” people got saved last week. We focus on numbers and we pat ourselves on the back when we baptize new followers of Messiah.
Some of that is ok. After all in Galatians 6:14, Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) exhorts us to boast in the cross. But are we boasting of our LORD or boasting of our own efforts?
What we should strive for is a bold profession of faith coupled with humility.
Were it not for the LORD . . .
Justice, Mercy, and Discretion
I grew up in a very liberal “church.” They were not ashamed to tell you that they believed the Gospel in a nutshell is summarized by Micah 6:8. While this verse is wonderful, the Gospel requires the understanding that God’s Son came, died, and rose again for us.
Their abrasive social justice campaigns always cited this verse, and I kid you not, one “Easter Sunday” they advertised “Health and Wellness Sunday” and completely ignored the Resurrection.
Yeah, it was weird.
I bring this up because we need to understand the type of justice that Micah is talking about.
What many call “social justice” today is an aberration to true, Godly justice.
Micah exhorts us to seek the type of justice that will honor God. We are to love mercy so that we are balanced in our decision-making and demonstrate God-honoring kindness.
Humility goes right along with that, but so does being discrete.
I can wear my faith (literally) on my sleeve, but what changes when I am more discrete about it?
Messiah Jesus taught discretion: “But when you do tzedakah (charity/good deeds), do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” Matthew 6:3
Won’t my inner conversation with my LORD be even more personal, more intimate?
Won’t my boasting shift from my own achievements to what He has accomplished?
What happens when I don’t make it obvious that I am a believer? Is there a segment of people I could actually reach better if they didn’t know from the outset that I am a follower of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) the Anointed One?
On the other hand, we do not want to be overly discreet so as to muddle our testimony, cause confusion, or inadvertently damage our testimonies! It is no secret that most strict Jewish communities are very closed to the outside world. “Walking discreetly with God” takes on a different sense in those communities such that their observance is so inward it seems on the outside that they have very little sense of welcome to nonJews (even though hospitality is actually a very strong part of Judaism!).
As in all things, there must be balance.
The Secret Place of the Most High
There is something to be said about dwelling in the “secret place” of the Most High. Throughout Scripture, the “secret place” is also translated as “shelter,” “refuge,” or being “concealed,” by God.
“He who dwells in the shelter of Elyon,
will abide in the shadow of Shaddai.” Psalm 91:1
The LORD covers us, in such a way that could be described as “discreet.” We are invited into the secret place, the place of His holiness, covered and protected in His love.
So let us learn to walk justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly and discreetly with Him.
How will we do that?
By being in relationship with the LORD God Almighty and His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We must be filled by His Holy Spirit so we can truly live in justice, mercy, and humility.
So I encourage you today, seek Him with all your heart! Allow the LORD to teach you and guide you in all of His ways so you may know Him and make Him known! Shalom!
9 thoughts on “Humility and Discretion in Micah 6:8”
Girl! You blow me away with your incredible insight into God’s Word, and I can tell you love to dig, research and study!! I love this so much and love seeing God’s Words written in Hebrew, too! Thank you for another incredible post! This blessed me so! 🙏💕
Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai. Blessed be the Name of the LORD. He has given me this insatiable desire to constantly study His Word, I’ve been this way since I was little! This is what I’m loving about blogging – that I can share with others the insights that He shows me! It is a blessing! Thank you for reading and commenting, you are so encouraging!
I am learning so much from you! What a great post! And I agree it is clear that we are to be discreet and humble and not to be congratulating ourselves for any ministry work. It all belongs to God and is for Him and His glory.
Ministry can be lonely, so it makes sense that we often want to congratulate ourselves, but we must remember that any successes come from Him, and Him alone! I’m so glad this post blessed you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, you are a blessing!
So tell me if I have this right. I think this sentence summarizes your point about walking discreetly: “Won’t my inner conversation with my LORD be even more personal, more intimate?” So are you saying we need fewer slogans on our t-shirts and a more intimate walk with Christ? I’ll be pondering this more because I believe it has many implications and mirrors what the Lord has been calling me to lately. Thank you for always giving us food for thought, sister!
Yes, you’ve got it exactly! I love a good Christian t-shirt just as much as anyone else, but honestly, if we are “advertising” the Gospel outwardly, we sure better be living that Gospel inside first and foremost! 🙂
This is just a fantastic post! I actually read and studied this verse again last week as part of my chronological journey through the Bible. I love how deep you dig! This blessed me richly!
I have a chronological Bible but I only got about halfway through and got distracted. Your message inspired me that I will have to dig it out again! I’m so glad this blessed you! Shalom!
I’m always encouraged by your posts and inspired by your understanding of the Hebrew text/language. Thanks for sharing!