God’s Simple Recipe for a Great Marriage

“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.” – Micah 6:8

Last week we began a study of Micah 6:6-8 to find God’s solution for the difficult times we face in our marriage. This week we’ll look closer at this passage to learn God’s simple but profound recipe for a joyful marriage that brings glory to Him.

We live in a culture that likes a clear, straightforward approach to things. God gives us this very thing in Micah 6:8: “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.”

What God tells us to do here is not easy, but there can be no doubt about what He expects of us. And if we follow these instructions, we can be certain the result will be a blessed life and marriage.

The first thing we must do is “act justly.”

The Hebrew word translated here is “mishpat.” It means rightness that is rooted in God’s character. It is to live in the correct way because we have committed our lives to Him. It is a commitment to live according to His Word.

What does that look like in marriage?

It means I treat my wife exactly as God says I should treat her in the Bible. I must love her “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). And how does Christ love His Church? Romans 5:8 tells us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I must demonstrate my love to Sabra. No matter how she treats me, I must show her love in tangible ways.

Jesus didn’t love us because we first loved Him and treated Him well. He loves us unconditionally. We’re told in 1 John 4:10-11: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.“

And Jesus didn’t just say that He loves us, He showed us how much He loves us.

Paul writes about this in Philippians 2:5-8: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

What a difference it would make in our marriage if we followed Christ’s example and loved each other that way! That is “mishpat.” That is to act justly.

We could stop right there and put that one thing into practice, and our marriages would be greatly improved. But God wants more for us.

He also tells us “to love mercy.”

The Hebrew word that is translated “mercy” here is “hesed.” It means kindness—a kindness not deserved. It is the kindness God has shown to us in Christ. We come to love mercy as a result of our relationship with Him. God is merciful and kind, so we must be also as His children.

God is love (1 John 4:8). And His love for us leads Him to show mercy and kindness to us.

We read about this in Ephesians 2:1-5: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (bold mine).

God’s mercy and kindness are evidence of His unconditional love for us. They flow from His love. In our love for each other in marriage, mercy and kindness must also flow—with no thought to whether we want to or how our spouse may treat us. It is unconditional.

The final thing God says we must do is “walk humbly with your God.”

The Hebrew word translated “humbly” is “sana.” It means to not be prideful.

We are warned about this often in Scripture. We read, for example, in James 4:6: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

James then tells us both the source of pride and the way to overcome it. He writes: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Pride comes from Satan. It is overcome when we commit ourselves to God and follow Him.

Proverbs is filled with warnings about pride, as well as blessings that come with humility.

God tells us in Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” And He teaches us in Proverbs 13:10: “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

When filled with pride, we think we don’t need advice and wisdom from others, even from God. We try to live our life and manage our marriage as we think best.

But pride never brings good results. Instead it brings strife and all kinds of problems between us and our spouse.

The result of a prideful heart is found in Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” When we’re too proud to humble ourselves and listen to God’s wisdom, our marriage might just come crashing down.

Humility does not mean we belittle or harm ourselves. We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We are born with a purpose in life given to us by God (Psalm 22:9-10; 139:13; Jeremiah 1:4-5). And never forget God loves us so much He sent His Son to save us (John 3:16). We are not to put ourselves down or think we are inferior. That is not humility.

Humility comes as we realize how important we are to God and how much He wants our lives to be full of joy and good fruit. It comes as we understand our need for God and His teachings to have the marriage He desires for us. We must be humble to learn and follow all of His Word, including for our marriage (James 1:22).

God loves us so much that He will do whatever it takes to get rid of our pride and make us humble. How does He do this?

One way is found in Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (bold mine).

He put Israel through forty years of wandering in the wilderness so that they would become humble. He wanted them to recognize how much they needed Him. Through their long and often difficult journey, they learned they could not succeed on their own. Only then were they ready to enter the Promised Land and face its challenges and temptations.

The same is true in our marriages. One of the reasons God allows us to face difficulties is to teach us and to help us grow in our walk with Him and each other.

We must learn the truth of what Jesus said in John 15:5: “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’” (bold mine). It is a humbling thing to understand and admit, but it is necessary.

It is only by recognizing how much we need the Lord that we can receive His strength, as Paul said in Philippians 4:13: I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

When we humbly trust and follow God, we also experience the promise of James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”    

The Hebrew word translated as “humble” includes the idea of a lack of pride. But it also means the method by which that is achieved. It is a process God uses so that He will become the center of our lives and marriage.

Going through difficult times gives us a different perspective which can lead our marriage to be more centered on God and, therefore, stronger.

This humbling process does not mean we will understand everything we go through in our marriage. However, what we can understand is that God always has our best interest in mind. While the humbling process is painful at times, we can know it will always be used for our good. He promises in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

When God becomes the center of our lives through this humbling process, we can live out His Word. And this includes Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (bold mine). To lay aside our own desires for our spouse, this is to walk humbly.

What would living out these three simple but profound truths do for your marriage? To act justly…to love mercy…and to walk humbly with your God. They are simple to understand, perhaps, but not simple to put into practice. For that you need God’s help. And He’s just waiting for you to ask Him.

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Talk about what God has taught you through it.

♦   Discuss the three commands from God mentioned in this teaching–love, mercy, and humility. Which one would you say best describes you? Which one do you have the most difficult time living out? Reverse roles, and tell which ones you think your spouse demonstrates the best and struggles with the most. Discuss ways you can help each other grow in areas you need to. Remember that God has brought you together to help each other in every way.

♦   Have you thought about your difficult times as being God’s way of helping you to grow in your lives and in your relationship with one another, especially in the area of humility? If you are going through a difficult time right now, discuss how God can use this in your marriage.

♦   Close your time in prayer. Ask God to help you grow in all these areas. Ask Him to help you use any difficulty you may be having to grow in your walk with Him and each other. Thank Him for the promises from His Word that He will help you. It is good to even pray those Scripture passages to Him.

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Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash (CC0), cropped/text added.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.