V5b. “Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”
Shittim was outside the promised land and Gilgal on inner side of the Jordan river. To journey between them Israel crossed the Jordan River while God made the flow stop. It’s an extraordinary event that once again shows the lengths that God will go to to make his people enter right relationship with him. Notice all the work that God did (stopped a river) and how easy it was for the people to enter the promised land (walking across the dry river bed). See Joshua 3:1 and 4:19.
It is mentioned here in the context of God’s generosity toward us. He has redeemed his people. We can do nothing that would fairly repay him (v.6-7). What he does ask of us is such a neat summary and one of my favourite bible verses:
V8. “He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
and to walk humbly with your God?
- Do justice. Don’t just do nothing or live for comfort or pleasure. That is not the life of a Christian according to this verse. Sometimes justice requires us to be firm. Do not compromise on truth for the sake of avoiding conflicts, if we do that the fallen state of society will let the stronger ones take advantage of the poorer and weaker ones.
- Love kindness (or mercy). In your firmness do not be harsh. Truth can be confronting. Be kind. Show compassion for the situation of others. Just as God had mercy on us so we should treat people with temperance and care.
- Walk humbly with your God. Not proudly. Not by apart from God. With God. Do you enquire of him? Do you observe the ways he is moving among us? Do you seek to imitate Jesus? Do you invite the Holy Spirit to lead you?
Do all steps 1-3. The beauty of this calling is also in its three-way balance. We are called to be firm and kind and relationally in tune with God. Look around at other worldviews and religions. Some pursue the sword (justice) without mercy. Some hold up tolerance without the Word (liberalism). Some pursue ethics and love without God (a tragedy of humanism either outwardly secular or disguised as religion).
Jesus called to Nathanael as he approached Jesus. Jesus has seen Nathanael “under the fig tree” presumably as he was seeking God or praying about something extremely personal. His reaction implies that he knows Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus sees our deepest desires. He responds to our approach. He works through other Christians, in this case Philip. It would seem that Philip is one of the first Christian evangelists who cared enough about his friend to go and get him and convince him to come to Jesus.