Micah has been likened to a horse, thinking of the warhorses of Assyria pounding towards Judah. However, I see Micah more associated with the cow, because this prophet talked about banging swords into plows.
Horses and mules were pretty scarce in Judah, but there were plenty of bulls and cows, so the farmer usually had his plow pulled by oxen.
Now nearing the end of his book, Micah pulled in the same motif that he had begun with: God’s people on trial, with the Lord as Judge.
Hear what the Lord says:Micah 6:1 (NRSV)
Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
The court of law is the entire creation, mountains are the court room, the hills are the jury, and the prosecuting attorney is Micah, speaking for God.
Micah 6:3‑5 God’s people stood accused of growing weary of God’s kindness, that having a relationship with God had become a burden.
Micah 6:6-7 The people were so disconnected in their understanding of God that they tried to appease God’s wrath and grief with even more sacrifices and offerings in one of the more famous quotes from this prophet.
With what shall I come before the Lord,Micah 6:6-7 (NRSV)
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
But what the people had forgotten was that God had given the great feast days for them, the tabernacle and sacrificial system for them, in order to provide avenues for intimacy with God, to be made right before God and therefore able to experience God’s presence with pleasure and joy. God had set the people apart for God.
More rituals, grander shows, more and more sacrifices or any other sort of performance or payment would actually alienate God from them,deepen the rift between them, and cause further grief and harm so long as it was done in the misguided notion that it was for God.
Judgment and Forgiveness
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
This remarkably simple and often quoted text reveals astonishing wisdom in how to live fully and richly with God.
- Orthopraxy, right practice in living by faith, is to do justice.
- Orthopathy, right feeling in living by faith, is to love kindness.
- Orthodoxy, right thinking in living by faith, is to walk humbly with our God.
God’s core values, found throughout the Hebrew scriptures, are justice and righteousness, and the Lord’s call to God’s people was to adopt these values for themselves, to desire them far more than the trappings of religion.
To lack these values was the basis for judgment.
Any restoration would be committed to justice and righteousness expressed through grace and mercy.
The Greatest Commandment
Micah echoed, in his revelation from God, the greatest law Jesus also affirmed. To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself; you cannot do the second unless you do the first. God will dwell with the one who has a contrite heart.
You and I need to get right with God first so we can get right with our sisters and brothers.
My first responsibility is to work and act justly, even when I am the only one, when doing the right thing earns me no rewards, when it might even earn me persecution.
When things are not going the way you and I had hoped or planned, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing things wrong. Opposition is often a sign that we are in the right place, fighting the powers of darkness in the power of God.
Feeling unnoticed, overlooked, and under-appreciated is often a part of the suffering in our lives of faith we share with the other heroes of faith in scripture, as well as with Jesus. The praise of people may feel good, but the praise of God lasts forever.
When our service in acting justly is the most difficult, the Lord may be doing God’s deepest work in our lives, so let us not run away. Instead, let us be mindful in the way we describe what we are experiencing, to ourselves and to others. Every bit of suffering, both just and unjust, every bit of trouble and tragedy, trial and struggle can be redeemed in the hands of God.
The Hebrew word translated here as kindness is hesed, and encompasses God’s own nature of lovingkindness. It involves a zeal, an ardor and desire for mercy, for goodness, and towards undeserved favor. This is far, far more than simply showing mercy, as important as that is. This goes well beyond having good manners and being nice to people.
Hesed is a matter of the heart, it means to actually love people, and actually love mercy.
It is popular among Christians to teach that love is an “action” word, and is not about feelings. That love means to do well by others, even though you may not like them. That love is not about “like” it is about doing good to others.
Sit with that for a minute.
Think of the people you actually love, and who you know love you as well. Is that what love really means?
Is that how you imagine God loves you? God is doing good by you even though God’s heart remains unmoved by you? God’s love is an action word, God may not even like you, but because God is love, that means you can at least count on God to be good to you?
Consider what the apostle Peter wrote, when he spoke of this same concept.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truthso that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.1 Peter 1:22
To say love is only an action word is not hesed at all. It completely guts the meaning of hesed to think like this. Hesed is real love, from the heart, that flows from within and pours out in kindness and kindliness, goodness and goodliness, mercy and faithfulness.
Walk Humbly With God
Jesus is the Lion of Judah, but Jesus is also the Lamb of God. Jesus described himself as meek and lowly and asked that you and I learn his humility, being
- Ready to be shown the way and follow it.
- Prepared to lay down our own certainties and habits with simplicity and openness.
Practicing humility in the little things strengthens our spirit and our character to be humble when the chips are down and God is testing you and me in a big thing.
Humility—meekness—is a learned and specifically spiritual quality. It shows in the kind of attention we give to each other, in our tone of voice, in our expressions, in our sensitivity to others’ feelings and points of view.
Fruit of Spirit-filled faith is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God
Micah preached this good news for over twenty years, to three kings, praying and grieving for his people, until finally the third king Hezekiah turned to the Lord.
You and I can take God’s perspective, the long view, praying and obeying for as long as it takes.
[Cornucopia | Pxfuel.com]