Day 270: Micah 5-7; What Does the Lord Desire?

In one verse, Micah summarizes pretty much the point of the entire message of all the prophets:

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.

This is indeed what the Lord is calling the people back to.  Idle repentance, veiled holiness, and pretend religiosity is nothing to the Lord.  Actions without inner change are worthless.  God does not want their sacrifices or offerings, He does not desire festivals or celebrations.  God desires those who walk along the path that He has set out for them, the path of justice and mercy, in a humble and contrite manner.

What is at the core of this statement?  The fact that this is exactly what the people of Israel were not doing.  In fact, as we read in Micah and other prophets, the people of Israel were acting unjustly towards all, especially those who were poor, downtrodden, and could not defend themselves.  The original call of God to His people was both to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind, but also to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This idea was in contrast to that which the world seeks, motivated by self-interest and the desire to promote the self at the expense of others, particularly the poor.  This is not how God created the world and God wanted to show the world through Israel the right way to be in relationship with others, and the mercy that He shows to all those who are downtrodden.

Going along with this was the Lord’s desire to love mercy.  For many this goes along with the idea of acting justly, but in many ways it is completely different.  From a strictly justice standpoint, debtors that are indebted to someone should have to pay them back and when the loan is called, the debt collector is justified in taking a person’s belongings to satisfy the balance of the loan.  But to do this heartlessly, without understanding is not what God has in mind either.  In fact, the Law is full of examples of when loans are to be forgiven, slaves are to be set free, and land is to be returned to its original owner, no matter what the circumstances are.  This is what true mercy is… this is the way God has called us to live… and it is in response to the way that He has shown mercy on His people as well.  Whether it is freeing them from bondage in Egypt or dying for their sins on the cross, God has shown us mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace.  There is really no two ways about it.  We are to be merciful in the same way that we have been shown mercy.

Neither of these have any traction without a true posture of humility that comes with following God and walking with Him.  The true purpose of the people of Israel was not in the actions of justice or mercy that they took, but in the posture in which they took them.  As the Psalmist writes,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Actions can be empty.  Anyone can fake niceness or happiness when they want to.  God desires something much deeper from His people: their heart.  Micah uses the word and in this verse as well… like the commercials about ‘and‘ and ‘or’ say, “and is better.”  All of these are what the Lord desires of us…

To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.



Day 269: Micah 1-4; Human plans and God's plans

The prophet Micah was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, call though to be a voice to the common people of Judah rather than in the courts of the king.  Yet as we listen and read carefully the text of this Prophet, we can see that there are marked similarities between the words of Micah and the words of Isaiah, ultimately culminating in the grand vision of “the Day of the Lord” that we had read in Isaiah 2 and read again here in Micah 4.  In fact, this is almost a verbatim description of the vision that Isaiah saw and recorded in Isaiah 2.  He again casts a vision of the reality that awaits us in the last days, where the “mountain of the Lord” will be established as chief of the mountains.  For the people of this time, the imagery of a mountain being established above all the other mountains would show the true superiority of God’s reign over that of other earthly kingdoms and even the gods of the world that would have been worshiped on the mountains.  The Mountain of the Lord would be the chief mountain and it would be one that people would want to go to.  Why?  Because it is from there that the Word of the Lord would go out.  This place is a place of teaching and of transformation, but also a place of justice, righteousness and peace.

I think, in the interest of current social events, the vision that we see here of the people is most interesting.  The people desire to go to the house of the Lord and one of the results is this idea that there will be no more war or struggle, neither will there be any sort of training for war.  This is a rather anti-militaristic image that we get in which all people will dwell together in unity, not simply because they are forced to, but because they want to.  Indeed it isn’t because their weapons have been taken away that they cannot do battle, but because the weapons of the world have been transformed by their wielders into objects of care and provision.  I wonder what this looks like in the light of the discussion on gun control that we are having in this country right now.  I wonder how something like this would affect the ongoing discussions about Syria, Iran, and North Korea.  Does it make sense to destroy their weapons?  Does it make sense to take them away?

So often we focus on the removal of harmful things from bad people as a way of generating peace.  If we go in and get Chemical Weapons or take away the guns of criminals it’ll bring peace to the world.  Perhaps if we make it harder to get guns then there will be less violence.  While I’m not necessarily against these things in principle, they largely ignore the image of Shalom that is set up for us in the prophets.  Indeed, I am not advocating for more or less gun laws, more or less weapons, or to let crazed dictators use weapons of mass destruction indiscriminately; but laws and military action to not get at the root of the problem that we face in this world when it comes to violence.  The problem is sin; the corruption of God’s design for creation.

Why do people engage in such hostile actions?  Why is it that some people seem to just be prone towards violence?  The easy answer, of course, is sin.  Corruption.  Evil.  We can blame any host of things from government institutions that keeps people in certain social classes to lack of decent parenting.  We can put together programs to educate and train people for skills in the labor force.  We can build cities and countries, even and entire world of people that have more than enough of everything, something we are absolutely capable of doing, but the problem will not be solved.  Sin is still present.  As Micah is getting to in his prophecy, there is simply no substitute for the righteousness that God calls us to… something we cannot obtain for ourselves no matter how hard we try.  Though Micah didn’t put a name on it, He is referencing the coming of Jesus, the forgiveness of sin in His blood, and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit which works to draw people out of a life of darkness and sin and into the light of Christ’s righteousness, justice, mercy and grace.