Micah 1:3-5; 5:2-5; 6:6-8
November 13, 2022
So far this Fall, our Old Testament readings have been about God’s covenant with the people … and about the people’s response to God’s promise.
God has made a number of promises … and offered a lot of reminders because the people keep dropping the ball and not living into to their relationship withto God and with their neighbours.
That’s the case in Micah’s time.
Micah lived in the southwestern portion of Judea … out in the wilderness and away from Jerusalem and other centres of religious, commercial and political life. It was a time of uncertainty … the Assyrians were at war with Judea and Israel and there were battles occurring all around the region.
It was a tense time when people distrusted each other … the separation between Judea and Samaria caused families to be divided.
During Micah’s time, the Assyrians captured Samaria and laid siege to Jerusalem … which barely survived the ordeal. Micah believed the conflicts were the result of the people’s sins … in Samaria’s case, forworshipping idols, which were bought with the income earned by prostitutes.
Under King Ahaz, Judea was worse off than it had been in recent memory.
And it was in such an atmosphere that Micah is naturally critical of the religious and political leaders. He believed that their example led to the people’s dishonesty and idolatry … and kept the people poor, while the leaders prospered.
In this morning’s reading, God has brought what scholar Cameron Howard calls “a covenantal lawsuit” against the people. God pleads the case in front of creation … to the mountains and hills … and then … at the beginning of chapter six … God speaks to the people:
“O my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you?”
God offers the people a reminder of the good that has been done for them.
Just as God had done earlier whenever the people needed a prod to do the right thing, God recalls their deliverance from slavery … and of the prophets … Moses, Aaron and Miriam … who guided the people to freedom… of how God fed the people in the wilderness.
God proves that God’s end of the covenant … of the promises made since the time of Abraham … have been kept. It is the people who have not fulfilled their end of the bargain.
In the final portion of today’s passage, the people seek some clarity of what God expects from them.
The people ask if thousands of rams and thousands of rivers of oil would be enough to meet their obligations under the covenant. How about sacrificing children like the other kingdoms are doing?
Would that do it? Would that be enough?
Micah reminds the people … and us … that offerings and sacrifices are not what God expects … Micah tells the people that they already know what living under the covenant requires. They already know what to do and what not to do …
Near the end of today’s passage, Micah reminds them that “God has already told you what is good….”
The covenant with God requires something driven by hearts and by love … something that requires a recentring of life and what we hold as priorities … God’s promises calls us to offer ourselves.
Micah says that the covenant calls the people to do justice … love kindness … and walk humbly with God.
Instead of piling up sacrifices and offerings, the covenant calls the people to work to ensure it is a just society … to advocate for the oppressed and those who are not full participants in society or who are neglected and at risk of being forgotten. Tossing shekels … or in our case, loonies and twonies into the collection plates isn’t what God requires … although Micah never says to stop making offerings.
Micah reminds people that there is more to the relationship between the people and God … that being in community takes a bit of work.
People need to live a life that extends God’s grace to the community … to our neighbours … to live into lives as a treasured people.
… do justice … love kindness … and walk humbly with God.
Do this and God will be glorified.
Loving kindness is not just about being nice, it’s about living in peaceful and respectful relationships with one another … it’s about being forgiving and merciful. It’s about finding peace within ourselves and extending that peace outward.
Walking humbly with God means the relationship needs to extend beyond worship services on the Sabbath and into the texture of people’s everyday life.
It is to mark our lives and serve as markers for the community.
Such service is not easy.
At times of uncertainty … conflict … and self-interest, such actions go against the very fabric of society. You can see this play out in the world today as we struggle with the lingering covid pandemic and economic issues.
But in Micah, we can see that if the people pursue justice, kindness and mercy
they will make the priestly kingdom that God has promised. These are actions that will bear witness to a loving God present in the life of the world.
Sometimes … in our own uncertainty or when we are faced with what seems an overwhelming call … we can find ourselves asking what does God want from me?
Maybe that’s the wrong question … especially if we consider this passage from Micah.
Maybe a better question is “how can we live into the promise of God’s love?” After all, God has already given us the gift of grace … no strings attached.
God’s actions … God’s promise to us … and how we see and respond to God’s expectations have been the threads woven through the lessons we’ve heard since September.
A couple of weeks ago, we learned about Solomon’s gift of discernment … of being able to see things from different perspectives and using that knowledge to bring justice to the world. … to bring people together.
Discernment can foster the ability to understand God’s desire for how we live our lives … how we recognize that God is the source of grace we have received … of how God’s love calls us outward.
Discernment helps us try to answer the expand upon the question …. What does God want of us? by asking, “How do we … do justice … love kindness … and walk humbly with God?”
And … in today’s lesson … Micah makes it clear that God seeks authentic efforts to live a life with purpose and meaning … a life that mirrors God’s will for the world.
To discern what is justice? And then lean into it and live and work to make justice present in the world.
To discern our relationship with God … through reflection and prayer … and to know … to remember … that grace is a sign that we are loved and called to love with God’s heart … to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.