Lectionary Readings for Feb. 2, 2014. Micah 6:1-8, Ps. 15, 1 Cor. 1:18-31, Matt 5:1-12
"Words from this minor prophet have made a major impact on public life. When Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President of the United States in January of 1977, he took his oath of office on a Bible opened to Micah 6:8 and quoted those words; He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God. (KJV)"
(Hosea-Micah. Interpretation Bible Commentary. James Limburgh. 1988)
I imagine most Mennonites know this verse, but haven't got much of a clue about it's setting. We tend, like Jimmy Carter, to pick the one verse out of it's context and use it alone. While this verse does work well on its own, it is still helpful to understand the larger context.
The first six verses is a court case. God vs. the people, with the people as complainant. In verse 3 we hear the accusation, that God is being unfair, burdening the people. This sounds like whiny children whose parents have provided food, clothes, a clean home, music lessons...yet somehow they still think they have a valid complaint! In verses 4-5, God responds, reminding the people of what has been done for them.
Verse 7 is the voice of an observer, maybe even the complainant. Try reading this in the snarky tones of a petulant child who feels entitled to the "good life." Now read the patient, tired (he's said this so many times...), response that God gives in verse 8.
All we (the petulant children) have to do is be fair to our siblings,to be willing to be merciful when we think we've been wronged, and to humbly listen to the advice of our parent who is taking care of us.
Now, we have to keep reading to find out if the "children" understand and take the advice.
In verses 9-16 God comes in as the judge. The people have been cheating each other, the rich taking advantage of the poor, all the people are lying to each other. It doesn't sound at all like a society that is doing justly, loving mercy, or walking humbly!
Verse 16a is the accusation-that the people have followed another's law and not that of God. Verse 16b is the sentencing, the punishment. The good parent is going to stop doing all the work to prop them up. Now he will give them over to ruin and they will be the scorn of other nations. It is their fault. They were told, they knew better, yet they did not listen.
Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God is the way we pitch in and do our share as children in a household run by God!
While the Micah passage is the one that engaged my mind this week, it's Psalm 15 that has really lived in my soul. It echoes Micah 8 in theme in a practical way, and it helps with the humble! The question of who can live with God is answered in a way that should make the reader wonder if they really measure up. Who of us is blameless? Verse 4 encourages us to honour our oaths even when it hurts. Hard to do, but this kind of integrity is what makes for a solid foundation.