In the previous post, I told you the story of a boardinghouse in my local area, the tenants of which might be evicted because of a zoning law. I’ve started a series about how Christians can think biblically about current events. What is God’s heart for a boardinghouse that might get shut down because of a zoning law?
To answer that, let’s start by looking at the words of the prophet Micah. Micah speaks a famous prophetic word. You maybe can quote it: “seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) It’s a beautiful verse.
Micah is famous in prophetic history for other reasons too. I encourage you to follow along in your Bible, starting at Micah 1. In verse 2, he begins his prophecy against Israel saying that God is bearing witness against them. In verses 3-7 the Lord is coming to them for judgement. Then in verses 8-11 Micah says something really bizarre. Because of this message from God, Micah is going to walk naked, weeping and wailing.
As Micah walked in the nude, he himself becomes a deeply symbolic, albeit unusual, act of prophecy. The shame that Micah brought on himself was actually a message to the people that they are truly the naked ones, spiritually, having brought shame on themselves for turning from the Lord. People seeing him walk around naked could have easily said, “Something is not right with that guy!” But through his very public display of indecency, Micah was communicating to them: “Something is not right with Israel”.
Then the prophecy will take a turn for the worst. If you’re feeling unsettled that the Lord is okay with one of his prophets walking around naked, now we move to a horror movie category. The Slasher. Turn to chapter 3:1-3. There the leaders of Israel are described in scary terms. They have committed atrocities. Just read those verses and you’ll see what I mean. Hint: eating of flesh is involved.
This might sound gross and disgusting, and even if it was metaphorical, it is the heart of the reason for Micah’s prophecy. The leaders of Israel have been totally corrupted. The Lord is saying through Micah that things are bad in the land. Very bad.
What is so sad about this, is that God had shown them from the beginning a different, better way.
Turn to chapter 6, verse 3. Micah prophesies, “Remember his ways.” You can hear the sorrow in his voice. Thinking back over the ways he showed them what is good. And what is good? What had God showed them, and what were they now neglecting.
In 6:8 he tells us: “Seek justice, Love mercy, Walk humbly with your God.”
Here is God saying I have showed you what is good. He didn’t say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” He said, “I have already shown you what is good. I have shown you my heart.” For each of those statements, Israel had seen God demonstrate justice, mercy and humility to them and others many times in their nation’s history.
So let’s review those first two terms, justice and mercy, to help us have a clear picture of who God is, what he has shown Israel, and what he expects of them.
To act justly: the word “justice” is used in reference to laws, judgments, and the like. It has a bit of a word picture associated with it, a measuring stick. This is the idea of a correct measure. Honest scales. So the word is often associated with the quality of being right. As a result this word is often translated “righteousness.”
Next, is to love mercy: Mercy could be translated “steadfast love,” or “faithfulness.” Loving-kindness is another way to understand it.
What God desires is that we become like him: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. This is a far cry from the way Israel is acting currently in Micah’s day.
To put it simply, God commands this kind of behavior both because he himself behaves that, and because it is in his people’s best interest. They can be released from their corruption and coming judgment if they will but humbly walk with God, act justly and love mercy. Unfortunately, Israel would go one to refuse to heed Micah’s words, and instead they would choose selfishness. What will we choose?
What we need is a vision of the way life should be. Micah gives us that. The ending of his prophecy is a great reversal, for the nation who repents and turns back to the Lord. Turn to chapter 7:16-20, read that, and we see that God tells Israel that there is Good News! There is hope, even when we’ve acted very poorly. When we choose justice and mercy, Micah says, we have a framework for a renewed way of living. But what does that life look like now? Sometimes it is hard to conceive of justice and mercy. What does justice and mercy look like in Conestoga Valley, where I live, and where you live? In tomorrow’s post we’ll see if we can apply that to our real world.