Thursday 26 January 2023

Where to start

If you’ve not heard of Micah, the 8th century BCE prophet in Judah, don’t be surprised. In Hebrew scripture he’s one of the “minor” prophets and he’s a contemporary of Isaiah, a heavyweight among prophets.

Micah doesn’t seem to have had a lot to say. At least, he probably did, but not a lot was reported: his book is a slim seven chapters. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t important. In fact, the Twelve Minor Prophets are called that because of the length of their stories, not the importance of what they had to say. And Micah had some good stuff.

Micah talked a lot about the people’s relationship with God, how they know God and connected with God, or, more significantly, didn’t. In typical fashion, he prophesied the destruction of the nation, but also offered hope for its restoration. He lived in a time of conflict and imminent war, he spoke out about ethical and socioeconomic issues, criticizing government corruption and dishonesty in business. He railed against injustice and cruelty and called the people to change, not their behaviour, but their hearts. 

Yes, Micah didn’t see a complicated situation requiring complicated solutions. He saw people. He saw people who were adrift and broken and he offered them this: God has shown you what is good. And what does God look for from you? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Much like Jesus would later, Micah questioned the sincerity of the priests in the temple and the value of the many rituals and offerings they made to God. God isn’t looking for empty rituals, he’d say, God’s looking for us to be who we truly are, made in God’s image, made of love, made to be good. 

Justice, kindness and walking with God. Not the God of institutions and structures, but the God that is in every heart, every living thing, every atom of creation, the God that is the very energy of life. That God is everywhere we are and invites us into a relationship, just as God invites us into relationship with each other.

Yes, relationships are complicated and the world is a complex, challenging and often confounding place. I think Micah knew that in his day, just as we do, infinitely more so, in our own. But imagine what the world could be like if we began, in hearts and minds, with that simple wisdom of doing justice, being kind and walking with the spirit of love and all that is good. Our complicated journeys would begin on the right foot.

I think Micah could see that kind of a world and offered the hope of it in the future. He didn’t call for giving up the rituals or the government or the business of the world. He called for each of us to live what God sees in us: justice, kindness and living in love. A message of hope for his day and ours.