19 July 2010

Micah 6:1-8

"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (v.8)


Every society needs its critics, such as the free press, parliamentary opposition or citizens groups. In Old Testament times the prophets performed this role. If they saw a shortfall between people's beliefs and their behaviour they would challenge them to change their ways.

Micah was a prophet in the 8th century BC - a time of great political upheaval. He was partly contemporary with Hosea and Isaiah of Jerusalem (Isaiah chapters 1-39). He is also mentioned in the book of Jeremiah (26:18).

The 8th century prophets were different from their predecessors because they were the first to have their messages recorded at length. This was because they had a startling message for their contemporaries: they couldn't take their relationship with God for granted. The agreement made at Sinai was conditional and if the terms weren't fulfilled, the people would be destroyed. This was a shock to those who saw the king and the Temple in Jerusalem as guarantees of divine favour and protection. When the prophets' predictions came true, and the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyria, their words gained authority and were recorded for future generations.

Micah chapter 6 is mostly in the form of a lawsuit. This is a common literary genre in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. God, as accuser and judge, indicts and sentences the people. God has kept the contract made with them: rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, providing them with leaders, and enabling them to overcome the enemies they met on the way to the Promised Land of Canaan (verses 3-5). Yet the people haven't responded with gratitude or devotion. Instead they ask how they can win God's favour through their worship.

Micah says that God has already told them what they must do: be just, kind and humble.

To Ponder

Who do you think has a prophetic role to play today? How might this be achieved?

How helpful is it to think of a relationship with God as a contract? In what way?

Bible notes author

The Revd Caroline Ainger

Caroline Ainger is a Methodist minister based in Liverpool. She has a passion for creative worship, social justice issues and international development.