20 July 2010

Micah 7:14-20

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession?" (v.18)


Micah was a prophet in the 8th century BC, partly contemporary with Hosea and Isaiah of Jerusalem (Isaiah chapters 1-39). Against a backdrop of political upheaval he spoke out against social injustice and religious hypocrisy. He challenged the people to live up to the ideals of the covenant made at Sinai. The consequences of not doing so were severe: God would destroy them.

This passage concludes the book and it dates from a later period, following the defeat of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian empire. This was a catastrophic event, second only to the exodus from Egypt in terms of its impact on the people and their faith. They had assumed that the Covenant safeguarded them from harm. Now they had a crisis of confidence. They were faced with many questions. If they were God's people, why had this happened to them? Was God unfaithful or were they? Were the gods of the others nations greater than their god? Had God deserted them or might God come to their rescue?

In response to this situation, God is asked to vindicate the people and to vanquish their enemies. The people are reassured that God isn't only mighty, but forgiving and faithful too. Therefore a remnant will survive this calamity. The idea of the 'remnant' became prominent with the prophet Isaiah, though it had its precedents in the stories of Noah and Joseph. It's a very important concept and a way of working out how God could be both righteous and loving. According to this view, God could judge the majority of the people and destroy them, but spare the minority who were repentant. These would become the nucleus of a renewed community, through whom God's purposes could be achieved.

To Ponder

Have you ever experienced social injustice and religious hypocrisy of the sort Micah spoke out against? How did you respond?

In your view, do bad things happen to good people? Why?

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.