26 March 2011

Micah 7:14-20

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency." (v. 18)


The prophet Micah ends his prophecy by affirming God's faithfulness to Israel and the consequent agony of the other nations that have made Israel's life so difficult. God's compassion and love is dependable and therefore the prophet can assure the people that the time is coming when they will receive justice.

This could read as a passage of little relevance to anyone other than the people of ancient Israel. However, the Bible sets this assurance in the context of a wider significance of what God's purposes were in adopting Israel as the people of God. When God promised to Abraham that his offspring would be a nation, the people of God (eg Genesis 12:1-3), God made it clear that through this "all the families of the earth shall be blessed". So Micah's proclamation of God's judgement on the other nations is specifically when they have acted wrongly.

The New Testament, and particularly St Paul, makes it clear that the implication of the coming of Jesus is that God's promises of old now apply to those who, by their following of Jesus, are the people of God of today (eg Romans 10:9-13). They are a part of the Body of Christ, the Church. Micah's assurances are then as much for us today as they were for Israel many years ago.

To Ponder

Shepherds (verse 14), were (and still are) a common sight in Palestine. Their care for the flock makes them a good image for biblical writers of God's love for us. What roles in our society would serve as well to describe God's care for God's own people?

The Bible often reflects, as Micah does here, that judgement and mercy sit uncomfortably together in the nature of God. That can often be true of ourselves as well, we often prefer judging than forgiving. How quick are you to judge?

How does this passage affect how you feel about the current Israel Palestine conflict?

Read the passage again and every time that it speaks of the blessings and assurances for the people - reflect that you are included, if only you honestly and sincerely seek to be a follower of Jesus. God's faithfulness is for us, as much as it was for people long ago.

Bible notes author

The Revd John Howard

John Howard is a minister in the Methodist Church, at present serving as the chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District. He is married to Mary with three adult children, and has just become a grandfather for the first time.