Saturday

11 July 2015

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” (vv. 7-8)

Psalm: Psalm 100

Background

Imagine yourself standing in an abandoned orchard - its gnarled and twisted trees are overgrown and unkept; what little fruit they still bear is inedible; riddled with insects and spoiled by disease. The prophet Micah imagined himself in a similar place - standing in a vineyard, where the few grapes it bore, had long since been stripped from the vines.

This was Micah's vision of the future. It might have been a quite literal one - he had already been outspoken about the greed, consumption and self-interest of society; a vineyard stripped bare by those who just grabbed what they could, with little concern for tending the vines for next year's harvest, would be a typical outcome.

But the vine was also a well-recognised image that represented the nation of God's people. Perhaps Micah's vision was more of a metaphor; seeing himself as part of a society that had been stripped bare and left fruitless by its abandonment of justice, truth and common good.

Faith has to be lived out in the real world; a world that can take its toll on us; that can both press us into its mould and inflict us with its own damage. Micah has been uncomfortably clear about the bleak future that faces God's people; his words now acknowledge that he too has to live within that society, and cannot escape its judgement.

His tone has somewhat changed; having been critical of the failures of its spiritual leaders, and corruption and inequality in its legal and economic spheres, having even challenged its religious activities, Micah turns his attention to the social fabric of society.

He portrays a violent and self-seeking environment where economic failure pitches individuals against one another. He describes corrupt civic authorities that harm rather than help those who turn to them; even family life has been torn apart by mistrust, envy and self-interest. Micah's message has stretched from impending war and invasion to damaged and broken communities, yet at the heart of his wide-ranging catalogue of woe is one simple reality -the nation has abandoned the laws of God.

What he describes, we might well call a moral breakdown, but it is important to note that in his earlier writings he attributes the root, even of this, as an abandonment of God's justice. His message is simple - when justice is abandoned, every aspect of society falls apart.

Micah's oracles do not make easy reading - but he does not stand at a distance to condemn his world, but places himself at its heart. He knows that he will have to suffer the consequences of others' wrongdoing, but faced with the choice, he does not shrug his shoulders and seek to protect his own interests, but rather resolutely sets his intent to stand firm in his faith and trust in God.
 

To Ponder

  • Where do you feel that society seeks to press you into its mould? How can you stand firm in your own faith in such circumstances?
  • Where do you see the consequences of injustice in your own community and context?


Bible notes authors: Andrew Bradstock and Phil Jump (members of the Joint Public Issues Team: Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed Church and Church of Scotland working together)

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