9 July 2015Micah 4:1-8
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (v. 3)
Psalm: Psalm 38:1-9
If there is one experience that is common to almost every era of history, it is the existence of war and conflict. The prophet Micah addressed a people who were all too familiar with it, and for whom it would soon become a very present reality. Micah is brutally honest about the immediate prospect of war, but he is also able to see beyond those circumstances to the dawning of an age when humanity will dwell in peace and common accord.
The words that he cites were probably a great poem or hymn that was already familiar - identical stanzas appear in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4). They express a longing that would be in the hearts of any people who were scarred or threatened by war.
The peace of which Micah speaks is not a tentative ceasefire; weapons are not confiscated or mothballed, but willingly re-forged into the tools of agriculture and shared provision. And in a world that still yearns for peace, we might well ask whether Micah's prophecy is one of confident promise or vain hope.
Christians are called to be peacemakers, and Micah makes clear that peace cannot be achieved in isolation. His vision begins with the peoples of the earth abandoning political and racial division, and instead embracing their common humanity. And this is not the outcome of mere human aspiration, but by recognising and being drawn afresh into relationship with their creator. Christian people have begun to experience this reality, able to embrace fellow believers as sisters and brothers despite huge differences in language, culture and national identity.
But peace is deeply intertwined with justice, and Micah's words recognise that God is a God of justice. It is when God's laws become the benchmark, and disputes and differences are settled according to his principles, that strong and sustainable peace emerges. It is a peace founded on justice for all, where the broken, afflicted and marginalised are included and valued. It is this vision of God's kingdom which centuries later, Jesus declared that he had come to establish - this is the eternal hope and future for those who believe in him.
But this is a promise given to a people who still had some tough circumstances to face in the immediate future. Our life's journey can also be one of pain and struggle, but through Micah's words, God offers us a cause for hope and a challenge to work for peace and justice even in the midst of struggle.
- What would need to happen in today's world for people to be willing to "beat swords into ploughshares"?
- How can we work for peace in our world by embracing God's vision of justice for all?