Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading Through Micah

Micah ChartThe prophet Micah has sometimes been called the “Amos of the South” because his message is so similar to that of the prophet who preached on the imminent doom of Israel in judgment for their greed and complacency. Micah’s main point was that real holiness and righteousness are not seen in ritual acts or temple sacrifice but in practical righteous and holy acts that submit to God and help and serve God’s people. Micah’s message is “God’s covenant people express their faith by living according to God's standards of righteousness which emphasize mercy to the needy, justice in human relationships and submission to God’s standards.

As Ken Barker (New American Commentary, Micah used for all quotes below too) says,  “Robinson states, “His whole message might almost be summed up in this one sentence: Those who live selfish and luxurious lives, even though they offer costly sacrifices, are vampires in the sight of God, sucking the life-blood of the poor. …The book has a vital, much-needed message for today, and it applies to people in any age and of every generation. For God always requires justice, faithful covenant love, and humble obedience to him.” 36-37

In 2:1–11 Micah states the reasons for the previous devastation, charging that those in positions of leadership, wealth, power, and control were guilty of the sins of greed, covetousness, oppression, corruption, fraud, and theft. And their highly paid false prophets predicted nothing but prosperity for them, thus encouraging them in their evil acts. These and other sins brought stern discipline from their covenant Lord. Micah 1.1-2.11, 62.

“Blessings abused are at last removed.”  Micah 2.4, 65.

“Micah’s diagnosis warns that it is still possible for a theologian to become more concerned about fees than faith, about honoraria than honor.” Micah 3.7, 78.

It is so easy for our religion to become a cover for greed. There is something wrong when the church is the most luxurious, opulent and expensive building in town.

The deliverer has come to this world in the person of Jesus; like David, Jesus is the new Shepherd of God’s sheep, offering security from external enemies and a life of security. Jesus, of the Davidic line, is above all a gift of God to this world. To those who feel shut in on every side, like the besieged citizens of Jerusalem who first heard these words, Jesus brings the prospect of deliverance and security. And that is the essence of the Christmas message: God makes a gift to a besieged world through whom deliverance may come. Micah 5.4, 101.

Recognizing the need for practical holiness becomes even more important when we realize that Jesus will take sides against the oppressor, against the greedy and against the ones who misuse his blessings. At the first coming of Jesus it was the religious leadership, in cahoots with the political leadership, that missed the significance of this prophecy because they were so consumed with preserving their wealth and power.

Our forms of idolatry may be more sophisticated than those that Micah encountered, but they are basically the same. We trust in our own skill and ingenuity to lead us through our problems. We feel more secure trusting the works of our own hands rather than trusting God supremely. And this is what idolatry is all about. Micah 5.12-14, 106.

What we trust in the most is really our god. Where do we go first when we get in trouble? Who do we thank first when something good happens? There is our god.

The law therefore was given to the redeemed people of God as a means of expressing their love to God as well as a means of governing their relationship to God and to each other. The law “was not a way of salvation but a way to enjoy an orderly life and God’s fullest blessing within the covenantal, theocratic arrangement. Micah 6.3-5, 110.

It was instead a call for the natural consequence of truly forgiven men and women to demonstrate the reality of their faith by living it out in the marketplace. Such living would be accompanied with acts and deeds of mercy, justice and giving of oneself for the orphan, the widow and the poor. Micah 6.8, 115.

Yahweh is the God of (1) forgiving love (v. 18), (2) redeeming power (v. 19), and (3) perpetual faithfulness (v. 20). Micah 7.18-20, 133.

We obey because we are thankful for our salvation and trust our king to lead us in the right direction. We don’t obey to get saved. We forgive because we have experienced forgiveness.

The oracle is the counterpart to the Christian doctrine of the Last Judgment. In traditional language which Israel could understand it expresses the assurance that deficits in the moral balance sheet of the world are eventually to be paid, while the kingdom of God is to be established in triumph. Micah 6-7, 130.

Faith makes sense because God will set things right.

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