Micah

Readings for this week October 21 – 25
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Day 1 – Micah’s Message

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:1

Although, as with all the prophets, the focus is on God and his relationship to his somewhat wayward people, we begin with a little bit about Micah himself. He was a prophet to the nation of Judah, during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which gives an approximate minimum period of 35 years or so in which he was prophesying. We do not know whether we have all the oracles he spoke over this time, but even what we do have is memorable enough. Micah’s message would have been terribly shocking to his audience for the simple reason that he was the first prophet to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He was definitely a prophet with a message that people would not have wanted to hear.

As we will see as we make our way through the book of Micah, these messages promising destruction and judgement alternate with messages of promise and hope. The book contains both negative and positive words for the people of Jerusalem and Judah. The challenge that God brings to his people in the present is necessary if they are to have any chance of a hopeful future. At the end of the book, the reader is left with a sense of hope for the long journey ahead and the certainty of God’s promise to and presence with his people, yet they are also left with dread at what will happen before these promises come to fruition. There will be punishment and destruction before there will be restoration and renewal. But Yahweh will be present through it all.

Questions to Consider
What do you know about the book of Micah? Have you read it before? What do you know of the importance of the prophet’s message?

Prayer
Lord God, speak to me through your word – encouragement when I need it, correction when I need that too. May I always listen to what you say, even when I don’t like it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – All Those With Business Before This Court…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:2-5

We begin with a legal summons, a sort of “Hear ye, hear ye, this court is now in session,” only with all the earth and its inhabitants called to witness the arrival of Yahweh from his celestial abode. Micah makes much of the fact that Yahweh’s arrival has potentially devastating consequences for the earth – his arrival is not something to be taken lightly and shows the seriousness of the situation; the earth cannot hold or contain his presence, and yet still he comes anyway. The weight of his presence causes the mountains to crumble and the earth itself to burst open. He is a terrifying presence, so powerful that human resistance to him is futile. And he is coming to earth to deliver judgement.

And here is the most shocking thing of all: Yahweh’s judgement is against his own people! ‘Jacob’ refers to Israel, as the reference to Samaria reveals: it was the capital of the northern kingdom from the time of Ahab until 722 BC when both city and kingdom were destroyed. Their sinful idolatry and disobedience has provoked him to come down, to call the world to witness as he testifies to the perfidy and wretchedness of his people. Yahweh accuses both Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem) of rebellion against him. He treads upon the high places in verse 3 and they are destroyed; in verse 5 he tells us why – because of Jacob’s trespass. Judgement is coming to Samaria – and with it, a warning to Judah of the fate that awaits her if she does not turn away from wickedness and return to God.

Questions to Consider
Why does Micah make so much of the consequences of God’s arrival? Why is he judging his own people like this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, remind me of your awesome power and majesty and your righteousness and faithfulness, especially in those times when I feel the need to go my own way rather than follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The City and the Temple Not Immune

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:6-7

People cannot turn away from God with impunity, no matter who they are. The destruction of Samaria is the judgement of Yahweh against his own rebellious people. They have sinned and Yahweh will punish them. But Samaria’s demise is also to serve as a warning to the people of Jerusalem as well. Holy city of Zion it may be, but she is not immune to the wrath of Yahweh, especially when she too has turned from her God and embraced idols and false gods. What punishment Yahweh pours out upon Samaria will also be visited upon Judah and Jerusalem. Samaria is the first step in a process that will envelop both Israel and Judah, eventually including Jerusalem and the Temple itself as well, as shocking as that is.

Nothing is mentioned of the people and their destruction. Only the destruction of the city is described, and in such a way that no one can doubt the completeness of the wrath to fall upon it. It will be as though the city never existed. The ground will be swept clean, just like a farmer clears his field; the rocks will be removed, making the ground ready to be planted again (hinting at both God’s restoration of his people and the renewal of his people into faithful followers this time around). Special attention is paid to the way the city worshipped false ideals and sold herself to other lovers – prostituted herself, in other words – and abandoned her God, thus reinforcing the reasons for God’s destructive judgement falling upon them. Just because they were part of God’s chosen people, didn’t mean they were exempt from possible punishment.

Question to Consider
What had God commanded Israel to do in Deut.7:25 and 12:3? Did they?

Prayer
Loving Lord, you chastise those you love in order to bring them back to your embrace. Be gentle with me when I stumble and sin. Thank you for your perseverance with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – God and Us and Them

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:8-12

Some people today ascribe all the disaster and destruction that occurs in our world to the hand of God, and see natural and national disasters as proof that God has been provoked into action against those considered to be his enemies, those flouting his rules and disobeying his commands. There is an ‘us’, and there is a ‘them’, and God acts against ‘them’ when his wrath is triggered. Others invoke the name of God only when our science and technology fails to provide an adequate explanation for these phenomena. Disaster and destruction are seen as aberrations; God is good, gentle and loving and so the destruction we see and experience is simply the unavoidable consequence of living in a fallen, imperfect world.

But it is interesting that we see judgement announced against God’s own people, against the ‘us’, not the ‘them.’ We cannot label disaster in the world today as simply God’s wrath against ‘them’, against those we perceive as God’s (and our) enemies. And yet, neither can we dismiss God from the equation as irrelevant and obsolete in the face of our technology. The judgement we encounter in Micah is powerful, monumental, bordering on cosmic, not to be dismissed by people claiming to follow God simply because it seems like an old-fashioned and outdated concept. Instead, this is where our theological reflection begins: reflection on the nature and character of God, on our actions and their possible consequences, and what such warnings mean for us. Who is this God? Why does he do what he does? How are his people supposed to behave?

Questions to Consider
In v.8 what does Micah say he must do? What does this tell us about how he feels about what is happening?

Prayer
Almighty Father, give me your heart for those who turn away from you. As I grieve for them may I pray for them and reach out with your love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Setting Things Right

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:12-16

Micah does not show God coming unannounced and for no reason. Micah assumes that the judgement against Samaria is justified and is therefore not a surprise to people – their idolatrous, rebellious behaviour is obviously reason enough for God’s wrath to fall upon them. But it does not come out of the blue, as if God simply arbitrarily decided one day to destroy them. He appears because wickedness is in the ascendant and all previous attempts to get people to alter their behaviour and repent have failed. God comes to set things right. They were warned – many times – and given ample opportunity to change course. They didn’t, and suffered the consequences.

Also, God’s coming tips the world and its systems on its head. His appearance and his action are not designed to keep things as they are; it is not his intention to preserve the status quo, but to announce judgement against the powerful and the wicked and the wealthy. As we will see throughout Micah, many of the accusations God makes against his people are aimed at the wealthy and those in power, who make decisions based on self-interest, who deliberately blind themselves to the plight of the poor – a plight often caused or exacerbated by the greed and idolatry of the wealthy and powerful – and who perpetuate systems of oppression. God’s people are a covenant people, a covenant that at its heart calls for love of God and love of neighbour. The book of Micah shows us what happens when people betray these commands, and how God acts to rectify and restore things to the way they should be.

Questions to Consider
What would you do if God gave you a message like this? Why?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, you speak and act on behalf of the oppressed and the neglected. May I do so too in all I do, speaking out against injustice and siding with those on the margins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)