The traumatic descent of Covid-19 presented a crisis beyond what many of us could have imagined. Millions of people around the world lost their lives and countless others suffered untold hardship as they weathered one of history’s bitterest storms. During such dire times, it is often difficult for those who are suffering to find comfort. Perhaps we may find encouraging words from an obscure prophet in that little-read section of the Bible. A prophet such as Micah of Moresheth.
If we were to read through the seven short chapters of Micah’s book, we would find that, although the writer lived twenty-seven centuries ago, his circumstances were similar in many ways to our own. Although the nations of Israel and Judah were fairly prosperous at the time, great stresses from within and without were being placed on the people. To begin with, the Israelites were living in the shadow of the mighty Assyrian Empire, whose lingering presence posed an ominous threat to Micah and his countrymen. To compound their anxieties, the poorest people of Israel and Judah were in misery - relentlessly persecuted and even rendered destitute by the rich ruling class. Indeed, the most vulnerable citizens of these two nations were living in a time of great social and economic adversity.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Micah’s book is how practical and helpful it is for readers of today. Of special encouragement, in fact, is the love and concern expressed for the poor, downtrodden and dispossessed.
Like most Old Testament prophets, Micah’s message pulled no punches. And the writer made it perfectly clear that he was simply acting as a messenger; the words he penned were, in fact, coming straight from the heart of Almighty God.
As the book opens, Micah quickly gets to the root of the problem, and it is spiritual in nature. God’s people have abandoned Him for the idols and evil practices of their Canaanite neighbours. The Israelites also left behind the laws of the land delivered to them by God through Moses. This paradigm shift resulted in a society overrun by violence, greed and heartache, where the rich and powerful ran roughshod over those less fortunate. So evil and narcissistic were these wealthy tyrants, that Micah describes them as lying awake at night thinking up even more devious ways of taking advantage of the vulnerable, Micah 2. 1.
The prophet outlines the litany of sins of these prosperous manipulators.
During this troubled time Micah emerges as an outspoken champion of the poor and oppressed, and, in so doing, makes it abundantly clear that retribution is on its way, 2. 3.
Micah’s message of impending doom reminds us of Jonah’s warning to the people of Nineveh. Yet the Ninevites took Jonah’s message to heart, repented, and were spared. Would the people of Israel and Judah repent as well and be spared the judgement of God?
Micah, however, does not leave the guilty without hope but proposes a remedy for this horrid state of affairs. The antidote is penned with characteristic simplicity and elegance in the book’s key verse, Mic. 6. 8. Justice tempered with mercy, enacted with kindness in a spirit of humility. All three of these qualities were totally lacking among a people who spent their time defrauding widows of their homes and casting their children into the streets.
Justice, kindness, and humility are the qualities required by the Lord of every generation, especially, perhaps, during a time of social and economic upheaval.
The pandemic provided an opportunity for many of us to remove some of the clutter from our lives and thereby reduce daily life to its bare bones. Is it now time to work diligently at aligning our lives more closely with the three critical qualities outlined so gracefully by the prophet?
God’s word provides help in answering these three questions, for it contains the perfect template as to what these three traits look like in action. In Jesus Christ we see these characteristics displayed in living colour. By getting to know Him through the four Gospels, we can boldly ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’, in every circumstance.
May the exhortations of Micah of Moresheth be an encouragement to us and help us to live our lives more closely aligned to the principles of justice, mercy and humility. ‘But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me’, Mic. 7. 7 ESV.
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