This weeks readings in the Prayer Manual have been from Micah. Although placed near the end of the Old Testament in our bibles, it is one of the oldest written books, dating from about 720BC, and is contemporary with another great prophet, Amos. Amos prophesied in the Northern Kingdom which fell to the Assyrians in 722BC, however Micah was prophesying in Judah, to the south, which had Jerusalem as its capital. He was very critical of the leaders of the nation, and warned that if they did not return to obedience to God the same fate would befall them, and 125 years later it did. The way they should live is summed up in a very well-known passage from chapter 6 verse 8, ‘This is what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God’. Christian faith could not be better summed up.
Micah is really two books mixed together, the first 3 chapters and some later sections are largely about Judgement, warnings, and relate to the period around 720BC. But the later part of the book is about Salvation, the hope and promise of this as God’s gift to his people. These chapters belong 250 years later, and relate to the return for the people to Jerusalem after the Exile. These two pieces of work have been woven together, alternating the warning of God’s judgement and the hope of his salvation together as one book.
Micah is most famous for identifying Bethlehem (Chapter 5 ,verse 2) as the place the where God’s new ruler of the people would be born. He would bring a message of peace.
Todays reading is Chapter 7 and in it he rails against the moral corruption of the leaders and people, it draws on the well-used image of the Vineyard where the crops have been picked, meaning the good people are gone, and only the wicked are left. Murder and bribery is rife, disputes and betrayal abound, but God will answer Micah’s prayers.
We are familiar with the ‘carrot and stick’ image of trying to get something done, or change to happen, with a reward at the end. For Micah the reward is a nation at peace and a people obedient to God. But Jesus message was not for a nation but for humanity, Micah’s hope is expanded beyond geographical boundaries by Jesus to a new Kingdom of the heart, a Kingdom of love that is for all and in all, recognized and unrecognized, for each of us has spirit. We as Christians recognize that spirit as the Spirit of God, but more that the third person of the Trinity,for the Spirit is God in us, and Micah’s hope that it is never too late to work for and pray for a new start, and new way, and new purpose and a new life.
Here is Matt Beckinghams hymn that sums up Micah’s teaching for us a Christian’s.
Singing the Faith 713.
And a prayer by Julie Hulme. (this prayer also alludes to the beatitudes in Matthew 5).
Come in to the presence of God,
as those who are seeking to serve with faithfulness,
as those who are pure in heart and mind,
as those who are true to God’s purposes.
Come into the presence of God,
as you are, and as you would be,
and know that you are loved for yourselves,
and for your great desire, today and forever.