News Commentary

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 — Week of Proper 22, Year 2

Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, Medical Missionary, 1940

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)

Psalms [120], 121, 122, 123 (morning) // 123, 125, 126, [127] (evening)

Micah 1:1-9

Acts 23:12-25

Luke 7:1-17

Reading today’s scriptures is like hearing a commentary on our contemporary politics and economics.

Psalm 123 says, “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt, Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, and the derision of the proud.”

Micah prophecies against the wealthy, ruling aristocrats in Samaria and Jerusalem. Their corruption is bringing ruin. Micah accuses the wealthy elites and the authorities of misleading the people. He accuses them of economic injustice. He says that God will judge their actions and bring disaster — the utter destruction of Samaria and a threat against Jerusalem.

Much of the complaint of the great Hebrew prophets was directed at the abuse of power by the wealthy and the politically connected. The prophets accused the powerful of using their power to expand their own economic interests, often at the expense of the poor peasants and small landowners. There was lying, arrogance and corruption in the high places, including the seat of government. God detests such behavior, says Micah and the other prophets. Such behavior brings God’s judgment.

This stuff reads like today’s headlines. When you read the 8th century prophets it is like reading a contemporary newspaper or watching TV news — just substitute Washington and Wall Street for Samaria and Jerusalem. The 8th century BCE was a time when Israel was wealthy and politically powerful. It was also a time of increasing economic contrasts and growing income inequality. The elites were concentrating wealth and power, a circumstance guaranteed to draw the ire of the prophetic tradition.

What does Micah want? What do the prophets say God wants? There are three prophetic words that Micah uses to summarize the prophetic demand:

Mishpat is “justice”. Justice is fairness and equality that the prophets proclaimed should characterize all social and economic relationships.

Hesed is usually translated “steadfast love” or “kindness” or “mercy.” It has a strong element of loyalty and integrity. Hesed describes how we are to fulfill our social responsibilities toward our neighbors, with loyal and kind integrity.

Hatsnea lekhet is to “walk humbly”. It is the way of life that is the opposite of the arrogant abuse of power so characteristic of the wealthy and powerful. Walking humbly prevents corruption, injustice and exploitation.

These three words are major Biblical themes. You can find this same message throughout the scriptures. These words describe the political agenda of the Bible — mishpat, hesed, and hatsnea lekhet: Economic and social fairness and equality; fulfilling social obligations with loyal kindness; walking humbly.

The next time you read, hear, or watch the news, ask yourself, “What would the prophets say to this?”

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