Friday, October 12, 2012 — Week of Proper 22, Year 2
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html 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 140, 142 (morning) // 134, 135 (evening)
Micah 3:9 – 4:5
Acts 24:24 – 25:12
We have two of the most powerful moments of prophecy in today’s reading from Micah. They probably come from different centuries and different voices, but they are preserved together, not unlike the collection of the prophet Isaiah. In classic form, Micah afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
The first oracle (3:9-12) comes from the eighth century prophet Micah, who pronounces God’s judgment upon the leaders of the nation, “who abhor justice and pervert all equity.” He speaks in a voice not unlike his contemporary Amos. Micah’s complaint is toward the powerful and wealthy, the elite who have structured the economy to favor the rich while the interests of the poor are ignored. The gap between rich and poor widens. Dishonesty abounds. It’s all about money. Money talks. Money is power. Money corrupts. “Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money.” It is a religious age. The Temple and the places of worship are well supplied and its leaders give great lip service to God. “They lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Surely the Lord is with us! Nor harm shall come to us.'” Many commentators have said that the circumstances of eighth century Israel and today have some remarkable similarities.
Then Micah pulls the trigger. “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” Micah announces the fall of Jerusalem.
But it didn’t happen. Not that century at least. Micah’s contemporary Isaiah made similar complaints about the nation’s injustice, but believed that Jerusalem would not fall. Isaiah was right, for the time being. Sennacherib of Assyria captured many of the fortified cities of Judah. But prior to overcoming Jerusalem, Sennacherib left the siege, apparently to handle another threat elsewhere. Jerusalem was spared, but the annual tribute that Sennacherib demanded impoverished the city and nation.
Nearly a hundred years later, during another time of threat, the prophet Jeremiah also announced God’s judgment upon the nation. He prophesied the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was arrested on a charge of treason and faced a death sentence. His appeal, his primary defense was the word of the prophet Micah. Micah had also prophesied Jerusalem’s fall, and he was not executed. His word was preserved as a prophet. Micah’s word saved Jeremiah. And Jerusalem fell, just like Micah and Jeremiah had said.
We move to Micah 4. These are words to exiles following the fall. In a passage that is also preserved in Isaiah, we read of a vision of the glorification of Jerusalem. No more will the capital city be a source of injustice and greed, but “out of Zion shall go forth instruction.” Wisdom and peace will dwell in the city. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.” That is a beautiful vision.
So many have been inspired by the visions of Micah. When these two prophecies are combined, we have a witness that confronts the powerful and wealthy for their injustice, complacency and greed; and we have a witness that holds up an alternative vision of wisdom and peace.
The prophets call us to reject power and control driven by money and inequality. They call us to to embrace peace guided by wisdom. The book of Micah preserves both words. It speaks with ringing authority today.