Micah 5:2-5a & 6:6-8 (also check out 4:3-5)
Our journey through God’s Story this morning continues with the small book of Micah, close to the back end of the Old Testament. The Narrative Lectionary is designed for us to encounter God’s Story through both Testaments in such a way that God’s Story and ours intersect and change us, forming Christ within us and empowering us to live our faith out loud.
Micah! There are twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament. Micah is toward the end of those twelve. They are referred to as minor because their ministries were shorter in terms of years, thus their books smaller. They are certainly not minor in their messages.
Micah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (about 750–700 b.c.), at about the same time as Isaiah. Jotham and Hezekiah were good kings. Ahaz was very evil.
It was a time of prosperity, and Micah denounced the wealthy, who were oppressing the poor, and warned of impending judgment. The northern kingdom actually fell during Micah’s ministry, in 722, and Judah almost fell in 701 (2 Kings 18–20). The book contains three sections, which alternate between words of warning and messages of hope.
The fourth chapter of Micah talks about a “future time” when the mountain of the house of the Lord would be the largest of all hills and mountains and that people from all nations would fl flow to it. That is metaphoric language for the church—the holy Christian Church and it is being fulfilled today.
A part of the prophecy connected to this futuristic chapter is the peace theme—
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 anymore;
but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.
Micah’s message fits in well with our Veteran’s Day remembrance and the 100th anniversary of Armistice agreement ending World War I. Our world is certainly not experiencing peace, nor our swords made into plowshares! Yet this passage reminds us of the power of God’s love in Christ to bring peace, even amid conflict and war. It takes eyes of faith to see the higher reality of God’s Kingdom—the reign of grace—having its impact in and through us as believers throughout the world. God is on the move! Keep your eyes open and you will see glimpses of God working!
Pre-Millennialists (those who believe in “the tribulation, the rapture and the thousand year reign of Christ) see this as speaking of the physical reign of Christ from Jerusalem. We as Lutherans understand it as speaking of the Kingdom of Christ, the collective body of believers who live the law of love as exemplified by the beatitudes and Christ-like living. As such we see it in process, not complete, but by all means still happening. It will be complete when Jesus comes again and brings heaven and earth together. That is the message of Revelation (cf. Revelation 20-21). Those who make literal what was intended to be understood figuratively offer confusing points of speculation and theological opinion that is not consistent with the rest of Scripture. We understand the New Jerusalem of Revelation, the Bride of Christ and the mountain of the house of the Lord as picturing the body of Christ. We also understand the thousand year reign of Christ again as metaphorical, picturing the reign of Christ here on earth before Jesus’ Second Coming. Many of these passages were never intended to be interpreted and applied literally. They picture in metaphorical and poetic imagery what the reign of Christ looks like.
Micah, as all of the Old Testament, finds it fulfillment in Messiah Jesus. Luther and other significant theologians understood the Old Testament as pointing to Jesus. The Apostle Paul’s ministry was committed to helping Jews and Gentiles discover Jesus as the Promised One. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises for deliverance to us.
Probably the two best known passages of this marvelous not-so-minor prophet are the two passages we have in front of us this morning, Micah 5:2, the birth place of Messiah is Bethlehem. This is a popular Christmas reading. So most of us are familiar with it. The second is Micah 6:8, which addresses what I refer to as the “living our faith out loud.” What does God require of us? Huge sacrifices to take away our sin and make ourselves acceptable to God? None of that. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor or approval. We are forgiven and accepted as righteous because of what God has done for us in Christ. Faith clings to that good news. God, who has declared us righteous and forgiven-in-Christ demands—“requires”—that we live in such a way that we care for each other—do justice, love kindness (mercy) and that we walk humbly in our relationship with God.
When you are reading the Bible, don’t get stuck with the little things. Strive to see the big picture. Always approach the Bible with prayer and respect. Ask God to help you see and understand God’s presence with us and the power of His love among us through Christ to change the world.
The living out of our faith as Christians is a bit like living in this country of ours that we call a democracy. It is never easy. It is never completely finished. We get discouraged when we think it should be easier that it is, or that we have achieved our goal. That is Micah’s message to you and me. Messiah has come. Jesus has taken away our sins. We have the gift of God’s Spirit within, and through God’s presence within us we have the power and the obligation to change the world—to do justice, love kindness and mercy and to live out our faith with humility.
God give us grace to live our faith out loud. Amen!