Micah 6:1-8

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 29th, 2017.

One oft-repeated benefit of the lectionary is that it forces passages on us that we would not ordinarily preach. However, one fallback to this format is that it can often give passages that end up being proof-texts or at the very least commonly repeated texts abstracted from their larger context and place within the Biblical narrative. Micah 6 is one such text. More specifically, though, it is Micah 6:8 that receives the spotlight – it is well rehearsed in many a Bible drill class. That being said, the text continues to speak a particular truth that is made more evident within its wider context and within the whole of Scripture.

The difficulty with this text, though, is to not allow our own vision of justice, loving-kindness, and humility override what Micah is describing. What one commentator describes as the “Golden Text” of the Old Testament begins, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good…” (Micah 6:8a). That Micah presumes the people know what is good because God has (presumably) told them indicates that it is not just any account of justice, loving-kindness, and humility that matters. One easy way to ground this and root it in the tangible, visceral world in which we live is to look at the Gospel text for this week, Matthew 5:1-12. The beginning of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is yet another familiar text but seen through the lens of Micah’s call to remember what God has told them reveals that this command is not only for Micah’s audience but for us as well.

In one sense, Micah can be read tongue-in-cheek. That is, the command to do justice, love mercy, and honor God is a command the people are unable to keep on their own. He says, “Do this!” You know what it is, so go do it. But he has just before this revealed God’s lamentation that the people have not done this, despite the fact that these three salvific moments are always part of the people of Israel. God reminds them how they got to where they are. This reminding isn’t simply a looking backward but is an eschatological picture of what a people who are saved by YHWH might look like. “Look at what I have done for you! Because I have done this you can be the people who are just, merciful, and loving!” Inseparable from this sort of formation of a people is the worship in which they take part. That these people worship the God who rescued them from Egypt is no small matter. If this God can act in such a way that is salvific for their lives, how much more might this God be able to act in their worship to form them into just, merciful, and loving people? Therefore, Israel’s history is bound to this God and this God, through the prior salvific action recounted here, has bound God’s self to this people. To live in any way other than just, merciful, and loving is to deny their presence as God’s people – to deny their very history. What does it mean to deny one’s history? In part, this denial is to deny one’s very identity, and for Christians, that means denying Christ’s salvific act. However, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God is to not only acknowledge our story as only possible because of Christ’s prior action, but it is to live into this new reality – to own this history, if you will. As we make it our own we come to the realization that it was never ours, to begin with, but God’s gracious gift to us. It is in stepping into this history – or this story – and owning it that we are in fact stepping into the reality of the new creation. That we are participating in God’s reconciliation of the world to God’s self.

My wife and I watch Doctor Who on a fairly regular basis. She’s patiently putting up with my first viewing as she is watching for the third and often the fourth time. At one point in the series, we are introduced to a villain named only “The Silence.” This is not an individual, but a group. When you look at any member of this group you are able to see them – to know them. However, as soon as you look away any memory of them is immediately wiped from your mind. One could surmise, then, that this would cause quite a bit of trouble. If you can no longer remember the danger into which you just stepped how does one go about avoiding said danger? This little anecdote about memory lines up nicely with Micah’s text for this week. God’s reminder of rescuing these people from Egypt and delivering them into the Promised Land is not simply a moment that God wants to be appreciated. Rather, God’s reminder is, so the people don’t forget who they are, but more importantly, so they don’t forget who God is to them. God does not want to become The Silence. Not because God needs some sort of recognition, but because God knows that failing to remember their history – thus subsequently their very identity – results in a sort of people who fail to live in a way that continually sees God as their salvation. It’s the ultimate taking one’s eyes off of the prize. But this time the prize is reconciliation with the God who created our very existence. The God who came to us in the person of Jesus Christ. The God who is reordering the world one reminder at a time.

 

Brett Holmes
Pastoral Resident
First Baptist Church Richmond, VA
Holmes@FBCRichmond.org

 

 

 

 

Tags: justice, loving-kindness, humility, reconciliation, worship, doctor who, remembering

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