I haven’t spent much time in the minor prophets. I’ve read the story of Jonah, but Sunday school skipped over the way his heart remained hardened when the people repented of sin. I’ve heard of Hosea and grew up with trendy home-schooled families whose affinity for naming their children after minor prophets and other lesser-known biblical players was truly ahead of their time. But I would not say I’ve had more than a passing familiarity with any of the minor prophets before this week.
One thing that made this attempt to read through them different than prior attempts was having so recently read through Kings and Chronicles and being able to recollect some of the historical events surround the prophets words/lives (also, having a study Bible with a good chart helped with this!).
But today, I want to focus on a portion of Micah, and the call to live lives honoring God.
Micah, like many of the prophets, spoke against the injustices the people of God were perpetrating and the hypocrisy of their lives. He reminds the people that there is nothing they could offer up to God that isn’t already His, that even if they offered up thousands of rams or their own sons as an offering, it wouldn’t be what the Lord wanted.
Instead, Micah then reminds the people what the Lord is seeking from them:
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8 RSVCE
Walk humbly with God.
Simple words, but often hard to live. Because honestly, sometimes it seems easier to trade in a sacrifice for the ability to love. I’d rather take the proverbial sheep to the temple than do the hard heart work of seeking to live a just life. A sacrifice later seems a lot easier than kindness or, as another version says, steadfast love today. And humility? Walking humbly in a way that recognizes I’m the created and not the Creator? Well, let’s just say that laying down my pride and remembering that my good God knows better than me is a battle with each and every breath I take.
But yet, this is what my God is asking of me.
He’s asking me to actively take up justice in my life. To stand up for the oppressed, to have eyes to see them and a body willing to fight on their behalf instead of shrinking away because certain oppressions are simply the cultural norm. He asks me to make financial and life choices that don’t conform to the patterns of the world but that are transformed by the plans He lays out for human flourishing.
Love Kindness/Steadfast Love
Loving kindness/steadfast love calls us not simply to action, but to a reorientation of our lives. If we are to love kindness, to demonstrate steadfast love, consistent love to those around us, we can’t simply act, we need to be moved in our inmost being to see the image of God burned into the faces that meet ours. The call to seek justice while loving kindness is a radical call not just to condemn injustice but to transform lives through the power of steadfast love.
Walk humbly with God.
We can do none of the above if our hearts are proud and we do not know the fear of the Lord. If we think for a moment that our ways, our ideas, our passions are more fitting than the plans for flourishing the One who made us has laid out before us, we will fail each and every time. We need to humble ourselves, to remember that He is God and we are not. Because of His great love for us, He’s given us guidelines, rules, and principles that we all might flourish together and work for mutual benefit.
Pride often creeps into my mind, telling me I know better, that my situation is unique, that the path I am forging is better, less difficult than the one He is laid out before me, but pride is wrong. God doesn’t want me to run my own way then offer sacrifice, He wants my heart, a humble heart that trusts in His goodness and wisdom.
The exhortation in Micah is similar to many we’ve seen in The Bible in Lent. First Samuel echoes this call when Samuel rebukes Saul and tells him that God wants obedience, not sacrifice. Many of the prophets repeat its cry, that God doesn’t want external trappings, He wants hearts devoted to His work.
The Lenten season, the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, are never ends to themselves, they are always meant to cultivate our hearts and stir us to deeper holiness and reliance on God.
As I press on through these last few weeks of Lent, I want to renew the calls to the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving intentions we set at the beginning of Lent, several practices which have fallen by the wayside even in these few short weeks. But I want to renew them with a deeper understanding of the call of God.
I want to fast, not to wave a sacrifice before the Almighty, but to circumcise my heart and remember my complete reliance on my Maker. I want to pray, not to check off a box, but sit in the presence of my King and to let His holiness transform the way I love others. I want to give, not so I can mark off a little more on my tax credits next year, but so that I might help undo the injustices in the world around me and promote the flourishing of all who are made in His image.
May He break our hearts for what breaks His and may we respond by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.