The long view (#digidisciple repost)

WRITING A BLOG POST ON AN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET – or at least, a biblical book attributed to them – can feel a bit demanding.  Especially when I’m tired and struggling for words – words of the ordinary sort, let alone wise words.

Old Testament prophecies can be extremely stern, harsh, severe. And then full of resounding hope.  What do I do with it? Do I tackle the harsh bits and try and make sense of them, or even tone them down and avoid them? Do I pull out the ‘hopeful’ bits and focus on them – because, well, the rest is that bit too difficult?

I don’t think I’ll do either.

I’ll just share something that struck me as I was listening to the book of Micah (yes, I do like a bit of audio when I’m ruminating).

What occurred to me, as I was listening, is that this is a book about the Long View*. As is so much of prophetic biblical literature. This is a God who has a far-seeing eye. God has a kind of hindsight we do not.  I’m not claiming this makes the tough bits easier, but I wonder what we make of this, in an age of immediacy.

It’s mixture of coming judgement, and coming deliverance. The judgement roaring from the pages of Micah and other prophetic books hangs, at least in part, on ideas of justice – or injustice – how the leaders (Kings and supposed prophets) have treated God’s people (see 3:1-7).

Where there is doom, there is also hope. Where there are consequences, there is also redemption. Where there is sin, there will be a bringing into light (7:9). Where there is arrogant assumption, there will be expectations overturned, for ‘they do not know the thoughts of LORD; they do not understand his plan…’(4:12)

This a Long View, but up close it all looks messy and confusing and dark.

We are used to immediacy.  We are used to quick responses.  We get edgy when our emails go unreplied.

But we are also baffled by the suffering that others go through, and don’t understand why it lingers, why God allows it to linger. Micah’s God punishes the guilty, but the punishments are so all-encompassing that surely they must, too, affect the innocent? Think of those fleeing from evil.  Where is the hope for them?  And how do we respond to them – how does our acceptance or our rejection affect us? What is our place in the Long View?

Some things should baffle us.  I don’t want not to be baffled by this. I don’t want not to protest. When I see the evil done to others, often in the name of god, I want to be moved to discomfort and pain, to compassion and bewilderment.

The Long View is baffling.

I long to cling to the promises of hope, that God will ‘gather the lame’, ‘assemble the exiles’ and those he has ‘brought to grief’’ (4:6).

Many choose to focus on Micah 6:8. Why does this stand out, I wonder?  Perhaps, and I’m just toying with this, this verse focuses on the present.  On what we do.  On what we can do, in the midst of the sweep of history that we do not understand.

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

(This is in contrast to the accusation made by Micah: ‘Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right…’ Micah 3:9)

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

(This is the key. This is what Yahweh requires of his people.  These are the requirements that have been broken.)

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

(This is a verse which flows out of its context and into  our lives today. It is directly transferable.)

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

Are we doing this? Are we doing this as the exiles of today cry out, longing for home and safety?
Are we among those who are crying for justice, mercy and humility?
Or are we barricading ourselves up and refusing to respond?

The Long View can feel baffling. But I want my part, my infinitesimal, teeny-weeny part to smack of compassion.  To give off the aroma of mercy.

To act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with my God.

*In my first draft I called this the Long Game but I know we Brits can associate this with conning someone – and that’s not the analogy I wanted to draw!

Originally posted at the BIGBible Project here

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