Scripture for the Day: Micah 7:18-20
Micah is a small-town prophet who warns the people of a big city. Set during the time of the destruction of Samaria in Israel, his words are for the population of Jerusalem in Judah. “One great city has fallen,” Micah forewarns, “Your high place could go too.” From Chapter 3:9-12, Micah says:
Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong! Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Surely the LORD is with us! no harm shall come upon us.” 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.
After more warnings, Micah moves to instruction, directing the people toward acts of repentance. In perhaps the most famous words of prophetic utterance, Micah tells the people of Judah the way to redemption: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God,” Chapter 6:8.
The lectionary passage for today, however, comes from the end of the prophet’s book. In these final verses, Micah makes another turn. Instead of words of divine judgment, dire warning or re-direction, he offers a hopeful affirmation of God’s great mercy. In Chapter 7:18-20, the prophet says:
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.
This change of tone at the end of the book isn’t an easy-out for the people of Jerusalem. It’s not like Micah forgets his earlier chapters of consequences. The prophet’s warnings still stand. But here Micah shows that he knows that in order to change we must first admit that we are wrong. And in order to admit that we are wrong – to have courage to confess our sin — we must be assured of God’s steadfast love. Thanks be to God for the prophet Micah’s wise words.