God’s Heart for The Poor – Micah
The Prophet Micah is one of my favorite Old Testament prophets. We like him so much that our youngest son is named after him. As we prayed about what to name our son, we kept returning to the words of this prophet and had a sense that the unique personality that God was developing in our son would be one of holding up justice, mercy and humility.
However that plays out in our son’s life, we all live in a place of getting a glimpse of God’s heart and His desires through this prophet. There is much that we can learn from Micah as affluent citizens of The West in the 21st Century.
Micah was writing during a time of great prosperity. While there was much prosperity occurring within the country, Micah’s message was a call to get things right with God, care for the poor and stop oppression, or else judgement was sure to come. Micah’s voice goes out to an affluent, prosperous people…but lets face it when things are going well it can be hard to hear a prophetic voice. I know that I have a tendency to listen a bit more clearly when I’m on the ropes rather than when life is running along well.
Here are some of Micah’s words, as God is speaking through him,
3 “My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
4 I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember
what Balak king of Moab plotted
and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6
While we typically zero in on verse 8, what strikes me is the way God reveals His heart for the people before He calls them to respond. He starts by reminding them of what He has done for them. He calls to memory the deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the arrival in the promised land. He reminds them of the ways that He has delivered them throughout the generations…and then He turns to what true worship looks like.
What is a proper response to the generosity which God has poured out to His people? Burnt offerings? Thousands of rams? Rivers of oil? A firstborn child? There must be a radical response to this kind of generosity shown by the God who has walked with them, led them, provided for them and delivered them, right?
Micah’s response? God had already shown them the way to respond. “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God had already revealed His heart. God’s heart was that people would be just in their actions towards others. His heart was that they would love mercy – practicing kindness along the way. His heart was that they would walk humbly with Him – a practice in which my rights are diminished as I focus on Him alone.
If Micah’s words were followed, we would see a radical caring for the poor, the widow and those on the fringes. In essence we would see Jesus command to love God and love others being lived out among us. We would see the ceasing of injustice in our actions toward others by those who have entered The Kingdom, as well as a releasing of the loads of injustice for the oppressed. We would engage in the practice of mercy and kindness towards those who are undeserving, voiceless & powerless, because we ourselves are undeserving. We would walk in humility with God – seeking none other but Him as our only source of security and comfort. We would catch more of His heart and be able to say “Yes” and “Amen” to the places He leads us which many times have no regard for our personal theologies, comforts, plans nor senses of security.
Micah’s words are difficult. But it really starts at the end of verse 8 as we respond to God out of His generosity with a desire for humility. Perhaps this is why Jesus and others seem to point toward the poor being earlier and easier adopters of what it means to live in The Kingdom. Consider James writing, “ 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” James 1.
Those who are poor materially can rejoice in the high position they receive in coming into The Kingdom, but the rich should diligently practice humility because the riches that are easy to hold onto in this life are going to pass way like a wild flower, wither, with beauty destroyed. It is easy for those of us who are “rich” to stake our claim on our high position now which means that we miss the point of The Kingdom and The King.
His heart of justice and mercy cries out…let us walk with Him in humility, laying our lives down and taking up His passion and His desires.
Similar to Isaiah 56 – the reading for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Oops. I see now that it’s part of your website!