The kings of Judah had a team of court prophets. Often, were yes-men, telling the king what he wanted to hear. As a prophet, Micah was an outsider. If there had been a private club in Jerusalem for prophets, Micah would not be allowed to be a member. What set Micah apart from the rest was that like Isaiah and Hosea, he spoke for God’s Will. This was contrary to what the king and God’s people wanted to hear. Today’s first lesson is the essence of his message to God’s people, both then and now.
- Micah presents his message in the form of a courtroom scene. God has a complaint against His people. He is calling the mountains and hills to be the jury. God is going to present his case to His people. (vv. 1-2)
- God is obviously not happy with His people. Have you ever had a parent complain to you, saying “What have I done, that I deserve this sort of behavior from you?” This is what God is saying. (v. 3)
- God answers his own question, laying a little guilt trip on them. He reminds them of the good things he has done for them, starting with rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. (v. 4)
- He adds a log to the fire. He reminds them of how their enemy King Balak called on the diviner Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam blessed them instead. [Numbers 2] God further reminds them of how he led and protected them as they left their encampment in Shittim, crossed the Jordan River, and defeated the Canaanites at the city of Gilgal. This would be the first city to fall to the Israelites as they take possession of the Promised Land. [Joshua 3-4] (v. 6)
- God’s people plead guilty to the charges. They ask what their sentence should be. They suggest a fancier, more intense form of worship. (vv. 6-7)
- The people are reminded that God has already told them what to do. It is not about quality of worship, but quality of life-actions. It’s simple (but not easy)--
- Do justice
- Love kindness
- Walk humbly
It is easy to say “I love the Lord!” But it is much more difficult to walk the walk in our daily actions. This is not to say that God doesn’t appreciate quality worship. But if the worship isn’t backed up by a humble heart and righteous acts of faith, then our worship becomes a hollow, hypocritical act.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-31
This is a continuation of last week’s second lesson. You may recall that Paul contrasted the eloquence of certain preachers who had come after him with the “foolishness of the cross”.
- The cross on which Jesus was crucified was the worst form of a death sentence. Romans had several other ways of doing this, but this was the slowest, most painful, and publicly humiliating. To a non-believer, worshipping the cross seemed like a foolish activity. (v. 18)
- Paul takes a pot-shot at wisdom and eloquence in the following verses. He contrasts God’s wisdom with mankind’s wisdom. (vv. 19-25)
- He then turns to the reader, holding up a mirror. He reminds them that God has called them to be the wise, even though they were ordinary people. This is the wisdom of God in action. (vv. 26-27)
- Why would God do this? For one reason, God likes to turn things upside down, as we will see in the gospel lesson. He loves to challenge our thinking. He does this so we will have no bragging rights; God gets all the credit, not us. (vv. 28-29)
- So, Paul tells us, forget about all your divisions. Forget about aligning yourself with Cephas, Apollo; or being Lutheran, Baptist, or Methodist. It is all about God— we should boast only in the Lord, and what the Lord has done for us. (vv. 30-31)
These are powerful words, both then and now. How easy it is to ignore these words. God wants us to focus on our commonality, rather than our differences.
I view today’s gospel lesson as the sort of kick-off or inaugural address of Jesus’ ministry. Chapters one through four give us the background to the life of Jesus. Chapter four transitions from the work of John the Baptist to the work of Jesus. The first of Jesus’ disciples are called. Now, it’s time to get down to the business of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. In the verses just before today’s reading, we find Jesus teaching in the synagogues around the region of Galilee, proclaiming the good news, and healing the sick. He is starting to draw a crowd.
- Jesus takes his disciples up a mountainside to teach them. He is laying the foundation of what he intends to be an do in the years ahead. Was he speaking these words to the crowd or just the disciples? It is not clear. (vv. 1-2)
- He teaches them what we now call The Beatitudes. According to Webster, beatitude is “a state of utmost bliss”. Older translations use the word “blessed”, while newer ones use “happy”. Both are an accurate translation of the word used in the original Greek. Jesus tells us that we are blessed-happy when we are:
- Poor in spirit
- Hunger and thirst
- Need mercy
- Pure in heart
- Making peace
- Being persecuted
- Are being reviled
- Jesus tells us that if we are these, we should rejoice and be glad! (I’m not so sure about that…) The reason for our rejoicing is that God’s holy prophets also experienced these things, so we are in good company. (v. 12)
I don’t know about you, but this does not look like a “Happy List” to me! In my life, I have come to learn that the list above are not the things that make me happy—quite the opposite. I am not alone. I have had good Christians try to explain to me that “meekness is not weakness”. I’m sorry, but I believe it is exactly that—meekness is weakness, and God’s heart goes out to the meek. So, what is God’s point? I believe that one reason He sent His son to us was to tell us what matters most to Him; what His priorities are. This list from Jesus and his Father tells me that His way is not our way. As adopted children of God, and heirs to the Kingdom, it is our duty to ascribe to God’s priorities rather than our own. If we are experiencing any of these things, we can rest in the comfort that God loves us, and has blessed us. If we those around us are experiencing these things, we should love and comfort them as a reflection of God’s love. It is what God’s children do.