Scripture Reading: Micah 3:1-12, Micah 4:1-13, Psalm 25:8-9, 1 Corinthians 10:31
The book of Micah is a cry for justice, with a pattern of rebuke and restoration throughout its chapters. Micah reads as a defense of justice, and a judgment of those in Israel who do not practice it.
Micah chapter 3 begins with a stunning, almost disgusting, rebuke of the powerful leaders, using cannibalistic metaphor to charge them with oppressing the poor. The prophet spares no words, addressing them as those who “hate good and love evil” and “abhor justice and pervert everything that is right” (vv. 2, 9).
In his book Generous Justice, Tim Keller writes:
“It is the generosity of God, the freeness of his salvation, that lays the foundation for the society of justice for all. Even in the seemingly boring rules and regulations of tabernacle rituals, we see that God cares about the poor, that his laws make provision for the disadvantaged. God’s concern for justice permeated every part of Israel’s life. It should also permeate our lives.”
Micah’s words—and Keller’s—are disquieting because of how easily I see myself in the oppressors. I have lived a fairly fortunate life, physically and monetarily, and it is so natural to continue to live my fortunate life, day to day, without seeing the ways people are oppressed around me and all around the world. And even when those blinders fall off, it’s easy to merely throw money at a good cause or say an earnest prayer. But both can be done without engaging my heart.
Thankfully, we can read on to Micah chapter 4, and see that true justice and knowledge comes from the Lord—not from us. We can go to the mountain of God, where “he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his path” (v. 2).
This is a beautiful passage, full of some of the most well-known images of peace and prosperity found in the whole Old Testament. From a promise that the people of Israel would be able to turn their swords and spears into plowshares, to the picture of sitting peacefully under vines and fig trees, Micah reveals the end result of loving justice and living God’s way.
Micah’s vision of justice is a vision of the restoration of shalom, God’s original design for the world. In his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Platinga describes shalom as a “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed.” This is the world as it ought to be, as God intended it to be.
Micah shows us two very different visions of the world. Chapter 3 shows us the consequences of not pursuing justice, mercy, and loving our neighbors. And then chapter 4 shows us a restored, peaceful world where we walk with God and in His ways.
My heart longs for the redeemed world Micah describes, for God’s creation to be restored. This longing makes me want to walk in His ways. It leads me to pray He will rewire my stubborn, entitled, fortunate heart toward justice, to ask that He give me His eyes to see the poor and oppressed. With the Lord leading, the pursuit of justice and shalom becomes a daily endeavor, one we pursue with our Creator God.
Melanie Rainer is the director of content for JellyTelly, where she writes and edits family spiritual formation resources. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, a passionate home baker, and makes her always-messy home with her husband, Price, and their delightful daughter, Ellie, near historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee.