I never met the book of Micah until I was in seminary and was studying for the Bible Ordination exam. We had probably studied it as part of Sunday school, but it never really stuck out and its infrequent appearance in the lectionary made it quite foreign. However, once introduced, I became enthralled by its language message. Through the years I came to learn that its inclusion in the Bible was probably due to its popularity at the time the canon was cemented, and I understood why.
Micah as a book, unlike much of the Hebrew texts that are speaking to a large audience, seems to be speaking directly to its reader. Through this short book, in almost a magical way, it develops a relationship with the reader. While similar to the other prophets, to me Micah reads like an old, wise professor teaching rather than a decree, though that language is still present. I think what makes it so personal is that unlike many of the prophetic writings, the Book of Micah seems to transcend the community, putting the emphasis on what the individual can do to change the world to build a stronger community.
This week we are going to dive into Micah 4:1-5. You probably know part of this passage, in the Christmas narrative, though it is not always identified:
He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Micah 4:3)
Many of the prophetic books try to deal with keeping faithful in times of exile, bringing the community to a more faithful place, creating a more comfortable community and peaceful world. But often the burden of many of the prophets is directed at the leadership in the communities or the communities as a whole. Micah, though not the only book of the Old Testament to do this, focuses on what an individual can do to bring about peace in this world.
This is why as I started this letter I did so by saying when I met Micah. This is because for me, it was not reading and understanding another book of the Bible, it was a hard-core reality check and well as a tough love letter from God to his people.
Over the past few weeks with everything going on in the Presbytery with churches leaving, in the denomination with fights over who’s right and wrong, I often am left to wonder exactly how we can achieve peace. So as I sat contemplating that question, the book of Micah popped up in something I was reading and like a spark turning into a fire, that brought me to recognize that peace can only start when everybody is equally vested in bringing peace, but most importantly, peace can only happen when you as an individual are open and willing to allow the spirit to let peace take hold.
I remember doing a solo when I was a kid, back when I could still sing, it was the song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” You probably know the song, often sung around Christmas. In this prayer song it starts with the call for peace and then moves to a seeking for the strength to let peace start with me. The recognition in the song is that probably the hardest place to start the pursuit of peace is our dedication to set aside our ego, our desire to be right, and to let the spirit have a chance to bring peace into this world.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen