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Micah 6:1-8 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
6 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the case of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has a case against Their people, and the Lord will contend with Israel.
3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before the Lord with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 God has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he began to speak and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There are several voices in this section of Micah that Pat read for us today. In verses one and two, Micah tells us to listen to the Lord. Not in conventional language but to listen to the echoes of the mountains and the hills. Micah tells the foundations of the earth to listen to their Creator. There is a plea, or a command, for harmony between the people and the earth and God.
Verses three, four, and five are God’s voice asking where we have gone. How could we have forgotten our history? What is it that is keeping us from living in community with God and with one another? And of course, God is inviting us back into relationship.
Verses six and seven are the voices of the Israelites, our voices. We are asking how to get back in God’s good graces. Asking with one part contrition and one part sarcasm… what will it take to get back in your good graces, O God? We imply that God requires too much of us, that God is unreasonable.
Verse eight is once again the voice of Micah. Don’t be daft, he says. You KNOW what is required of you. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. Seek harmony between the people and the earth and our Creator.
Paired with the passage of Micah we have the well-known section of Matthew known as the Beatitudes. The Blessings.
Our Matthew passage dovetails with the instructions in Micah: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.
Jesus is compassionate and caring and desiring that all people, poor in spirit, mourning, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, receive just and fair treatment, here and now. But Jesus is also consoling them that if not from their human neighbors they will surely receive it from God, here and now.
You may notice that I am leaning away from “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” or “rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” I am more concerned with the here and now, allowing for heaven to be interpreted as a place on earth, as any place on earth, as every place on earth, when the people and the earth are in harmony with our Creator.
One interpretation of ‘blessed are’ is congratulations! (Scholars Version) Why would Jesus, or anyone, congratulate or affirm suffering? Congratulations are for good circumstances, not difficult circumstances. What is Jesus turning upside-down? And why?
“They” are blessed not because they are suffering, but because God is with them in their suffering. They also being us, of course. We are blessed.
Most of us don’t cry out to God when things are going as we wish. When we have enough to eat, a job we love, enough money to pay the bills, good health, friends and family that love us. It is easy to be indifferent or unmindful of God until our perfect world begins to crack and break open.
We cry out in our times of need, when those illusions of security break free of their mooring and we are left adrift in a sea of fear and uncertainty.
God is with us through it all. God is with us in the times of joy and the times of sorrow and hardship. It is during the hardships that we seek to be consoled and comforted by God’s presence. Let us remember then, that God blesses us always. We are blessed no matter our situation.
The word “blessed” is sometimes overused and trivialized today. The original word in Hebrew (hesed) had a more complex definition, meaning “a completely undeserved kindness and generosity”.
To be blessed is to have God present with us. To be blessed is to be present to God.
What ties these two passages of scripture, Micah and Matthew, together? The need for justice.
We, God’s people, are on trial in Micah. “Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the case of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has a case against Their people, and the Lord will contend with Israel.”
In Matthew we receive the balm for our tired, sin sick souls. Jesus tells us that we are loved beyond all comprehension, here and now, and always. We are blessed in our pain, blessed in our sorrow, blessed in our need.
We are blessed by the work of justice done by those that have gone before us, and we are blessed for the work of justice, for the present and for the future. We are blessed to be a blessing. Blessed to be in harmony with the earth and all of her inhabitants. We are blessed by a God that loves us and that will never leave us. We are blessed when we do the work of justice, with kindness and with humility. Blessed by a God that wants us to be in harmony with our earth, with each other, with our Creator.
Rev. TJ Mack – January 29, 2023