In the Courtroom with God: Reflections on Micah 6:1-8

Yet, their answers are odd, nearly ludicrous, though perhaps in line with certain expectations of the time. "What shall we do to give YHWH what is required?" When we approach YHWH, and bow before the prosecuting God, "shall I come with whole burnt offerings, year-old calves? Will YHWH be happy with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?" (Mic. 6:6-7a) Not enough? Well then how about "my firstborn for my sin, my own body's fruit for my life's evil?" (Mic. 6:7b) The exaggerated and quite ridiculous suggestions about YHWH's demands say clearly that they are far off the mark; screaming young calves, hordes of rams, rivers of sacred oil, and human sacrifice are simply not what YHWH wants at all. The very fact that many of those things were done in Israel, as various scriptural passages suggest, exactly as offerings supposedly demanded by YHWH, no doubt got Micah in some hot priestly water. But he will have none of it.

What YHWH really wants is found in the famous 6:8. Here is what God requires of you: the doing of justice, that Hebrew word that means equal access to the goods and services of society for all its members (mishpat). And, you must "love chesed," that nearly untranslatable word that means the unbreakable love that YHWH has for the people. You must love that, because on that divine love your whole life rests. The usual reading of the third rail of YHWH's demand, "to walk humbly with your God" I find a bit maudlin. In fact, the word usually translated "humbly" I think may be read "steadfastly" or "continually." In short, we are to "walk always with our God," something we will do once we have done justice out of the love we have for the love of God.

And with that demand the prosecution really rests. Our attempts to assuage YHWH with oil and rams and calves and human sacrifice are rejected completely, and in their place we hear that what YHWH wants is the action of justice, based on the recognition of the unshakeable love of God. We do not hear the pronouncement of the jury, because the mountains and hills are not usually too vociferous in their speech. Yet, the verdict is clear enough; we are and remain guilty of denial of YHWH until we begin to focus our full attention on the doing of justice for all of God's people.

Court is now adjourned! Will we go to prison, or will we live in the freedom of God's call for justice? Tune in next week!

12/2/2022 9:10:31 PM
  • Progressive Christian
  • Opening The Old Testament
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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