Micah is a prophet and the one thing we know about prophets is they frequently speak uncomfortable truths. When the topic, or in this case the writings, of a prophet come up it is entirely likely you will hear something you don’t like. Or don’t like having to admit. Plus, we have the added bonus that Micah, in particular, is one of the more in your face judgy prophets.
It’s interesting that in today’s world we tend to shut down when someone is up in our stuff, calling out our shortcomings. We see their mouth moving but we’re hearing little more than blah, blah, blah. Kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher. It makes me wonder if people in Micah’s day continued to pay attention after their shortcomings were pointed out by prophets like Micah or if Micah just didn’t care they continued to pay attention. He was on a mission and was going to call out the things that needed to be called out.
Now that everyone is ready to run screaming from the room…
There are a couple of issues in play here. The underlying issue is that a few hundred years before, the united kingdom of Israel, that is the time of King David and King Solomon, the people who escaped from slavery in Egypt and lived in the region promised to them by God, had divided themselves. Lots or reasons for that, mostly in the realm of economics. So we have the northern tribe known as Israel and the southern tribe, known as Judah. The people known as Israel, not the present day country of Israel.
In any case, you take a wealthy and powerful nation like the united kingdom of Israel under King Solomon and you let things get sideways amongst the people so then you have a divided country. This isn’t going to bode well for either country in the not so distant future. They’re going to find out that the decision to split up is going to leave both factions vulnerable to being taken over by another country. Which is precisely what happens to both Israel and Judah.
As I’m writing this on election day I’m wondering how this is going to sound on Sunday. What will or will not happen today that will change how this sounds for each of us?
The bottom line for the people Micah was writing to originally is that they lost their focus on what was truly first and foremost. They have left the way of doing what pleases the Lord and are pursuing that which pleases themselves. This isn’t going to bode well for them. They are dividing their loyalty and they’re going to find out that divided loyalty is going to create a problem.
Their focus on what pleases them rather than what pleases God leaves them in a position where they doing what makes them happy is what is important. God’s concern is with all of them together, as humanity and all of creation. When they focused on themselves, what Luther called in curvatus se, the curving in on oneself they abandoned God’s desire. That’s how Luther defined sin at its most basic level. Sin is curving in on oneself. This curving in on themselves left them vulnerable to the division that would ultimately lead to their demise.
That’s the prophetic lesson to the people of the divided kingdoms, time and time again. Keep your focus on yourself and watch what happens. Worry about yourself and what you can get for yourself, and see how it turns out. We insist the other agree with us or we won’t listen. Our hubris, our ego, our lack of humility takes our focus from God and creation and puts it squarely on ourselves, in curvatus se. Curving in on our selves. Sin. Focus on self is the path to destruction.
We see it all the time in the media, our newsfeeds, our social media accounts. The algorithms and advertiser dollars determine what we see and we are led to believe curving in on ourselves is the way to go.
We should know better. We are followers of Christ and have been taught by prophets like Micah and saviors like Jesus the destructive path focusing on ourselves puts us on. We should know better because we are the vanguard. Not just us but if not us then who will stand? That doesn’t mean going prophetic on people with no regard for others while they are blocking both sides of the aisle at the grocery store. There is a time and a place for the prophetic voice to come out but let’s face it, anyone here called by God to be Micah (if Micah Dostal was here this would get interesting in a hurry, wouldn’t it?) Very few of us are called as prophets so acting like a prophet leads to outcomes that don’t work very well.
We are called, as Micah is pointing out today, to be people focused on God rather than ourselves. Focused on God who created us, saved us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and promises us eternal life through Christ’s resurrection. All this borne of the power of the Holy Spirit. Focus on ourselves? Path to destruction. Focus on God? Forgiveness of sins and eternal life. That’s a little bit of prophecy that isn’t all that complicated.