Unlike offerings, lifelong habits of kindness, justice, and humility are not transactions to dispense and check off, duty done. Rather, they characterise a stance of leaning toward others: extending grace reflexively, without measure, as God has done, not because others deserve it but because they need it; promoting fairness, especially toward those at risk; and certainly not trying to appease and be done with God, but instead humbly keeping hearts open and pliant. What God sought from the Israelites, what faith says God still seeks from us, is to cultivate capabilities we have seen in our Maker, capabilities we who are made in God’s image already possess: a warm heart for all, a passion for fairness, and the flexibility to learn as we go in this complex matter of seeking grace alongside justice. ― Patricia J Tull, Connections Year A, Vol.1
Today, we’ve heard one of the great Old Testament scriptures. It’s from the prophet Micah (6.8):
[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?
It may surprise you to hear that this is part of a courtroom drama. So come with me to court, and see how it all unfolds.
Ok, let’s see who the characters are in this courtroom drama. Our drama needs a jury; who is the jury? The mountains and the hills, who have been there for millennia and who have seen the ways of the Lord from everlasting.
Our drama needs a plaintiff, someone to bring an accusation. Who is the plaintiff? God!
Micah sets it all up at the beginning of chapter 6:
Hear what the Lord says:
Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth;
for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
and he will contend with Israel.
God had a controversy with the people of Micah’s time. You know, the religion business was going really well. People were flocking to the Temple of Jerusalem. financial offerings were way up. That’s good, right?
Yet God has a controversy with the people of Israel, a bone to pick with them.
O my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
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.
God is gathering evidence here, and calling witnesses. The evidence is Israel’s history: God brought them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
And there are those willing to testify for God: Moses, Miriam, Aaron. Unimpeachable witnesses.
It’s an open and shut case, but God reminds them of other events as well. King Balak of Moab wanted a non-Israelite prophet called Balaam to curse Israel, but—so the story says—a talking donkey stopped him.
And God reminds them about what happened ‘from Shittim to Gilgal’. What happened? Shittim was where the waters of the Jordan parted to allow Joshua to lead the Israelites across the river, and Gilgal was where they entered the Promised Land.
God is building a pretty impressive case here as the saviour of Israel.