I would love one day to open my Internet browser and read how our elected officials put special interests aside and put forward—and passed—a bill that simply does what’s right. Take the recent wrangling over a recent Farm Bill (http://nbcnews.to/15z8q4s). In order to pass this bill, Senate leaders “stripped-out funding authorization for food stamps and nutrition programs.” Apparently, these leaders weren’t interested in helping people whom they feel, reportedly, get too many hands out. You know, all those greedy people in need.
At some point, you would think—hope!—elected officials would look beyond their own interests and direct their work to the people they are supposed to represent.
This issue with those in power has existed—as The Book of Micah demonstrates—for a while.
In this book, Micah (a country boy who was a contemporary of Isaiah) has insight into several areas of interest to his people and to us, as, apparently, some things never change.
This insight into the present deals namely with those in power. Among other things, he believes that no one in control is in good standing with God. Therefore, these people are unable to protect the Israelites’ interests with the lord (2:5). Furthermore, prophets are too easily influenced (3:5).
He’s not just painting a picture of what modern audiences will recognize in some of our own elected officials; no, he has stronger insight that still holds true: the powerful dictate things (7:3), which suggests that what is law or deemed moral is not based on what is right but rather what particular interests want to have happen. The moral and social environment had reached such a sorry state that people couldn’t trust anyone (7:5), not even family (7:6).
So what’s a person or a community (even a society) to do? What extreme measures do they have to take to right their ship? Simple: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (6:8).
This last part about what God wants is the true gem in this Bible book. It seems simple—and it feels that way; however, people apparently couldn’t comply. Even more interesting is what’s left out. Micah does not recount the numerous rules and regulations presented in other Bible books (like the Ten Commandments, for example). No, the basic rule IS simple: be a good person and have some respect for God.
Micah echoes the Book of Jeremiah’s new approach to God’s rules, which added some flexibility to how people should lead their lives: act justly. Context is everything, but this word is designed to conform to a society’s moral code. Now God has laid down guidelines, but this bare bones approach suggests that the law should bend with changes in society. Why else include the mercy component left out of very early versions of God’s expectations? The final piece—to walk humbly—probably speaks to people needing to appreciate what they have and not lording power over others: we’re all equal in God’s eyes, yes? So don’t get a big head.
As the Old Testament winds down, this mostly negative, dark book offers this positive piece of seemingly simple advice that, to be honest, is not trotted out enough when people draw from the Bible. In addition, it demonstrates over and over that those in power need to do a better job implementing laws that benefit the people, based not on political influence and social standing but on what is right, just. Rather than do what is right, just, our elected officials spend too much time forwarding their own agendas at the expense of the common good. These are the people that Micah warned against in his own time; his lesson clearly stills bears learning in our own.