Micah 5: 7-15Then the remnant of Jacob,
surrounded by many peoples,
shall be like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass,
which do not depend upon people
or wait for any mortal.
And among the nations, the remnant of Jacob,
surrounded by many peoples,
shall be like a lion among the animals of the forest,
like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
and tears in pieces, with no one to deliver.
Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
and all your enemies shall be cut off.
On that day, says the Lord,
I will cut off your horses from among you
and will destroy your chariots;
and I will cut off the cities of your land
and throw down all your strongholds;
and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
and you shall have no more soothsayers;
and I will cut off your images
and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
to the work of your hands;
and I will uproot your sacred poles from among you
and destroy your towns.
And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
on the nations that did not obey. Reflection In an attempt to answer a question I am asked with surprising frequency, I recently typed into Google, what happens when The Queen dies? to find out whether the school I work in would be closed when HM’s death is announced. One news article gave extensive details of the ceremony and pageantry of the first ten days following her death. What I most remember from it, though, was a single sentence: ‘“The whole world is going to be doing this,” said one news executive, holding up his phone in front of his face.’ (Knight, 2017). Sadly, that strikes me as a very real possibility as we often view the world through a tiny screen measuring only a few square inches.
Like Israel, we have many calls on our time and most of them emanate from these magic little boxes we carry everywhere. Contained within my phone are my diary, bank, correspondence, photo album, television, address book, music collection, a few books, and every piece of work or sermon I have produced in the last few years. And, of course, I use my mobile for daily Bible study and devotions. It is quite common to find that large blocks of time have passed when the phone was only picked up to quickly check a fact on the internet or reply to a text. How did this come about when my original intention, back in 2001, had been to have a mobile to make emergency calls?
Sitting now, watching people walk past with their phones, it is easy to picture us as ancient Israelites bowing down to the work of our hands. Will we need to have our mobiles cut off from among us too?
Knight, S. 2017 ‘'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death’, The Guardian, 17 March. Available here
like your children of Israel
nearly three thousand years ago,
we are enthralled by human works.
Help us to lower the barrier
formed by these idols
so that we can approach you
with a keener interest
in your wondrous creation,
your guiding Word
and your Holy Spirit.
Micah 4: 9 - 5:5Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labour?
Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labour; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the LORD will redeem you from the hands of your enemies.
Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, "Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion."
But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.
Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples, and shall devote their gain to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.
Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace. If the Assyrians come into our land and tread upon our soil, we will raise against them seven shepherds and eight installed as rulers. Reflection It feels like I'm in a time-warp. As I write this reflection, we are only a few days away from the start of Advent and here I am reflecting on that 'little town of Bethlehem' - so no prizes for guessing which song has now taken residence in my brain!
Interestingly Bethlehem, small and insignificant though it was, pops up now and again in the history of God's people. Jacob's wife Rachel, having died giving birth to Benjamin, was buried just outside Bethlehem (Gen 35:19). The story of Ruth centres around Bethlehem - Elimolech, husband of Naomi, came from Bethlehem but moved to Moab to avoid the famine. When he died, Ruth accompanied Naomi back to Bethlehem and married Boaz there. (Book of Ruth). David was refreshed by water from the well at Bethlehem (2 Sam 23:14-16). And then Micah drops into his prophecy that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem - and he does this some 700 or so years before the birth of Jesus.
In the Advent story, Herod's chief priests and scribes were very aware of this prophecy - after all it may have been a tiny place but it was only a few miles from Jerusalem so they probably had it marked as a favourite on their SatNavs (Matt 2:3-6). But they were probably pretty focussed on when the promised Messiah will put in an appearance and they probably knew the scriptures inside out anyway. After all, God surely can't want his people, his chosen people, to continue to live under these heathen Romans with their Gods and idols and ruthless soldiers. He must surely be planning to sort this out pretty soon. There's been plenty of folk claiming to be 'the One', the Resistance, the Zealots have been making life difficult and lots of people have paid the price of these uprisings. Surely the Messiah can't be far away!
Little did they know just how close he was!
As we look back over the big story,
we may be surprised
to see how your plan unfolds,
step by step.
Our lives are filled with uncertainty,
disappointments and fear
as we look at the world in which we live.
Help us to move our attention
away from the fear-inducing elements
of our world to look instead
for signs of your handiwork,
your love in action through us -
your imperfect yet perfect creations.
Help us to look for the works of your Spirit
in our world and, having spotted them,
help us to rejoice and give thanks to you.
Then we will be ready to give reason
for the hope we hold.
Micah 4:1 - 8In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
On that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted. The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion now and for evermore.
And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem. Reflection Last Sunday, we read Mark’s story of Jesus really getting going in his ministry, travelling at breakneck speed, teaching, healing, praying and driving out evil from people’s lives and communities – the disciples struggling to keep up, and when they do, they are hurried on. “Let us go somewhere else – so that I can preach there also!” Next Sunday we are taken much later in the story of Jesus’ ministry where the glory Jesus is will be shared. But we are ahead of ourselves – it is not Sunday yet – and we are between hearing the call of Jesus to follow him, and fully experiencing the glory of God on earth, when every knee shall bow at Jesus’ name.
So take a moment look around your world, listen to its cries and see Jesus for whom he is – God, today among the people for whom He died. On Sunday, when the disciples get to the top of the mountain, and see Jesus covered in heavenly glory, they will think they have seen Micah’s prophecy come true – surely this is a glimpse of heavenly glory. But it is then, that their journey of Faith really gets going – as they are led by Jesus to Jerusalem to his crucifixion. In that horrific, wasteful, underserved death of God, we see beautiful, all-giving, grace. It is from here, the highest mountain of all, that love will flow.
As you read Micah 6 see all that comes from Jesus’ death – drawing together all peoples to hear God’s Way of Life, “that we may walk in his paths”, with justice, peace, and healing for people and nations, by the building up of a community of Faith, the raising up of the weak and vulnerable, and calling home the rejected outcasts.
Come, we have rested well – our Risen Lord is waiting with other sisters and brothers, and “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever!”
PrayerWhen we are on
one of life’s mountain-tops
Help us to treasure and appreciate
those moments of joyful celebration, achievement or deep spiritual experience.
Gently lead us safely down the
returning to the business and busyness
Lead us ever to the highest peak of all –
the cross where Jesus died.
Teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.
Help us be peacemakers
May your Holy Spirit
keep us going to
“walk in the name of the Lord our God
for ever and ever”.
Let us celebrate and rejoice
the true mountain-top experience
of the building up
of a community of Faith,
the raising up of the weak and vulnerable,
and the calling home
the rejected and outcasts,
Then true dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem,
the kin-dom of God,
And at the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow
to recognise you as God of Love.
Micah 3: 9 - 12Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
its priests teach for a price,
its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
“Surely the Lord is with us!
No harm shall come upon us.”
Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Reflection There is wisdom in the old saying: before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. The real wisdom, of course, is that by the time you’ve finished criticizing them you’re a mile away and they don’t have any shoes…but the prophet isn’t mincing any words here, are they?
It doesn’t take much imagination to think about how relevant this prophecy is today. As relevant as it was when it was first delivered. The situation in the Holy Land doesn’t seem to have moved on much, does it?
Then again, let’s expand our geographical horizons a little more… let’s substitute Zion/Israel for any current country and leadership – there will be people who think this applies to their homeland, too.
And finally let’s go micro and think about our own lives. I’m not suggesting that we have built our lives on blood and that we abhor justice – but we’re so often seduced by the false prophets of advertising or the “I’m all right, Jack” mentality that lets others suffer because their situation doesn’t affect us.
Maybe we should spend some time sorting our own lives out before we start criticizing others.
Forgive us when we are angry
at injustices done by others
but in denial
of the wrongs that we have done.
Shine your light of love
onto our own lives
so that we can see more clearly
how we need to change
to more faithfully
walk the way of your son,
The Martyrs of JapanAlmost fifty years after Francis Xavier had arrived in Japan as its first Christian apostle, the presence of several thousand baptised Christians in the land became a subject of suspicion to the ruler Hideyoshi, who soon began a period of persecution. Twenty-six men and women, monastic and lay, were first mutilated then crucified near Nagasaki in 1597. After their martyrdom, their bloodéd- clothes were kept and held in reverence by their fellow Christians. The period of persecution continued for another thirty-five years, many new witness-martyrs being added to their number.
Romans 8. 35–39Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Reflection Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence, set in mid-seventeenth century Japan, focuses on Jesuit priest, Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues, and his passion to help the local Christians in the face of brutal oppression. The novel is a powerful depiction of the challenge faced – both by the fragile Christian community and by Fr. Sebastian himself – against those determined to force them to abandon their faith in God.
Within every service of ordination, induction or commissioning for a minister or church related community worker these words are addressed to the candidate:
“Do you promise to live a holy life, and to maintain the truth of the gospel,
whatever trouble or persecution may arise?”
To which the minister is invited to respond,
“Relying on the strength of Christ, I do.”
The question certainly accompanied my reading of Silence … would I “maintain the truth of the gospel, whatever trouble or persecution may arise”? What is chilling in Endo’s novel is the apparent silence of God – in contrast to the stark reality of the suffering experienced by the Japanese Christians. Endo writes, “Beneath the light of the candle I am sitting with my hands on my knees, staring in front of me. And I keep turning over in my mind and thought that I am at the end of the earth, in a place which you do not know and which your whole lives through you will never visit.”
Some of our sisters and brothers – in places where the Church faces “trouble and persecution” – know the reality of Endo’s battleground. We do well to acknowledge that “trouble and persecution” in our context are as nothing compared to what is embraced by those who risk life and livelihood in other parts of the world Church. They and we can but respond, “Relying on the strength of Christ I will hold fast to faith and God.” Ultimately such strength comes from the conviction that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
PrayerGod, from whose love
in Christ Jesus our Lord,
nothing can separate us,
look with compassion
on those who endure
trouble and persecution
as a consequence
of their faithfulness to the gospel.
May those who are tempted,
in the face of suffering and hardship,
to feel engulfed by silence
know the peace that the world
can neither give nor take away.
Relying on your grace
may we remain steadfast
and faithful witnesses
to your Word
breathed into the world’s silence:
even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Micah 3:5 - 8Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against those
who put nothing into their mouths.
Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without revelation.
The sun shall go down upon the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.
But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin. Reflection Things had been going so well until now; decades of a sort of peace had been marked by dizzingly rising living standards for some and escalating celebrity status for a small number of well-known persons.
But now, external threats are darkening the horizon and the internal contradictions and complacencies of the society are being exposed as never before. The poor and vulnerable are being exploited and destroyed by the rich and powerful and many religious leaders are openly conniving with this state of affairs.
Are we talking about eight century BC Israel and Judah or twenty first century AD Western Europe and North America?
Micah demonstrates God’s especial anger at those religious leaders who misuse their position and vocation to pander to the self-interests of the rich and who also turn on those who raise inconvenient truths or refuse to fawn and flatter them.
I hear echoes of 1 Corinthians 13 v. 2 when Paul writes “,,,, if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
God will leave them literally and metaphorically in the dark as a punishment.
He contrasts these false and simpering prophets with his own confidence in channelling God’s love and power for His people. After all, Micah means ‘who is like God.’
Too often in our society, we Christians seek the comfort of being respectable first and the voices of the Kingdom second, if at all.
We row back from holding our society to God’s account and settle for being ‘nice’, when we should be lovingly outspoken.
A particularly memorable scene in the film Ryan’s Daughter is when the priest, played by Trevor Howard, lashes out at the hypocritical villagers who have just attacked the Sarah Miles character for transgressing their social norms.
One indignant citizen argues “You’re abusing your position, Father” to which the priest replies, growlingly, “that’s what it’s there for!”
PrayerLord of all peoples
Give those of us who have a voice
To witness to your Kingdom
Never let us favour
only the rich and powerful
Muttering soft words of comfort
Whilst the poor and the vulnerable suffer
Through our neglect or contempt.
Give us, Lord, instead the power with love
To look at ourselves and society
With a clear vision
and to speak on what we see
Because that’s what we’re here for!
Psalm 33Joyfully sing to the LORD, all you righteous;
for it is good that the upright give praise.
With harp and lyre praise the LORD and make music;
with shouts of joy, a new song to him raise.
Righteous and true is the word God has spoken;
all the LORD’s actions his faithfulness prove.
He loves true righteousness, judgment and justice;
all earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the LORD’s word were the heavens created,
their starry host by the breath from his lips.
All the sea’s waters he gathers together
and in his storehouses lays up the deeps.
Let all the world fear the LORD in his greatness;
rev’rence his name, all you peoples of earth!
For when he spoke, all things came into being;
when he commanded, then all things stood forth.
Foiled by the LORD are the plans of the nations;
thwarted by him are the peoples’ designs.
But the LORD’s purposes stand firm for ever;
his plans endure through all ages and times.
Favoured and blessed is the nation he’s chosen,
whose God the LORD is throughout every age;
Blessed are the people he called to be near him,
those whom he chose as his own heritage.
From heaven’s height the LORD looks down and watches;
he sees mankind from his own dwelling-place.
He who has moulded the hearts of all people
knows every deed of the whole human race.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior lives by the strength of his hand.
Vain is man’s trust in a horse for deliverance,
nor by its strength can it victory command.
But the LORD’s eyes are on those who revere him,
those who rely on his unfailing love;
So that from famine and death he may save them,
giving them life by his power from above.
We wait in hope for the LORD, our defender;
trusting his holy name, our hearts are blessed.
LORD, may your unfailing love rest upon us,
just as in you our sure hope has been placed.
This can be sung to the tune Springfield which you can hear here Reflection Working for Christian Aid, 25 years ago, took me to Sri Lanka to visit partner organisations, of all faiths, who were undertaking community development projects with peasants, fisher folk, trades unions, and tea pickers. One ran an organic farm in the centre of the country, advising families who had been given small plots of impoverished land through limited nationalisation of tea plantations in the 1970s. The lead activist rested rarely, constantly seeking ways forward which would bring about justice for the communities scraping a living from the land. One afternoon he suggested that we walk up the hill to a meditation centre, and as we went, we discussed the latest news of civil unrest in various regions of the country. For 30 minutes we said nothing – the longest I remember this companion sitting in peace and quiet, both wordless in the face of the sheer beauty of our surroundings.
This came to mind as I read Psalm 33, with its wonderment at creation, wisdom about nationhood, and reassurance in times of anxiety. I find it hard to agree that belief in God saves people from famine and death, or that the power of God comes from above. Too often the idea of an all-knowing divine being lets humanity off the hook when it comes to taking responsibility for our actions. And yet, like the leaders of the community organisations I used to visit I believe that all the earth is full of the unfailing love of God, who is recognised in true righteousness, judgement and justice.
who speaks the cosmos into existence
whose name is upright, faithful, steadfast
enlist us in your justice-ing.
Be the hope that is within us,
and the calm at the heart of the world’s turbulence
that we may have the courage
to join in your new song
rising from the world you are creating now.
Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Micah 3: 1 - 4And I said:
Listen, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Should you not know justice?—
you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin off my people,
and the flesh off their bones;
who eat the flesh of my people,
flay their skin off them,
break their bones in pieces,
and chop them up like meat in a kettle,
like flesh in a cauldron.
Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them;
he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have acted wickedly. Reflection Micah, really doesn’t pull any punches today as he tells the political and judicial leaders of the people exactly how it is. Talk about speaking truth to power! I say truth, but I really hope the idea of cannibalism was hyperbole rather than fact; and it probably was a way of the prophet dramatically describing the abuse of those less powerful, by those who should have defended the rights of those in their care.
But Micah also has a great sense of poetic justice for the powerful who fail to hear the cries of the needy will find their own cries for help ignored by God.
We live in a world which is often unjust; where leaders do not always govern in the best interest of all people. I have been writing this when the so-called ‘Paradise Papers’ have been released and we see just how the uber-rich can legally avoid paying their fair share of tax. At the same time, the introduction of Universal Credit has left many with no choice but to turn to foodbanks as they wait for their claims to be assessed; while MP’s can claim for televisions and furniture for a second home, not to mention £25 a day for food!
None of us like to hear words of condemnation or to think that we have done something wrong – the people of Israel were happy to hear criticism of their neighbours but not themselves. We are keen to criticise those in power, especially those we disagree with politically, yet if we were to honestly look at ourselves there are times when we do not do what is required of us which is, as Micah will go on to say, ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God’.
ruler of heaven and earth,
you call us to act justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with you.
Help us to do just that,
to look out for the needs of others and,
when we see it,
challenge the abuses perpetrated
by those with power. Amen
Micah 2:12 - 13But I will gather you together, all you people of Israel that are left. I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold. Like a pasture full of sheep, your land will once again be filled with many people.
God will open the way for them and lead them out of exile. They will break out of the city gates and go free. Their king, the Lord himself, will lead them out. Reflection When I was a younger Christian, the church I attended held a series of talks on the promises of God and it was very helpful, especially as I was new in the faith. Restoration was one of that series and so it was lovely to find it in these readings as well. I don’t hear so much about the promises of God any more, at least not as a unified theme, but the Bible and Jesus Himself teach us how important it is to hold God’s promises in our hearts as deeply as possible.
After all, it’s very easy to forget all the good things that God has planned for us in our lives, as there is just so much else to concentrate on and worry about. Not only that, but our lives are so very busy that God’s promises often take a back seat in our priorities. At least, they do for me.
However, that’s exactly when it becomes so important to ponder on this wonderful passage to remind ourselves that, no matter how terrible things are right now and even in cases where we might consider ourselves to be abandoned by God, this promise is as true for us today as it was for the Israelites all those years ago. Because, however scattered we feel mentally and physically, God will gather us together and make us whole, both as individuals and as a people for His glory. Because, however barren our lives may be, God will fill us with all good things once more. Because no matter how trapped or crushed we feel, God will open the way and lead us into freedom again. He has sealed this promise through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and this promise will never fail.
thank You that Your promise
of personal and social restoration
remains as true as it ever was.
Help us to hold that promise
at the centre of our lives and hearts
so that it may encourage us deeply
and also be a blessing for others.
Micah 2:1 - 11Alas for those who devise wickedness
and evil deeds on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and take them away;
they oppress householder and house,
people and their inheritance.
Therefore, thus says the Lord:
Now, I am devising against this family an evil
from which you cannot remove your necks;
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be an evil time.
On that day they shall take up a taunt-song against you,
and wail with bitter lamentation,
and say, ‘We are utterly ruined;
the Lord alters the inheritance of my people;
how he removes it from me!
Among our captors he parcels out our fields.’
Therefore you will have no one to cast the line by lot
in the assembly of the Lord.
‘Do not preach’—thus they preach—
‘one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.’
Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
Is the Lord’s patience exhausted?
Are these his doings?
Do not my words do good
to one who walks uprightly?
But you rise up against my people as an enemy;
you strip the robe from the peaceful,
from those who pass by trustingly
with no thought of war.
The women of my people you drive out
from their pleasant houses;
from their young children you take away
my glory for ever.
Arise and go;
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.
If someone were to go about uttering empty falsehoods,
saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink’,
such a one would be the preacher for this people! Reflection “For man proposes, but God disposes” (Thomas à Kempis) begins one commentary on this portion of Micah’s prophecies. The back and forward play in these verses between the the deeds of those who have power and use it against those who are weak, and the future response of God, indeed suggests some good old-fashioned preaching opportunities: “the wicked may seem to prosper, but God’s justice awaits!”
Of course, in such bouts of righteous loquacity, it would be tempting to draw parallels with the social situation in Britain today. For there are plenty. As I write this reflection, we are beginning to understand more and more of the implications of the roll-out of Universal Credit on the vulnerable, with the rocketing extent of rent arrears as one effect. We see a sharp upward trend in those being referred to Foodbanks. There has been a recent flood of reports revealing the huge extent of tax “planning” by the wealthy, apparently designed, in part, to allow them to avert their obligations to those who go without the necessities of life. We are experiencing an avalanche of allegations of improper sexual behaviour by “celebrities” and politicians.
However, are such targets too easy?
“‘Do not preach’– thus they preach – ‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’ If someone were to go about … saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink’, such a one would be the preacher for this people!”
Are we sometimes guilty of preaching what the people want to hear; are comfortable to hear; rather than being challenged about what it means to “live a holy life” as Ministers of the URC are challenged at their ordination?
Radio 4’s Thought for the Day has recently been accused of being trite. Pray God that our teaching and preaching never become trite.
PrayerGod, your prophets called the people to return to the ways of your law.
Jesus, you called the people to return to the ways of God’s life.
Spirit, you provide us with all that we need to live a holy life.
May the wine and strong drink we preach
be not befuddling, but sustaining
for the holy life
you call us to preach
and to live.
Micah 1:8 - 16For this I will lament and wail;
I will go barefoot and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable.
It has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
Tell it not in Gath,
weep not at all;
roll yourselves in the dust.
Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come forth;
Beth-ezel is wailing
and shall remove its support from you.
For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
yet disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
Harness the steed to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to daughter Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
Therefore you shall give parting gifts
the houses of Achzib shall be a deception
to the kings of Israel.
I will again bring a conqueror upon you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.
Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair
for your pampered children;
make yourselves as bald as the eagle
for they have gone from you into exile. Reflection For all of us there are times when we need to try to understand or accept hard things and find a way to express overwhelming feelings. Some people find wisdom in painting or music or meditation or a walk in a quiet place; all are ways to pray. For others, poetry (either reading or writing it) is the way to find meaning in events. Working with words, grasping them, wrestling with them, shaping them, can finally lead to understanding and release.
Micah is a poet. His oracle of judgement on the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem is written in a poetic form; it is a powerful and emotive lament. He expresses his grief in graphic terms, and we hear howling anguish (lamentation like the jackals) when he reflects on the destruction of Samaria.
The poet pictures the advancing Assyrian army travelling from the southwest towards Jerusalem, razing the towns and villages on their route. He lists the communities that will be destroyed, and warns each one of what is to come. These are Micah's own people: he has known these places all his life. He came from Moresheth-Gath. Perhaps his own family would eventually join the groups of homeless travellers who fled to Jerusalem, where they might find refuge for a time, if they got there before the Assyrians laid siege to the city ...
Micah believes that disaster has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem as punishment for the sins of the cities: their corruption, their failure to uphold justice for the poor. He makes this very plain. In the 21st Century we still have corruption and injustice, blatant and unrepentant, creating conflict and forced migration. Are we as forthright as Micah in pointing to this inevitable link in every way we can? We can find in music or meditation, in painting or poetry, praying and preaching, in living and loving, ways to see and share the truth. It will make us free.
PrayerStraggling lines of refugees
carrying their lives in a bundle,
nowhere safe to go;
Rich folk needing bonuses
to supplement their tax breaks,
fund the second home:
Lord have mercy.
Frightened, hungry, silenced child
on a cold unwelcoming shore
finding no warm embrace;
Innocent children pestering,
Will Santa bring an i-Pad?
They've all got one but me …
Christ have mercy.
Everyday clichés of injustice:
God of love and justice, peace and joy,
Give us wisdom to understand
and courage to speak and vision to act.
Lord have mercy on us all. Amen
Micah 1:1 - 7The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Hear, you peoples, all of you;
listen, O earth, and all that is in it;
and let the Lord God be a witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
For lo, the Lord is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
Then the mountains will melt under him
and the valleys will burst open,
like wax near the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?
Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,
a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour down her stones into the valley,
and uncover her foundations.
All her images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste;
for as the wages of a prostitute she gathered them,
and as the wages of a prostitute they shall again be used. Reflection The opening words are all we have to place Micah in the wider story. We know nothing about his family background, and we are given no account of his call to be a prophet – if he even regards himself as a prophet at all. Yet it seems that something has forced him to leave the comparative quiet and comfort of a small country town, to see for himself the excesses of city life in Samaria, and even Jerusalem.
And he doesn’t hold back from comment on what he has seen. For many of us, preaching hellfire and damnation belongs to a different age, or at least to a different kind of church, from our own. If the transgressions of Jacob and the sins of Israel have to do with religious rites and convictions, as seems most likely, we would have preferred open conversation over the issues rather than the condemnation that Micah chooses. And if, as the man up from the country, he is also burdened with social and political resentments towards the ruling classes, surely these could be expressed in more restrained and constructive terms?
Yet at some point after Micah uttered these corrosive words a follower of his must have felt the need to write them down. And somewhere further along the line, an editor gathered his oracles together, and headed the collection with the opening sentence we have here – which tells us so frustratingly little about Micah the man, but makes the extraordinary claim that his words are now to be read and reflected on and somehow understood as “The word of the Lord.”
Could anything that you and I have ever said, whether carefully prepared or just off the top of the head, ever make our hearers think that God might be speaking to them?
PrayerSpeak to me, Lord
and help me to listen carefully.
Speak through me, Lord
and help me to be
both sensitive and courageous
so that your grace and your truth
revealed in Jesus
are seen among us today.
The Book of Micah
Dear <<First Name>>
The Daily Devotions between now and Ash Wednesday will focus on the short Book of Micah. Just as Amos ministered in the northern Kingdom of Israel when it was threatened by the Assyrian Empire, Micah ministered in the southern Jewish Kingdom of Judah. Like Michah, he ministered in the 8th Century BC facing the ever present threat of Assyria - the superpower of the age.
Micah's prophecies of gloom are balanced with hope. He reproached unjust leaders, defended the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful and looked forward to a world at peace centred on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch.
I hope you find the book interesting and inspiring as you continue to follow Jesus day after day.
with every good wish
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project
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Amos 9: 11-15On that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen,
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old;
in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,
says the Lord who does this.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord,
when the one who ploughs shall overtake the one who reaps,
and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them upon their land,
and they shall never again be plucked up
out of the land that I have given them,
says the Lord your God. Reflection One phrase that I have come across several times over the years is, ‘you (or one) can (or should) never go back’.
Not never go back in terms of never visiting somewhere that has been important to us in the past - I received an invitation to visit my old school some time ago and look forward to finding the opportunity when I’m in the area sometime to go for a nose and to reminisce - but that once one has e.g. left a former employer, one should avoid going to work for the same company or person again. The reason being that some of those who have taken such a step have later regretted it making the comment either, ‘it wasn’t the same’, or ‘it was exactly the same’ perhaps remembering why they had decided to leave first time around.
So I find myself brought up short when I read passages like this one, often from a prophet of the Hebrew Bible, that speak and yearn for restoration. The Israelite/Jewish people found that life back in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile even once the Temple had been rebuilt was very different to how life had been beforehand. Times had changed and the experience of history meant the people were not exactly the same as they were before either.
Sometimes when I hear Christians of all denominations speak of their dreams for their church it sounds rather like a yearning for how they remember their fellowship used to be. When there were pews and the first however many rows were filled with children and young people on a Sunday morning. The young people would go to their groups leaving older members comfortably sat at the back of the chapel - another reason perhaps why it is so hard to persuade our congregations to sit at the front!
But while it would of course be lovely to have more people, of more ages, worshipping in our churches on a Sunday morning, I realise now that this is not what I yearn for or want above anything else for our churches.
I dream of a Church where people are growing as Christian disciples. Becoming more like Jesus. Becoming more confident at sharing their faith with the people they encounter: family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances alike. A Church within a society that lives out the belief that God is for All.
PrayerGod for all,
you reached out to the world
in your Son Jesus Christ.
Help us to reach out
in faith and love and witness to all.
God for all,
you send your Holy Spirit
to empower and gift your Church.
By your Spirit help us
grow in unity
grow as followers of Jesus Christ
and grow your kingdom in Cumbria
and in this world. Amen.
Cumbria is an ecumenical county where the URC is in
covenant with the Church of England, Methodist Church and The Salvation Army.
The current focus of our work together is grounded in God for All, a vision and strategy that is exactly what it says on the tin!
The prayer is the God for All prayer, used regularly by people across the county of Cumbria. Feel free to substitute the name of a locality that is significant to you for Cumbria if that is helpful to you.
Psalm 32How blessed the one who has received
forgiveness for his sin!
Whose sins are covered from God’s face,
Whose debt is cancelled in God’s grace;
there’s no deceit in him.
When I kept silent, all my bones
with groaning were worn out.
Beneath your hand I felt entrapped
Both day and night; my strength was sapped
as in a summer drought.
Then I laid bare my sin to you,
the guilt that lay within.
I said, “O LORD, I have transgressed”—
And you forgave when I confessed;
you pardoned all my sin.
So let the godly pray to you
while you are to be found.
Surely when waves are sweeping past
And mighty waters rising fast,
you’ll keep them safe and sound.
You are my hiding-place, O LORD,
my true security.
You keep me safe in troubled days;
You circle me with joyful praise
when you have set me free.
I will instruct you by my word
and guide you in my way.
My counsel I will give to you;
My eye will keep your path in view
and watch you day by day.
Do not be like the horse or mule
which cannot understand;
They must be curbed and kept in check
As bit and bridle turn their neck,
to go where you command.
The wicked’s woes will much increase;
but those who trust the LORD
His cov’nant mercy will surround.
You righteous, let your joy abound
and praise the LORD your God.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Orlington here (from the fifth Stanza) Reflection Relief – what a relief to receive words of reassurance after the dire messages from Amos, as yet relieved by very little hope. Yes, this is a penitential Psalm but one that speaks with assurance of God’s forgiveness and pardon graciously given to those who admit where they have gone wrong, confess their sin.
But how ready are we to be honest with ourselves, and so honest with God, about where we have failed to be the people we could and should have been? Some years ago I read that George Macleod, the Founder of the Iona Community, when Moderator of the Kirk’s General Assembly led a Prayer of Confession which, in effect, said, “Lord, we confess our sins, and we confess that we are so self-satisfied and blind to our sins that we cannot think of anything to confess.” But we are not like that …
Of course, there are those who are so aware of where they have gone wrong, hurting others and failing God, that they feel they can never be forgiven no matter how earnestly they confess their sins. But we are not like that …
We want to identify with the Psalmist who in this very personal meditation is not complaining about external enemies but addressing his own issues and rejoicing that the Lord is our true security, circling us with joyful praise. In the sixth stanza (“I will instruct you by my word…”) we hear God’s reassurance and promise of guidance.
So, whether we find it difficult to acknowledge where we have gone wrong, or are so conscious of our sins that we cannot forgive ourselves, this Psalm offers us confident assurance that as Jesus told disciples, “the truth will set you free.”
PrayerMost gracious God,
you know us better
than we know ourselves,
and still love us.
Help us to be honest with you
and with ourselves
so that we may receive your forgiveness
and know the joy
of your acceptance and guidance,
trusting you in good times and bad.
In the power of him who sets us free, Jesus Christ, our Saviour: Amen
Amos 9: 1 - 10I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:
Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left I will kill with the sword;
not one of them shall flee away,
not one of them shall escape.
Though they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
though they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search out and take them;
and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the sea-serpent, and it shall bite them.
And though they go into captivity in front of their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
and I will fix my eyes on them
for harm and not for good.
The Lord, God of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who live in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
who builds his upper chambers in the heavens,
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea,
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
the Lord is his name.
Are you not like the Ethiopians to me,
O people of Israel? says the Lord.
Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?
The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
and I will destroy it from the face of the earth
—except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,
says the Lord.
For lo, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Evil shall not overtake or meet us.’ Reflection As I write this in October, part of the Christian world is marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In these devotions, we are now reaching the end of our series on Amos, and for many of us, we may have found the book far from ‘easy’: Amos’ message is unrelenting.
In today’s reading, we reach the climax: even though Amos’ words speak of God’s complete and utter destruction – “not one of them shall escape” (v1) – it is balanced with some hope: “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (v8).
Amos’ spoke out against the wrong-doing of the nations of the then-known world and against the religious practices in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, where the poor were ruined and the needy were trampled (8:4). Not dissimilarly, some 2,200 years later, Martin Luther challenged the religious practices that exploited the poor through indulgences and kept God’s simple grace hidden.
As uncomfortable as it may feel to ask: in what ways do we who call ourselves part of God’s church fail to recognise the barriers others perceive in us, our services and our buildings which keep folk from welcoming God’s love?
Today, 27 January, is also Holocaust Memorial Day, when we pause to remember the millions murdered by brutal regimes. The theme for HMD 2018 is ‘The Power of Words’. On one level, having Amos 9 as a set text today may seem an outrageous, even perverse juxtaposition.
Primo Levi, a Jewish Italian author, chemist and survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, writing about the Holocaust, wrote: “It happened, therefore, it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.” Post 1945, he devoted his life to speaking out.
Amos, an unlearned Jewish shepherd, left his homeland (Judah) to follow God’s call to speak out against the corrupt regime of Jeroboam II and the abandonment of God’s ways.
Following in the footsteps of Amos, Luther and Levi, how is God calling us to speak out today?
O God, Who is full of compassion,
Who dwells on high,
grant perfect rest in Your Divine Presence
to all the souls of our holy and pure
sisters and brothers whose blood was spilt.
For whose souls we now pray.
May the Master of Mercy
in the shadow of His wings for eternity;
and may they repose in peace
in their resting places. Amen.
[Adapted from a Jewish Prayer: El Male Rachamim (God full of compassion)]
Amos 8: 4- 14Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?
On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.
In that day the beautiful young women and the young men
shall faint for thirst.
Those who swear by Ashimah of Samaria,
and say, “As your god lives, O Dan,”
and, “As the way of Beer-sheba lives”—
they shall fall, and never rise again. Reflection I always thought that the Old Testament had nothing in it for me except as a book of stories. That was in my pre-TLS days of innocence. During my studies I discovered the prophets and was staggered to find out how little has changed - that the things that concerned them concerned me. I had become part of the Jubilee Debt Campaign and the Make Poverty History movement and discovered a spokesman - Amos - along with the other prophets.
In our passage Amos is speaking about all the businessmen whose lives are concerned with making money, no matter how crooked their methods. The religious festivals were inconveniences to making money. During the festival of the new moon, no business could be done - what a waste of opportunity to make money. The Sabbath - another day lost. Moreover, they used dishonest methods: fixing the weights to be too light or too heavy, whichever method was in their favour. The people who suffered were the poor, some of whom would be in slavery to earn money to live, and the wheat would be just the husks on the floor.
It wasn’t that Amos was against business - he was a small businessman himself - a sheep owner with a fig ripening business so he obviously believed in buying and selling - but fairly. Clearly he believed in plain speaking.
Usually, when the passage is taken as a text to preach on, it ends here. However, Amos goes on to ask what will happen if people don’t change their ways - he is a prophet after all! This warning is worse than usual; something terrible will happen. God has warned about famine or drought before but now Amos threatens something far worse - a shortage of God himself. There will be no more words from God, just silence. No matter where the people search, they will not find God. What could be worse?
In our talk today of Brexit and Trade Deals, perhaps we should remember the words of the prophets and take heed.
PrayerO Lord of the market place
and the balances,
help us to be fair in our dealings
Make us consider people not profit
and look for balance not gain.
Make the poor and needy our priority
and not give them our leftovers.
God of justice and mercy,
may we reflect you in our lives,
Amos 8: 1-3This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you
see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me,
“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
says the Lord God;
“the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!” Reflection Like other passages found in Amos we once again see an example of the prophet’s oratory with clever use of wordplay and imagery. Amos has been presented with a basket of summer fruit - representing desire, celebration and enjoyment, which at a time of peace and prosperity for Israel in 8th Century BC, would be familiar and welcome. However, what is key to the image is that it contains summer fruit.
The use of the word summer indicates the fruit is ripe - ready to be eaten. Action is required now before the fruit is wasted. It is on this point that the comforting vision takes a twist and turn as it is replaced with an image of destruction and upset. In a few lines Amos has caused shock and fear by use of contrast going from a pleasant basket of summer fruit to many dead bodies.
A similar technique is used by the television and film industries. As I write there is a short trailer being regularly shown for a popular Scottish drama on BBC 1. A bride and groom stand at a church doorway, smiling and looking into each other’s eyes as they kiss. All appears happy and well. However, as the bride withdraws her hand from the groom her expression changes. The camera pans down to show the bride’s hand and the groom’s shirt covered in blood. Not what the viewer was expecting; but an attempt to capture attention and generate interest in the story.
Amos uses a pleasant image against a violent threat to emphasise that, as far as his audience was concerned, God saw that action was required now. For the chosen people of Israel the time was up so why should God delay exercising judgment?
Amos is giving a warning. All may appear well but is it actually as well as we make it out to be? How often do we only see what we want to and fail to act with urgency in the present?
PrayerGod of action,
Make me alert to the realities of my life.
Show me what I need to do,
equip me with all I need to act,
grant me the courage I lack,
and hold me in your love.
Amos 7:10-17Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,
“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.”’
And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’
Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”
‘Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
You say, “Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.”
Therefore, thus says the Lord:
“Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be parcelled out by line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.”’ Reflection Into the words of the prophet in the previous sections we have this narrative interlude. The professional priests have been getting upset by what Amos is saying so they try a two-pronged attack. Firstly, Amaziah, the chief of the priests accuses Amos of treason sending word to the King, and then he seeks out Amos to speak face-to-face. Two tactics of intimidation. Amos is not deflected, scarred off or cowered; indeed he goes further in his rhetoric against the nation of Israel. It is not pleasant reading, the language is meant to shock and is very clear. Amaziah could be in no doubt that if Amos is a prophet what the message is that he brings. But that is the problem: either Amaziah thinks he can dismiss him because Amos has not got the right credentials, or that he suspects Amos of speaking a truth and he is trying to suppress it. I suspect the former reason. Amos happily acknowledges that he does not come from a prophetic line. He has no background, other than a man who has heard the call of God and has responded to it.
That is the challenge in this passage. How do we respond to people who tell us uncomfortable truths? Do we dismiss them because they don’t come with a certain authority behind them, or we can say they don’t really understand the situation, or that they are just trying to stir up trouble? Or conversely have we held back from speaking up for justice because we don’t think we have the correct background to do that? Either way it can feel very uncomfortable. Yet we must also be aware of those who would speak out or cause trouble for their own reasons and agenda. We need to discern what God is saying to us. Amaziah is too preoccupied with his status to come before God in humility to ask for guidance, perhaps if he had Israel may have been spared.
We encounter difficult people in our lives
People who say things, claim things and make life uncomfortable.
We ask that you will give us the discernment to know when we hear a prophet and when we are right to be cautious.
May we be open to hear what you would have us hear about our time and our situation.
May we also have the courage to speak out about the injustice we encounter in the lives of those we meet in our daily living.
In the name of Jesus Christ and for the sake of your Kingdom.
Amos 7: 1 - 9This is what the Lord GOD showed me: he was forming locusts at the time the latter
growth began to sprout (it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings). When
they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,
“O Lord GOD, forgive, I beg you!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
The LORD relented concerning this;
“It shall not be,” said the LORD.
This is what the Lord GOD showed me: the Lord GOD was calling for a shower of
fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said,
“O Lord GOD, cease, I beg you!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
The LORD relented concerning this;
“This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb
line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you
see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“See, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Reflection As with Jesus’ Parables in the Gospels, God’s message here was conveyed using everyday images which people could relate to: locusts, fire and a plumb line. I’m certainly no builder but I do know that a plumb line is used to ensure that a wall is straight and that a wall which isn’t will eventually collapse, perhaps sooner than we think!. Poor builders give the industry a bad name but, I wonder, are we as good as we can be when it comes to serving God?
God provides us with a composite plumb line, made up of His Word (our Bibles) and the gift of prayer. Two ways of checking that our wall isn’t going to collapse any time soon. Scripture provides Commandments and guidance for daily living, whilst prayer provides a permanent line of communication which allows us to seek God’s help and strength and to listen for His voice. As with a builder and their wall, we need to keep checking our wall with God’s plumb line.
and the gift of prayer,
you have given us so much
to ensure that our ‘wall is straight’.
Help us, as we read Your Word
and seek Your voice through prayer,
to remain true to you.
In Jesus’ name.