Making the Lame a Strong Nation - Micah 4:1-7

God's plans and strategies often don't seem to make any sense. When we hear the terms lame and strong in the same sentence, we might think of physical therapy. That's about the extent of the ways we would associate those terms. Being lame is something we equate with being weak. It refers to muscles or nerves that do not work as they should. It presents us a picture of physical failure, limitation, and the inability to perform as we would like or expect. In Micah's day, it was a death sentence for most. How do you take a group of powerless people and transform them into a strong nation?
The Bible is full of texts telling stories of God accomplishing his purposes in unexpected ways, using strategies and people who seem sure to fail. Time and time again, it would appear that what God has planned is doomed to failure. How can an old, barren woman hope to become a mother? How can a band of slaves escape bondage to the world superpower? How could that same band of escaped slaves hope to escape Pharaoh's army at the Sea of Reeds? How can walking around a city and blowing trumpets bring down the city's walls? How can a band of three hundred men with trumpets and torches hope to defeat an army of 130,000? How can a starving, besieged city hope to become victorious against the enemies surrounding it? How can a Messiah be the victorious Lord after he is nailed to a cross?
It is this God of unexpected reversals the Bible consistently hails as worthy of our worship and praise. It is this God who creates light in the midst of darkness, order in the midst of chaos, bounty in the midst of famine whom we gather to celebrate. It is this God of the unexpected who calls us to have faith in mercy, compassion, and treating others with dignity. It is this God who sets before us a vision of a world in which the nations beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into gardening implements.
Micah's words picture an idyllic setting. They comprise a vision of what we would call “Heaven on earth.” In fact, for the Hebrews, that was the only fitting understanding of the future God has for us. It is only when Jesus enters the scene that we begin to hear about living with God in eternity. The Hebrew Scriptures proclaim a vision of God's ultimate blessing upon the nation of Israel represented in the very same material world we already know. They did not talk about “pie in the sky by and by.” The Hebrew prophets spoke of a coming day when life on earth would be transformed under Yahweh's direct rule through Messiah. It would be a living reality expressing God's presence, care, and fulfilled will on the face of the very earth we walk.
Such was Micah's vision of the coming day of God's ultimate blessing. He envisioned nations all over the world coming to understand and worship Yahweh alongside Israel. He pictured all of these nations setting aside both their implements of war and their tactical preparations and training regimens for war. He described a reality we tend only to portray as unrealistic, fanciful, and naive. He painted along with Isaiah a portrait of swords and spears being beaten into implements of agriculture. Rather than seeking war to raid one another for plunder, he envisioned erstwhile enemies joining purposes to nurture crops and produce bounty for one and all.
In a world in which a third of the population will go hungry tonight, Micah's words seem a very improbable and impossible fantasy. In a world in which wars continue to rage in country after country, the peace Micah described appears as a fleeting dream completely divorced of any semblance of reality. After all, our own nation has never experienced twenty years without being engaged in some war or another. We have never lived without identifying enemies and preparing for attack and defense.
Micah's words were not written in consideration of some heavenly reality removed from earthly implementation. Our pictures of heaven, after all, do not include agricultural endeavors. They are not wrapped in the language of distinct nations and physical pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the mountain of Yahweh's presence. Instead of some ethereal reality in the sky, Micah's addressed the very earthy and tangible expectations of life under the reign of Messiah on this side of death. His vision was and remains for many Jews today a powerful statement of life on earth lived by God's design.
These word pictures were never considered depictions of some other plane of existence. They were not descriptors of some other dimension of God's presence far removed from the very physical and material concerns of life on earth. Micah was focused instead on the transformation of this world in which we live coming to embody the principles of living that Yahweh wanted his people to embrace and share with others. He centers this vision on the other nations sending emissaries to Jerusalem to actually learn the ways of Yahweh and how to put those principles into practice in their own lands.
Yes, there are appropriate ways to take Micah's words to grasp something of what heaven must be like. That is only responsible, however, as we recognize that these words did not have life beyond this realm of existence in mind. Instead, this is Micah writing about what the realities of life on earth should be like. This is the portrait of the world God actually expects us to work diligently to bring to fruition.
It is in this world of political, economic, social, and cultural upheaval that Micah's words call us to work for radical transformation. It is in this very conflicted context of intense conflict, struggle, and inequality that we are handed the task of bringing God's will to bear on all of our institutions. It is here and now that God calls us to participate in the redemption of the world of creation. It is in interacting with the economic, political, military, social, educational, media, and cultural venues of life that we are called to become the living reality of God's transformational presence.
Rather than focusing on getting us to heaven, Micah's vision is getting the realities of heaven to become the realities of the world in which we live, move, and breathe. This vision tells us about God's plan for the world. It then calls us to bring that plan to bear on the realities of daily life. It is the vision we find in the Lord's Prayer we recite so readily, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For Micah, getting us to God was first and foremost about connecting the realities of daily living on earth to the purposes and priorities of God in heaven.
On some level, we understand that. We want to see God's priorities brought to bear on all of our relationships. At another level, however, we miss the import of how God desires to implement those same realities. We miss the character of God's strategies for implementing the will of heaven on earth. In so doing, we misapply and misrepresent the very character of God's will.
Micah speaks of the lame left behind. It is these who would become the remnant and, through them, God's will and purpose would be effected. It is through the powerless, the forsaken, those cast aside as irrelevant that this vision becomes reality. As Babylon carted off the wealthy, powerful, and influential into exile, God's reality of heavenly existence would come to fruition through the refugees left behind and maimed by the ravages of war.
This is the reality and focus of God's provision. This is the character of the strong nation Yahweh desired to create. It is in, with, and through the lame, the cast aside, the neglected, the discarded that this heavenly reality comes to life on earth. After all, the reasons the world is in chaos is that those with power desire to increase their power. To transform that, we don't need more power. Instead, we must bring the realities of heaven to bear through our weakness. Will we find strength in becoming the lame?

©Copyright 2018, Christopher B. Harbin 


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