For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 29
From Gospel Translations
1 Chronicles 26—27; 2 Peter 1; Micah 4; Luke 13
SEVERAL TIMES MICAH MOVES from a long section of denunciation and warning to a relatively short, positive vision of the future. Micah 4 includes one such vision (4:1-5), immediately followed by a description of how the daughter of Zion gets from here to there (4:6-13): she passes through severe testing and chastening, and emerges on the other side into the light of God’s blessing.
The opening verses depict a time when “the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it” (4:1). Many mountains in the ancient Near East were sites for the worship of some god or other. To say that “the mountain of the LORD’s temple”—i.e., Zion—is established as “chief” among them and “raised above the others” is to say that the God of Israel has now eclipsed all other gods. The result is that not only does Israel stream back to the site, but “peoples” do so as well. “Many nations” exhort one another, saying, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths” (4:2).
Then the movement of the oracle swings around from the centripetal to the centrifugal. “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (4:2b). The result is that justice prevails among many peoples, and war sinks away, swamped by peace as people, transformed by the word of God, “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (4:3). The vision concludes with the only thing that can ensure its fulfillment: “the LORD Almighty has spoken” (4:4). So now, in his own day, Micah insists that genuine believers not be seduced by other gods, who could not possibly effect this transformation. This is the time to be faithful to the one, true God of the covenant. “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever” (4:5).
The symbol-laden vision is cast in the categories of Micah’s day: the weapons of war, for example, become plowshares and pruning hooks, not tractors and combines. Though cast in terms of the supremacy of Mount Zion, there is no mention of an Israelite hegemony over the nations, nor of the Messiah or the sacrifice he would offer. Even the geography of the oracle looks a little different from the perspective of John 4:21-24. But in the light of the Gospel, the triumph of the new Jerusalem, which brings to an end death and war and all sin (Rev. 21:1-4), is that for which all Christians pray, the fulfillment of Micah’s vision.