Micah: “The Conscience of Israel”

Who do you think fits the moniker, “the conscience of the nation”?  Martin Luther King Jr. came to my mind.  In On a steamy August 28, 1963, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to an estimated 250,000 people.  Here is a portion of that great conscience stirring speech:  “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation….But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land…  In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice…

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream…

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood….

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together…

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!  Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!  Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!  But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!  Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!  Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the conscience of the American people in much the same way Micah did for Judah 2,500 years ago.  He warned them of God’s judgement against them for their immoral behavior and set before them a promise of a glorious kingdom where men “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore” (4:3).  He promises the kingdom of God on earth.

Pray:  Hebrews 4:12 says that “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Let that shape how you pray as you begin your meditation today.

Read:  Read all of Micah in one sitting, if you can.

Meditate:  The book of Micah seems a little disjointed or choppy as if disparate messages were simply linked to one another without a clear sense of connection.  There is a sense in which the book is a bit jerky, but there is a clear design.  The book is divided into three sections, each beginning with the command to hear:  1:2, 3:1, and 6:1.  And each section contains alternating messages of judgment and hope.  This week we will look at the first section, 1:1- 2:13.  The questions given below are designed to help us meditate on the Word of God as given by His servant Micah.