A Better Vision

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow 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 the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away; and they 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; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, 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 forever and ever.
— Micah 4:1-5

Riding past the giant tidal wave of the obituary that Micah gives to the people of Judah, we land here, overwhelmed by a vision of promise, of hope, of a bright and beautiful future.

Rather than ignoring the first three chapters of Micah in favor of these words over the ones that seem to only bring destruction, this vision from the Lord to Micah helps us not only to see the world as it really is, but to see ourselves as we really are, helping us to rightly follow suit with the many peoples and nations to declare in whose name we will walk.

The World as It Really Is

In the world that we are talking about here, things we have spent a lot of time talking about (I write here and here about the context), every part of their sin and judgment leaves this looking incredibly bleak. The Judahites thought they were worshiping Yahweh, but instead, they worshipped a cheaply made version of who He was, expecting God to still make good on His covenant promises even if they watered down their version of how that looked in their day-to-day. What that made for was a very religious people who in practice did not love their neighbor: the poor, the widow, the foreigner in their midst all mistreated as they lived in fear of scarcity, especially having watched the Northern Kingdom get swiftly moved into exile.

So to move from this stark reality of what they knew their world to be around them, these words were not ones that called for them to ignore what was happening, but a reminder once more that God gets the last word. He will remain fast to His promises. The world around you may be full of chaos, even, as we find out soon enough, chaos we both have taken part in and happens to us, but God calls us to see with different eyes that know He is working things out for redemption, for renewal. We hold this in grateful tension. If it’s not okay, it is not the end.

Ourselves as We Really Are

Although it can be easy to separate ourselves from the ancient hearers of these words, easy as always to point the finger at others while not looking at the giant log in our own eye, these words also help us to see ourselves as we really are. These words are a stark contrast of what Judah looked like at that time, and the harsh reality is that these words weren’t an indictment so much of the pagan nations around them, but of themselves, of God’s beloved.

What we see in this passage is remarkable. Walter Brueggemann says that, “the enthronement of Yahweh here celebrated carries with it a dethronement of all other gods,” which is beautiful as many nations, the gentiles, are walking, coming to this mountain to sit at the feet of God Almighty so that they can walk in His paths. They reject the ways in which they once walked, their old self, in order to be made new, to walk a new way.

The beloved of God had lost sight of who they were and what they were called to, obsessed with their own Kingdom, their own power, security, control. We miss a lot of what it means to be pilgrims. It is only when we know who our God is, when we reject the false gods and ways we have allowed those to lay claim over our lives, over our identity, repent and believe, repent and believe, that we can be followers who come, who walk, who abide, and our lives are changed in abundance.

This abundance shows itself as weapons of war being no more, learning war nonsensical. Instruments of peace are heralded, the plowshares and pruning hooks wielded for earnest formation. And no one shall make them afraid.

Assyria is knocking on Judah’s door, threatening to take all that they are into exile, no empty threat as they watched their own family in the North fall into the enemy’s hands. The last thing they want to do is give up the things they find security in, their arms.I

The hard question which Israel’s faith asks of every system of security and meaning is whether it can give reality to deepest hopes, or if it is actually diametrically opposed to such promises.
— Walter Brueggemann

The picture of everyone under their own grape and fig tree, rest, provision, plenty, and no one shall make them afraid, finds its fruition in abiding. They are at peace because they know Him who is peace. Yet, the flip side, is that in holding up the mirror, they see that their swollen appetite has grabbed and lusted after other vines, hoarding, distrusting the economics of God’s Kingdom. Those with swollen appetites know no rest, know no peace.

As we look at the world around us, as well as at ourselves so plainly and clearly, it can be easy to despair. But God has a message of good news and hope that we can only hold with its great weightiness after we have come to terms with the world and our own brokenness apart from Him.

A New Walk

The centerpiece of these five verses here is God’s Law, His Torah. Christ, His words, are the only way to re-order our disordered loves and lives. Jesus as high and lifted up above all (John 11:32), made a way for all nations to come to himself and find a new way and new walk. What Micah was calling for was not more sacrifices, but changed hearts; no quick behavior modification, but a hearkening back to God Himself.

As we look at the greatness of this vision, the point is to stir our hearts to remember. The world around us is full of war, tragedy, sin, and death, but God remains faithful to what He promises. Waiting in anticipation, hope, are not too light a thing, and as we move from this ancient context into ours, we don’t have to take too many steps to see how it plays out in our own lives.

We too, need a fresh picture of what life looks like when we have rightly ordered lives, coming to sit at His feet, in His words, so that we might walk in His ways. A true knowledge of who God is, who God revealed himself to be, instead of the ways we make him to be who we want him to be, something that the Judahites as well as ourselves have done time and time again, will surely change us as we dethrone our false gods to give Him proper glory and prominence. With the true God as center, everything else falls into place, and without being too simplistic, helps us to actually live our lives worthy of the calling which we have received.

This better vision is an invitation into a new walk, a walk where even if we can not see the light, when the suffering and brokenness that we have had happen to us and have taken part in is too much to bear, there is hope that God is not finished here yet, and He has already done it.