Scripture References – Micah 7:1-9, 18-20
The sense of the predominance of evil at work all around us is at times debilitating. As best we can tell, there is little good in our lives and our world that goes unchallenged or unchecked by some evidently demonic force. In Dickens’s works, “The best of times and the worst of times,” is a very nice way of being able to describe one’s era and circumstances, but many people can only see, and for good reason, the negatives. This is, for them, the worst of times.
The world is in bad shape; so what else is new? The world has always been in sufficiently bad shape to allow doomsday naysayers to have a following by talking about the inevitable and imminent end of it all. Plenty of these doomsday naysayers are crackpots, but some of them are sincere people who simply cannot see how the world in its condition can go on. And, as much as anything else, the basis for regarding the world as in bad shape is immorality. Every now and then, some specific instance of immorality comes along which emphasizes this fact and solidifies a view of the prevalence of ungodliness which many of us vaguely sense most of the time; some particular immorality which is a real focus on the darkness in which we feel that we live and of the little light that ever seems to break through. Those “specific instances” become a stack-pile on which we gather all our free-floating feelings and ideas making the evidence for our pessimism, for us, uncontestable.
The evidence that grabs me in regard to hopelessness of the world is the strength of organized crime and the drug-dealing subculture. I start thinking things are really bad when people expect and tolerate illegality at the highest levels in our government. I become ready to give up on the world when I have to think about all the numerous and vast methods of mass destruction available to just about anyone. To imagine that humanity has created devices which can destroy not only our enemies but also our allies and the world itself, is chilling. To think that apocalyptic imagery no longer comes from the imaginative interpretation of biblical and literary symbols, but from real possibilities is terrifying. Disfigured beings and an earth ablaze are no longer wild ideas but what can be expected because of devices human beings have created and are willing to use under certain circumstances.
Micah is speaking for us, isn’t he? What he says sounds exactly like what we sometimes say and what we read that others are saying all the time. Listen to the prophet!
How miserable I am! I feel like the fruit picker after the harvest who can find nothing to eat. Not a cluster of grapes or a single early fig can be found to satisfy my hunger. – Micah 7:1 (NLT).
This is the expression of prophetic lament. This is how the prophet feels as he considers the decadence of his society, the complete absence of righteous people. Reflect on what he says for a moment and you begin to feel his darkness and hopelessness. His vain search for godly people is, to him, like the seeking of a desperately hungry person who goes into an orchard after the summer fruit has been picked or into a vineyard after the grapes have been gathered; needing to find some fruit for sustenance, but finding none. It’s the feeling of a hungry person who goes to one more place to find food, just knowing that when all other sources have failed, this one will not. It’s a feeling of need, anticipation, and desperation. And, then, it’s a feeling of frustration because the food has been there, very recently, but has been taken; somehow that’s more assaulting than finding that the food is long gone or has, in fact, never been there.
Micah thought that morality and righteousness had characterized his people. These godly traits nourished the people and their society and had guided other nations. It was, after all, the responsibility of the chosen people of God to be a light to the nations in service to God, live in obedience to God’s will, and live and act according to God’s standards of morality. And hadn’t there been times when that had been done? Certainly there had been. But now, as Micah saw it, there were no righteous people left in Israel, none at all. The nation, for Micah, was like a vineyard or an orchard with no more fruit.
From what he saw among his own people, Micah made that virtually inevitable jump to universalize all he felt and saw. If there are no righteous people in Israel, there must be no righteous people in the world. He lamented, “The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men.” – Micah 7:2. What a lonely and frightening feeling. It’s bad enough to feel that morality is completely absent in your family, or among a group of friends, in an academic community, a city, or a political party. Maybe each of us has felt that at one time or another. But to feel that way about the whole of creation?
To Be Continued