URC Daily Devotions 31st January

For this I will lament and wail;
I will go barefoot and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable.
It has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
to Jerusalem.
Tell it not in Gath,
weep not at all;
in Beth-leaphrah
roll yourselves in the dust.
Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come forth;
Beth-ezel is wailing
and shall remove its support from you.
For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
yet disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
Harness the steed to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to daughter Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
Therefore you shall give parting gifts
to Moresheth-gath;
the houses of Achzib shall be a deception
to the kings of Israel.
I will again bring a conqueror upon you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.
Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair
for your pampered children;
make yourselves as bald as the eagle
for they have gone from you into exile.

Reflection

For all of us there are times when we need to try to understand or accept hard things and find a way to express overwhelming feelings. Some people find wisdom in painting or music or meditation or a walk in a quiet place; all are ways to pray. For others, poetry (either reading or writing it) is the way to find meaning in events. Working with words, grasping them, wrestling with them, shaping them, can finally lead to understanding and release.

Micah is a poet. His oracle of judgement on the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem is written in a poetic form; it is a powerful and emotive lament. He expresses his grief in graphic terms, and we hear howling anguish (lamentation like the jackals) when he reflects on the destruction of Samaria.

The poet pictures the advancing Assyrian army travelling from the southwest towards Jerusalem, razing the towns and villages on their route. He lists the communities that will be destroyed, and warns each one of what is to come. These are Micah’s own people: he has known these places all his life. He came from Moresheth-Gath. Perhaps his own family would eventually join the groups of homeless travellers who fled to Jerusalem, where they might find refuge for a time, if they got there before the Assyrians laid siege to the city …

Micah believes that disaster has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem as punishment for the sins of the cities: their corruption, their failure to uphold justice for the poor. He makes this very plain. In the 21st Century we still have corruption and injustice, blatant and unrepentant, creating conflict and forced migration. Are we as forthright as Micah in pointing to this inevitable link in every way we can? We can find in music or meditation, in painting or poetry, praying and preaching, in living and loving, ways to see and share the truth. It will make us free.

Straggling lines of refugees
carrying their lives in a bundle,
nowhere safe to go;
Rich folk needing bonuses
to supplement their tax breaks,
fund the second home:
Lord have mercy.
Frightened, hungry, silenced child
on a cold unwelcoming shore
finding no warm embrace;
Innocent children pestering,
Will Santa bring an i-Pad?
They’ve all got one but me …
Christ have mercy.
Everyday clichés of injustice:
God of love and justice, peace and joy,
Give us wisdom to understand
and courage to speak and vision to act.
    Lord have mercy on us all. Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Heather Pencavel is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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