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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, December 4, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Micah 4:1–5

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream 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 instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; 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 any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, 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. (NRSV)

Micah, like Isaiah, was prophesying in the eighth century BCE, a time of relative peace in Israel and Judah. There were signs of internal decay, but he still looked forward to a time in the future when, despite God’s punishment of the people for straying from their faith, God would restore them. Thus we have the familiar and comforting words of verse 3: “He will . . . settle disputes . . . far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” and nation “will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Oh, how we in the third decade of the twenty-first century long for this prophecy to be fulfilled right now. We would feel encouraged if we could glimpse a strong light of resolution at the end of the long dark tunnel of any of the myriad “disputes” that have festered and grown in our city, our nation, and throughout the world. But more than “winning” a dispute or battle, we yearn for understanding, tolerance, reconciliation, healing, and harmony.

Micah’s prophecy or hope, while offering assurance of God’s watchfulness and protection, contains an admonition. People must learn or relearn God’s ways and walk in God’s paths, because God will judge their behavior. Try substituting a few words: “We Christians must learn or relearn God’s ways and walk in God’s paths, because God will judge our behavior.” Doing so, I think, requires us not just to pray more and do more good things, but to reflect deeply on our convictions and actions and test them against that familiar bumper-sticker slogan: “What would Jesus do?” More fundamentally, what have I learned this year about how to think about my fellow humans—their politics, their heritage, their worries, their beliefs?

Advent is a time of anticipation of good things, and the season, even with social distancing, can bring joy and happiness, which will be magnified by the small courtesies, simple gifts, and brief interactions (or phone calls) we can all practice and maybe by just listening.

Loving God, in this time of hope during Advent, inspire us to examine our individual lives and figure out how we can better discern your will for us in the twenty-first century and then act joyfully on that new clarity. Amen.

Written by Rebecca Dixon, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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