This week we take on the controversial and subversive message of the ancient Hebrew prophets such as Jeremiah and Micah. Their message was disturbing and disruptive 2500 years ago, and their message continues to interrogate any and every religious or political impulse today. These ancient prophets offered an entirely different way of viewing life, religion, and God. We have to remember that they were social and political critics and not soothsayers divining the future. Think of Nathan and David here. Or Elijah and Ahab. What is true religion? What does it mean that God is holy, and Christians are called to be holy?
Unfortunately, many Western Christians think in the same ways as the ancient Judahites: religion is morality, not holiness; God is my comfort, not my disrupter. The Hebrew prophets will come along and preach a few simple messages. One is quite simple and yet almost never practiced. “The widow, the orphan, and the alien: God cares for the oppressed.” True religion is this: caring for those who cannot care for themselves–taking care of whoever “lives” in your world no matter their country, color, or creed. Morality in society is needed, but morality is not paramount. Never does the Bible say that God is “moral.” “More'”–a Latin word signifying the idea of building fences around to guard against. Morality easily slips into oppression and hatred for the other(s). It used to be moral to deny African-Americans their civil rights. Morality really stinks when it is used in arrogance and greed.
God is holy. Holiness means that Jews and Christians are set apart unto Yahweh. For what? Set apart not to defend our possessions and use others for more possessions–think Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard here–but set apart so that we can swing wide the gates of mercy and compassion. “Welcome, my friend, whoever you are.” Ignoring the poor, turning our eyes away from the desperate, looking down upon those who struggle, stealing other peoples’ lands–the list is endless. All these are travesties of injustice. God is vulnerable here in God’s holiness; we are most vulnerable here too. To be holy means to open our clinched fists and crossed arms–to open ourselves up to the suffering of others and, most importantly, their care and well-being. “God has told you, O human, what is beautiful. Now what does Yahweh “I-be-who-I-be” require of you but to do the right thing, to love kindness, and to walk in humility with your God?” (Micah 6:8 trans. mine) And check out
Michael Hudson’s prompt for this week’s question of the week. And you should have heard Sydney Bailey’s personal words as we wrapped class this last Tuesday.