Micah 6–7 the Quest For Social Justice.

Key Notes: What the Lord requires of you. Doing justice?

6:1–5 God pleads His case with Israel. Israel was weary of God in spite of their deliverance from Egypt, the leadership of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, reversing the curses of Balak / Balaam, and the successful crossing of the Jordan.They are weary of God's warnings and judgments.

6:6–8 What does God want? More sacrifices? He requires justice, mercy and humble walking with Him.

6:9–12 Instead there is cheating in business, violence, lying and deceit.

6:13–16 Therefore God has given them up to futility: eating but still hungry; saving but poor; sowing but not reaping.

7:1–7 Micah feels like an empty fruit-basket. Summer is over. The godly are dead. People plan violence and do evil diligently. Judges ask bribes. No one can trust close relatives.

7:8–10 Micah's enemies should not rejoice. Although fallen, he confesses his sin, and he will rise. In the dark, God will be light to him. He feels God's indignation because of his own sin, until God delivers him.

7:11–17 In the end, Israel will be restored, and her land will be prosperous. Nations will come in humility to seek God.

7:18–20 Micah concludes his prophecy with a doxology, praising God for his mercy and faithfulness.

Comments on social justice:

Micah 6:8 "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Some have contended that the later prophets downplay the sacrifice system, and use Micah as an example. However, study of similar passages in Isaiah make it clear that God accepts the sacrifices when they are a valid expression of contrition, adoration or thanksgiving. Ceremony by itself is hypocrisy; right conduct is required..

Isa.1:11–17 is one good example. "I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly." (Isa.1:13). "Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood." (Isa.1:15)

Isa. 56, 58–59 is also a valuable description of the moral condition of Israel individually and collectively, and God's demand for righteousness.

"Why have we fasted, and You do not see it? Why have we humbled ourselves and You take no knowledge of it?" "Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers." Isa.58:3

"Keep justice and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come." Isa.56:1
"Is this not the fast that I chose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? " (i.e. take care of your own kin). Isa.58:6–7

"This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Isa.66:2

"The New Testament adds its weight.
"I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Matt.25:35
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Jm.1:27

There are many denunciations of social injustice in Scripture.
{They} "have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it." Joel 3:3
"...who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, 'bring, that we may drink'". Amos.4:1
"Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying '...that we may make the ephah small and shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat.'" Amos 8:4–6
...you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." Matt.23:23

What is Justice? We are well-taught about justification, and God's mercy and justice, but little about our personal application of justice and mercy. Justice is:
1. Distribution of goods, services, opportunities, and honor on a fair and equitable basis.
2. Remedy of past wrongs.
3. Retribution for violation of rights.

What is mercy? "Doing acts of compassionate kindness."
         (Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics. CFH Henry, Edit. Baker Book Co.,’73.)
It appears that justice is abiding by the law, especially the specific laws of God. We are to "do justice." Mercy, on the other hand, responds to the general law of God, which is to love others. We are to perform loving acts of compassionate kindness.

How has the Church responded to this mandate?
There is a long tradition of founding orphanages, asylums, monasteries, hospitals, agricultural projects, and schools in overseas missions. Hospitals, asylums, hostels were founded in Europe during the revivals in the 12th and 13th centuries. ( A History of Christianity. KS Latourette; Harpers,’53;. p.538.)

Today, Hindus in Nepal are cautioned about pushing Christian missionaries out of the country, because they are caring for the poor and the sick that the Hindus have ignored. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was an embarrassment because she cared for the outcasts of Indian society.

William Wilberforce lead the anti-slavery movement in Britain that led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire (1838).
A.A. Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. championed the cause of miners and factory workers in Britain. Methodist pastors led to the formation of early labor unions. (Latourette. p. 1200.)

CFH Henry wrote a book "The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism" (Eerdmans,’47) in which he criticized the lack of attention of American evangelical Christians to the problems of society. He once asked a gathering of a hundred pastors:

"How many of you, during the past six months, have preached a sermon devoted in large part to a condemnation of such social evils as aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, the liquor traffic, exploitation of labor or management, or the like--a sermon containing not merely an incidental or illustrative reference, but directed mainly against such evils, and proposing the framework in which solution is possible?" Nobody responded. (p.18).

Karl Marx (1818–1883) was raised as a Christian, and spent his life in scathing criticism of the treatment of the poor and the laborers by greedy capitalists. Marxism may be thought of as a heresy on Christianity, seeking to change society by programs, but the criticism in valid. In spite of Wilberforce and others in Britain, life on the Continent was not much affected. Christians were not meeting the challenge of the industrial revolution.

Paul Ramsey, a Christian ethicist, has remarked that Marxism is a social system in search of a religion; Christianity is a religion in search of a social system. (Basic Christian Ethics; P. Ramsey, Eerdmans,’52, p.526). Christianity is struggling hard on this issue.

The reasons why evangelical Christians do not have a social system are not hard to find. First, those churches that turned to liberalism bowed to modern science (scientific materialism, evolution, biblical criticism). They gave up the supernatural and the power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and turned to secular social reform. In other words, liberalism gave up the Gospel in favor of the social gospel, seeking to bring the kingdom of God on earth by human betterment. Although they may not have become Marxists, their socialist agenda was similar.

Evangelicals/fundamentalists recoiled and fought back, mostly in defense of important doctrines like the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and the substitutionary atonement. But they also turned their backs on social need in reaction to liberalism.

There are other reasons why modern evangelicals do not have a coherent social program:
•We don't see poverty around us.
•Christians do not claim their rights (ICor.9:1–14) and hence the rights of others are not high on their agenda.
•The poor who become Christians rapidly get out of poverty. Hence, they are not especially sympathetic with poverty as such.
•Christians believe that they are here to save souls, not clothe and feed bodies.
*We do not have a social agenda; we have a spiritual agenda.

However, the rescue missions who minister to the alcoholic and homeless found that the best program was SOAP, SOUP, SALVATION. If the basic needs of the body were not met, the spiritual message went unheard.

We might ask in passing what "rights" are. John Locke named life, liberty and property. The Declaration of Independence names life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are these Biblical?
•Life: “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly."(Jn.10:1)
•Liberty: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal.5:1)
•Property: "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine." (Lev.25:23).
•Pursuit of happiness. "...all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God." (Deut.28:1–2)

It appears that they are Biblical, but also conditional rights. That is, they depend on being right with God. But we would agree that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue them.

When evangelical Christians woke up to the needs of the Country, they continued to preach the Gospel but they also pursued the political agenda. Now that agenda is in disarray. (Christianity Today, Sept.6,’99.) The Christian Coalition broke up. Should Christians try by legislation to overcome evil and right wrongs? Should they tend to preaching and other spiritual ministry exclusively? We need to do both evangelism and social action.

Will the "Next Christians" go to work in the public sector as salt and light, having learned the lessons of the past? (The Next Christians. G. Lyons. Multnomah,’84.)