Jonah 4

Perhaps anyone reading or repeating a prophecy of warning or challenge needs this reminder that God does not only seek to punish, and that the nature of the divine balances justice with love, and love with justice, in ways beyond our ken.

Just as God send a fish, then had it spit Jonah up on land, so God now sends a shade plant, then a worm to end it. God’s providence operates through mundane, and not necessarily miraculous agencies. The cycle of growth and death of the plant provokes Jonah’s imprudent complaint, and divine rejoinder.

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Jonah 3

Jonah is, in this chapter, the most successful prophet in history, implausibly and marvelously effective in communicating a warning and having it accepted. This is far more miraculous and incredible than some fish story! When would a big imperial city change its degenerate culture – when Jerusalem had not done so?

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Jonah 2

We make deals with God in extremis and vow to live differently. This poetic prayer concludes with a promise to pay up in thanksgiving and gratefulness, not simply in a quid pro quo but in recollection of the hope of a God not benignly disengaged, but passionate and interventionist in intention.

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Jonah 1

You knew this would be different – or perhaps you thought that the actual bible version would be longer and more like the other prophets? Nope, this is a story or fable or narrative with very little poetry or oracle.

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Zephaniah 3

Yes, the book closes with a promise of a righteous remnant, a humble poor gathering or survivors. Again, that’s the root narrative of a million stories in our tradition ever since. But the church selects the song of joy, without the context of who is singing, and who is no longer enjoying the music, on the day of God.

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Zephaniah 2

Think of some post-apocalyptic movie you’ve seen, centuries after the nuclear war, as the barbarians traipse among the artifacts of technology. Was it utopian or dystopian, this meadow? It had its roots here, in the visions of Zephaniah of civilization or culture being razed, and covered with pastoral land.

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Zephaniah 1

If the stock market crashed, or the globalized trading economy was balkanized behind tariff walls again, and wealth was no longer ‘world-class’, but neither was poverty reaching comparisons with the ‘third world’ among us here – would that be good news or bad news, for your family, friends, church, or community? The prophet’s theme has lots to say to we of the ‘liberal elite’ in 2018 Canada!

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Zephaniah 1-3, Jonah 1-3

The opening text of Zephaniah places the prophet explicitly in Judah during the reforming days of Josiah. Can you reconcile the condemnations with a reform king attempting repentance? Is there an implied other voice, or implied other audience, that fits the wide geography threatened, and the reassurance to the humble suffering ones? I think I can imagine a cloud of witnesses nodding.

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Micah 7

Miseracordia. Woe is me. I am like one who tries to glean leftovers and finds none – the godly are already swept from the land. Everybody I meet poses a threat, not a promise. The gleanings are for the poor. Micah shares their physical fate of no welfare payments, with his moral loss of godly company.

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Micah 6

No wonder we so rarely keep reading from 6:9. Your affluent city should cringe before the just God who knows our weights and measures are commercial sharp practice. The guy who is caught red-handed with crooked scales is busted. Rich people are violent, if only in covert violence of callous disregard of those violated by the way things are. All the people participate in the lies.

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Micah 4

This is the context of our cherry-picked, nugget text: they shall beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks…. Moral disarmament, a nuclear-free world of peace, with each one sitting under their own vine or fig tree, and no one to make them afraid.

Glib liberals without us assume the submission of all nations to some higher truth, rather than many nations accepting the justice and judgment of Israel’s Yahweh. What do you read today, in the poetry of the original vision, oft to be repeated? Are we unafraid because we have no enemies, or because God’s protection and just power is greater than that of the remaining enemies?

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Micah 3

Micah mocks his competing religious hucksters who affirm their own prosperity gospel that ‘God wants you to be rich’ The threat is brought home to Zion and Jerusalem: it will be ploughed under like a field, in rubble. That’s a bit painful, as the rubble is ploughed at our old church this week, eh?

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Micah 2

Micah makes fun of the kind of leadership popular in the time – offering beer and wine – ‘buck a beer’ or perhaps ‘legalized cannabis’ – the vices of affluence, the luxury goods of entertainment, rather than sharing with the dispossessed homeless widows. It’s a play on words, the sound of ‘lament’ and ‘taunt’ in Hebrew – and Micah is taunting the elites.

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Micah 2-7

We cherry-pick Micah for the Bethlehem prophecy, or for the summary of 6:6-8. Will it change your experience of those nuggets to hear the whole book? Might you add some additional nuggets for personal or community use?

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Micah 1

Micah’s opening oracle is directed to all nations of the world, not limited to the priests and elite of the north, like the first couple of prophets we read.

This is a bold claim of a cosmic God of all, not a tribal deity, coming from a hidden place, and approaching from high places, bringing down mountains and flooding up valleys in fire, or cascading waterfalls. It’s big.

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Hosea 13

We are reminded again of Exodus, of manna in the desert – and of how quickly the people rebelled even then. God’s not our servant, waiting for a tip, to do our bidding. The divine is a wild thing, beyond our control, like a lion, leopard, or bear, particularly one enraged to lose her cubs. That anger is rooted in love and loss, not malevolence.

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