If Micah threatens the leveling of Jerusalem, and a bare Zion and temple mount, then Micah is also the visionary who proposes a future exaltation of Zion. That same hill or mount gets raised, and all nations stream toward it. Yes, you have heard that phrase, and perhaps imagined that flow of humanity. It is repeated plenty over the centuries in scripture and beyond.
Many nations come seeking the ways and paths, the law, the word, judgment and justice – all the things Micah says are currently in short supply in town. 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?
The vision goes on the include the lame, the exiles, the grieving, and this collection of the least and the lost will comprise a strong nation. Who is the daughter, of Zion or Jerusalem? It’s a watchtower, a defensive battlement. That suggests that enemies don’t cease to exist, they just can’t overcome the centre in the Messianic Age.
Meanwhile, we cry in labour pains – doomed to be scattered from Zion, by the many nations gathered in opposition, not streaming toward us seeking justice and wisdom. We’ll be scattered, but in the end, that Zion will act as a ploughshare to plough them apart, hoofs to thresh their sheaves. Sure, argues Micah, the people will be scattered among the nations, but in dues course will sort them all out, on the way home.
Micah 4 (NRSV)
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, 2 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. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 4 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. 5 For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. 6 On that day, says the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted. 7 The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion now and for evermore. 8 And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem. 9 Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counsellor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labour? 10 Writhe and groan,* O daughter Zion, like a woman in labour; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the LORD will redeem you from the hands of your enemies. 11 Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, ‘Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.’ 12 But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing-floor. 13 Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples, and shall* devote their gain to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.