August 14, 2014

Holy Prophet Micah as a Model for our Lives

Holy Prophet Micah (Feast Day - January 5 & August 14)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Micah was born in Moresheth, which is why he is called "the Moreshite". He belonged to the tribe of Judah and is among the twelve lesser prophets. Micah lived in Jerusalem from 748-696 B.C. during the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, when the Kingdom of Judah suffered from continuous invasions from the Assyrians. He was almost a contemporary of the Prophet Isaiah. His book, written in the Hebrew language, is distinguished for its eloquence and clarity of phrases and consists of seven chapters. The first three chapters announce the destruction of Samaria. In the next two he prophesied the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).

"He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4).

In the final two chapters the Prophet rebukes the people of Israel, urges them to repent, and in a form of questions he reminds them how to walk in their lives. He says:

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

This reminder is certainly timeless and timely.

The Prophet Micah did not hesitate to rebuke the excesses of King Ahab, which is why he was persecuted many times. Eventually he was arrested and hanged by his son, King Joram. His body was collected by his relatives and buried in Moresheth.

His life and disposition gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, most prophets in the Old Testament had a martyric death. This is testified in their synaxaria, but also by Christ Himself, Who told the Scribes and Pharisees - after the harsh "woes" addressed to them - the following:

"Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matt. 23:34-37).

This indicates that the lot of God's people in this world are tribulations and martyrdom. But the tribulations of the just are not without comfort, for they are overshadowed by the uncreated Grace of God, which consoles them, strengthens them and redeems them, as the Prophet David stresses:

"A just man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all... the Lord redeems his servants" (Ps. 34:19, 21).

It also shows that all those who do not love the Light, because by it all wicked works done "in secret" are manifested, cannot tolerate the pure and illumined message of love proclaimed by the prophets of all ages. This is why they fight against all those who "rightly teach the word of truth", and in various ways they try to silence and eliminate it. Yet there is the "chosen word", the "new Israel", the "holy people of God", who are, as Saint Symeon the New Theologian says, "those who have been baptized and those confirmed in the faith". In other words, all those who have been baptized and struggle in the Church to live justly, compassionately and apply willingly the commandments of Christ. They consist of the "little leaven" which leavens the "whole lump", as well as the spiritual salt that keeps society from rotting and decaying.

Second, in the Old Testament the Prophet Micah urges the people to be just, to love and to live according to the will of God. And in the New Testament Christ blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, and He even taught that perfect love embraces ones enemies. Indeed, He identified this with the keeping of His commandments, saying: "He who has my commandments and keeps them, loves Me". Justice, compassion and the keeping of the commandments of God are tied together, because he who loves God and keeps His commandments, loves others, as well as all of creation, and struggles to be just. Besides, the justice of God is identical with His love, and when we say that God is just, we mean that God is love. If God was just in the legal sense of the term, then all of us would be punished daily, since we continuously sin and none would remain alive on earth.

Where there is true love, which is identical with sacrifice, justification is exceeded. Conversely, when love is reduced or lost then each of us tries to find our justification. For example, a mother that loves her child does not seek her own justification, but she sacrifices herself for the child, even though she has become embittered by the child in one way or another, because true love covers all things and endures forever. Also between spouses, when love ceases to exist, then they resort to justice and each tries to find their own justification.

The preaching of justice, love and obedience to the Triune God, the Church and the ecclesiastical institution, in a society dominated by machinations, scheming, dishonesty and self-interest certainly provokes reactions. But it takes root, blooms and bears fruit where there is a good disposition, humility and sincerity.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Μιχαίας", July 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.