Do not persist in anger

Watch out when one side picks out a rival and then tries to destroy him or her. I hate to say this, but we see this sort of thing going on all over the world in the media and most dramatically in politics. There is no limit to the lies and exaggerations used in this endeavor. 

Reasonable debate no longer exists. 

(God) does not persist in anger forever, 
but instead delights in mercy

Image by Ri Butov

Delight in mercy

By Lou Occhi
Micah 2:1-5
Matthew 12:14-21

Today’s readings come from Mica 2:1-5 and Matthew 12:14-21 connect where God reveals how to handle our anger —with mercy. 

I start with a bit of information on Micah, a minor prophet from around 750 BC. Micah, an abbreviation of Micaiah, came from Moresheth Gath. It was located around 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Mica lived under the kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekia and was a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos. I like this book because it is short. There are only seven chapters. It is divided as follows:

  • Oracles of Punishment (1:2-3:12)
  • Oracles of Salvation (4:1-5:14
  • Announcement of Judgement (6:1-7:6)
  • Confidence of God’s Future (7:7-20)

Micah was highly regarded among the Jews. Perhaps his most famous prophecy is from chapter 5:1-3. It reads as follows:

“But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
least among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler of Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall take his place as shepherd
by the strength of the Lord,
by the majestic name of the Lord, his
God; And he shall dwell securely, for now his
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
He shall be peace.”

This is probably the verse used by Herod’s counselors to direct the wise men to Bethlehem.

Micah came from a very poor region and worked with the poor. The rich and powerful in Jerusalem would use their influence to take homes, land and possessions from the poor. Because of this he prophesized a punishment from God on Jerusalem.

Today’s reading from Micah starts with 2:1, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lays within their power.”

Although Micah was strictly speaking on behalf of the poor and the greed of the rich and powerful, the first line ties directly into the first line from Matthew 12:14, today's Gospel.“The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death.”

I hate to say this, but we see this sort of thing going on all over the world in the media and most dramatically in politics. One side will pick out a rival and then try to destroy him or her. There is no limit to the lies and exaggerations used in this endeavor. Reasonable debate no longer exists. 

Leaders of people set the example for the rest of the population. When we see baseball players kick dirt on umpires shoes, then we see kids and parents do the same thing in Little League baseball. Some of the time the evil is spontaneous. Other times it is deliberate and planned. Isn’t the evil that is deliberate and planned exactly what Micah was talking about? Isn’t what the Pharisees planned exactly what we see going on in the slandering of opponents? 

Not only is this going on globally but is spreading down to lowest levels of government, businesses, neighborhoods and even families. When we see global divisions as we are experiencing today we need to remember that the word demon comes from the Latin word for divide. This division is demonic. 

I am not saying that we are all possessed. Instead, we should resist temptations to fall into the trap of letting differences of opinion divide us and cause us to lose friends and even family members. At this time in our history, we need to pray like we have never prayed before. 

I am reminded of Andy McKees favorite prayer, the Prayer of St Francis. In that prayer we pray to be instruments of peace, where there is hatred to bring love, where there is darkness to bring light. It is almost like Andy is preaching to us from the grave.

Despite the gloom and doom, I would like to finish with the last 3 verses from Micah chapter 7. They are the most hopeful, and my favorite from Micah.

“Who is a God like you, who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but instead delights in mercy,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our iniquities?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all
our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from day of old.”

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