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The Fourth Sunday After Epiphany A, January 29, 2023

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The Fourth Sunday After Epiphany A, January 29, 2023

The book of Micah was a liturgical book for worship in the Temple. We have a clue to this in the questions of vs. 6 & 7. Sacrifices were made in the Temple. As a liturgical book, several readers may have been used in the recitation of this passage. The first reader would have given voice to the prophet who speaks for the Lord. The Lord’s voice speaks in vs. 1-5. A second voice emerges as a response to the Lord’s voice. It questions what kind of answer should be presented to the Lord’s indictment (vs. 2). Finally, in vs. 8, a sage voice… the voice of wisdom… delivers the truth of what the Lord desires.

That second voice, the one questioning what to bring before the Lord, posits an intensifying system of sacrifice. It first increases the amount of the sacrifice from single animals… to thousands of animals… to an impossible quantity of oil (vs. 7). The voice then makes a qualitative leap. It suggests that human sacrifice… the offering up of the firstborn or other children would be appropriate offerings for sin. Israel’s neighbors, and sometimes Israel itself, put their children through the fire as an offering to Baal or Molech (cf. 2 Kings 16:3 & 21:6).

The third voice… the voice of wisdom… speaks in answer to that forbidden and abhorrent proposed child sacrifice. The answer it provides comes as a bit of a surprise. The wise voice puts forth the claim that the Lord does not require a sacrifice of a “what”, but the Lord requires a sacrifice of a “who.” The Lord requires YOU as the sacrifice. YOU are to surrender your doing… your loving… and your walking… all of it given over to the Lord and the Lord’s justice… the Lord’s love… and the Lord’s humble walk… (cf. vs. 8).

Such sacrifice of self and its ambitions has proved impossible for you in this old creation broken by sin and afflicted by the fleshy persistence of the Old Adam and Eve. Therefore, God sent his firstborn Son, Jesus Christ, the fruit of his body, for the sin of your soul (cf. vs. 7). Out of your sinfulness, you made of Jesus a sacrifice and he was lifted up before the entire world. Your God will be faithful to you even as you are unfaithful to him: justice, love, and humility beyond our measure.

Table Talk: Discuss the sending of Jesus as the love of God for the world’s salvation.
Pray: Heavenly Father, grant that I come to know the depths of your love and faithfulness to me. Amen

Micah 6:1-8 English Standard Version

1 Hear what the Lord says:

Arise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.

2 Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord,

and you enduring foundations of the earth,

for the Lord has an indictment against his people,

and he will contend with Israel.

3 O my people, what have I done to you?

How have I wearied you? Answer me!

4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt

and redeemed you from the house of slavery,

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.

5 O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,

and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.

6 With what shall I come before the Lord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?


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