A lovely walk

January 1st, 2017

Micah 6:1-8

I am in a covenant relationship. My husband and I have been married for sixteen years. I will grant you that many others have been married for longer than that, but one thing I am reminded of in this relationship is that we do not always communicate well. It is not that we are not talking; we just don’t talk at the same rate or exchange information in the same way. Part of our difficulty lies in the fact that he is male and I am not.

Often, when I have been thinking about an issue or problem, I forget that my husband has not been privy to my thoughts. He comes in from the garage and I, in my haste to share my latest understandings or hopes or plans, bombard him with words—and forget to mention the subject. He listens, trying to understand me, and finally says, “What is the subject? What are we talking about?”

In the book of Micah, the Lord is more structured and methodical. The Lord tells Israel everything that is on his mind. The Lord gives exact, historical details of what he has done for them. The Lord reminds the people how God has never left them, not one time. The Lord brought them up out of Egypt, redeemed them from a life of slavery, gave them leaders, and protected them! There is no question of the Lord’s presence and action in their lives.

Yet the nation Israel has forgotten they are in a covenantal relationship; they have gone astray and not repented. The Lord demands their loyalty and love; they are estranged from the Lord. God reminds Israel of the Lord’s saving acts that they may again enter into right relationship. The Lord reminds them of what has been done on their behalf and how they thrive when they follow the Lord’s ways.

The Lord understands the people. God knows that they will try to make him happy, and that they will try to do so in ways that they have been told are wrong. The Lord recognizes the traditional burnt offerings and also the unacceptable offering of the firstborn as attempts to return to the Lord. How many times have the people been told not to imitate the abominable practices of the Canaanites who sacrifice their own children? The people just forget; in their desire to reestablish their covenant with Adonai, they show they still have attachments to heathen rituals.

I see faint reflections of these dynamics in my covenant relationship with my husband. I do not doubt that my husband loves me and wants me to be happy. What I do doubt sometimes is his memory. I think I have been perfectly clear in my feelings and desires. I have even been overwhelming in providing details on how to load the dishwasher or where to find the thermometer. He doesn’t get it. He can’t find it. I go to the closet and pull out the thermometer from exactly where I said it would be. I know he looked because the closet is in slight disarray; he tried to please me. But the next time I need the thermometer, he will have to ask where it is again. My husband also has a tendency, like the Israelites, to make up for his shortcomings with gifts and generosity in small things. If I really needed a thermometer and he couldn’t find it, he would go out and buy, not one thermometer, but at least two! “I wasn’t sure if you wanted a digital readout with batteries or if you wanted an old-timey one, so I got both!”

Israel began by offering year-old calves and upped it to thousands of rams, rivers of oil, and finally the firstborn. They wanted to please, even offering what they did not have the authority to give.

Drawing from my own experience of male and female approaches to life, it seems as if Israel was more masculine than feminine in its approach. Men are generally more concerned with plans, processes, and solutions, while women tend to focus on emotions and relationship. Israel wanted to know what to do; what should the plan of action be? (I am applying some observations to the text here, not attempting to stereotype the sexes.)

Generally speaking, women want to discuss problems more, get more details, and relate personal history as to how they would feel if someone hurt their feelings or did not seem to appreciate what had been done for them. It is a valid problem-solving procedure. They relate what would make them feel better and apply that knowledge to the problem at hand.

Often, men, once they understand a problem, want to take action to solve it. They don’t ignore emotions and relationships but focus more on action than feeling. This is also a valid approach to problem solving. In the biblical scenario we are exploring, it is the approach Israel takes— Israel takes action to solve the problem of its broken relationship with the Lord.

The answer the Lord gives Israel is perfect—short, concise, and full of action verbs with emotional connections. As such, it addresses both masculine and feminine understandings and priorities of action and relationships. The Lord tells Israel exactly what to do, what to love, and how to walk! Do what is just. Love kindness. Walk humbly.

Today, as New Testament people, we may think that these requirements have been replaced by the cross. Yet, as long as injustice, poverty, and oppression exist in our world, we need to be reminded of the Lord’s words. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.

Three small phrases perhaps, but they carry the weight of the Torah and the New Testament alike. O mortals, human beings, why should we try to offer more than what is asked for when, even now, we cannot give the minimum the Lord has required?

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