Consequences Not Punishment: The Hope Of Micah (@JamesPrescott77)

imagesThere are Christians who struggle with the Old Testament. Archaic. Irrelevant. Not much point.

After all, Jesus came and saved us, so all the past is sorted out, right?

Wrong. In fact, a lot of the Old Testament can tell us about ourselves way more than we think. And the book of Micah is a great example. It may not look one on the surface, with it’s talk of judgement and eternal punishment.

But let’s look deeper.

A lot of this book is about Micah warning people about the punishment for their sin. A coming judgement from God.

But all is not as it seems here. Let’s add some context.

You see, in Old Testament times, bad things happening to someone, the negative consequences of their actions, was attributed to punishment from God. That’s how the world was.

In fact, it was simply the consequences of living out of tune with the way God designed us to live. Or as Christians like to call it, sin.

You see, there is an important difference between facing the consequences of our actions, and God punishing us for our actions.

I can’t believe in a God who punishes. That’s not the way of grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love, mercy, and inclusion. It’s not the God Jesus spoke of.

But God does love us, and loving us means allowing us to be free to make, and live with, the consequences of our actions. Sometimes, He intervenes in our circumstances, sometimes He doesn’t. Maybe God doesn’t punish. But we all know there are consequences of our actions. Some good, some not so good.

So we see already, there’s more of us in this story than we thought.

Micah talks at length about how God hates idolatry and injustice.

Are these so unfamiliar today?

People still make idols. Money. Status. Success. Even religion. They are all idols, and almost accepted as legitimate ones. They aren’t called idols of course, as it’s socially acceptable to idolise these things. But truth is, they are.

We all know how much injustice there is in the world. You only need to look at the current refugee crisis to know that. And that’s not to mention the water crisis, modern day slavery, people trafficking and countless other injustices, big and small, which engulf our world.

Suddenly the teachings of Micah don’t seem quite as irrelevant do they?

But Micah doesn’t end on suffering, injustice and sin.

He also speaks of God delighting in our repentance – our choosing to give up our old life, and live in tune with Him, which is what repentance is.

He talks about new world, a new kingdom coming. Greater than one we’ve seen before.

So let’s leap forward, to Jesus talking about this Kingdom Of God, which is what Micah was essentially speaking of. Jesus says this kingdom is here, now, amongst us. Each act of love, grace mercy, forgiveness and justice, is bringing this new kingdom to life.

Here. Now.

So the book of Micah, taken in the context of Jesus and the gospels, is something which can not only remind us of the of consequences of our actions, but reminds us there is a God who can’t wait for us to choose His path, to turn away from the past and walk with Him.

And gives us hope of a new kingdom, not one that’s just sometime in the future. But one we can make a reality, today.

This is the hope of Micah.

*****

(Picture Source: hopechapelmaui.com)

About James P

James Prescott (@JamesPrescott77) is a writer & creative living in Sutton, near London in the UK. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on issues concerning social media, gender and the divine journey of life. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77