Conversations with Micah: The Way to Peace and Restoration

Storms were a part of my childhood. And I imagine they were likely a part of yours as well. I grew up along Interstate 20 and storms seemed to travel along that stretch of highway as much as cars. Spring and summer storms seemed to be commonplace enough to expect most afternoons. It didn’t help that we lived in a triangular region known as Georgia’s tornado alley, stretching from Rome to Newnan to Gainesville. 

One particularly violent storm came through in the middle of the night when I was in high school. I don’t remember much about it because I slept through it. The rest of my family and a friend of my sister’s that spent the night were up huddled in the hallway. The storm was so bad there were trees littering the yard the next morning. A huge pine fell just outside of my window and fortunately away from the house otherwise, it would have landed in my lap. I never woke up. 

But the next morning, I knew it had been there. Not only by the bleary-eyed expressions of my family but the mess in the yard. It seemed like it was days before we got it sorted but eventually, the yard was back to normal, minus several trees and some shrubbery. But the story of that storm and night became part of family lore: the mess it left, the violent nature of it. All of this was imprinted on the memory of those who lived through it or were told about it the next morning. Big storms are memorable. When you live through that kind of weather, it becomes imprinted on you. Need I remind anyone here of Hugo? 

I believe this is the reason the stories of the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian captivity loom so large in the consciousness of the Jewish people. These were cataclysmic events leaving an indelible mark on an entire people. Such an event would be impossible to forget even generations later.

The prophet Micah speaks of a coming storm. For most of the last three chapters there has been doom and destruction. The end of Judah and Jerusalem is coming. Even in chapter four, the prophet talks of ‘nations assembled against’ Judah and the king and counselors of the land being taken away. But the prophet doesn’t offer up only gloom and doom here. 

The chapter begins with God raising the Lord’s house above the mountaintops. The people will stream into it and become students of the Almighty, learning ways and paths of God. God will establish justice and order among the people who have been at war with one another. As in Isaiah, those who carried swords will see them beaten into plowshares and those who held spears will find they have become pruning hooks. Once, they are sorted, they will find themselves sitting in places of peace, on their own land. 

Not only this but the lame and outcast will be called home. Those who were regarded as having been judged harshly by God and banished from society will become a part of the community once more. Not only will the lame be restored to community, but they will also become the remnant—those preserved for a purpose. And the outcasts, those deemed unworthy of being among their own people, will made into a strong nation, a people redeemed and restored. 

Thinking about this idea of storm and aftermath, or destruction followed by reconstruction, reminds me of salvation in its simplest form. I became fascinated with this idea of salvation, or soteriology as theologians refer to it, while I was student in seminary. After many years of wrestling with the idea and trying to understand across the scope of scripture, tradition, and experience, I came to understand that salvation was a process from brokenness to healing to wholeness. 

The idea is something like this. We are born into a world damaged by the brokenness of all those who came before us. That brokenness becomes our brokenness as we begin to experience it firsthand in whatever way we grow up experiencing it. This would be a period where we are struggling with our spirituality alone from our perspective while God is reaching out to us through the Spirit of God and the work of others in our lives. This period of brokenness weighs heavy on us because innately we realize something is wrong, something hurts, something is out of sync, but we don’t really know what it is.

At some point in this period of brokenness, we realize we cannot be broken down anymore or perhaps, we simply cannot take being broken down anymore. Something has to give. We realize there is more, there has to be more, and we begin to look for it or perhaps someone introduces us to it. Within Christianity, this something is person of Jesus. Jesus, imbued with the Holy Spirit, came to teach us how the world and everyone in it is broken and how we might be led to overcome the brokenness within us and within the world. The Holy Spirit of God, which is in all of creation, speaks to each of us to reveal our brokenness, sometimes directly, sometimes by guiding others to help. When we realize our brokenness and our need to change, as we are led by and open to the Holy Spirit, we begin to heal.

As we begin to heal from our brokenness, we move toward a state of wholeness. As the story of Jesus demonstrated wholeness through the Holy Spirit with his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, we understand our own story as one of brokenness leading to healing leading to wholeness. Wholeness is being one with God through the Spirit. It is complete healing, complete surrender complete love. 

I think we can look at what is going on in this chapter of Micah and see this process of wholeness at work. Judah is broken. It is broken by years of selfish leadership from its kings and prophets, broken by the greed of the wealthy. It is broken in spirit by the damage done to the widow, the orphan, the lame, and the outcast. It has come to a place where it cannot be broken down anymore. The cries for justice from those oppressed have broken the heart of God and the Lord responds. That response is the Assyrian Captivity for Israel and the Babylonian Captivity for Judah. And now, not only are the poor and needy broken, but everyone within both kingdoms is broken.

Yet, even in the brokenness there are the seeds for healing. As the prophet says in chapter four, there is a remnant, a seed of restoration for the people among the lame and a strong nation to be forged among the outcasts. Those who were once looked down on and scorned will be the backbone for restoring the Jewish people after the exile. The people will be gathered by God to be taught the ways of God and to walk in the paths of God. And this path of God is the way to wholeness, the way to complete restoration of the spirit and community.

And this offer is the same offer God makes to us today. We who have been broken by the road we have traveled in life can find healing. We who have turned to healing can find wholeness.  Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”[1] In other words, I came so that people could not just exist but live and live completely and fully.

So, accept the offer. Accept the offer to move from brokenness to healing or healing to wholeness wherever you are in your journey. Encourage those who are broken to move toward healing and those who are healing toward wholeness. Embrace the life of seeking wholeness for yourself and for the community around you.

[1] John 10:10