Court of Mercy; River of Compassion

Bible Reading: Micah 6; 7 - Listen

Micah pictures a courtroom here: God, the prosecutor, is lodging a charge against Israel, the defendant, and the mountains and hills are called to sit in the jury. He implores Israel to stand up and plead her defense, asking sadly, "My people, what have I done to you? How have I made you tired of me? Answer me!" (6:3). He reminds her of how he lovingly guided and cared for her all throughout history. He gave her every opportunity to return to him and every reason to love him.

Israel asks if she can bring God more offerings and sacrifices, but she is still unwilling to give what God desires: "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (6:8). She tries to appease God by practicing the ritual of the law while ignoring the heart of the law; she offers payment for her sins but she won't stop sinning; she brings offerings to God but she won't bring him her heart.

Because she won't listen, Israel is given over to sentencing. God says, "You will eat but not be satisfied; ...you will store up but save nothing; ...you will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves; you will crush grapes but not drink the wine" (6:14-15).

While Israel sits in the dark prison of consequences, her heart turns to reflection and remorse. Because she knows God is a compassionate and gracious God, she trusts that he will one day forgive and pardon her. "I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. ...Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord's wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness" (7:7-9).

God steps up to Israel's defense. He promises pardon and restoration. Israel bows in humble adoration. "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives...? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (7:18-19).

Lord, I'm so glad you don't stay angry forever, but you delight to show mercy. You don't want to crush your people underfoot; you want to crush our sins. Thank you for entering the courtroom on my behalf and, in response to my "guilty" plea, stamping my record "PAID IN FULL." You took the punishment I deserved and offered me pardon. You know everything about me, yet you still love me and freely forgive me. Whether you accuse or defend, your goal is always the same: that I would "act justly" and "love mercy" and "walk humbly with my God" (6:8). Through the power of your Spirit within me, help me to live a life that pleases you.

When I have trouble giving up a sin or letting go of guilt, I will go to the river and do with my sins what you have already done... I will hurl all my iniquities into the depths of the sea (7:19)! I'll pick up a big rock that embodies my sin and pray a prayer of repentance as I cast it into the river. When I've asked for forgiveness but can't forgive myself, I'll pick up a handful of rocks and throw them, one by one, into the river, naming each sin, "I'm sorry...", and each regret, "If only...." As I throw my sins and regrets into the river, may their grip on my mind also be released, disappearing into the river of your compassion. As each rock is replaced by a circle of waves, may my shame be replaced with your mercy, my guilt with your grace, my turmoil with your peace, my slavery with your freedom. May your love wave over me, in my surrender, and ripple out to touch the lives of others with forgiveness, acceptance and love.