Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Micah 1 and My Own Article on "Continuing Revelation" (Part 1)

Introduction - This prophetic book was written sometime in the 8th c. BC before the fall of Samaria in 722 BC. Micah is one of the twelve “minor prophets”; he was a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea and the kings who reigned during his prophetic life were Jotham (742-735), Ahaz (735-715) and Hezekiah (715-696). His message is addressed to both Samaria and Jerusalem; he was the first prophet to predict the downfall of Jerusalem. But he also prophesied Jerusalem’s restoration and an “era of universal peace.”  There are parts of his prophetic message that later became central to Christianity, especially his prophesy that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah.

Micah 1 – “Look! The Lord is coming! He leaves his throne in heaven and tramples the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath his feet and flow into the valleys like wax in a fire, like water pouring down a hill” (1:3-4).

Why is the Lord coming? Because of Israel’s “rebellion” (1:5), and especially the sins of Samaria, its capital. The city has turned to idolatry, and in Judah too its major city, Jerusalem has turned to idols as well.

The prophet declares that the Lord will “make the city of Samaria a heap of ruins” (1:6). All the idols will be destroyed. “These thing were bought with the money earned by her prostitution” (1:7). It is his called to “mourn and lament.” (1:8). He will “walk around barefoot and naked . . . howl like a jackal and moan like an owl” (1:8).

There are notes indicating that the writer is using a lot of assonance and playing on the words used to emphasize that the twelve cities are all guilty of different crimes. He begs the people of Judah to repent “for the children you love will be snatched away. Make yourselves as bald as a vulture, for your little ones will be exiled to distant lands” (1:16)

“Continuing Revelation”
Now I come to what many who admire Friends’ spirituality see as the “fly in the ointment”. How can you be sure that the voice you are hearing and obeying is God’s voice?

It was no trouble in the 1970s and ‘80s to find support for the idea—revolutionary in the seventeenth century—that the individual might come into a personal sense of what truth is. Everyone I knew in the 1970s and ‘80s believed that he or she could arrive at truth through his or her own efforts—trial, error, reflection, consultation with others. The really tough question was how could you know if your view of the truth was true. Was anything really true in an absolute sense?

Fox’s conviction that the inward Teacher would direct all people without the need for others to instruct them, the sense he had of Scripture being secondary to the Spirit in terms of authority, his call for people to come away from the dry husks of outward forms and legalism in religion all seemed consistent with the notion that individuals could find their way on their own.

Contemporaries of Fox often mocked the Friends’ assertion that they could know God’s will experientially without the aid of church authority of Scripture. Fox tells of one incident he faced:

“ . . . one [man] burst out into a passion and said he could speak his experiences as well as I; but I told him experience was one thing but to go with a message and a word from the Lord as the prophets and the apostles had and did, and as I had done to them, this was another thing” (Quoted in Faith and Practice, sec. 19:07).

Fox did not think he was promoting religious subjectivism. He really thought it was Christ—the Christ of the Scriptures and the Christ of history—who dwelled in us and taught us the way to go. But this Spirit of Christ and the truths he embodied were not reducible to church formulas or dead and encased in Scripture texts. This Christ lived. He was resurrected and with us always. Fox and early Friends very much believed in the reality of God’s continuing revelation in history.

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