Will Israel miss the Lord?

God lets–even makes–people leave so that they’ll miss him.  We began today’s lesson recounting a story about Ramona from Beverly Cleary’s books about this young girl.  On one occasion, Ramona gets angry with her dad and decides to run away from home.  Rather than scold or beg Ramona to stay, her mother surprisingly helps her pack.  We knew, though, that Ramona’s mother did not want her child to leave.  She wanted Ramona to realize that while her daughter didn’t like things at the moment, she actually loved and counted on her parents.  When the people of Israel unfaithfully want to turn away from the Lord, the Lord lets them, with the help of the hand of the Assyrians.

The first verses (1-4) of Micah 3 condemn the leaders of Israel.  One child noticed that this condemnation may be against the Northern Kingdom, but the text is not entirely clear.  The leaders are making what one child called “human stew.”  The leaders are like shepherds of their people, but rather than taking care of and protecting the sheep, they’re eating them.  This symbolizes how the leaders take advantage of the people.  In the end, just as the leaders ignored taking care of the people, the Lord will ignore the leaders’ cries for help.

The next verses (5-8) condemn the prophets.  This condemnation recalls the judgement against the people in 2:11 for only hearing the prophets who speak nice things–what I called the “cake and ice cream” prophets (instead of the “wine and liquor” prophets of 2:11).  Who wouldn’t prefer a prophet who promised cake and ice cream all the time?  In chapter 3, prophecy depends on how well-fed the people are.  If their bellies are full, the prophecy is “peace”; if bellies are empty, the prophecy is “war.”  Their bellies control their prophecies.  As a result “darkness” shall fall on the prophets.  We discussed how “darkness” causes blindness, and that the inability to see symbolizes the inability to understand.  Ultimately, Micah alone speaks for the Lord, and the word encompasses judgement on the sin of Israel.

The final section (9-12) comes back against the leaders.  The kids easily saw how fairness disappears once judges, priests, and prophets trade “wisdom” for money.  These shouldn’t even be called prophets anymore, but false prophets, they said.  The people claim that God is with them, but they are mistaken because they haven’t been listening to Micah–or any of the prophets.  The last image, of Jerusalem becoming a ruin, and the Temple Mount as a forest shrine, struck the children strongly.  They imagined the altar of the great cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota, reduced to a nice pile of rocks surrounded by a forest that had previously been a city.  That God no longer wanted the people on their land–clear since the beginning of the book–culminated with this image of nothing remaining on the land at all.

While the people wanted peace and believed that God remains with them, protecting them, they wandered.  They chose to go with other gods and display their rejection of God and his teaching.  God sends them away, off the land, with the hope–for their sake–that they will miss him enough to come back.

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