Justice and MercyJanuary 25, 2019 - 12:00 am
But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression,
to Israel his sin. — Micah 3:8
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American leaders began their heroic march for civil rights and fight for justice, the Jewish community stood side-by-side on the frontlines of faith. As we honour Dr. King’s legacy this month, let Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s reflections on justice inspire and encourage you.
For more on the historic and spiritual bonds between the African-American and Jewish community, download our complimentary booklet here.
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But, like it not, we all know the truth. There is no miracle drug that will allow us to lose weight and still eat whatever we want. It’s not easy to earn $10,000 a month working from home, and no product on the market will automatically bring us success and popularity.
Sadly, though, the people of Judah during Micah’s time were only listening to what they wanted to hear, and that was the message of Israel’s leaders who assured the people that God wouldn’t really punish them. As Micah chastised the people, “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ that would be just the prophet for this people!” (Micah 2:11).
While Micah continued to warn the people about God’s pending judgment, the false prophets reassured them, saying, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us” (Micah 3:11). The people gladly believed there would be no consequences for their actions because of God’s mercy.
Micah alone stood against this false teaching. He declared to the people, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.” Because of the leaders’ failure to deliver God’s true — and urgent — message to His people, Jerusalem would be reduced to rubble. The great Temple of Solomon destroyed.
What an image. The Promised Land . . . “plowed like a field.” Their chief place of worship, so lovingly cared for and honoured . . . “a mound overgrown with thickets” (Micah 3:12).
God is merciful. There is no doubt about that. But I wonder, sometimes, if we doubt there will be consequences for our actions because we only want to hear about His mercy. We forget that the Bible teaches that God is also a God of justice and there will be due penalties for our sins.
Micah’s message was a sobering one for the people then, as it is for us today. While God never left His people without comfort, nor will He do so today, it is wise for us to remember that God will hold us accountable for our behaviour, whether we acknowledge it or not. If we are so arrogant to believe that God will not punish us, then we will certainly meet His judgment, but if we humbly confess our sins, we will meet God’s mercy.